One of the most frustrating things with shopping for women’s clothes has been trying to determine what size I am. Even with blue jeans it has been super frustrating for me. When I choose to buy male jeans, it is super easy. I wear a 30 x 32. 30 inch waist and a 32 inch inseam. Pretty simple huh? But while buying women’s jeans it is not nearly as simple. Even just fitting the waist. I can fit into a 30, a 29, a 28, a 27, or even a 26! And forget about the lengths. My female jeans do not even have a length marked on them!
This process can be especially hard on transgender individuals as too frequently we do not feel comfortable shopping in store or if we are, trying things on while we are at the store. Which is exactly how I used to feel. I would shop for items I was interested in, purchase them, and take them home excitedly, only to discover that they were nowhere near my correct size. Then I would need to take them back to the store for a return or exchange.
At some point, I figured out that it would be much less difficult to just try on the things I wanted while I was at the store. Initially this began with me going dressed as a guy and taking some female items into the male dressing rooms. Sometimes I would mix in some male items and sometimes it was solely female items. Once while in JCPenny’s I wanted to try on a women’s shapeware item while dressed as a male. I simply walked up to the closest sales rep and asked where I could try it on. She didn’t flinch at all and simply pointed me to the nearest male dressing room. There was another time while at Guess I took some male and female items to the dressing room and while being checked in, the young girl counting the items I brought in, said “these obviously are not for you,” regarding some female clothing I had with me. I just smiled and said “yes they are.” She gave me an odd look, but counted the items and opened a dressing room for me.
Eventually I finally figured out that it is far easier to just go into the stores dressed as a woman. That way there is no confusion about what gender’s clothing I am shopping for. Though one time at Guess I did highly confuse a sales associate who saw me trying on male jeans while dressed as a woman. She came up to me and said “oh honey those are not the right jeans for such a cute figure as yours!” I smiled and explained to her that I am transgender and I buy clothing from both sides of the store. She took it all in, smiled, and said she would have never known!
The best thing about dressing as a woman and trying on clothes at the store is frequently, in many of the nicer stores, a sales associate will come by your dressing room, politely knock on your door, and ask if they need to get you any other sizes. And do you know why they do that? Because there is absolutely no consistency with the sizing of women’s clothing!
Do not fret about whether you are a size 6 or 10 or 20 or size whatever. As soon as you determine which size you are, when you go into a different store, or try on a different manufacturer’s clothes, or even stick with a store year after year, in all likelihood the size that actually fits you will be different. There is no standard measurements for what constitutes any of the sizes marked on the labels. Each manufacturer sets its own measurements to those numbers.
Which is often why I feel it is a ridiculous question when someone asks me what size I am. What size with which store, with which product, and with which year of manufacturing are they asking about?
Even with something as simple as the blue jeans I was mentioning at the start of this article. How could it be that I fit into a 30 inch waist in male jeans and a 26 inch waist in female jeans if those pants were actually set to something, like oh, I don’t know, an actual measuring tape! Which you need to know that they are not. Even lately with male clothing this has been the case.
So…. in the end, I wish I could tell you some super simple easy way to always know what size you are. Like using something as simple as a measuring tape. And that when you determine your size, you could use that to always figure out what size you should buy. But honestly, that would be extremely useless. The only real way to know which clothes are actually going to fit you is to try them on. One way or the other, you will need to try them on before you can tell if they are going to work.
Do not get discouraged. Do not think your body is weird. Do not think that female clothes just do not fit your body. This is how clothing works. You need to try it on. If that means ordering online, and getting used to returning, then so be it. If it means screwing up the courage to get into a store and try them on before purchasing, then go for it.
And maybe through this process you will discover which stores have inspired the phrase “vanity sizing.” Yes Loft, I am talking of you and those size 4 skirts I easily slip into!
Note from Tasi: Nadeen aptly describes the problems in shopping for women’s clothing which we also talk about in our post in Sizing in Women’s Clothing. It makes little sense at all. You need to know your own measurements whether buying in the store or online and if they are not there, then ask. Also check our posts on sizing by store and by brand in the right sidebar.