Sizing in Women’s Clothing

The Dressing Room

The Dressing Room

In one store, you’re a size 10, in another, a size 12, and in yet another, a size 14, and all without gaining an ounce.   Or worse, you’re trying to deal with X-sized clothes.   A 3X can be anything from a 14 to a 32, depending on the manufacturer.   What’s a girl to do?

For cross-dressers and transgender women the problems don’t even stop there, because the mysteriously-sized clothes are cut for a shape that isn’t ours.   Our shoulders are too wide, our bottoms too small, and we fail to indent appropriately at the waist, which, of course, is higher than our own.   The sad fact is that the dress that looks great on the model is probably going to look awkward on you.

 So once again we ask, “What’s a girl to do?”

Clothing sizing is one of the great inconsistencies that women have to deal with, at least in the United States.   Genetic women have years of experience in dealing with this problem, and most of them have favorite brands whose sizing they understand from repeated buying.  Even so, guessing at sizing remains an ongoing game for most female shoppers, and most catalogs or online sites recognize that a customer may order the same item in two or three different sizes so they can see which one fits best.  Their return forms now include among the reasons for the return “Ordered Multiple Sizes”.

Check out this article on the Real Reason That Your Clothes Don’t Fit. and listen to Justine Leconte, a French fashion designer explain all.

Unfortunately, we here at Sister House can’t wave our wand and make this annoying problem go away, but we can help you to maneuver the sizing minefield by arming you with some essential information.

First of all, if you’re a total newbie and have no remote idea what an equivalent women’s size might be for you, get yourself a seamstress-style tape measure** (fabric or vinyl, not metal) and take your measurements.   If you can get someone to help you, the measures will be more exact, but we realize that’s not always possible, so just be as accurate as possible.   Be sure you measure over whatever body enhancers you usually use.   For example, if you usually wear a padded bra or breast forms, be sure you are wearing them when you measure.   Here are a few sites to show you how to take these measurement as precisely as possible.   (The hip measure won’t be very important to most TGs.) In the following video, only the first half deals with measuring.

For information on how to take more measurements than just the standard three, check this Wikihow article

Once you have these measurements, check out a generic clothing chart like the one here.   It will give you some approximate idea as to what size women’s clothing you might wear.   Notice the words “approximate” and “might”.    As we explained above, each manufacturer’s clothing will be a bit (or a lot) different, but this should get you into the ballpark.

Here’s an example of vanity sizing that aptly demonstrates the problem of sizing

(These charts are taken from Bedford Fair)

Misses Sizes-cWomens Sizes-c

Most sites for catalog stores have a few in-house brands whose sizes tend to be fairly consistent with each other, and these kinds of sites will almost always have sizing information clearly available.   For example, if you go to Woman Within and choose any dress,  you’ll see that there’s a pull-down menu to choose your size, but there’s also a sizing tab below that will tell you what the measurements are for those sizes.   Each catalog site will show the information differently, but if you look, it’s almost always there.

Unfortunately, on sites like Amazon that carry lots of different brands, finding specific size information can be more tricky.   The good news is that many of these sites are getting better and now have a Size Info link clearly visible, but you will still encounter too many instances of wanting to pull your hair in frustration.    Instead of messing up your hairdo, take a few deep breaths and think of something beautiful.   After all, wondering what size to order is part of being a woman.

Some sites are really good about having specific size charts that relate to their items. Her Room, for example, always has a link to the manufacturer’s size chart on each page. Her Room is another which is very good at giving you information, and additionally they have a section at the bottom of each page called Fitter’s Comments where one of their own in-house people takes additional measures of the item.  Nordstrom’s is quite good about linking to a chart for the specific designer.

Another good source of information about fit are the buyer’s reviews.   Scanning through them will show if there are repeated comments about tight sleeves or having to return the item for a larger or smaller size.   One single comment won’t tell you much because individuals are so very different in how they judge things, but if you see a pattern of comments about the same thing, it’s worth paying attention to.    ModCloth puts their own notation as to whether or not an item runs “true to size” (their sizing, which has a chart available in the left margin)  but often their buyers disagree with the assessment.

While all of the above advice is useful, it still won’t replace knowing what measurements a specific manufacturer cuts to, so we’ve collected sizing information for designers whose clothing we offer as well as hints for each store as to how best to find good sizing information on their sites. Do take the time to compare your measures to these charts when buying an unfamiliar brand.  It takes a few minutes extra, but it’s much faster and cheaper than having to return an item that doesn’t fit.

Sizing Information by Stores

Sizing Information by Brand or Designer

Sizing Information by Type of Clothing

Sizing Tips from Cross-dressers

Some General Tips on Sizing

Here’s to successful shopping!


This Clover “Shiro” tape measure is ideal for taking your measurements. It is accurately printed in both inches and centimeters and is perfect for measuring curved or flat surfaces. Metal ends keep the tape from fraying

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