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Fashion Phrases: Is it the size or is it the cut?

July 10, 2022

Fashion Phrases: Is it the size or is it the cut?
Fashion Phrases: Is it the size or is it the cut?

Things you wouldn’t expect a fashion designer to say: Shopping for new clothes can be a real slog. Okay, maybe you’d expect it since I’ve already said my piece on how the dressing room can make for a bad experience, but sometimes it is about the clothes—or more maybe more accurately, about the way we talk about them.

One of the biggest complaints in fashion today, especially women’s fashion, is how inconsistent sizing can be. Though there is a call to standardize clothing sizes, something tells me it’s going to be a long time before we get there. Vanity sizing has been shifting what classifies as small, medium, or large (or size 10, 12, etc.) for decades, and those ad hoc sizes are emotionally loaded for a lot of shoppers.

Online shopping adds its own level of complications. If we know a size can change drastically across brands, how are we supposed to get it right without trying clothes on? Enter the sizing chart (for those retailers that use one, anyway.) You take your measurements and buy the size that matches those to make sure it fits, right? Well, maybe not. The sizing chart has limited measurements, after all. Two people can have the same bust, waist, and hip sizes but a dress will look and fit completely different on them based on height, body type, and plenty of other factors.

So, it’s not just the sizing. Even if we could standardize all the various measurements it takes to create a sizing system for off-the-rack clothes (I shudder to think about how complicated those size names might be), how something looks and sits on your body is about more than those numbers.

It’s also about the cut. The cut of a garment is about how the pieces are cut (surprise!) and constructed. Along with the fabric, the cut has a huge impact on how a garment sits or hangs on our body. Different cuts will create a different shape or silhouette—and not every cut works for every body, regardless of size.

The variations in cut can account for one of the most frustrating shopping experiences when it comes to sizes. Have you ever tried on three pieces in the same size from the same company, but they fit completely differently? The issue is probably the cut, not the sizing.

It might be annoying, but having different cuts in the same size can be a good thing! Jeans are a perfect example. How many terms do we have to describe the cut of your jeans? Boyfriend, skinny, bootcut, curvy, etc. And that’s without even getting into low-rise versus high-waisted, pocket placements, and capris versus pegged hems. Having various cuts can mean better options for different bodies, because ultimately, they fit those proportions better.

Okay, so what does that mean for improving your shopping experience and reducing your frustration when buying clothes? Understanding the difference between cut and size is important, and here are a couple pieces of advice to help you find something you’ll love faster.

Get to know the cuts that work for you. Think about the pieces that you know look good on you, and look for similar silhouettes. Knowing a shift dress from a tank dress can help you in a keyword search, but you can also just get to know the shapes that work for you—whether it’s a looser fit with a gather at the waist or something that hugs the body.

Pay attention to fabrics. The type of fabric can completely change how a piece hangs on your body. A lined eyelet knit gives this tank a more defined structure, while the viscose and nylon knit on this tank is soft and flowy.

Looking for those details can help you find new pieces that please, whether you’re shopping in person (see my stock at Brick + Mortar in Regina or book a boutique shopping experience in my studio) or online (my website is open 24/7, after all). I aim to make getting dressed the easiest part of your day, and that starts with finding pieces you love. I hope this helps!



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