According to a study commissioned by Special K cereal, many women buy clothing that is one to two sizes too small. In fact, reveals the study, which looked at 1,000 women in the United Kingdom, one in four women spend 50 to 100 £ on seasonal clothing that doesn't fit. Although the study was conducted in the U.K., the results have relevance to Canucks, given our similar cultures.
What happens to this inaccurately sized clothing? Sometimes it languishes in the closet awaiting anticipated weight loss. Other times, it gets worn out of the home, causing these unfortunate fashion fashion no-nos:
• Muffin tops
• Skirts that ride up
• Excessive cleavage and bursting shirt buttons
What too-small clothing says
When we wear clothing that’s too small, we project an image that's far from flattering, says Diana Kilgour, a Vancouver-based image consultant and personal shopper.
Others may perceive us as not caring about our appearance, wearing our "backup" clothes (due to a laundry backlog), having gained excessive weight, not knowing what looks good on us, and finally – as being vain.
"Some of us have number vanity, where we insist on squeezing into a number, 'our number', and we're proud of it. 'If it zips up, it fits' is the mindset. Unfortunately, that's not true," says Kilgour.
That's a lot of baggage associated with overly tight tops or straining pants, isn't it?
Why do we low-ball our size?
Women underestimate our true size for a variety of reasons. One is the aforementioned "number vanity." Another is a lack of knowledge about the changes our bodies got through over the course of our lives.
Having a baby changes your figure, so does perimenopause and menopause.
"You may think that if your weight hasn't changed, your size hasn't either, but body changes can be subtle," says Kilgour. "As a younger wardrobe consultant I would listen to clients complain about 'middle-age spread' and think to myself 'That's what happens when you let yourself go.' But guess what: Now my back has widened, my rib cage has changed and so even though I remain my high school weight, I wouldn't be able to wear a belt from my high school days. Our bodies change throughout our lives."
Another factor can be denial, says Esther Kane, a Courtenay, B.C.-based registered clinical counselor.
"Let's face it: if we've put on 10 or 20 pounds, it's not fun to face reality and take a good, honest look in the mirror. It's much easier to go into denial mode and act as if the extra weight isn't there," says Kane.
Likewise, says Kane, "There isn't much acceptance of aging [in our culture]. We abhor rather than celebrate it. We want to see ourselves as the youngest, thinnest, fittest version of ourselves, not as the older, wider and possibly less fit person we actually are."
End result: Clothes than pucker, pinch, crease, cinch, bulge, constrict and squeeze. They do no favours to your figure – or your wallet. Tight clothes wear out faster, meaning properly sized clothes will save you money in the long run (and they won't get shoved to the back of your closet, unworn).
Page 1 of 2 - on page 2: tips and tricks for shopping for the perfect fit!
How to get a good fit
Kilgour explains that the number one secret to getting a good fit is banishing your number vanity.
"Numbers mean nothing. You might be one brand's size small and another's size large," says Kilgour. "If you think you're a size eight, try on both an eight and 10."
Or, consider hiring a personal shopper. At around $75 to $100/hour, they're not cheap, but if you're about to buy an investment wardrobe, they can save you money by directing you to pieces that fit well, suit your purpose and image, and that you'll wear for years.
Some malls and shops have complimentary personal-shopper services, but keep in mind you're getting the opinion of someone hired by the mall or store – not by you.
Alternatively, find a good salesclerk – they're alive and kicking at discount stores as well as high-end boutiques. "You never know: that young clerk at Le Chateau may actually be a fashion-design student and have wonderful insight into fit," says Kilgour.
If you're not happy with the help you're getting, look and listen for that extra-helpful sales clerk and politely ask her to help you instead.
Do's and don'ts for finding the perfect fti
Here are Kilgour's tips and tricks for finding clothing that has the perfect fit.
• DO be willing to try on several pieces.
• DON'T be discouraged. With time, you’ll find that shopping for your size is easier and more intuitive.
• DO look for button-down shirts in a cotton-Lycra blend, but DON'T use the extra "give" as an excuse to force yourself into the shirt!
• If you're busty or have a wide back, DO look for side and/or waist darts when it comes to button-down shirts.
• DO check to ensure shoulder seams fit where they should on T-shirts, button-down shirts, sweaters and jackets.
• DON'T buy a skirt that rides up, or if the back hem is higher than the front.
• DO check that your pants fit well: no cupping under the seat, no puckering in front, no bulging at the sides or side pockets, no uncomfortable waistbands that you "spill over."
When midway through a diet or fitness regimen:
• DO stick to cheap-n-cheerful pieces that you won’t mind donating to charity after a season or two.
• DON'T splurge on investment pieces now.
• DO motivate yourself with accessories like scarves and jewelry (or flattering makeup or hairstyles), all of which will make you look gorgeous now – and can be enjoyed whether you go up or down a size!
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