If a survey were now conducted of women of all ages and sizes on their most hated shopping experience, buying jeans would be at the top of the list.
All we want is to walk into our favorite store, snag our size in a few different shapes and shades, try them on, pick the most flattering one, rub our butt and walk out with a smile.
Instead, jeans shopping is a nightmare thanks to the wide variation in “same” sizes – not only between brands, but also within stores themselves.
No wonder a recent survey found that the average woman owns three pairs that she never wears because the fit is so poor, while six pairs are left out on a shopping spree.
H&M: While the legs were voluminous, the waist on this pair (L) was a full two inches smaller than my own. My conclusion is that an H&M size 14 is not a size 14. Strangely, the crotch of these jeans (R) was very tight and way too high, but the waist felt too low. Very tight in the legs, they didn’t look or feel like a 14; I would put the waist at 12 and the legs at 10.
M&S: These (L) are so loose at the waist I feel like I’m wearing a diaper! The crotch is a good two inches lower than it should be and I can pull them up and down without having to undo the zipper or button. In contrast, these skinny jeans (R) have an elasticated waistband that fits perfectly and looks flattering, with no front pockets to fill the tummy.
All these jeans from different stores have the same size on the label
You may be a size 14, but standing in the fitting room you’ll quickly discover that one pair is so big you’ll have to go two sizes down, while another is so tight you’ll have trouble getting the zipper over yours get belly. And there’s nothing more depressing than having to reach for the size that’s bigger than you expected.
So I had a lot of sympathy when I read about 29-year-old Zoe Evans as she shared her recent experiences with the megalomania that is infecting the high street. After buying four pairs of high-waisted, size 18 jeans online from River Island, she discovered that they were so different in size that it was comical — if not that annoying.
Sharing a picture of the ridiculous result as the jeans were stacked on top of each other, she explained: “There wasn’t even a slight difference between the two pairs – one pair of jeans was half the size of the other.
“I spent £170 on jeans and only one pair was the size I wanted and fit.”
Part of the problem when it comes to our sizing issues is retailers’ crazy and frankly dishonest penchant for vanity sizes, where they try to make women feel better about our bodies by marking larger sizes as smaller than them really are. Because while women’s sizing should be standardised, there are no legal requirements forcing our high streets to comply, meaning brands are free to use their own measurements.
As a shameless denim devotee since I got my first Levi’s 501s as a teenager, I’ve defended the right of every woman of all ages and sizes to have a pair of well-fitting jeans without being humiliated in the process.
F&F: These legging style (L) jeans are loose in the waist and thighs. I need a size smaller. These high-rise skinny jeans (R) had a surprisingly good fit and looked good up the butt. The denim is ridiculously soft too. I can’t believe they come from a supermarket and at such a good price. They suit me perfectly.
ZARA: The fit on the legs and bottom was great, but the waist couldn’t be pulled up, which was a shame (L). These (R) just made it. The denim was stiff, the crotch was baggy and the jeans didn’t flatter the butt. Not a good fit
RIVER ISLAND: Confusingly, these jeans (L) may appear small, but the stretchy fabric makes them too big in the waist. I despair. There’s no way I could pull these (R) up, they’re ridiculously small. They should be renamed size 10 instead
To illustrate the very different magnitude of the problem, I tried on four pairs of jeans, each from five different brands: H&M, Zara, Marks & Spencer, River Island, and Tesco’s F&F.
All 20 pairs reported being a size 14, which would lead any reasonable person to believe they would all fit. But as these photos show, that was far from the case.
Take M&S; Her blue “mom” jeans were so baggy around the waist and crotch that I could have worn another pair underneath. But her indigo skinny style was a perfect fit.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t even zip up the supposed River Island cropped jeans at a size 14 – that was a 10 for sure! – yet her skinny pair fitted my legs but had a baggy waist.
I know it’s not just the high street that has this problem. I love Levi’s 501s, but when I recently ordered a pair of flared pants in the same size that I wear traditionally, they were so big I gifted them to a much larger friend.
No wonder we’re all so confused. It’s time retailers got smarter — and measured honestly.