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Does Size Matter?

Does Size Matter? by Colleen Kanna
Is size simply a number or letter that tells you which item of clothing to try on and buy? I think for most people, particularly women, it means much more than that. There's a lot of emotion attached to that number or letter. There's a stigma around certain numbers and letters. Bigger is not necessarily better.
When you walk into a store and see something on the rack that catches your eye, what do you look at first? Is it the size? Or do you think "Hmmm, I like this style or I like this colour. I'm just going to try it on", without paying attention to the size.
I don't think many of us take that approach. We typically look at size first. The exception may be price. If it's our size, or what we think our size should be, then we try it on. But what if it's not our size. Would you still try it on?
I think it's much easier for us to go down in size versus the other way around. Not many of us want to wear a bigger size even if it is a better fit, feels more comfortable on, and looks better on.
How do we take the stigma out of sizing? What if there were no sizes? I think most of us are pretty adept at eye-balling what will fit us. What if we simply tried it on? No size, no emotion, no shame, no bad feelings. You just buy what looks good on you. Could this be a reality? for thought!
Or could there be a sizing system that doesn't make it so obvious what size we that standard small to large type of way? I proposed something like this on social media.
I asked what if we did away with XS to XL and instead went with a simple 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Obviously, it still goes from smaller to larger but maybe there is not as much stigma attached to it. It could be, "Hey, I'm a 4". Maybe we could even do the reverse 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 with 5 being the smallest size and 1 being the largest size. Or would that just mess with people's minds?
And when you think about it, XS and XL really are just arbitrary letters. They shouldn’t have any preconceived notions attached to them, but they do.
The comments I received were all over the board. Some people are traditionalists and want to stick with what they are used to, S M L. They don't want another sizing methodology. It's already confusing enough. Why make it more complicated?
Others liked the idea and told me about other brands that are already doing this like Knixwear and Chico's. I like the way Knixwear asks you right off the top to use their size finder. But check out Chico's size chart. I'm not a fan of the 000.
One person even suggested using colours or women's names for the sizes. Ah ha, you can't associate being a large with violet. But what if it came in the colour violet? That could be really confusing. Or even worse, what if we also offered a style called Violet. Could you imagine? I'll take a Violet in violet in size violet. What the what?
Some people prefer measurements only, like when you buy a pair of jeans: 30" waist x 32" inseam. It's still numbers but it's not so in your face like a L or XL. I suppose for tops, dresses and jackets, we could give bust measurement x length. It gets a little tricky though with length. It will vary depending on what it is.
Most people would have no idea what length of dress or tunic top they would wear. If you came across a size 36" x 29" would that make any sense to you? How likely are you to pull out a tape measure? Do you even own a tape measure?
And where do you measure from? The top of the shoulder? From the clavicle?
Again it requires education: a chart with instructions on how to properly measure. In which case, how would that be any different than having a number or letter size with a corresponding chart with measurements. Maybe it's just psychology, how we trick our mind to make ourselves feel better. But isn't that the same as vanity sizing? Hmmm...
Let's face it, our bodies change as we grow older. There's nothing wrong with that, it's a fact of life. But in a world that embraces perfection and impossible beauty standards, it fills many of us with a feeling of inadequacy, of not measuring up, even shame.
What's the saying, "You can never have too many pairs of shoes, or be too thin?" If we are all completely honest with ourselves, most of us would agree with this on both counts. Wait...or is it "You can never be too rich or too thin"?!?
What you wore when you were 20 years old or 30 or even 40, most likely doesn't fit anymore and that makes us feel bad. Thus, the introduction of vanity sizing. So you might still wear a size 2 but let's face it, it's really a size 10. 
What I would really like to do is have no sizes in the garments at all. Of course, I would still need a sizing system to produce the garments otherwise they would all be one size. But what if I didn't put a size label in the garments. You'd just have to try it on. It if looks and feels good on, then that's your size!
That could work if I had a brick and mortar store and my customers came in to try things on. But that's certainly not going to work for my online store. How would customers know what size to order without sizes? Hmmm...back to square one.
So, I'm no further ahead in coming up with a new sizing system or whether I should change it at all. What I am going to do is not include a size tab on the label at the neckline or waistband. I will put the size, whatever it may be, on the inside care tag where it is tucked away and out of sight. Many of us cut that tag out anyway once we have read the care instructions. Then we never have to look at the size again.
I would also like to follow in Knixwear's footsteps and have some type of size finder. When you select the item you are interested in, then instead of clicking on your size, you enter your measurements, and your size pops up. In all likelihood, it will be the standard XS to XL for now, but it could really be any sizing system. And then once you have entered your size once, it will be there for future purchases. 
This is on my wish list when I revamp my website which will hopefully be later this year.
I think it's just so interesting to think about alternatives to the standard sizing options. What do you think? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Numbers? Letters? Measurements? Something else? Or no sizes at all?
Colleen Kanna
Colleen Kanna is a breast cancer champion and creator of COKANNA Designs, a line of stylish bamboo Canadian-made clothing for women over 40. Five percent of sales are donated to the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre in support of their Head Start Program for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.


  • Natalie

    Since my treatment I have gained a lot of weight and have had to go up several sizes. It makes me feel so bad to have let my size get away from me and I had absolutely no interest in going clothing shopping. However, while visiting my parents this summer, my mom insisted we go try to find something new and nice for me to wear from a little clothing boutique – unbeknownst to me, my mom had called them in advance and explained my situation. Although I wasn’t happy that she had done that and wanted to leave immediately, the two women working there very quickly put me to work! They ran around the store grabbing piles of things for me to try on. They had to guess at my size because even I don’t know what it is anymore. Fortunately these were ladies who knew what they were doing. I was so focused on simply trying things on that I didn’t even notice the sizes!! I ended up finding four pieces that are really comfortable and that look nice. It was such a gift to have had all that care and attention paid to me, and to remove the mental weight of my extra weight and my bruised self image from the equation. I just bought what felt good next to my skin and what I thought looked nice on me! Sure, the size labels are there on my new clothes, and they are different from what they used to be, but they were so unimportant that day.

    To this day, I don’t know that I was able to fully convey to my mom how much I appreciated and needed the gift she gave me that afternoon.

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