06 December 2013

Rules of Thrifting : Size Matters

A good fit is truly the most important factor in dressing well. That's why it can be so important, especially in thrift shops, to ignore numbers and tag sizing most of the time.

Pictured above are three similar cable knit sweaters from Brooks Brothers, 1 "S", 1 "M", and 1 "L". Common sense would have you believe that there is these sweaters would fit three different men of different builds. But you'd be wrong. Despite the complete difference in sizing, these three sweaters are roughly the same size. Each one fits me (42 reg/36 waist) reasonably well, with only the "L" being slightly fuller all around.

S,M,L, or "alpha sizing" as it's known, is at best ambiguous. Numeric sizing is perhaps less so, being based on an actual measurement, but even that can be unreliable given the increased proliferation of "vanity sizing" (you know, but jeans that measure 37 inches with a tape measure but say 34 on the tag). The only real way to get clothes that fit is to try things on. It either fits or it doesn't. In thrift shops, this can be more difficult as dressing rooms can frequently be either gross or non-existent. For the die hard, I recommend taking measurements of a pair of pants and a jacket that fit you well, and bringing a tape measure along on your hunting trips. And don't let vanity get in your way. Why leave behind a stunning British tweed simply because the tag says 44 and you insist you only wear 42?

Size matters...the actual size, not the one written on the tag.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop, including the three sweaters pictured in this post.


Main Line Sportsman said...

Very true....and one of the drawbacks to scoring good stuff on Ebay.

Johnny said...

This is one of the most important clothing lessons for everyone to learn -- but especially those (like me) who struggle with their weight. It literally took me years to come to terms with this. (I know it seems stupid, and I agree, but I've been guilty in the past of walking around slightly uncomfortable, wearing pants a little too tight, trying to convince myself that I still fit into a lower tag size.)

The size printed on the inside tag is just a number or a letter -- and who else is even going to see it anyway? (And, if it bothers you that much, you could even cut it out so that even you never have to see it again.)

Ultimately, the only thing that matters -- the only thing that you feel, and that others see -- is how something looks on you, and how it feels to you. If something looks good on you and is comfortable to wear, who cares what the size on the tag is? Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Sizing - S, M, L or, even as you point out, the supposedly more accurate numeric measurements - has become ludicrously inconsistent, not only from store to store, but even within lines of the same store. I own medium and large Brooks Brothers sweaters and shirts that not only fit, but are nearly the exact same size when held up against each other.

I think the Gap and Old Navy just put sizes on things because they have to, but they seem to have no relationship to standard sizes. I have taken in (because I bought on line and was too lazy to return) pants by over 2 inches from Old Navy - and my waist didn't magically shrink that much.

You provide the solution - try everything on - but it is a shame that brands don't try to be consistent especially in this era of on-line shopping.

And kudos on your turtleneck articles. I am a big fan and regular wearer of turtlenecks as I like the look (casual but not sloppy with jeans, dressed up but less so than wearing a tie with suit / sport coat) and love the feel. Coincidently, I own several J.Crew ones like the one you thrifted and really enjoy them.

Clydicus said...

Another factor that screws up sizing: big brands manufacture at multiple facilities, sometimes around the globe. I've found that the exact same size and style of Levi's or Dockers can vary a lot.

Clydicus said...

Here's a good tip if you don't want to carry a tape measure around:

Go to an Ikea store and snag a couple of the paper tape measures they give out. I write down my neck, sleeve, and waist measurements on the tape, then fold it up and stick it in my wallet. It doesn't take up any space at all, and it's there when you need it.

Ian said...

Recently I found a faded sizing tag in a suit I've had for a while that's one of my favourites. I ever noticed it when I tired on the jacket. Turns out it's a faded 40R - my usual size being a 38 or even 36 in some older, fuller jackets. The physiological effect was palpable, it led to me checking it in the mirror a bit thinking "does this really fit?"

Meg said...

For women's clothes, sizing has changed dramatically over the years. If you find a great vintage piece and it's a size 8, it's really a size 4 in today's measurements. Marilyn Monroe was a size 12, but today, she'd be a size 8.