Finding proper fit in catalog/online shopping
October 14, 2008 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Is there any way to come close to guaranteeing a proper fit when shopping for clothes online/in a catalog?

I would like to be able to buy more clothes online - more bargains, more styles, more choice in general than local retailers, etc. Buying pants without first trying them on is usually ok. But nearly every shirt or sweater I've ordered online has been a dismal failure - one retailer's XS seems to be another's M, things blouse out in ways not shown in the photographs, etc. Since finding things that fit me in stores is time-consuming enough (I guess I don't have a very typical body-type), I guess I was optimistic to think sight-unseen shopping could work at all, but I'm wondering if there's any sort of trick or insider knowledge I should know before giving up on online shopping entirely.
posted by frobozz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of sites will have a fitting guide that will tell you how they set their sizes. Get a measuring tape (and be honest) and you should not have to return too many items.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:52 PM on October 14, 2008

Best answer: one retailer's XS seems to be another's M

Yep. There is no standardization in clothing sizes at all.

First, you should get a tape measure and a friend, and know your body measurements -- chest/bust, waist, hip, inseam, etc.

Most reputable websites will have a "fit guide" (sometimes buried in the customer service pages, but on better sites it will be linked directly from the item page. Check out the fit guide and find where you fall on their sizing chart.
posted by anastasiav at 7:54 PM on October 14, 2008

I've heard to always order a size bigger if you're unsure.

But, I've never tried buying stuff online, too scared to.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:01 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Those who have traditionally sold clothes by mail (e.g. Lands' End) usually have detailed instructions in their catalog for taking your measurements to find out what size you are on their scale.
posted by winston at 8:09 PM on October 14, 2008

Response by poster: Using size charts is of course excellent advice which I guess I should have thought of. I tried the one on Bluefly just now and discovered what I guess I knew already was part of the problem: that I'm less than an XS in the bust and an M in the waist (and probably an M or L through the shoulders, though they don't have that one)...I don't know of a way to judge which style of shirts are more important to fit in one place than another (other than a few basic rules like avoiding scoopnecks). I'm thinking I'll have to fall back on going to the store and trying on as many pieces as I can. Thanks for the answers thus far.
posted by frobozz at 8:16 PM on October 14, 2008

1. Get measured by a tailor (buy a nice shirt off the guy for his trouble)
2. Compare measurements and dimensions to online measurements and dimensions
3. ???
4. Profit!

Unfortunately there is no real method any more to garment sizes. These articles might be of interest.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:36 PM on October 14, 2008

In addition to knowing your measurements, if you have clothes from a particular retailer that fit you well, you can see how their fitting guide compares to your measurements. That might tell you something about how you like your clothes. Plus, then you can use that retailer's set of measurements as a guide when considering a new retailer.
posted by cabingirl at 8:46 PM on October 14, 2008

I just go to the store in person once or twice to get an idea of how things fit me. As in, I figure out my pant size for that store, then see what how both general loose and tight tops fit. You say that's time consuming, but it's really the only way to ensure a proper fit and it's worth it in the long run.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:57 PM on October 14, 2008

Best answer: A lot of online retailers have customer service links for email or chat, or an 800 number you can call. I've found that the people on the other end are often very knowledgeable about fit and whether certain pieces run "small" or "large". Sometimes they even have sample items they can retrieve, and describe to you in great detail. Beyond fit, this can be really helpful when you're not sure about color - they can look at the catalog image and tell you that in person, it's much brighter/more yellow/less pink whatever. In particular, I've found the live help at Land's End and J. Jill quite helpful, and the service you can get at the 800 number for Ann Taylor is kind of stunning.
posted by donnagirl at 9:00 PM on October 14, 2008

There's an old saying that applies here...

Spend as little as possible for something of good quality.
Spend as much as possible for a great tailor.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 10:06 PM on October 14, 2008

Sometimes you can call customer service with a particular question about the fit. I know my mom once called to ask the circumference of the opening of a boot, and I've called to find the inseam length of pants when it isn't listed. It seems that the operators are given more detailed information as far as this sort of thing than is available on the website.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:16 PM on October 14, 2008

Instead of measuring yourself, you should measure clothes you own that you like. So if you're trying to figure out if the bust measurement on a t-shirt is going to fit you, pull out a t-shirt that fits you perfectly, measure its width across the bust, and double it. Same thing if you want to see how long a shirt is going to be on you. Of course, it doesn't work for all measurements, but I have better luck measuring clothes that already fit than I do measuring me.
posted by adiabat at 12:11 AM on October 15, 2008

The sizing chart at Bluefly will not help because Bluefly sells articles from a variety of manufacturer's and retailers and, as you've noticed, sizing is not standard. The best way to by from Bluefly is to know how a particular manufacturer fits you (i.e. learn that you take an M in Guess, but a S in BCBG and an L in SweetPea) and buy accordingly.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:55 AM on October 15, 2008

Best answer: i shop online all the time because most retailers have stopped carrying fat lady clothes in the stores. it's always a crapshoot. just be sure you get the free shipping TO you, and almost everywhere these days gives you free shipping back if you use their UPS (or whatever) label. no real loss.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:45 AM on October 15, 2008

Best answer: I'm less than an XS in the bust and an M in the waist (and probably an M or L through the shoulders, though they don't have that one)

If you want to buy tops that aren´t stretchy that actually fit and look good, it´s just going to be tough. Tailoring can´t make the shoulders bigger, and if the shirts have darts it´s going to be tough to make the bust area smaller.

Maybe somewhere out there there´s a retailer that makes womens´ shirts cut for women with larger shoulders. The only way for you to get a proper fit is going to be to find them, and buy your shirts there. There is no magic trick that will let you buy your proper ¨size¨ when women´s sizes don´t take shoulder width into account as a separate measurement. and I would be oh so happy if you memail me if you find a store that sells these shirts

A trick for finding things in stores that fit: measure the length on your body (or on a shirt that fits) which the shoulder seam needs to cross. Take a small tape measure with you to the store (buy a retractable one at a fabric store) and measure shirts that you like. Don´t bother trying on shirts that won´t fit your shoulders. Some of the other shirts won´t fit you either due to how the sleeve cap or some other bit is cut, but that´s tougher to measure.
posted by yohko at 8:59 AM on October 15, 2008

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