Old Navy sizing???
March 17, 2009 6:54 AM   Subscribe

What is going on with Old Navy sizes...too small or too big?

Last summer and twenty pounds lighter, I was wearing a size 4 in Old Navy pants/shorts comfortably. I figured they clothes were still running a bit big, since I still weighed 125 pounds.

Fast forward to now and while twenty pounds is quite significant when you're only 5'3", I'm now barely squeezing into a size 10 in Old Navy, even though I can still get into my Express size 6 pants (uncomfortable, but button-able).

I suppose I'm seeing if there are any similar stories out there. Does buying petite somehow change the measurements in waist size from the regulars or talls? Has anyone else seen a change in sizing over the last six months?

Yes, this is to help boost my self esteem after thinking the 8's would fit fine and finding to my horror that I could barely zipper them.

Also, losing weight is a viable option here, but that's not my question.
posted by patientpatient to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I noticed the opposite this morning. I bought a bunch of small skirts over the weekend, which is what size I always buy, and when I put one on, I was swimming in it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:58 AM on March 17, 2009

I have always found that Old Navy clothing sizes differ wildly among their different clothes. I can never just buy something there in my size without first trying it on.
posted by amro at 7:00 AM on March 17, 2009 [7 favorites]

Way too big for me, but I'm a dude. I'm normally an L or XL at most places, but I'm a medium at Old Navy.
posted by electroboy at 7:06 AM on March 17, 2009

I wear their plus stuff and find it runs wildly big.
posted by sugarfish at 7:06 AM on March 17, 2009

From a guy's perspective, Old Navy has way too many "fits" of clothes and doesn't label them quite well enough. I'll pick up what I think is my size and it'll be uncomfortably tight, then find out on the smallest label possible that it's an "athletic fit" or something.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 7:07 AM on March 17, 2009

I'm 5'2" and your size and weight info correlates with my experience - at 145, I'm a 10 or 12 in Old Navy clothes, at 120-125 I'm a 4 or 6. I wear the petite sizes for length. In other brands at 145lbs, I could wear anywhere from a juniors size 7 to a misses size 14. Clothing size is erratic. H&M is the best because they use actual measurements in inches for pants sizing, something that sort of went away in women's fashion in the 90s. If you're going to buy online and can't try on beforehand, your best bet is to take your measurements and hunt down the sizing guides specific to the brand you're buying.
posted by annathea at 7:08 AM on March 17, 2009

Old Navy runs way bigger than anywhere else for me but their sizing does lack consistency.

Solution: Get a measuring tape and take measurements of yourself & the clothing. Sizes are arbitrary; actual measurements, not so much.
posted by Polychrome at 7:09 AM on March 17, 2009

In my experience, just about everything from Old Navy runs big.
posted by LittleKnitting at 7:11 AM on March 17, 2009

I was just at old navy trying on stuff. One pair of jeans size 10 were way too big on me, one did not even go past my thighs (I checked the size on the actual jeans). So, it's weird there.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:12 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Their clothes run really weird. I got a pair of pants in a certain size once online that are actually too small, so I ordered a size up the next time I bought some (different style) pants. I was swimming in these.

Also, I usually wear a small or medium in their shirts from the store. I'm short, and the armholes of sleeveless shirts are often too big for me, so I decided to order petite small shirts from the website. These were way too big as well.

I really don't get their sizes. I have to try everything before I buy it unless it's something they make every year that I already own some of (like generic tank tops).
posted by fructose at 7:16 AM on March 17, 2009

Old Navy sizing is not at all consistent. There have been a couple times when I've had a pair of their jeans that fit me, went back to buy another pair in the same style and size, and couldn't even get them zipped. Recently I tried on a shirt there, liked it, and got another in a second color when I left the dressing room, which turned out to be very tight. I would definitely try everything on there before I buy now.
posted by LolaGeek at 7:17 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, their sizing is weird-my daughters buy clothes there and comment on it.

OTOH I am short (five feet even) and even ten pounds up or down changes my clothing sizes-a lot depends on just where you carry your weight too. Mine beelines for my gut.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:22 AM on March 17, 2009

Old Navy stuff sucks as far as having a consistent sizing scheme is concerned. I can try on two pairs of pants in the same style, length, cut, color--and they'll be two different waist or lengths.
posted by sperose at 7:26 AM on March 17, 2009

N'thing Old Navy's inconsistent sizing.

My data point: I bought some button down shirts from their website at my normal size, which is XL. When I went to try them on, the shirt was impossibly snug. I've bought other XL shirts from Old Navy with no problems in the past. I mostly like Old Navy's clothes (especially for basic stuff), but I guess you get what you pay for sometimes.
posted by PsuDab93 at 7:27 AM on March 17, 2009

Nthing that their sizes are just weird. However, as a woman whose height and weight are close to yours (somewhere between 130 and 140 over the past six years), pants sizes are always a crapshoot, especially depending on where they fit on the waist. I could just as easily be a size nine or a size thirteen (or anywhere between an 8 and a 12 in women's pants). Always, always try on first. Tell yourself it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with clothing manufacturer's inconsistencies. Because, seriously, that's the case.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:28 AM on March 17, 2009

I'm a full-grown though seriously petite lady and not a single pair of their full-grown lady jeans even comes close to fitting me; if I try one on I feel like an Ewok in a land of Wookiees. Their little girl's jeans fit me like a goddamn glove, though. So yeah, if a 21 year old fits into jeans intended for someone still learning about their menses in gym class, something is wonky with their sizing. Or we're all special unique flowers who need to use dressing rooms and ignore what it says on the label if it fits.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:33 AM on March 17, 2009

Women's clothing sizes, in general, have gotten even more inconsistent than ever over the past ten years. I don't know if it's because manufacturing is outsourced to ever more countries or what, but I notice it in US, UK, and EU sizes, even within relatively small clothing labels.

Some people suggest that women's clothes should be sized by measurements, as are many men's clothes, but there's still a lot of inconsistency there these days--my husband, for instance, has to try on jeans rather than order them, because there can be as much as an inch-and-a-half variation in the waist measurement, and as much as an inch variation in the inseam measurement, between two pairs of Levi's 501 jeans marked with the same waist-and-inseam size.

Yes, this is to help boost my self esteem

Your self-esteem really shouldn't be affected by the inconsistency of sizing produced by some manufacturer in Oman or Thailand's difficulties converting a supplier's specs in inches into something that worked on his Chinese-made and metric-gauged machines, should it?

Not to get all Chuck Palahniuk on you, but you are not your clothing size, and you are especially not your clothing size in one design from one store. Nobody is always a size 2, or a size 10, or a size 20--every woman I know has clothes in a broad range of label sizes because manufacturers are so inconsistent.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:38 AM on March 17, 2009

their sizing does lack consistency

As a friend of mine said: It's probably because each article of clothing is made in a different third-world country.
posted by Brittanie at 7:43 AM on March 17, 2009 [8 favorites]

Does buying petite somehow change the measurements in waist size from the regulars or talls?

YES. If you check most store sizing charts, you'll see that the waist size in petites is anywhere from slightly to considerably smaller than regular. It doesn't just mean shorter lengths, it's smaller all around.

Which, even though I know it's just a number, incenses me to no end. Because when I buy petites to accommodate my, uh, vertically-challengedness, I have to buy a size with two digits. Even though otherwise I am a size with only one digit. Grrrrr.
posted by chez shoes at 7:44 AM on March 17, 2009

I own two pairs of the exact same style of Old Navy jeans, maybe one or two seasons apart. One's a 10 and the other's a 14. They fit almost exactly the same. (Of course, I assume this means I'm a 10.)

I've noticed inconsistencies in sizing in quite a few stores, not just Old Navy. I once read that you should bring two of everything into the fitting room, because fit can vary from garment to garment even when they're the same style and size.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:47 AM on March 17, 2009

I came in here to say that Old Navy's pants sizes are inconsistent in-store, nevermind how they relate to the rest of the world's pants, but everyone else beat me to it. Strangely, their shirts have all been the same size for the last decade. A medium is a medium is a medium. Makes things easy.

Also, I've noticed that places like Express and the Limited do a lot more vanity sizing.

And, even though you're not asking for this, I've found Levi's pants to be really consistent with sizes. Whatever size you fit into in one style is going to be your size throughout the store.

So, my advice to you: buy your shirts at Old Navy and your pants at Levi's.
posted by phunniemee at 8:26 AM on March 17, 2009

I think this comes down to two factors:

1. Old Navy sources their clothes from dozens of different factories in the developing world. Though I'm sure they communicate some basic set of size standards for each garment, that diversity of manufacture inevitably gives rise to variation. In a company that cared to spend money on its product they would have a quality control process that reviewed and sent back garments that didn't meet the size standards until they got an acceptable product that actually fit their range, but

2. Old Navy is interested in making and selling clothes as cheaply as possible, and why would they spend money on quality control? Their standard for wear is that their clothes should be able to survive three washings. Three. That's it. This isn't a company that's concerned about good fit or quality. You get what you pay for.
posted by Miko at 8:36 AM on March 17, 2009

Old Navy sizing system is erratic. My 18 and 22 yo daughters stopped shopping there becuse of it. While they both like to shop, they said it took too much time in and out of the dressing room figuring out what size of each style.

While this wasn't a problem 3-4 years ago when each of them could spend hours upon hours in just one store, neither has the time or the patience to mess with it now.

For quite some time their father and I bought them Gap and Old Navy gift cards, but we were told thanks and they explained why.

Their father and I were suprised, as we were aware of the sizing "adventures". But the oldest said that it had just gotten too annoying, she couldn't even run in and grab a couple of wardrobe "staples" and be sure that they would fit. Let alone trying to mail order off their web site. My older daughter used to be a Gap fan, she says now they are too much like "Old Navy".

It happens in almost any store. Especially the younger markets. Old Navy just seems worse.
posted by moonlily at 8:42 AM on March 17, 2009

oops.... and I even "previewed" They say "No more Gift cards from Old Navy."
posted by moonlily at 8:44 AM on March 17, 2009

There is absolutely no damn accounting for sizes at Old Navy. My weight has been +/- 15 lbs my entire adult life, and at 5'0", I've been in everything from a size 2-12 there.

Is there no place on earth I can find an affordable pair of jeans that fit my ass and waist (and let's not even discuss length) all at the very same time?!

*shakes fist*

posted by Space Kitty at 9:43 AM on March 17, 2009

I'm completely perplexed at the theory that short=small(er).

I also don't understand what petite even means, because even at 5'3", some pants that claim they are for short people are still too long.

Anyway, thank you for suggesting using real measurements and also to the person who said I shouldn't let a number as arbitrary as 'size' dictate my esteem. I mean, sure, it felt really awesome to "know" I was a size 4, but life ain't that bad at a 10 either...
posted by patientpatient at 10:15 AM on March 17, 2009

Old Navy is interested in making and selling clothes as cheaply as possible, and why would they spend money on quality control? Their standard for wear is that their clothes should be able to survive three washings. Three. That's it. This isn't a company that's concerned about good fit or quality. You get what you pay for.

Holy freaking crap. I knew the stuff looked cheap, but dang.

I too will no longer buy gift cards there. Ptui!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:16 AM on March 17, 2009

To piggyback on the question, I sure wish I knew who made clothes for size 16 type short women (that didn't look like a seventy year old would wear it.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:17 AM on March 17, 2009

I tend to always find that their clothes run big. I'm a 6 everywhere else, but I'm a 4 there.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:20 AM on March 17, 2009

How Old Navy clothing fits me varies from article to article. I usually grab each item in my range and try them all on, even if they're labeled identically. I'm at the upper end of ON's size spectrum though, so this doesn't take very long.
posted by valadil at 10:50 AM on March 17, 2009

Wow. I guess I'm not the only one who has a problem at Old Navy!

I'm your height and about your weight, and I fit into pants sizes 8-12, depending on the brand. I usually have to bring 3 sets of each pair of pants into Old Navy, because I never know which size is going to fit!
posted by apricot at 11:47 AM on March 17, 2009

According to Palmer and Alto (and I believe 'em), there are no size standards for ready-to-wear clothing*. Since shoppers can try garments on before they buy anything, there is no real need for a standard (except for mail-order clothes). So Old Navy can label the stuff however they please, and a downscale brand probably has little or no interest in being consistent from one SKU to the next.

Vanity sizing is also a factor in RTW clothing, as you've observed yourself.

*Shoulder sizes in jackets/blouses seem pretty consistent across brands and price points, however - see pp 14-15.
posted by Quietgal at 1:16 PM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Weird. I just moved from the UK, and Old Navy is only store I can actually rely on in this country to match my sizing correctly. But I've only shopped there twice in the last year, and I don't have great experience with other stores so perhaps I should shop around a little more.
posted by saturnine at 1:21 PM on March 17, 2009

Old Navy is interested in making and selling clothes as cheaply as possible, and why would they spend money on quality control? Their standard for wear is that their clothes should be able to survive three washings.

cite? A quick search turned up nothing to support this, and I have quite a few items from ON that have/are lasted/lasting far longer than 3 washes.
posted by niles at 2:34 PM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eh, I've had plenty of Old Navy pants last past 3 washings. I got a hole in a pocket (it was an oddly set one) from sticking my PDA in it, but that's been about it.

Back on topic, I'm an 8 and wear a 4 at Old Navy pretty consistently. I just enjoy the ego boost.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:59 PM on March 17, 2009

I can't find a citation for that, and unfortunately I heard it by word-of-mouth, so it may very well be an exaggeration or a loose characterization and not a specific production standard. And of course, I also have ON pants that have held up for years. They're certainly not programmed to disintegrate after three washes (not that they look good after a few months - mine really don't, but I wear stuff like that). My main point is that the production quality the brand expects is very, very low. They do not design or manufacture clothes to last - it is not a value they care about. The Old Navy philosophy is one of planned obsolescence - they design the clothes to be produced with a minimum of expense and effort, knowing the clothes will wear out, fall apart, develop holes or runs or unravelings, or look bad soon enough, and you'll go buy some more.

The brand history is pretty interesting. Old Navy is part of Gap Inc, which also owns Banana Republic and the Gap. In the early 90s, when they brought out Old Navy, they found that all three brands were too similar and were eating into each other's support. So they sought to differentiate them, and they did so by moving them all farther apart in price. Old Navy was aimed for a younger market with less money, willing to buy more clothes at a low price and wear them for a short time before moving on. Their production standards fell below what they had been before in order to match that. For instance, where the Gap's t-shirts would have two rows of stitching to reinforce the neck and sleeves, Old Navy's has one. Materials are thinner and cheaper. Buttons and zippers are cheaper. When looking for a "3 washes" citation I did find that during this phase they dropped the production cycle from 9 months to 3 months, meaning they were looking for clothing not just cheaper and simpler but faster too. Basically, it doesn't add up to quality, durability, or consistency, as Quietgal said.

Some industry mentions of ON's planned disposibility:
"Wal-Mart and Old Navy have convinced shoppers that apparel is disposable in the United States. The durability of the product is not considered. If the shirt falls apart after 12 washings, ‘so what, I’ll buy another.’” The ramifications for the industry are huge. “This has put a great deal of pressure on the market to deliver the sub-$1 white tee,” Mahoney explains.

''The consumer has bought into disposability in clothing,'' said Candace Corlett, a principal at WSL Strategic Retail in New York, a consulting company. ''You buy the T-shirt at Old Navy that's good for eight weeks and, great, you throw it out. These aren't cherished pieces.''

These retailers - Target, Old Navy, H&M and even Wal-Mart and Kmart - call it cheap chic. Retailers don't come right out and call them disposable, but they get close.

"It's a great way to participate in trends without breaking the bank," said Andrea Lui, associate manager of public relations for Old Navy. "It's a way for women to experiment and expand their wardrobe and become more adventurous with trends without spending so much money."

That philosophy is uniquely American, said George Simonton, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan..."Women in America like variety," Simonton said. "It's very American to want variety..."

The idea of clothing being disposable would have seemed frivolous during the 1950s, '60s and '70s. But once the '90s hit, it became more prevalent, Simonton said.
posted by Miko at 3:26 PM on March 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

I've heard from my friends in fashion that the reason that Old Navy's sizes are so inconsistent is because of the way that they're cut. Imagine that you're cutting a shape out of one piece of paper -- no problem. Layer two pieces of paper and cut them at the same time and they're both pretty much identical. Layer 100 pieces of paper in a stack and cut them all at the same time and the variation in sizes from the top of the stack to the bottom will be HUGE.

That's how you get a pair of size six pants that will either fit like a four or a ten.
posted by kate blank at 6:23 PM on March 17, 2009

Thanks for the followup, Miko.
posted by niles at 8:22 PM on March 17, 2009

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