I want to buy a fancy thing for my girlfriend, but lady sizes confuse me
December 20, 2013 9:12 PM   Subscribe

Help! My lovely girlfriend is blessed with sexy curves. I want to buy her either a particular dress or a particular skirt, in a surprise gift sorta way. But the sizes don't really match. And I am confused.

Her measurements: 38" 27" 40"

According to the designer's sizing guide, the options match body measurements as follows:

S 27.5 waist, 37.5 hip (too small on the hip?)
M 29.5 waist, 39.5 hip (too large on the waist?)

Dress: the medium is 36.5 bust and 29 waist, with no hip measurement, which seems too small for chest and too large for waist. Larger is bigger in both, smaller is smaller in both.

Both items have some spandex if that helps.

Are there rules for figuring out which bit should be the wrong size, given that evidently some bit has to be?
posted by paultopia to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total)
Unfortunately, it depends a lot on the cut and fabric of the dress (can you give us a link?). But in general, slightly too big is better than too small. A tailor can take in the bust and waist if needed, but it's harder to let out the hip.

Of course, if your girlfriend normally wears a small and you buy her a dress in a large, that's not great either, relationship-wise. Does she have anything by this designer in her closet so you can sneak a peek at what she normally wears?
posted by donajo at 9:21 PM on December 20, 2013

Lady sizes are confusing even for ladies. If at all possible, take her shopping instead of buying a gift as a complete surprise so she can try the garment on. If it's not possible, err on the side of larger. The medium skirt isn't egregiously bigger than her measurements, so that would be safest. Oh, and if she has boobs, I'm guessing you're going to have to go larger generally on the dress. She'll probably be used to that, because boobs can be hard to accommodate in girly clothes despite the fact that many girls have ample ones.

Generally it helps to understand that women's clothes aren't like men's clothes. With most designers, we don't get to customize, say, inseam and waist with every garment. I generally approach it by picking clothes that fit everything for me, measurement wise, and then taking them in.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing taking her shopping as opposed to buying her a specific item.
posted by Sara C. at 9:37 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does the website have live or phone support? They may be able to help if you tell them what you want to buy and her measurements.

But I also have agree that you should try taking her shopping instead. Clothes make a tricky gift. Get her some accessories with a "coupon" that's good for one big shopping trip.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:38 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

the only time a romantic partner has bought me something that fit right it was a wrap dress (and even then the waist was high). this is some pro level gift giving you're walking in to. i'd either say to give her a gift card or if she has something from the same brand that fits, peek at the size.
posted by nadawi at 9:39 PM on December 20, 2013

Also beware of vanity sizing. I'd ignore the manufacturer's size charts and measure the actual garments in-store whenever possible. I've ended up with items that were several inches off from the size chart measurements when ordering online.
posted by keep it under cover at 9:40 PM on December 20, 2013

It is REALLY hard to shop for skirts and dresses as a curvy lady, even harder for someone else to shop for you. If you are absolutely set on buying for her I would go with the larger size, as it is non-impossible to take something in on the waist but impossible to make something too-small fit.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:40 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seconding keep it under cover, at least as far as potsmokinghippieoverlord's link is concerned. It has me as a Gap size 10 or even 12, when I have a pair of Gap pants in a size 8 which are too big for me.
posted by Sara C. at 9:47 PM on December 20, 2013

It's incredibly difficult to know how things will fit on a curvy woman's body, even if you know the exact measurements. Let's say that the dress was the exact same measurements as her body - it still wouldn't necessarily be flattering on her (even though it might "fit"). But you don't have to give up on buying clothes entirely. Instead, think about where she likes to shop. Look through her closet. You'll probably find a few stores/designers that are well-represented. Those are probably places that she's reliably found clothes that fit her body well (plus she probably likes their design sense). For each of those designers, write down the size of the clothes that she has (and note whether it's a top, skirt or dress). Then go to the stores that carry those designers and look only for clothes that you know her size in. You'll be much more likely to get something that she likes, that looks good on her, and that fits comfortably that way. Good luck!
posted by leitmotif at 9:48 PM on December 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

I am someone who knows her measurements very well and often shops online for clothes (like almost exclusively) and I find most online size charts and measurements to vary wildly. Since I know myself and what I'm looking for and how things will look on me, I can usually make up for this (and I don't buy things when I don't trust the measurements).

So while I'd appreciate the sentiment, I think it's better to give her the money/etc. and point her to specific things.

I know that's not as much fun, but if she's skilled at shopping online, she'll appreciate more. It's a bummer to be given something that doesn't fit you or doesn't flatter you. It may even be cool if you go shopping together (online or otherwise). I know plenty of people who I bounce things I want off of -- both men and women.

I'd even hesitate to look at specific brands at a specific size -- I've known some of them to vary wildly per garment. It's so frustrating. But if you can send her some links that are "I think you'd look great in this!" and she can go from there ... well, I think that's probably cool.
posted by darksong at 10:10 PM on December 20, 2013

You could by her a nice piece of jewelry instead. Jewelry can convey some of the feelings it seems you want to convey with your gift. Shopping for clothes can be a nightmare even when you are buying for yourself. The other item, I just thought of, shoes....I love, love shoes. I had to give up wearing high heels myself but I adore looking at them on other women. They can be so sexy.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:40 PM on December 20, 2013

I would surprise her with a gift card to the mall so she can try items on and make sure they fit properly. There's nothing more disappointing than a nice gift that doesn't fit right (or embarrassing). My mall has a Saks, Gucci, you name it and the mall gift cards are valid in every store.
posted by OneHermit at 10:41 PM on December 20, 2013

Response by poster: Oog. Thanks. Plan aborted.
posted by paultopia at 10:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

If the store is good with returns (free shipping, full refund, no restocking fee) you can order both sizes in both the skirt and dress and return the 3 or 2 items that don't fit.
Note that "fitting" doesn't mean it will look good. That's a whole other issue.
posted by saradarlin at 11:22 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I will agree that as a curvy girl, it can be tricky to find clothes that fit well all over (often too large in one area and too small in another). However, I have found it incredibly sweet and thoughtful when Mr. Inch has given me clothes he picked out that he thought would look good on me. So if you decide not to buy your girlfriend a dress or skirt and go with a gift certificate or something like that instead, you might consider including pictures of the particular dress and skirt you wanted to buy for her so that she knows how much thought you put into this.
posted by ezrainch at 11:39 PM on December 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm not even a particularly curvy girl, however earlier today I was wearing size large undies, an XS skirt, and a medium shirt with a smaller size large shirt underneath it. Sizes basically mean nothing. However, the politic way to do this is to buy the smallest size you think she'll fit, and get a gift reciept so she can exchange for the correct size.
posted by windykites at 12:27 AM on December 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

It really depends. I know many women would hate to be given a gift of clothing that doesn't fit, but my wife absolutely loves it when I buy her clothes, even if they don't end up fitting and she has to exchange them. They way I deal with sizes are 1) I know what sizes she generally takes in various items of clothing and start from there. 2) I do most of the laundry, so I know what her clothes look like and feel like. That way I can think, "Well this shirt is bigger that that tight red shirt she loves, but it's not as big as that black shirt, so it should be fine." 3) I stay away from clothes with "tricky" fits. Pencil skirts, jeans, plunging necklines, short hemlines, etc. This year, for example I did buy her some jeans, but I made sure to get a pair with a decent about of stretch.

I'd make sure you fit the bust and hip measurements and not worry too much about being big in the waist, given there is some stretch.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:20 AM on December 21, 2013

I'm going to disagree with most of the comments and say get her the dress or skirt you want to get her as long as its easily returnable and you won't mind if she returns it. I'd go for a medium as its easier to take in clothes than let them out. As a curvy girl, she surely knows about fit quandaries and, personally, I would really rather get the item that made my partner think of me rather than something guaranteed to fit, like a gift card.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 5:58 AM on December 21, 2013

If these are general measurements for the entire brand, rather than specific to each particular clothing item the brand sells, then the shape of the garment is really going to determine which size you order.

For example, if it's an a-line or full skirt that flares out from the waist, like this, you should probably order the small because the hip measurement isn't as critical. If the skirt is fitted throughout, like this, you'd order the medium to be sure that it fits at the hip and she'd have to have it taken in at the waist.

Skirts are relatively easy because they can be worn wherever the person's natural waist happens to be. Dresses are way harder to shop for because they have to fall from the shoulder or bust, so they make an assumption about where the person's waist is. This dress, for example, would work on someone short-waisted but would be a disaster on me because my natural waist is several inches below where the belt would hit. And the more elements there are to the dress, like sleeves and armholes and bust darts, the harder it is to make sure everything lines up with the wearer's proportions.

I think you can definitely buy her a skirt, especially if it's a fuller skirt and returnable. But I'd stay away from dresses for now.
posted by payoto at 6:03 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I say buy her the gift, but from somewhere it is easy to exchange. I don't know if this a Christmas gift or not, if it is, you better hurry.

Women's clothes are totally different than men's. A pair of 34x34 pants are pretty much the same no matter who makes them. Womes's clothes are random. If you see something online, see if the manufacturer/designer lists places you can buy them locally. The local store will know how the clothes run, size-wise. Also, higher end department stores like Macy's and Nordstrom's will have "Personal Shoppers". You make an appointment with a saleslady who knows how all the different clothes fit and what goes with what and she helps you pick things out. Bring a picture of what you are thinking of and she'll help you. Also, see if there are women's only clothing stores in your area that fit your girlfriends age and style. Again, bring a picture and the ladies will hook you up. If you're not sure where to go, ask someone you work with or go into a women's wear shop with your picture and they will help you find a place.

Finally, get some extras to go with whatever you pick out. Scarf, or belt, sweater, jacket, blouse etc. Make an "outfit". Your girlfriend will appreciate that since it shows extra effort and thoughtfulness. The salesladies will help with that too.
posted by mikedelic at 6:19 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could always just buy a couple of sizes and return the ones that don't fit her. That way she doesn't have to go through the hassle of exchanging it (or the disappointment of being given a gift that doesn't fit).
posted by désoeuvrée at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure potsmokinghippieoverlord's link is for UK sizes, not US sizes, so keep that in mind.
posted by donajo at 8:40 AM on December 21, 2013

Here's what I'd love.

"Sweetie, I saw this dress and I think you would look beautiful in it. I'd love to buy it for you. Let's make an afternoon of it. We'll go to the store and then out for lunch."

This way she can try it on and determine if she loves it as much as you do, and it's a fun thing to do!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:43 AM on December 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty sure potsmokinghippieoverlord's link is for UK sizes, not US sizes, so keep that in mind.

There's a button at the top right that allows you to toggle between UK and US sizes.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:09 AM on December 21, 2013

I'm with Ruthless Bunny. Take her shopping for it.

(Unless she hates shopping.)
posted by sm1tten at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2013

After 30 years of marriage I've determined that buying women's clothing is best left to experts. Take her with you.
posted by tommasz at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2013

I've got to disagree with the majority- if my sweetie gave me a gift card and basically told me what to buy with it, i'd feel really disappointed- and I would not want to go shopping with my sweetie, it would stress me out. I'd much rather receive the gift he wanted me to have, even if it didn't fit, than receive a gift card. He's not my aunt or something.
posted by windykites at 8:53 AM on December 22, 2013

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