I remember it like it was yesterday. I was turning 24, one year out of college, my sister was in town visiting, and we were doing what we love doing…shopping. But this time was different. Nothing that I tried on in the stores was fitting properly. On top of that, my regular clothes weren’t fitting like they used to, and I also felt like I had outgrown everything in maturity. What was happening? My body and style were changing. This happens to every woman, and it never stops. Our bodies keep on changing and changing and changing. In my case, my body was sort of crossing the threshold into womanhood. What was happening was that I could no longer shop freely in the Juniors department. I had graduated to the Misses. I didn’t realize before that I was holding on to stuff that I had since high school. Yep, high school. It was time for a closet purge and cleanse. With the help of my sister, I did a complete wardrobe overhaul, and got rid of some of my college attire and anything that was not on the path of the more mature, professional, and sophisticated look that I was now going for.
Time for some real talk, ladies. What’s the lesson behind this? Know your body and your size. When you think about it, many of us don’t really know our true size. What we mostly know is Small, Medium, and Large. But wait there’s more….you can be a size 4,6,8…or a 5, 9, 11…or even a 16W, 18W, 22W, and let’s not forget 6P, 8P, 10P. While we’re at it, let’s talk about the various departments that these sizes are found in…Juniors, Petite, Misses, and Women’s. Before we continue our fashion journey together on this blog, we need to stop and go back to the basics. When shopping, we need to know what department to shop in, and what size to look for. Anything else would be a wasted shopping trip. At first, I thought this post was too long, and after a semester of a ridiculous amount of writing assignments (two 10-page papers, nine 1-page papers, two 2-page papers, and two group presentations), I was not really in the mood for more excessive writing. But as my sister said, you gotta do what you gotta do. There are some people out there that need to learn this. So get comfy and grab a snack, because this is going to be a lengthy post. You’ve been forewarned!
Now back to my coming into womanhood story. I’ve always loved shopping and dressing up, but it was only at this time that I came to understand my body and how to shop for it. First, let’s break it down by departments. The average size for female clothing is for women at least 5’5” tall. So what about women that are shorter or taller? As we know, clothing is not always made to fit every shape and size. So, let’s get down to it.
Tired of reading? Take a break and enjoy this pic. I took this some weeks ago when the weather was still “pleasant,” and not 100 degrees!
Heyyyy! (I hope you said that in the right voice J.)
Ok, break time is over…..
Here are the various departments that sizes are separated into. All sizes mentioned are based on US size charts.
Sizes in this category are made to fit young girls (not to be confused with Juniors). These sizes range from 4-20. They also come in half sizes for plus size. A quick way to tell the difference between Girls and Juniors is the numbering. Girls are even numbers, while Juniors are odd numbers. The styles are sometimes similar with a fresh, youthful feel, but Girls are for much younger persons than Juniors.
Ok, this one is a bit tricky, but we’ll get through it together. The quickest way to tell if you’re in the Juniors department is to take a look at the sizing. These sizes are odd numbers, and are mainly made for a younger crowd. The trick with this department is that it’s filled with a lot of trendy clothes that women, like myself, get drawn to. However, the cut of Juniors clothing is more straight with less room in the hip and bust areas. Try it out the next time you go shopping. Take a look at jeans in this department, and you can see how straight it is in the hip area. That’s not to say that if you’re a slightly less curvy person that this is the department for you, because other than shape, the Juniors department has a more youthful selection to their clothes, not a mature vibe. Common stores that offer only Juniors sizes are Forever 21 and Wet Seal. I will admit that I do shop in these stores from time to time. But I’m careful in what I select. I mainly turn to these stores for blouses, not bottoms. They can never go past my derrière (Ok, in the back of my head, I started singing Beyonce’s song, Get Me Bodied….”Shake your derrière in them Dereon’s. Shake shake your derrière in the House of Dereon’s.” I do that from time to time. I would say or hear a phrase that reminds me of something, and then instantly, I would break out in song…LOL). Juniors also come in petite and plus sizes. The petite sizing would make more sense after reading the next section, and the plus sizing is simply a larger option to regular Juniors, starting at size 15. Juniors plus size fits slimmer than Women’s (explained later on), and it’s a better option for teenagers rather than turning to clothing in the Women’s department which would be way too mature in style for them. Now on to the next topic.
There is a common misconception about Petites. When we hear this word, we think of a very slim person. But Petites are not determined by weight, but rather by height. They typically fit women 5’3” and shorter. Petite sizes are identified with a “P” after the size, such as XSP (X-small Petite), MP (Medium-Petite), 8P, or 12P. LOFT (I shop here often) has Petite sizes as small as XXSP (Extra X-small Petite)!!! I personally think it’s good marketing on their part. Not many stores cater for such small sizes. I’m 5’4 ¾” (5’5” if you wish), and Petite pants are definitely too short for me. But to be honest, I sometimes buy blouses in this department (very rarely though). For example, I was shopping one day in LOFT, and I saw a blouse that I liked and needed it in X-small (XS), but they didn’t have any. I therefore tried the same blouse in a Small-Petite (SP), and it fit perfectly. This isn’t to say that I can roam freely in this department. I’m introducing the point that sometimes you can go for a Petite blouse by going up a size, but proceed with caution.
This department carries the even-numbered sizes and is for a more mature body. Think of Misses as the opposite to Juniors. They are very similar, but the main difference, other than the even-numbered sizing, is the cut of the clothing. They are much wider in the bust and hips. Even the styles are more dressed up than Juniors. The rise of the crotch is longer from the waistline to the inseam than with Juniors. The sizes run bigger, so a Misses 0 is larger than a Juniors 0. I remember back in college when I was shopping for work wear for my internship, I shopped in the Juniors department. Of course back then, I didn’t know the difference. I didn’t even know that these department had names. All I knew was that this was the section for “young” people, and the other section was for “old” people. Then when I came to learn about my body, I took a second look at what I was buying, and realized that the Misses department was more age appropriate. When buying pants, be careful of the length. For a given pair of pants with the same size and style, it may come in Short, Average, or Tall. It all depends on your height. I prefer brands that offer this variation, as it takes the guess-work out of finding one with the right length. Some examples of stores that offer Misses sizes only are New York and Company and The Limited. Sometimes, you’ll see sizes that cross between Juniors and Misses, for example, 3/4 or 13/14. These fit more like Juniors than Misses.
This is the plus size to the Misses department. Sizes typically range from 14W – 24W, or X – 3X. The difference with Misses is that Women’s clothes are cut deeper in the arm area, have a lower and larger bust line, and a larger waist. Therefore, a Women’s 16W will fit bigger than a Misses 16. Females with an hour glass or pear shaped body will fit better in Misses clothes, while females with a rounder apple shaped body that carry their weight mostly in the bust and mid section will fit better in plus sized clothing. Some plus-sized stores are Lane Bryant and Dress Barn (Dress Barn has both Misses and Women’s sections). You can also try department stores for a clear distinction of all sections we’ve talked about. Among Petite, Misses, and Women’s, Misses is the most common. However, more and more, stores are offering all three to make shopping easier.
It’s important to remember that clothes are not made to fit everyone, and most likely, they won’t fit you right off the rack. Sometimes you have to make adjustments to your clothes by tailoring. There’s no shame in it! You first have to fit the widest part of your body, i.e. the bust and the hips. All other areas can be tailored to fit. Tailoring is not an expensive option. If a pair of pants fits in the hips, but it is too loose in the waist, or too long in length, simply adjust the waist and shorten the hem. Be careful though when tailoring, because too much tailoring can sometimes make the garment lose its original shape and won’t be very cost-effective (It makes no sense to buy a dress for $50, and then spend $30 altering it. You end up spending $80 on the dress).
Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
- Even numbers
- Really young girls
- Half sizes are plus sizes
- Styles can be similar to Juniors
- Odd numbers (only section with odd numbers)
- Trendy clothing
- Smaller in bust and hip areas
- S=3/5, M=5/7, L=9/11, XL=13; Plus size = 15 and over
- Even numbers with a “P”
- Shorter women
- Even numbers
- Average women
- S=2/4, S=6/8, M=10/12. L=12/14, XL=14/16 and 16/18
- Plus size to Misses
- Even numbers with a “W”
So there you have it, my little tutorial on knowing your size and how to shop for your body. I hope it made some kind of sense, and I know this was a lot to take in. Drop me a line if you have questions.
Here’s one more pic before I sign off…
Keeping it Classy,