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Size Wise

Womens clothing sizes are a challenging mix of accurate and vanity numbers which seldom bear much resemblence to any form of actual measurement. This is especially true for most clothing retailers focussed on their own line. This is why women spend a lot of time trying on clothes. Which, in spite of all, can be fun, but rather hard to do for the average t-girl when shopping online.

Fortunately, not all is lost. For major department stores that do want to have catelog sales, there's a need to be fairly standardized on sizes or you lose that sales angle. So, then, how do you do this? Time to get out a measuring tape!

Standard Measurements

Before beginning the measurements, you should be stripped down to your bra and panties because you want to have some level of accuracy here. Them, based on the picture below, start measuring (it really helps to have a friend do the measurements).

A. Height - Measure from your heel to the top of your head.
B. Torso - Measure your torso from the center front of your shoulder, over the fullest part of your bust, under your crotch and back up to the starting point.
C. Bust - Measure around the fullest part of the bust and across your back. Keep your arms down and the tape level.
D. Rib Cage - Measure under your bust and around your midriff.
E. Waist - Measure around the narrowest part of your waist (less narrow on me these days, sigh).
F. Hips - Measure around the fullest part of your hips.
G. Inseam - Measure the inside of your leg from the crotch to the desired length. I tend to go a bit longer and hem if necessary. Also remember that lengths vary with skirts and dresses.

Using the Measurements

Depending on the type of clothing you're looking to purchase, you would then note the area of measurement that is relevant:

Clothing Item Area of Measurement
Blouse, Sweater Bust (C)
Pants, Skirt Waist (E) and Hips (F)
Dress, Coat Bust (C) and Hips (F)
Jumpsuit, One-piece Swimsuit Torso (B) and Bust (C)
Panties Hips (F)
Girdle Waist (E)

Couple that with your general size:

Height General Size
5'3" and under Petite
5'3" to 5'7" Regular
5'7" and above Tall

Now, let's take all that measuring info a plot your actual size that you're going to find on the tags. Bear in mind, as I mentioned earlier, the sizes here are best aimed at chain department stores that are likely to need standardized clothing sizes for the purpose of online and catalog shopping. Smaller stores or brand-based chains are much more likely to go in for vanity sizing, though if they have an online presence, and who doesn't, then they may have the size guide you can use these measurements with.

Body Area Average Figure (inches) Full Figure (inches)
Bust 32 33 34 35 36½ 38 40 42 43 45 47 49 51 53
Waist 25½ 26 27 28 29½ 31 33 35 37½ 39 41½ 44 46½ 48½
Hips 35 35½ 36½ 37½ 39 40½ 42½ 44½ 45 47 49 51 53 55
Your General Size
Petite (p) 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 18w 20w 22w 24w 26w 28w
Average 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 18w 20w 22w 24w 26w 28w
Tall (t) - - 8 10 12 14 16 18 18w 20w 22w 24w 26w 28w
Range 4 8 (6-8) 12 (10-12) 16 (14-16) 18 20w (18-20) 22w (22-24) 26w (26-28)
Size XS S M L XL 1X 2X 3X

Reading the chart is a little tricky, but determine the clothing, find the measurement on the chart and match it up (err to higher number) and then follow the line down to your general sizing row. If the numbers line up to two different sizes, pick the larger one. So, for example, if you have a 34" bust and you're buying a blouse and your height is in the tall range then you should buy a size 8t or S(t). If you're buying a skirt and you have 39" hips and 31" waist, you should buy a size 14t or L(t).

Demystifying the Bra

You already, by now, have the measurements you need to determine your bra size: the bust (C) and the rib cage (D).

First, determine the basic bra size by adding 5" to your rib cage measurement (if less than 35") and that is your base bra size. So, for example, if you have a 29" rib cage, your bra size is 34. If you have an odd number, round to the nearest even (go up). If your rib cage is 35" or greater, only add 3" to get the size number.

Now, compare that size number to your bust size (C):

Difference Cup Size
Same A
1" B
2" C
3" D
4" DD
5" DDD
6" F
7" FF
8" G
9" GG

For comparison, my rib cage is 31" and my bust is 37" and so I'm a 36B.

To Make the Shoe Fit

Shoe sizes can also be a real pain (and the wrong size can be even more painful). As a general rule of thumb for North American sizes, take your male shoe size and add 2. Ideally, also consider going to a wide size if possible. You can then use any online conversion (new window to Wikipedia) tool to map your resultant size to European, British, and other location sizes. If possible, try to measure your foot in a store using a proper measuring device. I did that, much more comfy on the shoe front ever since...

Once you know your size the real challenge is finding them. Most of us will be above the standard size 10 carried in most stores, but this is changing. Larger chain stores will have a decent selection of large sizes now and then there's always the online option. Online retailers often make other sizes available since they know that there are t-girls shopping as well as women.