One of the first things i do when i pick up a garment to upcycle, is cut out the tag – not just to banish the former brand, but to remove the dreaded size.

Having worked in fashion retail since my teen years, i have watched women squeeze into sizes they are convince they are, cry in fitting rooms and generally beat themselves up about something they have little control over. The fact is, there is no such thing as a size 12, or 0, or 16 – there is no set measurement, universal to all stores that determines its size, so lets let it go. For good.

“An online survey of 1,000 women, indicated that 15% bought a bigger dress size than they expected when shopping at Primark. Top Shop and New Look were also named as stores with smaller sizing. Marks & Spencer, Asda’s George brand and Next had the most generous sizes, the survey found, although opinions were not always uniform.


Working for one Swedish firm, i regularly advised women to go home, cut the size out and just enjoy the garment, as the sizes changed from piece to piece and even across ranges in store. Ridiculous. Not only confusing and humiliating for the men and women trying to find anything to fit and look good amongst the plethora of choice, but creating massive amounts of waste in the process, after all, if no one fits in the clothes, they usually end up being further processed, often shipped around the world, and eventually sent to landfill, which destroys our planet.

So it’s no good for anyone – why is it still going on?

One reason may be that we don’t dress for our shape – just because something is fashionable or looks good on someone we think is pretty awesome, does not mean it looks great on us. Sadly, most shop assistants wont be up on body shape either (or possibly care as long as you’re buying), so doing your own research is wise before you buy something you can’t use. Gok Wan and those kind of folk have some good starter pointers, and this Channel 4 bit of advice seems a good starter:

And for the gentlemen, this looked to be full of good advice, mainly suited based – but not being a chap, please let me know if it’s baloney:

This guide is a vague one for both:

Dress for your shape and you’re more likely to get a sustainable wardrobe.

Another reason why this pattern continues may be there is no consistent sizing. For a moment putting aside the important psychosociological issues of ‘vanity sizing’ and branding clothes by only making them fit certain ‘aspirational sizes’, inconsistent sizing can lead consumers to buy ill-fitting clothing, often more clothing to find what fits, and causes more waste of energy and money. All our precious resources!

Theres a bit of an apologetic for this practise here, but i still think it sucks:

Ah good old Cosmo…

So – im aware this is a shameless plug, but hey its my passion people, deal with it – when upcycling Kecks clothing i aim to make it as free size or adjustable as possible. The business was born out of my frustration with band t-shirts not fitting properly, I took my cue from Kat Von D and customised them.

Never stopped since:

Kat Von D Hits The Alexa Chung Show!

Modern clothes sizing is based on an NIST standard created in 1949 – it was later withdrawn in the 1980s and nothing has replaced it since – I think this is pretty tragic. It also leads us to the real and tragic point behind inconsistent sizing and subsequent waste: no one knows or cares what size we really are.

So, if the high street doesn’t care about us, how can we combat it:

1)  Knowing your own measurements and measuring up clothes in store

2) Trying EVERYTHING on (also trying and going back the next day to try again is often advisable) and knowing which stores cater to your size and shape and going there to beat compulsive purchases of ill-fitting stuff.

3) Move off the high street altogether and shop local – clothing sizing came from the move from going to a tailor for clothes, so go back to a tailor. Find people who can adjust and make your clothes – you can buy well made stuff cheaply second-hand and get it adjusted.

4) Re think your clothes – the internet is full of natty tips on reworking, remodelling, adjusting and styling clothes differently to suit you. For example:

Clever eh?

5) More importantly FORGET the size label! Complain to the stores about it, feedback online when sizing is bad, and perhaps we can stop this terrible waste.

For more info and to commission upcycled clothing, check out my work :


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