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How to compare women's clothing sizes to men's

Updated April 17, 2017

Fashions for men and women overlap frequently, and clothing designed for one gender is often desirable for the other. However, industry standard sizing methods for men's and women's clothing can make determining your correct size challenging.

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Women's clothing sizing

In the 1940s, mass-produced women's clothing underwent a sizing standardisation project by the U.S. government. These standards, in use until the early 1980s, are not in use today in the USA, so women's clothes sizes diverged between the UK, which still uses the older standard, and the USA. Vanity sizing, the practice of using smaller size numbers for larger sizes, has been common since 1983 in the USA. Sizing variations between clothing manufacturers in different countries force most women to try on clothing to determine their appropriate size.

Men's clothing sizing

Most men's clothing, on the other hand, is based on actual measurements, and is sized accordingly. Some variations may occur in sizes such as small, medium and large, used for items such as shirts, casual wear and outerwear.

Comparing sizing differences

The discrepancies between men's and women's clothing sizes are clearest in jeans sizes. Men's jeans are sized by waist and inseam measurements, which can be compared to the wearer's body. Women's jeans vary greatly, with some women wearing a size 8 in one brand and a size 12 in another. This phenomenon is due to the different sizing methods used in different countries. Men must try on various garments to determine their size for a particular women's clothing brand. Women can get close to their correct size in men's clothing by measuring themselves.

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About the Author

Kelli Nottingham has been a freelance writer for more than five years, with published works on topics ranging from international travel to home decor DIY projects. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Colorado, Nottingham holds degrees in anthropology of religion, with a focus on religious ritual. She is also a recognized professional speaker with national experience.

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