How To Find Your Clothing Size Online

by Amy in Fashion

There are more and more online clothing stores offering affordable, unique shopping options, but figuring out what size you are is a challenge when there’s no change room on hand. While most online retailers have size charts or guides to help you figure it out, it’s often hard to really tell how something will fit until you actually try it on.

Then there is vanity sizing and variations to consider. You could be a size 8 with one brand, a 6 with another and a 12 or a Large somewhere else. As the New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford put it way back in 2011 “standard sizing has never been very standard, ever since custom clothing gave way to ready-to-wear.”

Different countries also set and list sizes very differently, and there are variations between men’s and women’s sizes across the board. While male sizing tends to go by measurements or a small-medium-large range, women’s sizing could be numbered from size 6 to 22 (or above), from extra extra small to extra large, or based on the inches of your hips, bust or waist (eg a 26).

Shopping online brings these differences to the fore because there are so many international retailers with great clothing at affordable prices. Returning clothes that are the wrong size, however, is a lot more time-consuming (and can even cost you money in some cases).

So here we take a look at some of the most effective ways to find your clothing size online. Going through the steps for one or more of the following should help you find the right size at any online store, so that you have a better chance of being able to wear what you buy when it arrives.

On This Page
1. Taking your clothing measurements
2. Comparing sizes to clothes you already own
3. Showrooming for your clothing size
4. Clothing material and style considerations
5. Returns policies
Conclusion: What to remember about your clothing sizes

1. Taking your clothing measurements

Measurements have actually been the most effective way to work out clothing sizes since before there were ready-to-wear options. Back in the days before clothing factories, tailors would measure their customers to get a perfect fit when they made their clothes. So it makes sense that taking your measurements now will help you get a better fit when shopping online (or even in store).
To get the most accurate measurements, you’ll need a fabric or flexible tape measure and a mirror or someone to help you. Stand in front of the mirror and measure as follows:

1. Chest and/or bust (sometimes different): Measure under your armpits and around the fullest part of your bust (for women) or chest (for men). For women, it also helps to wear an appropriate bra.
2. Waist: Measure the narrowest part of your waist; a little below your ribcage and a couple of centimetres above your navel. Breathe out before you measure to get a comfortable and accurate fit.
3. Hips: This is the fullest part of your hips – it could help to stand side-on to a mirror to find it.

Some stores also have their own guides for figuring out clothing measurements. If that’s the case, and they are slightly different, it’s best to go with what they recommend because it will be specific to what you want to buy (particularly with underwear, which could need more measurements around certain parts of your body).

But generally, your bust/chest, waist and hip measurements are the ones most commonly listed by online stores, so it’s a good idea to have them handy when you decide to shop online. Keep in mind some stores list measurements in centimetres and some use inches, so if you can write down both you’ll be able to check your size without getting out the tape measure every time.

2. Comparing sizes to clothes you already own

Another strategy that offers some success is to compare the size of clothes online to those of clothes you already own. This option is particularly useful when it’s the same brand, but can also work well with clothes of a similar style.

If you want to buy a skater dress, for example, and already have several in that style, checking the sizes of the ones you own will give you an idea of how a new dress would fit. Similarly, if you want to buy a new t-shirt, checking what size you normally take can make it easier to find the right size for a new one.

Another way to check online clothing sizes with your current clothes is to check the label to see if it has measurements listed. The measurements may or may not be different to the ones you take yourself, which means you can see how they vary and get a better idea of where you fit with another online sizing chart for similar clothes.

Sometimes there are even apps you can use to help make the most out of checking sizes with your own clothing. The Swedish-based Virtusize, for example, is an app that lets you load in details for clothes you already own and compare them with others you find online.

“Using a garment they already own as a reference for their new purchase is the best and most accurate way for online shoppers to understand the size and fit of an item,” the website says.

“Our solution has been developed alongside designers, pattern makers and industry leading online retailers who share our view that garment comparison is the only way to clearly and objectively showcase size and fit.”

Online stores including asos, Monsoon and nelly currently use Vitusize, which means all you have to do is click on the Virtusize button for an item of clothing you like and you will be shown how it compares to options you have uploaded onto the app.

This type of clothing comparison is bound to become more popular as online retailers aim to reduce the number of returns and other businesses develop apps to make the process easier. But in the meantime, comparing clothes manually can be an easy way to estimate your clothing size in an online store.

3. Showrooming for your clothing size

If you’re more cautious about shopping online but want to really get a feel for something before you buy it, you could go and try clothes on in an actual store and then make a purchase online. This option is sometimes referred to as “showrooming” ¬and, as the Wall Street Journal reported in April 2014, it is becoming more popular in the fashion world, particularly when it comes to luxury brands.

“Few luxury fashion houses operate full e-commerce sites, with a complete array of products and round-the-world shipping,” WSJ explains.

“Instead, department stores and online-only retailers are beating luxury brands at their own game, siphoning off sales to their own websites with a more sophisticated buying experience. They act as wholesalers, at a time when many luxury houses are reducing their exposure to wholesale sales to reap the higher margins in their own distribution channels.”

Showrooming for clothes does take a bit more effort because you have to actually go to a store to try clothes on, and potentially deal with the awkwardness of a sales assistant asking if you need help. But it means you can find the right size, see how something looks on and then search for a better price online, which could save you money and the hassle of returning something that you haven’t been able to try on.

Showrooming can also lead to other, unexpected bargains. Brick-and-mortar stores are constantly looking for ways to beat online competitors, which means there are sometimes exclusive in-store sales. Online retailers, similarly, often have exclusive sales, which means you can compare prices while you are trying something on to get the very best price.

4. Clothing material and style considerations

Sometimes the measurements and sizing of online stores doesn’t really match your own. Your bust, for example, could be slightly bigger than what’s listed for a size, but your waist could be smaller (or vice versa). If that’s the case, considering the type of material and style of clothing could give you a better idea of how it will fit.

When it comes to material, fabrics with a bit of elasticity, such as lycra or anything “stretch”, is often more forgiving of size variations. But non-stretch fabrics like pure denim could be harder to fit into if there’s a few centimetres or inches of difference. While not all online stores list the type of fabric used, you can often tell from pictures whether or not it will have a little give to it.

The cut of clothing, on the other hand, can help you figure out what measurements to prioritise. A loose t-shirt, for example, probably doesn’t need to be an exact match to your waist measurements, so your bust or chest size might be where you need to focus. A tight-fitting dress, on the other hand, could require all of the measurements be as close as possible (even if it does have some stretch to it, like a bodycon dress).

It’s also important to keep in mind clothing care when you look at the materials used. Will it shrink if you wash it in warm water? Or stretch out over time? Factoring these elements in before you buy clothes online will help you pick a size that gives you the most comfort and the longest wear.

5. Returns Policies

Finding the right clothing size online doesn’t always work (hey, it doesn’t even work in stores all the time), so it’s important to have a back up plan too. Return policies vary from store-to-store, with some offering free returns and others requiring you pay for shipping.

Then there is the fact that the size you need may be sold out by the time you return the wrong size. While some stores offer credits or refunds, others may only offer exchanges with all kinds of conditions. Checking these details before you buy clothes online will make it easier to deal with things you buy that do end up being the wrong size.

Conclusion: What to remember about your clothing sizes

It is easy to get caught up with being a certain size, and to be thrown by variations when you shop online. The reality is that clothing sizes are different everywhere, and it shouldn’t really matter whether the label says it’s small, medium, large, extra large or anything else. What’s more important is that the clothes you buy fit right and look good.

Taking the time to check sizing charts wherever you shop online gives you a better chance of buying clothes you can wear straight away. There are all kinds of ways for you to find your clothing size for an online retailer, as outlined in the sections above. Using one or several of these options should make it easier to shop with any retailer and lower the chance of needing to return something.

As most retailers list specific measurements, using a tape measure to check yours is a great place to start. It’s also a good idea to check them every now and then, just to make sure they are around the same place when you place an order online. The other methods outlined can complement this option or work well on their own, depending on the retailer and types of clothes you want to buy.

But if you still have doubts about clothing sizes, return policies or anything else, you can also contact the retailer with questions about whatever you want to buy. This step will also give you an opportunity to get specific details, which can come in handy if anything does go wrong.

Shopping for clothes online is supposed to be a fast and easy process, but uncertainties about sizing can cause a whole lot of issues. So finding your clothing size for different retailers, and being aware of variations and returns policies, means that you can get the most out of buying clothes online.