How to Use Clothing Size Charts

Clothing size charts are prolific in e-commerce. However, they can often be confusing to decipher.

How to Read Clothing Size Guides

Firstly, come prepared with your measurements in hand. The most commonly used measurements are bust, waist, and hips. If you’re looking to purchase a swimsuit, your bra size might also be needed.

The clothing size chart will typically be set up in a table. One axis will lay out the sizes, and the other will be the measurements in either inches or centimeters. Look at row or column that best corresponds with your measurements and you’ll be able to identify your accurate size.

Sample women's clothing size chart

Sample women’s clothing size chart

Commonly Used Words

Clothing size charts can also be broken down by clothing items, styles and different cuts. Understanding the terminology used to describe sizes and fits will help you choose the best fitting apparel.

 Size

Regular: For women, this typically refers to women 5’4”-5’7 ½” tall, with hips slightly larger than bust and in sizes that range from 00 to 14 or 16 for numeric sizing and from Small to Extra Large.  For men, this typically refers to those items that fit a height of 5’8”-6’ ½” tall and fall into a size range from Small to Extra Large.

Size Terms Specific to Women

Celebrating their uniquenessPetite: This is not only for shorter women, but for women who are smaller in general. The clothing is proportioned for a smaller frame, with shoulder widths and sleeve lengths scaled down. Women between 4’11-5’3 ½” should look for petite-sized clothing. Sizes are often designated with a P at the end, such as 4P (size 4 petite).

Short: Short sizes for women usually indicate a shorter length, without having overall smaller proportions. They are often indicated by an S after the letter size.

Tall: This is for taller women between 5’8”-6’ ½” and men 6’1” and taller. Torso and sleeve lengths tend to be longer for tops; inseams and trouser lengths are longer for bottoms.

Plus size: This is for women sized 12-24, and XL-4XL (instead of small, medium, and large). Numerical sizes are also often designated with a W at the end, as in 12W-24W. Apparel is generally roomier throughout and fits a curvier frame better.

Juniors: This term is used for younger women and clothing items are marked by odd-numbered sizes, usually from 1-13. Junior apparel is proportioned smaller throughout and is usually made for more slender, less curvy builds. Junior clothing lines often feature trendier designs catered towards the teen market.

Misses or Missy: Primarily a term used for women, it concentrates on the fashion interests of females older than the teen marketplace. Some lines refer to all their non-plus size women’s clothing as Misses, while others use it to indicate a younger adult woman. Most misses clothing is proportioned more generously in the bust and hips than junior items. Sizes are usually marked by even numbers, 0-16.

 Women’s: In some lines Women’s is synonymous with Misses and simply indicates the cuts are intended for adult females. However, in many clothing brands the designation Women’s indicates a fuller cut, often with larger sizes, or to indicate their Plus sized clothing.

Men’s Sizing Terms

Big and Tall: This term is primarily used for men’s plus sized clothing — sizes 12 and up, and XXL-4XL. This may sometimes be extended to 7XL and up, depending on the retailer. Proportions of the clothes fit larger men better, especially in the torso, waist, and pant leg. Big and tall sizes for men may also be called Extended sizes.

Husky: This size is used primarily for boys who have trouble fitting into traditionally-sized pants, especially at the waistband and hips. They are usually sized more generously around the hips and are longer in length. It can occasionally refer to boys’ shirts, where the torso will be sized more generously and the shirt will have longer arms. It is usually designated with a H, as in 14H.

Fit

Relaxed: relaxed fit clothing, also known as oversized or boyfriend-style clothing for women, is clothing that hangs more loosely from the body. They tend to be deliberately slightly oversized and are typically used in relation to tops, usually button-up shirts, or trousers. Men’s jeans often come in relaxed fit and have a fuller cut through the hips and legs.

Slim: Slim-fit clothing is meant for a closer fit to the body and is often used to describe men’s dress shirts. Slimmer and more petite men should look out for this descriptor as the shirts offered will probably be a better fit.

Rise: The term rise, usually used as “low-rise,” “high-rise” or “mid-rise” is used to describe the distance from the waist to the crotch on pants. Low rise pants sit low on the hips while high rise sit at or even above the natural waist.

Some brands measure rise by going from center back of the waist, down, through the crotch, then up to the front center of the waist, so make sure you look for their measurement method if you are looking for a specific rise.

Using Size Guides to Ensure Your Best Fit

While fashion clothing terminology can sometimes be challenging to decipher, the most important part about a piece of clothing is how it fits on you. If you are at a store, try on a range of sizes to get your best fit, and use terminology and sizes to inform your choices.

Learn more about clothing fit and measurement:

5 thoughts on “How to Use Clothing Size Charts

  1. My sister wears a misses size 8. However, in tops, size 8 is way too tight, as she is very large busted. She has narrow shoulders. I’ve given up on giving her shirts for gifts, as they’re always too tight, and she won’t wear a larger size! I think she would look much better in a plus size top, but am at a loss here.

    1. Hi, She will need an 18 in many brands to fit her waist (although in some brands a 16 may work). However, she may find pants that fit in the waist to be a bit loose in the hips. A good tailor can usually adjust for that. She might want to try pants from Catherines in a 16 as some of their styles are larger waisted relative to the hip sizes.

  2. It’s interesting to learn that there are so many of these terms to learn when purchasing women’s clothing properly. Basically, if I want to get clothing for my teen daughter, I should get from the Juniors selection since it’s trendier and leans more on designs catered towards the teen market. I’ll remember this and jot down your guide. I’ll be purchasing some clothes for my wife and daughter as gifts for the holiday, so it’s nice to have this guide. Hopefully, they’d like the clothes that I’ll gift to them. Thanks for the quick how-to on clothing sizes!

    1. Hi Jeremy, thank you for the comment and we’re glad you find our guide useful. Good luck on your holiday purchases!

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