Does One Size Really Fit All?

woman trying on dressAt first glance, the term “one size fits all” seems to take the guesswork out of shopping online: there’s no need to wonder whether you’re a medium or a large when a piece of clothing is designed to fit everyone. However, for most women, the one-size-fits-all idea simply doesn’t work.

 The Real Story on One-Size Clothing

No one knows when the first one-size garment hit store shelves, but the idea was well established by the time Frank Zappa’s album One Size Fits All came out in 1975. It’s experiencing a major surge in popularity with labels like Brandy Melville and American Eagle offering lots of one-size items that may appeal to teen shoppers. Another popular one-size clothing brand is Nikibiki, which offers standard and plus-size versions of one-size clothing.

 What’s the Size of One-Size?

Most of the one-size offerings from these popular brands are separates made of stretchy fabrics. Other items offer elastic waistbands. However, anyone who has tried on a pair of too-small leggings can tell you that there’s a limit to how much something can stretch.

The following chart shows the measurements of the average American woman compared to the measurements of one-size clothing or the models who wear it at Brandy Melville and American Eagle.


Average Woman One-Size Clothing
Bust 34DD (or about 38 – 40 inches) 28 inches (with some stretch)
Waist 37.5 inches 22 inches (with some stretch)
Height 64 inches 67 inches

Height can make as much a difference in fit as shape and weight. A crop top on one woman may not even cover the chest of another and full length pants on one girl become capris on another.

Testing It Out

stretch clothingComparing the measurements of the average woman and the measurements of the clothing is one thing, but actually seeing the clothes on women of different sizes is something else entirely. To test out the “one-size” fit fallacy, five brave BuzzFeed staff members tried on several garments from Brandy Melvillie.

The women ranged from a size 0 to a size 18, and they tried on tops, shirts, dresses, skirts, and shorts. None of the clothing items fit every woman on the panel. In fact, each piece fit one or two of the women at most. Tops were too short. Sleeves were too tight. Dresses were positively X-rated.

Even more telling than the ill-fitting clothing were the women’s impressions of how they looked. They used words like “uncomfortable,” “awful,” “sad,” “upset,” and “shameful.” Even fully aware that they were testing the clothing, they described feeling bad about not being able to wear clothing items that “should fit everyone.”

Exceptions – When One Size Works

While buying close-fitting clothing labeled as “one size” does not work for most women, there are a couple of items that can be exceptions:

Wrap-style bathrobes – If the garment does not have shoulder seams or a defined waist, it can fit women of many different sizes. By overlapping the front and tying it with a belt, women of all sizes can create their own custom fit.

Open kimono-style tops – If you aren’t concerned about getting a specific fit, trendy open-front kimono tops can work as a one-size item. They don’t have shoulder seams or any front closure, so they fit a wide variety of size.

It’s important to remember that even with these exceptions, you may not get the ideal fit with one-size items. One-size clothing may fit, but that does not mean it will be flattering.

 All Shapes and Sizes

In most cases, one-size clothing really does not fit everyone. This can send the hurtful message that fit problems are the fault of the wearer, rather than the poorly-sized clothing. Beautiful women come in all different shapes and sizes, and it may not be reasonable to expect a single piece of clothing to fit all of them.

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