06 August 2012

Fitted Style: It's Called a Measuring Tape

Warning: I'm going to get on my style soapbox.

I heard something amazing today. A friend told me a how today’s college age women shop.

Apparently, they read fashion blogs (the Outfit-of-the-Day-type, I’m guessing), see an outfit they like, then click on the links and buy the exact same outfit.

My response: “Wow.”

Her response: “The money.”

My next response: “How the heck do they know it’s going to fit?”

Caveat No. 1: This comes from a woman (yours truly) who spent at least 30 minutes and multiple phone calls fretting over the fit of her corporate polo shirt (but then, really, who wouldn’t), measuring and remeasuring, comparing it to the manufacturer’s measurements (which were admittedly odd) to make sure she got it right.

Caveat No. 2: This comes from a woman who has, for her last online shopping expeditions (see here and here) gleefully poured over size charts to figure out which size she now is. Part of it is because she doesn’t know (#healthyme works, and all), and part of it is because, well, she wants it to fit correctly.

Caveat No. 3: This comes from a woman who knows her measurements like the back of her hand. OK, so I don’t know the back of my hand very well. But I do know my measurements, because, on Weight Watchers, I take them every week. It’s part of how I know #healthyme is working.

All of this, though, just adds to my point. Which is (yes, yes, I’m getting to the point):

It’s called a measuring tape. Use it.

Most of us probably don’t own one, I suppose. Or at least don’t own one that doesn’t belong in a tool box (you know, the kind that snaps back so hard you’re afraid it’ll take out an eye?). But, quite frankly, that kind will work, too.

The Style Shows make a huge point of telling us how we should get things tailored. And they’re right. But, I have to say, there’s a lot to be said for buying things that fit to start. Hemlines aside (says the 5’9” woman who rarely, if ever, has to get anything hemmed. You can hate me now.) As the same wise, stylish friend said, she sees “so many women on the metro who ALMOST make it in an outfit. And it’s usually because of fit. ” It’s as if, she said, “they saw someone else in it and bought it but didn’t factor in their hips, bust, etc.”

Buying things that fit, you say? Pshaw. Urban legend, you say, especially in these Internet Times.

Guess what? I just bought a pair of pants and 2 skirts that fit nearly perfectly. You know how? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there are these glorious things called size charts. I looked them up. And I measured myself. Then I compared, the best that I could, my measurements to the site’s measurements. Yes, I was between sizes. And yes, I had to make an educated guess. But I still came out with clothing that fits me.

So here are my tips for measuring - and buying - clothes that fit. And while I absolutely intend these for online purchases, they’d make great pre-big-shopping-trip homework for someone who likes to research stores ahead of time.

1. Buy a measuring tape. Go simple. Go crazy. There's plain, and there's fancy. Personally, I hang onto a sentimental one my grandmother had in her sewing box (also, get yourself a sewing box and learn how to wield a needle and thread for the simplest repairs; everyone - I mean everyone - should know how to sew a button back on a shirt. but that's another post.). I think it's from Wanamaker's. But either way, it works.

1. Basic - Dritz ($2.29, people). 2. Just up from basic - Dritz Lifetime ($2.49). 3. For the girl who has to have one in every color, even at $6.54, totally affordable, from Amico. 4. Fancypants (retractable, choice of colors, and European) - Hoechstmass ($6.99. See? Even fancypants ones are more than worth the price.)

2. Once you’re on the website for the clothing you want to purchase, follow that site’s instructions for measuring. It's usually on a product page, and look for "size charts." Most are similar, so it’s a pretty fair bet that you’re going to be on target with the basics, but if you’re spending money online and don’t want to have to waste time and engergy returning things (even with all of the free returns available nowadays), take the 5 seconds and double-check.

3. As tempting as it is to pull that tape tight and get a smaller measurement, don’t. I know. It’s tempting. But measure each (usually bust, waist, and hips) comfortably, but not loosely. This is one of those places where it’s good to follow the site’s instructions.

4. Write your measurements down. In a place you won’t lose them.

5. Understand that your measurements won’t match a site’s perfectly. You may be, for example, a 8-10 in your waist size, but a 10-12 in your hips. It’s ok to take a gamble and “go small” on some things (maybe an a-line skirt, in this case, which would be more forgiving in the larger hip size), but generally, you’re going to want to go with the larger size. That is, if you MUST have the item.

6. Exercise judgement. If your measurements are drastically different, and it’s a piece of clothing where fit is critcal - such as a pencil skirt or trousers - it might be good to skip it. These drastic differences are what give us those annoying gaps at our waist in jeans, for example. There are whole lines of jeans built around those gaps. We could just measure instead. And use those measurements to - gasp - not buy something that won’t fit.

7. Lastly, once you measure, buy, then find a style or brand that fits, it’s ok - even good - to buy more from that brand and style. Multiple colors of something that fits you well are useful. don’t you always kick yourself for not buying them? That being said, don’t assume fits are the same on each style. A pair of Banana Republic Martin trousers fit much differently than their Sloan, for example. Pay attention to the fit descriptions.

Want proof that it works? Well, after all of that fretting over the corporate polo shirt, and panic that had ensued from others because they hadn’t measured (and assumed the sizes were “standard,” which they very much weren’t), my polos fit perfectly. In fact, I got more compliments on my BoothBabe ensembles than I could’ve hoped for - and many, literally, on how well my polo shirt fit.

Not kidding.

Day 1: The much-debated (see comments in my original post, herelava Gap Perfect Khakis (bought online using size charts and shipped to hotel - they are perfect, btw) + LOFT 4-strand smoky crystal necklace (now probably 4 seasons old, and hidden behind my phone) + blush patent leather Lillybee Kate pumps (on sale now, ladies! they're fabulous!) = compliments from even the most conservative of conference attendees

Day 2: Gap patterned, slim-fit, cropped pants + goldenrod bamboo statement necklace + bronze Kelsi Dagger gladiator sandals (several seasons old, similar here) = more compliments

Day 3: As close as I could bring myself to plain ol' khakis, a Banana Republic pencil skirt with military detail (out of stock, but here's another with some non-plain-khaki detail) + LOFT crystal necklace + Lillybee pumps (note to conference packers - these pumps are perfect to pack!) = hands-down "I love the way you wore the company polo shirts" winning.

You were warned.

Lastly, a huge thank you to the lovely folks at my home during the conference, the Hotel Solamar in San Diego. The mirror in my room made boring Outfit Shots less boring. Also, your staff's recommendations rock.


Kate said...

It's even more frustrating when you dutifully take your measurements and use the size chart and order clothes that you are certain will fit from a site without free returns (you don't need free returns, you see, because you measured), and it turns out the site lied to you. This has happened to me more than once.

Any tips or recs for this unfortunate situation?

RosaLovesDC said...

Yes, a measuring tape is a very good thing to have handy at all times. I carry one in my purse, yep, I am that kind of girl. I shop a lot at J.Crew online so when I have questions about measurements on a particular item, I just call customer service or email my personal shopper and she sends me the info. J.Crew has this information for every single item they carry, yes it's true!

Thanks for this fabulous tips!