One of the biggest style gaffes is known as the ‘stuffed sausage’ look- trying to squeeeeeeeze into a size that is too small. On the flip side is one of the biggest shopping gaffes: discounting an item simply because the number on the label doesn’t match what’s typically hangs in your closet.
There are many times I will try something on that is one, even two sizes bigger than what I typically wear. And often, when paired correctly so proportions still work, the bigger size can too. This is especially important to remember during SALE times (which occur at the end of every season), as items are often not available in every size or if you shop consignment where there’s only one of each available.
Be flexible with sizing and don’t get too wrapped up in the numbers. European designer clothing (especially those damn Italians) runs very small, while American lines have, more and more, incorporated ‘vanity sizing’, allowing burgeoning bellies and butts to still fit comfortably without going up a size (a phenomenon especially prominent in the mainstream mall shops like Banana Republic, J.Crew, GAP, etc.)
Remember too that if you love a piece but it doesn’t fit correctly, you can have it tailored to fit your body. Locally, I recommend Boulder Custom Tailoring.
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I agree that sizes vary a lot–and that you should have an open mind about sizes. You can miss some really wonderful things if you don’t try things that vary in size.