New High Street Sizing: A Positive Move?

By Bethany Griffiths

After facing years of backlash for poor sizing guidelines, some high street shops (notably H&M and Primark) have now progressed from their usual 6-20 sizing to XS-XXL sizing. The shops have claimed that this change in sizing guidelines will ensure that women can guarantee to find clothing to fit their standard size. Despite this, there have been countless complaints about the new system, with many women arguing that the change in sizing still does not reflect their natural size. This raises the question whether the shops have simply provided a ‘quick-fix’ solution to avoid a decade-long problem. It also requires us to think about how much influence high street shops have on our perception of the female body and how damaging their poor sizing choices may be to women everywhere.

I first encountered this new sizing venture when I took a trip to my local Primark. Buying jeans from there has always been a bit of a gamble with some jeans fitting and others not despite being the exact same size, yet I have luckily never encountered this issue with t-shirts. Despite this, during my visit I noticed that although on the various sizing guidelines littered around the room it said I should get a size M, I could take a wild guess that many jumpers and t-shirts of that size were likely to be a bit of a squeeze, and I would likely have to get a L. If that is the case surely it’s evident that this shape up of sizing guidelines has actually done nothing that it has set out to do? I would’ve had to of brought a size higher than usual because of their poorly cut clothes – which I normally had to do anyway before the shape up!

In other words, is this not evidence of high street shops providing a poorly thought out ‘quick-fix’ solution to this still ongoing problem? H&M are notorious for selling t-shirts with feminist slogans on them, yet do not seem to practice that feminism in their own HQ. The way we perpetuate body image, particularly our own body image, lies often with what we see on the rails in high street stores. If we have to buy a higher size than we think we are it is almost definitely going to knock confidence. H&M and the like have a duty to provide clothes at the size it says on the label – not a size below that.

H&M have claimed that this new system will ‘change our womenswear measurements to be in line with UK sizing, for example, the previous measurements and fit of a size 12 will now be the measurements of a size 10’. If that is the case, why have so many women complained that the size supposedly made for them (ie. M if 12/14) is still too small for them? A student currently working part time at H&M has even suggested that she has ‘received countless returns and complaints’ from dissatisfied customers about the new sizing.

Perhaps H&M and the like are trying to make amends and reflect their ‘feminist’ stance – if this is the case, more still needs to be done to ensure that the sizing guidelines actually reflect a woman’s true body image.