How to Dress When You’re in Between Sizes

how to dress when you're in between sizes

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re in the fitting room trying on an item in your typical size, and it’s too small.  Then you try the next size up, and it’s too big?

You are smack dab in the middle between the two sizes! Ack! What to do? This topic came up when I asked readers for their most burning wardrobe challenge.  I only got this response from one gal, but I can imagine just about everyone can relate to this.

So back to the topic…what do you do? There are a few different scenarios, and the solutions are pretty easy. You just choose which one is right for you.

How to Dress When You’re in Between Sizes

  • Shift your mindset (I know, it’s not quite what you were hoping for.)

And don’t settle.

As an image consultant, having worked with women in the fitting rooms for 15 years, I find it’s not always a matter of the garment being too big or small…it just isn’t right for your body shape.

Repeat after me! It’s not me, it’s the­­­­______________________!(insert dress, top, pants, etc.)

Garments are sized for a fit model at a certain size. Then the manufacturer grades the pattern larger and smaller. Unless you’re a similar shape to the fit model, the garment might not probably won’t fit just right.

(Ah, and the beauty of this is that there are clothes for a wide variety of bodies!)

For example, I have a good friend who is a fashion designer. When she started her line, she made her clothes in 12 and up and designed them for a curvy fit model. She got lots of requests for smaller sizes, so she graded the patterns down and now starts at a size 0 and goes to size 24.

She also told me that unless you’re a really curvy size 0, the clothes probably aren’t going to fit quite right. Make sense?

  • Don’t bother with pants (except leggings) that are sized with letters (s, m, l, etc.).

There are a lot of numeric sizes in between two “letter” sizes that aren’t being accounted for.

Pants without number sizes?! That’s crazy! They might work for teenagers, but that’s usually about it. (Luckily this type of pant sizing is pretty rare.)

Do yourself a favor—reduce your stress, and stick to normal sized pants!

And check out 5 Ways to Make Finding Pants a Breeze, for a real leg up on pants shopping (yep, I meant to do that, lol!)

On another note, if you’re easy to fit in pants, S, M, L…might work for you. Perhaps jackets are your tougher fit. If so, look for numeric sizes in jackets.

  • Make friends with a tailor

Yes, I said it. Plan to have clothing altered…it’s normal.

In general, it’s pretty hard to find clothes off the rack that fit absolutely perfectly. (See #1 re: fit models.) Tailoring can take a garment from a little too big to fabulous!

It’s definitely easier to take garments in than it is to let them out. Most clothes just don’t have enough seam allowance for the latter.

So why didn’t I suggest tailoring as your only option?

Well first, nobody wants to alter everything they buy, especially casual, inexpensive clothes. (Work clothes are worth the cost of tailoring—you know, dress for success!)

Secondly, I want to stick to my guns about what I said about some clothes just not being the right shape for your body.

Dana Lynch, Denver Image Consultant

My beloved, ill-fitting dress. Looks fine here, but trust me…

A long time ago I found a red Nanette Lepore dress at Saks 5thAvenue at a really good clearance price. The salesperson convinced me it fit well and would be perfect with a small alteration.

Long story short, the dress just wasn’t right for my body. The tailor tried but just couldn’t get the alteration right. (And the alterations were expensive on it!)

I wore the dress several times but eventually gave it up, never feeling 100% confident in it.

Moral of the story…find clothes that fit fairly well, and then have them altered to fit perfectly. The alteration should be a small tweak, not a major overhaul. (I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.)

When you’re in between sizes, finding clothes that fit just right or can be altered, and not settling for too big or too small, has a big pay off!

You’ll look like the sophisticated woman you are, and your confidence will be through the roof!

Before You Go…

6 comments on “How to Dress When You’re in Between Sizes

  1. This was a great question. All my adult life I was a 7/8 or 9/10 which was perfect. However once manufacturers changed to 9 or 10 etc has been a nightmare to have anything fit properly. For better clothes I always buy 1 size up and have altered.

    1. Yes, sizes are all over the place these days! I have clothes from a size 4 (White House Black Market) to a size 10 (Kate Spade) and they all fit! Oh, and the other day I bought a dress in a Petite L from Ross…fits perfectly! I was on a mission to find a white dress or jumpsuit, so I perused the racks and pulled out anything I found in white to try on. (Since it’s August, there wasn’t much, but a good exercise.)

      1. Nice find. Makes shopping so worthwhile. Just for your information the only skirts I buy either for everyday or even with great blouses, blazers and sweaters are the Pull On Pencil Skirts in a size regular medium from CLEO (find the petite just a little short for me now).. I have about a dozen now and they fit perfectly on the waist (I am short waisted to boot) and hips. I constantly wear with better quality tops and always get compliments. Check them out for yourself and see what you think.

        1. Thanks, Debora! And that’s great that you’ve found a style that works so well for you! I see no reason not to buy multiple colors…now it’s your signature style!

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