‘Clothing sizes in SA are ridiculous’ say W24 readers – and they’re not just women!


Buying clothes is often a chore that we would prefer not to do – for some of us it’s because we don’t want to deal with long queues or snooty changing room assistants, while for others it’s because we simply cannot find anything in our size and it’s heartbreaking. 

I recently wrote an article about how clothing sizes in SA stores are a lie and went around to seven different stores for a sizing challenge. The experience wasn't all bad but mostly disheartening.

READ MORE: I tried to find 'plus size' clothing in 7 different stores - here’s what happened

So I turned to our readers and asked them what their experiences have been like because surely I can’t be the only one, right?

Firstly, no two stores are alike! A 34 at one store is NOT the same as a 34 in another store. I’ve even found that two different “brands” within one store aren’t even sized the same, how can this be?

‘No two sizes are alike!’

Firstly, no two stores are alike! A 34 at one store is NOT the same as a 34 in another store. I’ve even found that two different “brands” within one store aren’t even sized the same, how can this be?

Also, you might think something fits, you are so excited, you buy it and wear it and love it and then you wash it! And then it shrinks… no matter how carefully you wash it, some of it shrinks.

At least I’ve now started to feel okay with wearing something that is a “bigger” size than what I’d normally wear but if it fits then I’m cool with that. We shouldn’t let a size define us, because really now, I’m a 32 at one store, 34 at another and 36 at the other…  But I agree that things need to change, uniformity needs to be put out there!

- Niecole

‘The underwear is so ugly’

I wear clothes sized number 22 or 24. And this is where the problem starts.
Sleepwear and underwear are both UGLY. There is no sexy underwear or nighties. I remember one lady in an adjoining change room saying that the manufacturers making these clothes don’t think that big people have sex! I would also love to buy underwear in different colours, but it is white, nude and black. If, and it is a big IF, there is a bra in a plus size any other colour, there isn’t a pair of pants in the same plus size? There are no sexy lace inlays in any of our bras available.
The design of clothes – oh my goodness. I also go on holiday and would love to buy a pair of shorts and a plain t- shirt to go with it. If you go to the few shops that stock larger numbers, the t –shirts are printed, have padded shoulders and cost an arm and a leg. If I go the shops that are the “cheaper” stores, the t-shirt stops at my navel, and accentuates my round tummy.
Dresses or tops have straps over the shoulders, and then my bra straps are really visible. Where is the strapless bras or clear bra straps that we can hook onto the bras? Or a soft, casual throw over jacket to enable us to wear these clothes?
Let me not start on the colours of clothes available for the bigger model. My favourite saying is that I am in mourning every morning when I open my cupboard door. Black, grey, brown, navy, maroon and perhaps cream are the most popular colours for big people. I know that these colours make you look slimmer, but really I am big and would love to choose from a bigger colour palette. Nothing that I wear will change the fact that I am big. May I not have the choice to choose lighter colours if I want to wear them?
If 60% of the population is obese in South Africa, shouldn’t the clothing manufacturers spend more time to understand the needs of their prospective clientele?  It is, after all, the bigger market in SA?
- Christina

READ MORE: Debunking the 'fat girls can't and shouldn't wear tight clothes' myth

‘Shopping is a nightmare’ 

I am one size larger than [Carmen] and I have folded over laughing in the change room because I think I look like a contorted frog. Other times I have burst into tears as I needed an outfit because I was asked to be a speaker at a conference. I had to decline. How can I speak in front of the industry people in jeans and a t-shirt?

- Joan

‘I can’t find nice clothes’

I have jeans that have been stitched together - between the legs because the denims today are ridiculously shaped or are the skinny kind which shows cellulite.

- Liesl 

All women want to feel comfortable and look good at the same time.

‘It’s impossible to find what I want’

As a larger and older person, all I want is classic, comfortable clothing. It’s impossible. I took R10 000 and tried to find something, anything that fit and was in a fabric that could breathe and found NOTHING! Most large size clothing is made with synthetic fabrics, which makes one sweat and sizes are from China, where the average body is small.

- Maureen

‘I just want to feel comfortable and look good’

I am a size 34/10/M and also struggle to find clothes that fit me. I am a little bigger than a few years ago so it is very emotional for me too. If I have to buy a size large I am so disappointed and really think I'm fat and get so depressed. 

All women want to feel comfortable and look good at the same time. My sister is plus size and the struggle is even worse for her. Plus size clothing is very expensive. I also find it hard to get shoes at times. Some shoes are just so narrow. Sexy, comfortable shoes are also a struggle for plus size women. 

- Jeanne

‘Why are the sizes so ridiculous?’

For years now, I have realised that the sizes in the shops are all whack. Goodness me, do the designers not know that a size ‘large’ is supposed to fit a large lady and not a small build? I find it quite depressing. I have had a weight problem all my adult life and clothes shopping is not a pleasant thing to do because of the incorrect sizing of clothes. I mean, some XL items in certain chain stores will fit my tiny framed daughter just perfectly. 

- Raymond

READ MORE: “I built a minimalist wardrobe and it kinda sucked – here’s why”

‘I’m going to have my clothes specially made’

I am a size 16. I have the same problem with all stores. In the U.S. they measure you and can take you to the exact rack for your exact size. I find all shoes too narrow. Now I am looking for a tailor to make my clothes. 

- Denise

There aren't really shops that make plus size fashion affordable for us bigger girls. We also want to look good on a budget.

‘Nothing fits!’

I have been struggling for years to find clothing, never mind trendy clothing, for my size 44 body. I can't bear shopping with my husband because he is so supportive but it's tough for me to tell him, "this one didn't fit either," every single time I fit something on. Shopping for clothes has become a horrible mission. I often go to big malls, visiting five or more stores and leaving with one item that fit. 

And it's not just the clothing. I am a size 6 but once found a size 9 wedge that fit my poor little fat foot. Size 9! I've given up on bras. I have come to the realisation that I have to start wearing what my mother is wearing. Cross your heart and hope to die bras. 

On the positive side, I found that The Space in Canal Walk and Cavendish stock some decent clothing for bigger women plus it's all local designers. My favourite dresses are from Michelle Ludek. Also found City Chic online but they only have stores in Johannesburg. 

But the only issue I have with these stores is that I haven’t got R800 - R1000 to spend on 1 item each time, so I try to wait for sales but unfortunately they don't always happen when I have money. 

The point is there aren't really shops that make plus size fashion affordable for us bigger girls. We also want to look good on a budget. Why can't I get a sexy black dress in 44 that fits perfectly for R300? Is that asking for too much? 

- Juanita

READ MORE: 5 ways to make a simple outfit look expensive

‘I wish I could custom design my clothes’

I returned from a year abroad last year around September. So I basically skipped winter in 2017. And now with the weather changing I realised I have no winter clothing. 

I wish someone can just shake the industry and wake them up. Have you seen ASOS in the UK? Their plus size clothing is suuuper on trend, expensive for us South Africans but I believe they are reasonably priced. 

Why do we not have a shop here catering to us curvier women? This is after all Africa. 

I wish I could submit designs of things that I would like to find in my size to a store that delivers on quality and affordability. Sometimes even plain designs are hard to find. 

All I ask for is one cool store! Just one.

- Michelle

Sometimes I think the retailers have forgotten that men also need clothes!

‘It’s not just women’

It is not just the girls who have this problem. Men have to endure the same (or similar) problems. I am a short person with a medium build. Trying to find a pair of trousers to fit is impossible - my waist is 33 and it is virtually impossible to find 33s off the rails. A size 34 fits - but needs to have belt support. And the leg length NEVER fits - I have given up on this and wear my jeans with roll-ups.

The same with shirts - when the shoulders and chest fit, the length is like a mini skirt! Another pet peeve - when I am forced to go shopping with the wife - and I look for the mens department - it is mostly found tucked away in a corner with the bare essentials on display.  Sometimes I think the retailers have forgotten that men also need clothes!

- Charles

‘ The clothing industry needs to be monitored ‘

The clothing industry needs to be monitored so clothing sizes are uniform, it's not fair that so many of us end up feeling there is something not right with us or buying clothing that should fit but does not.

As soon as we started to import cheap clothing from outside SA this problem began and is worse than ever, even some shoe sizes are not standard.

- Adele

READ MORE: It's a trend?! I wore wrinkled clothing for a day - here's what the fashion crowd had to say

‘ I have to get my grandmother to make me clothes’

I have been a size 42 for almost 14 years, and all of a sudden IF and WHEN I find something I like, I need to buy anything from size 46. And then there is always some tailoring that need to be done to make it fit perfectly. At this stage, my 84-year-old grandmother is still making me clothes as I cannot find something that really fits and I feel comfortable in. With three children, I cannot afford to pay R1 000 or more for a nice dress or suit.

- Nicoline

‘Here’s my advice’

Even if you find an item that fits: fit every colour in that style, they may be sized differently. For special occasions I resort to boutiques where assistants know their stock and read body shapes/sizes well. It saves a lot of heartbreak. I have noticed that items have smaller size numbers than your body actually is leading to great confusion for the individual. My advice - buy whatever looks and feels good then cut out the label! It's no one's business what size you wear!

- Tonia

NO stores have trendy plus size clothes, it is all bland to the n-th degree and way too expensive.

‘ I don't want to be drab, I want to be fab.’ 

I've always had a problem with actually finding the right size, in whichever store I go to. I find it to be such a concern, because as said in the article, anything over a size 40, can be frumpy. And that's disappointing. 

I don't want to be drab, I want to be fab. 

I don't think there are enough stores in this country that really cater for us over a size 40; they are so few and far between. 

And us over size 40, aren't the only ones who find this to be a problem, most women do. You one size in one store and one in another, it's like we can never seem to find out perfect fit. 

I shop at MILADYS, it caters from size 8 to size 26, and I love their stuff. Not everything tickles my fancy, but what I have, suits me well.

I just wish there were more stores to cater to the plus size market. It's needed.

- Farryn

READ MORE: “I lost 14kgs in 4 months to enter Miss SA” - local curvy model

 ‘The industry is making us hate our own bodies’

After having survived my cancer fight, my body is scarred and a bit lopsided, and it is so difficult to find something that is comfortable. Now my problem is a bit more complex, as I started off very big. NO stores have trendy plus size clothes, it is all bland to the n-th degree and way too expensive. Then once chemo got a hold of me, I started losing a lot of weight, then had to learn what size to buy and it not only confused me but really depressed me, as I could not find one size, which I could ask family or friends to pick up for me, as I could not walk for a year or so. Now all is back to normal after my fight, BUT the clothes sizing in SA is up to maggots and getting worse. 

Then plus size women are hit with hugely inflated prices and horrible designs.

Clothes and shoe sizes are ridiculous and cause many women out there to fall into deep depression because they think there is something wrong with them, the industry is making us hate our own bodies - why?

- Martha 

‘I have to buy maternity clothes’

I am a big girl, with big breasts and hips, and I found the Mr Price maternity caters for them. Even though I'm not pregnant the sizes are bigger and not tight and uncomfortable

It's the only place that I have found affordable and comfortable clothing. 

- Cole

*Comments have been edited for length and clarity

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