Weight Loss Success: Now What Do I Wear? (cont.)

Using a specially designed body scanner, the company took electronic measurements of some 10,000 American men and women in a range of ages, races, sizes, and locales. These measurements were used to create a mathematical model of today's "average" body. Not surprisingly, says Lovejoy, it's not exactly the shape the fashion industry has been using to create our clothes.

"Clothes made today are based on the hourglass shape for both men and women," he says. "We found men are now leaning more towards what we call the inverted triangular shape, their shoulders wider than their hips, while women are going the other way, pear-shaped, with hips wider than shoulders."

So if trying to put your "pear" body into an "hourglass"-shaped designer garment feels a lot like putting the square peg in the round hole, you're not alone.

Still, don't expect your local mall to be full of better-fitting clothing right away. While Lovejoy hopes the new report will eventually change the way all clothing is sized, he says it will likely take some time before manufacturers make major changes.

Deciphering Vanity Sizing

A label game known as "vanity sizing" can make finding the right size even more difficult.

"Some designers try to make customers feel good by putting a size 4 label on a size 8 garment, or a size 10 on a size 14, which is why in certain lines you seem to take a much smaller size than you do in others," says George Simonton, a professor of fashion design at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology.

Unless you're onto the game, says Simonton, you could end up frustrated as you spend hours hauling armfuls of the wrong-size garments into the dressing room.

Even more frustrating is when a designer or retailer uses standard measurements to make their garments, then translates those numbers differently when converting to the popular "letter sizing" -- S, M, L, XL, 1X, 2X, 3X -- a sizing concept that has no universal standards.

A recent Lane Bryant catalog, for example, shows a 1X T-shirt as equal to a size 22-24 (bust 46-49 1/2 inches) while in the Spiegel catalog, a 1X T-shirt equals a size 14-16 (bust 42-44 inches). Hop over to Newport News, and a 1X T-shirt equals a 14-16 -- which that company says fits a 43- to 45-inch bust!

The answer, says Simonton, is to forget what the size tag says and just go for the fit. If you're buying something you can't try on, take accurate body measurements and consult the company's size chart.

"You can't assume that because you're a large in one line, that all larges, or all 14s for that matter, are going to fit you -- that's just the way it is today, " Simonton tells WebMD.

Still another problem is getting a good fit in garments containing spandex. The initial idea was to add this stretchy material to make clothes fit more comfortably. But instead, designers often use it as a way to make clothes smaller while still meeting size requirements. The end result: You may get the item on, but it's going to fit like a second skin.