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

Then, of course, there's "one size fits all." The general consensus here: "It doesn't exist." Unless you don't care if your clothes are smotheringly tight or tent-like, chances are you won't find the fit you're looking for with these garments -- no matter how much spandex they have!

After you figure out the right size, finding the right style is a big part of getting the fit you want. June Saltzman, vice president of fashion merchandising for the Home Shopping Network, offers the following style definitions (They apply not only to clothes sold on HSN, but to most items available off the rack):

  • Close fit -- follows the curves of the body.
  • Fitted -- slightly more relaxed, but still follows your curves.
  • Semi-fitted -- close to the body, but with more ease of movement.
  • Loose-fitting -- generously sized, with ease of movement and fabric drape.
  • Very loose-fitting -- cut very full for ultimate comfort.

While electronic retailers and some catalogs provide this information to shoppers, you may simply have to use your "eye" when sizing up the cut of clothing in a brick-and-mortar store.

Sizing Up Your Shopping Options

It may actually be easier to find the right size when you buy from electronic and catalog retailers than when you shop at the mall. Because inaccurate sizing can lead to returns, many such retailers have taken steps to avoid sizing confusion.

For example, all 60 lines of clothing from HSN conform to identical size standards -- unlike many department or specialty stores, where every line may have its own sizing structure, Saltzman says.

"Because shoppers can't try things on, we had to get over a lot of hurdles, and one way we did that was to give equity to all of our brands," Saltzman says. Since 90% of all fashions sold on HSN are exclusive to the network, Saltzman says, it was easy to lay down the sizing law.

To further ensure a better fit, Saltzman says, HSN tweaked the industry-standard measurements to develop a more relaxed fit, closer to what SizeUSA has found to be the "normal" American shape.

"We started with standard size measurements and we interpreted them to our style, which at HSN is a nice, full fit, not skimpy -- it's Middle America, demographics of age 45-plus, " Saltzman says. That even includes anything containing spandex!

Online retailer QVC also has standardized sizing across all its lines -- but the two networks don't share the same sizing structure. So if you're a 2X on HSN, don't automatically think you're a 2X on QVC; you've still got to check sizing charts, says Simonton.

For online purchasers, HSN, Lands' End, and some other retailers also allow you to create a virtual model of your body so you can "try on" clothes online. You enter your body measurements, and a computer program builds a 3-D, on-screen model of you. Then when you click on outfits you like, you get an idea of how they look on your body size and type.

"It can show you how you're going to look from all angles," Saltzman says. And that can go a long way in taking the sting out of that first glance in the full-length mirror!

Make Mine Customized

Still another answer to the fit dilemma comes by way of a California-based company called Archetype Solutions. The brainchild of Rob Holloway, former CEO of Levi Strauss and Co., this computerized system takes body measurements and other details supplied by the shopper, including style and fit preferences, and turns it all into a custom-made garment -- for a price that rivals off-the rack styles.

Sportswear retailer Lands' End was among the first to jump on the Archetype bandwagon and has no regrets.

"We feel Lands' End Custom is revolutionizing the apparel industry -- it's changing the way people shop for clothes online," says Sam Taylor, vice president of custom clothes for Wisconsin-based Lands' End.

Lands' End's custom line began with its men's chinos, but the company quickly added women's chinos, then women's and men's' jeans, men's dress slacks, and now dress shirts for both sexes.

Customers, says Taylor, are clamoring for more. "In 2003, custom sales grew 72% over the prior year, and we're going to continue to expand in many categories," Taylor says.

The price of a pair of Lands' End custom- made jeans (which in women's sizes ranges from a 24- to 44-inch waist and 33- to 50-inch hip) is $54. If they don't fit the way you like, Lands' End will take them back and try again until you're happy. Once you are, the pattern is stored and you can reorder any time -- the same style, or another one -- knowing that you'll get the same made-for-you fit.

Lands' End has been joined by Target.com, which offers custom jeans, chinos, and shirts through its ?Target to a T? program. More retailers are expected to jump on the bandwagon soon.

Whether or not you're ready to spring for custom made, here are some simple tips that can help anyone find their best fit:

  • Check manufacturers' sizing charts. These are often available online, along with helpful hints on how to take your measurements correctly (Here's one: Get a friend to help).
  • Try clothes on whenever possible, wearing the same type of undergarments and shoes you'll be wearing with them.
  • Enlist the aid of salespeople, who may be knowledgeable about how different lines and items fit.
  • If you find a line of clothing that fits well, stick with it.

Originally published Thursday, April 29, 2004.
Medically updated April 2006.

SOURCES: Jim Lovejoy, director, SizeUSA Project, [TC]2, Cary, N.C. George Simonton, George Simonton Fashions; professor of design, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. June Saltzman, vice president, Fashion Merchandising, Home Shopping Network, Orlando, Fla. Rob Holloway, CEO, Archetype Solutions, Emeryville, Calif. Sam Taylor, vice president, Custom Clothing, Land's End. Andy Aldrich, spokesman, marketamerica.com and I.Design. [TC]2.

©2004-2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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