Were a poll to be conducted right now of women of all ages and sizes about their most hated shopping experience, buying jeans would top the list.
All we want is to walk into our favourite store, grab our size in a few different shapes and shades, try them on, select the most flattering, pat our bottom and waltz out with a smile.
Instead, thanks to the wildly differing ‘same’ sizes — not only between brands but within shops themselves — buying jeans is the stuff of nightmares.
No wonder a recent survey found that the average woman owns three pairs she never wears because the fit is so bad, while six pairs will be disregarded on a shopping trip.
H&M: While the legs were voluminous, the waist on this pair (L) was a full two inches smaller than my own. My conclusion is that an H&M size 14 is not a size 14. Oddly, the crotch on these jeans (R) was very tight and came up way too high, yet the waistline felt too low. Very tight on the legs, they didn’t look or feel like a 14; I’d put the waist at a 12 and the legs at a 10.
M&S: These (L) are so loose at the waist I feel like I’m wearing a nappy! The crotch is a good two inches lower than it should be, and I can pull them up and down without having to undo the zip or button. By contrast, these skinny jeans (R), which have an elasticated waist, fit perfectly and look flattering, with no pockets at the front to add any bulk to the tummy.
All these jeans from a variety of stores have the same size on the label
You may be a size 14, but standing in the dressing room you’ll soon find that one pair is so roomy you need to go down two sizes, while another is so tight you struggle to get the zip over your tummy. And there’s nothing more depressing than having to reach for the size larger than you were expecting.
So I had a great deal of sympathy when I read about 29-year-old Zoe Evans, when she shared her recent experience of the sizing insanity infecting the High Street. Having bought four pairs of high-waisted size 18 jeans online from River Island, she discovered they differed so much in size as to be comical — if it wasn’t so infuriating.
Sharing a picture of the ludicrous result when the jeans were piled on top of one another, she explained: ‘It wasn’t even a small difference between each pair — one pair of jeans was half the size of the other.
‘I spent £170 on jeans and only one pair was the size I wanted and fitted.’
Part of the problem when it comes to our sizing woes is retailers’ crazy, and frankly dishonest, penchant for vanity sizing, where they try to make women feel better about our bodies by marking bigger sizes as smaller than they really are. For although women’s sizing is supposed to be standardised, there are no legal regulations to make our High Streets abide by it, meaning brands are free to use their own measurements.
As an unashamed denim devotee ever since I got my first Levi’s 501s as a teenager, I defend the right of any woman of any age and size to a pair of well-fitting jeans, without having to be humiliated in the process.
F&F: These legging-style jeans (L) are loose on the waist and thighs. I would need a size smaller. These high-rise skinny jeans (R) were an amazingly good fit and they looked good on the bum. The denim is ludicrously soft, too. I can’t believe they’ve come from a supermarket — and at such a good price. They are just perfect on me.
ZARA: While the fit on the leg and bottom was great, the waist was impossible to do up, which was a real shame (L). These (R) only just did up. The denim was stiff, the crotch was baggy and the jeans were not flattering on the bum. Not a great fit
RIVER ISLAND: Confusingly, although these jeans (L) look small, the stretchy fabric made them too big on the waist. I despair. There’s no way I could do these (R) up, they’re ridiculously small. They should be rebranded a size 10 instead
So to illustrate the hugely varying scale of the problem, I tried on four pairs of jeans each from five different brands: H&M, Zara, Marks & Spencer, River Island and Tesco’s F&F.
All 20 pairs claimed to be a size 14, which would lead any right-thinking person to assume they would all fit. But as these photos illustrate, that was far from the case.
Take M&S; their blue ‘mom’ jeans were so baggy around the waist and crotch that I could have fitted another pair underneath. Yet their indigo skinny style fitted perfectly.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t even zip up the supposed size 14 River Island cropped jeans — surely these were a 10! — yet their skinny pair fitted my legs but had a baggy waist.
I know it’s not just the High Street which has this problem. I love Levi’s 501s, but when I ordered a pair of flares recently in the same size I wear in the traditional style, they were so big I gifted them to a much larger friend.
No wonder we are all so bewildered. It’s time for retailers to wise up — and size up honestly.