High st sizes on trial: Are you a different dress size in every shop? We sent a perfect size 12 model to put stores to the test – with astonishing…

High Street sizes on trial
Are you a different dress size in every shop We sent a perfect size 12 model to put stores to the test – with astonishing results

Every woman will recognise the scene: you’re standing in your underwear in a changing room, peeking around the curtain, desperately trying to attract the attention of a passing shop assistant.

The label on the dress says it’s your size, but it gapes around the waist so much you could fit another person in there. Yet in the store next door, a dress in the same size is so tight you can barely breathe in it.

Why Because there is no standard sizing in the UK — each shop has its own sizing guidelines.

What’s more, many retailers indulge
in ‘vanity sizing’ and label larger clothes smaller than they really are
in order to flatter women into thinking they are thinner — in the hope
this will make them buy more clothes.

As a result, sizing in High Street stores can vary hugely, making shopping an exhausting — and often depressing — experience.
This discrepancy prompted computer programmer Anna Powell-Smith to
create a website What Size Am I, which promises to tell women the size
they really are in different High Street stores, using their bust, waist
and hip measurements.

Powell-Smith discovered that M&S and Karen Millen offered clothing
for a more pear-shaped customer, while Topshop and Oasis cater to less
curvy, more boyish figures.

Armed with these recommendations, we
sent 33-year-old Deborah Ann Gaetano — who works as a size 12 model for
fashion designers and has 38-29-39 measurements — to uncover the truth
about High Street sizing.

What Size Am I can be found at sizes.darkgreener.com


Size 12:Too Small
Size 14: Perfect Fit


Size 12:Too Big
Size 10: Perfect Fit

French Connection size 12

French Connection size 14

MONSOON size 12

MONSOON size 10

Fusion Block sleeveless dress, 110

Store’s statistics for size 12: 36-29 -39 

VERDICT: ‘The What Size Am I website says I should be a size 12 at French Connection,’ says Deborah. ‘Unfortunately, this size 12 couldn’t quite cope with my chest and thighs. If I was wearing it for a night out, I’d be tugging it down all evening because it’s tight around my legs, which makes it ride up. And I feel as if my bust is squashed. Going up to the 14 meant the dress was a little too baggy in the waist, but it fitted my chest better.’

Atacama dress, 65

Store’s statistics for Size 12: 36-28-38

VERDICT: ‘This is yet another instance where the website says I’m supposed to be a size 12, but the dress was far too big,’ says Deborah.

‘Monsoon is great if you’ve got a bigger bust as it’s very generous on the top half.

'Even the size 10 had plenty of space, but the 12 was so baggy I felt worried I would spill out if I moved.’


Size 12:Too Big
Size 8: Perfect Fit


Size 12:Too Big
Size 8: Perfect Fit



M&S - size 12

M&S - size 8

Maria 50s sun dress, 160

Store’s statistics for Size 12: 38-30-40

VERDICT: ‘The website suggested I tried a size 10 and was accurate,’ says Deborah.

‘The top half of the size 12 is only slightly too baggy. It’s the waist that’s the problem.

‘The waistband looks as if it’s meant to be fitted, but it hangs so far away from my body it could be a maternity dress! The size 10 looks better, but is still not tapered at the waist. My perfect size would be 10 on the top half and 8 for the bottom.’

Autograph linen rich striped shift dress, 69

Store’s statistics for Size 12: 36-29-39

VERDICT: ‘While the website says a size 12 should fit me at M&S, this dress hangs off me — I can’t believe it’s a size 12,’ says Deborah. ‘It’s like a sack on me. It’s gaping under the arms and there’s at least six inches of spare material around the sides.

'The sizes seem to have been made deliberately large, perhaps for more mature customers. But the size eight — which is two sizes smaller than my actual size — fitted like a glove.’


Size 12:Too Big
Size 10: Perfect Fit


Size 12:Too Big
Size 10: Perfect Fit

Next size 12

Next size 10

REISS size 12

REISS size 10

Colour block linen blend dress, 30

Store’s statistics for Size 12: 35-29-39

VERDICT: ‘As I expected, the size 14 advised by the website is much too big.

'Even the size 12 is baggy in the middle because this shift dress is cut quite straight, so the size 10 was the best fit of them all.

‘Like Marks & Spencer, it looks as if Next uses vanity sizing.

Heidi ultramarine fitted wrap dress, 179

Store’s statistics for Size 12: 37-30-41

VERDICT: ‘Exactly as the website says, I need to go down a dress size in Reiss,’ says Deborah. ‘It seems to be the same for all the dresses in this shop — they fit nicely, as long as you drop a size, so vanity sizing is at play again. The 12 was just slightly too baggy all over, but the 10 was cut perfectly to emphasise the waist and make space for curves.’





Drew wild meadow print dress, 150

Store’s statistics for Size 12: 36-29-40

VERDICT: ‘The website’s recommendation of a size 12 is the perfect fit for me,’ says Deborah.

‘It’s not too tight anywhere, but skims over my chest and hips while nipping in at the waist.

‘It’s so rare to find a dress that fits my hourglass figure so well.

‘I would say this is definitely a “true” size 12.’

Clean Ponte pencil shift dress, 46

Store’s statistics for Size 12: 36-29-38

VERDICT: ‘The size 12 suggested by the website is just right for me. I thought I might have to go up to a 14 in Topshop as it’s designed for teenagers and younger girls. ‘In fact, it fits like a glove — maybe because it’s cut in at the waist and so suits my curves. The only problem I found with a lot of Topshop dresses is that they are cut low under the arm, which would make it almost impossible to wear a bra — and going bra-less is something I simply can’t contemplate.