This is why I cannot shop online

On January 26, 2012 by Eden M. Kennedy

A couple of weeks ago I pulled my old wool royal blue pencil skirt out of the closet, and then I wore it to work and it looked terrible on me all day. It bags in the front and it bags in the back and the waistband itches and the zipper fell out when I was 23 and a dry cleaner on east 86th Street sewed it back in for two dollars. Yes, when did I buy the Sad Blue Skirt? In college, which was 30 years ago, from a thrift store, when the skirt was already at least 20 years old. So I wore a 50-year-old skirt to work the other day and was shocked to discover that it was tired. It needs a rest. It wants to go to the Old Skirts Home.

The next day I was up in La Cumbre getting my watch repaired, and you can’t get your watch repaired without walking past the J. Crew store. (You can, of course. You can avoid it completely. YOU can. I chose not to.) The J. Crew store was having a sale. Since Jackson was with me, I said, “Let’s go in for a minute,” and he said, “I’m going to stay out here on the bench,” and I said, “Stay where I can see you,” and then I went in and in the space of 45 seconds found four skirts that had started out in the $135 range and were now down in the $35 range. Because I was nervous about Jackson being alone on the sidewalk, I decided not to try any of them on, I just eyeballed the sizes and bought them.

As the cashier was handing me my new skirts in a bag, I said, “So, are these exchangeable, in case I have sizing issues?” and he said, “No,” and I said to myself, “I’m about to buy four new skirts that are going to end up on eBay,” and then I said to him, “Okay!” I took them home and they fit perfectly, but here’s the thing:

As you can see, they’re all pretending to be different sizes. I held them all up to me in the store, and then I held them up to each other to make sure they were they same, and then I brought them home and discovered that I had a 10, two 8s, and a 6. (I just threw the H&M skirt in there for fun, because I guess I’m also a size 12.) It reminded me of when my mom died and I tried on one of her dresses and it fit perfectly: it was a size 16. So thank God my new skirts all fit on my somewhere-between-size-6-and-size-16 body.

I’m not sure what my point is. J. Crew has magical skirts? No one knows what numbers mean anymore? My body is a wonderland? And skirts are just the half of it. I also have a man’s head (since women’s hats are always one-size-fits-a-cat), and I can reliably wear either a size 10, size 11, or size 12 shoe. Actually, I take that back. I have a pair of men’s size 7 Ecco loafers in my closet. They look great with everything.



26 Responses to “This is why I cannot shop online”

  • I just about spit tea on my computer when I got to the part about you having a man’s head. So funny Eden. Your body is a wonderland.

  • Evidently buying the right size skirt, regardless of the number on the tag, is your superpower. (My only superpower is knowing EXACTLY who farted. I know, you want to trade with me now. We might be able to work something out.)

  • Size means nothing. Try on is everything. (this is a difficult concept for men) I love the J Crew sales rack. And that Paisley skirt? Wish I had found it before you did.

  • I have real problems with women’s sizing as well and I worked at the corporate office of a women’s apparel company for 4 years. Here are the problems: actuarial tables that say what the average size is for different countries or regions, women’s apparel designers, the use of ONE fit model for a whole season of designs, patternmakes and bullshit number systems that vary from manufaturer to manufacturer.

    Here is what would work for women: men’s sizing. Where you say how many inches or centimeters you want the waist to be and then it measures to that number. Same for length measurements. Then maybe we add some numbers that equate to below waist size that are a definite measurement. If men can go into a store and not eyeball, but just find a 38 waist and a 34 leg, why can’t we. Real measurements for everyone!

    • See “Kate in Ohio” below. Women in this country are not at all prepared to walk into a shop and ask for their size according to their measurements. You’re absolutely right: standardized sizing would make things a lot easier, but the success of vanity sizing suggests that women prefer it to reality. On the plus side, European sizing (in general) is based on measurements and it’s very easy to order online because of this.

  • I like shopping at Ann Taylor Loft because I can wear an 8 there. At Talbots I am a 12. Call me vain, I don’t care.

    • on a shopping trip to ann taylor a few years ago, i came home with pants in size 10 & size 12p, and a skirt in sz 8. all ann taylor brand! that’s crazyiness. i wear shirts from regular M thru 1x. i have to try on everything and feel lucky if *anything* fits properly. sigh.

  • I think they’re just using random numbers on there to mess with your mind. Of course, I could just by trying to find a scapegoat for the fact that no article of clothing I buy for my wife ever fits.


  • I wish desperately that companies would size women’s clothing by inches, like men’s clothing. Every size is different and it is especially irritating when I’m trying to buy jeans for my 2 daughters and they’re not with me. Clothing companies think we can’t handle the truth! We don’t want the truth because deep down in places we don’t talk about at parties, we want the number on that tag, we need the number on that tag!

  • I also have a man’s head. A giant man’s head at that. My boyfriend (an actual man) can use one of my hats as a bathtub. He goes out rowing in them. If we had a child, they could sleep in one, Moses-in-the-rushes style. Unless he or she inherited my head.

  • I’m still sitting here amazed that you can wear a skirt that old. Any of my clothes from that era would not fit on one of my thighs, much less two.

  • An elderly friend of mine said she worked in the garment industry when she was younger and they were told to slap any old size tag in a piece of clothing if they ran out of the real one. Nice! Maybe they still do that.

    And “one-size-fits-a-cat” made me laugh out loud. (I have kind of a large melon for a female also, I think.)

  • You see? Size doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with it that matters.

  • ahhh so spot on! linked over from sal’s already pretty. i helped my mom move away from the “mom jeans” era and she is constantly asking me to buy/mail her skirts. there is pretty much no possible way to do it!

    also, love the “one size fits a cat” line!

  • I always suspected that J Crew had no idea about sizing, as I got a pair of peacock embroidered cords for dirt cheap and they claimed to be a size 4. I have never been a 4 in my life and certainly not in my chubbiest, college dorm food stage when I got them!

  • thank you so much – I am laughing out loud while crying a little.
    I really needed that.

  • Hear, hear! I currently have in my closet an XL shirt that is too small and a M dress that is too big.

  • The size is a lie!

  • OT, but I can’t help noticing the skirts are made in Turkey, Sri Lanka and China… I am not in the US myself, but I can’t help thinking these skirts will not last for 50 years and it makes me a little bit sad.

    I amb not one to obssess on clothes sizing, but it was a very interesting read (i clicked on alreadypretty’s link to it).

    • They seem well made, certainly better than your average Gap skirt. I wondered if the different countries of origin had anything to do with the size disparities, but I don’t think they do, it just makes me wonder who makes their patterns.

  • I always think of H&M kids’ clothes as magical. I bought my daughter clothes there when she was 3 and they seemed to fit for YEARS. They were beautiful and now the dress I got her works as a tank top.

    I once had a Chevy Corvair that would go for miles and miles and miles on empty. I guess that isn’t at all the same but it feels the same.

    In any case, you’re going to look good this winter in your skirts. I am very jealous you can wear skirts like that in the winter. You can shop online if you are willing to buy a million things from a store that has a physical store nearby like J. Crew and then schlep them over to the store when they don’t fit and endure the weary look of the salesperson as he/she takes them all back.

  • That’s kind of passive-aggressive: showing off your ability to fit into an item of clothing from your college days, your bargain shopping savvy and the small sizes you fit into. The only thing that keeps me from feeling super-jealous is that you too have a manhead.

  • Oh wow, I’m so glad I’m not alone in this one. I wear anywhere between a size 6 & a 12 depending on the manufacturer. For clothes I make myself I usually need between the 14 & 16 (sometimes the 18, again depending on the pattern company). It’s bizarre and frustrating. Lucky for me I tend to only wear jeans or similar styled pants, I can’t imagine how frustrating this sizing thing would be if my wardrobe were more varied.

  • I’ve been pondering this sizing business lately myself, but my ponderings have gone off on a tangent of wondering why women worry about their size at all! Why don’t we focus on the necessary qualities of our bodies as changable and applaud it?

    I’m speaking as one who has everything from size 4 to 12 in my closet!