Knowing how to interpret sizes is an invaluable skill in the clothing industry, where I work in supply chain procurement.
I work in the clothing industry, so I know that finding the right size is often tricky. Sizing varies widely over time, clothes are often tagged incorrectly, and wearers' personal sizing preference (baggy vs. fitted) can all lead to mistakes. You can buy the perfect size for a person's body and it still might not be the "right" fit.
Unfortunately, to make matters worse, there is no industry sizing standard. Every brand uses its own random measurements to determine its size tags, and this means that a person who fits a size M in one brand may need a L in another. You simply can't know for sure if something is going to fit you unless you try it on.
Rather than looking at size tags, looking at measurements is the best way to proceed. Here are some raw sizing basics that might help you get the right size and fit. In this article, we'll get into what all of those letters and numbers translate to in terms of size.
Standard US Size Names and Measurements
|XS||S||M||L||XL or 1XL||XXL or 2XL||3XL|
31½ to 32½" (80 to 82.5 cm)
33½ - 34½" (85 to 87 cm)
35½ to 37½" (90 to 95 cm)
38 to 39½" (96.5 to 100 cm)
40 to 42" (101.5 to 106.5 cm)
44 to 46" (112 to 117 cm)
48 to 50" (122 to 127 cm)
23 to 24" (58 to 60 cm)
25 - 26" (63.5 to 66 cm)
27 to 28" (68.5 to 71 cm)
29½ to 31" (75 to 79 cm)
1 to 33" (79 to 84 cm)
Waist: 35 to 37" (90 to 94 cm)
38 to 40" (96.5 to 102 cm)
33½ to 35" (85 to 90 cm)
36 to 37" (91 to 94 cm)
38 to 39" (96.5 to 99 cm)
40½ to 42" (103 to 106.5 cm)
42 to 44" (107 to 112 cm)
46 to 48" (117 to 122 cm)
50 to 52" (127 to 132 cm)
What Does Women's Extra Small (XS) Mean?
XS means extra small, which roughly translates to a women's size 0-2 in most brands.
Chest: 31½ to 32½" (80 to 82.5 cm)
Waist: 23 to 24" (58 to 60 cm)
Hips: 33½ to 35" (85 to 90 cm)
What Does S Women's Small Mean?
S means small, which translates roughly to a women's size 4 to 6 in most brands.
Chest: 33½ - 34½" (85 to 87 cm)
Waist: 25 - 26" (63.5 to 66 cm)
Hips: 36 to 37" (91 to 94 cm)
What Does M Women's Medium Mean?
M means medium, which translates roughly to women's size 8 to 10.
Chest: 35½ to 37½" (90 to 95 cm)
Waist: 27 to 28" (68.5 to 71 cm)
Hips: 38 to 39" (96.5 to 99 cm)
How to Measure Yourself for Buying Clothes Online
What Does L Women's Large Mean?
L means large and translates roughly to women's sizes 12 to 14.
Chest: 38 to 39½" (96.5 to 100 cm)
Waist: 29½ to 31" (75 to 79 cm)
Hips: 40½ to 42" (103 to 106.5 cm)
What Does XL Women's Extra Large Mean?
XL means extra large and translates to women's sizes 16 - 18.
Chest: 40 to 42" (101.5 to 106.5 cm)
Waist: 31 to 33" (79 to 84 cm)
Hips: 42 to 44" (107 to 112 cm)
2XL Women's Double Large or Extra, Extra Large?
2XL is women's double large or extra large, which translates roughly to woman's sizes 18 to 20.
Chest: 44 to 46" (112 to 117 cm)
Waist: 35 to 37" (90 to 94 cm)
Hips: 46 to 48" (117 to 122 cm)
3XL Women's Triple Large?
3XL is women's triple extra large and roughly translates to women's sizes 22 - 24 or larger.
Chest: 48 to 50" (122 to 127 cm) or larger
Waist: 38 to 40" (96.5 to 102 cm) or larger
Hips: 50 to 52" (127 to 132 cm) or larger
How to Measure to Find Your Size
- Use a soft, flexible tape measure to take your measurements.
- Make sure to lay it flat and snug (but not tight) and keep it parallel to the floor.
- Measure against skin rather than over clothes.
- Don’t hold your breath or suck yourself in, as this defeats the purpose! :)
How to measure your chest:
Place the tape measure around the widest part of your chest, under your arms. It helps if you hold both arms up and have a friend take the measurement.
How to measure your waist:
Place the tape measure at the smallest part of your waist, just above your belly button. Try to keep the tape measure parallel to the ground.
How to measure your hips:
Measure the widest part of your hips, usually just below the hipbones. Keep the tape measure flat and even.
What if I don't have a tape measure?
Don't worry—just use a piece of yarn or string or even a shoelace, then measure that with a ruler or yardstick.
Should I measure my body or my clothes?
Measure your body, not your clothes. If you were going to copy and sew a new garment, you would want to measure the clothing itself, but if you're just hoping to find the right-size garment, then measure your body.
If You Are Buying Pants or Bras Online
If you are buying pants online, you'll definitely want to read What Size Pants Do I Wear? (With Conversion Charts).
To find out exactly how to give yourself for a bra fitting, read How to Measure the Right Bra Size.
Cole West from Birmingham, West Midlands on March 03, 2020:
Lyra on January 15, 2020:
Victory on March 31, 2019:
great good it is easy to remember these words
Juliet on April 17, 2018:
Please am looking for a seize of complete and the seize is 40,42 what does dat mean
bennice jackson on April 05, 2018:
it's not any good THE PICTURE IS BEAUTIFUL !!! THAT'S IT DON'T BUY IT YOU WILL BE SORRY
Rags on December 07, 2017:
What does size 12 B & B mean?
Gabby on October 07, 2017:
What does S/US 4 mean???
pipp on September 08, 2017:
hi i need you help I'm looking at a pair of jeans and the size is '4L32' What does that mean?
chris on November 28, 2016:
what does l/x mean
subhadra sahoo on August 08, 2016:
What do you mean by woman sizes mean
TurtleDog (author) on January 26, 2016:
Thar is a tough one! Appesars theres a tee shirt co named xuu but i dont recall that size either. Sorry!
Kristin on January 25, 2016:
Hi, I came across women's pants that have "xUU" (such as 10 xuu) and have no idea what it means. Can you explain??
TurtleDog (author) on December 15, 2010:
Very well said Amy! A lot of really good points on the odd variance you can sometimes get between stated size and actual size. Even things less thought of like laboratory (latex) gloves fit differently. In that case it usually has to do with the country of origin (and the size of their population :-)
Thanks for the comment! Really appreciate it.
Amy Becherer from St. Louis, MO on December 14, 2010:
Very interesting topic. Since I do most of my shopping online, I check the size charts (European clothing is generally less generous than American sizes) and always read reviews before making a purchase. Certain manufacturers apparently calibrate sizing differently (Pilco jeans sold at Anthropologie are notorious for "tight through the thighs no matter the size and generally, the more expensive, the more generous the material). I often wonder if the motivation of expensive lines is more promotional, flattering the consumer to increase sales. The type of material (stretch factor) can have a bearing. The cut of a dress can create a design that is more or less forgiving depending on body type. Shoes can be tricky, and I've found reviews from buyers are the best indicator regarding how true to fit a product runs. Thank you for this informative and well done write on an interesting subject.
TurtleDog (author) on October 24, 2010:
Hi! Thanks for the great question I'd suggest double checking my answer with the store or site you are looking to buy from but I do believe that women's full in most Halloween costumes range from 16-18 and even a broader range of 14-18 depending on where you are shopping. Best bet is to double check this since Halloween costumes vary in styles and sizes enough that it can be tough to pin down an exact number.
Thanks again for reading!
sarah on October 23, 2010:
what does women's full mean in halloween costumes?