S & M

Most of my life I have been an ‘S’ and now I am almost always an ‘M’, and I want to get back to being an ‘S’.

If you think this is going to be an x-rated post, you are wrong. ‘S’ stands for small and ‘M’ stands for medium. Clothing sizes vary hugely – it is a minefield trying to negotiate them, and make some sort of sense of how it all works.

There are Australian sizes which, as we know, are not all uniform. All size 10s are not created equal – Kath (from Kath & Kim) is a size 10, but as Kim (and the rest us) know, it is a “Country Road” 10.


Photo courtesy Kim Craig via Photopin and Creative Commons

And sizes 2, 4 and 6 have only been around in mainstream fashion for about 20 years. I can still remember when size 8 was the smallest size for adult women’s clothes. Very petite ladies sometimes had to resort to shopping in the girls’ clothing section of department stores.

American sizing gave us these smaller numbers, which go down to 0. Über stylist Rachel Zoe and many of her current and former disciples are this size (and sometimes even smaller). Over a decade ago when I was at my ideal weight, I fitted into a size 0 dress, but the sales assistant didn’t let me get too smug because she advised me that there were two smaller sizes – 00 and 000.


Photo courtesy http://www.pinterest.com

Yes, there are smaller sizes than 0! And this type of ‘vanity’ sizing might have meant in reality that I was wearing a size 8 or possibly even a 10!

If this hasn’t confused you yet, there’s more ambiguity with European sizing which starts at a 32 and goes up to 54, unless of course you are in Italy which is slightly different, with sizes starting at 36 and finishing at 58! And, just to add to this nebulous mix, Japan eschews even numbers, preferring odd numbers, with a size range from 5 to 27. Pretty simple (not) to follow.

Standardised dress sizing as we know it didn’t come in until around 1967 – for the first part of the 20th century we used an alpha system as follows:

  • XSSW – extra slim small woman
  • SSW – slim small woman
  • SW – small woman
  • W – woman
  • XW – extra woman
  • SOS – small outsized
  • OS – outsized
  • XOS – extra outsized.

This sizing system makes a lot more sense to me because it is descriptive. I know, for example, that I could never be an XSSW  (extra slim small woman). This size is the domain of the naturally very slender and small-boned.


Photo courtesy Audrey Hepburn via Photopin and Creative Commons

It is possible to be an XSSW and be healthy – just take a look at the ageless, and ever elegant, Audrey Hepburn.


Photo courtesy #45 -Audrey Hepburn Applying Lipstick Before Academy Awards Presentation via Photopin and Creative Commons

Youth helps a lot too! At 16, Twiggy’s svelte (or twig-like) figure took the modelling world by storm in the mid-1960s.


Photo courtesy twiggy via Photopin and Creative Commons

And, by age 20, Twiggy (aka Leslie Hornsby) ‘retired’ from modelling and turned her hand to acting and singing. In recent years, Twiggy has returned to modelling as a judge on Britian’s Next Top Model and as a brand ambassador for retail giant, Marks & Spencer. But she will be best remembered as the first ‘waif’ model.


Photo courtesy Twiggy, 1967 via Photopin and Creative Commons

I like the way W stands for woman and XW stands for extra women. It seems so self-explanatory, doesn’t it? And it is a matter of proportions. If you’ve got the right shape, then it may well be possible to oscillate between these two dress sizes, which I’m pretty sure is what Marilyn Monroe did.


Photo courtesy Marilyn (1) via Photopin and Creative Commons

And it is what everyone’s favourite television cook, Nigella Lawson, does.


Photo courtesy Hot Service via Photopin and Creative Commons

Given the very complicated sizing systems around, I think I am going to adopt the the old-fashioned alpha system, no matter what ‘size’ the clothing label might have printed on it. After almost six months of careful diet and regular exercise I am a SW (small woman) well on her way to becoming her ideal SSW (slim small woman). Hopefully, I will be able to achieve this in the first half of 2016.

I’ve banished S & M from my fashion vocabulary – and it’s SSW all the way in the future for me! How about you – does ‘size’ matter?


4 Comments on S & M

  1. Maura
    December 21, 2015 at 5:00 am (2 years ago)

    Interesting read, I hate clothes just labelled s/m/l they vary so much over in this part of the world . I can’t just buy a size 12 or 14 has to be tried on these days. Sizes vary so much on different brand

    • thehipsterette.com.au
      December 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm (2 years ago)

      Yes sizes do vary so much that the numbers don’t mean much at all!

  2. Robyna | the Mummy & the Minx
    December 21, 2015 at 10:37 am (2 years ago)

    I always ALWAYS try things on because the number is only a helpful guide at best. I love it when you go to boutiques where the shop owner knows her stock and can tell immediately what size will suit you.

  3. thehipsterette.com.au
    December 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm (2 years ago)

    Yes I agree, nothing worse than trying a size that you think will fit but doesn’t. Getting it right the first time does help me shopping mood.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *