Fed up with trying on clothes only to find that the sizing is all over the shop?

Help! The high street doesn’t fit me: Fed up with trying on clothes only to find that the sizing is all over the shop? Fashion editor SOPHIE DEARDEN tested 14 pairs of trousers in the ‘same size’ – here’s what she found

  • Sophie Dearden has been 5ft 9in with an hourglass, size-14 figure since age 13
  • The UK-based fashion editor spends her time picking out clothes to make women look and feel amazing – paying attention to quality and cut 
  • She has taken up the challenge to try on 14 pairs of trousers in the same size from various high street stores including Primark and & Other Stories

I ’ve been 5ft 9in with an hourglass, size-14 figure since I was 13. When I was a teenager this was a source of mortification to me – not least because all my friends seemed to be a size 8. I used to cut the labels out of my clothes in case anyone saw. I would dread shopping trips and speed ahead of my friends so they wouldn’t see the size I was picking up. Being a size 10 was my life goal. 

I grew up with the most successful, glamorous and fun mum. She was a newsreader for the BBC and has always been ‘showstopper’ gorgeous. She’s also a woman who has fluctuated weight-wise her whole life from a size 12 to a 16. Growing up I witnessed her desperate attempts to get into smaller sizes. 

As a fashion stylist, I spend my time picking out clothes that will make women look and feel amazing. I pay attention to cut and quality. I look closely at colour and detailing. What I no longer pay any regard to is the number on the label. Want to know a secret? Whatever size the woman I’m working with tells me she is, I go up a size – or even two. That is the magnitude of the disparity we are talking about. From a personal point of view I have given up. Not on fashion – on sizes. Sometimes I can’t get into an XL in Zara but then I order a 14 elsewhere and it’s huge. I can order two pairs of jeans from the same brand in the same size and one will be the perfect fit while the other won’t do up. 

Sophie Dearden has been 5ft 9in with an hourglass, size-14 figure since the age of 13. She has picked out 14 trousers from in the same size from different stores. She is pictured here wearing Kin from John Lewis

Sophie Dearden has been 5ft 9in with an hourglass, size-14 figure since the age of 13. She has picked out 14 trousers from in the same size from different stores. She is pictured here wearing Kin from John Lewis

Of course it’s glib to say ‘don’t worry about the number on the label’ because we have years of conditioning to get past in order to do that. We also have to deal with well-intended but often unhelpful comments of those around us. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has said to me: ‘There’s no way you’re a size 14’ as if it’s a terrible thing to be. My mission? Not to tell you what size you are or what size you should buy, but to prove that the numbers on the labels are arbitrary. I took my size-14 body to London’s Oxford Street and tried on 14 pairs of trousers in the same size. This is what I discovered…

The UK-based fashion editor spends her time picking out clothes to make women look and feel amazing - paying attention to quality and cut. She is pictured here wearing a pair of trousers from & Other Stories

The UK-based fashion editor spends her time picking out clothes to make women look and feel amazing – paying attention to quality and cut. She is pictured here wearing a pair of trousers from & Other Stories 

Primark 

Despite the lighting in the changing room being enough to damage your body confidence for ever, these fit perfectly. I confess I’d bought into the belief that cheap equals skimpy, but this isn’t the case. 

Fit: Satisfyingly accurate.

Sophie said that both her and her sister could fit into this large pair of trousers from Vince

Sophie said that both her and her sister could fit into this large pair of trousers from Vince 

River Island 

I feel the tight grip as this pair hit my thighs (accompanied by the familiar dread) but they go up. They’re great on the waist and loose on the thigh. 

Fit: My favourite kind. 

Zara 

Just as I start to think maybe I’m a perfect 14 after all, I’m presented with a Zara large (which they say is equivalent to a 14). The material grips every lump and bump and they are inches away from doing up on the waist. I don’t even think the next size up would work. 

Fit: Perfect if I was willing to give up food (I’m not). 

Sophie loved this pair from Ted Baker. She said that the clung in all the places she wanted them to cling

Sophie loved this pair from Ted Baker. She said that the clung in all the places she wanted them to cling

Jaeger 

Here we’ve got a different sizing issue. Although this pair go up without trouble, they’re short in the torso and ride straight up areas I would rather keep my trousers out of. 

Fit: Camel toe is never a good look. 

Marks & Spencer 

I do have some faith in M&S. Everything sits where you would like it to and they offer a variety of lengths, which is extremely helpful. 

Fit: Reliable, as ever. 

Sophie was disappointed with this pair of trousers from Zara. She said the material grips every lump and bump and they are inches away from doing up on the waist

Sophie was disappointed with this pair of trousers from Zara. She said the material grips every lump and bump and they are inches away from doing up on the waist

Good American at Selfridges 

This label was co-founded by Khloé Kardashian when she got sick of things not fitting her curvy body – always tight on the thighs, gaping at the waist. These fit perfectly. If I could take one pair of trousers home from the day, it would be these. 

Fit: Fantastic! 

Vince 

Huge! The waist hangs below my hips. I’m annoyed with myself for being so elated about big trousers. See? I work with this disparity every day and I’m nowhere near immune to it. 

Fit: My sister and I could both get in together. 

& Other Stories 

I’ve always had issues with this retailer’s sizing – the zip is miles from closing and the seams almost cut off my circulation. I surprise myself by not being sad – instead, I come away feeling a bit ‘told you so’. 

Fit: My four-year-old niece would look lovely in these. 

This pair of trousers from Good American and Selfridges was Sophie's favourite pair and the one she would choose to take home

This pair of trousers from Good American and Selfridges was Sophie’s favourite pair and the one she would choose to take home

Reiss 

I’ve loved this brand for years and own many pairs of its trousers, but today I am disappointed. Loose on the hips and waist, vice-like on the thigh. 

Fit: Deeply unflattering. 

Kin at John Lewis 

These drown me. They hang loosely from everywhere to the extent I would have had to size down at least once – maybe even twice. 

Fit: If my post-pandemic socialising continues, I’ll soon fit into them. 

Ted Baker 

Yes! Yes! Yes! This pair hang beautifully and fit every curve. They cling where I want them to cling and skim where I want them to skim – with no wedgies. 

Fit: Divine. 

Whistles 

Always loved this brand – but are you joking? Aimed at the grown-up woman, these are short, low-rise (I’m sure not intentionally) and miles away from doing up. 

Fit: Barely fitted my big toe. 

Phase Eight 

Not just a great fit but beautifully cut, too. Long enough in both leg and body. This pair make me feel absolutely fantastic. 

Fit: Would wear all day, every day. 

H&M 

Expectations were low. I still remember being 15 and my slim friend being unable to get into a size 16. And yet I try on two pairs and both fit perfectly. This opens up a whole new world of high-street shopping! 

Fit: Surprisingly true to size. 

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