Outfit Post: How many sizes hang in your closet?

Yesterday, emboldened by the suddenly warm weather, I decided embark on an epic quest to clean out my closet. One of the things I insisted on when we relocated here to Dallas was a  walk-in closet in the master bedroom. As a former New Yorker raised in teeny tiny apartments, I've spent the majority of my post-adolescent life daydreaming of the Perfect Closet. As a result, my closet fantasies have grown increasingly intricate for a space some might consider insignificant (and by some, I mean men. Men whose footwear is limited to a pair of Chucks and scuffed black dress shoes. You know those men.)  

My Perfect Closet is a spacious, airy room, flooded by daylight from floor-to-ceiling windows and antique chandeliers. Anchored by a pink quilted fainting couch, it features custom-designed closet rods designed to bear the considerable weight of maxi skirts, dresses, jeans and blazers. Perfect Closet also includes a generous array of padded, compartmentalized drawers to hold jewelry, lingerie, tights and socks. Rows and rows of shelves are dedicated to shoes, organized by color, heel height, and brand. Floor-length mirrors make it possible for me to know exactly what I look like without relying on my husband's opinion (which is always the same. "Uh, you look great...I mean hot...I mean thin. Yeah, that's it.") Perfect Closet comes fully equipped with an Italian seamstress and Italian-English interpreter for said seamstress. It would always be immaculate; it would always be organized; and it would always smell like clean laundry, suede, and Gucci Envy.

Basically, imagine Mariah Carey's closet, but with less glitter and butterflies.

Dream lover, come rescue me.

Naturally, the reality of my closet doesn't quite meet with the fantasy. Instead of custom-made shoe cabinets and padded drawers, it features haphazard mounds of rejected potential outfits, belts intertwined in a sexually suggestive manner, and twisted wayward hangers. However, it's a walk-in, and includes plenty of room for my ever-growing collection of vintage clothes and whatever intriguing crap I haul home from the Goodwill.

While struggling through Project Closet Purge yesterday, I couldn't help but notice that the size of my garments varied. Widely. One shirt was a XS; two skirts, one a size four and one an 8, shared a hanger; another top was a M. I recently learned that the majority of women have a minimum of three sizes in their wardrobe. What gives? I have a number of theories:

  • Weight fluctuations: We all have things we can't wear because they're too big or too small. Many of us own articles of clothing in "aspirational sizes" - items in smaller sizes we either used to wear, or own merely to emotionally flagellate ourselves into eating less and exercising more. I'm always reluctant to get rid of items that don't fit. It makes sense: I spent good money them! And I might even love that blouse/dress/pair of jeans! Having an emotional attachment to an item certainly makes it more challenging to part with. Furthermore, if your weight yo-yo's,  there's a little voice in the back of your head whispering keep it, you might wear it again. And there's really no way to know if this voice is right.
  • Complex Proportions: Quite often (and this will simply shock you) our bodies refuse to conform to one size. Occasionally, and stop me if you've heard this, your top half and bottom half are different sizes. Large-busted and small-hipped; small on top and larger bottom; tiny waist and fuller hips; broad-shouldered and petite. Most clothes rarely account for such wide variations. Traditional sizing revolves around six different body types: round, inverted triangle, hourglass, pear, diamond, and straight. However,  today's fashion industry has replaced the six different categories with two terms, “bottom-” or “top” heavy, with multiple combinations between each. A Google search regarding dressing for your body type revealed over eleven million pages. It's no wonder our closets hold so many sizes.
  • Standardized Sizing Is A Joke: This is ridiculous and not discussed enough. If you wear a Small T-shirt from the Gap, you'll need a Medium at Abercrombie & Fitch. If you wear a size two at Loft, you'll need a four or six at Urban Outfitters. Occasionally, even garments sold at the same store won't have congruent sizing. Take Target and Old Navy. I've bought the same style pants in different colors, all in the same size. One pair was too big, one too small, and one just right. There is no reasonable explanation for this. Nothing causes more cognitive dissonance for me than to know that my beloved faux leather bomber jacket from Target is an XL while the T-shirt I'm wearing under it is a small.
  • Vanity Sizing: According to Wikipedia, vanity sizing, also known as size inflation, is used to refer to the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming larger over time. So pants you purchase in stores today might be two to three sizes smaller than those you purchased five years ago, despite no change to your weight. Vanity sizing, as its name suggests, is designed to satisfy buyers' wishes to appear thin and feel better about themselves. However, in the end, you have no clue what size you really are.
Of course, it doesn't
matter how many sizes you have. But I'm curious - have you struggled with sizing issues? Do emotional attachments make it difficult for you to get rid of things? Do you purchase clothes in aspirational sizes as a weight loss or fitness goal? What do you think about vanity sizing? Has it affected how you shop? And...just for fun...what does your dream closet look like? 

Thrifted Target blazer; thrifted Romeo and Juliet Couture tee; thrifted vintage Ann Taylor silk skirt; Gap Outlet tights; Urban Outfitters 6x6 booties; Gap crossbody bag; Forever 21 bracelet; Betsey Johnson watch


  1. My dream closet would feature M. YSL and M. CD both resurrected from the grave to give me the best of their couture knowledge. The one thing I would omit: the windows. I've read somewhere windows are a huge no-no, the sun light damages clothes and creates dust.
    Persian rugs and lavish chandeliers are a must!
    As for fitting issues with ready-to-wear: I've had the benefit of a skilled seamstress sewing outfits for me all of my life. When she retired I learned to sew myself and now I make most of my wardrobe myself. I got tired of gaping shirts and my breasts not fitting into any store bought dresses.

  2. Hmmm, I didn't think about sunlight's effect on clothes. From now on, perfect closet will only be lit by chandeliers. Thanks for the tip.

    (I would kill to have a personal seamstress. Your clothes must always fit impeccably!)

  3. I was just having a similar conversation about this! My body is about 3 different sizes. Recently, I started getting into the habit of buying things a bit big (to fit my hips) and having them tailored. Despite spending a bit more money, I feel so much better in my clothes. I also have to remind myself of certain styles (while cute on all of my fashionable bloggy friends) just don’t look good on me. I usually hold on to pieces I love that vary 1 size up or down because I’m known to go up or down in weight by season. But I don’t intentionally buy items small.

  4. Depending on the brand, my sizes differ! So, sometimes the label on the tags are a bit misleading. However, I agree with Liz, a good tailoring job makes a world of difference!

    Also, I have two giveaways over on my blog, if you're interested!


  5. Urgh don't talk to me about sizing in my wardrobe. I gave up smoking last October and have gained tonnes of weight but it all went on my front :/ I went up 1 dress size on the bottom half but the girls have gone from a 34b to a 34e it's like WTF ! so I've gone up between 2 and 3 and sometimes even 4 sizes on the top depending on the brand. I can't throw anything out of my closet though because doc says I'll probably yo yo with my weigh for the first 12 months!
    I sooooo need my own personal seamstress!
    (and yes hubby does love my weight gain....MEN! )

  6. i have everything from XS to M and from a size 2 to a size 8. it's crazy! i try to not let it get it to me, when i have to buy an 8 at american eagle when a few years ago i was buying a 4, but i haven't gained *that* much weight, so i'm wondering what's really going on. i just read an interesting article about this somewhere online, about how sizing has changed over the years...i'd basically be a size 10 or 12 in the 60s/70s and i'm a 6 now! i'll try to find it and link it here.

  7. My dream closet looks like Carrie Bradshaw's closet in the movie. : ) You know, the one Big made for her? Sigh. So beautiful.

    ps. I'm going to be making a "I Smile" button so others can do this with me each week and link up to it! I'll let you know when it's up. Thanks for supporting the idea!

  8. I love you dream closet! I am really enjoying your blog, just thought you should know!

  9. I talked about this on a post a few days ago!! It is so frustrating that retailers cannot seem to get it right ....Your outfit is really cute!!

  10. OH yes, this makes me so mad. I have pants in size 0 and up to size 7.... makes online shopping near impossible.

    Having babies have helped with that added annoyance as well, but seriously.

  11. We are planning on building our next home from the ground up, so husband and I have a deal... he gets to do whatever he feels with the garage and I get an extra bedroom for a closet, which will have custom drawers, shelves and shoe storage!!! There should also be a sitting area, a set of full length mirrors and of course lots of lighting!!!!

  12. oh this is so true!! right now i have about 2 different sizes hanging in my closet -- clothes that used to fit me about a year and a half ago when i was 10 lbs lighter and clothes that fit me now.

    and as a petite, i've always struggled with sizing issues as there are limited stores where i can find clothes that fit, but it's getting better now that i've found a petite blogging community, lol.

    cute & little

  13. "Do emotional attachments make it difficult for you to get rid of things?" -- definitely! I'm a fashion hoarder. Thankfully my size has stayed pretty steady for years so at least I don't have multiple sizes to deal with. Then I'd have twice as much!

  14. My dream closet is a bedroom converted into a large combination dressing room/closet with clothing racks and shoe shelves that reconfigure when I get bored or when my needs change. It has a large round ottoman in the center of the room, velvet of course with room for at least 4 people to sit. There are two large 8 ft jewelry cases. There is a tulle step stool. There is also a vanity table and chair with lights to do my makeup, and lots of drawers to keep it in. There is a 3 way, full length mirror. The colors are leopard print with light pink accents.

    My closet has anything from a 2 to a 13. All of which fits me. NO LIE! Redic.

  15. I love that skirt! It really compliments your hair color.

    I have several different sizes in my closet as well. The fact that there isn't standardized sizing in stores makes shopping more frustrating than it should be. I wish that we had a body scanner in one of the north Texas malls! That would be splendid.

  16. Ugh...the vanity/inconsistent sizing thing really bugs me. Do they really think we are so vapid and silly that we don't KNOW if our size has changed over the years? Besides it makes it impossible to choose clothing off the rack without taking sizes above and below into the change rooms with you.

    I would LOVE a personal seamstress...but in truth I'd settle for a small walk in wardrobe with one wall dedicated to shelving for shoes *swoon* and and a lovely shallow drawer cabinet to lay out all accesssories in.

  17. 1. Loving this outfit! You look amazing, as always. I am especially loving the pattern of the skirt!

    2. I HATE that there is no standardized sizing, not even within a brand. I also began noticing the vanity sizing occurring about 4 or 5 years ago. I knew that I was getting a little bigger, but my jeans size wasn't going anyways, which was odd. How was it that at 10 pounds heavier I was still fitting into the sizes of a few years earlier. Anyways, I range anywhere from a 2 (New York & Co) to a 4 (J.Crew, some Gap, some Express) and sometimes even a 6 (Express, Gap) or 8 (H&M occasionally). I have bottoms in all those sizes.

    And for tops, I am generally a small, but often go for mediums because of their length. I don't like shirts that end above the hips (unless it is a certain cut and style). The smalls normally fit in the boobs (I am tiny boobed), but almost always too tight in the stomach area. It's frustrating. So yes, lots of varying sizes in my closet.

    I used to buy by size, not for my body, meaning no matter what I would buy a small shirt or size 4 jeans. And if I didn't fit them, I would hold onto them and hope I would lose weight. I recently came to the conclusion this is a BAD idea. Buying clothes smaller to motivate yourself to lose weight does not work. Buy and dress for the body you have now, it will make you feel better about yourself and be motivated to be healthier. Since I started doing that, I am much happier with myself, even if I vary between a 2 and an 8.

  18. my size doesn't vary too much, but like you said, i do have to make adjustments at certain stores that tend to run big or small. i saw the MTV cribs featuring mariah and her closet...LOVE! i even love kimora's closet...a little oasis, a room inside a room to sit and ponder the day's most important question, "what shall i wear today?"


  19. Oh my gosh, yes! I hate when I buy an XS/S top at Old Navy but have to buy a L at Forever21. Even WALMART sizes are TOO SMALL. Miley Cyrus's line, I have to wear an XL! I couldn't believe it and sometimes those didn't even fit! Thankfully, I can still get pants at F21 (they skip a crap load of sizes from normal F21 to their plus size line) and I wear a size 4 in Old Navy or anything in general. At least I know my shoe size barely ever changes!

    I actually kind of have my dream closet but I would love for it to be super organized and have all wooden hangers :)


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