Shopping in Italy – What Size Am I?

shoppingThe first time the husband and I visited Italy, I found myself turning up my nose at the latest footwear fashions, so even though I’d been all excited about buying some Italian shoes, I came home with only one pair of rather sedate-looking sandals. It wasn’t until about six months later, when those styles I’d curled my lip at in Italy were finally popular all over the world, that I realized my mistake. On each of my subsequent trips, I’ve made it a point to buy something clothing-wise – even if I was questioning it at the time – knowing full well that it would be fashionable in a few months’ time. And so far, I’ve yet to be disappointed with that thought process.

Italy, always on the cutting edge of fashion, is going to have some potentially odd-looking clothing items on display when you visit. Don’t let that scare you away from partaking in the time-honored Italian tradition of shopping. My rule of thumb is this – if I see some article of clothing on everyone, I’ll buy it. It might not yet be on store shelves at home, but give it time and it will be.

My biggest dilemma now has to do with sizing. With shoes, I’m set – I know what my European shoe size is, and I’m confident about shoe shopping. Clothing sizes, on the other hand, are a mystery to me. One shop’s size 42 trousers are a perfect fit, while the next doesn’t even carry anything above a 33. I struggle to fit into what are labeled as “extra-large” tops, though I’m not what I’d consider extra large! My last visit to Italy was seriously depressing on this front, as you can imagine. I’ve yet to crack the code of Italian sizing – do women find one designer they like and just never shop elsewhere? Or do they tirelessly try on size after size until they find the one that fits in every single shop in town?




With the tiny sizes on display, I actually wondered how on earth “real” women (i.e. those of us who aren’t paper thin) in Italy dress themselves. Well, here’s at least one answer – too many Italian women are anorexic, including someone whose last name is Versace.

But for the rest of us – we who eat heartily and happily, especially on vacation, and who are double-digit sizes in stores in the US – don’t be discouraged. If you can’t find that perfect pair of Italian jeans in your size, do what I do (really, this is actually what I did last year) – buy a pair of shoes instead. I don’t think I’m alone in my feeling that shoes will cure whatever ails you. You might also want to try an online clothing size conversion chart (like this one) – I don’t know how reliable these are, but it might help you in the process of narrowing down your size, rather than just stabbing aimlessly in the dark.


Happy shopping!

4 thoughts on “Shopping in Italy – What Size Am I?

  • Parisgirl

    If you’re wearing an Italian size 42, you have NOTHING to worry about, believe me. In real life terms, Size 42 equals somewhere between a Size 4 and a Size 6 in US terms. Trust me on this. Those conversion charts (including the one in your link) are really off the charts. Same goes for the French numbers A 36 in France is equal to a Size 2 in the US.

    If you get the right size, you’ll find that the ‘Made in Italy’ tag is a guarantee that you’ll have an article of clothing that loves the female form. Especially when it comes to hips. French fashion is measured for French buns – and I’m not talking croissants.

  • Jessica Post author

    I can tell you from my experience that a size 42 Italian – at least in the store where that was my size – is NOT a size 4 or 6 US. I know this because if I were to try to squeeze myself into a 4 or 6 in the US, it’d be tantamount to torture (for the trousers as well as my thighs, hips and stomach). Although a 42 in two other shops I went into was radically different than the 42 I was happy in, so there’s something fishy going on there… Why don’t these numbers *mean* something, for pete’s sake?!?

  • Jo Hutt

    I would like to know how to find and contact Itailian womens shoes manufacturers that make size 42, 43, 44, 45 shoes. In NZ it is very hard to buy larger sizes. Thanks. Jo Hutt

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