Struggling With Italian Clothing Sizes

by Jessica on August 16, 2007

by | August 16th, 2007  

jeansI knew I wasn’t the only person who struggled to find Italian trousers that fit on my last trip to il Bel Paese, but sometimes knowing you’re not alone doesn’t alleviate the frustration or depression associated with the experience.

Some friends of mine live not far from a Diesel outlet, as Diesel is based near where they live, so one day the husband and I made our way to said outlet in search of deals on this hot Italian designer’s clothing. Like most outlet stores (the real ones, not the ones made to look like regular shopping malls that seem to crop up everywhere in the U.S.), the racks at the Diesel outlet were in a frightening state of disarray, requiring the patience of Job and an eye for hidden gems that I do not generally possess. (My mother-in-law is a genius at finding the only thing on a rack of crap to bother looking at, and I wish I shared that gift.)

Still, I pressed forward and found several pairs of jeans on the racks in the cramped upstairs room devoted to denim that I thought I’d try on. I even went so far as to ask the surly young lady behind the counter for her recommendations as to what my size might be from the shelves of jeans behind her. I brought my armload of denim into one of the tiny dressing rooms and proceeded to get more depressed with each pair of jeans. None of them, I repeat none, were big enough for me. With several, I was shocked to find I couldn’t get them past my thighs. I should stop here to mention that while I could stand to lose a few (okay, 20) pounds, I am by no means a large woman – at least not by American standards. I wear a size 10 in the U.S. quite comfortably. But in that Diesel shop, when I brought the pile of jeans back to the attendant – who, I might add, was bigger than me – she said I’d just tried on the largest jeans in the store.

Now, if that’s not enough to make a girl want to cry, I don’t know what is.

Fast forward to later in the day when the husband and I were strolling through the small town where our friends live and we walked into a clothing shop that had a men’s sweater in the window he wanted to try on. I was still reeling from the earlier pants-trying-on debacle, so the last thing in the world I wanted to do was sink further into the pit of despair by trying on more pants. But the sales ladies were sweet and helpful, and when I explained my plight the older of the two looked me up and down and declared that I should try on a size 42. I did, and it fit perfectly. I could have hugged her. While those jeans – which I bought, happily – have more “bling” on them than I might ordinarily look for in pants, I was so overjoyed then that I still love them today.

Later in that same trip, our friends took us to the Replay outlet (they live in outlet central, apparently), where the husband found jeans and where I didn’t want to push my luck so I stayed away from the trouser section altogether. The new low at Replay was finding that even the tops marked extra-large were tight on me.

All of this had me thinking, “Where on earth do Italian women shop?” Of course, many Italian women are tiny – adhering to “la bella figura” they maintain a very thin physique and are able, presumably, to fit into just about anything they want. But even though there aren’t as many obese people in Italy as there are in the U.S., there are certainly enough women who are bigger than me that I can’t help but wonder how they dress themselves. As I mentioned earlier, I know I’m not alone in this dilemma, and here are a couple of blog posts to prove it. One from Sognatrice and another from KC, who struggles to find pants that fit and she’s even smaller than I am.

Of course, this is probably all part of a larger issue where designers of womens fashion try to make us feel thinner by changing the numbers on the sizes (a size 6 in the U.S. used to be something like a 14, etc.), or where the numbers on the sizes are completely arbitrary and not related to anything whatsoever (what exactly is a size 8 – 8 of what?) – as opposed to men’s trousers, which are measurements and therefore don’t change. That, however, is another rant altogether. I just know that if I make the leap to being an expat in Italy I’m going to have to stock up on clothing before I go.


sognatrice August 16, 2007 at 6:27 am

*shaking head*

I wish I could tell you things have gotten better since my post, but alas, I’ve lost a few more pounds, and it’s still just as depressing; I wear a US 8 now, and it’s still slim pickins in the trousers department.

I, too, wonder where the bigger Italian women shop–not *all* of them are tiny darn it! One of these days, I’m just going to break down and ask some of them, I swear….


Jessica August 16, 2007 at 7:27 am

I would *so* love it if you did ask some of them… It can’t be either toothpick jeans or muu-muus, right? Right?


Katie August 17, 2007 at 5:13 am

Eastern Europe too … same thing … it’s awful! I just had an episode trying on a skirt…Second-hand clothing seems better (maybe it’s already stretched out for me? haha), though it’s not really the fancy shopping that’s fun.

I’m keeping secret my size, but it’s fairly average!


Parisgirl August 21, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Don’t go by the US/European conversion charts to find your size. If you are a Size 42 in Italian clothes – that’s equal to a Size 4-6 in US. Trust me on this.

As for French Sizes Size 34 is equal to a Size 2 to 4 and 38 is a Size 4-6. Just to add to the confusion, they have now added a ‘Euro’ size which is a little bigger than the traditional sizes.

The best way to shop sizes is by giving a good look at the waistband. If it looks similar to what you wear, it’s your size. That being said, the Italians are the best in the world at designing clothes that fit the female form. Don’t be fooled by the numbers!


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