Earlier today, I was speaking to a lady regarding a jacket purchase; I asked what size she wanted and she told me "a 26", so I asked her what her ‘over bust’ measurement was...she told me "47 inches" and went on to say she wanted some room in the jacket so needed at least 50". I had to catch myself to stop shouting “NO, NO, NO!”
Allow me to explain my frustration here; As the Designer of the Fuller Fillies Collection I am a trained and qualified (desperately want to add ‘Dangerous’) Pattern Maker, Tailor, and producer of super-flattering clothing made exclusively for plus-sized ladies. As a plus-sized Lady who employs entirely plus-sized female staff and has 15 years’ experience of making only plus-sized garments, it is fair to say I’m quite some authority on the subject…and because I know clothes sizing is fraught with problems I make it VERY clear on the Fuller Fillies’ Fitting guide, what lady-size each garment size fits…”a size 16 fits a 40-42” chest” for example. The room required for movement and comfort has already been skillfully incorporated into the garments, and ‘Bingo Arms’ and ‘Tree Trunk Legs’ already taken into account.
The sad thing here is that, had the lady purchased her jacket, which by the way would have been at least a size too big, she would have reported to either her friends, or worse still to Social Media, that Fuller Fillies sizing is not good!
Now, besides my Design credentials I am also a former Copywriter/PR Consultant; this means I recognize all too well that clear, effective communication is absolutely essential to get the message across. So there is a comprehensive Fitting Guide, with lots of no-nonsense images, on our website; it has information on measuring yourself and how to then decide which Fuller Fillies’ size is best for you…this in turn is linked to every single product page in an extremely obvious way (the image shown here, with link to the Guide, takes up approximately 33% of the product page....)
I wasn’t sure how much more I could do to resolve this situation, why this Lady had made such an ill-informed decision – one which, by the by, I know others have encountered due to the number of returns we see because an item is “too big”.
As is customary in these situations, I turned to our fantastic followers on Facebook to curry their ideas on where we were going wrong, or indeed IF we are. As always the ‘Fluffies’ came up trumps! With one notable exception they were all keen to suggest new and interesting ideas whilst acknowledging our existing Guide is second to none. And they also made some very insightful comments to explain WHY we are finding this phenomenon…if you haven’t tuned out by now, you might find this helpful! Read on MacDuff…
Repeatedly, I saw comments saying that, because larger ladies are used to nothing fitting them, even if they are marked ‘XXL’ or ‘Size 22’, they naturally select a larger size than stated in the size charts to obtain anything like a reasonable fit; I know this happens as I do it myself! Let me explain why we have this problem; when I was at College (198X shall we say) there was a National Benchmark for Ladies Clothing Sizing; it was provided by Marks & Spencer who had their own Factories (remember SR Gents anyone?) meaning they could ensure parity of sizing…and EVERY Fashion Student learned to cut patterns using M&S Pattern Blocks. Every College, Every Uni and even other English-speaking Countries doffed their hats to M&S sizing. You would often hear Ladies refer to their size as “Marks’ size 18”. It was perfect. We all knew absolutely what size we were!
Unfortunately, thanks to the rise of cheaper manufacturing overseas (something I am blaming wholly on joining the demon EU by the way), M&S closed all their SR Gents Factories and moved manufacture abroad. Students no longer worked their Summers away in those lovely, fabric filled factories with their huge, oily cutters and armies of mannequins; the pattern blocks became tatty and Fashion Students stopped being taught to cut patterns because someone else would do it cheaper…all they would ever need to do was draw pretty pictures. Bang went any semblance of order and Brands began to develop their own, unique size charts – which isn’t even the worst of it – as China and India got in on the act Brands spread their Collections about resulting in a wide disparity of sizing even within a Brand’s OWN Collections! And in China, a size 12 is considered ‘Plus sized’.
You might think is a bad state of affairs – but it gets worse. It gets a lot worse.
I came into the Equestrian Fashion Market in 2006 having had a break from clothing, (I was a Bridal Designer for many years from College then moved into Consultancy). Initially I had an online store selling various Equine Brands. Probably because I was a larger girl I was sensitive to customers’ requests for clothing in bigger sizes and so I sought this out. It was excruciatingly difficult! But there was one incident that I replay over and over in my mind – and I still cannot believe it today…There was a huge Distributor in the UK who appeared to sell several Brands. One of them had a nice Tweed Show Jacket which went up to a 48” chest…allegedly.
When my stocks arrived I whipped out my Tape Measure (always strung permanently around my neck to this day,) to check sizing…the 48” actually only measured 42”, and this was the pattern across the lot! I picked up the phone to the Distributor and spoke to the buyer, Sally. I asked for a contact for the Brand’s buyer /Designer…” what do you mean?” Sally quizzed; “The Brand making this Jacket – I want to speak to the Design Team because their Factory has got it terribly wrong and I want to let them know”. Sally laughed. “Oh you are funny Suzanne, most of the Brands are us; I draw my ideas on the back of a fag packet and send it off to China for them to complete the design and they send us finished stuff in their sizes.”
To say I was aghast is an understatement. I am not saying who this was as that would be unprofessional; but I will say they are one of the largest Distributors in the UK still today. As brands start to get into Financial trouble (dare I mention the EU again?) they swoop up and buy the name then place the products in sweatshops in China or India… they run it just long enough to turn a profit then, just as reputation is fading they buy up another, and the cycle repeats. I haven’t met a Distributor yet that hasn’t done this to a greater or lesser degree! Nobody checking for correctness in sizing, nobody checking for parity across the Collection, nobody giving a damn that it is all a bloody mess that makes women think they are out of the ‘Norm’. It isn’t the ladies that are wrong, it’s the Manufacturers.
Interestingly the same Distributor was the reason why I started Fuller Fillies. They carried a French range with a gorgeous Chocolate and Turquoise Jacket which sold hand over fist and went up to a reasonable size 20 (M&S sizing). I tried to get the matching Breeches – which they were unable to get over a Breech size 26 – around a size 8, and I asked why…the answer came back that “Fat girls need a jacket to cover up but putting them in our breeches would be madness – they would look hideous!” Fuller Fillies was born there and then, and one of our first lines out of factory the next year was a Chocolate and Turquoise two-tone Jodhpur, which just so happened to match that gorgeous jacket!
Anyway, let me get back on track. I am almost 55. I only ever use Marks & Spencer’s size charts to produce our patterns. Yes, there is some difference between the fit of different lines but that is due to the different fabric qualities of stretch. Every garment is sampled in my size to ensure fit is as close as can be to our standard. I have to ride for 2 hours in any new sample, go home and cook diner then sit down and watch Eastenders/Coronation Street, fall asleep in front of the TV – and all without giving the item a second thought. If I can do that and still be comfortable then it makes it to the next stage of production! If for any reason there is any deviation from our size chart when the finished product is checked, due to over or under-generous seam tolerances for example, we make it clear in the product description.
At initial concept stage I have decided what extra room needs to be incorporated dependent upon what the item is for, what season it will be worn, what else it will be worn with – a base layer has size plus 10% for example whilst a warm jacket has size plus 15-20% depending on padding. As the end-user, YOU don’t have to make that calculation; all you have to do is look at the Fitting Guide so you take accurate measurements, measure yourself and then compare the measurements to our chart, AND ORDER THE SIZE STATED.
Worth saying here also – neither should you EVER ask generally on Facebook about our sizing (or anyone else’s for that matter)… because, if the person answering has not followed this advice they probably got it very wrong and so will you. I have often seen such replies and asked of the advice-giver what Fuller Fillies’ items they have had – I have lost count of the times I am told, “Oh I don’t have anything but this is what I hear.” I think that makes the case for me!
Before I finish, (we are nearly there), a few things you may not be aware of:
- We only use models who are in the middle of our size range (typically 20/22)
- You can see hundreds of real women wearing our clothing by clicking ‘Family Album’ which is linked to the top of every Web Page on our site…
- You can read product reviews which are on all product pages right next to ‘Product Description’…if the writer is saying something which we think is the result of mis-information, we add comments so you are never mislead!
- Every Product has a link to our Fitting Guide (see the lady in the pink sash) – and there are downloads below that link for any additional info you may require – like size conversions for Boots…
- And finally; if you are still confused or need more information then click the ‘Contact Us’ link which you’ll find in the footer of all web pages, give as much information as possible, ask your question and we will answer!
Ladies, don’t be disheartened because you have a little junk in the trunk, and don’t tar us with the same, imprecise and thoughtless brush used by other Brands; Fuller Fillies is dedicated to getting it right for you, and always has been. Be Fluffy, be Proud! Oh, and always be a Fuller Filly!
Glossary of Links:
Fitting Guide: https://www.fuller-fillies.co.uk/content/9-sizing-fit-information
Family Album: https://www.fuller-fillies.co.uk/content/10-family-album
Contact Us: https://www.fuller-fillies.co.uk/contact-us
FF Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FullerFillies/