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Tips to find the right dress size

Almost everyone knows their clothing size and usually looks first at the tag in the collar or waistband when shopping. However, the supposedly correct size does not always fit. But how do you know which dress size is optimal for you and where do the regulations of dress sizes come from in the first place? Tikbow explains.

In the store, you routinely reach for the usual dress size and are surprised to find that the pants are too small or the dress much too big when you try it on, even though these are standardized clothing sizes that (should) always come out the same. Or maybe not?

How are standard sizes created?

Although clothing could be made by machine since the industrial revolution, many parts were still sewn by hand until the 20th century. Of course, with a perfect fit, because for handmade fashion was taken directly measure. An effort that was out of the question for mass production. Instead, manufacturers of machine-made clothing relied on standard sizes.

Serial measurements record average body size.

The key word here is serial measurements. These measurements, carried out on numerous test persons, serve to record the average body dimensions of the inhabitants of a country and to evaluate them accordingly. In Germany, the Hohenstein Institute Textile Research Center in Baden-Württemberg is responsible for this. In 2007/2008, these measurements were carried out under the name "Size Germany" on 13,362 women, children and men between the ages of 6 and 87 using a 3-D body scanner. "Size Germany" is considered the largest serial measurement in Germany.

Standard sizes change over time

The last measurement before 2007 was in 1994, and things have changed since then: We are all tending to get bigger. The waist circumference of women grew by an average of 4.1 centimeters and the hip circumference by 1.8 centimeters. The breast span also increased by 2.3 centimeters since then. The average of these measurements forms the basis for recalculated dress sizes. But beware! The sizes from the measurement serve the brands only as guidelines and are not binding. This is also the reason why the fit varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

The right dress size and how to find it

The best-known size ranges are 32 to 54 for women and 40 to 62 for men. But symbols such as XS, S, M, L and XL are also familiar to everyone. More and more manufacturers now also offer L and K sizes. Long (L) in this case stands for women who are over 172 centimeters tall. While short (K) is aimed at women who are smaller than 165 centimeters.

For children, the following principle applies: clothing size = body height. For adults, the math skills from school must be used again, because the correct clothing size can actually be calculated. The basic rule here is: Chest circumference divided by two. When calculating women’s clothing sizes, six are subtracted from this result.

Confection sizes abroad

Despite efforts to standardize clothing sizes throughout the EU, shopping abroad is not always easy. In some cases, completely different standards apply here. In China, for example, the size of a woman’s dress corresponds to her entire chest circumference. In the USA, the size table starts with the often quoted "Size Zero", i.e. size 0. However, these labels also list sizes across countries, and many stores keep tables that can be used to determine the corresponding size.

If you don’t know much about tables, these tips and tricks will help you when shopping:


Was in Deutschland eine Größe 36 ist, ist in France von der Passform eigentlich eine 34. Man muss demnach immer eine Kleidergröße auf die im französischen Produkt vermerkte Zahl draufaddieren.


In Italy ist eine deutsche 38 tatsächlich eine IT 42. Es gilt also: Von der italienischen Größe müssen vier abgezogen werden – oder zwei angegebene Konfektionsgrößen.

United States (USA)

An American size 2 would be a size 32 in Germany, so you always calculate minus 30 or simply take the last number of your own German size as a guideline. From size 40 on, the American sizes continue with 10, 12, 14 <.

Great Britain

Unfortunately, there is no single rule of thumb for UK sizes. The only thing that helps is to remember that a German 40 is a 14 for the British, and a 32 is a size 6.


Korea, Japan and China calculate clothing sizes based on the circumference of the bust and transfer the result to their country-specific metric systems. It should also be noted that Asians often have a narrower build than Europeans, so sizes may be smaller than indicated.

Tips for the right size when shopping online

Especially in times of pandemic, we rely more and more on online shopping. But there’s hardly anyone who hasn’t made a complete mistake when it comes to the technical side of things. The result: around half of all orders are returned. But what can be done about it?

Technical aids

Fortunately, there are now technical inventions to counter the problem of incorrect dress sizes, such as the smartphone body scanning software "Presize". The software, which became known in October 2020 by "The Höhle of Löwen", measures the body with the cell phone camera within a minute. In this way, a 3D model of the body is calculated and converted into a size recommendation. In this way, time-consuming returns can be avoided.

Read customer reviews

Even though customer ratings are of course always subjective, it can help to read other customer reviews if you want to get an overview of how clothes from a particular brand turn out. Online stores themselves now often indicate whether certain products are the right size for the wearer or whether it is better to choose a size smaller or larger.