This clothing brand's sizing policy is making customers feel body-shamed

Elise Solé
Yahoo Style
A woman named Samantha Bell took to social media to show how size 16 skinny jeans vary widely between brands, like H&M and Primark. (Photo: Samantha Bell/Free to Be OK With Me/Facebook)
A woman named Samantha Bell took to social media to show how size 16 skinny jeans vary widely between brands, like H&M and Primark. (Photo: Samantha Bell/Free to Be OK With Me/Facebook)

H&M is being accused of a dishonest sizing policy that body-shames shoppers.

A woman named Samantha Bell brought the issue to a Facebook group called Free to Be OK With Me, a body-positive community that aims to hold clothing companies accountable on inclusivity matters.

Sharing a photo of two pairs of size-16 skinny jeans — one from H&M, the other from Primark — Bell wrote, “I know I’m not the first person to raise this, but holy s***, H&M need to do something about their sizing. This is a size 16 from H&M (blue) vs a size 16 from Primark (black).”

Bell added, “So, I measured the difference. 14cm/5.5inches. FOURTEEN CM! FFS. And yes, they’re both the same style (skinny fit).”

Many could relate to sizing confusion — and not just at H&M. One person commented, “I’d like to be surprised but…even I wear everything from a 12 to a 20. Drives me crazy.” Another person added, “Some shop’s sizes are just ridiculous. I had to buy the largest pair they had in Topshop in jeans, made me feel awful even though I’m a petite 12. But depending on where I shop it can range from 12-16.”

The conversation was also brewing on Twitter, where people were equally annoyed.

H&M responded to Yahoo Style’s request for comment: “H&M hugely values all customer feedback. As there is no global mandatory sizing standard, sizes will differ between brands and different markets. Our dedicated, in-house sizing department works according to an average of the sizes and measurements suggested by the markets we operate in. H&M sizes are continually reviewed by our in-house sizing department.”

A similar complaint toward H&M was made in May when a size-12 woman shopping at a store in England requested a dress in a size 18 after the size 16 was so tight on her that “I could barely breathe.” She implored the store on Facebook, “Please sort your sizes out because this is absolutely ridiculous!” while sharing photos of herself wearing the too-small garment in the dressing room.

However, the discrepancy in sizing is not limited to H&M — J.Crew, Boohoo, and American Eagle Outfitters have all been accused of similar practices. That includes stores that participate in “vanity sizing,” a system that involves labeling clothes smaller than they actually are, in order to make customers feel good about buying the item.

“Clothing, at its best, is used for self-expression and feeling good about yourself,” Lauren Coulman, the founder of Free to Be OK With Me, tells Yahoo Style. “At its most functional, it enables people to live their lives comfortably and freely, but at its worst, it’s another stick to beat ourselves up with about our bodies, and their adherence to socially defined standards.”

The solution isn’t to have customers accept the fact that they just can’t wear certain brands. According to Coulman, on a base level, the language used to describe clothes — “extra,” “plus,” in other words, “more than sufficient” — must also change.

“Being forcibly pushed to confront that in a dimly lit dressing room can be a harrowing experience,” she tells Yahoo Style. “Fashion brands, through failing to adhere to a collective agreement around dress sizes, are inadvertently shaming their customers, which is entirely counterintuitive to their purpose of selling more clothing. Who wants to buy clothing that makes them feel bad?”

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