Kathy, I have a quick question for you. I don't get why at Gap, Old Navy etc. I wear a 12. But when I tried on some things you've suggested, I fit comfortably into a 10...even got into an 8! Don't get me wrong, I am really happy about this! Are these clothes vanity sized? What is the deal?
-mystery sized one
***note - edited for clarification from original post. I don't think I explained things clear enough initially. I was trying NOT to give a lot of confusing detail, but it seems that in eliminating some of that detail - I've further confused some of you...I'd love to answer your specific questions on this hot topic!*****No, this isn't vanity sizing. It all has to do with many things. Many apparel companies (brands) don't manufacture sizes 0-16...however, they need to be able to fit that range (if they are a national brand, or one that you can find at the mall). So, for example, if a brand is sized from 4-14...the 4 is going to fit small (to fit a 0-2), and the 14 likely will fit a little bigger (to fit a 16). This comes from my direct experience as a personal shopper - shopping for all sized customers - all over the country. It also has to do with inventory, reorders and grading of sizes based on a particular demographic. (ok, now I know you are totally confused...and not following me at all)
Also, there is a correlation between price and fit. It has to do with the quality of the fabric, and where the stitches are placed a garment (in other words, the pattern / seams - especially in jeans - where the side seam is on a jean makes a big difference in how they look/fit)...I know, it all sounds like gibberish.
Another reason is wrapped up in who the target buyer is of a garment. For example - Old Navy is primarily targeted to a younger crowd...so, their 'fit model' is based off of the average size of who their customer is. A trick - find a designer whose fit model (or target customer) is like you (ok - I know that sounds like it is an impossible challenge!)....this is why I say if you find a brand or designer that looks amazing on you - stick with it!
Finally, cut. There is a huge difference between various cuts of things - even within the same brand. For example, I have skirts from the same designer that are a 4 (and we all know I am NOT a size 4) up to a 10. They are very different in cut, and in some of the skirts, I purchased a little bigger, because I wanted it to hang lower on my hip. Likewise, when I shop at a store like Old Navy - I always have to go up a size in pants...sometimes, I have to do this at Banana too. I am not who they want to sell to, so I move on.
Bottom line is this - there is a difference (and there are a lot of factors...more than what I am touching on here), you are not losing your mind! This is why you have me to help you :).