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Size Matters Part IV
Posted by James F. Brown on Aug 16, 2009 - 3:52:16 PM

LOS ANGELES—In the previous columns, we’ve discussed the size numbering system used in the U.S., but different systems are used in other countries. Many of these are based on the metric system, while the U.S. system is based in inches.


It can be confusing to see clothes labeled in metric sizes that have been imported into the U.S.
Photo by Jocelyn Holt
Even more confusing are numbers that are similar to the U.S. but are actually different. Keep in mind that all sizes are approximations and can vary widely. Whatever numbers are on the labels, trying on items of attire is the true test of what fits. Your body will never lie or mislead you. That is the best way to deal with any uncertainties about size numbers.


Still, being able to convert from foreign to American sizes is helpful, and it’s a smart strategy when you’re traveling overseas and shopping for clothes. There are some real bargains available, and there are also a variety of styles, colors and patterns that you’ll seldom, if ever, see here at home.


In the United Kingdom, fine, high-quality shoes such as Church’s are renowned worldwide. Their shoe size system is like ours, but not quite. British shoe sizes are 2-½ sizes smaller than American for women’s shoes and ½ size smaller for men’s shoes. Australia has a similarly numbered sizing system, but it, too, is different from the British and American systems.


Men’s suit sizes and shirt sizes in the U.K. are the same as in the U.S. Throughout the rest of Europe these sizes are in centimeters. Japan has its own unique sizing system.


To further complicate matters, women’s clothing size numbers are all different in the U.K., Europe, Japan and Australia.


The best way to deal with foreign sizes is to print out some clothing size conversion charts and carry them with you when traveling abroad. You can Google “clothing size conversion chart” to find Web sites with charts.


Two excellent ones are and


Don’t let these different sizing systems stop you from acquiring some wonderful attire when you’re abroad. Keep in mind that besides the different systems, clothes may also be cut differently than those for the American population. This can work for you or against you, so be sure to try on before buying.


This concludes our series about clothing sizes. The next column will cover some tips for savvy clothes shopping when you’re outside the U.S.


James F. Brown is a business consultant and expert on professional attire. His e-mail address





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