Women's clothing sizes have always confused me. My wife always has to try on an array of sizes, and it seems to vary by store. For me, on the other hand, when I'm looking for pants, I just look for waist, length, and maybe cut. As we've seen, men's actual sizes can change by brand, but it looks a lot more confusing for women, as shown in this graphic from The New York Times.
Take a woman with a 27-inch waist. In Marc Jacobs’s high-end line, she is between an 8 and a 10. At Chico’s, she is a triple 0. And that does not consider whether the garment fits in the hips and bust. (Let’s not get into length; there is a reason most neighborhood dry cleaners also offer tailoring.)
The top measurement is bust, the middle is waist, and bottom is hip. While every line represents a size 8 for a different brand, you can see how much variation there is.
The good news is that some companies are working on making it easier to figure out the right sizes.