Paris Shopping: Just My Size – or Almost


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If you plan on shopping in Paris, you might find the system of sizing for shoes and clothes to be confusing. I’ve ranted in the past about the myth of a global culture when it comes to the consumer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking PAL and SECAM vs. NTSC, Meters vs. Yards, Pints vs. Liters, different gauges for railroad tracks, shoes and clothing sizes, the concept of global is quite simply far from reality.

British, French, Italian, US and Japanese clothing sizes are all different from one another – add to that the ‘Euro’ size and you’ve got such a mishmash of sizing charts that you’re best bet for getting the right size is simply by judging the size by what ‘looks right’. Here is where your ‘significant other’ if you have one with you on your trip – can be really helpful. Otherwise, ask the sales clerk – and you would be very surprised to know that European sales clerks are quite good at ‘sizing you up’ in every sense of the word. They can tell you your correct size – whether you want to know or not. And I’m talking right down to lingerie – and that goes for both male and female sales clerks.

Not much escapes the French eye for measuring you up.
And about those size conversion charts? Don’t trust them. I can tell you from personal experience that a Size 6 translates to a Size 38 in French skirts, dresses and trousers (for women) and a Size 42 in Italy would equal a Size 38 or a Size 6 in the US.

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Dress pattern makers may argue with me on this but if from personal experience, I can guarantee you that if you think you can walk into any shop in Paris and find a Size 34 – Good luck!! Even Size 36 has not always available (that is a REAL Size 36). For most of us, this is definitely NOT our problem! At the other end of the spectrum, you can find some shops in Paris for more ample women i.e. grand tailles (Rue Alesia and Avenue General LeClerc in the 14th arrondissement, for starters). The bottom line is that you will probably not find a dress that is an EXACT fit for comparable sizes in different countries – for the simple reason that peoples’ bodies grow a little differently depending on where you live. For example, I’m convinced that although my roots are Anglo-Saxon, my body was built ‘Made in Italy’. Italian clothes fit better than all others – from head to toe.

Meanwhile, whatever your body type, good French boutiques usually have a seamstress on hand or can refer you to a tailor in the neighborhood to make adjustments in a timely fashion. In some cases, depending upon the amount of your purchase, the adjustments will be thrown in at no charge. (A little negotiation here is not out of line).

I think that UK Size 10 equals a Size 6 in the US (but I may be off target on that one). But you get the picture. No two size charts are the same.

Add to that, some of the French chains have made the Size 36s fit more like a US Size 6 than a Size 4.
One chain in particular that’s doing this is Carroll. Trust your gut instincts about sizing. Sales clerks can vary in ‘honesty’ about how well an outfit fits you. Bring a friend if you can.


4 thoughts on “Paris Shopping: Just My Size – or Almost

  • Linda

    I thought I knew what European shoe size I wore since my walking shoes have European and US sizing. When I tried on size 40 shoes to my surprise they were snug. I ended up with size 41 and they were hard to find. What I did like was the sizing on the dress I bought. I walked into a chain store and picked the size I thought I needed based on the style. When I came out of the fitting room to look in the mirror the clerk said it was too big and I needed a much smaller size. To my surprize she was right on in her suggestion of the size. Having worked in retail for years I really appreciated her knowledge of her stock and I happily walked out with a size 3.

    For years manufacturers have been playing with “vanity sizing” and it very frustrating.

  • parisgirl

    Size 3! Lucky you!!! What was the French size? Maybe Parislogue readers can create an accurate size conversion chart based on readers’ REAL LIFE experiences.

    Regarding shoes, I wear a 9 1/2 N in the US which literally translates into 39 1/2 in France. Forget about finding N vs. W. When it comes to shoes, I’d suggest for people with narrow feet, take the first train out to Florence, Milan or Rome and do your shoe shopping in Italy!

  • Linda

    Size 3 was the French size on the label. I would think it\’s about a 12 in the US. I wear anywhere between a 10 and a 14 in US sizing. My bottom is bigger than my top but my waist is thin so I have to try on just about everything. I wear a size 2 from a well know store specializing in knit clothes. Of course their sizes are screwy anyway. The shoe thing was frustrating. I wear a 10 in the US and have a flat foot. Pointy toe shoes don\’t fit me at all. I can usually find a decent selection here but I was frustrated in France.

  • parisgirl

    Okay, now I understand! Another French sizing system is 1 – 2 – 3 and there’s even a chain store called 1- 2- 3 which I think exists in the US as well. As for shoes, Size 41 should normally match Size 10 US woman’s shoe.

    As you said, you don’t find Size 41 everywhere, but the good news is that young French women are getting taller – which means, longer feet, and bigger sizes in general. Size 12 to 14 might translate as a Size 44 but I need to hear from some of Parislogue’s French readers for confirmation. Angelique, are you reading today?

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