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You really want to know why clothes look so good when they’re displayed in stores?

Because they are made for shipping containers.

Because they are made to look great folded.

Because they are made in a way that reduces waste for manufacturers.

Because they are made for anomalous baseline proportions such as a bust of 33.5 inches, a waist of 24.5 inches, and hips of 35 inches.

Take your pick, because they are all true to some extent. I’m no expert, but trust me, I know—because those are my dimensions, too. Just kidding! Those are, however, Renée’s exact measurements. (You’ve met my mannequin Renée, right?) She wears everything from a size two to a size 16 and looks fabulous in all of it. There’s a reason for that—and it isn’t her sense of personal style.

Why your clothes don’t fit

For the most part, manufacturers start with a static pattern based on their research. Once their baseline is established, they ratchet patterns up or down to the dimensions of each size. The larger the retailer, (think fast fashion) the more generic the sizing. Brands have to capture market share, and they do it by landing somewhere in the middle of everyone’s needs. I’ve over simplified the problem intentionally—because it’s a lot more complicated than you would think. Let’s just say that sizing is based on each company’s research—and small companies tend to do more of that than large ones.

Now you can see why so many off-the-rack styles don’t look good on real bodies. And why all of us need a good tailor. My beloved tailor recently retired and closed her shop. After having it on the market for a year, she found NO ONE who wanted to buy her business! By the way, from whence will our future tailors come with so few Americans skilled in the art of making clothes? From our nation’s immigrants, to be sure. So let’s get this immigration problem fixed. Otherwise, we’ll all be walking around in baggy pants like these.

Case in point

They are a perfect example of the sizing problem that attends mass produced clothing. I love this high-waisted J. Crew style. But. Here is the size dilemma: I have a long inseam, so I had to order a tall—which had an inseam of 37 inches! I’m not that tall, so they still need to be hemmed. A size four cupped my derriere in a way that’s not okay with me, but the waist was perfect. A size six spilled over my hips for a more flattering fit, but I have an extra four inches in the waist.

If I didn’t already know it, these slacks would tell me something about where I stand in the aggregate: that my hips are too big to correspond the majority of people who wear a size four; and my waist is too small for the majority of people who wear a size six—all based on the research of J. Crew.

Find a good tailor

Whatever you do, don’t grieve over your size. It truly is just a number. Look for clothes that fit you best and make friends with a fabulous tailor—or better yet, become one yourself! I’m a big believer in personal responsibility, but a bad fit is something you can blame on the other guy. Your body is right–it’s the manufacturer’s who’ve got it all wrong. And how can you blame them when they are simply trying to clothe the world and everything adjacent to it?

How did you find a good tailor? What brands of clothing work best on your body? And how many layers of Spanx would you be willing wear to make a body-skimming dress pour off your figure like water? Who wore your favorite dress at the Oscars? Mine was Charlize Theron in that gorgeous white Dior.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.