The REAL reason you’re a 12 in one shop and a 14 in another

The REAL reason you’re a 12 in one shop and a 14 in another: Consumer investigation reveals how clothing sizes in top high street stores vary by up to four CENTIMETRES

  • C5 consumer show Shop Smart Save Money explored sizing differences
  • Outfits were bought from Next, M&S, Topshop, H&M, Primark and ASOS
  • Size 8, 12, and 16 models all tried on their size in similar outfits from each one
  • Test found variations between the same sizes measuring up to as much as 4cm 

Retailers have faced criticism in recent years for disparity in clothing size labelling from store to store – and now a new documentary demonstrates how women may find themselves slipping into a size 10 from one shop, and struggling to squeeze into a 12 in another. 

An investigation by Channel 5’s consumer show Shop Smart Save Money for Christmas, which airs tonight, uncovered remarkable differences in measurements among leading high street shops.

The research, conducted by production team True North, revealed the disparity across clothing sizes from six leading fashion brands – Next, M&S, Topshop, H&M, Primark and ASOS – sending three models, one size 8, one size 12 and one size 16, into the shops to try on similar items. 

The fittings indicated variations of up to four centimetres in the measurements of items of clothing with the same UK size on their labels. 

According to the team M&S clothes were the most generous in terms of fit, followed closely by Next.  

Channel 5’s Shop Smart Save Money for Christmas conducted research that discovered the differences between sizes at leading high street brands. Pictured, the ASOS outfit

The researchers bought similar outfits from each retailer in sizes 8, 12, and 16 to see how they measured. Next (pictured) was tested alongside other brands with a fashion expert looking to see the fit quality

M&S were also part of the fit test, with their sizes fitting generously for each model. Fashion expert Sam Hudson-Miles suggested shoppers visit the store for a looser fit 

With no legally set guidelines for clothes sizes in the UK – although there are EU guidelines – brands are free to use their own measurements; which most publish online using centimetres and inches. 

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The exception is Primark which sells clothes in three categories; small 10/12, medium 12/14, or large 14/16.


There are no legally set guidelines for clothes sizes in the UK – although there are EU guidelines – brands are free to use their own measurements.


SIZE 8: waist 68cm, hips 92cm, bust 84cm

SIZE 10: waist 72cm, hips 96cm, bust 88cm

SIZE 12: waist 76cm, hips 100cm, bust 92cm

SIZE 14: waist 80cm, hips 104cm, bust 96cm

SIZE 16: waist 84cm, hips 108cm, bust 100cm

SIZE 18: waist 88cm, hips 112cm, bust 104cm 

European clothing standards list size 8 waist as 68cm, hips 92cm, and bust 84cm; a size 12 is waist 76cm, hips 100cm, and bust 92cm; for a size 16 the waist is 84cm, hips 108cm, and the bust 100cm.

To explore the differences, the show enlisted three models to try on a similar outfit – jeans, a white shirt and a fitted blazer – in their different sizes from each shop.

Sam Hudson-Miles, the fashion programme leader at Leeds Arts University, was on hand to mark the clothes, looking at different areas of the item to check the quality of the fit.

She pointed out things to look out to identify a poor fit, including gaps across the chest where buttonholes sit, jacket lapels that gape, and jeans that are too tight or too loose.

‘Also something to look for is across the back, if [the jacket] is pulling,’ Sam said.

Another high street brand on the list Topshop (pictured) were assessed on the fit of their items in three different sizes. Since filming they have altered their sizes for a better fit

The results showed the differences in sizing across size 8, 12, and 16 with a difference of up to four centimetres between some brands

The results uncovered big differences in measurements between brands.

A size 16 from ASOS allows for a bust measurement of 103cm – compared to 99cm in a size 16 from Next.   

Size 8 bottoms from Topshop have a 3.8cm smaller waist than those from H&M, but H&M’s hip measurement is 92cm – compared to 88.5cm at both Topshop and ASOS, a 3.5cm difference. 

Sam recommended that shoppers head to M&S and Next for a generous fit, or Topshop, H&M or Primark for the tightest, with ASOS falling in middle.  

Responding to the experiment a spokesperson for ASOS said: ‘We aim to provide our customers with a frictionless experience that makes shopping with us as easy and as convenient as possible. Sizing is one of our top priorities and we work hard to ensure the fit is right every time.

‘Each day, our design teams work with “fit models” fitting and adjusting products across a wide variety of sizes and product styles. This knowledge feeds into how we size our products and present and describe them online.’

During the jeans test for H&M the size 16 was a considerably tighter fit than any other high street stores, with Sam recommending elsewhere for a looser fit

Sam Hudson-Miles, the fashion programme leader at Leeds Arts University, said things to look for when it comes to poor fit, gaps across the chest where buttonholes sit, jacket lapels gaping, too tight fitting jeans or too loose

In the ASOS jacket the size 8 and 16 gaped across the buttonhole. Sam said this was a tell-tale sign that the fit wasn’t right 

ASOS also explained that along sides this they have recently launched the ‘Fit Assistant’ which uses customer purchase history and short, optional questions about fit preferences to help customers find the right size, first time. 

‘And, of course, if things still aren’t right, we offer free returns, as standard.’

An H&M spokesperson said the brand would be taking the results on board: ‘Following customer feedback, we are taking the steps to change our womenswear measurements to be in line with UK sizing, for example the previous measurements and fit of a size 12 will now be the measurements of a size 10.

‘This will be a gradual process whereby customers will experience a transition period and are encouraged to use our sizing guides online or ask our store staff for advice when shopping. 

Sam praised the fit of the Primark jacket in a size 8 (pictured) but as the sizes increased they became tighter fitting

‘We believe this transition will improve our overall customer experience for the UK and we hope our customers will feel encouraged we have listened to their valuable feedback.’

Primark were contacted but have yet to respond. Topshop have altered their sizes since the filming of the show took place, but fashion expert Sam said it would not have changed her opinion on the fit. 

Shop Smart Save Money For Christmas airs on Channel 5 every Thursday at 8pm and is presented by Gaby Roslin and Fiona Philips with Andy Webb giving financial advice and Alexis Conran reporting on the big brands. 

The series aims to bring the viewers cash saving tips and tricks as well as lifting the lid on big-name brands as it uncovers the best – and worst – value products on the market.

Shop Smart Save Money for Christmas airs on Channel 5 on Thursday at 8pm 

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