Here we discuss how to measure your body and translate the resulting numbers into feminine clothing sizes.
Normally when you shop in a store you already know your size, can go directly to the right rack and make your final selection by trying the garment on for appearance and comfort.
Experienced shoppers know sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, label to label, material to material and even one time to the next. Clothes sizing is not an exact science! The crossdresser is further hindered by seeking clothing neither cut nor sized for the male body. Of course the ideal situation is to have feminine clothing styled and fitted by a dressmaker to your individual body. There are a few dressmakers available who provide this service.
However, the purpose of this article is to assist the beginning crossdresser emerging from the dark recesses of the closet with the first selection of feminine clothing to provide the best chance of passing in public at an affordable cost. It is assumed this initial selection will be made from a mail order house or possibly at a store without trying the garments on prior to purchase.
Obviously the first step in determining your size(s) is to take, and record, your body measurements. It is easier if you have a friend help and if you wear no more than your basic undergarments (bra and panties). Referring to the drawing here, measure the length, in inches, around your body at the four locations shown: chest, bust, waist and hips. You might want to print this page and record the results right on it so you have them handy. It is best to have a cloth measuring tape (available from sewing or notions departments of variety or department stores). Always keep the tape parallel to the floor and stand straight, but comfortably (breathing normally) with feet together. It’s best if you’re wearing a bra filled in the same manner as you expect to be wearing under your new clothing; however if you don’t have one yet, all is not lost.
Measure your chest with the tape snugly under your arms and above the cups of your bra. If you have a bra, measure the bust with the tape around the fullest part of your bra cups with the tape just snug enough to prevent its sliding down in back. NOTE: This is NOT the method for measuring for a bra; see No-Man’s Land: Buying a Bra elsewhere in this Guide.
To measure your waist, tie a string snugly but not tightly around your middle; it will roll to your natural waistline, the point at which you should measure. This is usually about midway between the top of the hip bone and the lowest part of the rib cage.
Measure your hips with the tape snugly around the largest part of your hips and buttocks.
Remember, while measuring ALWAYS keep the tape parallel to the floor.
Blouse and Sweater Sizes
Blouses are sized by bust measurement, although shoulder width must also be considered for the male since women tend to have narrower shoulders then do men. Refer to the dress Size Charts in this Guide.
If you have a choice between a “standard” shoulder (single seam along the top of the shoulder) and a Raglan shoulder (diagonal seams from shoulder to neckline) take the latter; you may be able to select a smaller size because of its design. A bust measurement of 44 inches requires a size 22. If the blouse is long sleeved, choose a Tall Misses size to accommodate the slightly longer male arms; however if the blouse is short-sleeved a Misses size 22 will probably fit just as well.
Skirt Sizes (also pants and jeans)
Generally, skirts have zipper closures with a button on the waistband although, of course, some have elasticized waist bands. Waist measurements determine skirt size. From our Size Charts you can see that a 30 inch waist requires a size 14 skirt. Fitted skirts are usually cut for hips 8 to 10 inches larger than the waist. If your hips measure more than 10 inches greater than your waist you will have to use your hip measurement in selecting skirts. Tall Misses skirts are generally 2 to 4 inches longer than Misses skirts of the same size.
Sizes vary from label to label and style to style more than any other article in the feminine wardrobe. As a rule of thumb: take your masculine shoe size, then for an open-toed feminine shoe, add 1/2 to 1 size. For a closed-toed shoe, add 1 to 11/2 size. A solution for this problem is, when ordering shoes from a mail order house, to include a tracing of your LEFT foot and they will select the correct size for you. But, using the above information you will have an approximation of the size required so be sure the shoes you’re ordering are available in the size you need. Be careful when faxing a tracing: many fax machines will distort an image, so it’s best to include a line with actual-size inches marked on it right on your tracing.
Panties: Usually sized as S, M, L and XL; some are sized numerically (5, 6, 7, 8). A 38″ hip usually corresponds to an M or 6.
Pantyhose: Use the chart on the package to determine size requirements. If between two sizes, choose the larger; it will be more comfortable and roll less. For lots more information, see The Sheer Facts About Hosiery in this Guide.
Slips, Teddies, Camisoles: Use bust measurement and see the Size Charts.
Garter-belt, Girdle: Use waist measurement.
Half-slip: See chart on next page.
Corselette, Body Briefer: Use bust measurement. Pay special attention to garment length.
Hose and Stockings: Generally sized by body height. 5’8″ or taller use sizes 11 through 13 large or long. 5’7″ and shorter use sizes 8 to 10, average or medium.
Using the Size Charts in this Guide (which you should check against any dress size chart in any mail order catalog you may be using) and your measurements for bust, waist and hips, locate your dress size from the size group for your height. The chances are your measurements aren’t all in the same horizontal row of the chart. Again, don’t despair. The size charts aren’t formulated for a masculine body and even some feminine bodies don’t fit the size mold. Generally you will have to pick the largest size from the three measurements. Say, for example, you are 6′ tall with bust/waist/hip measurements of 42/32/38 respectively. Looking at the chart you’ll see the following three different Tall Misses sizes are indicated:
42 bust = size 20, 32 waist = size 16, 38 hips = size 14
The obvious choice would be the size 20 dress. However, you might rationalize that since only one inch separates your bust measurement from a size 18 it would be an acceptable choice since it would fit much better at the waist. If the dress is styled so a slight snugness at the bust and shoulders won’t detract from the overall appearance then the 18 would be an acceptable selection.
As a second example say your height is 5’8″ and your measurements are 41/36/41. You can see on the size chart that your 36″ waist dictates the need of a Tall Misses size 20 dress. However, the judicious use of a waist cincher will probably bring your waist down two inches to thirty-four inches which would be perfect for a size 18 dress. Your height of 5’8″ would probably also allow you to wear the same size in Misses as well as Tall Misses. As mentioned before clothing sizing is NOT an exact science and a bit of fudging is allowed, but don’t let fantasy overcome common sense.