Clothes_too_bigWe survived the insanity of Holidays Sales and now are braving the raging seas of Winter Clearance.  We are piling up our loot, barely able to breathe with the excitement of a good hunt. However glorious and satisfying this feeling is we need to take a moment to chill, sort through the mountains of clothes and address the pressing issue of the online shopping. Sizing issue: getting the right size or the pain of NOT getting it right. Grrr!

Unlike shopping for own clothes and shoes, when the wrong size definitely gets a ride back, kids’ clothes rarely get the boot and make a trip back to the store for the refund or exchange. Retailers point out that the kids’ clothes have the lowest return rate.  Hardly surprising! When shopping for kids we’d rather err on the bigger side and kids can always grow into it. Then the cost of shipping the stuff back is hardly worth the hassle. You have it all figured out more or less with the giants, like GAP or Gymboree but it’s not the case with the recent retail phenomenon of the flash sale sites and a slew of new, trendy brands whose sizes are still Terra Incognita .

With members’ only, flash sale sites we get our 50%-70% off but the majority of sales are final, meaning no exchanges, no refunds.  And even when you can get a refund it’s usually a store credit. Therefore, when a size 4 shirt by Childish looks like a knee length dress on a tall 5 year old, or the monkey sleeves in addition to the same knee length take the size 5 shirt by Lunchbox out of circulation for at least two good years (yeah, it’s that huge) then these purchases could hardly be considered as great deals. At the same time Indigo Star’s size 5 hoodie is so small, snuggly and fitted it would barely make it through the season.

This size issue is so frustrating; I decided to bring in a pro, a Size Fairy who devoted her life to getting it right to shed some light onto this great size mystery. Stormy Sweitzer, owner and co-founder of SizeTracker, a kids’ clothing size chart resource, explained why sizes seem to be so different from brand to brand:

“Finding the same fit from one children’s clothing brand to another is almost impossible, even when the labels say the same size”, she said.

“Clothing manufacturers aren’t trying to confuse us with their sizing.  In fact, they are doing their best to cater to the kids that they design their clothes for.  That said, sizing is still confusing and without knowing your child’s measurements and reading size charts, having your children on hand to try things on, or using the SizeTracker kids clothing size chart calculator service*, finding the best clothing fit for your kids can be a challenge.

Why Kids Clothing Sizes Vary

Here are 3 of the biggest reasons why kids clothing sizes and fit vary from brand to brand:

1.       Clothing brands cater to their customers. A basic rule of marketing is to figure out who you want to sell to and then design your product to suit their needs and wants.  Children’s clothing manufacturers are no different in their desire to meet customer demand. Given that, size guidelines are one way that they can cater to the customers their product is designed for.

 A very specific example of this are the proprietary sizes developed by RealKIDZ to meet the needs of plus-sized girls; the sizes are specific, based on research and customer feedback, and reflective of the demographic the company serves.  While I am not aware of any boys’ brands that have developed their own unique size system, most companies do strive to develop size guidelines and styles that fit their intended customer base.  To find good fit, look for brands that cater to your little boy’s stature.  This may require some trial and error.

 2.       Styles vary. Clothing items are often designed to fit in a particular way.  I’m sure that, as an adult, you’ve struggled with finding the perfect pair of jeans for your body shape and found that some brands or cuts seem to fit better than others.  The same goes for kids’ clothes.  The way an item is designed to fit – snugly, loosely, with a flared leg, etc. – can affect the way a size fits, even in the same brand.  Those baby boy jeggings will not fit in the same way as a pair of dungarees, for example.

 To make sure your little boy is comfortable, you may want to have them try on different sizes in each item type just to make sure they fit properly.

 3.       Size guidelines evolve. A new clothing manufacturer or brand, starting out, may borrow size guidelines from another brand whose market they are targeting, when designing their initial products.  As they learn more about their own customers, improve their manufacturing processes, and adjust their designs, sizing guidelines may change (to match their customer needs) and product fit improve (fewer super long sleeves, for example).

 Even long-standing clothing manufacturers periodically update their sizing based on market research, customer demographics, and sizing surveys.  I’m aware of a major brand and national retail chain that both updated their children’s size guidelines in 2010.

The Problem of the Missing Size Chart

Clothes_are_too_bigMany brands offer size chart information to help parents navigate boys’ clothing sizes.  But, when there is no size chart, we’re left trying to guess which size to buy and hope for the best.

First of all, keep in mind that not every clothing brand has a size chart.  Either they haven’t developed one, don’t want to share one, are in the process of working on one, or a brand name is licensed to manufacturers that don’t have readily-available size guidelines – this last instance often applies to clothing with licensed characters or brand names (e.g., Disney or luxury adult brands that license their name to a children’s line).

Large chain stores, which have their own private-label clothing brands, typically don’t have size charts for those brands.   Kohl’s is one exception to this rule and offers sizing guidelines for their private label brands like SO and Tony Hawk.

Secondly, when you shop online, most retailers only offer generic size charts – not brand-specific ones (unless otherwise stated).  REI, Zappos, and some other smaller online stores are good about offering brand-specific size charts to customers when they can.   Again, this often means that the size information available at the store is generic and may not apply to the brand you are interested in buying.

How You Can Find the Right Clothing Fit For Your Little Boy

Because U.S. childrenswear companies are not likely to standardize their sizes anytime soon, and because size information is not always available, there are a few things you can do to find the right fit.

  • Know your child’s body measurements. Height, sometimes weight, chest, waist, and hip are usually good measures to know.  Inseam and arm length can be helpful if you are buying fitted items.
  • Check clothing size charts the same way you would a food ingredients label.  This will help you make sure that your child’s body measurements are on track with a brand’s current size guidelines.  Keep in mind that not every brand offers sizing guidelines and that stores will often refer you to a generic size chart.  Look for brand-specific size guidelines whenever possible.
  • Look for brands that cater to your little boy’s stature. Boutique brands generally run smaller than mass market or chain store brands, for example.   Also, some brands offer slim and husky sizing that will fit certain children more comfortably than regular sizes. Find the brands that are designed for children like your son and his measurements.
  • Be prepared to switch brands if your tried-and-true favorites no longer fit the way you expect them to or your child’s growth spurt takes them out of the body shape that their clothing is designed for or out the brand’s size range.
  • Use SizeTracker’s Kid’s Clothing Size Chart Calculator to find brand-specific clothing sizes in hundreds of popular brands.  The calculator not only lets you find current sizes, but also estimate future size needs so you can buy the right size now and it will fit when you need it to (like when you are shopping season-end clearance sales for next year or buying a special-occasion outfit for a specific day).  Simply select a brand, enter the measurements needed for that brand, and voila!

SizeTracker offers sizing information for over 300 brands, including slim and husky sizes, for children ago newborn to tween.  The SizeTracker calculator cannot find sizes in every brand on the market, since not every brand has developed size guidelines or makes them available to shoppers.  Nor can we project future sizes for certain brands; this depends on the information the brand makes available to us.  No, we’re not perfect, but we make it easy to find the size that a clothing company recommends for your child, so you don’t have to dig for the information.

  • Try things on. If you are shopping a brand that is unfamiliar to you, either have your son try it on at the store, or shop from an online store with a generous return policy (just in case it doesn’t fit the way you expect it to).
  • If all else fails, call the clothing company directly. Sometimes customer service agents are willing to measure a clothing item and tell you its dimensions.  Other times, they will ask for your son’s measurements and tell you what size to buy.  While you have them on the phone, ask if they are developing a size chart.

 *Stormy Sweitzer, is owner and co-founder of SizeTracker, a unique children's clothing size chart calculator designed to help you find current and predict future brand-specific sizes from over 300 brands' for children ages newborn to tween. Use the calculator to shop sales more accurately, find the best fit, or figure out when your child will grow into too-large hand-me-downs. You can learn more about children’s clothing size and fit at the SizeTracker Blog.

As Stormy had pointed out, relatively new brands are still figuring their sizing issues or are not willing to share their size information for the variety of reasons. We always try to help each other Boys Be Cool community sharing the sizing tips on our Facebook forum.

Here I am starting the list of brands and their sizing characteristics based on my own experience and encourage you to share your invaluable knowledge about different brands in the comments. We will build our own brands’ sizing database to put out on Boys Be Cool Facebook page for everyone to use. Please add your sizing info in the comments. Thank you!

Acoustic – tend to run big, especially pants/jeans that don’t have an adjusted waist. If your son is on a skinny side invest in Dapper Snapper.

AllSaints – very fitted, even run small. No odd sizes. Buy the size up.

BITZ’ KIDS – very fitted and run on a short side, pants and sleeves wise, so if your child is 4.5, get him 5-6 size instead of 4-5. Bottoms and tops.

Childish – button down shirts are at least 2 sizes bigger than the size indicated.

Ciao Marco – sweaters are cut quite generously though a little on a short side.  Size 4-5 is good on a 5 years old.

Fore!! Axel & Hudson – very good fit, “age for size”. Pants are cut rather generously, so the slender kids have some fabric excess in the crotch and hips area when adjusted in the waist. Fantastic fit for the bigger boys.

Guess – definitely fitted, even the jackets. Size for age.

H&M – some tops seem to run big. If your boy is tall then buy the next size in jeans, especially in the slim fit variety. Size 5-6 for the 4.5 year old tall fellow.

Inky Dink – fitted tees. Thermals are sized beautifully, great stretch without losing the shape even after hundreds of washes. Long sleeves make these thermals work a few extra seasons.

Joe’s Kids Jeans and tees – age for size

K. Kauff- Men – button down shirts are very long.

Kids Ink – tees and hoodies are narrow, fitted and long. Hoodies sleeves are short.

Knuckleheads – run small and very fitted. Buy the size up.

Lunchbox – Button down shirts are very long with super long sleeves, 2 sizes bigger than indicated.

Mini Shatsu – very fitted. Buy the size up if prefer looser fit.

Munster Kids - tees are quite generously cut. Jackets are more fitted.

Next – generously sized sweaters and cardigans (Quite loose). When buying shoes make sure you clicked on the size corresponding to the US size you need. The UK sizes come first and the US sizes are in parenthesis. I had to ship back a pair due to the lack of attention.

O’Neil tees are huge. If you prefer fitted silhouette then buy the size down.

Polarn O. Pyret – the best fitting skinny jeans, fitted tees. The length tends to be on the shorter side. Pants and sleeves wise. The size 4-6 yrs jeans are short on a tall 5 year old and the sleeves of the same size shirt are very short.

Trunk Ltd. Tees are fitted with long sleeves.  Buy the size up for “the age for size” kid.

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