Dress sizes are way more confusing than they need to be.
Not only do sizes vary between brands but there’s also the strange numbering convention that seems to completely leave out odd numbers. Even more confusing is that you’ve probably seen odd numbered clothing sizes at some point but it seems to be completely left out when it comes to dresses.
What’s going on here and why are dress sizes almost always even numbers?
The difference comes down to Junior vs Misses sizes. Junior sizes are all odd numbers and are designed for developing young women that need a specific fit. Misses sizes are all even and are designed for adult women. If you’re shopping as an adult, you may not see any Junior sizes in your preferred stores.
In other words, it isn’t that there aren’t any even-numbered dress sizes but you’re probably just missing them if you’re shopping as an adult. If you never shopped Junior sizes as a teen, then you may not have ever seen them.
That’s the quick answer but if you want to look a little closer into the seriously weird world of dress sizes, we’re going to briefly figure out how this happened so keep reading to learn more!
Dress Sizes Have A Long And Complicated History
Well, it’s not actually that long when you consider that dress sizes weren’t even standardized until the 1940s! Before that, you were expected to know how to sew and most folks made their own clothing at home.
Still, the first attempts at standardized sizing didn’t exactly hit the mark, and sizes were simply connected to age. So a size 12 would be for a 12-year-old, a size 13 for a 13-year-old, and so on.
For women, it was all about bust size, and the size of your dress was simply based on the size of the bust. That’s also the most man approach to sizing a woman’s dress that I’ve heard and I imagine a couple of Man Men-style executives deciding that bust size was the only important factor when it came to designing dresses.
Needless to say, neither the age nor bust size approach worked very well and there are simply too many different shapes to just base things on bust or age.
That’s the short version and sets the stage for the start of Junior sizes but if you want the full story you can check out this video:
Junior Sizes Started In The 1950s and 1960s
After it was clear that there was more to women’s dress sizes than just age or bra size (who knew?) clothing brands started to introduce new sizing options including the Junior line around the 1950s.
However, Junior sizing wasn’t originally made for teens but instead, a specific female body shape that was described as, “shorter waist, high bust, lean diaphragm, average arms, and hips, varies in height, has a young firm figure.” The sizing was even referred to as Junior-Misses (rather than just Junior) to signal that this clothing was still made for women and not just children or teens.
These days, these sizes would be probably be called petite but of course, that can vary greatly between brands.
Over the next decade, Junior-Misses just became Junior sizes. Somewhere along the way, clothing brands decided that even numbers would indicate adult (or misses sizes) while odd numbers would indicate Junior sizes.
This continues today and the same style of dress in a Junior size should have a cut that’s designed for a teenage or growing woman rather than an adult.
Dress Sizes Are More Confusing Today Than Ever
Once you understand the logic behind it, splitting evens into women’s sizes and odds into Junior sizes makes a lot of sense.
But unfortunately, this type of clarity didn’t continue!
These days, sizing has become even more convoluted and includes things like confusion around XL vs 1XL, the introduction of a size triple zero, and a long list of other confounding sizes whether you’re buying dress pants, capris, a new dress, or just about anything else. Figuring out what is considered plus size compared to tall or petite and everything in between feels like a full-time job as well and your best bet is to just try it on!
It’s not much easier for men either as big and tall sizing can be just as confusing!
So while there are many dresses that are sized in even numbers, unless you’re shopping in the Junior section it’s not something you’re likely to see. Big stores with a mix of clothing options like The Gap, Old Navy, or Forever 21 will have plenty of Junior sizes but other stores (whether online or physical) may not have a selection of Junior sizing at all.