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Trying on H&M jeans: Is H&M sizing a danger to people with body dysmorphia?


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(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

Im a size 12 in most places. Boohoo, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing, New Look, Topshop, you name it.

But Ive always avoided H&M because of all the negative things Ive heard about its sizing.

The general consensus seems to be that H&M is rubbish for sizing. Most things come up too small and you leave the shop feeling pretty crappy about yourself. And so I just deemed it not worth the energy.

That, and the fact that I am a recovered bulimic who still has body dysmorphic tendencies.

What is body dysmorphic disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.

Its not as bad as it used to be – where I would see myself as a completely different size in the mirror – but it can still be triggered.



Just last month, a spokesperson announced that H&M had taken customers comments and complaints on board, and were taking steps to change its womens wear sizing.

But still, things havent changed and people are taking to social media to continuously complain.

Recently, blogger Lottie Lamour took to Twitter to express her frustration after a bad shopping experience in H&M.

Shed gone shopping with her girlfriend, and was trying on clothes as a size 24 – however she couldnt even get into a size 28.

Then her size 16 girlfriend tried on the same item of clothing. She fit into the 28

Emma and I went to @hm today so I could look at the plus size range. These items are a size 28. I couldnt get them on as a size 24 – but my size 16 girlfriend could…. THATS HOW BAD THE SIZING IS. pic.twitter.com/dcNsRdJQRJ

— Lottie ? (@Lottie_Lamour) July 29, 2018

Lottie later shared an image of H&Ms sizing – which the store states has recently changed, so that the old 6 is now a 4, the old 8 is now a 6 and so on.

Heres a handy chart that shows just how terrible @hm “new and improved” sizing really is. Not only have they erased their “size 28” completely, but theyve not increased measurements at all, and compared to other plus brands, its even more dire. pic.twitter.com/9cfZA7fgaI

— Lottie ? (@Lottie_Lamour) July 30, 2018

After seeing so much frustration online, I decided it was time to experience H&M myself to see what the fuss was all about.



I decided to try on a selection of jeans, in sizes 12 – 20. As mentioned above, Im a 12.

Heres what happened.

Firstly, heres a picture of how H&M sizing works:

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

For reference, weve put some other brands size charts below. Youll notice a bit of a mismatch.

A size 16, for example, has a 33.5″ waist at Debenhams, a 33″ waist at ASOS, and a 34″ waist at Topshop. At H&M, they say a 29″, 30″, or 31″ inch waist is a size 14-16. The largest size in that bracket, 31″, is still a deal smaller than ASOSs measurements.

Yes, it is frustrating that between stores theres such a difference – and its proof that sizes really arent standardized on the high street. But perhaps the reason H&M keeps getting backlash is that their sizes skew towards the smaller side.

Debenhams size chart:

ASOSs size chart:

Topshops size chart:

(Picture: Topshop)

Heres a picture of my size 12 body, in my size 12 Topshop jeans. Im smaller on top, have thick thighs and a big(ish) bum

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

First, I tried on a skinny ankle jean in a size 10-12

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

As you can see, I could barely get them past my knees let alone my thighs.

Next up was a size 14-16

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

According to H&M, 29″, 30″ and 31″ can fit between a 14 and 16. So, your best bet is getting a load of different sizes and hoping for the best.


Finally, I tried an 18-20

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

Yes. An 18-20 fit. Im a size 12. This is a whole 3-4 sizes bigger than I actually am in most stores.

The jeans were a little loose on my knees, but perfectly comfortable on my waist.

I then tried on some regular skinny jeans – this is a size 12

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

These were a little bit better than the other jeans, I could actually get them up past my thighs. But they werent much better.

Next up was the size 14

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

These actually reached my hips! But there was absolutely no way in hell I was doing them up.

Finally, we have a fit – in a size 16

(Picture: Hattie Gladwell)

The size 16 fit perfectly.

As you can see, the sizes were totally different for both pairs of jeans, and fit completely differently. In the first pair, I managed to fit into an 18-20. The second pair that fit was a size 16.

If I didnt know that H&M sizing was so varied, Id probably be pretty upset.

It worries me how negatively the store is impacting many young women – especially those with body dysmorphia.

Body dysmorphia makes it hard to see yourself as you are.

What worries me with H&M is not so much the sizing itself – your size doesnt matter, its how you feel in yourself that matters – its that the sizing discrepancies could trigger those with body dysmorphia.

Imagine someone finally coming to terms with themselves after suffering with the disorder, finally seeing themselves for the size they are, and then heading into H&M and struggling to fit into anything.

hearting breaking that young individuals are taking diet pills and having body dysmorphia, doesnt help that leading high street brands sizing is ridiculous, Im not a 12 but couldnt even fit an 8 over my knees @hm pic.twitter.com/xTAmcFIF5J

— charl (@CharleeD1501) July 3, 2018

Theyd start questioning whether they were actually seeing themselves as smaller than they are – setting off another vicious cycle of insecurity and dangerous eating habits and self perception.


H&M staff are totally aware of whats happening in the store, and how many people are upset. But they cant do anything about it.

I spoke to one sales assistant in the store, who told me she rarely buys from H&M despite working there, due to the sizes.

She said that she generally shops in Topshop, where shes a size 8. However, in H&M shes a size 14.

She says generally, a H&M size 8 is a TopShop size 4.

The sales assistant, who we arent naming to protect her anonymity, also says that she has personally written signs for various sections, because you can never count on true sizing.

Most of the signs warn customers that the sizes come up too small.

She does this to prevent customers trying things on that are only going to upset them.

These two pairs of shorts are both from H&M and are both the same size…nice consistent sizing there ??‍♀️ pic.twitter.com/UgvKa5CnCd

— Lauren Taylor (@LaurenTaylor95_) July 29, 2018

She also told Metro.co.uk that no size is the same – you could buy a size 12 in three of the same pair of jeans and theyd all come up differently.

What I found incredibly sad is that she also told us that some of the womens wear is actually smaller than the childrens section. Women are leaving the store upset because something smaller than what a child would wear doesnt fit.

When asked what H&M is doing to battle this, the sales assistant told me she really didnt know. She explained that they receive frequent complaints but theyre yet to offer customers a positive shopping experience. The changes they have made havent made a difference.

She said: The people higher up dont have a clue what theyre doing. And I think this is because they dont actually know what goes on in store. Most of them have never actually worked in a store. They dont see whats happening. They dont see what the customers are saying.

More: Fashion

Metro.co.uk reached out to H&M to ask them exactly why its so hard to fit into your usual size when shopping at H&M.

A spokesperson told us: H&M hugely values all customer feedback. It is only ever our intention to design and make clothes that make our customers feel good about themselves, any other outcome is neither intended nor desired.

H&M sizes are continually reviewed by our in-house sizing department and this is an on-going internal process.

When I responded to challenge this, asking why it was that a size 16 woman can fit into a size 28 jean, I didnt receive a reply.

We also reached out to charity Beat to find out how discrepancies in clothing size can affect people with eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

Beats Head of Communications, Rebecca Field said: Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with multiple causes, including peoples genetic make-up and a range of environmental triggers, so pressure to fit certain size clothes would never be the sole and direct reason for someone developing an eating disorder.

However, the idealisation of thinness that is often presented by the fashion industry can be a key factor in exacerbating the illness and preventing recovery.

Fashion retailers should recognise and respect the diversity in peoples natural body shapes and sizes.

It is important to remember that not everyone who has an eating disorder will be underweight. Eating disorders are mental, not physical illnesses and affect people of all backgrounds and physical shapes.

The problem with H&Ms sizing seems to be an ongoing thing, and were hoping that changing the sizing really is an on-going internal process.

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