Recently, I had a very interesting experience. I tried on and bought a shirt at Old Navy and then later saw the exact same shirt but in a different color at Forever 21 and decided to try it on too. At Old Navy I usually wear an extra large so naturally I picked up the XL at Forever 21 as well. However, when I tried it on I was extremely dismayed to find that it didn't fit...at all. Now, I've always heard that some stores run smaller but we're talking about near replica of the same shirt! I decided to take this theory into my own hands and do some research; a fashion investigation, if you will. I went to a local (very small) mall and tried on a different shirt of the same style in 5 different stores. Here's what I found.
So first is my old faithful, Old Navy. Old Navy is pretty much my go-to and fits my style well. Here we have a simple a-line shirt that fits a little loosely and is very comfortable. With it being a looser fitting shirt, I feel that it is very true to size. This is my control top that I will use for comparison.
Sear's sizing ran very similar to Old Navy's. The top was flowy and loosely fitting. This led me to believe that larger retail stores use more universal sizing. I like this shirt so much, I actually bought it. Haha!
Next we have a chain boutique called Rainbow. I would like to note first off that this top is not supposed to be a crop top! I didn't really mind the fit but it was definitely smaller than the previous XLs I tried on thus concluding it was not an universal XL.
New York and Co.
This blue top from New York and Company was one of my least favorites. For starters, it isn't flattering at all and hugs the waist a little too tight. I felt it ran smaller than typical XLs for sure.
So aside from the fact that I could not wear this top in public, I was surprised at the fit. Most XLs that run small are too tight in the waist but this particular top was much too tight in the bust area. I will have to conclude it was not a universal XL.
So overall as you can see, different stores often to carry different sizes. Though I was like to conclude that large department stores and big retail chains all do carry universal sizes, this sometimes isn't the case. I can say however that small run boutique clothing is usually smaller. At Borrowed by Design we use a system that requires bust, waist and hips measurements for every dress. Therefore, you will always know ahead of time if the dress you're interested in will fit!