I tried on size 14 jeans from M&S, Next and George – they were totally different sizes, one was 2ins bigger than another

WHY is finding a pair of jeans that fit such a nightmare?

As new research reveals almost half of women have trouble shopping for jeans, Fabulous’ Senior Stylist & Fashion Writer Abby McHale hit the high street to investigate.


I found River Island’s size-14 jeans were a great fit and one of my favourite pairs, as they immediately felt comfortable enough to sit down and move around in.

However, looking at the size guide on the River Island website when I got home left me a little confused.

According to the store’s chart, size-14 jeans should have a 301/2in waist – that’s a vast difference from the 341/2in I measured them to be, as well as from other brands on the high street, and means my perfect jeans should be 11/2in too small for me…

  • £42, River Island


On Marks & Spencer’s website, there is a handy size chart especially for trousers and jeans. A quick glance in advance of hitting my local shop showed me that a size 14 equals a 313/4in waist.

In theory this would be the best size for me to try. Sure enough, they slipped on easily and were super-comfortable, though a bit too big all over.

The size 12, on the other hand, was the perfect fit – though admittedly, it did say online that this particular style comes up baggy.

  • £39.50, M&S Collection at Marks & Spencer


These were practically falling off of me – and no wonder, as they have a 34in waist.

Next is great at offering height options for short/petite, regular and tall, but there seems to be no exact waistband size indication on its website for jeans.

In fact, I discovered that the size-12 pair had a 32in waist, which made them just right for me.

  • £24, Next


I actually used to have this exact pair of jeans in my wardrobe, so I knew in advance that a size 14 would be a good fit for me. When I tried a new pair on, they did up, but only just.

However, once I’d been wearing them for a while and moving around, the denim seemed to ease up and they felt super-comfortable.

Looking at the New Look website, there is a size guide, but it rather unhelpfully focuses only on leg length rather than the waistband size.

  • £29.99, New Look


Considering that Zara is notorious for its small sizing, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when the size-14 pair of jeans that I selected needed a proper yank to get on – despite the fact that I’d measured the waistband as 34in.

While I can’t say it did much for my self-esteem, they actually turned out to be one of the most flattering pairs I tried.

However, I could have really done with a bit more give in them. Yet when I sized up to a 16, annoyingly they were way too big. Grr!

  • £45.99, Zara


I’ve never bought denim from George before, so I was interested to see how the brand’s jeans would fit.

Before visiting, I looked on the website, but couldn’t find a jeans size guide – the only thing to go off was the picture, captioned: “Our model is 5ft 6in and wearing a size 8”, which isn’t very useful.

The size 14 went on with ease and fastened nicely, though according to my measurements, the jeans had a 341/2in waist – a whole 21/2in bigger than my own, yet strangely they didn’t feel loose.  

  • £20, George at Asda


It’s clear to me that when it comes to jeans, size really is just a number. The 14s I tried on from different stores varied in waist measurement by over 2in – from 313/4in to 34in – and yet a 313/4in pair came up the biggest on me, which makes no sense at all. So why is this?

“The high street doesn’t standardise their denim sizing like it does for other products,” explains Lauren Bell, a senior designer at fashion brand supplier Renfold.

“This is because the current culture of fast fashion doesn’t allow time to execute everything perfectly.”

And it seems the stretchiness of the material plays a huge part in the situation, too.

“You will find that the range of different jean styles really changes the final fit – for example, pairs containing elastane are more forgiving.

However, if you buy a pair of jeans that are 100% cotton, the chances are they will be quite stiff and rigid so might feel ‘tight’ for your usual size at first, but they will give,” adds Lauren.

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While it’s interesting to know the reason for the discrepancy, it’s not good enough – the UK high street needs to start standardising denim sizes across the board ASAP.

In the meantime, just remember the next time you’re in the changing room and that pair just won’t pull on over your bum no matter how much you wiggle, it’s definitely them and not you.

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