It would be great to buy clothing in Beijing that properly fits. Chinese clothing sizes are not the same as American clothing sizes, though.
I have assembled information from the web, and I write about my personal experience with clothing that I purchased in China.
First, the research:
The Internet Research on Chinese Clothing Sizes
Before I left for China the first time, I researched this topic on the web. The general consensus that I found was that you needed to add 2 sizes to your normal American clothing size.
All clothing varies a little between different brands, different clothing lines from the same brand, and sometimes from different manufacturers for the same brand. All of us, though, have a general idea of what size will fit. Using the internet consensus, I surmised the following guideline. If the clothing is produced in China for domestic use, add 2 to 3 sizes to that and shop for the adjusted size.
- Example: Size Medium + 2 to 3 levels size adjustment = Size XL to XXL.
This adjustment varies of course, and you should try the clothing on if possible.
If buying souvenir shirts at attractions, bear in mind that these are normally based on the Chinese domestic sizes just mentioned. Middle Kingdom Life website states the following:
Clothing manufactured for domestic use only tends to loosely follow the American system of small, medium, large, and extra-large but keep in mind that a Chinese “large” is typically smaller than an American small. In essence, one would have to find a size marked XXL in China to approximate a blouse or shirt sized medium to large in America.
For an expanded set of “US to Chinese” size conversions for pants, dresses, and shoes sizes, check this Ask Numbers web page.
There was also a lot of advice to have any really nice clothing custom tailored. Costs in Beijing for custom tailoring will almost always be lower than the “off the rack” price in the US.
My Experience with Clothing Sizes
During my tour of the Mutianyu part of The Great Wall, I checked the vendor stalls for souvenir t-shirts. There are a number of vendor stalls on either side of the path that leads up from the parking lots. You will pass these on your way to the various trails, ski chair lift, and cable car ride.
Stopping at a vendor’s stall, I inquired about a specific shirt that I liked. I personally fit well in a 2XL size in the US, so I added a 2 size adjustment and asked for a 4XL. To my surprise, the vendor actually had it. As he scurried to the back of his stall to get it, I thought how fortunate I was to find one that size.
Well, maybe not that fortunate.
First, I found out later that my bargaining skills were not as good as I thought they were: I really over paid. I am so ashamed that I will not mention it here for fear that experienced Beijing travelers will laugh themselves to death. (hint hint 3x too much) –blush-
Also, the shirt was too small. Trying it on for the first time back in the States, I discovered that it was tight, tight, tight. I really needed a 5XL for that Chinese sized shirt to equal a 2XL American sized shirt.
The shirt will not go to waste. All I have to do is lose 20 to 30 pounds, and it will fit just fine. This is extra reason to lose those pounds. Haha.
Clothing Size Advice to You, the Traveler
Here are some things to do to prepare you for purchasing the right size in China:
- Print out the size chart at Ask Numbers.
- Try on clothing if possible.
- Have higher end clothing custom made, if you have time and budget.
- For quick purchases of souvenir or commemorative clothing, add 3 sizes to your normal American size.
Just be careful when sizing clothing in Beijing. With their different sizing system, and their different body ratios, you will need to convert sizes.
Share this with your buddies. Also, if you have experience with Chinese clothing sizes, or have questions, please comment below.
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