Style: Call that a size 12?

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The Independent Online
Following a report from the Nottingham and Trent University's clothing centre about the inconsistencies between female form and clothing sizes, we felt an investigation was in order. We asked several retailers to send us their "suits of the season" in a size 12 and Abigail Rayner tried them on her perfect size 12 body - 34-26-36, according to British Clothing Industry figures - with the following results. Photography by Tony Buckingham. Suits selected by Melanie Rickey

Marks & Spencer

Largely suitable

This is too big everywhere, especially around the waist - when I sit down the fabric sticks up and looks a bit strange. The jacket is also rather large but overall I would wear it because the manly cut allows for the suit to be slightly oversized. It would be great for a woman with a big bust because the jacket is so roomy but someone more concerned about fit would definitely go for a smaller size. Easy, smart and very cool looking.

Suit shown: jacket, pounds 90; trousers, pounds 45

Fabric: 57 per cent viscose/34 per cent wool/9 per cent nylon

Top: Next, pounds 39.99

Marks for fit 8/10

Karen Millen


This is a really lovely suit, it has a lot of feel-good appeal. The jacket is quite severely drawn in at the waist, where it fastens with one neat button. This dramatic shaping gives the whole suit a lot of character. It is also well cut and looks equally good open or done up. I like the hipster style of the trouser and the way it has a belted finish with two buttons. Again, there is a very nice shaped bottom to the trousers; it seems most of the fashion-led companies are going for this look. The trousers fabric is slightly stretchy and they feel similar to support tights in that they give you the confidence that everything is where it should be. A seriously cocksure suit.

Suit shown: jacket, pounds 160; trousers, pounds 89.95

Fabric: 90 per cent polyester/10 per cent Lycra elastane.

Top: Jigsaw, pounds 24.95

Shoes: Cable and Co, pounds 49

Marks for fit 10/10


Hip squeezer

The non-stretch, mink silk suit trousers are impossible, far too tight, especially across the hips. The jacket, though, is faultless: ample fabric length in the sleeves and the cloth falls beautifully everywhere.

Suit shown: jacket, pounds 205; trousers, pounds 99.

Fabric: 57 per cent viscose/43 per cent acrylic

Top, Jigsaw: pounds 24.99

Marks for fit 5/10


Who asked for bags?

The jacket is fine but the trousers are too loose in the waist; there is a lot of baggy fabric across my stomach and thighs which feels awkward when I walk. The fabric hangs badly at the front, whereas the back panels are fine.

Suit shown: jacket, pounds 79.99; trousers, pounds 44.99

Fabric: polyester/ viscose mix

Top: Racing Green: pounds 23

Marks for fit 6/10


Suits you, doc

The trousers are slightly stretchy and consequently fit really well, the jacket on the other hand is very awkward. The lapels fall strangely and the shoulders are too big and pointed, from the back the jacket is reminiscent of an NHS doctor's coat. It's a shame because it could have been really nice; it's one of those suits which has hanger appeal but is very disappointing on.

Suit shown: jacket, pounds 79; trousers, pounds 49.99

Fabric: 2 per cent Lycra/78 per cent polyamide/20 per cent cotton

Shirt: Duffer of St George, pounds 65

Marks for fit 4/10


Surely some mistake

I'm very happy with the suit, it fits well across the shoulders and is very comfortable to wear. (It wasn't until later that we discovered Wallis had sent a size 10 instead of the requested 12.) It is curious that I had to melt down and pour myself into size 12 Joseph trousers but a Wallis size 10 was a perfect fit ... the plot thickens. Wallis later informed us that its size 12 measurements are, 36-28.5-39, considerably larger than the British Clothing Industry guidelines.

Suit shown: jacket, pounds 75; trousers, pounds 35

Fabric: 74 per cent polyester/ 26 per cent viscose.

T-shirt: Racing Green, pounds 17

Marks for fit 3/10