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  • South African women’s clothing standards are based on a Western “ideal figure”, which most women do not have.
  • Poor sizing standards in South Africa leave women feeling depressed, sad, and frustrated, according to an academic study.
  • Knowing your body shape can help.


Clothes are more than something to cover nakedness - they help you show the kind of person you think you are. And poor sizing standards in South Africa leave women feeling depressed, sad, and frustrated, according to research.

South African women’s clothing standards, when they are adhered to, are based on a Western “ideal figure”, which most women do not have.

Read:  This is the ideal shape for South African clothes – but it isn’t the body most women have

“If a dress fits poorly, it robs the woman of all the personal values and ideas of herself that the dress symbolises,” writes Josephine Kampala, author of the study, which was published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies.

Kampala and other fashion design academics are calling for a national sizing survey to find out what sizes and shapes South African women actually are.

Meanwhile, knowing your body type could help know which styles could suit you -- rather than relying on retailers’ sizes.

Hourglass: bust and hips are almost equal, with a moderate waist indentation

Triangle/pear: hip measurement is larger than the bust, with no defined waist

Rectangular, banana/straight: bust and hip measurements are equal, with a minimal waist indentation

Apple: stomach, waist and abdomen measurements are larger than the bust and hips

Inverted triangle: Larger bust than hip measurement, with no well-defined waist indentation

Sound complicated? Here is a handy body-type calculator.

But this information can only help so much: these standards and shapes are not based on the South African figure, and an African pear-shape can be different to a European pear-shape. And many retailers do not have appropriate clothes for the plus-size African pear-shape.

“It is psychologically affecting us,” says Prof Anne Mastamet-Mason, head of fashion design at the Tshwane University of Technology. “And there is this idea that small is good. You blame your body, you don’t blame the manufacturer.”

Read: A medium at Woolworths? You’re actually a XXL at Mr Price. Why SA’s clothing sizes are crazy

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