Between girls sizes, junior sizes, vanity sizing and the vast gap in fit between manufacturers, shopping for your child quickly snowballs into an agonizing, seemingly endless trek through the mall -- all for a new pair of pants. Fortunately, armed with a flexible tape measure and a little sizing know-how, you can be in and out in a flash -- with your sanity intact.
Girls' size clothing is generally marketed to younger children and preteens and made for a straighter, child-like body. Girls' size clothing is labelled in even numbers, beginning with size 6 up to size 16 in regular fit. The clothing is cut to fit loosely -- no hip-hugging, second skin, skinny jeans or crop tops in the kids aisle -- and generally incorporates more child-like designs, with brighter colors and patterns.
Junior fit apparel bridges the gap between girls’ and women's size clothing; it fits larger than girls’ size clothing, but still smaller than women's (misses) sizes. The style of clothing generally caters to teens, styled to fit tighter around budding curves for a more body-conscious fit.
Junior clothing is labelled in odd-number sizes, ranging from size 1 to 15. Because hips and other areas widen as the body matures through the teen years, junior sizes are generally narrower in the hip than women's sizes but wider than girls' sizes, and designed for a slimmer teen, rather than a curvy body.
Comparing Size Charts
The comparison between girls and junior size clothing is difficult, especially with fluctuations among the different brands.
While a children's size 16 may sound similar to a size 15 in junior apparel, the measurements are quite different. An average junior size 15 is based on a bust measurement of approximately 40 inches, a 33-inch waist and a 43-inch hip. In comparison, a girls' size 16 is based on a chest measurement of 34 inches, a waist of 28 inches and a 35-inch hip. Often a child who wears a girls' size 16 can look for junior clothing in the range of size 3 to 5, depending on the manufacturer. Conversely, a girl who fits junior size 13 to 15 clothing likely cannot fit any girls' size clothing.
Junior size apparel is generally intended for girls between 5 feet, 4 inches and 5 feet, 5 inches tall. However, if your shorter child’s body fits better in the slightly curvier junior size fit, pant and skirt hems can be taken up to accommodate her leg length.
When in doubt, have your child try it on. Particularly for teens, vanity sizing -- where manufacturers assign smaller sizes to larger fitting clothes -- and sizing differences between manufacturers can make it near impossible to guess the correct size for your daughter from the size tag alone.
If you’re gift shopping, use a tape measure as your guide rather than a size tag. Take your child's bust, hip and waist measurements and compare them to the size chart for each brand of clothing you're interested in purchasing. If you’re concerned about pant length, incorporate your child’s inseam measurement, too.