What is One Size Fits All?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

In the clothing trade, “one size fits all” is a term used to describe a garment which has been designed to fit most average people. Many very large and very small people disagree with this claim, but people of an average body type can usually fit successfully into this type of garment. Some manufacturers hedge their bets by stating that “one size fits most.” This unsized approach to clothing design is supposed to make it easy for consumers to grab something off the rack in a hurry.

Kilts are usually a one-size-fits-all garment.
Kilts are usually a one-size-fits-all garment.

The term is also sometimes used pejoratively to describe a simplistic approach to a problem. This is a reference to the fact that “one size fits all” is not exactly a truism, since people often get left out when they have unique needs and issues. The term also suggests that all people are the same, which is clearly untrue.

There are some serious disadvantages to the one size fits all ideal. Since the clothing is designed with a range of body types in mind, it may fit a large number of people, but it may not always be flattering. Smaller people may find the clothing baggy in places, while larger people may experience tighter or uncomfortable sections. This sizing style works best on over garments such as coats and ponchos, or clothing which is meant to be naturally loose, like large, flowing skirts.

Kilts, saris, sarongs, and many ethnic garments are more or less one size fits all already, since these garments are wrapped or tied. Often, the design includes folds of fabric which are designed to accommodate larger figures while also draping in a flattering way on smaller ones. The translation of the no sizes concept to other garments is not always entirely successful, especially in the case of shirts and pants. Since these garments are fitted and often designed to be snug, a one size fits all version may look or feel awkward.

Since different companies have different versions of what average might be, it is generally a good idea to try on unsized clothing before purchasing it. In the case of things like wraps and coverups for the beach, this may not be as important, but snugger tops and bottoms should be tested against a consumer's unique body type. This is also true with one size fits all sewing patterns, which should be measured to ensure that the garment will fit properly.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Hanes has socks that are supposed to fit shoe sizes 6-12. How could there possibly be a sock that fits both size 6 and size 12 feet? You never see shoes sized that way.


@anon12455: Healthy women are generally size 4-10. I hate it when overweight women complain about how they can't fit into clothes like it's the clothing makers' fault.

And before anyone lays into me for being "fat-phobic" I used to be clinically obese (sizes 14-16+ for my height), and worked down to a size 4-6 by exercising. It was my fault stuff didn't fit when I was heavier because I made the choice to keep eating and just sit around all day. Now I'm fit, healthy, and can fit into anything I want.


"size four to size ten." Funny because the average woman is size 12-14.


Subway11 - That is a good point. I noticed that soxs also tend to be one-size-fits-all. They generally fit a wide range of sizes which allows most people to be able to wear socks comfortably, socks are one size in general.


I just want to say that one size dress or one size clothing does not necessarily mean for all sizes.

For example, one size clothing for women is generally considered size four to size ten. This fits the average woman's frame but a woman wearing a size 12 or larger may find this garment too tight and uncomfortable to wear.

Post your comments
Forgot password?