A woman has slammed H&M for selling clothes she believes are smaller than their labelled size, saying the chain's sizing policy does not "empower women".
Rebecca Parker, 24, was trying on a pair of size 14 jeans in H&M's Newport, South Wales branch recently when she struggled to pull them over her thighs, despite wearing a size 14 in other high-street stores.
In an open letter to H&M, posted on Facebook, Parker said she felt "deflated and disappointed" after the experience. "The more I thought about it, and those jeans, I realised it wasn't my failure that prevented me from pulling on a pair of trousers, but yours," she said.
"I am very proud of my body. It has taken a long time, but I am thoroughly content with my large hips, squishy thighs and little tum, thank you very much. When I tried on your jeans I was annoyed, hot and frustrated. The pair of jeans clearly were not made for a woman who is a size 14. Why is that?"
Other women commented on her post to say they have also struggled to fit into their usual clothes size at H&M. In response, H&M told HuffPost UK there is "no global mandatory sizing standard [and] sizes will differ between brands and different markets".
Parker told HuffPost UK she regularly purchases clothes in a size 14 and is able to comfortably wear jeans in this size from New Look and M&S. Interestingly, New Look's size guide says a UK size 14 is a European 42″, while M&S's size 14 is a European 41½". In comparison, H&M's UK 14 is a European 40″.
On Facebook, the 24-year-old said it has taken "over a decade" for her to be comfortable with her body, and although the changing room incident annoyed her, she thinks it could have a more damaging impact on younger girls.
"My 13-year-old self wasn't comfortable with being curvy. I felt fat, podgy and sad when I had to reach for a garment that was labelled with a number in the high teens," she said.
"I have taken my encounter with the pearly jeans and tried to imagine what tween aged Rebecca would think. She'd be disappointed, like I am now, but confused as to why the size I was certain I was didn't seem to be for me. Surely, in a shop in which I can buy a glittery pencil case with #GRLPOWER written on it or a T-shirt with SISTERHOOD emblazoned over the chest is the very place that should be glorifying women of every shape and size and making them feel amazing. How can you expect women to feel empowered if the clothes you try to sell to them do the exact opposite?"
Parker called on H&M to "be honest" about the reasons for their sizing, adding: "If a pair of jeans says it is a size 14, please make it a size 14″.
This is not the first time a customer has called out H&M for its sizing. Last year Lowri Byrne, from Swansea, complained she couldn't fit in a size 16 dress, when she usually buys a size 12. Other women also commented on Parker's post to share their experiences of small sizing in the store.
In response to her post, which has had more than 90 likes, Parker said H&M told her it bases its sizes on "northern European body measurements and European sizing".
"It can sometimes be difficult due to that different countries have different average body measurements and different grading between sizes, but we try to be as accurate as possible," they reportedly said.
"Garments of different materials can often be perceived as different sizes. Garments in stretchy and/or soft materials often feel more roomy than a stiff and/or rigid material, even if they are the same measurements."
Speaking to HuffPost UK, Parker said she was "frustrated" by the response because it didn't acknowledge the main point of her letter: that a "brand that seemingly advocates female empowerment...fail[s] to make jeans that make women feel amazing."
In a statement given to HuffPost UK, a H&M spokesperson said: "H&M hugely values all customer feedback. It is only ever our intention to design and make clothes that make our customers feel good about themselves, any other outcome is neither intended nor desired. H&M's sizes are global and the sizes offered in the UK are the same in all the 69 markets in which we operate in and online.
"As there is no global mandatory sizing standard, sizes will differ between brands and different markets. Our dedicated, in-house sizing department works according to an average of the sizes and measurements suggested by the markets we operate in. H&M sizes are continually reviewed by our in-house sizing department."