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Whether you're a size 4 or a 14, every girl needs to know her dress size in order to shop effectively. Clothing manufacturers make this a challenge by making up their own sizing scales without uniformity among different clothing lines. This means that as a shrewd fashionista you should know your measurements and consult a sizing guide, or you get used to trying things on before you buy, unless you know how a specific clothing line fits you.
Take your measurements with the tape measure. Get your bust measurement across the fullest point of your bust, your waist measurement across the smallest point of your waist and your hip measurement across the fullest point of your hips. Write these down so you don't forget them.
Consider your body type before you shop. Women's sizes come in Junior (slim fitting 0-13), Missy (average fitting 2-18), Women's (plus size 16W to 32W) and Petite (under 5 feet, 3 inches, 2P to 32WP). Try to narrow your clothing selections to the size range that fits your body and style for the most flattering and comfy clothes.
Check out an online merchant's sizing chart with your measurements in hand. Compare your bust, waist and hip measurements against the sizing chart and buy the size that fits all three measurements. If your measurements don't hit all three numbers precisely, go up to the size that will fit the biggest of all three numbers to make sure that you don't end up with something too tight in the bust or the hips -- not cool.
Hit the fitting room with the items you think you want if you're shopping at a brick-and-mortar. Start with the size you guess you are, but be prepared to go up or down depending on what happens in the fitting room.