I can remember when I wore size 12 or 14, but now I shop for size 6 or 8. Did I find the secret to successful weight loss? Am I actually that much smaller than I used to be? On the contrary, I now weigh approximately 20 pounds more than I did in my younger years. My drop in clothing size has nothing to do with me getting smaller and everything to do with something called vanity sizing.
Vanity sizing, or size inflation, is the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of a certain size becoming bigger over time. Apparently, putting smaller sizes on larger clothes boosts the self-esteem of customers and encourages them to purchase more. As a result, brands have gradually shifted their metrics to make shoppers feel thinner. So much so, in fact, that a women’s size 12 in 1958 is now a size 6! In 1967, teenage fashion model, Twiggy, wore size 8. Today a girl the size that she was then (bust 31″, waist 23.5″, hips 32.5″) would wear size 00. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you shop for vintage clothing.
Source: The New Yorker
A recent CBC Marketplace investigation found that the waist sizes of jeans are commonly bigger by an inch or more than what the label advertises. One brand was off by a whopping 6 inches! I can attest to the fact that this is true of men’s jeans as well as women’s. Hubby recently bought a new pair and the waistband is exactly two inches bigger than what the label says.
Another aspect of vanity sizing that is even more confusing is inconsistency between brands. Some deliberately skew their sizes, based on the idea that people might feel better if the tag on the clothing says a size or two smaller than they wear in other brands. Again, it’s all about trying to increase sales.
While customers like vanity sizing because it makes them feel better about themselves and retailers like it because it boosts their sales, it has become a significant problem with the increase in online shopping. Billions of dollars worth of apparel is now purchased online each year and an estimated 40% of that is returned because of sizing issues. That’s a hassle for shoppers, a nightmare for retailers who are stuck covering the cost of “free” returns, and as I wrote about here, it’s estimated that more than 25% of those returns end up in the landfill!
With all of this in mind, how can you avoid the complication that vanity sizing adds to shopping online? Use a measuring tape! Know your bust, waist, and hip measurements and check the brand’s size chart. Though these charts can provide valuable insight into which size to order, they aren’t always completely accurate, so also pay attention to what other customers say about sizing in their reviews. Finally, in case you still end up with something that doesn’t fit, be sure to check the retailer’s return policy before placing your order.
I can’t help wondering how much further vanity sizing can go. I used to laugh at the concept of size 0, but the way things are going perhaps someday we’ll see labels with negative numbers on them!