Vanity Sizing


“Size Zero is the new Size 6!”

Have you ever heard of something called “Vanity Sizing”?

Times Online has a good article about Vanity sizing here. Basically, manufacturers mislabel their clothes to make us shoppers think we can fit into a size we really AREN’T. “Vanity sizing” [is] defined as “a ploy in which stores flatter women by making clothes bigger so they think they are buying a smaller size.”

There is no way I can walk into any store and just pick up “my size” and walk out. I have to try on everything. Recently, I had to buy a new pair of jeans. I went to Kohl’s and grabbed a bunch of different brands off their clearance rack and tried them on. With many of the brands–including the Kohl’s brand–I was a size 4! Size 4! I was surprised. Then I tried on a pair of Levi’s jeans. In those I was a size 6 and it was a tad snug. How does that happen?

There is no consistency between stores. I remember when I was overweight and I’d shop for clothes I kept thinking “This XXL is really small!” At Target it was an XL, at Wa-lmart a similar short was a L. Now if I go to a Wal-mart and pick up a Small or Extra Small I’m swimming in it. So what size am I? I have no idea.

We shouldn’t care about the number, or be influenced by the number. Instead, we should care if they fit right. But we are obsessed as a culture with the numbers. The number on the scale, the size on the tag, it’s what we focus on. A tip my aunt gave me once: cut out all the tags after you buy them.

So does vanity sizing work? Do you find that you shop at the stores where you’re a size 8 as opposed to the store where you’re a size 10? Is your self-esteem attached to the number on the tag? And even though the Size 6 Levi’s fit the same as the Kohl’s Size 4, why didn’t I buy the Levi’s? I admit, I bought the Kohl’s ’cause it was a size 4. I am guilty of buying into vanity sizing.

Especially when it comes to SPANDEX. Can we all let out a collective groan please? Spandex bike shorts are an evil necessity. I want the support. I want the extra padding for my butt. But dammit why are they in European sizes? For months I refused to buy a Large in bike shorts. Michael nagged me and told me I’d be more comfortable and not to pay attention to the size because it’s “Italian Sizing” blah blah blah. In my mind I kept thinking, “I did NOT lose 100 pounds to wear a LARGE in anything!” I just couldn’t do it.

I now have that pair of Sugoi bike shorts that was sent to me. They are a large and YES they are more comfortable and bit more flattering than my mediums. I admit it.

QUESTION: So how do you shop? Do you buy the size or the fit?

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24 responses to “Vanity Sizing

  1. I always buy the fit. Sure, it can be frustating when most times an 8 fits, but there are times when I need the 10. I also have a pair of size 6 shorts, which I bought solely because I fit into a 6 LOL!

    I found at my heaviest weight that I was wearing anywhere from a 20 to a 24W depending on the item. It’s enough to send you to the loony bin, you know?

    • Oh I can relate!! I was a 24W at my heaviest too and that was an astounding number for me. I don’t know why it didn’t “click” when I was a size 20 or a 22 but 24 was the number…

  2. I’ve noticed this often at stores I shop in. I know I’m a small person, but there are plenty of people on this earth that are smaller than me…If I have to buy a size 0 or 00 at a store, what do really really small people wear?! They won’t have any options at all!

  3. I wish there was some consistency at the stores. I HATE trying clothes on at the store, therefore I return a lot. I’m not so worried about the size, but do get excited to buy a 4 as opposed to a 6, that’s just the way I am. Oh…and then there are those illusion mirrors in some dressing rooms (when I actually do try something on) where you look extra tall and thin, even if the pants are snug. Gotta love it 🙂

  4. I had to buy new clothes for an interview last week, and was a little disheartened. For the past few years, I have shopped mostly Lane Bryant and Old Navy (plus size), but for the interview I went to Macy’s Women’s Section. I had to buy pants in a 22 and a jacket in an 18 – the exact same sizes I just got out of when I shopped at Lane Bryant! I was disappointed, but then I realized, LB must skew their sizing and it probably runs larger. Well, when you think about it, all of their customers would prefer to be smaller (for the most part).
    I got over the sizing and bought the clothes, mostly due to a time crunch, but know I have a lot to work on still.

  5. I buy for fit but I used to get SO upset when I’d try something on in a size that fit in one store but was too tight in another. And there are some stores that are just ridiculous with sizing. For example, I once had a guy at Express tell me that I wasn’t going to be able to find my size jeans because the store had deemed it “disproportionate”. I won’t tell you the size that it was, because I don’t want to discourage anyone or make them think about themselves the way I temporarily though about MYSELF. But I will say this: way to single-handedly cause or worsen self-image issues, Express!

    I’ve gotten past it and can laugh about it now, but in a time where I was slowly gaining weight it was one hell of a slap in the face!

  6. (By the way, I really like your blog…I just found it and read a few posts…congrats on your weight loss!)

  7. Ugh. This is such a pet peeve of mine!

    When I was in high school (22 years ago!) I wore a size 12 and felt huge. I suspect that a size 12 is now the equivalent of a size 8/10.

    Right now, I’m anywhere from a size 16 to 20 and it’s frustrating that there are no industry standards.

  8. I agree that this is totally annoying. Sometimes I don’t have time to try things one but since no two stores are alike I can’t just run in and grab something! So frusterating!!!

  9. Great post! I generally buy for the fit, but every so often if I find something that looks decent in a size “smaller than normal”…I almost can’t resist! Even though I know sizing is so inconsistent, on those days when I am not feeling all that positive about myself, it is definitely a self-esteem booster!

  10. Love this post! I don’t know which upsets me more, that fact that vanity sizing exists, or the fact that we women let that darn number get to us!

    In my past I have definitely bought something just b/c I was thrilled with the size, but now I try really hard to ignore the number. I’m one of those people who cut the tags out of most of my clothes, actually!

  11. I definitely buy by fit, but I can’t help but be excited when I find something in a size smaller than I typically wear. I try to keep it in perspective by comparing apples to apples (i.e. Gap Long & Lean jeans vs. the same style and brand). The thing that hurts is when you are larger, some stores that aren’t doing vanity sizing don’t have things that fit at all! I have definitely run into that problem before!

  12. Typically I try to go by fit and since I’m still transitioning I think I have this opposite problem of buying clothing too large.

    Like recently I bought jeans and bought ones that pretty much fit – two weeks later and I’m noticing they are almost too loose already. I wish I had bought stuff that was snug instead.

    I also noticed when I was trying on some track pants that I took the 3x size pants thinking, no way I’d fit in 2x, only to find that even the 2xs are now a little baggy. I wish I had bought a couple 1xs, they were on clearance for $5!

  13. I hate that — just as wrong as skinny mirrors if you ask me. And I agree that you should buy clothes according to the look and fit, and not according to size, but I also like to keep in mind the size I normally buy for a given brand — it helps me keep track of my weight and when I refuse to buy bigger clothes, I am more motivated to fit into the ones I’ve got.

  14. This subject really upsets me (not you writing about it!! the issue generally…). I hate the fact that as a woman, you can’t just go into a shop and know what size you’re going to be. I could say so much about this but my main two points are that if there was some sort of standard sizing, e.g. 42 inch hips would always be a UK size 16 or whatever, i think there would be less stigma about different sizes because a certain size would always mean the same thing. Instead we’re in a position where clothes size doesn’t mean all that much but there’s a proportion of people who view anything over a 12/14 as ‘huge’.

    Secondly, if you do lose weight, you don’t get the chance to fully feel good about it when you go into a shop and find you’re a size smaller because there’s always a chance the clothes have got larger!! I actually got told by a colleague the other day that the reason I could get into a 12 in H&M was because ‘they cut their clothes big’ – nothing to do with having lost 16 pounds. I felt just wonderful about that, as you can guess 😉

    I do try to buy by fit, but I will admit that when the number on the lable is higher than I was hoping, it does affect my mood. After all, when you’re trying to lose weight, seeing numbers of any kind go *down* is what keeps me motivated!

    • I agree! There needs to be standardized sizing for everyone. But I might be sad if I knew what my “real” size is!!

      • Me too! According to the british standard sizes (which, no shop sticks to, because they aren’t legally obliged to) my 42 inch hips make me a size 18 – when I’ve never been bigger than a 16 in reality. But this is what I mean in my first point, if I’d always been an 18 and was an 18 in every shop, I probably wouldn’t attach so much significance to it – it’s only because so many shops make me a 14/16 that 18 seems ‘bigger’!

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