When Marta told me today she is wearing two sizes smaller clothes than 10 years back, I just smiled and said, “It’s great you eventually started taking care of your body and exercising”. She ironically smiled back at me: “I still haven’t started. Actually, I’m like 15 pounds away from starting”. The idea that Marta’s size decreased although her body got bigger hunted me for quite some time until I started researching the matter of putting smaller labels in larger clothing and was taken aback by what I found.
Vanity sizing – that is the term which was introduced at least seven years back to describe the phenomenon of women growing bigger and clothing makers silently expanding size standards to keep women’s egos intact. Yes, you got it right: to make their customers feel better and to buy more, clothing makers started making more generous sizes (because, naturally, you feel happier when you fit into a smaller size). Then I started to wonder, what’s the real cost of it and is it truly making us happier?
Studies show that British women have changed shapes remarkably in 50 years, for example, average waist measurement went from 27.4 in to 34 in
Studies show that British women have changed shapes remarkably in 50 years, for example, average waist measurement went from 27.4 in to 34 in. Higher life quality, changes in eating habits and physical activity, fast food revolution, marketing of food and many other factors made women grow larger over generations. The fact that there was a 45% growth in plus size womenswear market over the past six years, also says a lot. With all this, vanity sizing might sound great for our psychological boost, but what about the idea that we are actually losing a realistic sense of what our body is like?
Rising levels of obesity in the UK means that more women should start taking better care of themselves, pay more attention to their diet and exercising. However, what if I hear in the news that “obesity spreads in UK but women can face serious health issues being size 16 and more” and I am a size 14? I naturally think “oh, thanks God, I’m still OK, and quite healthy”! And as a normal woman I wouldn’t start digging the facts that all the studies are based on actual measurements and not label sizes! Do you see the hidden danger with vanity sizing? We know how big we are by the size which is told to us: you are a size 14 because you buy clothes in a size 14 – but those are not real measurements of yours, this is just one ‘umbrella’ size which you were put under with many other consumers.
‘For the cherry on top’, here come other daily frustrations about vanity sizing. It’s interesting to note that, although, manufacturers started doing more generous sizes to flatter customers, 9 out of 10 women find it annoying. And it’s very understandable: you get confused and waste so much time in changing rooms because it’s not clear anymore what size to pick. Moreover, as different stores have varying definition of every size (check the table below), you might struggle for quite some time trying to fit in a pair of size 12 jeans (which is too big) and then the next size – size 10 – somehow is too small.
Table from ‘The vanity sizing swindle: How shops change clothes sizes to flatter their customers’ by Poulter, The Daily Mail, 30th September, 2010
We all understand that it’s impossible to put millions of people under tens of sizes and so it is almost impossible that clothes you bought in a store will fit you perfectly. My advice would be to know your individual measurements and read descriptions (not sizes!) on labels to choose the clothes which fit you properly. As Euripides once said: “Know first who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.”
By WATC Member