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“Vanity sizing” for womens clothing…

Over on Dave Berry’s blog is a link to an article about a strange trend in how women’s clothing is labelled.

I’ll be honest- I’ve never understood what the heck a “size 8″ dress actually was. I buy 38″ waist (okay, getting up to 40″ now) and 32″ leg pants, a shirt with a 16″ neck, and a 38” shoulders jacket. What the heck is “8”? No human being over the age of 4 has an 8″ waist, so its not a real measurement at all.

Well, apparently having a non-sensical measurement system isn’t enough. Now the manufacturers of women’s clothing have to “adjust” the sizes to appeal to the desire for bigger women to feel smaller. So, what was a size 4 is now a size 00 (yep, double zero). Oh, and exactly what a size 00 is, or a size 2, or whatever, varies from store to store. In some places, a size “00” is actually *bigger* than a size 6 at the store next door.

This is laughable, really. But it must also be the source for tremendous frustration for some women- and certainly for any man foolish enough to try to buy clothing for a woman. Really…this should be legislated back to some sort of sanity. Make dress sizes relate to actual, real world measurements: save us from the insanity!

16 comments to “Vanity sizing” for womens clothing…

  • I think they do this nonsense to make women feel smaller than they actually are.

    Smaller numbers are easier to wrap your mind around, and feel good about.

    It is all about illusion.

    Realistically it would make more sense to use inches but for a big woman that is going to be a lot of inches and even more millimeters.

    In Gone with the Wind Scarlett has a bragging right for three counties for having a waist only 17” around while corseted. In today’s size listing anything over size 12 is considered a Plus Size, in most stores.

  • Hello, Kittenclaw, and welcome!

    I agree with your assessment- I just think its a goofy situation. I mean, if a woman says “I’m a size 3!” and she’s obviously larger than that, who is being fooled? And how can it be good to never really know what size a piece of clothing is based on its purported size?

    I would like a world where people could be encouraged to live a healthy life, and not be so concerned about inches, centimeters or sizes. But mostly I’d like a world where I can buy my wife a piece of clothing as a gift and have some hope that I bought the right size 🙂

  • Yeah, I have always thought it was weird that if a women says she is a size “3”, she is actually a 3/4 (or more realistically a 4).

    Or if a woman says she is a 7, she is actually a 7/8 and more than likely an 8.

    Obviously just a way to make women feel better about clothing sizes, I wish us men had the same thing 😛 (kidding)

  • As a larger size woman, It is very hard to find clothes that fit. You always have to try on the clothes no matter what just because they may not really be the same size from style to style.

    The problem is that women have so many more measurements than men that have to be considered. Even a simple shirt becomes a problem. Included with the Neck and sleave measurements you’d have to include a cup size at the very least. All the combinations would be mind numbing, esp. since ther are all different styles also that couldn’t use that measurement.

  • Welcome, Heather!

    Yeah, I can see that the measurements would be somewhat more complicated. But I don’t see how the current sizing system (“Size 12” or whatever) makes it any simpler. At a minimum, a specific size should mean specific measurements. A buyer should know that, within limits, if a size XXX at one store fits, that same size at another store will fit as well. That isn’t the case now, from what I’ve read at least.

    In fact, the differences in the meaning of a size seem huge. As I said in my original post, a size 4 in one store is a size 00 in another store- that’s a tremendous difference, and very confusing.

    On the plus side, I have an excuse for not buying my wife clothes as a gift 🙂

  • Chris

    China solved the whole problem … issue everyone men or women with baggy blue suits 😉

  • Angie

    I’m really irritated with vanity sizing. I’m small (100 lbs., NOT anorexic) and can not find clothes that fit me! I used to be able to shop in places like J. Crew, Banana Republic, etc., and wear their size 0, but now they fall off! I have to dress professionally for work, but I find myself shopping in places like Forever 21 and Abercrombie (teenaged stores) to find stuff that fits for work. Sad. Where are the little women supposed to shop? I can buy SUPER expensive clothes that fit (like from Saks) but I can’t afford it. Which leads me to another question – Why are more expensive clothes cut more true to size??? 🙁

  • Greetings, Angie!

    I had heard that the sizing “non-standard” was starting to impact petite women more and more. Frustrating and confusing, that’s what it is. I have to assume, though, that the marketers wouldn’t be messing with the sizes if it didn’t improve sales- which means that the people buying the clothes are *paying* to be misled.

    Regarding more expensive clothes being accurately sized…if I were to guess, it would be that the expensive places are maybe more “traditional” and less prone to jumping on marketing trends. Which extends a little bit of hope: the falsifying of women’s clothing sizes may end one day, particularly if women tend to think of “correct” sizes as being a sign of quality.

  • The British Standards Institute has come up with a new size label that has a pictogram with actual measurements in centimeters. These new labels are due out this year. Work began in 1993, the standards were drafted in 2003. I have been ready for this since 1983, when I began taking my measurements in centimeters. I was only 16 years old then. It is hoped that the new labels would end the confusion.

  • Hello, Thomas! The label you describe sounds logical. However, since its in metric measures, it probably will be banned as a plot of the Axis of Evil in support of terrorism in 40 of the U.S. States 😉

    I’m joking, sort of, but with pretty much every other nation in the world using the metric system, the U.S. is kind of the odd man out…yet they are the tail that wags the dog. Products using metric measures never seem to gain much retail presence.

    Hopefully this one bucks the trend, or maybe someone will come up with an “American friendly” version using inches.

  • There have been numerous acts of legislation to make metric official in the USA. I remember the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 vividly, despite the fact that I was only 8 years old then. There were metric rulers everywhere, gasoline was sold by the liter, causing great confusion, metric conversion tables, weather reports in Celsius, etc. This did not last more than 2-3 months.

  • We went through the same process in Canada at about the same time. It was tough for me- I was 10 or 12 at the time, and had learned imperial measures (feet, pounds, farenheit). I still tend to do more conversions in my head than I should. It’s too bad that the U.S. didn’t stick to the metric system- part of the reason why I still do conversions is because I deal with folks in the U.S. fairly regularly- saying “it’s 20 degrees today” can cause a lot of confusion!

  • Christy

    Has anyone noticed that the so-called “petite” sizes (for women 5’4” and under) are getting bigger? I am just barely 5 feet tall and I shop in the petite section. I was really mad to discover that the pants in that section had a 32” inseam, just like the pants in the average section. WHAT’S THE POINT OF A PETITE SECTION IF THE INSEAM IS MADE FOR SOMEONE OF AVERAGE HEIGHT!!!? The shirts are down to my knees, and the skirts fit like circus tents. I’m a size 1/2 in one brand, and a 3/4 in another, and still 5/6 in another store. Even when I was heavy, the sizes always bore a large discrepancy.
    This sizing problem has become rediculous for women on both sides of the sizing scale, or even in the middle. And I’ve been everywhere on that scale thanks to yo-yo dieting ( which is terribly unhealthy). I finally stabilized at my ideal weight, but thank goodness I know how to sew. Everytime I buy clothes, I have to spend hours altering them, hemming them up, taking them in at some places, letting them out in others, and generally compensating for the non-standard scale. So I know what eveyone is saying about women’s sizes.
    Women’s bodies have so many different shapes that it is impossible to fit absolutely perfect for any given garment. So why do people obsess on trying to fit one size all the time? It’s all a grand illusion, and you’ll end up at your sewing machine or at the seamstress anyway.

  • Alicia

    I’m with Angie and Christy. I used to be able to find clothing that fit reasonably well (I’m 5’l” and 103 lbs).

    Now that the ridiculous vanity sizing is taking hold in many stores, the sizes I used to wear have just dropped off the scale. I used to wear a misses 2, but now most clothing in that size hangs on me! It’s actually sized for a person size 4 or 6. For the longest time I couldn’t figure it out, until I came across an article about vanity sizing. I thought “oh no, this isn’t good at all”. And I was right – now it’s nearly impossible to find business attire (or even basic clothing) that fits. I’ve spent a fortune having things tailored, and some of them simply cannot be altered to fit a petite frame correctly.

    Like Angie said above – WHERE ARE THE SMALL WOMEN SUPPOSED TO SHOP AT NOW? So I’m forced to shop in the teen stores too (I’m almost 50 years old!). I feel terrible about my wardrobe and I’m totally disgusted with the manufacturers and merchant selections.

    My mother shops in the children’s departments but I haven’t had much luck there. I’m a mature woman with a woman’s figure – not a 12 year old with a child’s figure and little-girl tastes.

    I would love to walk into our mall again and buy an outfit that REALLY fits, then browse the shoe stores to get a matching pair of shoes. I haven’t been able to do that for at least 4 years.

  • Syn

    I cannot tell you how frustrated I am with this whole vanity sizing. I am young, 98 lbs, and 5’5″. I am muscular, fit, and in no way anorexic or have an eating disorder. I am naturally very thin. Unfortunately I don’t fit into “petite” clothing either. I have long legs and a long torso. Petite clothes are always short is everyway, shirts and pants. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that I used to wear a size 1 and occasionally a 3. Now, I struggle to find size 00. I get so depressed. I just grarduated college and am just starting my career, but can find NO pants that fit. I have been to so many malls and every single store in them and can only find size 0 (if that), which unfortunately just falls off my tiny figure. Even when I am buying jeans, if I do happen to find a size 00, or a size 0 that fits, they are generally too short. I do not consider myself lucky for being slim, it is the most horrible thing. I wear clothing that I wore in high school still because I can never find anything that fits. I cannot shop in the children’s section because my legs are too long. Besides, they don’t sell professional clothing in the children’s department. Society has made me hate my beautiful body.

  • Greetings, Syn!

    It seems from this thread of messages, at least, that neither large women nor small ones like the current “vanity sizing”. So why does it still stick around?

    I would really like to see a grass roots movement protesting the stupid sizing system. Maybe dozens of real women, big and small, with placards marching up and down in front of some famous chain stores.

    But I’m a man, so it’s not going to be me raising the ruckus: like I say, all the confusion about sizes just gives me a great excuse not to buy my wife clothing as gifts 🙂

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