The Absurdity Of Vanity Sizing

Twelve years ago, I recall trying on clothes at Ann Taylor Loft and noticed that my usual size small was swimming on me. Hmm. I sized down and then kicked myself for not owning a scale. My existing clothes fit the same, so I was fairly certain that I hadn’t lost weight. Since that time, I’ve gained around five pounds, yet, according to jean manufacturers, I’ve dropped four inches in the waist. What?! That’s definitely not the case. Even the objective measure of inches has been bastardized.

I’ve always bought most of my clothes at thrift shops or collected hand-me-downs because I don’t care much about fashion and am a bit cheap. Occasionally, I’ll find something I like and buy it in every color because it is comfy, flattering, and does not require matching. Now that I’ve discovered I’m mold-sensitive, I need to buy new to avoid re-exposure and a health relapse. Thus, I’m reacquainting myself with the frustrating phenomenon of vanity sizing.

When I order clothes online, I always wait until there are enough reviews to determine whether something runs large or true-to-size. More often than not, that isn’t useful. Besides, I’m average–well, what was considered average prior to the 1990s. I just learned that today the average 18- to 20-year-old woman today weights 170 pounds. Based on the BMI calculator for an averaged height woman, the average young lady is overweight and borderline obese.

Setting the health consequences of obesity aside for the moment, what is causing this sizing inconsistency? Do people find it easier to try on 300 different shirts than admit that maybe a larger size would be most flattering on their body? Is it because clothing is manufactured in China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Brazil where body proportions may be different? Do profits skyrocket when the average 170 pound college female can drop her clothes to reveal her clothing is size small? I truly don’t get it.

My wardrobe is largely the same as it was ten years ago-a tidy line of tags reading: small. The few newer items sprinkled throughout read: xx-small. And those articles of clothing upset me a bit. But, why? I think, for me, it’s two things. First, it’s frustrating to never know which size to purchase and to note inconsistency even within brands. Second, vanity sizing comes across as completely disingenuous. Perhaps women feel good about wearing a smaller size but I fear we, as a society, are encouraging the obesity epidemic by diffusing responsibility. Companies remain profitable while unhealthy women squeeze into the false advertising.

7 thoughts on “The Absurdity Of Vanity Sizing

  1. Sizing drives me crazy! On Amazon most the clothes from China are sized wrong or the sizing it’s what it says it is. I’ve learned that much. One place you might try if you haven’t is Thread Up. It’s a Second Hand store mostly but they do have new clothes too. You can also send them clothes to sell or donate.

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  2. Thanks for this…I’ve wondered about this too – shifting sizes and like you, I read reviews and hope for honesty. One of my favorite inexpensive online retailers must’ve caved to Billy Eilish oversized trends a year or so ago…all of my former favorite comfy sweaters and sweatshirts and MEGA sized. Wowza. 😉

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  3. It’s ludicrous, isn’t it? I enjoyed the whole post, but sarcasm being my this preferred form of humor, this was my favorite line:

    “Do profits skyrocket when the average 170 pound college female can drop her clothes to reveal her clothing is size small?” 😃👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed that! Maybe a year ago, I was with someone visiting and happened to glance at a pair of jeans and noted the size… she’s a heavier gal, but there it was, a size small! I had to shake my head hahaha. 😃

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  4. One of these things that just make you sigh… We preach about body positivity and accepting yourself no matter the size (that’s another topic), but then we go and bloat the sizes to help make us feel better.

    A few months ago, I read an article but a very distraught… ‘influencer’ who went into some store and asked for a certain size and the assistant told her that she should get a larger size, based on her visual gage. Apparently, the assistant being helpful was inappropriate. She should have brought out the size the client demanded and then have to bring the right one, which I think would embarrass the customer way more. But, it never got that far because the customer left the store, mortally offended.


    1. Yes, I’m with you when it comes to sighing. There’s plenty of information out there about nutrition and fitness, so it’s not my place to criticize a person’s appearance (though, my taxes paying for their diabetes medication and electric scooter are another story), but the inaccurate sizing impacts everyone and it’s a huge pain in the behind.

      The story you share is awful, but doesn’t surprise me in the least. Brands offer a variety of sizes so that people of all shapes can find a garment that flatters their body. People seem to have forgotten, it’s not the tag that people are looking at, but the worn garment. Such silliness.

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