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.