I promised to start adding a few more posts to my blog besides just specific challenge posts and this is one that I have been thinking about writing for a while. I know that a lot of people out there have written about this but it happens to be a big pet-peeve of mine: vanity sizing.
According Wikipedia (so you know it’s an accurate definition, lol), vanity sizing, also known as size inflation, refers to the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming larger over time. This tends to occur in places where clothing sizes are not standardized.
To give an example that is commonly associated with vanity sizing consider iconic beauty Marilyn Monroe:
Although accounts differ, according to her dressmaker Marilyn’s measurements were 35-22-35. She was 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall and weighed around 118 lbs. Back in the 50′s her dress size was around a US size 12 (again, some disagree on the actual number and it seems to range anywhere from size 12 to size 16), today it would be considered around a size 6! That’s quite the difference in sizing standards and shows how much sizing systems have changed over the years!
Over the course of the eight and a half weeks of this experiment I have been hitting up a ton of stores and have been trying on a multitude of garments both for the challenge as well as outside of the challenge (because it’s not cheating just to try other clothing on of course). I’ve known that many stores have been using vanity sizing for quite some time now but it has been bothering me more and more lately because of the frequency of my shopping and my exposure to this trend. Also, I find that some stores are getting much worse to the point that their sizing system is just ridiculous and nothing fits!
Not only are specific sizes being given a lower number or letter by stores but some seem to be phasing out smaller sizes altogether by shifting the label number down but the size of the garments up!
Now just to emphasize here, this rant isn’t against people of any specific size since I believe that beauty isn’t defined by a number on a tag, it’s a rant against clothing manufacturers and their skewed ways of trying to sell more clothing. As you can tell from my pictures I’m far from being a waif (no one has ever said “OMG here comes Mel, quick step aside! Her protruding hip bones may hook and maim you!”) and it’s really disturbing that the clothing in some stores is just made too big now! On top of that shopping just takes longer since there is no consistency in sizes from store to store.
Case in point, about a month ago I was in Smart Set looking for a challenge outfit and I noticed a sales rack with some cute dress pants. After holding up a pair of supposed “size 4″ pants that looked enormous I figured I would take a chance and try on a pair of size 0 pants (I still fail to comprehend how something can be a “size nothing”). I tried them, they were still way too big! I mentioned this to the sales associate who apologized for not having any size 00′s…that’s when I just had to laugh. Seriously? If a zero means that something doesn’t exist does a size double zero have that negative number effect where the two zeros cancel out to create a positive number that says someone actually exists?
A few weeks later I had the same experience at the Jacob outlet, I could not for the life of me find a dress that fit! I’ve also noticed this “up-sizing” trend with some clothing at Banana Republic and Club Monaco and many, many other stores that previously had sizes that used to reflect some type of reality. I still think that Old Navy and Bluenotes win the awards for most skewed sizing though, the amount their sizes have increased is just ridiculous!
Now I know that my weight and measurements have stayed relatively constant over the past few months (if anything they may have increased a little…) but I worry sometimes about what I’m going to do in the summer when I up my running schedule and naturally tend to shrink a little. At this rate I may end up with a whole Hello Kitty wardrobe from the kids department, lol!
I think that retailers need to go back to basics and come up with a logical standardized sizing system. I’m all about making people feel better about themselves but vanity sizing should not be the answer. I know that there is a lot of attention these days on the obesity epidemic and I’ve done some reading up on all sides of the debate since my PhD research has a connection with obesity. Yes people are getting larger but just ignoring it by increasing physical clothing sizes and decreasing the defining numbers is just masking the problem. I know that the obesity debate can get very heated and can be controversial and my comments aren’t meant to offend anyone. I just think that people need to be accountable for themselves and they also need support from the environment around them.
For example, sometimes people just don’t notice that they’re putting on weight until they try on an old pair of pants or dress and realize that they’re tight. If this bothers them they may be motivated to look at their lifestyle and make some positive changes by tweaking their diet or excercise routines. On the other hand, if sizes in stores keep going up and these people are shopping for new clothing they may not have any indications to make changes since they are still fitting into their normal size or even a smaller size than before. They may wake up one day discovering that they have put on a lot of weight and never realized it!
Now this may not bother some people and again beauty comes in all sizes but I think that just shifting sizing upwards is an unhealthy trend. If we as a society are concerned about obesity then we need to stop this size distortion and face our reality head on! Does the number on an article of clothing garner an emotional reaction from some people? Of course! But it should not define them or their worth and I think that’s where the real problem lies. We need to start accepting ourselves and the reality of our sizes and shapes. Clothing manufacturers can support this by coming up with a system that translates across the board as much as possible and at the same time make clothing available for people of all sizes on both ends of the spectrum and in-between.
Just my two cents