Shopping and Vanity Sizing

by Annie on June 18, 2008 · 15 comments

in Weight Loss & Body Image

Lisa over at Workout Mommy wrote a post about vanity sizing that resonates with my complaint about women’s clothing. I hate shopping for clothes because it takes too much time. I hate picking something up from the rack, trying it on, only to discover it is either too small or too larger when the size fitted a few months ago. My husband picks out this clothes, pays for it, and still have plenty of time to wander all over the mall, while I am still undressing from one store!

Vanity sizing is a common practice in women’s clothing. Manufacturers are catering to our obsession with sizing. We shop to feel better about ourselves. How many of you had a “makeover” after a breakup? It feels good to buy size 4 clothes, even though deep down inside we know that we are truly a 12. And we will continue come back for more because the label tells us that we are skinner than we actually are. Does it help us in the long run to keep up this fantasy that we are thinner than we actually are? Will vanity sizing make us healthier? I doubt it.

According to, “what was a size 8 in the 1950s had become a 4 by the 1970s and 00 today.” So does that mean my 18 year old sister-in-law, who is a size 00, is actually a size 4? I remember being a size 4 when I was her age, but I have never been a double zero before.

Marilyn Monroe required a size 16 in the ’50s. She will actually be a 6/8 by today’s standards.

“Just over 60 percent of women admit they are unsure of their dress size, such is the variation from store to store” according to Times Online.

Wow, 60% of us have no idea what size we wear! No wonder it seems like we spend so much time shopping! Next time we go shopping, I will tell my husband to grab a magazine and a coffee while he waits for me. And I am pretty sure after 2 hours, I will come back disgusted and empty handed.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

workout mommy June 19, 2008 at 2:55 am

ok, that is just CRAZY that was used to be a size 8 is now a double zero!

even more frustrating is that the fashion industry recognizes the disparity in sizes yet does nothing to change it. Ugh!

(thanks for linking!)

workout mommys last blog post..Vanity sizing and the little black dress


asithi June 19, 2008 at 4:51 am

Can you imagine the shoe industry deciding to do the same thing with shoe sizes? We would be all outraged. Thing of how much more time it will take to purchase a pair of shoes — opening all these boxes from different brands, trying to find a pair that might fit. And once we find a pair that fit, oh no, they do not give us enough arch support or its hurts after taking a few steps. Imagine the frustration. And yet, we let the clothing industry get away with this because it appeals to our vanity. We are all idiots! :D


Carla March 11, 2009 at 11:57 am

I gained 40 pounds,yet I still wear only one size larger than I did as a young woman. How is that possible? I have had to resort to a size book that I created so I could remember which brands fit, which are big and which are small. Heaven help me if they make any changes because I hate dragging the stroller into the dressing room.


asithi March 11, 2009 at 12:40 pm

@ Carla – That is why I hate shopping for clothes. Every brand gives me a different size. Writing them down seems like a good idea. I might have to use that trick because there have been plenty of times when I go into a dressing room with a large pile of clothes and leaving with just 1 piece that fits. Shopping for anything with a stroller gets complicated.


Thomas Bailey March 16, 2009 at 6:44 am

The British Standards Institute has drafted a brilliant standard. BS-EN13402 calls for a pictogram with actual measurements in centimeters. This was drafted initially to deal with the multitude of sizing schemes currently in use. There are a number of obstacles. Although the USA has only 5% of the world’s population, it has a great deal of clout, enough to slow or even stall the new standard’s acceptance.

The difference between men’s size numbers and women’s sizes is due to history. Men’s sizes were established in preparation for the Civil War, when the soldiers needed uniforms in great numbers. Using actual measurements was the obvious choice, which remains to this day. Women’s clothing back then was usually made at home, as was children’s clothing. There were no size numbers until the 1920′s when patterns were introduced. Women’s sizes were originally from graded patterns, later adjusted to suit today’s heavier builds. The sizing scale begins with a fit model, who wears the base size for a given line of clothing.

The difference between US sizes, UK sizes, and the other sizing schemes was originally insignificant due to manufacturing being limited to the domestic market. Today, with clothing being made in one country, mainly China, Philippines, Singapore, and shipped to others, some standardization is desperately needed, and BS-EN13402 is the best standard currently in existence. The use of body scanners is possible, but limited to upscale stores, such as Brooks Brothers in Manhattan.


asithi March 16, 2009 at 8:17 am

@Thomas Bailey – Oh, I can’t agree with you more. It is such a time waster to shop for clothes. When I find a style I like, I usually have to take three sizes into the dressing room – the size that I normally wear, one size smaller, and one size larger. I have no idea which one will fit until I try it on. Imagine doing that for every article of clothing and you can see why I am not a shopper. Basically I have gotten to the point where I would buy two or three of the same item, in a different color, so that I do not have to spend that much time trying on clothes. We definitely need to standardize women’s clothing sizes. I will probably buy more clothes if I do not have to spend so much time trying on clothes. Thank you for the comment.


top foods May 27, 2009 at 7:57 am

I just got back from shopping. About a year ago, I bought some size 0 pants that fit perfectly, so I wanted to get another pair. Went to the store and found the pants, exact brand, style and size. I put them on and they’re at least two sizes bigger!!! It was a size 0, so there’s nothing smaller! I’ve been having this problem for awhile, size 0′s are now too big and pants in the kids section are too short. My weight hasn’t changed in years, but I’ve went from a size 3 to less than 0. Is anyone else having this problem?


asithi May 27, 2009 at 5:07 pm

@top foods – We might all have this problem eventually. We don’t need to lose weight, just wait for vanity sizing to catch up and we will still be the “same size” we are in now even with a 20 pound weight gain! Thanks for the comment!


Thomas Bailey July 7, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Another reason for the difference in the way sizes are labelled is due to the lifestyles in the 19th-early 20th century. During that period, men were much busier than women. This necessitates the ability to find the correct size quickly. All he has to do is look for his waist and inseam on the tag. After the mid-1940′s, women were joining the workforce in great numbers, making them as busy as the men. The fashion industry has not acknowledge the fact that women today are very busy and need the measurements spelled out.


Kristen July 11, 2009 at 9:18 am

top foods -
I can relate to your frustration in finding clothing (I think a LOT of women can). It appears that the designers and manufacturers are just not listening to consumers. Vanity sizing has become a big issue with smaller women, as they can find next-to-nothing that fits them in stores nowdays.
I’ve gained 15 lbs in the last couple of years, but now even a size 4 in most stores is too big! So frustrating…why would manufacturers do this to their customers??


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