What is Your True Size?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  751 comments   :  84,665 Views

I don’t know about you, but for the past several years clothes shopping has become more of a headache than the nice enjoyable activity it once was. Sadly, for me the fun is long gone and is replaced with countless hours of frustrations. There was once a time I could go into any store, pick something right off the rack, make a purchase and go home. But not today. That would be too easy.

Like a hunter searching for his prey, I head out early in the morning just as the stores are opening while I still have the energy for what I presume to be a day long mission. After trying pants after pants, hour after hour, store after store, I find myself literally worn out heading home more times than not dejected and empty handed.

While the styles and trends do count for many of my frustrations--I am not a BIG fan of the low rise trend--just finding a size has become a chore. In one store I can easily be a size 4, in another a size 6, and yet another I could wear a size 8. And let’s not even talk about online purchases without knowing beforehand my size in a store. Why is that?

Well the answer lies within a sales tactic that clothing manufacturers discreetly call vanity sizing.

So what exactly is vanity sizing and how did it come to be?

Knowing how women are glued to being a certain size, the clothing manufacturers researched and learned that women like being a smaller size. As a consequence, the manufacturers discovered that women are willing to spend more money just to have a smaller size on a tag. In other words if you have two pairs of identical jeans with the same identical waist measurements--one store labels it a size 10 priced for $20 and another store labels it a size 6 for $50, according to the research, more of us would choose the latter just to have the smaller size in our closet. This trend is especially more prevalent in higher end stores where sizes tend to run smaller even though they are the exact numeric size as their less expensive counterparts.

Because there is no industry standard, we, as women, must succumb to the scrutiny of looking high and low for the perfect size in EACH individual store. As a result, when I find the size I can wear at that particular store, I come home and put all the data in an Excel spreadsheet. So the next time I am in search of the perfect pant, jean, blouse, etc. all I have to do is pull out my handy-dandy cheat sheet and just pray that the clothing manufacturers haven’t decided to re-vanity size their items since my last shopping escapade.

I would like to believe I am one standard size, as it was in days of my youth, but that is now a thing of the past. This is one reason why we, as women, need to liberate ourselves from the size on the tag and just buy what fits regardless of the games the manufacturers are willing to play.

Would you spend more money just to have a smaller tag on an article of clothing? How much more would you be willing to spend for that smaller size tag? Do you find it frustrating that there is no standard sizing between stores?

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  • 751
    My middle name is cheap so I don't worry about what 'size' something is. Two of the same jean with different sizes? Which one is cheaper? - 2/3/2018   2:42:25 PM
    thanks - 1/4/2018   7:54:04 AM
  • 749
    Aah, gone are the days when I was a size 6. I'd be happy to wear a size 16. Never thought that would cross my mind! LOL Thanks for sharing this! - 9/25/2017   3:18:52 AM
  • 748
    Interesting article. - 8/3/2017   10:47:41 AM
  • 747
    If I don't like the size number on the tag, I just use scissors or a seam ripper to remove the tag. Much more cost effective while working my way down the number on the scale. - 6/28/2017   11:23:59 PM
  • 746
    It would be nice if whatever sizing a brand chose to use was at least consistent across that brand. I have jeans that are theoretically exactly the same size, cut, style and brand and yet fit differently because the brand doesn't have consistent manufacturing.

    That said, I do prefer to shop brands where I wear a smaller size. Why? Brands with smaller sizing size out more potential customers. Most straight size lines only manufacture up to a size 14 (at most).

    My waist is more than 11" smaller than the average American woman's (25.5" vs. 37"). This should translate to wearing a size on the smaller end of straight sizes (key word: should). If I'm a size 4 in that brand, there are 5 sizes above mine, thus, including many more women in the size range. (These brands typically go down to a size 00, so few women are being sized out for being too small.) In contrast if I'm a US 10 in a brand, there are only two sizes above mine, sizing out the majority of potential customers. These brands seem to be very intentionally targeting slimmer customers and sending an obvious signal to those of us who aren't thin. - 5/23/2017   8:45:21 PM
  • 745
    AS always the almighty buck comes before the truth. I want sizes that are true to my size. When someone that is clearly a size 14 says they are a size 6, do they really believe it or are they just trying to fool themselves. - 5/17/2017   9:19:32 AM
  • 744
    I think it would be great to have the measurements as sizes like men do. That would at least get rid of 1 problem. - 5/4/2017   2:54:20 PM
  • 743
    Thank you - 3/24/2017   7:42:22 AM
  • 742
    I certainly wouldn't pay more to basically have the *wrong* size label in my clothes. It's seems utterly ridiculous to me that anyone would - wearing a 10 that's labelled a 6 still makes *you* a size 10!! - 3/14/2017   5:38:13 AM
  • 741
    Euro/Japanese sizes appear more consistent over the years. I am around a 6-8 in euro to american sizes. For US brands, I have a plethora of size 2-4, a few items size 0 and a few 6. All my suits are America size 4. I won't pay more to be labeled a 0. - 3/9/2017   12:12:28 PM
  • 740
    I didn't like shopping for clothes 50 years ago, I like it less now! I don't give a rip what size it is as long as it fits well, hangs well, and is comfortable. I normally pick the classic style so I can wear it well for many years. I'm getting to the point where I'm going to draft my own patterns and make my own clothes to save shopping time and when I'm done I know it will fit me as well as be a color and pattern I like! Even when I was at a perfect weight and my friends said I had a Barbie figure, I couldn't get anything to fit me --- arm length too short, crotch too long, leg length too short and worst of all no bust dart! I'm looking forward to making my clothes again --- clothes that fit me and not the "average" size which we all know there is no one that is an "average" size! The industry is cutting its own throat. It is designing clothes for the "perfect" figure (yeah sure) and not for the real woman who is above a size 12. Most of them can't design their way out of a paper bag. A good designer can design clothes that can fit and flatter any size. (Whew! vent over LOL!) - 3/2/2017   7:41:04 PM
  • 739
    Use European sizing for a true size. If you look at many more expensive but readily available skirts/pants/shirts - say Anne Klein or Ralph Lauren you'll often see a tag with two sizes. Your size 4 Anne Klein is a size 8 in the UK. I remember at the Kennedy Inauguration back when I was too young to think about adult sizing that Jacqueline Kennedy was tiny. She was - she wore a size 4 American at the time. Ladybird by contrast came in at a size 10 - but a size 10 was still 36-26-36. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell wore size 12-14.
    Today I wear an XS and heaven knows I'm not XS ... I'm a good solid 6 UK size (bottom) and now that my bust is a wee bit lower, I'm an 8 on top - just so I don't have a gap. Until this year LL Bean still had reliable sizing. I loved it because I could order online. This year that all changed. An S was too tight but a Medium was swimmingly big (another product) and in some cases an XL was too small. So LLBean, one of the last gold star standards has also fallen. - 1/10/2017   4:48:46 PM
  • 738
    It is super frustrating...I am not a name brand type person anyway unless it's a target brand...but even in there, I might wear a size 18 in a full length pant, but need a 16 when buying an ankle pant....No matter the size stress, I refuse to spend more money to have a smaller size...I don't believe in clothes collecting dust. While goals are great, you still have to wear clothes in the meantime...so I just buy now and tailor later :) - 11/16/2016   2:05:47 PM
  • 737
    I find it frustrating! A man goes to the store and picks something out, pays for it without trying it on.
    A woman has to try things on... for instance, the tshirt I have on, is L ... most other places I wear S or M. Jeans is just the same. Unless I know the brand, I have to try them on. Its frustrating! - 10/8/2016   5:02:17 PM
  • 736
    I hate to shop for clothes. For 1 thing, I would prefer to shop after I lose weight. The next thing is the sizing. I tend to buy the same brands just because I know the right size. I buy what I can at Walmart because I do not like being this size, but do not like how I look no matter what I wear. And I tend to wear more casual clothes than I like. Denim and t-shirts, but when I grew up, we could not even wear pants to school until I my junior year in high school. LOL - 6/26/2016   1:16:32 AM
    Someone suggested sizing in inches (or cm) as if that would solve the problem. Not so much. I have 4 identical pairs of jeans--same size, same length on the tag. There is a difference of 2 inches in length and width between the largest and smallest. Quality control? - 6/15/2016   8:26:10 PM
  • 734
    I am so sick and tired of "Vanity" Sizing. The Size 2X that I buy at one store is great... but need a 3X if the style is slightly different (example boot cut versus straight leg). I'm just 5' 3" -- so I have to find a plus-size in petite. That's a struggle every time I shop. Uniformity of size is a MUST when you are a plus-sized person (male or female). - 5/20/2016   11:57:01 AM
  • 733
    I don't think I've bought clothes with a specific size on them in years.... just medium or large. The good thing is, they used to be 2 x or 3 x :) - 2/24/2016   1:28:17 AM
    I feel this is so true. I have a skirt and jacket that are size 2s that I can wear and I keep for that reason. Jeans are the worst! - 2/23/2016   6:50:49 PM
    My mother was a seamiest when we clean out her basement we found patterns from the 40's the measurement for a size 14 are what the measurements are for a size 6 in the present. - 2/23/2016   4:06:29 PM
  • 730
    This is precisely the reason I have come to despise shopping. I can't ever figure out which size I am actually wearing! - 2/23/2016   8:46:30 AM
  • 729
    I don't like shopping for pants for the reasons this article said. BUT heads up manufacturers I buy a lot less clothes because of these frustrations. Make all your clothes a more standard size and I will get off my dime and buy more clothes!! - 2/22/2016   10:41:04 PM
  • 728
    Vanity sizing is not only frustrating... I find it somewhat insulting as well! I don't know want to have to deal with all the guesswork of what size am I at this store? or wearing this brand?

    - 2/22/2016   10:33:35 PM
    It is frustrating, but I just go by with what's comfortable. I have several sizes in the closet right now. A size 18 skirt that's too tight and another size 14 that fits comfortably, so what gives? So there ends up being alot of trying on and I don't like that. I'd rather pick off the rack and go, like you said!!! Alot easier!! - 2/22/2016   7:56:48 PM
    Another frustrating change is the Petite pants. They are often very long(Im 5'3)! It is funny to hear the sales people try to explain that. I walked out of a changing room and showed the Loft sales person how their "petite" pants were dragging 6 inches behind my feet. It is hard to hem much more than a few inches because most pants have some kind of taper. The other problem is there are now curvy fit, trouser fit, relaxed fit, and any one store might only have 1 sample pant in each type so it is hard to try them all on. I get my dress pants from JCP or Dress Barn because they have a variety of styles and some limited amount of petites. But I have tried two of the same style and size and even they aren't constructed consistently. No, I won't buy a pant based on their size. Just on their fit and price. - 2/22/2016   7:20:27 PM
  • 725
    I go for what looks best; the number doesn't bother me at all... :) - 2/22/2016   5:53:36 PM
  • 724
    I've noticed this in the S,M,L,XL sizing too. I used to almost always wear an XL, even skinnier than I am now, and now a lot of XL's are very large on me. I know it's not that I've gone down to fit in a L, it's that the L sizes are being made bigger now. Very frustrating when you expect to be able to buy off the rack. - 2/22/2016   2:11:39 PM
  • 723
    I definitely shop by cost. If I don't like the size on the label, I cut off the label. - 2/22/2016   1:34:41 PM
  • 722
    I HATE IT! I had this issue when shopping for my daughter online. I used to ask the sellers to physically measure things like inseam and waist circumference. Buying off the rack is a pleasure that is long gone.

    Personally I shop for cost rather then what my tag says. - 2/22/2016   1:31:03 PM
  • 721
    I go by my measurements and compare to the size charts, it has worked so far. - 2/22/2016   12:33:44 PM
  • 720
    I hate vanity sizing; it has turned clothing shopping into torture. It doesn't say much for our self esteem if we put such a premium on sizes. Anyone who has lived with excess weight uses clothing sizes to gauge their weight loss success. We treat smaller sizes as weight loss trophies, which is ridiculous. A more healthy and fit body should be the trophy to which we aspire. Instead of saying "I went from a size 22 to a size (fill in the blank), we should brag about having a lower blood pressure, or having more energy, lower blood sugar readings, more stamina or being able to walk up a flight of steps without having to stop to catch a breath. We don't do that because our society puqts more importance on smaller sizes than on better fitness. A smaller size is a status symbol to women. I think it's time we found a more meaningful symbol. Yes, being able to wear smaller sizes makes us feel better about our physical appearance, but vanity sizing is a hollow victory. The fit means much more than the size, but we feel cheated if the better fit is labeled a larger size, and we want the smaller size to be the reward for our hard work. And we want that smaller size to be consistent in all the clothes we wear. - 2/22/2016   12:30:04 PM
  • 719
    Sewing patterns have the true sizes unless that has changed too. Because unless the law has changed - all sewing pattern companies use the same measurements.

    When I lost over 60 lbs, I was able to put on jeans I saved from 20 years ago they were a size 14 and I was 183lbs in July 2014 - 2/22/2016   12:21:17 PM
  • 718
    This is crazy, agreed. We have to get over wanting to be a size 2. Marilyn Monroe at the height of her beauty was a size 12 and proud of it! - 2/22/2016   12:16:36 PM
  • 717
    I think vanity sizing is ridiculous. Yes i would love to see smaller sizes in my closet but I am not willing to pay more for a lie. When I look into a mirror the truth is still the same regardless of the size listed inside of the clothes. - 2/22/2016   11:39:57 AM
    I've paid more for a pair of jeans that were labelled a couple sizes smaller than what I knew was realistic for my size. Yes, I knew I wasn't really that "size" but it was worth it because every time I pulled them on I felt so good about how far I'd come that it made it much easier to keep exercising and eating healthier. - 2/22/2016   11:28:41 AM
  • 715
    If you look around there aren't too many skinny women anymore. Everything is super sized. When I was in high school 1960, I weighed between 135-145 and wore a size 16. The other day on one of those weight shows a lady said she was down to 155 and in a size 2. A SIZE 2??? Get real. Now Big butts are popular -- why? Because small butts are a thing of the past. And Clothing manufacturers want us to "feel good" so we buy more clothes. - 2/22/2016   11:09:18 AM
  • 714
    Huh. Kind of in reference to DesertJulz, post 665; In High School at about 120 pounds I thought I was fat, and I wore a size 11/12. When I got married at age 23, I weighed 135, and wore a size 11/12. My mother who at her heaviest weighed 120 pounds and wore a size 10 till the 70s, wore a size 4 at the same weight just before she passed away. She'd always go for the size 10 racks, and I'd have to steer her elsewhere. I have worn a "medium" in the 180 pound range, and a "large" in the 140 pound range. Ordering online, I stick with 2 companies I'm familiar with, whose sizes are consistent. For others, it doesn't even matter if you look at the measurement charts; 40 inches isn't necessarily 40 inches! I've found this to be true, despite the article: at cheaper stores, size 14 is smaller than at more high end stores, except when you get into the designer really high end stores, where they label a size 4 as Extra Large, just to humiliate us, I'm certain. - 2/22/2016   11:07:52 AM
    This is why I do not order clothes online anymore, you never know what size you will get. I'm 159 lbs and my comfortable size is a 12. I would never pay more just to have a smaller size tag. My size is what it is and I just wish that these manufacturers would get their act together and label their clothes with it's true size. This vanity sizing is ridiculous. - 2/22/2016   10:33:23 AM
  • 712
    As a preteen I was a size 12 in the mid 1990's at 140 lbs. When I weighed 180-194 lbs I wore a size 12! 4 years ago at 146 lbs I was a size 8 at most stores. When online I check out brands measurements before buying. I'm 168 lbs and get this in some excercise pants I'm a medium! And some stores I'm size 10,13,and 12. I have a 31" waist. - 2/22/2016   9:26:04 AM
  • 711
    I have never understood vanity sizing. When I went to buy a dress for my daughter's wedding, I had always worn a size 16 petite (Short not tiny!) but daughter said since we were in a more expensive store, to try a smaller size. She made me try on a size 10 that fit perfectly so I said it must be mislabeled. She told me then about vanity sizing - I was dumbfounded! How is anybody supposed to find clothes that fit when sizes are that far off?? - 2/22/2016   9:04:48 AM
    I didn't know about vanity sizing but I do have experience with vanity labels...many years ago we shopped on Sundays in lower Manhattan in an area where once you made a deal for the clothing item you were buying, they would offer you a choice of designer labels to sew in it - either a designer name or a prestigious clothing store... - 2/22/2016   8:38:01 AM
  • 709
    I must agree with Brooklyn_born. I have US Navy dungarees, size 10, that I wore 20 years ago. I also have currently sized 10 jeans. There is no similarity! I absolutely cannot get the dungarees over my hips even though they are "supposedly" the same size. I have jeans, same Brand, same style in both sizes 4 and 10 and both fit! It is because they were made in different overseas countries. It is truly ridiculous! - 2/22/2016   7:25:56 AM
  • 708
    More concerning to me is the "sizing creep" over time
    Size 10 Measurement charts
    1960 - 32.5, 25, 34.5
    Today - 38, 30, 40.5
    This contributed to my acceptance of my weight gain. I thought I must be OK since I continued to wear the same size.
    - 2/22/2016   7:01:51 AM
  • 707
    I'm a thrift shopper. Have been for years, but now I live in a town that makes it truly worth while. High end clothes come into our thrifts, often with tags. It makes it affordable to keep the wardrobe updated for little money as the size I need keeps changing. Sizes are pretty much defined as small medium large and extra large, so I start with a range and refine it by what fits more than the actual size. Since my last purchase was a pair of size 18 skinny jeans (the tag said that, not me), I'll say I'm a size 18. that makes me an extra large by pretty much all standards. The odds are, I'll continue to shop in the thrifts even when I reach my target weight/size as I've gotten very used to the prices; so much so, that I consider $10 A LOT OF MONEY to spend on a pair of pants! - 2/21/2016   9:47:29 AM
  • 706
    Perhaps adopting a new universal sizing system would be a good idea to get rid of this sizing mess.

    For starters instead of vague numbers and letters we could use hight/waist measurements (that are already in place in some countries), so my pant size would look like 168/65 and will fit my 168 cm hight and my 65 cm waist.

    When I moved to the US from Europe a while back I was shocked to find out that I was size s. Very often I can buy 16 yo kids's clothes and they fit (I am 35). I am by no means small, and feel more comfortable wearing sizes 6 and 8, and not size 0 or a 14 year old's shirts. - 2/21/2016   2:58:59 AM
  • BLONDY01
    I would never pay more to have a smaller size in my closet, that seems so weird to me. I buy most items secondhand or on sale, but it's really hard to find clothes that fit me. I also hate that they charge more for plus size clothing. I've always been fairly tall and heavy, but since I had my son, it's nearly impossible to find clothes that fit how I want. When I was in high school at 170 I wore a 16 I think, at my lowest weight in my mid-20's I was 150 and wore a 12-14. Now at 230 I'm somewhere between 18-24 depending on the brand, and I've never been able to wear junior's sizes, only women's sizes. Online shopping is a joke (according to size charts I need anywhere from XL-5X!) Don't even get me started trying to find a nice bra under $60 (Torrid and Lane Bryant are my splurges). Only nice thing is my extra weight is pretty well distributed (last time I took measurements I was 48/40/50). - 12/23/2015   6:24:29 PM
  • 704
    You know it's kind of funny reading all of this. I wish it had said something about the difference between Junior sizes and Woman sizes. I fit a 9/11 perfectly but I'm hard pressed to find anything in Women's clothing. The 8 usually fit slightly too snug but the 12s are just big enough I need a belt or they will be able to slide right off. - 9/9/2015   1:19:40 AM
  • 703
    I'm glad to see women realizing how clothing manufacturers have been playing the sizing creep game. Sadly, they do it because it WORKS. The measurements of a size 0 today, we would have called a size 8 back in the 60s. Yet how many times do we hear women say that they don't want to be a size 0, a "stick" etc. Yes even here on Spark!
    You hear that Marilyn Monroe was a size 12 or 14 or 16. Her measurements were 38-24-38. Not what our 12, 14, 16 measures today. - 8/15/2015   9:47:25 AM
    I have little patience for this practice. However, if shopping the consignment or thrift stores, always look at the smaller sizes as most people do not. you will have a larger selection to choose from. - 7/30/2015   12:50:39 PM

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