What is Your True Size?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/24/2013 12:00 PM   :  734 comments   :  71,981 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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  • 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
  • CAS681294
    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
  • 727
    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
  • MLIEN913
    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
    I would not pay more for the exact same item just for the size tag to have a lower size on it. That's ridiculous! - 7/3/2015   12:49:04 AM
  • 700
    Blech! At this weight in H.S. (amazing right?) I was a size 10 or 12. Now I'm an 8 or 10 and in some clothes a 6! At Chico's I am now size 0. Ridiculous. - 4/18/2015   9:17:08 PM
  • 699
    I really hate vanity sizing. I wish they would size womens clothing similar to mens. We need information about the waist and hip size and pant leg length. - 3/21/2015   3:34:16 PM
    I'm glad it's not just me! I thought I was crazy because when I was in high school (88) I weighed 165lbs and wore a 13/14 some 11/12. Now I weigh 198 and can fit in some 14's and most 16's. That is ridiculous. Do I like buying a 16 instead of 20, yeah, but I know it's not true sizing. - 3/19/2015   7:42:44 PM
    Because I've been plus size for so long, I didn't buy many new clothes. Now that I fit average sizes, I find myself completely frustrated. But I naively thought it was just me, and not manipulation by the clothing manufacturers. What a relief. - 3/1/2015   3:41:02 PM
  • 696
    This is even more true here in Italy. My hips are 38.5'' wide, and here I wear a size 46 (medium to large) and the conversion table says that it's supposed to be an American size 12. But I've looked at some US websites and my hips width would actually wear a size 6-8. So, Italian sizes are completely different from yours, and probably aimed at making less-than-slim women feel HUGE! - 2/12/2015   9:20:42 AM
  • 695
    The worst ever vanity sizing was when Target took away my size 22 and told me I was a single-digit size. I stopped shopping there because it was simply too frustrating to figure out their new sizing. Shopping for clothing and shoes is horrible enough without having to try on every single size because a store thinks I'm stupid enough to believe I'm a size 2. Companies that deliberately change the labels show their disdain for women's intelligence and should not receive our hard-earned dollars. - 2/7/2015   2:59:06 PM
  • 694
    Try sewing Vintage clothes! The patterns used to be made for each size individually, so getting the right size was important. A Size 10 in 1940 had a bust of 28 inches. Size 18 was 36 inches. Waist sizes were generally 5-6 inches smaller than the bust. Size 2X simply didn't exist. - 2/7/2015   10:59:27 AM
  • 693
    I really hate trying to buy pants. When I was a 2X I knew what to look for, but now with skinny jeans, and no consistency I have a really hard time fining clothes that look good and I hate having to take 6 pair of pants into the fitting room hoping one will fit. - 1/17/2015   7:13:35 PM
  • 692
    Vanity sizing is just another way to lie about your size. It is not realistic and the only one you are fooling when you say you are a size 8 when technically you area size 14 is yourself. Before I lost weight I was a size 14 (That was my size for pants and dresses and jackets) I had one pair of pants that I wore in the winter that were a size 6. Yeah right size 6 when I am 5ft 2ins and weighed 160 lbs. Not realistic and it never fooled me or anyone else. I always laughed when wearing them. I am a true size 8 now (just like the olden days) but on the racks it might say I am a 00.....but I'm not and I don't care what it says. I know my measurements and they can't lie. unless they start making tape measures that fluctuate.
    - 10/22/2014   7:43:26 PM
  • 691
    I wish sizing were more consistent, and that smaller styles in curvy fits were more available. So often I'm a size 2/4 in the waist and a 6/8 in the hips. I have to choose between having pants that are constantly falling down or pants that are too tight in the hips. I am, however, tired of hearing about how sizing was different 50 years ago. Many women's heights were considerably shorter than most women's today, which means that bone structure and frame would have been different as well. Therefore, the ratios for today remain much the same, even if the sizing does not. I shop for a lot of vintage clothing, and many of the clothes are way too short for me. I'm 5'8", and many of the older styles are made for women who are closer to 5'4". The height-to-waist/hip proportions of a 5'4" woman are different than the height-to-waist/hip proportions of a 5'8" woman. With that being said, I do wish that sizing would be much more consistent. I can be several different sizes at several different stores, and it's a pain to find which ones fit. - 10/22/2014   12:56:48 AM
  • 690
    Sizing creep is more dangerous than the difference in sizing between manufacturers. The measurements of a size zero are those of a size 8, back in the 60s. This has contributed to our society's weight problem. How can I be overweight if I'm wearing the same size as I did 20 years ago? Sure, they just made the clothes bigger. The industry is not doing us any favors. - 9/18/2014   7:36:39 PM
  • 689
    I have jeans ranging from size 0-6 from the same store... it is frustrating. I try not to focus on the numbers on the tag, but it is hard not to.

    It also applies to undergarments. I found an old Victoria's Secret bra from high school that is a 34B and it fits great. The bras I have from there now are a 34D - 9/17/2014   8:06:38 PM
  • 688
    NO! I want clothes to be standard and true-to-size! - 9/17/2014   7:06:05 PM
    Why don't manufacturers just print the inseam and waist measurement like on men's clothing, and maybe add a hip measurement for more accurate sizing? - 7/12/2014   4:20:43 PM
  • 686
    I have two pairs of old navy jeans - one size twenty is a bit snug and another I can fit 16 with no problem... - 5/28/2014   12:02:13 PM
  • 685
    I agree, so, so Frustrating! I have a pair of pants I bought from Lands End 5 years ago, that I can fit into again, size 22. So I ordered the same style pants from Lands End last month, size 22, they were so big I couldn't keep them on. So I returned them for a size 20, STILL too big, so I returned them for a size 18 which fits exactly like the size 22 I bought 5 years ago. I do not care about the number on the tag, I just wish sizing would be consistent so shopping would be easier. - 5/20/2014   8:04:25 PM

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