Vanity Sizing—To Fit or Not to Fit?

  • By Loretta Lilly

Brace yourself for some unsettling fashion news…the clothing industry manipulates sizes. It is called vanity sizing where designers add extra inches of fabric to clothing without changing the number on the tag. Designers know that if customers feel happy when they try the clothes on, they are likely to buy that brand again. Like it or loathe it, vanity sizing isn’t going away any time soon.

While a small percentage of women in America are shrinking, the rest of our obesity-challenged country are growing in the waist. American women are definitely getting bigger as a group. The average woman weighs 156 pounds and 5 foot 4 according to VMagazine. But do not assume that the contemporary woman is wearing a bigger size than her grandmother might have. According to standard size measurements, the average 156-pound woman should be wearing a size 16. But thanks to vanity-sizing, she is probably buying a size 10 or 12.

Anyone over the age of 40 knows that something is not quite right if she can wear a smaller size now than she wore 10 years and 20 pounds ago. Yet many of us slip gratefully into a size 6 pair of Old Navy jeans even though we are pretty sure we would not be able to squeeze into our size 10 Michael Kors. Do you really believe that you are a size 6 or 8 because the label says so even when your scale says otherwise?

For women of any size, this morphing measurement creep means you no longer know your real dress size. A size 8 at New York & Company fits smaller than a size 8 at Macy’s. And to complicate things, sizes vary wildly between brands. God forbid the European sizes ranging from 34 to 44—many of which are unlikely to fit an average American woman. High end clothing can measure from sizes 000 to 8. Another factor to consider is that manufacturers are struggling to keep up with changing demographics and body types in the United States. We are getting bigger as we get older and ethnic groups have different proportions.

Remember developers are trying to target their product to a particular market so the fits are going to be very different from brand to brand.

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