What is Your True Size?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/24/2013 12:00 PM   :  705 comments   :  60,009 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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    ack this is so true. I went shopping for a gown to wear to a formal event and I tried on more than 25 dresses-ranging from a too-big 2 to an I-can't-breathe 10. Usually I wear 4-6-8 depending on the designer's sizing whims.) I ended up buying a lovely gown in size 6--but by the time I finished, I would not have cared what the number on the tag said! I was just happy it fit me and flattered me.
    - 5/30/2013   2:19:32 PM
    I usually find a brand that fits well and stick with that. For pants, I like Sag Harbor, but they are difficult to find. Usually, I can find something at Kohl's and the sizes seem to be the same between different brands there. - 5/30/2013   9:39:29 AM
    I used to order Levi jeans where I worked years ago. I would see customers buy 3 pair of the same Levi jeans and end up bringing at least one back, because they didn't fit right. I asked the rep the next time I went to place an order and he said some sizes run smaller and some bigger, depending on where they are made. I now look at the label when trying clothes on. If the item fits me good, and I want to buy two of the same in different colors, I look to make sure they are both made at the same place. - 5/28/2013   5:22:12 PM
  • 652
    I am too cheap and would never spend more money on a smaller size. I would wait until those pants went on clearance - 5/28/2013   3:09:03 PM
  • 651
    I'm really struggling with this issue right now, but in the other direction. The pants I am wearing are generally 10-12 and tops size large. I'm shopping for bathing suits and because I am tall (5'8") and well-endowed, I'm ended up being about a 16 in bathing suits. I found one two-piece tankini set that is perfect except for the size (16W). I'm trying to tell myself that the size doesn't matter, but part of me is not buying it. :-( - 5/28/2013   11:27:01 AM
  • 650
    I can't believe how many of the comments said "I would NEVER...." but obviously women are doing it. I really hate vanity sizing! - 5/27/2013   9:00:24 PM
  • 649
    Lucky for me, I shop stores like Ross, TJ Maxx or Marshalls because I like what I find.I would NEVER spend more money on identical clothing just to have the smaller size tag! Especially in these tough economical times. GREAT blog! - 5/27/2013   4:00:58 PM
  • 648
    I am too practical minded to pay extra for a smaller size. Besides, after being a size 24 and sometimes a 26, ANY size smaller is pretty good to me. However, if there were other features that stand out in my favor, I would possibly justify a purchase if it made sense and was worth it.

    I would prefer a standardize sizing. Life is complicated enough, why not keep it simple? This phenomenon is unlikely to happen, so we may as well get comfortable with the variety of sizing.

    Interesting commentary! My daughter's and I were just out shopping for a wedding dress and noticed how most gowns 'seemed' smaller than the mainstream sizing of clothing we typically buy at large local department stores. - 5/27/2013   4:10:01 AM
  • 647
    It would be so much easier for companies to sell a standardized size rather than a vanity size. It matters more to me how I look in the clothes rather than the size. As far as ordering online - if it doesn't fit, I won't order again from them - I hate returning items. - 5/26/2013   11:27:40 PM
  • 646
    I've been the smaller size at one point in my life and that is not important to me now. I much rather be healthy and wear what fits me well as I continue with my weight loss journey. - 5/26/2013   6:00:37 PM
  • 645
    I was just venting about this irritation on here yesterday. This is why so many women I know buy men's jeans now - it's much easier to find the right size. Before I used to think it was that each designer has different ideas of what a size 14 is - but I was wrong. I have one designer that I prefer and I'm a 14 for one pair and 12 for another pair and I've got another pair that the 12 is too big on me. I've heard that it also depends on where they were made.

    This is so annoying and why I hate shopping for pants. I wish it were illegal to do this to women! I'd be willing to sign a petition about this. Why can't they just make them the same as the men's with waist size and length size spelled right out, clear as day? Why do us women have to suffer? - 5/26/2013   1:39:47 PM
    I buy what fits and looks good. Take a tape measure with you when you shop and check the size of the item before you try it on. Cut the tags off as soon as you get home. Never be defined by a number on an item. Clothes should fit you and not you fit into clothes. Pay for quality clothing not a smaller size. Quality lasts. Size is a moving target. - 5/26/2013   1:22:55 PM
  • 643
    It drives me nuts when different items of the same brand and same size don't all fit the same way. That is crazy. I go for what fits well and how good it looks. I am not so concerned about size. No one besides me knows the size and no one else cares. - 5/26/2013   1:20:13 PM
  • 642
    1. I am a cheapskate and would choose the lower priced jeans and ignore the size tag.

    2. I have been caught by manufacturers who have changed sizes. I find I must try on EACH PAIR of jeans I want to buy, because jeans from the same manufacture in different colors can vary in size.

    3. Being a cheapskate (and poor), I shop in low-end stores. In fact, Salvation Army is 1/2 mile from me - I like to walk there to browse and maybe buy, so I get exercise AND bargains. - 5/26/2013   7:21:00 AM
  • 641
    I've seen a couple of pairs of jeans lately labelled '3' or '4' that are larger in size than what i wear (22 or 24). I can only guess that some of the companies have come up with some type of totally deceptive sizing that panders to women who are really size-insecure. - 5/26/2013   1:30:36 AM
  • 640
    Nope, I do not like the vanity sizing either. I have pants that fit from size 6 to 12. Lucky for me, my sister "hands me up" clothes she is tired of. Good quality, too. If I want "new" jeans, I go to a thrift store or shop at my churches rummage sale. A couple of years ago I got two beautiful pantsuits at the church sale. I always feel well dressed in them. So, as I lose weight and want new clothes, but do not want to spend a lot, thrift is my go to. Most cities have one that the well off contribute to. Well worth it, for me. - 5/25/2013   7:46:04 PM
    I am on the cusp of an 8 or if I gain as much as 3 lbs. then I'm a 10.
    My reward for every 10 lbs. I lost was a new pair of jeans because that just happens to add up to a size smaller.
    Anyhow, I hate having to get the 10 but I couldn't afford to pay more for a smaller size! Jeans already cost too much.
    I do hate the stretch ones, and the stupid low waisted jeans and it's super hard to find any that aren't! Also why the heck are they always so dang long? I have to buy short and I'm 5'5" I always thought that was average. - 5/25/2013   6:38:42 PM
  • 638
    And this is why I prefer men's clothing!! Always know what you are getting! My Mom loves to go shopping so I let her pick up the nice women's dress clothing for me, and I get lots of compliments on her picks so that works for me! I always say sizes 1 -6X are baby sizes and always will be!!! - 5/25/2013   6:19:09 PM
  • 637
    Oh my goodness! Judging from all the posts I am not the only one with this problem - 5/25/2013   6:05:02 PM
  • 636
    Oh my goodness! I am so glad I am not the only one who has the same problem! - 5/25/2013   6:02:59 PM
  • 635
    Who has time for all this shopping and Excel spreadsheets?
    If a person is to concerned about someone judging her by the tag in her clothes, then I say, "Cut out the tags, save the money, and if someone sees that the tags are missing and makes a remark, tell them you have decided to wield power over the manufacturers." Perhaps that's a good conversation starter and would begin a trend that would turn things around. - 5/25/2013   4:43:58 PM
  • 634
    I just had this sad experience this week. I have lost 43 pounds and have packed away all my size 24 jeans. I had to buy 22s and they are now falling off. I can take them off at night without unbuttoning or unzipping. I went shopping because the kids gave me gift cards for Mothers Day for this purpose. I went into Kohls and grabbed several different brands of jeans in 22s and 20s because I know how sizing is. I must have tried on 8-10 pair of jeans in one store and not one fit!! I was so discouraged I didn't know what to do. I decided I'm taking a couple pair of my 22s at a time to the tailor and having them taken in. The next night I stopped at another Kohls because I had a $10 coupon that was going to expire so I thought I would at least get more athletic socks. Always need those. I decided to head to the clothes dept for one quick stop. I saw a nice looking pair of navy slacks on sale. I grabbed the 22 and the 20. I went over to the jeans. I grabbed a pair of size 20 Gloria Vanderbilts (that have always been my go-to jeans), that the night before did not fit. I went into the dressing room and started with the jeans just for grins and giggles. Low and behold, that night, that pair fit. Go figure. I tried on the 22 slacks and I was swimming. I tried on the 20s and Bingo! I left there after trying on 3 pair of pants/jeans with 2 in hand! None of it makes any sense!! I love to shop online because of my schedule...can't do that anymore! I can't even go to CJ Banks online and order my shirts like I used to because they aren't even as consistent as they used to be. I might wear a 2X in one shirt and a !X in another. And if I go to JCPenneys and try on Liz Claiborne I need a 3X. Aaarggghhh!! - 5/25/2013   12:13:10 PM
  • 633
    Sounds like a great spread sheet. I would love to have a copy.
    - 5/25/2013   12:12:23 PM
    I won't pay more for a smaller size, but there are some people out there that are very emotionally tied to the size on their tag. I'd rather have something that fits and looks great no matter what the size tag says. I'm not sure how people end up so invested in their clothing size, but I guess it's symptomatic of what media tells us: being a bigger size = being a bad person, etc. Some people really buy into that mentality.

    It's frustrating to wear different sizes within the same store; I can deal with being different sizes in different stores to a point, but for uniformity's sake I'd like to go into one store and be able to say I'm a size 12 or whatever. What I find most helpful, though is to take my measurements once a month or so, and when I shop online look for the measurements of the clothing I'm buying. Doing that helps me get a good fit most of the time. I don't even worry about the size. In person, it's a little harder but I try to get the measurements online before going into the brick-and-mortar store. That helps a bit. - 5/25/2013   12:02:00 PM
  • 631
    Ugh yeah this such a pain. First of all, I am tall. I'm 6'4" and I'm a woman so that's the first thing that makes it hard to shop. I'm all legs. I can't buy pants at stores. Everything is online. I can buy tops and dresses at stores, thanks to the trend that everything is longer now. My suits for work have to be bought online. However, my fiance and I were talking about how funny (and frustrating) it is when shopping for clothing for me and for women in general. We went to Target a few days ago and found something that fit me in a M, L, and XL. A the same place! Some places I'm a 12, some I'm a 14 and some I'm a 16. And once in a while, I fit into a 10. I wish the government would just make things standardized in regards to clothing. - 5/25/2013   11:44:48 AM
  • 630
    I've lost 20 pounds during this school year and have gone from a 16 to a 12. I've been 'shopping in my closet' for a while now (nope, I never threw out my larger OR smaller sizes!) and decided last week to get something new for the summer. My old 12's at home were big. The 12's at Kohl's and Cato's, some almost the exact same cut and brand, were almost too tight! It's so frustrating to try on a huge amount of things just to find one or two that actually fit. So apparently over the course of a couple of years, these manufacturers have redone the cut and sizes again. I need to start sewing again.....

    The spreadsheet is a clever idea but no one should have to go to that trouble! - 5/25/2013   10:27:48 AM
  • 629
    Grrrrr, don't get me started. I have blogged on this topic and commented on numerous similar blogs. I have pants ranging from size 8 (Talbot's) to size 14 (Macy's) that fit. I have an XS sweater from Ann Taylor. Seriously. I weight about 145, and that XS sweater fits with the size S skirt. Okay, deep breath, and...out! - 5/25/2013   9:56:44 AM
  • 628
    I would not pay more so I can "pretend" I'm a smaller size. This is just ludicrous. What I would like to see is a pair of pants fit my hips and my waist since I'm all hips. - 5/25/2013   9:53:35 AM
  • 627
    As a young woman (early 20s), I found my biggest problem was when I stopped shopping at stores aimed at teens (Stitches, Blue Notes, Garage, etc) where I was a size 8 and started shopping at more "womanly" stores (Cleo's, Banana Republic, Reitman's, etc) where I am a size 2-4. - 5/25/2013   9:48:00 AM
    Great Blog. But I am so cheap. - 5/25/2013   9:11:57 AM
  • 625
    no way would I pay more for a smaller size! it won't make me be smaller or feel smaller or make me healthier, seems a silly measure. as someone that is morbidly obese, I felt regret when I went from a 2X to a 3X, but I've always found the larger sizes cost more, not the smaller ones. Now that my weight is going the other way, I will be happy to not have to pay more for the same outfit! - 5/25/2013   8:49:11 AM
  • 624
    I think it should be mandatory to make all women's clothing exact same size and on the tags. Women should not be shown they have to wear a larger size to get the better price. - 5/25/2013   7:26:43 AM
  • 623
    I used to work in a retail store and that is so true. A lot of people tend to lie about the size to themselves, even force clothes on that at glance one could tell it wont fit and do not like to hear it. They blame the designer, the cut or the fabric instead of facing the true. If your clothes in regular clothes are mostly one size then you are that size, not just one brand that tell you s smaller size. - 5/25/2013   6:09:20 AM
  • 622
    I have been wishing since I was a teenager that women would get fair and equal treatment from clothing manufacturers as men do. Why can't we all just have the waist and inseam on our pants as men. I've seen XL that is a 6-8. I think women can't be that stupid to believe they are a 6 at Neiman Markus, a 14 at Kohls and a 16 at k-mart. We need to band together and stop this practice. - 5/25/2013   3:32:23 AM
  • 621
    I agree with every word of this blog. - 5/25/2013   2:03:49 AM
  • 620
    i have an 11 in one brand that is exactly the same size as a 15 in another brand....its ridiculous, i wouldnt pay more for a smaller number. - 5/25/2013   1:08:55 AM
  • 619
    One big error in this blog is that the sizing is not determined by the store, but by the brand & designer. Going into one store you can grab every type of jeans available in the same size and some will be too big, some too small, and some just right.

    As an example, a year and a half ago I was in a store that starts with K and ends with hol's. There was an overfilled rack of nice work slacks right in front of the dressing room. I grabbed a size 6 and 8 because that seemed to be the sizes that were working for me. I ended up going back out and grabbing a size 2, which even when zipped and buttoned literally fell right off of me. The size 2 was at minimum what should've been a size 14! I double checked the sizes 3 times, even grabbing others labled at a size 2 and held them up - the vanity sizing was so ridiculous that putting them in with the 'misses' sizes instead of the plus sizes meant that no one was buying them. So the extreme vanity sizing backfired on them! (BTW, Ellen DeGeneres just did a monologue the other day about how ridiculous it is to have a size 0 and size 00, which wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for vanity sizing.)

    It's also important to note that vanity sizing is not just for women's clothes, but men's too. A size 36 pants for men means it has a 36" waist, but with vanity sizing a size 36 now often has a 40+" waist.

    As for whether would I pay more for a smaller size, NO! I'd rather go to a thrift store or discount store and pay cheaper prices for clothing (which is often made in the same horrible conditions overseas but given different tags to inflate prices) then if I really can't stand the tag I'll cut it out. No lying sizing tag is ever worth an inflated price tag! - 5/25/2013   12:28:58 AM
  • 618
    I hate vanity sizing. At some stores I'm an 8, others a 10 (most common) and some a 12. I hate it the most when I'm a different size in the same store. I'll pick up 4 pairs of size 10 jeans and only one will fit.... - 5/25/2013   12:22:07 AM
  • 617
    I would not pay that price for a lower size.....I buy what fits me. I hate clothes shopping because I have to try every pair of pants on as sizes are not standard sizing. One store I found a size 1/2 I could wear another place I wore a 0 and the last place I wore a 1. for me shopping for clothes is so frustrating...... - 5/24/2013   11:59:59 PM
  • 616
    I am much too frugal (read: cheap, lol) to pay more just for a lower size. I think it is much better just to buy something that fits well, as it will look better that way anyway.

    I find it incredibly frustrating that manufacturers mess around with sizes.

    - 5/24/2013   11:50:29 PM
  • 615
    Or they change the size of the exact same item from one year to the next. 2 years ago, I bought several pairs of yoga pants and exercise capris in size 18. They fit perfectly. Still do. Last year, I picked up several pairs of the same style and manufacturer and size, and they're all a size smaller. 18's this year were 16's the year before, which is the opposite of what this article is discussing. Really? - 5/24/2013   11:35:32 PM
  • 614
    It drives me crazy. We are fooling no one with vanity sizes and it just keeps us disillusioned at what our size really is...I suppose some can say that they are the same size as they were in highschool...not so much! I have a really hard time shopping as I live in South Korea and most stores except 2 don't carry my size. And the Big and Tall stores that they have here, (one feels good walking in those doors), carry too large sizes. I would love to shop online but vanity sizing makes it impossible. So when I go back to Canada for a visit, I stock up on clothes in my size and a couple sizes smaller as I am in the process of losing weight. Currently my size is 10, 13, 14 and 16....what's a girl to do!? - 5/24/2013   11:30:43 PM
  • 613
    I, for one, am not fooled or coerced into buying a smaller numerical size number, when very obviously my body has not changed sizes.

    In my city, there is a wonderful thrift store which benefits a worthwhile charity. Many of the wealthier women in our community donate their designer clothes there.

    I have gotten my favorites: Talbots, Chaus, and others for less than $10 per item. I could care less about the number in the label; but I love the excellent fabrics, cutting patterns, fit and style of the better quality clothes.

    I realize that buying used clothes may not be for everybody (took me a while to get used to the idea), but I love saving money, contributing to a worthwhile public cause, AND getting wonderful clothes into the bargain.

    On the whole, I find the idea of vanity pricing deplorable! How dumb do they think we are?

    - 5/24/2013   11:29:18 PM
  • 612
    I must confess, I didn't know about vanity sizing and I am probably a victim. I have not be overweight my whole life, and when I started over 10 years to put on 55 lbs, I insisted on staying in the same size. I loved stores that ran larger in some garments. I can't say I shop premium though, I hate shopping all together before I even gained weight. I'm down nearly 20 lbs now from my heaviest, but still, I loath the thought of going up a size. Now I know, I have gone up a size...lol. Jokes on me! - 5/24/2013   11:21:41 PM
  • 611
    The heck with different stores, how about some brands. I went into a local store and tried on 3 size 14 jeans, all by the same maker!

    One size fit, and the others were almost a size smaller. What the heck!! The same thing happened when I tried on another brand in the same store. I ended up buying the 2 pair of pricier jeans that were sized correctly. They fit well and I know I can buy those 2 brands at any store that carries them - I hope.

    It was one of the most frustrating afternoons I have ever spent. - 5/24/2013   10:54:19 PM
  • 610
    Vanity sizing is horrible, I hate being different sizes in different stores. But what really frustrates me is when the sizing in the store isn't consistent. I have walked into a store, picked up two pairs of jeans identical in cut, color and size and have one fit perfectly and the other I can barely squeeze into. - 5/24/2013   10:27:51 PM
  • 609
    I don't care what the size is I just buy what is comfortable and priced right. - 5/24/2013   10:23:50 PM
  • 608
    Ha! I would not pay more for a smaller size. Id leave the store and find a cheaper duplicate item. - 5/24/2013   10:14:40 PM
  • 607
    I hate vanity sizes. I know it's a lie, so it doesn't even matter. I refuse to shop at places like Lane Bryant and Torrid (I'm just about 'too small' to shop there anyway). When I was at my biggest size, I wore a size "6" pair of jeans...I didn't actually "feel better" because I knew that it actually meant size 26. I only bought them because I couldn't find my size in normal department stores. It does nothing to help me feel better. It's obvious that when you shop in a plus size store, and you're seeing "size 0" it's NOT size 0....they just think we're fools or something. - 5/24/2013   9:01:51 PM
  • 606
    Mind games. I realized some time ago that different "standard" sizes fit me differently depending on the brand. I have totally given up on buying any article of clothing online. I have gotten pretty good on sizing up things like dresses and blouses in person without having to actually try them on, but bottoms are "must try on" items. I'm not too caught up with wearing a certain size as long as the articles fit well and are flattering. - 5/24/2013   8:58:20 PM

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