What is Your True Size?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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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. Report
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?? Report
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... Report
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! Report
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.
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! Report
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. Report
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). Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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.
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. Report
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. Report
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 Report
NO! I want clothes to be standard and true-to-size! Report
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? Report
I have two pairs of old navy jeans - one size twenty is a bit snug and another I can fit 16 with no problem... Report
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. Report
Nah. I won't spend extra cash unless it is an unusual piece. I really care about the fit of a piece of clothing. Report
In one store I'm a size ten in another I'm a size four. I don't dare buy anything without trying it on. Report
Vanity sizing isn't making anyone feel better, it's just making them more confused. I can't order clothing online unless they have a size chart, and even that isn't always reliable. The number on the tag is as unimportant as the number on the scale. Instead of feeding into that "must be a certain size" mentality, designers, and retailers need to leave clothes be, and let people heal their body issues for real.

Not to mention places removing super small sizes so "bigger" women don't get offended. (Walmart removing size 0s for example) Some women are very petite, and tiny by nature, and they need clothing too. It's just discriminating, and again makes no one feel better. Report
I'm more interested in whether the people making the clothes I'm wearing have decent wages than a number on a tag... Report
Do people actually pay more to have a smaller size? I know that I don't care what the label says as long as I can find clothes that fit. Give me width and length instead of a random size any day. Report
Frankly, I would prefer if they kept things constant. Why? I would WORK to stay in a 10. Instead, I'm a 14, because I feel like no matter what I do, I'm going to need a bigger size anyway, because the next time I shop, they will change things again. So I'm never quite sure if it's me who changes or them. It's one of the reasons I like making my clothes. The pattern sizes are consistent, and from what I see, they are consistent brand to brand. So when I was an 18, I stopped, and made a choice. I'm now between a 12 and 14 (which means I have to buy both pattern sizes, because packets change over then). That feels good! None of this "Oh, the store changed, not me" business. Report
I think this is partly why people are heavier today. I was a size 10 in college and am a size 10 now but I am 30 lbs heavier. But I'm still a size 10 I probably would have been more inclined to work on weight loss sooner if my size would have changed more. Report
Yes this is SO annoying! I am really sorry consumers are falling for this. My biggest pet peeve is bra sizes. DD and DDD? No- it is E and F !!! Report
I have never really run into this, but I only buy clothes at Walmart, Kmart, & Sear when they are on sale. The size on the tag makes me feel bad but I won't spend more than $20 on pants. I'm on too tight of a budget with kids to worry about my vanity. When I try on pants I usually take 2 sizes of the same pants in just to get what looks better on me. So if I have an 18 in one style and a 20W in another that's what I have. Report
I can remember when 34 24 34 was a size 14 Report
I think all sizes should be the same across the board. Unless your jean size is printed on the outside of your jeans who will know your size? Do you have to prove it when you tell someone your a size 4? I think how you look and feel should be enough. I know for sure I would not pay extra money for a smaller size. I guess I am not vain..

I would pay money just to be ONE size again! It's ridiculous...I'm now again what used to be a size 6, but am buying size 2's (when I can find them). Only Juniors reliably have anything to fit me and very few age appropriate styles! Arghh!

Good thing I'm a pack rat and still have some clothes in my closet from high school and college that are decent styles and can look professional! Report
Sure being a smaller size would be nice but I would want that smaller size to be real and not a vanity size. Report
I stopped paying attention to the "size" number a few years back and always hit the clearance racks. If pants don't have a waist line and inseam like on the guys pants, I do an eyeball measure of the hips. Does it reach the center of both hips, before it makes the try on pile. The one online/catalog store I buy from has resorted to XS,S,M,L,XL,XXL...find your range and your done, with free return shipping. Report
The whole idea sucks, and it seems to only affect women's clothing. Maybe this is why it so much easier for guys to shop. Report
More important than the variation between manufacturers is the change in sizing over the decades. Read the link in the article which includes:
"To see vanity sizing in action, just take a look back at the sizing of yore. Marilyn Monroe, whose voluptuous body required a size 16 in the '50s, was actually more of a 6/8 by today's standards, Laur says. Generally speaking, clothing sized in the 1950s can be cut in half for an idea of today's mainstream sizing"
Vanity sizing contributed to my weight gain. I was still the same size after gaining 25 pounds! Report
Not only am I 3 to 4 different sized in various different stores, I'm petite so that makes it even worse. And on top of that I have a small waist so finding clothes that don't leave a 3 inch gap at the waist is next to impossible. Oh yeah, did I mention that my hips are wider than my top half so to find dresses or shirts that fit on the top and the bottom is an impossibility. It's so crazy that so many women would spend the extra money on something they know isn't actually any smaller. I'd be more concerned with the number on the scale than the number on the jeans. The number on the scale is what really matters the most (and that you're happy and healthy). If you are a good weight for your height then get over the size on the jeans. Report
This is why I loathe shopping these days, it takes way too long because I literally have to try on EVERYTHING due to sizing differences. Shopping is supposed to be a fun thing, right? Not for me; I avoid it as much as I can because I know how much of a daunting task it will be. There's no reason it should take over an hour to find one article of clothing (although I have to admit, I think my picky personality also comes into play here, but nonetheless it would still be much easier if sizes were uniform across stores!) Report
It is a mess. I also think that the vanity sizing is worse in the larger sizes. It does vary a lot from store to store in sizes 8-12 but the definition of 14 and 16 is truly elastic. I have gained 30 pounds in the last 3 years but I am still able to find some 16's and an occasional 14 that fit so I don't have to shop plus sizes. Now 30 pounds ago I was a 14, almost 16.

FYI: If you want to know what size you are in old fashioned terms you can check your measurements on a traditional dress pattern. I had a bit of a shock when I was almost an 18 in Vogue patterns. I haven't checked for a while so I'm probably a 20 now.

Crazy, isn't it!? At 18 years old, I weight 95 pounds and wore size 10. Today, I weigh in around 105 and wear size 2 or 4. Ridiculous. At my heaviest, 136 pounds, I still was wearing only size 8. Report
I would NOT pay extra just for the tag to read a smaller size. And as a blogger pointed out, it's not the stores, it's the merchandiser who determines the sizes. Vanity sizing is ridiculous and quite frankly I find it to be insulting and manipulative. Report
I wouldn't pay extra just to have a smaller size either and I WISH there were some sort of truth in labeling law that applied to clothing sizes so we could simplify sizing and know what size we should buy. But having been at weight loss and maintenance issues for a long time I do know what clothing lines to buy in what size will be right for me and now can just order online or grab off racks, none of that frustrating and in my opinion unsanitary practice of trying on clothes in the store. Lol, thank you for this blog and letting me rant on the silliness of vanity sizing. Report
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