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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1CRAZYDOG 12/28/2019
AMEN AMEN AMEN! I don't know what, if anything, can be done to change this trend, but it is seemingly here to stay.

Just have to disregard size and find what fits and looks and feels good on you. Easier said than done sometimes.

OH, and (many moons ago) when shopping for a bridal gown, it was sooooo utterly disheartening! That venue DEFINITELY is way askew in their sizing. Ended up redoing my Mom's wedding dress for my own wedding dress. I am so glad I did. In that case, vanity sizing may have just been a blessing in disguise. Report
PATRICIAAK 12/20/2019
:) Report
Thanks! Report
Thx so much! Report
Sizing for bras and other undergarments is a nightmare! Report
Now add all these shopping for the right size issues to having to also shop for talls. The same vanity sizing happens to those. I use to be able to buy a tall or long off the rack now I have try them on. I am 6 foot tall and all legs. I will ask for a tall jean and when I try it on I look like I’m wading in water. The “talls” are about 34” inseam regular is 32” but I need a 36” or longer. I will mention my problem to someone and they say “oh you can buy them at ... that’s where I buy my tall jeans” and they are 4 inches shorter than me. Really!! Report
I am in a size 12 and has been for years. I am comfortable with my size. I would not pay more for a smaller size. Report
I carry a measuring tape in my purse to check waistbands and arm to arm on garments if I am not sure of the size Report
In the sewing world our clothes are six inches larger. I make a lot of my own garments so I don't pay attention to sizes. I make the clothes that fit my style. I have ever purchased sweater material to make sweaters. I don't compair myself by size or scale. As long as I eat healthy and exercise I carry my weight well and paportioned. Report
It's a struggle, but I've learned that the size of my pants doesn't matter. What's more important is my health. I once cried because most of my clothes were 10's but when I went to an athletic store to get new workout clothes, I had to buy a 16. Report
It drives me nuts that i have to try on every piece of clothes before i buy it to make sure it fits. I have a hard time finding clothes and also have a more womanly figure with more hip and butt than most ckothes allow for. I hate shopping for clothes ecause of all this Report
Correction. Many women's waist size is double the neck size.... Report
A little tip for pants shopping. Using pants that are comfortable and fit well, close the fastening and wrap the waistband around your neck. Many women's waist size is approximately half the neck size. Note how much gap or overlap is showing. The next time you go shopping, use this trick as a starting point. Sure saves time in the dressing room. Report
Informative. Report
Yes the sizing is terrible. I can by and item in a couple different colors and none of them fit the same. The only thing different between the article of clothing is the color. No matter where you shop too it’s the same thing whether you are in a store with inexpensive clothing or high end / high priced clothing. Report
If you sew, you will find that sizes among patterns are consistent, are based on a standard set of body measurements, and do not change. Most women would be shocked to find out their "true" sized based solely on body measurements. For example, most of my RTW jeans, shorts, and skirts are size 6. Well according to my actual body measurements, I wear size 12 -14 in a pattern size! Pattern sizes have remained the same while RTW is all over the place. In the 1980s I wore a size 5 or 7. Now I wear a 6. But I'm 25 lbs heavier than I was then. Go figure... Report
I will buy the sz 12 and spend LESS money. When someone tells me they used to be a 12 when they were 40-50 lbs more than I am, I squint my eyes & look at them sideways. (Well, not really, LOL) . When the weight loss ad on TV person claims to be a 6 when I know I haven't worn a 6 for 30 yrs........NO! I still will spend the least amount of $$$ irregardless of the size. Report
It's very annoying that there is no standard size, especially when you have to order by mail. On the other hand, it's good I am forced to try clothes on when in a store, because sometimes even when clothes fit, it turns out that some of the styles don't look good on me. Report
thanks Report
I buy men's jeans and go by measurements LOL since I just wear jeans and tops makes it a whole lot easier. One perk of retirement LOL Report
Consistent sizing WOULD make it so much easier to know where to start, though for me it'd still rarely be an "off the rack" sale like men can often do. There's too many variables for women: will this work for my boob size and vertical placement?
My shoulders are broad, is this right for that? Conversely, my mom's shoulders are sloped - a bigger problem. Will the sleeves be long enough? (Long limbs).

Also I don't think the "will you buy the same thing at the more expensive store" is meant to be that literal. It's more: will the average shopper buy MORE clothes in a line/store with smaller size numbering than they would if they were shopping the same line with higher numbering? Will they be more likely to buy the same item at a lower size than they would be to buy it if it was labelled at higher sizing? When dealing with trends, it's all about probabilities, not direct comparisons.
Oh, so frustrated!
I thought my days of struggling to find clothes that fit would be over once I was a healthy weight. Nope!

Personally, I don't give a darn about what the label says. If it fits, looks good on me, and I like it, I buy it.

And, hey, if I want it to say a smaller size, I can buy the "bigger size label" at the cheaper store, and change it with a marker when I get home. :)

eta - oh, yeah, and I have noticed that sizing has really changed in the last 20 years (presumably because of this vanity sizing thing); 20 years ago when I worked in retail, and was about the same size that I have now achieved again, I wore a size 10 petite/8 regular. That same size (same measurements) now gets me a size 4-6 in the store. Report
When on the rare occasion when my husband is shopping for new clothes, he picks something off the rack or shelf and starts to march off to the checkout area. Me: "Don't you want to try that on?" Him (puzzled): "Why? It's my size." And the annoying part is that it almost always fits when we get home. Apparently in ManLand, a size something-or-other is the same whether you buy it at Target or Nordstroms. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
If I see a dress that I like I would try one and as long as it fit well I am gone.. Report
I have always shopped by price and what looks good on me, and not the size. I took me years to figure out what looks good on me, and so now I stick to classic pieces versus trendy that work for me. Report
Personally, as long as the clothes fit and look good, I don't care what the size. Report
I look for the european sizing thesedays as it seems more reliable.

I don't care what the size says just so long as the item fits well and is a flattering style. Report
I think it was in one of my earliest blogs here on Spark that I spoke about this issue. I went out one day to do some clothes shopping in the sales and came home with items from various stores in wildly different sizes. Including two coats from two different shops. One fitted quite snugly and was a size 18. I have never, ever, been a size 18 nor anywhere near it. The other had a little bit of room [say for wearing a chunky jumper] and was a size 10! At the time I was realistically around a size 12. Yep - it happens here in the UK too. Report
The is strictly an American (USA) phenomenon. Another way ad agencies and marketers get us to spend money. Insanity! Report
When I was in high school there was no such thing as a size 0. And now I’m heavier than I was then but wear a smaller size! Certainly doesn’t make sense! Report
Thank you Report
This is absolutely ridiculous and very frustrating for us shoppers! Report
I don't pay much attention to sizes because of vanity sizing and definitely wouldn't pay more for a smaller than normal size. Sheesh! Report
I wouldn't pay more, but I know some who would! Report
"...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."
--- I do not believe that this statement was based on a valid research. Who would spend $30 more just to have a size sewn into their clothing. I do believe that the size variations are a vanity thing.

I think most women just find something they like in a size they can wear and go with it. Size label doesn't matter if the clothing is a good fit.

Just wanted to add, I am a "real" woman and my size is lower than 12. Stop with the "real" women insults. Report
It is a load of nonsense. I want to buy clothes that fit. I don't care what number the label is. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
I would not spend extra money just for a smaller number on a tag.....I'm wearing the clothes NOT the tag...shame on the clothing industry for doing that! Report
I think it's ridiculous. The whole point of having the tag in the first place is to know which ones fit. Now that's out the window. Report
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? Report
thanks Report
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! Report
Interesting article. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
I think it would be great to have the measurements as sizes like men do. That would at least get rid of 1 problem. Report