While shopping for clothes online or in a store, one always asks themselves, “What size am I?” This is because today there is no longer one answer. To label clothing with size, such as extra-small or extra-large, is one way to either destroy a customer’s confidence or increase it. In recent years, as the size of most Americans grew, the sizing label on their clothes shrunk due to vanity sizing.


Vanity Sizing Chart Source: whoworewhat
Vanity Sizing Chart
Source: whoworewhat

Vanity sizing is when a larger item of clothing is marked down to be a smaller size by the manufacturer with the intention of making the potential buyer feel confident as if she is an extra small when she is a medium. These manufacturers add extra inches of fabric to articles of clothing without changing the sizing label. Shopping has always been a numbers game, entering shops and having to ask the salesperson for a larger size can be harmful to a person’s confidence, prompting them to leave without spending money- vanity sizing is the sly way to end that problem.  The Washington Post conducted a study on the changes of women’s clothing sizes since the year 1956 to today, and what they found is absurd. A dress that is marked size 8 in 1956 is the equivalent of a dress smaller than size 00 today. However, the increasing amount of 0’s being added onto size guides is not the result of populations losing weight; it is the result of brands adding fabric. As more brands follow the trend of vanity sizing, the women who are more petite fit into clothing labeled subzero to allow for women with larger number labels to move into the 1-8 range.

When I was younger I fit into medium size clothing but squeezed into smaller sizes because I felt embarrassed about my size. Salespeople typically assumed that due to my short height my body was small too. Instead of correcting them, I would buy clothes too small for me. Sometimes, I would leave without an article of clothing that I liked because I did not want to ask for the larger size.

Differences of a Size 8 Source: The New York Times
Differences of a Size 8
Source: The New York Times


The striking graphic shown above published by The New York Times displays a Size 8 throughout nine different brands. It is presented that a women wearing size 8 in Valentino must have a size 27-inch waist, the same woman would drown in the fabric of a size 8 Dolce and Gabbana, which is a 31-inch waist.

Brandy Melville “one size fits all” Source: Buzzfeed
Brandy Melville “one size fits all”
Source: Buzzfeed

The simple truth is that in our world that praises one size fits all and subzero sizes, fitting into a small size makes most women feel more beautiful. Manufacturers realized that flattering the customer by leading them to believe they are a smaller size would increase their sales. The confidence and size small label encourages the buyer to purchase the item of clothing just as the manufacturers intended. Size has become through social media, such as Instagram, the new way to calculate women and girl’s self-worth and love of themselves. As Susan Head, body- image specialized says in a Cosmopolitan article about vanity sizing, “The idea of a size 0 is disturbing… It suggests that to be pretty and feminine, women need to disappear.”


Leave a Reply