Shopping for clothes used to be a nightmare for me. I would walk into one store and wear a size x and feel like life was so sweet and then walk into another store and find the only thing that fit me were size y’s. My hands would start shaking as I stared at myself in the dressing room mirror and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. It doesn’t make any sense, I would think to myself. I can wear 2 sizes smaller in Old Navy brand. My frustration with vanity sizing and my obsession with the number inside of my pants reached such an extreme that I threw them all out in a fit of rage and vowed never to try on a pair again. I can’t bear the thought of putting myself through mental torture again and even though I am in total body positive mode, I know I would crumble under the pressure of the tag. Today I wear dresses full time because their sizes typically don’t revolve around a number and when I finally did break down and purchase a pair of pants, they were the awesome, stretchy kind on Modcloth that come in sizes XS, S, M, L, or XL.
Vanity sizing, the process in which retailers label their clothing with smaller sizes than they actually are, exists solely to bolster the consumer’s self esteem and therefore the consumer is more apt to continue making purchases from that store’s brand. Wouldn’t you feel more confident purchasing jeans from a store where you wear a size 2 than from a store where you are a size 8? The problem is it can be extremely frustrating as a consumer when you are clueless as to what your size is because there are no standardized sizes across the board. It also leads to misconceptions about sizes and people placing value on themselves based on a dress size. People commonly point to a full figured size 14 Marilyn Monroe but due to vanity sizing, that size 14 would be considered a 4 by today’s standards. The matter seems to only be getting worse, as J. Crew debuted its latest size: the 000. I am all for being inclusive to all shapes and sizes but when the average size of a woman living in the USA is a 14 and the average size being ordered by retailers are sizes 4-8, I have to call foul. The creation of these subzero sizes (that most women will never be able to fit in because it simply isn’t in their bone structure) and our society’s obsession with getting as thin as humanly possible creates a toxic outcome. Chalk it up to laziness on designers part for not wanting to fuss over complications that come with larger sizes (with curves and deviations from straight patterns come time and effort) or chalk it up to the stigmatization of “fat”.
Vanity sizing likely isn’t going anywhere for a while so what can we do? Avoid deceptive media that skews the perception of what average bodies look like. Celebrities are anything but average and you have no idea how they attained their bodies. When Kim Kardashian came out as a size 2, I literally threw my hands up in the air. I’ve since learned you cannot trust their stats or pretty much anything else the media throws your way. Stores need to offer a wider selection for their size 14+ shoppers so if you notice a lack of options, take to their social media pages and ask for it. It works.The most important thing that I cannot stress enough is that you understand that your value is not determined by the size (or your weight or any other number) of your clothes. I feel a little hypocritical proclaiming this because I struggle with this as well but there is so much truth to it. Have you ever gotten a job based on your dress size? Likely not, unless you are a model. Upon meeting new people, do they ask for your pants size to determine your friend potential? If they do, I suggest you find new friends. When we redefine the very beauty standards that work to manipulate and control us, we can put the power back in our hands.