Vanity Sizing

After years working in consignment (and being an avid thrift shopper!) I have ultimately heard every line in the book when it comes to the frustrations of shopping for clothing. Many women are instantly hung up on size above everything else and walk away without giving it a second thought. At the store I worked at we often said if we could do it over again we would cut the size out of every item we received so that women would try it on before making a decision.

This isn’t coming from a selling perspective but rather a fit one. We think of ourselves in terms of size rather than the individual unique beings that we are. The image I have shared has been circulating around the internet for quite some time, although I’m not sure of its origin as it has been turned into many memes its still a powerful statement. The caption is usually a variation of “which one of these women weighs 154lbs?” The twist of course being that they all allegedly weigh the exact same.

We all carry weight differently. We have varying heights. Our shape is unique to us.

Recently I started talking about my own weight struggle, having gained 30lbs while working at a very stressful job in just one year. I was so unhappy, I felt huge every time I looked in the mirror and while a lot of that can be contributed to body dysmorphia, it also has to do with how we perceive ourselves against what is portrayed in the media. It wasn’t something I was talking about.

I’m a medium, I’m a 6… these don’t mean anything because we aren’t these things. In the 1980’s designers took it upon themselves to abandon standard sizing and began the process of “vanity sizing” so that their potential buyers would feel better about being a smaller size. Not only is this misleading and inconsistent – its far more damaging to our self esteem – the exact thing they were trying to boost in a backwards kind of way. Next time you hold up a top from H&M and it says “10” you could very well be looking at a garment that wouldn’t fit an average size 4 woman let alone one that is an average 10.

What is an average 10 you ask? That’s just the point, there is no true size now.

I stumbled across a website that allows you to put in your measurements and it will show you approximately what size you are in a variety of brands. Sounds useful so I thought I would give it a try. I can tell you for a fact its not perfectly accurate as they have listed a Silver Jeans size 5 for me and let me tell you, there has never (in the 20 years I’ve been working with clothing) has any pair of Silver Jeans ever fit me…. especially not a size 5. But this has everything to do with the cut and shape – there is no stretch and they don’t take into account someone that has thick thighs. However the website wasn’t wrong about a lot of the brands that I do wear… its just missing the mark for my body shape.

The problem is not your weight or the fact that you haven’t spent $100,000 on plastic surgery. Its the media’s obsession with size. (You’ve seen how they went crazy over Adele!) I can be anywhere from a small to an extra large, a 4 to a 12. It all depends on the brand, the cut, the spandex content and overall fit. My best advice? Ignore the label, try it on. If you’re struggling to get it on, stop, grab a bigger size. If the number on the tag matters to you that strongly, cut it off… no one will ever know.

Wear what fits you, flatters your figure and is perfect for your body… stop losing out because of the number it claims to be.


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