Have you heard of vanity sizing? It’s the gradual increase over time in how we define our clothing sizes. Vanity sizing is a trick that clothing manufacturers play on consumers to make us feel better about the clothes we’re buying from them. For example, they might make a size 10 skirt, but label it as size 8.
You’ve heard that Marilyn Monroe wore a size 14? She was gorgeous and a size 14, so why should today’s size 14 gal worry about her waist? A blog called True Life covered this topic in 2007:
Marilyn was a size 14…back in 1950. Kate Dillon is still smokin’ hot (and I like the red hair, so I’d say hotter than Marilyn…and how can you not love that green swimsuit???) but her 14 is not Marilyn’s 14.
Vanity sizing is the reason why you may prefer Old Navy jeans to Gap jeans or Target jeans, or vice versa. It’s the reason why you may have to buy boutique-style clothing two sizes “bigger” than ready-to-wear off-the rack clothes.
It’s sneaky, and we let them do it, because we’re vain.
And I’ll be honest – I thought it was something they only did to women.
Let’s look at women’s clothing sizes: 00, 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 and so on. Those “sizes” don’t mean anything – a size 10 jean doesn’t mean one has a 10-inch waist. Then there’s the ridiculous S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL size chart – pretty subjective. Some plus size clothing manufacturers have even tried to eliminate the standard prejudices associated with the previous two systems and use vague 1, 2, 3, 4 designations for clothing – especially clothing that would normally fall into the XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL system like shirts and dresses, or other other clothes that can adjust via belts, ties, adjustable straps, or *shudder* elastic.
Since the scales (hehehe) are subjective, I can understand how there’s some fudge factor room in creating women’s clothing in one size and calling it a smaller size. You convince a woman that your store’s size 14 fits here, and if she goes to another store (that doesn’t vanity size as much) she’ll have to buy a size 16. Ugh! I would rather wear the 14 if given the choice!
Men’s clothing is more standardized. A 32″ waist means the waist measures 32″ around. There’s not a lot a room to maneuver here.
Unless they just…lie.
Esquire Magazine’s “The Style Blog” published an article by Adam Sauer yesterday about vanity sizing – or “down-waisting” – of men’s clothing. On a recent shopping trip he carried along a tailor’s measuring tape and got the skinny (yes! pun-ilicious) on some big (ooops, I did it again! mwah ha ha!) names: