Vanity Sizing

Cardigan and Dress Pants
Black Flower Flats (Please ignore the wrinkled pants, it was a long day!)
Braided Chain Necklace Detail

Like the outfit? See more details here!

We’ve been talking about the differences between men and women in my Buyer Behavior class, and vanity sizing came up as a notable difference for clothing. Men have no concept of “vanity sizing”, as their clothes are factual numbers based on measurements of their body. If they need a size 30 x 34 or 40 x 42, that’s just the size they need, at any store, at any given time. Then we come to women… with sizes from 0-24W! My husband often asks me to explain size 0, as he doesn’t understand how anyone can wear a “nothing”.

On the rare occasion that he goes shopping with me, he never understands why I pull the items in 3 different sizes, because I might usually be size XYZ at this store, but they could have recently changed the cut of their clothing. Then, there’s the “normal” size I usually pull first, and I put it on and it’s HUGE. Now, I don’t really have body image or size issues, so this type of dressing room conundrum is generally a red flag for vanity sizing. As a marketer, it’s actually a little humorous to see just how low I can go with a size, to see how much “vanity” is built into that store’s clothing. The most recent incident? It was a full 2 sizes down, and the item was still a touch loose! I know full well that I’m NOT size XYZ minus two, and I find this marketing tactic to be a little shady. Have women really bought into the arbitrary size number so much that retailers must play this game? Apparently so, as everyone single girl in my class, and all of my friends, have some story about a time when they managed to fit into a size that is much smaller than “normal”.

Then there’s the issue of tailoring, which means that just because the tag in the garment says size XYZ, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the case. Take the back-in-style hourglass figure, where the waist is significantly smaller than the bust and hips. Most hourglass women will need to tailor in the waist, meaning that the size in the garment no longer matches the size of the piece. So, do you buy to fit the biggest part, knowing you’ll tailor it down, and then feel good about the new tailored size? But then there’s that silly number (which, as we’ve already discussed, has no real value or factual measurement attributed to it) staring at you every time you wear the piece. If it’s an arbitrary number that haunts women, why don’t the tailors just take it out? In fact, why don’t we band together to thwart the marketers by purchasing any item that fits, and then ripping out the tags? Some marketers base their whole strategy on making women feel “better” about themselves by utilizing vanity sizing, but I think we’ll eventually adjust to a new “normal” based on the vanity sizing. I enjoy contemplating these marketing dilemmas, since they directly affect me on a regular basis. With all the “real women” campaigns over the past few years, I think it’s time for the retail clothing makers to jump on board! It might be wise to take a cue from our European counterparts… they size based waist measurement. Not perfect, but it’s a start!

Have a vanity sizing story to share? Post it in the comments! Like the outfit? See more details here!

2 thoughts on “Vanity Sizing

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