Monday, August 7, 2006

Vanity Sizing

As part of my day job, I receive various news about the retailing industry—from which, I bring you the following abuse of numbers, apparently particular to women’s clothing.

ABC News’ Good Morning America recently reported about “vanity sizes” in women’s clothing:

[C]onsidering pop culture’s obsession with thinness, for many women no size is too small.

“I had, one time, a client who said, ‘I get into a 10 now,’ ” said Bridgette Raes, a fashion consultant. “She was originally a size 14. When she could get into a 10, and then into an 8, she was like, ‘I know that it was a lie, I know that this really isn’t a 10, but I love the fact that the label says 10.’”

That may be the thinking behind vanity sizing — which means clothes are cut bigger, but sized smaller.

“Manufacturers and brands are trying to really make women feel good about buying their brand,” said Marshall Cohen, a retail industry analyst. “If you were worried about being a size 14 or 16, I can make you feel great by a size 10 or 12.”

One size 0 could have a waistline of 28 inches, which is, according to American Society of Textile and Material, a size 10.

It’s not a new topic. This article, from The Arizona Republic in 2004, indicates that vanity sizing has been around a long time, and when efforts periodically emerged to (re)standardize women’s sizing, the apparel manufacturers ignored them. By contrast, men’s clothing sizes have largely stayed the same over time.

I suspect most women understand vanity sizing, and per the article, many appreciate it. So among the sins of misusing numbers, stretching the standard-sizing truth is like a white lie that everyone’s in on. After all, if the scale doesn’t lie, clothes can at least fib.


  1. In related news, the following is from "Sizing up how they shop can put women in the right frame of mind,", 8/16/2006:
    Talbot's recently conducted a national fit survey of more than 2,200 women ages 35 to 65. The results are not surprising, but they do confirm how warped our logic is when it comes to getting dressed:
    • Eighty-five percent of women determine whether something fits based on the size tag rather than appearance.
    • Sixty-two percent of women surveyed said they consider items only in their specific size.
    • Ninety-four percent of the women surveyed do not wear all of their clothes on a regular basis. Forty percent admitted to buying clothes they planned to fit into when they lose weight; 33 percent have clothes in their closet that are too small; 36 percent own unworn apparel that needs to be tailored.

  2. The British Standards Institute is addressing this problem with BS-EN13402, which calls for a pictogram with actual measurements in centimeters. It is due for release sometime in 2007. I have been ready for the new labelling since 1983, when my measurements "went metric"