What is Your True Size?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I don’t know about you, but for the past several years clothes shopping has become more of a headache than the nice enjoyable activity it once was. Sadly, for me the fun is long gone and is replaced with countless hours of frustrations. There was once a time I could go into any store, pick something right off the rack, make a purchase and go home. But not today. That would be too easy.

Like a hunter searching for his prey, I head out early in the morning just as the stores are opening while I still have the energy for what I presume to be a day long mission. After trying pants after pants, hour after hour, store after store, I find myself literally worn out heading home more times than not dejected and empty handed.

While the styles and trends do count for many of my frustrations--I am not a BIG fan of the low rise trend--just finding a size has become a chore. In one store I can easily be a size 4, in another a size 6, and yet another I could wear a size 8. And let’s not even talk about online purchases without knowing beforehand my size in a store. Why is that?

Well the answer lies within a sales tactic that clothing manufacturers discreetly call vanity sizing.

So what exactly is vanity sizing and how did it come to be?

Knowing how women are glued to being a certain size, the clothing manufacturers researched and learned that women like being a smaller size. As a consequence, the manufacturers discovered that women are willing to spend more money just to have a smaller size on a tag. In other words if you have two pairs of identical jeans with the same identical waist measurements--one store labels it a size 10 priced for $20 and another store labels it a size 6 for $50, according to the research, more of us would choose the latter just to have the smaller size in our closet. This trend is especially more prevalent in higher end stores where sizes tend to run smaller even though they are the exact numeric size as their less expensive counterparts.

Because there is no industry standard, we, as women, must succumb to the scrutiny of looking high and low for the perfect size in EACH individual store. As a result, when I find the size I can wear at that particular store, I come home and put all the data in an Excel spreadsheet. So the next time I am in search of the perfect pant, jean, blouse, etc. all I have to do is pull out my handy-dandy cheat sheet and just pray that the clothing manufacturers haven’t decided to re-vanity size their items since my last shopping escapade.

I would like to believe I am one standard size, as it was in days of my youth, but that is now a thing of the past. This is one reason why we, as women, need to liberate ourselves from the size on the tag and just buy what fits regardless of the games the manufacturers are willing to play.

Would you spend more money just to have a smaller tag on an article of clothing? How much more would you be willing to spend for that smaller size tag? Do you find it frustrating that there is no standard sizing between stores?

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KHALIA2 3/8/2019
I am in a size 12 and has been for years. I am comfortable with my size. I would not pay more for a smaller size. Report
LIS193 12/20/2018
I carry a measuring tape in my purse to check waistbands and arm to arm on garments if I am not sure of the size Report
In the sewing world our clothes are six inches larger. I make a lot of my own garments so I don't pay attention to sizes. I make the clothes that fit my style. I have ever purchased sweater material to make sweaters. I don't compair myself by size or scale. As long as I eat healthy and exercise I carry my weight well and paportioned. Report
CATHY2K18 11/5/2018
It's a struggle, but I've learned that the size of my pants doesn't matter. What's more important is my health. I once cried because most of my clothes were 10's but when I went to an athletic store to get new workout clothes, I had to buy a 16. Report
HEALTH4LIFE2012 11/5/2018
It drives me nuts that i have to try on every piece of clothes before i buy it to make sure it fits. I have a hard time finding clothes and also have a more womanly figure with more hip and butt than most ckothes allow for. I hate shopping for clothes ecause of all this Report
Correction. Many women's waist size is double the neck size.... Report
A little tip for pants shopping. Using pants that are comfortable and fit well, close the fastening and wrap the waistband around your neck. Many women's waist size is approximately half the neck size. Note how much gap or overlap is showing. The next time you go shopping, use this trick as a starting point. Sure saves time in the dressing room. Report
Informative. Report
SAMKELAM1 9/26/2018
Yes the sizing is terrible. I can by and item in a couple different colors and none of them fit the same. The only thing different between the article of clothing is the color. No matter where you shop too it’s the same thing whether you are in a store with inexpensive clothing or high end / high priced clothing. Report
LISALU910 9/26/2018
If you sew, you will find that sizes among patterns are consistent, are based on a standard set of body measurements, and do not change. Most women would be shocked to find out their "true" sized based solely on body measurements. For example, most of my RTW jeans, shorts, and skirts are size 6. Well according to my actual body measurements, I wear size 12 -14 in a pattern size! Pattern sizes have remained the same while RTW is all over the place. In the 1980s I wore a size 5 or 7. Now I wear a 6. But I'm 25 lbs heavier than I was then. Go figure... Report
MONDAYLINS 9/26/2018
I will buy the sz 12 and spend LESS money. When someone tells me they used to be a 12 when they were 40-50 lbs more than I am, I squint my eyes & look at them sideways. (Well, not really, LOL) . When the weight loss ad on TV person claims to be a 6 when I know I haven't worn a 6 for 30 yrs........NO! I still will spend the least amount of $$$ irregardless of the size. Report
BOOKNUT52 9/26/2018
It's very annoying that there is no standard size, especially when you have to order by mail. On the other hand, it's good I am forced to try clothes on when in a store, because sometimes even when clothes fit, it turns out that some of the styles don't look good on me. Report
TCANNO 9/26/2018
thanks Report
IMAPLAYER53 8/5/2018
I buy men's jeans and go by measurements LOL since I just wear jeans and tops makes it a whole lot easier. One perk of retirement LOL Report
SNIKSNAK 8/5/2018
Consistent sizing WOULD make it so much easier to know where to start, though for me it'd still rarely be an "off the rack" sale like men can often do. There's too many variables for women: will this work for my boob size and vertical placement?
My shoulders are broad, is this right for that? Conversely, my mom's shoulders are sloped - a bigger problem. Will the sleeves be long enough? (Long limbs).

Also I don't think the "will you buy the same thing at the more expensive store" is meant to be that literal. It's more: will the average shopper buy MORE clothes in a line/store with smaller size numbering than they would if they were shopping the same line with higher numbering? Will they be more likely to buy the same item at a lower size than they would be to buy it if it was labelled at higher sizing? When dealing with trends, it's all about probabilities, not direct comparisons.
CJBAGGINS 8/5/2018
Oh, so frustrated!
I thought my days of struggling to find clothes that fit would be over once I was a healthy weight. Nope!

Personally, I don't give a darn about what the label says. If it fits, looks good on me, and I like it, I buy it.

And, hey, if I want it to say a smaller size, I can buy the "bigger size label" at the cheaper store, and change it with a marker when I get home. :)

eta - oh, yeah, and I have noticed that sizing has really changed in the last 20 years (presumably because of this vanity sizing thing); 20 years ago when I worked in retail, and was about the same size that I have now achieved again, I wore a size 10 petite/8 regular. That same size (same measurements) now gets me a size 4-6 in the store. Report
MANDYCAT3 8/5/2018
When on the rare occasion when my husband is shopping for new clothes, he picks something off the rack or shelf and starts to march off to the checkout area. Me: "Don't you want to try that on?" Him (puzzled): "Why? It's my size." And the annoying part is that it almost always fits when we get home. Apparently in ManLand, a size something-or-other is the same whether you buy it at Target or Nordstroms. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
AMBER461 4/5/2018
If I see a dress that I like I would try one and as long as it fit well I am gone.. Report
BBDELTA 4/5/2018
I have always shopped by price and what looks good on me, and not the size. I took me years to figure out what looks good on me, and so now I stick to classic pieces versus trendy that work for me. Report
Personally, as long as the clothes fit and look good, I don't care what the size. Report
LAWLI56 4/4/2018
I look for the european sizing thesedays as it seems more reliable.

I don't care what the size says just so long as the item fits well and is a flattering style. Report
TIZSLIM 3/30/2018
I think it was in one of my earliest blogs here on Spark that I spoke about this issue. I went out one day to do some clothes shopping in the sales and came home with items from various stores in wildly different sizes. Including two coats from two different shops. One fitted quite snugly and was a size 18. I have never, ever, been a size 18 nor anywhere near it. The other had a little bit of room [say for wearing a chunky jumper] and was a size 10! At the time I was realistically around a size 12. Yep - it happens here in the UK too. Report
1DAY-ATA-TIME 3/21/2018
The is strictly an American (USA) phenomenon. Another way ad agencies and marketers get us to spend money. Insanity! Report
When I was in high school there was no such thing as a size 0. And now I’m heavier than I was then but wear a smaller size! Certainly doesn’t make sense! Report
Thank you Report
This is absolutely ridiculous and very frustrating for us shoppers! Report
I don't pay much attention to sizes because of vanity sizing and definitely wouldn't pay more for a smaller than normal size. Sheesh! Report
I wouldn't pay more, but I know some who would! Report
"...one store labels it a size 10 priced for $20 and another store labels it a size 6 for $50, according to the research, more of us would choose the latter just to have the smaller size in our closet."
--- I do not believe that this statement was based on a valid research. Who would spend $30 more just to have a size sewn into their clothing. I do believe that the size variations are a vanity thing.

I think most women just find something they like in a size they can wear and go with it. Size label doesn't matter if the clothing is a good fit.

Just wanted to add, I am a "real" woman and my size is lower than 12. Stop with the "real" women insults. Report
It is a load of nonsense. I want to buy clothes that fit. I don't care what number the label is. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
I would not spend extra money just for a smaller number on a tag.....I'm wearing the clothes NOT the tag...shame on the clothing industry for doing that! Report
I think it's ridiculous. The whole point of having the tag in the first place is to know which ones fit. Now that's out the window. Report
My middle name is cheap so I don't worry about what 'size' something is. Two of the same jean with different sizes? Which one is cheaper? Report
thanks Report
Aah, gone are the days when I was a size 6. I'd be happy to wear a size 16. Never thought that would cross my mind! LOL Thanks for sharing this! Report
Interesting article. Report
If I don't like the size number on the tag, I just use scissors or a seam ripper to remove the tag. Much more cost effective while working my way down the number on the scale. Report
It would be nice if whatever sizing a brand chose to use was at least consistent across that brand. I have jeans that are theoretically exactly the same size, cut, style and brand and yet fit differently because the brand doesn't have consistent manufacturing.

That said, I do prefer to shop brands where I wear a smaller size. Why? Brands with smaller sizing size out more potential customers. Most straight size lines only manufacture up to a size 14 (at most).

My waist is more than 11" smaller than the average American woman's (25.5" vs. 37"). This should translate to wearing a size on the smaller end of straight sizes (key word: should). If I'm a size 4 in that brand, there are 5 sizes above mine, thus, including many more women in the size range. (These brands typically go down to a size 00, so few women are being sized out for being too small.) In contrast if I'm a US 10 in a brand, there are only two sizes above mine, sizing out the majority of potential customers. These brands seem to be very intentionally targeting slimmer customers and sending an obvious signal to those of us who aren't thin. Report
AS always the almighty buck comes before the truth. I want sizes that are true to my size. When someone that is clearly a size 14 says they are a size 6, do they really believe it or are they just trying to fool themselves. Report
I think it would be great to have the measurements as sizes like men do. That would at least get rid of 1 problem. Report
I certainly wouldn't pay more to basically have the *wrong* size label in my clothes. It's seems utterly ridiculous to me that anyone would - wearing a 10 that's labelled a 6 still makes *you* a size 10!! Report
Euro/Japanese sizes appear more consistent over the years. I am around a 6-8 in euro to american sizes. For US brands, I have a plethora of size 2-4, a few items size 0 and a few 6. All my suits are America size 4. I won't pay more to be labeled a 0. Report
I didn't like shopping for clothes 50 years ago, I like it less now! I don't give a rip what size it is as long as it fits well, hangs well, and is comfortable. I normally pick the classic style so I can wear it well for many years. I'm getting to the point where I'm going to draft my own patterns and make my own clothes to save shopping time and when I'm done I know it will fit me as well as be a color and pattern I like! Even when I was at a perfect weight and my friends said I had a Barbie figure, I couldn't get anything to fit me --- arm length too short, crotch too long, leg length too short and worst of all no bust dart! I'm looking forward to making my clothes again --- clothes that fit me and not the "average" size which we all know there is no one that is an "average" size! The industry is cutting its own throat. It is designing clothes for the "perfect" figure (yeah sure) and not for the real woman who is above a size 12. Most of them can't design their way out of a paper bag. A good designer can design clothes that can fit and flatter any size. (Whew! vent over LOL!) Report
Use European sizing for a true size. If you look at many more expensive but readily available skirts/pants/shirts - say Anne Klein or Ralph Lauren you'll often see a tag with two sizes. Your size 4 Anne Klein is a size 8 in the UK. I remember at the Kennedy Inauguration back when I was too young to think about adult sizing that Jacqueline Kennedy was tiny. She was - she wore a size 4 American at the time. Ladybird by contrast came in at a size 10 - but a size 10 was still 36-26-36. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell wore size 12-14.
Today I wear an XS and heaven knows I'm not XS ... I'm a good solid 6 UK size (bottom) and now that my bust is a wee bit lower, I'm an 8 on top - just so I don't have a gap. Until this year LL Bean still had reliable sizing. I loved it because I could order online. This year that all changed. An S was too tight but a Medium was swimmingly big (another product) and in some cases an XL was too small. So LLBean, one of the last gold star standards has also fallen. Report
It is super frustrating...I am not a name brand type person anyway unless it's a target brand...but even in there, I might wear a size 18 in a full length pant, but need a 16 when buying an ankle pant....No matter the size stress, I refuse to spend more money to have a smaller size...I don't believe in clothes collecting dust. While goals are great, you still have to wear clothes in the meantime...so I just buy now and tailor later :) Report
I find it frustrating! A man goes to the store and picks something out, pays for it without trying it on.
A woman has to try things on... for instance, the tshirt I have on, is L ... most other places I wear S or M. Jeans is just the same. Unless I know the brand, I have to try them on. Its frustrating! Report