Vanity Sizing, Your Measurements & Clothing Sizes

I hate vanity sizing.

Vanity sizing seems to be running rampant, more so now than ever. It’s what causes clothing sizes to vary greatly between stores and brands, and is the single biggest frustration among women I know when it comes to shopping.  Gone are the days you can walk into a store, snag something off the rack, and know it will fit you properly.  Now you have to go in and try everything on to make sure it fits, and you may be a small in one store, and in the next you can’t even get a small top over your shoulders.  And pants?  Don’t even get me started!

What can we do about it?

Well, unfortunately, not too much. Though I suppose if you really wanted you could start making your own clothes, or thrifting and refashioning/tailoring what you buy (if necessary), but that requires a lot of time and money (especially if you have a tailor do the work for you instead of DIYing it).  And not everyone can afford that.

We could write letters, sign petitions, and picket stores known for rampant vanity sizing, but designers won’t listen.  They don’t have to. There will still be women who buy their clothes; there are women out there who love vanity sizing.  I mean, let’s face it… if you’re a 6 somewhere, and a 0 somewhere else, that 0 is going to make you feel darn good, and you may buy it simply because of that.  That will always exist.

Start by knowing your measurements.

It’s becoming more and more important for women to know their measurements, instead of just knowing their dress size. After all, if you’re a 2 at one store, a 4 in another, a 0 somewhere else, and a 6 in yet another brand, what size are you actually?  The New York Times posted an article on how clothing sizes vary between brands (even, sometimes, between the same brand) and it’s a really interesting read that shows that vanity sizing really does exist across the board.

It’s important to know your bust, waist, and hip measurements. These numbers are more important than dress size in the sense that they are what determine what size garment you should buy.  Often, it’s the only way of knowing what size you are, and knowing your numbers can help take the guesswork out of ordering online.

Being measured isn’t something to be embarrassed about.

You can get measured at nearly any tailor… all you have to do is ask. You can also measure yourself.  But you have to make sure you do it right, otherwise, it won’t matter.  One of the best “how do I measure myself” articles comes from California photographer Pat Yuen and can be found at his blog here.  It is, however, much easier to get measured than to measure yourself, especially if you’re unfamiliar with how it’s done.

Stop worrying about sizes.

There’s no need to be hung up on what size you are. In fact, on your next shopping trip, try to ignore sizes all together, and just try on what looks like it may fit.  It will be hard at first, and may mean a little more trying on.  But largely, a lot of the sizing can be ignored.If you like a top, and usually wear a small, but they’re out, try the medium.  It might work on you.  Heck, try the large, and see if it looks cute as an oversized top.  By worrying less about sizes, you’ll find your options are broader.

I’ve started doing this, especially while thrifting, and while it can be a bit of a let down sometimes, it’s actually made my life easier.  I know try on what I like, and what looks like it might fit, and worry less about sizes.  Does it mean I’m disappointed sometimes?  Sure does.  But if I just stuck to shopping the 4 rack, I’d have missed out on the fantastic size 6 dress I have on right now, which fits like it was made for me (even my husband noticed how beautiful the fit is).

Size doesn’t matter.

someecards.com - "I love that top on you. It's totally a 6, right?" said no one ever.

I was going to go through my closet and show you some examples of the variance in sizes I have. But I’ve decided against it.  Why?  Because when’s the last time anyone came up to you and said, “that’s a cute dress… what size is it?” or “I love that skirt, is it a 6?” or “that top looks fantastic on you, it must be a large”?  Never (unless you were in a sorority and the goal was to borrow said cute item, but let’s not go there).

Size is not what people care about. People care about how something looks.  It’s all about the cut, the pattern, the overall styling, and most importantly, the fit.  If something looks great, that’s what matters.  Not the size.

Focus on fit, not size.

Stop getting hung up on sizes and start looking at how things fit you. If that means that you have to start cutting the size tags out of your clothing, then by all means do it. But stop worrying about what size something is.  You’re the only one who will know anyway, unless you go around flaunting the size of whatever it is you’re wearing.

If you’re hung up on size, and wearing clothes that don’t fit you right because of it, what you’re wearing isn’t going to look good no matter how cute it was on the hanger.  No one is ever going to complement the muffin top that too-tight skirt gives you, or tell you how cute your cameltoe is in those pants.  Trust me.

Ill-fitting clothes can make you look heavier.

Both too-small and too-big clothes can work against you. Too-small clothes can both cause and highlight bulges.  Instead of wearing something that’s too small, size up and make sure it fits you properly.  You’ll look instantly thinner, because your clothes won’t be clinging to any imperfections you naturally have (or those caused by clothes that are too tight).

Along the same vein, wearing clothes that are too big can make you look heaver as well.  Too-big clothes add bulk, and in most cases, this can be really unflattering, especially if the added bulk is in areas you already are a little heavier.  For example, I’m pear-shaped, and adding bulky items around my hips makes them look even wider, and is always a bad thing for me.

Go through your closet and purge ill-fitting stuff.

And while you’re at it, if you must, cut the sizes out. And from now on, when you shop, concentrate less on what size things are, and more on what fits you properly and looks amazing.  No one is going to care about the size… all that matters is how you look in it!

*For the record, I feel like bra and underwear sizes are decently consistent.  Plus, when I find a bra that fits, I tend to buy a few, because it’s always a pain in the ass finding bras that actually fit.  Same goes for shoes… shoe sizes are fairly standard. So don’t ignore sizing when it comes to those things.

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