Vanity Sizing

Vanity sizing is an issue that has been annoying me for a long time now. If you’re not sure what vanity sizing is, it is basically given “ready-to-wear” sizes growing steadily larger over time, and often different shops will change at different rates, so while in one shop an article of clothing might be a size 8 but a size 12 in another. I wouldn’t find this a massive problem except for the fact that in my lifetime I have even noticed this change in sizes.
When I was about 13, I was probably about the same size I am now, however I would regularly wear a UK size 12, and occasionally a 10. Nowadays I am hard pushed to find size 10s that aren’t too big for me. This is over 7 years. I know my body shape will have changed over this time, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t changed that much. And it’s not just a phenomenon happening in England, I know that it is happening in America, and very likely other places too. When I was 12 I bought a pair of jeans in America that were a size 11 (US), 3 years ago in America I bought some size 4 (US) jeans, last year I bought some size 2 (US) jean shorts. So what’s going on here?
Over time it’s clear that women’s average vital statistics have changed, from 5ft 2in in 1950 to 5ft 4in in now; from hips of 39in to 40in; from an average weight of 9st 10lb to 10st 3in; but most importantly from a waist size of 27in to 34in. (Statistics from Daily Mail). Therefore of course clothes sizes are going to increase to accommodate for these changes. The thing that annoys me however is the way that they have changed at different rates for different shops, and in fact different countries, and that they don’t accommodate for those women whose sizes have not increased.
In here comes the Size Zero debate: what is now a size zero would quite possibly have been a size 8 (UK) in the past. In fact, I have never seen this, but I have heard that in America negative sizes are beginning to be introduced because normal sizes have slowly expanded so much that those skinnier girls cannot fit them. Size 00 is an example of this. Now this might seem extreme, but bear in mind that I, the girl who has a perfectly normal healthy figure with the vital statistics of around 35-25-34, which was almost exactly the average in 1950 on a woman wearing a size 12 (UK) dress (which is approximately a size 8 US), has to now wear a size 2 (US) and I’m a definite size 8 (UK). I’m not the skinniest person in the world, in fact far from it, I consider myself to have a curvy figure, but I am apparently one size away from this mythical Size Zero.
Does this not call for a redefinition of sizes? Both in the US and the UK. This also brings to mind another thing: when searching the internet for size comparison sites between the US and UK, I most frequently found ones telling me that the sizes were only two numbers apart (eg: 10 (UK) = 8 (US)). However I was under the impression previously that it was 4 different (eg: 10 (UK) = 6 (US)), but again when I was in America and wearing size 10s consistently at home, size 6s in America were proving much too large. Has America moved forward in its vanity sizing faster than the UK then?
What we really need is a call for standardized sizing, so that whatever size it is supposed to be it really is. Not that I can go into one shop and wear a size 6, yet a size 12 in another, yes it has been as drastic as that in one day. In fact as a final proof, I am now consistently wearing size 8s (UK), yet I bought a skirt which I believe is from the 80s in a charity shop the other day which is a size 12 (UK) and fits my waist absolutely perfectly. My waist is my main problem as things that fit my hips won’t fit my waist, although this is perfect. Have we forgotten about the hourglass figures of the 50s that still exist today? Although sizes are increasing on average, they are not necessarily increasing for everyone, so why should we who are now size 8s (UK) be scoffed upon for being “skinny” when this size 8 was once heralded as the height of the curvaceous figure in 1950 when it was a size 12?


  1. February 26, 2011 / 11:14 pm

    So agree with you Sian! I think women’s clothing should be sized according to it’s measurements, not a number that is applied to it somewhat arbitrarily. It makes it really hard to buy clothes when I’m a 2 in one store, a 6 in another store, and an 8 in another store, so I identify with you there!

    XO Michelle

  2. February 27, 2011 / 6:42 pm

    def think sizes need to be regulated more.. althou ive found in shops the sizes have not got bigger but smaller.. in river island i would be a size 8/10 which id say is accurate.. but in topshop some size 10’s are too tight and small.. which leads me to feel bad about myself..which aint right! lol x

  3. March 1, 2011 / 8:22 pm

    I’d always known there was some sort of difference between sizing over time but wow, I had no idea it was so big a change.

  4. May 5, 2012 / 3:59 pm

    I find myself mostly shopping in H&M now because their sizes are consistent, and they have real measurements on their trousers and jeans which makes it a lot easier for me to find something that fits! I’m 5″2 and a size 6, so its a real nightmare sometimes! Was really interesting reading about the size fluctuations though, I never really thought about it changing that much!!!

  5. Anonymous
    November 8, 2013 / 3:46 pm

    Hi Sian,
    Unfortunately there will never be one standard sizing policy as retailers operate different size guides to target their preferred customer.
    Good news though as has found a solution to vanity sizing! We use all the retailer’s size guides together in our shopping comparison engine, which returns only those clothes that match your body measurements, and tells you what size you are in each store. Just women’s jeans at the moment but more clothing items coming soon!
    Would love to know what you think of it

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