The Truth Behind Your Clothing Size

Lauren LeVine

If you’re not Gisele Bundchen, clothing shopping can be a frustrating experience. Fluorescent-lit dressing rooms, three-way mirrors and escalating price points are enough to keep you from entering a store for eternity. A lot of women have resorted to online shopping due to a lack of time or willpower to try on a million pairs of jeans just to find one (or none) that fits. Plus, with free returns and free shipping, there’s no reason not to order everything you sort of like to see what works out.

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Unfortunately, even if this day and age of free shipping and returns online shopping, buying clothes can still be disheartening. Why? Remember in the Sweet Valley High books when twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield were described as being a “perfect size six?” Anyone reading the series in 2011 would probably think “But in what brand?”

Due to what the garment industry refers to as “vanity sizing,” a woman who is a size 8 in one brand may very well be a size triple zero in another. A recent New York Times article says that vanity sizing arose in part due to a lack of standard size requirements across the industry from brand to brand, plus the unspoken reason: clothing companies know that women will buy more clothing if they are suddenly miraculously a smaller size than the one they are used to buying.

Once upon a time (as in when our great-grandparents were children), all clothing was bespoke, or custom made, for each individual person. No one had to worry about whether skinny jeans that look good in advertisements would look good on them or match the unique curves of their bodies. The garment industry evolved differently across types of clothing; mass market ready-to-wear brands that one would find on racks in apparel stores cut one universal pattern in what they deemed to be the proper measurements for each size. Designer clothing soon followed, but the garments tended to stay truer to their original European sizes.

Several companies are offering solutions to try to combat the problem with sizing. Levii’s launched a line of jeans called Curve ID, which has three styles depending on “how rounded a women’s backside is:” slight, demi and bold. Some malls have introduced a full-body scanner called MyBestFit, which involves a 30-second scan (fully clothed) that takes more than 20,000 body measurements. The system then matches the person’s measurements to ones in its database and suggests what size that person would be in over 50 stores. The company hopes to cut down shoppers’ time spent trying on many sizes as well as alleviate any tag surprises when they get to a given store.

Do you think sizing should be universal across all brands or does vanity sizing help women feel better about themselves? Would you try MyBestFit to cut down time in the dressing room?

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