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Vanity Sizing, Is It Really An Issue?

Vanity Sizing, Is It Really An Issue?

Vanity Sizing- this bugs life


We’ve all heard about vanity sizing. Its when fashion designers make clothing a size or two bigger than what the size actually is in order to make people feel better. You know you are normally a size 20 or 2x, but you go into another store and *gasp* you’re down to an 18 or a 1x.

vanity sizingYou’re so excited that you miraculously lost weight that you make that store your new spot. I’m assuming that’s what retailers and designers are hoping for. We will have such an ego boost that we can’t help but to shop there.

But, honestly that mess is annoying.

Cosmo comparison sizing

How am I supposed to know what size I really am if they keep cutting the clothing more generously? And why can’t we come up with an improved, standardized sizing system for women?

Writer Starre Vartan says, “I am usually a size large, unless it’s a very roomy top, and then sometimes I’m a medium… But at this point, I’m a size small at Old Navy, the Gap or Banana Republic, even in dresses, and even when they are more body-conscious.”

This is just a little bit too far in my opinion. I must say I too, have noticed this at Old Navy as well. On one hand I don’t mind because this means I can shop in the Old Navy store and actually try things on as I can fit into their XXL (sometimes XL) size in store since they have relegated plus sizes to the website *rolls eyes*.

But, on the other hand its annoying to not have consistency and I know I’m not an XL. You not fooling nobody Old Navy.

Vanity Sizing- this bugs life

See Also
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Another thing I don’t understand this vanity sizing is, if you are already cutting your clothing more generously to “trick” people, why can’t you continue that generosity to include plus sizes???

Many stores still don’t sell above a size 12. This is just mind boggling to me.

If you are cutting styles to fit bigger anyway, why not keep it going? Just saying.

Read more about the issues with vanity sizing at

Img 1: Midlife Beauty; Img 2:  Cosmo Mag; Img 3: This Bugs Life

Have you noticed vanity sizing in some of the places you shop? How do you feel about it? Do you think the industry should come up with universal sizing standards?

View Comments (14)
  • You’re totally right. It’s confusing as hell! I wear anything from a size 16 to a 24 depending on the store, cut, make. . . ARGHHHHHH I’m pretty much a size 18-20, but you can’t depend on that anymore. I now take things off the rack and look at it. I can get pretty close before heading to the fitting room;however, it makes shopping online at a new store hell until I get used to their clothing.

    • I’m really just trying to learn. I do most of my shopping online now. I’ve worked for over a year to get to that point. I literally will not shop at a store if I have to keep returning something to get the right size. That’s why I quit shopping at Ashley Stewart online and in store because their sizing is way off. You can be a 14/16 one day and a 18/20 the next. I’m usually a 18/20 or 20/22 depending on what it is because i have some big old boobs. Drove me batty. The shopping experience became too much work for me. Shopping should be fun not hell. It’s a pain in the butt!

  • the people most concerned with vanity sizing and how it’s such a “negative” are usually the most concerned with excluding people from fashion and policing bodies. We should stop calling it vanity sizing, as vanity is generally a negatively loaded term. I love it, if I (at a size 20) am wearing 16s/18s somewhere, it means more of the forgotten plus segment (24+) will benefit and I am all for that.

    • I think you make a really good point about the vanity sizing. But it’s all what someone can live with. I don’t really care one way or the other because I quit worrying about my size a long time ago.

  • Don’t even get me started on Old Navy. There is absolutely no consistency to their sizing at all. And it drives me nuts that they’ll offer ten color/prints in a shirt (or dress or skirt) in straight sizes, but only two colors/prints in the plus sizes. UHG.

    • They just plain suck! I’m surprised they have not closed down yet because even their kids clothes are so overpriced that it’s ridiculous. Why in the heck would you pay $15-20 for a pair of jeans at Old Navy when you can go to a higher end dept. store and get a name brand? Or go to Ross or TJ Maxx and get a high end name?

  • What can we live with?

    First, I want to say that this is a great blog article. I think it is something that many people are not aware of. I love your blog. I just found it a few months ago.

    That’s what I think it comes down to. Each person has to decide for themselves what
    they can live with as a consumer. We all have our bugaboos when it comes to stuff.
    For me, it’s Torrid and SWAK because I think they are way overpriced for
    their stuff. I want good stuff for a good price. I’ve paid a $100 for a piece
    of clothing but it will be in my closet until the day I die.

    The vanity sizing does not bother me that much because it’s not just in plus size that it is happening.

    I’m a 20/22. Sometimes I can be 18/20 depending on the cut of the clothes. I guess I don’t really care one way or another. Just like if a retailer decides not to make my size, that’s their prerogative. However, they lose my business; because if I can’t buy clothes from your store, generally I won’t buy anything else from you. The only exception to me
    for this rule pretty much is Forever 21. Their sizes don’t fit me well. However, I do love their accessories. They have great prices and are on trend. I like the store. I want to go to the actual brick and mortar store one day. We don’t have them where i live in SC.

    I want to say upfront that most of my clothes shopping is done online. I have almost perfected my online shopping experience to the point that I rarely have to return
    anything. Booyah!

    Old Navy sizing sucks in my opinion. For several reasons, they quit carrying plus
    size stuff, in store. I think they are too expensive for their quality. Their sizing is just hit or miss. You can measure for a 2X but when you get it, it’s too small so you order a bigger size and it’s huge. I don’t find their clothing to be of high quality. It’s cheaply made and their
    idea of “cut” is just bigger with no tailoring or anything. It’s a throwback to the days when “plus size” was just bigger and no tailoring, at all. (This applies to their regular clothes too)

    There are other places online that I feel are like Old Navy.I literally think they think too highly of themselves.

    I think of the store Dot’s, which I absolutely love. I have pieces that I bought at my local store5+ years ago and the pieces are still in good shape. Mostly, for me, I hit the
    jackpot with them on dresses. I have bought several faux wrap dresses off their clearance rack for under $10. Now their sizing is sketchy too. Their sizing is not consistent especially when you compare it to a higher end store like Lane Bryant or Simply Be. (That’s my version of higher end stores). However, their stuff is decently made and cut. Their prices reflect that. They have gone up on the prices over the past few years but I’m okay with that because their selection and on trend items have skyrocketed. I don’t buy a lot of my high end stuff from there but I have scored some items that will be in my closet for many years to come.

    Surprisingly, a store that has really upped their game on plus size clothing has been Wal-Mart. I know right. I never would have known Both my husband and I are teaches.
    However, he has become discouraged with education so he decided to make
    a career change at 45. My husband decided to leave teaching so he has gone back to school and is now working in the Wal-Mart Vision Center while he works on getting his computer degree. You know what that means? Yep, employee discount! I needed
    a pink shirt to replicate an outfit so I went online and I found my size and it was only $10. I did not have high expectations. I did not want to be disappointed. I was not, at all. The pink button down shirt was heaven. I would put it against one of my Lane Bryant shirts any day. Needless to say, I’ve ordered a few more. I gave them a chance and I’m glad I did because I have ordered several items since and the sizing and quality is not bad. The shipping is .97. Not to mention I use Ebates so I get the employee discount and my Ebates money.

    All this to say that I think if a retailer wants to be deceitful in their sizing, then don’t shop there if it bothers you. However, the part that bothers me more than the “vanity sizing” is that many plus size retailers charge much higher prices for their clothes. I spend a mint each year at Lane Bryant because I love their stuff but I do think they purposely
    charge higher prices. I have recently discovered Simply Be and they are more higher priced than LB but their quality is much higher.

    I’ve discovered some cute online stores from various blogs. They are not higher end, at all. However, you can get some cute stuff to wear for a few seasons. They are kind of like dots. (Their sizing can be weird so it is trial
    and error until you figure out your size) (You have to sift through their stuff like
    you would at Dot’s to find something that you just love…been there done that!)

  • It’s irksome but there’s really no way to standardize sizing except with bottoms, where you can do waist and inseam measurements. Even then, it’s a tossup because unlike men’s pants, women’s pants can hit anywhere from the low hip to above the navel. I’m apple shaped so I can wear down to a 16 in low rise pants and up to a 20 in mid/high waist pants.

  • I wouldn’t care what they want to call their sizing system, if when you pick the item up the actual measurements of the garment are listed on the tag. I’ve been doing quite a bit of clothes shopping online of late and find it so much easier as most offer the actual and stretched measurements as well as the “size” to help determine what is going to fit best.

    I’m not sure what it’s like over in the states, but here in Australia, at least in the department stores, there is a “normal” range and then the “plus size” range. I find that I always seem to fall smack bang in the middle. The “normal” 18 is a bit small but the “plus size” 16 is way too big. And when I shop in specialty or boutique stores, I fit anywhere between a 16 and a 22.

    I don’t think that this phenomenon is restricted to women’s clothing either. I have the same issues trying to buy for my 3yo daughter. Store-to-store the sizing that fits her is completely different. She seems to fit anywhere from a 0 to a 4! Which is ridiculous.

    I honestly think that using actual measurements is the only indicator that is going to make choosing sizes easier. Have tape measures strung up in stores and measurements listed on tags so you know what you’re getting for your money

  • I thought of something else related to this. I have not bought a pair of pants/jeans in a few years from Lane Bryant but I do know at one time I was a “4”.red I consider that “vanity sizing” because I was really a size 20P. It was just a way to avoid the size 20. I did not care one way or the other but people would think I was weird if I said my size at LB was a “4”. It’s funny especially someone that is not familiar with plus size.

  • my friends and i talk about this and in my personal experience, it’s my plus size friends that i find frustrates the most and i totally understand why since we shop together and i’m there to witness the absurd sliding scale of sizes first hand. after seeing this over and over i started feeling some kind of way because though i experience this, it’s no where near what my friends experience. it’s as if plus sizes are an afterthought and i don’t like that. don’t even get me started on plus sizes only being online. seriously?

    i only notice “vanity sizing” issues for myself when i go outside of euro sizes and to less expensive labels. if i try to buy a 6 from an unknown brand (and in some rare instances a brand i frequent) it may not fit. but if i stick to a euro-based 28 or 26 depending on my weight/measurements then i rarely have problems. in premium denim (paige, true religion, etc.) – which is what i stick to the most to avoid the headaches of crazy sizing – my size is always my size unless i personally gain or loose weight and then i see a change. in cheaper denim – express, h&m, zara, etc. it’s about a 40% chance of “who knows what i’ll get.” even being a euro company, zara makes me think they cut their bottom patterns with blindfolds on. it’s crazy!

    i once tried on a pair of jeans in walmart that were a size two. ain’t now WAY. now, they have a serious vanity sizing issue and old navy? out of control. there definitely needs to be some sort of middle ground. i think the idea of vanity sizing (fake/trick sizes) is absurd as a size should be a size. can you imagine if vanity sizing was as rampant in the underwear industry? no one would know what size bra or underwear they wore. “no, my boobs did not magically get smaller/larger today, this bra is just faking that they did.”

    i like shopping on the european model. i can shop and do shop in any country i visit because the clothes are cut consistently and are based on my measurements which i think is a pretty smart way to sell clothes. it’s a model that’s working quite fine for the bra and intimate apparel industry.

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