Have you ever been clothes shopping and tried on two pairs of jeans by two different brands, which according to the labels are both the same size, only to realise that one pair fits perfectly and the other won’t even zip up?
That’s down to vanity sizing, and it’s spreading through clothing companies like wildfire.
For some people, it could be seen as a booster for self-esteem. If you’re usually a size 16 but one day you discover a perfectly-fitting T-shirt that claims to be a size 12 … well, who wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised? Your credit card would be out of your bag before you’d even left the changing rooms.
But for others, like me, it’s not so good; it can be damaging. When I was 11, I was larger and shorter than I am now. Back then, I thought I was fat, and that wasn’t helped by vanity sizing, especially that summer when I was measured for a really pretty bridesmaid’s dress. It was my first time being a bridesmaid and I was so excited to get to wear such an expensive grown-up dress.
A few weeks later, it arrived in the shop and I could finally try it on for the first time. I was almost hyperventilating with excitement, and at that age I didn’t care that the size labelled on the hanger was quite a big number – a bigger size than what I usually had to buy when shopping for normal clothes.
I remember stepping into the dress and having a member of staff zip it up. Except it wouldn’t zip up and, even unzipped, I couldn’t breathe in it.
This resulted in a rush across town the day before the wedding to find another dress. Finally, we found one exactly the same labelled size as the one I’d tried on before but this time … it fitted perfectly.
Shortly before, I had been stood in a physically tiny dress labelled as being quite a large size, and I had cried because, in my mind, that confirmed I was fat.
That is what vanity sizing does. No one should have to go through that, and especially not anyone as young as I was at the time.
Five years later, the average size for a British woman of 5ft 3in tall is 16. My size these days is below this average and yet I find myself having to buy much smaller and much bigger sizes depending on where I shop.
It’s not just women’s clothing, either. Men’s clothing sizes can be way off too, to some extent.
My step-dad bought two jumpers in size large the other day – one was tiny, and one had room to spare.
Maybe that’s a sign that it’s starting to creep in there, too.
All I know is, clothes are straying far and wide from whatever number is stamped on their labels, and that’s damaging.
My advice? Just wear what fits you. If it’s labelled two sizes bigger than what you might usually buy, does that really matter? Nowadays, I don’t care about the size label in my clothes.
If I have to move up a size or two in a T-shirt, then so be it. As long as it’s comfy and I like how it looks, that’s all that matters, because how can we trust what the labels say?