When is a size 12 not a size 12?
Today, apparently. Because devious clothing manufacturers have latched onto the idea that American women want to be thin. And they are using that knowledge to get us to buy more clothes. How, you may wonder? By distorting the sizes so we think we are fitting into a smaller size than we really are. Women tend to buy more, are willing to pay more, and feel better about themselves when they fit into a smaller size.
Do you care that this practice, known as vanity sizing, is running rampant? That the size you wear today may actually be bigger, despite the number on the label being smaller, than the size you used to wear? Like this practice? Hate it?
I’d like to say that for me, size doesn’t matter. That I buy what fits and only use the number on the tag as a starting place to head to the dressing room. But I guess if I was being totally honest with myself, I’d admit that there is a certain pant size that I am just more comfortable about wearing. But, and I will call this a big but to go over my big butt, I now know that the size I like to see in my closet and on my body is only pretending to be the same size I wore for much of my life when in the “thin” phases of my yo-yo-hood. So maybe I kinda like vanity sizing, because I can fool myself, just a bit, into thinking I haven’t “grown” much over the years. But on the other hand, finding pants that fit well is hard enough without the mystery of inconsistent sizing.
Here are some stats, courtesy of the Dr. Oz show:
- In the 1950s, a size 12 had a 26″ waist
- In the 1970s, a size 12 had a 28″ waist
- In the 1980s, it had a 33″ waist
- And now, a size 12 sports a 36″ waist
That’s a full 10 inches larger than half a century ago! Marilyn Monroe, whose voluptuous body donned a size 16 in the ’50s, would likely wear a 6 by today’s standards.
And it doesn’t just vary over time. Size also varies across brands, since there is no standard sizing and each designer uses his own measurements. Again (according to the Oz show) the waist for a size 12 pants:
- The Gap measures 38″
- Ann Taylor measures 36″
- H & M measures 35″
- Coldwater Creek measures 33″
In one university study, according to Cosmo, researchers measured 1000 pairs of women’s pants and discovered up to an 8.5″ variance in the size-4 waist. No wonder women find it so frustrating to buy jeans!
So what’s the takeaway from the truth about vanity sizing? Dr. Oz worries that women may fool themselves into thinking they are not as unhealthy as they might be, not realizing how their waist size (a key measurement to health in his opinion) has changed. As for me, I say that we need to stop letting a number (be it pant size or pounds on the scale) impact our self-esteem or emotions. Six may be the new 12, but we don’t have to care.
So, what do you think about vanity sizing? Does size matter?