Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vanity Sizing...do you fall victim?

I was watching the Dr Oz Show yesterday that is usually my background noise.  He was addressing an issue that I have known since I started losing weight...vanity sizing.  I kept clothes from when I was the size I am now.  I had a pair of 26 jeans that have NO give in them, pure denim with no lycra stretch that seem to be standard in today's jeans and they fit in some areas, not in others but yet my big gal's stores put me in a 24 and big box stores put me between a 24 and 26.  But OLD SCHOOL sizes say I'm really just sliding in to a 26.  This isn't a surprise, it doesn't make me weep because I've known this since I started this so I don't really care but I know some people do.   Like I remember when I did a blog about this issue a year ago, I just totally blew the lid off of this for a few people and they were actually upset and said they wish they never knew because that made their weight loss feel less successful.  You still lost the same amount of weight!  Helloooo!  But apparently some people's self esteem is heavily tied into the size on the tag.  Ready for some numbers that might shock you?

Here is the short list of what Dr. Oz's show found about vanity sizing yesterday.  In the 1950's, a size 12 (what Marilyn Monroe wore according to them) was 26".  In the 1970's, that went up 2" to a 28" waist.  In the 1980's, that went up 5" more to 33" and today?  Today a size 12 is typically 36".  That is 10" more than your mom or grandma wore back in the day!  So if you're going through your grandma's vintage wardrobe looking for the perfect Mad Men look and think you've scored paydirt because she was a 12 like you, you might be disappointed.

Think those numbers are sobering?  Try these on for size.  They got a size 12 from several different retailers and measured the waistlines.  The Gap's 12 was 38", Ann Taylor's 12 was 36", H&M's 12 was 35" and Coldwater Creek's 12 was 33".  A 5" differential depending on where you shop.  No wonder women hate dressing rooms and run out crying! 


One of the most poignant comparisons was when they took 2 people from the audience, both the same size pants, a 12, and measured their height vs. their waist measurement.  The ratio to be "healthy" is your waist measurement should be half or less of your height.  The first girl was 68" and her waist measurement was 32" so she was fine because half of her height measurement would've been 34".  The other girl was 59" and her waist measurement was 37" which was 7 1/2" over where it should be to be healthy yet she wore the same pant size as the healthy girl.  So it goes to show you can't say just because you wear the same size as someone you would consider fit, body type ultimately determines your health, not the size you wear.  (Not like I need to tell you that)

I thought it was an interesting segment.  So how about you?  Does it bother you that the size you're currently wearing was probably a size or two bigger between now and 10 years ago?  Do you put your self esteem in the hands of designers who don't have a set standard to size your clothes or do you not care about what the tag says, as long as you feel you look good?

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14 comments:

  1. I saw that show yesterday too, and while I already knew about vanity sizing, I had no idea it was SO exaggerated. When he said that a 28" waist was a size 12 back in the day, that was quite sobering--because my waist measures 28" right now and my jeans are a size 4 (although lately, they've been pretty tight!). I cannot even IMAGINE how tiny a waist size must have had to be for a size 4 back then--20"?! ;)

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  2. Katie- I didn't either! No wonder we have so many "size 0's" running around now. They didn't even make them back in the day because it would mean you're an emaciated skeleton that probably couldn't even sustain life!

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  3. I've wondered about "size 0" too. A bunch of my female students wear sizes 0-2. Some of them are just honest to goodness stick skinny but others I just couldn't figure out. When I was in high school I wore a size 5 and some of these girls are about the size I was then, and wearing a 2? What gives? Now I know.

    It also explains a lot of personal dressing room trauma. I shop mostly at thrift stores, so there's a whole variety of brands and ages of clothes. Why is it that one item will just fall off of me, and another item a size up I can't even close. Now I know it really isn't just my imagination.

    It's gotten to the point where I generally buy men's pants. My build lends itself to that option and I can buy based on waist and inseam measurements instead of "size". As my waist shrink and I keep my hips though that's going to be less of an option.

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  4. Great topic. I am very much aware of the inconsistent sizing between manufacturers. But it's always been that way so I don't let it bother me. I just remember my Mom's advice: If you find something that fits you well, buy it in every color. :)

    I knew about vanity sizing but I wasn't aware of how much it varies. I know that I'm in size 12 pants now, but my old size 12s that I have around from when I was thinner are still too snug to be comfortable. It is a bit depressing, but as you say, you have to focus on the amount you've lost and how you feel. And of course the focus should be on clothes that fit and flatter not the number on the tag.

    I do think that vanity sizing has gone too far though, because no one should be a size 0. That's just a bit ridiculous to me. Like you said, you'd be dead if you were that thin. You'd vanish away!

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  5. Back in the late 80's when I was in college my roommate shrunk from a 2 to a 0 and was an emaciated skeleton, if she were the same size now she'd have to shop in juniors to find anything that even came close to fitting. I don't care about the number outside of the fact that I want it to be a smaller number whatever that might be, what bothers me is the time wasted trying things on. I almost always have a child or two or three in tow when I shop and I would LOVE to just be able to walk in, grab my size and go. IMHO vanity sizing and BMI are two things that need to be tossed out the window in order to get women thinking about overall health and not just numbers.

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  6. I was aware they did it and while I think it is stupid and have fallen victim to doing a happy dance for fitting into a smaller size, it doesn't affect how I feel about myself or my weight loss. The thing is I can say all I want that I fit in a size 4, but that is only at Olde Navy and most other places the pants that fit me are 6-9. I guess to me it makes it mean nothing since it doesn't really translate. I wish they would find a uniform way to size so it wasn't so frustrating but what are you gonna do?

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  7. Lately I've been wondering if vanity sizing has hit the bra department, too (but in reverse?).

    At my peak fatness I wore a 38-40 C bra.

    Just this weekend I bought three new bras and they were all 40D.

    How is it I've lost 30 lbs but my cup AND band size is bigger? Ok, part of it might be that I'm actually buying the correct size (my old bras were very old and probably all stretched out) but COME ON.

    As for pants, I wear sizes ranging from 12 (old navy and target--both super vanity size) to 16. But in a bathing suit I'm only a "large". What?

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  8. I'm wondering if they are doing the reverse to tops. I have some tops that are older that are size L or XL. Anymore I have to 2xl or go to the "big" side of the store for a top thats 18W to have it fit my shoulders...and yet my old shirts say "large" and still fit. The only jeans I like are levi midrise bootcut (which aren't sold much anymore--its all been changed to show your @ss crack low cut) and old navy short people bootcut (which are no longer made with "jean" material but some kind of hybrid stretchy crap that feels as though it could rip apart if I bend over). I will despair the day my current ones wear out cuz I dunno what I will go too...nothing else seems to fit correctly from any store I have been too :( Course all the current ones I have are 16s and when I go out to "try on" other brands 16s don't fit right at all.

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  9. I feel clueless!! For some silly reason, I thought it was just the really smaller sizes, like the infamous size "0" that were artificially small in tag only.... as everyone has asked, who on Earth would fit into "0"? Look at me, everyone. I have NO SIZE!?

    I guess it goes to show how little I care for shopping, and helps explain WHY!! I just thought the manufacturers were defining their own, unique "true" size xyz, and making us all crazy in the process!

    I am glad I read this, as I am forced to clothes shop, probably this weekend, for pants/capris and bras (GAH! beats a stick in the eye, that's about it!).

    Thank you!!

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  10. I didn't see the show, but vanity sizing and the vast differences in measurements between designers is no surprise to me. I'm now wearing a size 10(!) most of the time, but there is NO WAY my current size 10 is the same as it was when I wore it back in, oh, high school. I'm at least 40-50 pounds heavier, and my waist is several inches bigger. What matters most to me is finding things that fit well and look good on me; a small size feels good, but no one sees the tag once it's on me!

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  11. I never watch-but it doesn't surprise me because I read your prior blog about it. It makes sense. I have a pair of old jeans from the 80's with the silver stitching on the pockets (seems they are 'in' again!lol) and I kept them all these years to try to fit into them again. When I went to look at the label it said 22 which I should have been able to get into soon but...nooooo...no way could I slide any part of my body into those jeans. Well, maybe my arms but that defeats the purpose.
    It does not bother me one way or another so long as I can find something to wear that isnt' a sheet.
    But I was SO happy to read about Coldwater Creek, because I do shop there and their 3x sometimes barely fit me! No wonder.

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  12. wow - that is truly fascinating inforamtion! I've known about it...but it's kind of like a leprechaun or the sasqwatch (sp?)...you never expect someone to actually offer PROOF of this practice! LOL

    I don't tie the size of my clothes to my self esteem...is it nice to fit in smaller sizes - YES. But if I find a 14 that looks absolutely awesome and fits like a glove I won't ignore the fact. I own clothes in sizes 10-16 right now.

    The one thing I do wish is that they would make sizing uniform because it would just make it so much easier on us consumers if we could say we were a large and know that we would be a large everywhere and not a medium in one store and an xxl in another. That's my only complaint...it would especially make it easier in this online world we live in. :-)

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  13. I can't say that I'm attached to a tag number for self esteem reasons. I think what frustrates me more is, just like you mentioned, different for every manufacturer. I can buy a 3x in one shirt and it'll fit like a glove, but with another maker, it's big and droopy. I just ordered 2 shirts from WW today and I got the 4x, even though their size chart shows this would be too big. I did this because I have an entire order that I have to return of a bunch of shirts that are ALL too small in the 3x...even though the chart shows differently. And oddly enough, the 4x's and 5x's are what I wore at my heaviest and all these pounds lost later, I have barely moved down the size ladder. That's more irritating than anything.

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  14. I have the reverse issue actually. I out grew Lane Bryant's largest size they sold in the store, so I stopped shopping there. I am losing weight now, and I have these old jeans from Lane Bryant that are a 26 and 8 Right fit (when they first came out). I couldn't get into them at all but now I can so I thought "okay let's go to LB." I pulled a 28 right fit off the rack and couldn't even fit into the pants. Wth? Tried another pair, nope; same thing. Granted I haven't been back to LB since that happened but I just don't want to pull a size off the race only to find that they still don't fit. Mind you the sales woman had no explanation of why their older items fit me and the newer ones didn't.

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