With recent diet crazes still exploding throughout the United States, most American women would be ecstatic if their pant size decreased. But dropping a size may not always mean that hard work is finally paying off. It may just be the result of a marketing scheme called vanity sizing.
Vanity sizing, also called size inflation, is the process where retailers place smaller sizes on the tags of larger clothing. For years, society has emphasized size, especially with women. Because of this pressure, some women feel fulfilled if they drop a size in their quest for perfection – whether they have lost the weight or not. This is what fashion marketers have discovered and exploited. Retailers are now lying to their clientele to earn more profit from contented women.
“Women could try on five pairs of size six jeans, but if they don’t fit, they don’t buy an eight, and just walk out the door,” said Janice Lewis, Interim Chair of the Fashion Design Department at Moore College of Art and Design.
Not all companies downsize, so sizes can be misleading and range drastically between stores. At Ann Taylor, a women’s size four is the equivalent of a waist measurement of 26 1/2 inches. At the Gap, Old Navy, J. Crew and Banana Republic, a women’s size four is equivalent to a 26-inch waist. At Urban Outfitters and American Eagle Outfitters, the waist measurement is 25 inches.
The pants in my closet disturbingly range from a size 1/2 long to a size six regular. I can only imagine a woman who wears a size zero. She’d be a negative four in some stores. Though I shop for clothing based on style, not size, when shopping becomes the luck of the draw it quickly becomes agonizing.
And I’m not the only one with a waist that can fit into three different sizes. Many women realize dramatic size differences in their clothing. Junior Jesse Bailey said that she wears smaller sizes in American Eagle and Old Navy and that her jeans range between three different sizes.
“It’s misleading and makes ordering clothes difficult because every store seems to be sized differently,” Bailey said.
Not only is it misleading, it is offensive. With Gisele Bundchen and friends draped over the covers of all major magazines, women understandably feel insecure. Look at the expectations. As a result, we have Bally Total Fitness’ haunting commercials and Anna Nicole Smith telling us to use Trim Spa every time we watch TV.
Retailers are continuing to downsize, causing women to become so disappointed in their actual size that some are led to eating disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, extreme concern with body weight and shape is a leading cause of eating disorders.
While men also suffer from eating disorders, sometimes striving for athletic perfection, it is proven that women suffer from eating disorders more frequently. Only 5 percent to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia and only 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorders are men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Men’s clothing companies also rely on actual measurements and do not use vanity sizing, even though many men are pressured to maintain certain weights or develop more muscle. Suits may differ in style or cut, but according to Lewis, pants are still the size marked on the tag.
Despite all the pressures and problems related to weight, it is necessary for women to accept their real sizes.
“It’s really sad that numbers mean so much to everyone,” Lewis said.
Clothing is designed differently to flatter various body shapes, but women should reject vanity sizing that forces them to obsess over being smaller than they are. Women should be able to feel comfortable with their bodies and not have to lie to themselves.
Vanity sizing coincides with the desire to be thin and will not cease until women prove they are not overly concerned with numbers and will not stuff their bodies into clothing made for Barbie.
“If the clothes look good on you, they look good on you,” senior Joan Annand said. “Cut the tags out.”
Alexa Novachek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.