The trouble with vanity sizing

Let’s be honest, women’s clothing sizes can be confusing and frustrating.  

Not only do different brands size their clothes according to their ideal customer (which can be vastly different from one brand to the next), but there is also the phenomenon of vanity sizing, which has been around for decades and shows no signs of disappearing.  In this blog post, I’ll look at what vanity sizing is, its history, and how it has affected the fashion industry.  I’ll also offer some tips and advice on how to find your true dress size and make more informed clothing choices.

What is Vanity Sizing and Why is it a Problem?

Vanity sizing refers to the practice of brands labelling a garment with a smaller size than it would traditionally be in order to give the feel-good factor to their customers. For example, a size 10 in one brand might be labelled as a size 8 in another.  

So many women worry about the size on the label and will refuse to go up a dress size, even though the fit of the garment is better, so although you might get an initial thrill if you find that you can comfortably fit into a smaller size, ultimately it can lead to confusion and frustration if you have to go up 2 sizes in the next store.

In addition to the confusion it causes, vanity sizing can also have a negative impact on body image and self-esteem.  When these inconsistencies in sizing between brands make it difficult to find clothing that fits properly, it can simply exacerbate any negative body image issues you might already be struggling with.

The Evolution of Vanity Sizing

Vanity sizing has been around for decades, although its origins are difficult to trace.  Some say it started in the 1960s when women’s liberation movements began to gain traction, and women wanted to wear clothing that reflected their newfound empowerment.  Others attribute it to the increasing obesity rates in the United States and the desire to make clothing more accessible to larger people.  Regardless of how it started, vanity sizing has become a staple of the fashion industry, and it shows no signs of disappearing.

In recent years, technology has also played a role in the evolution of vanity sizing.  With the advent of online shopping, retailers can now collect data on their customers’ measurements and preferences, allowing them to create custom sizing charts that cater to their specific customer base.  Additionally, virtual try-on technology and 3D body scanning supposedly make it easier for shoppers to find clothing that fits properly, without the need for traditional sizing charts, although I have my reservations.

Finding Your True Dress Size

If only it was as easy as it is for men.  In most cases, their sizing is based on measurements – waist and leg length for trousers, chest or neck measurement for shirts etc.

Indeed, to make it easier to find your true dress size, I would highly recommend measuring yourself properly.  The most important measurements to determine dress size are your bust, waist, and hips.  You can do this yourself, in the privacy of your bedroom, or have a friend or professional tailor do it for you.  Once you have your measurements, you can compare them to size charts from different brands to find the right size.

It’s important to remember, as mentioned above, that sizing can vary greatly between brands, plus, there can even be noticeable differences in fit between 2 garments of the same size, so I always advocate trying clothes on before you buy (even if it is the same garment you bought last week, in the different colour).  Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for help from sales assistants or customer service when trying to find the right size.  They will hopefully know their stock well and be able to provide valuable advice and recommendations.


Vanity sizing is a confusing and often frustrating aspect of shopping for clothes, but it doesn’t have to be.  Just being aware that vanity sizing is used by many brands, you can be prepared and make more informed choices by checking the size guides of your favourite brands, against your own measurements.

Always try garments on before you buy, even if the measurements appear to be perfect for you, and be honest with yourself about how you look and feel in them – you deserve better than having ‘it’ll do’ garments hanging in your wardrobe!

There are many other elements to choosing clothes that not only fit you well but also harmonise with your lifestyle, personal style, colouring etc., but I hope that by following the above advice, you will be on your way to finding clothing that fits you well and make you feel confident and beautiful.

If you would like to find out more about how I can help you build a wardrobe of clothes that work for you as the unique woman you are, take a look at my website and follow the link to book a free, no-obligation, discovery call.

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