J. Crew's Vanity Sizing and How it Changes the Way We Shopexpand
A woman stands in a dressing room of her favorite store. Hanging in the small space are the diverse styles she’s carefully chosen while combing through the organized racks. Skirts, pants, blouses, the works. An outfit for every occasion.
However, just as the clothes themselves vary, so do their corresponding sizes. One brand that boasts a slim size 6 on the tag fits larger than another in a size 10. The sizes are as inconsistent as the emotional frustration the woman feels as she tries on piece after piece. The numbers on the small slice of extra cloth on the inside of the garment equate to bad and good, fat vs. skinny.
More and more companies are participating in “vanity sizing,” or the practice of adding extra inches to clothes, creating an illusion that the garment is a smaller size in order to cater to the emotions of the customer. They may feel satisfaction or validation by jumping down a size in a particular brand, therefore making them more likely to buy that brand again.
Popular clothing store J. Crew recently added a “000” to its sizing chart repertoire, measuring a slender 23-inch waist and equating to a “XXXS.” According to ABC News, this addition hails from a demand for smaller sizes in the Asian market. However, some are branding it a proponent of vanity sizing.
In correspondence with vanity sizing, someone who is usually a 4 might only fit into a 6. Someone who’s a 10 might need an 8, relative to the brand. The numbers are seemingly arbitrary, but the association attached to them for most women is not.
The emotional and psychological implications of vanity sizing are real. Weight is a big issue for women and the pressure to be thin is apparent throughout many channels in society. The smaller the number on the tag, the more self-worth a woman can have.
The physical expectations of these teeny sizes are unrealistic and can change where women decide to shop. Stores like Gap and Banana Republic have been criticized in the past for vanity sizing. According to the New York Times, a size 2 waist at Gap is the same measurement as a size 8 waist at Banana Republic.
This manipulation can change the way women view themselves and their body. The inconsistent industry size standards create a gap, giving way to self-esteem measured by the width of a waistband. The coveted size 0 adorned by A-list celebrities becomes something to be admired and worked toward, and squeezing into a 0 is an achievement, whether it’s a true size 0 or not.
However, if the sizes are essentially made up, then the meaning of validation tied to them must be as well. Instead of worrying about how small of a size you can squeeze into, buy a pair of jeans based on how they fit and cut the tag out. Because after all, if the sizes aren’t real, the social suggestions that come along with them aren’t either.