The Illusion of Fit: How Vanity Sizing Distorts Body Image and Self-Perception


Do you know that feeling when you’re shopping for clothes but you can’t find your size on the rack? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. 

Shopping for clothes is stressful and exhausting I can’t even remember the last time I went to Macy’s. I’ve been doing a lot of online shopping lately which has been really fun but expensive too! I prefer online shopping because I am there are always many more sizes available online than in stores. Stores usually stock the sizes that are most popular like medium and large. I often have trouble finding XS, but now it’s actually quite impossible. 

I discovered a couple of years back that America is known for using vanity sizing in stores. I was not familiar with this term until I found out that vanity sizing is. It’s basically size inflation but Google defines it as “the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming bigger in physical size over time.” Over time your size will become physically bigger but it will have the same number labeled. I am going to share how vanity sizing has affected me and my shopping experience. 

A couple of months back I was shopping at one of my favorite stores – Aeropostale. I remember walking into the store and seeing a mannequin wearing the cutest jeans on earth! I immediately walked over to the rack where these jeans were grabbed my size and headed over to the fitting room. While I am trying them on I notice that they fit me looser than expected and when I bring them up to my waist they fall down. Yup, just like that. 

At that moment I double-checked the size and I knew I had grabbed the correct size. I remember thinking to myself “Why are these pants so big on me if this is my correct size”? 

I asked for help and asked one of the sales clerks for a smaller size and she told me that the store doesn’t really stock smaller sizes than extra small, they might have one or two. 

I was lucky enough that she was able to find the last pair of XXS or also known as 000. 

This is when I realized that in fact, I had not lost weight the pants that were supposedly my size were inflated by vanity sizing. It’s really frustrating that my size is not stocked in stores just because of vanity sizing. I am not sure why they are inflating sizes instead of just offering more sizes to the chart. It’s also absurd that the United States uses negative sizing because it can have a negative impact on body image and mental well-being. 

Size inflation makes it difficult for me to shop because the sizes among big chain stores and small boutiques are always inconsistent. Retail stores use this technique to increase their sales but to what extent?

Customers leave the store dissatisfied because they just never know what their size will be that day. Like myself in this situation.

The fashion industry is the main cause of body dysmorphia and eating disorders because every time women are shopping they are constantly confused about sizing, which should not be this big of a deal if you ask me. I also think they are responsible for this because they are the reason why women have become more self-conscious about their body image in the past decade because sizing is usually playing tricks in your mind making you think if you’ve lost or gained weight. 

I just wish vanity sizing could stop! In a perfect world, I would be able to pick the same size without the item being smaller or larger.