This Is Why Women’s Clothing Sizes Are So Messed Up

It’s no secret that shopping as a woman across several different stores is a process. You’re never the same size no matter what store you go to. I mean, sometimes you’re not even the same size of shirt or pants across different styles in the same store. It’s a headache, to say the least.

However, thanks to this video created by Vox, it’s now official: it’s definitely not you. To test the clothing size discrepancy herself, Vox reporter, Dion Lee, bought a pair of size 4 jeans at three different clothing stores.

So, what’s the real issue here? The video above explains the whole history of clothing sizes, which includes sizes being invented for men’s Army uniforms, a misguided study of women’s sizing that only included White women and an original sizing chart that set sizes from 8 to 42. This same chart was withdrawn in 1983 because it was that bad.


Since 1983, companies started labeling clothing in smaller sizes as a marketing ploy, hence why Marilyn Monroe was considered a size 12 back in her day, but would be considered a size 4 or 8 now. It is called “vanity sizing,” which is industry speak for artificially lowering the size on the label to convince someone into purchasing the item.

Due to vanity sizing, retailers are selecting a specific group of women and tailoring their clothing sizes to that demographic instead of women in general. So, this explains why a size 4 at Forever 21 can fit into a size 2 at the Gap.

“It’s not you, it’s the industry,” said Lynn Boorady, associate professor and chair of fashion and textile technology at Buffalo State University. “Women’s bodies are fine the way they are. They’re just random numbers. They don’t mean anything. And if you don’t like the size, just cut it out of your clothes.”

[Story via]

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