Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

Are you obsessed with the sizes of your clothing?

Do you refuse to buy an item if it is a larger size than you normally wear?

A recent article on the Weight Watchers website describes this phenomenon.  Many women have a specific size in mind when shopping for clothing and are extremely hesitant to buy anything larger than that “magic” size.

Size Inconsistencies

Some highlights of the Weight Watchers article include:

  • There is no standard sizing convention among women’s clothing manufacturers.  Often, the more high-end the designer, the smaller the size.  Even within a single brand, there are disparities.
  • “Vanity sizing,” in which measurements run larger than standard, is used by the majority of manufacturers today. One exception is the dress-pattern market, in which the measurements for the McCall’s size 8 correspond to the current 0 or 00 on the Banana Republic website!
  • Vanity sizing is driven entirely by marketing psychology.  Women like to fit into a smaller size and single digits sound better than double digits.
  • The average American woman is 5’4.5” and wears a size 12 top and a size 14 bottom.
  • The dream size for most women on the Weight Watchers plan hovers between an 8 and a 10.

My Reflections…

After I read the article, I reflected upon how it relates to me and my situation.  I know I feel good when I can fit into a smaller size even when I haven’t lost any weight and know it’s just a reflection of vanity sizing.  On the flip side, I feel a bit deflated when I am forced to grab the next size up when shopping for clothes.  Despite the fact that I am aware of the random nature of women’s clothing sizes, I still fall prey to the psychological pitfalls inherent in size variance.

A Plethora of Sizes!

In my closet right now, I have pants and skirts ranging from sizes 4 to 10 and tops from sizes extra-small to large.  All of these items fit me at my current body weight and size.   This fact alone should be enough evidence of size insanity to stop me from obsessing over the numbers when shopping.   In truth, I am less reluctant to grab one size larger than I used to be, but if I ever need to grab an item two sizes up, forget about it!  This size madness doesn’t work in the reverse direction, however.  Should I ever need to size down two sizes, bring it on!

No One But You Knows Your Size!

The funny thing is that unless one is wearing a pair of Levi’s jeans with the size plastered on the back, no one else knows what size we are wearing.   The important thing is whether or not the item fits and is flattering, not what size is on the tag inside the garment.

One suggestion for getting around size anxiety is to cut the size tag off after purchasing the item.  That way, you won’t need to flog yourself over the number and can instead celebrate the fact that you found something that you love and which flatters your unique figure.   This suggestion may be helpful to those of us who obsess over the meaningless numbers that are clothing sizes.  Clip it out, and then forget about it!

What Do You Think?

I would love to hear what others think about the Weight Watchers article and the issue of women’s clothing sizes.

  • What is your experience with clothing sizing when shopping?
  • Does the size of a garment affect whether or not you will buy it – or even try it on?
  • Are you more likely to shop at stores in which you can fit into smaller sizes?
  • Do you feel that the sizing of women’s clothing should be standardized, as has been proposed from time to time?

4 thoughts on “Clothing Size Obsession

  1. Theresa Kasel says:

    I’ve found that my sizing is consistent by store — I wear plus-sized clothing right now and I know that XL at Target is more like an L at most other stores. This is especially true of their “designer” itmes (I know it’s true for the Mossimo line.)

    I will say that I’ve forced myself to let go of the sizing issue (wanting it to be a smaller number) so I don’t shop by size. I do shop for fit. I will say it’s very frustrating to not know which size will work best and having to take multiple sizes of the same outfit into the dressing room.

    I would love for the sizing to be standardized — but whose body will they standardize to? With all the different body shapes out there, even without weight issues, I think it would be difficult for the manufacturers to come up with an exact number system for all clothing.

    1. Debbie Roes says:


      Thank you for your comment! I’m happy to hear that you are shopping for fit rather than by a number or letter size. Fit really is paramount! I hear you on the frustration of having to take multiple sizes into the fitting room. This is especially annoying at stores that have fitting room limits, like only 6 items at a time.

      It’s true that some stores or designers have consistency in sizes and that is always helpful. This makes it easier to shop, especially when shopping online. At this point, I mostly shy away from online shopping unless I know a store or brand’s sizing well in order to avoid having to do returns. I know some people swear by online shopping, but I usually don’t recommend it unless one is either very patient or knows the sizing quite well. The measurements the stores provide are often off. Case in point, I ordered a cardigan from Nordstrom recently. The chart pointed me to a Medium, but when I received the item, it was huge! Quite troubling…

      I agree that standardized sizing is probably not possible or practical. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, so the standardizing would be fabulous for some and disastrous for others. There is no easy answer, but it would help if stores and brands would keep consistent sizing over a period of many years. Vanity sizing has make it much harder to buy clothes.

      Can you tell I have a lot of thoughts on these issues? Perhaps another blog post will be in order down the line…

      Thanks again,

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