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Confession: Size Really Matters To Me

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Do you ever find yourself fixated on the size on clothing labels, even though you know it shouldn't be so important? There are certain stores where I know I can wear smaller sizes than others. Even though the clothes from two different stores might be exactly the same size, I'm more likely to wear the ones with the smaller number on them. Logic tells me it's ridiculous and size shouldn't matter, but for some silly reason, it does.

As more Americans become overweight and obese, retailers know that the size on their clothing matters. That's why many of them have started scaling down the size labels on clothing. This means that even though you are really a size 10, some stores will label your size a 6 to make you feel better. Deceptive? Maybe. Effective? Yes.

Why does the size on a label matter so much? I know I'm not really a size 4. But if I found a pair of size 6 jeans that fit comfortably, I'd probably end up buying them even if I didn't really like them. The fact that the number on a label is somehow tied to my self-esteem is frustrating to me. For some reason, I think it makes me feel more "normal" to wear an average size. I should be better than that. What's really important is that I'm healthy and fit, right? Who cares if I wear a size 4 or a size 14? But the truth is, I do care.

Some studies suggest that as American's waistlines have expanded, so has the perception of a "normal" size. Over the past 10 to 15 years, the average American's BMI has increased, while the number of people who would consider themselves to be overweight has decreased. Is this the result of publicity campaigns promoting self-acceptance (such as Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty)? Maybe, but not likely. More likely it's that as overweight people are surrounded by more overweight people, overweight becomes the new "normal."

Whether it's the size on a clothing label or the size of the people around you, have you ever found it easier to convince yourself that you're a size you're really not? Do you let the size on clothing labels bother you the way I do?

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EVIE4NOW 12/1/2020
good article Report
MARTHA324 10/15/2020
Not so much anymore because I can tell that clothes are just getting bigger while the size indicates it's smaller. I have Talbot's shorts from 2017 that are a size 10 and ones from 2019 that are a size 8 and the 10's are actually tighter. Report
This is a great article. Report
DJ4HEALTH 7/23/2020
This is bad since it gives women a deception of how big they are and most will accept it and not try to do anything about their weight. I learned about it when clothes that I knew would not fit me because I did know how big I was and had those clothes fit me. Sewing patterns did it once but saw what the fashion industry was doing and said that they were not changing it again. So when I measured a women for a bridesmaid dress and told her what size I would need the pattern in she got upset but when I explained to her what the fashion industry was doing then she got upset with them. I told her that her body was two different sizes and that to fit the bigger size I needed the bigger pattern and would adapt the top to fit her. She was not a big woman, her top was an 8 but her bottom was a 10. That was in 1994. Report
MUSICNUT 4/27/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
When young I wore a size 12 but I think sizes today show smaller than they did back then. I hope at my goal weight I am down to a 14 but if not I think I can be ok with that Report
I STILL can't fit into size 16 jeans I have from the 80's, yet I have "Size 10" jeans bought in the 2000's that fit just fine! (Ya RIGHT!) I don't trust sizes these days - I just care if it feels good and looks good. (No one else needs to see the tag, LOL!) STILL wanna fit into those "vintage" size 16's though... Report
I've known for some time that the size labels on women's' clothing is subjective, so I don't really care about the size number on the clothes I buy. I just look for something that fits nicely. I'm using medical weight charts to tell me when I reach a healthy weight range - then I'll explore within that range to find my own, ideal, healthy weight - the one that my body is happiest with and isn't stressed out about. Report
Yes, clothing size matters to me, and I am NOT ashamed of that. It matters as much as the numbers on the scale or my waist circumference. I have noticed, however, that dress and pants sizes have become more"generous" on the last couple decades: a new pair of skinny jeans, marked "size 8" is exactly the same as a "size 10" pair from the early 1990s! (The new ones tend also to be too short, and ALWAYS "low-rise" -- ugh!) Since I shop primarily at consignment stores, however, this isn't an issue for me. Report
I wish there were some magic computerized sewing machine that would craft a garment that fits me just by knowing my height, weight, and most importantly my measurements. I have small hips and large bust, and my waist has always been very close in inches to my hips. So I have to buy size 14 or larger swimsuits and pants (I am 5'1"). Yuck! I am sick of buying large-sized, ill fitting clothes. I wonder if anyone else has a similar problem? Report
I am well aware of the difference between my normal and societal norms. I am old enough to have seen big changes. Report
BMI is an antiquated method of looking at weight and body fat. It has been proven over and over that it is very unreliable. Therefore, I discard any study or stat that uses BMI as a measurement tool. If you believe that Dove ads have created obesity, I have a ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. As for size matters....no. The reason it doesn't matter to me isn't because it's an abstract concept that I have no control over. I cannot control the fashion industry that dictates sizing, therefore, I will not lose sleep over whether I wear size 3X in one brand or 5X in the other brand or 1X in the 3rd brand. What frustrates me more is the cost goes up as the sizing increases, far higher than the cost to manufacture the clothing. As for surrounding myself with people who are obese therefore, I normalize obesity, what a weird comment to make - people come in all shapes and sizes, always have. My great-auntie was a large woman, as was her mother, my great-grandmother. Her sisters, including my grandmother were not, even though they were "all cut from the same cloth." I hope one day the writer of the blog realizes that size doesn't matter, it's just an abstract idea set up by some folks who think they know everything. (and really don't). Report
I remember when making clothing, the sizes on the patterns seem "larger" than the same size in the store, ready-made. But, when making your own clothing, it is absolutely critical that one knows the actual measurements (inches or centimeters, it doesn't matter. Pick one!) of all your measurements - bust, waist, chest, hips, wrists - it depends on what you are making as to which measurements you need. But we don't like to confront the fact that we think we are a size 18 but we have a 40 inch belly and 53 inch hip, or a 34 inch chest but only enough difference between chest size and bustline size for a B cup instead of a D cup bra. Whatever. So then we think "oh no, we're HUUUUGE". However, if we want a fitted outfit that is proper length in the legs (pants) or fits in the rise, we have to know how big around is our waist, our hip, the inseam of our legs, the "rise" (distance from our waist at bellybutton in front, around between our legs, up over the buttocks to the center of our back. Then if you make or have the pants altered to that size, it will fit properly and make you look so much better, even if you are a size 20 or 18 or 16 or whatever, 26. Easier said then done, because so much of the women's garment industry in USA is based on the idea of making with poor fabric and inconsistent sizing, so that we'll just give up and buy more.

Another thing I have noticed with the ready made is just poor craftsmanship, sloppiness in assembly. I have, on more than one occasion, bought 2 pair of pants, where I had tried on for size, decided one size fits, say, 2x petite pants, and then found another one on the rack also by same vendor, same model, same color or maybe the black one instead of the blue, same size 2x so you would think they would fit exactly the same, right? Well, no, I'd get home and the one pair might be an inch longer in the hem, or 3/4 of an inch narrower in the waist, or the inside thigh might be tighter in one leg than in the other. I've talked to people who used to work in the clothing industry and they'd laugh about times when they accidentally grabbed the wrong size label and sewed in a size 14 label in a pair of pants that was actually cut and sewn to be a size 12 (or 16, off a size in any case.). Well, it's not a laughing matter to the person who bought those pants! So it's hard to know in advance which companies or vendors have better quality control over another company. Report
I've never been one to be a 'label lover', but when I do find something I like that is versatile I may buy an extra one. Maybe a different color maybe the same.It depends on, maybe a size smaller. Report
Sizing has never meant much to me, because I rarely fit a "size." I try on almost everything I buy to see how it looks and feels on my short wide body. I almost always have to hem slacks or roll down the waist unless I find the rare pair of slacks that are already shortened or altered. Sometimes that might be at a really nice consignment store. Sometimes a better brand fits better, but not always. For me it's hit or miss. I'll try on whatever sizes the place has if it's something I like, to see if it fits. Consequently sometimes shopping is fun, and sometimes it isn't. Report
Soooo PROUD of wearing a size 2 in the very same designer brands in which I once had grown to a 6. Even happier to see the old 6's literally fall off without unzipping.. I worked for this; I work every day to keep it and I'd wear the size tags on the outside if I could. I'm only 5'1/2", so I SHOULD be in a tiny size. Forevermore! Report
The truth is, yes, it matters to me. I can now fit in my 32' jeans, and my 34' are falling off me. I love it. I'll never be a 2, 4 or, 6 because then I'd be annorexic, and even if I was annorexic, I don't know if I could ever go smaller than 10, just because of my build. 5'11 with a good sized frame. I believe the term they use is statuesque. But I do love fitting into a "smaller" size. Report
As I've been losing weight, I've actually found myself less interested in getting the smallest size. I think my biggest breakthrough was when I went dress shopping a few weeks ago for a formal event. I grabbed a bunch dresses I liked, ranging from a size 6 to a size 13/14. They all fit, though of course some fit/looked better than others. In the end, the dress that looked the best was the size 13/14 - a gorgeous little red dress. It bothered me a little to be buying the larger size when I could have gotten away with a size 6, but in the end, I went with the one that made me look the best! Report
I used to get upset when I picked clothes by size and went to the dressing room to try them on and they were too small. I was not losing weight nor was I gaining. I soon realized the manufactures were resizing to keep customers. Women like to feel small. Young sales associates look at me in horror when I would ask if a certain item was in my size..I used to get upset now I'm amused. I look at them and say to myself....you are one chicken leg and a couple of babies away from being as big as me yourself if you don't watch out. Report
Size matters to me to an extent, but I learned a long, long time ago that the label doesn't mean anything in and of itself. The only reason/way size matters to me is to the extent that it tells me if I'm doing something right or wrong. For me, I'm usually about a size 8-10 (I'd like to be smaller, yes, but not because of the label in my pants). If I start trying on several pairs of size 10 pants and none of them fit, then I know I need to be more diligent and get myself back on track. It's a wakeup call. Report
I live or buy by the clothing size! I think it matters to me as much as the scale! Report
While philosophically I object to vanity sizing, it has made it possible for me to even find clothing my size *in the plus size stores*! I have a disability so I shop almost exclusively online and I have so many clothes that are too small because they were the largest size they carried. I'm not concerned about thinking I'm a smaller so much as needing to find a larger size to buy.

I remember seeing an ad in the 70s that talked about the perfect size 10. That same woman is now probably a size 6 or less. In those days I was about 5'7" and weighed about 140 and was a size 12. I never quite made it into a 10. A few years ago a friend who weighed about 225 said she was wearing a size 18. No way I thought. But she did.

Marketing people must think consumers are pretty stupid if they think we don't know what they are doing. We know, we're just trying to work within their nonsense.

BTW, there is a mystery novel called "Size 12 is not Fat." It opens with a woman trying on clothes in a store that are certainly much smaller than she expected to wear. She heard someone in another room ask if the size 0 came in a smaller size. The chapter goes on to talk about vanity sizing. The next book in the series is "Size 14 isn't Plus Size Either!" Report
As at least one other person has said, we should just use actual measurement sizes like men do...that way there can't be any manipulation. I don't really care what the numbers say, but I find it mighty confusing shopping for pants when I can't just "know" my size. I end up having to grab 3 sizes just so I've got a bit of a range in the dressing room. Report
Yes it matters to me. But I only worry about a certain brand of jeans to fit me in that size.
I notice that in other brands I'd be like 2 sizes bigger according to them. However it doesn't bother me if the number is bigger as long as I can fit into my favorite :o). Report
Yes, the number does matter to me. I don't want it to, but at this point it does. Fit matters much more though. Report
sizes these days don't make sense to me at all. When I see a woman who is 5'8" and weighs 145 and the size she wears is a 2 I am so confused. I wore a 5-7-9 when I was a young woman and I never weighed more than 120 lbs. I don't have a clue what I wear now. I sew and make to fit me.
Also I really believe the culprit is the way people eat these days. With most families that have anyone over the age of being legal workers they all do work. And the food that are eaten are prepared, semi prepared or restaurant food. Not good real ingredients for all balanced 3 meals a day. Lets get real about this, garbage in we ware it. Report
At one time the size of clothing did matter to me. As my weight went up and down I realized that the sizes were crazy and I was becoming crazy with them. Once I stopped worrying about sizes I realized that each store is different and therefore the way the sizes were different. But I will admit that if it is a size ten I will not buy it, no matter what store it is in. Report
It used to matter to me, doesn't now, the sizes on the labels are all over the map and don't mean anything. Report
My thing with dress sizes is a bit complex. During my high school and college years, I relatively stayed the same size, but fluctuated b/w sizes 12-16. I didn't learn until a few years ago about the tactics of marketing smaller sizes. So, I don't think that directly affected me, especially since I didn't/don't go clothes shopping much and was usually the same size. But the size of clothes has been an issue for me since my teens b/c whenever I gain weight, it would affect my hips, glutes, and thighs, but my waist would be pretty much the same. When I would try on clothes, smaller sizes would fit me perfectly on the waist but nowhere else. So to this day, I have to compromise having clothes with a larger waistline to have the clothes fit me everywhere else. I would think, if it wasn't for the thickness of the lower part of my body, I would fit into such and such size. But I also deal with the fact that most clothes in stores are not made for women with curves, so really since hearing that, I didn't feel like I had a true dress size. Still, I would feel inadequate if I wasn't at least a size 12 b/c I couldn't walk into any store and find clothes I like. But b/c of body shape, I usually avoid going clothes shopping b/c I would to try clothes on being conscious on whether or not the clothes will highlight things I didn't want highlight or find out I wasn't the size I was several months ago. Today, I go clothes shopping if absolutely necessary, but not enough sad to say. I don't like the fact I have a lot of clothes and can't fit into them. I usually refuse to go clothes shopping b/c I don't like the fact that I'm a bigger size, it's my first year being definitely in plus sizes and I have to pick clothes from the plus section to them to fit me. Report
Yes size does matter to me. As much as I hate to admit it I get really excited when I can buy a smaller size even though I know Im not really that size. Its all about what the tag says I am even though I know noone will ever see the tag but me. Report
vanity sizing is hardly making me feel better. Last pair of jeans i bought are size 24 (european). So depressing-last thing i want to be is a stick insect. Report
Sadly the size 5 of 1970's is a size 0 today. Don't believe me? Try on something in a "vintage" clothing store. It's all Marketing. Report
I knew something weird was going on when I had to return my size 12 dress pants for size 10. There is no way on earth I'm a real size 10, even at my slimmest. I feel that the vanity sizing is confusing and misleading, and ultimately doesn't really help anyone feel any better about themself. All that happens is a paradigm shift to feeling bad about being a size 12 instead of a size 16 of several years ago. Ridiculous. Report
I couldn't agree more with what you wrote. This reason is because I too feel the same way about sizes. I am so happy to know that I am not alone, thank you for sharing. Report
Yes! this makes so much sense to me! I had the hardest time really accepting how much weight I had gained because I just felt pretty normal. As I got bigger I just was able to find stores that carried clothes in the "same size" I always was. So even though I gained 20 some pounds I was almost wearing the same size still. I think these problems can be really dangerous for our health - I didn't even know for awhile that I had become overweight. Report
Yes I let it bother me. I have some clothes that would look better on me if they were a bigger size but since I can get them on I bought them. These days I do want to get down to a smaller size but I have a bit easier to accept that the bigger sizes fit me the best. Report
When I was a teenager I did fool myself a lot of what size I really was. If I was a 16, I'd find some way to fit myself into a 12 and claim I was a 12 even if the pants didn't button or zip up all the way, or if I did manage to get the item zipped and buttoned, my gut would painfully hang out and a red welp mark would be left. I did all kinds of extreme things to try to alter my appearance then.
I've always seen labels, though I'm more comfortable in my skin than when I was a teenager.
I have to say that now, the closest experience I can give to the article would be shopping at a store like Lane Bryant were they made up their own labeling system. They started this almost a couple of years ago. Since then I've seen other stores do this in their plus-size section. It's laughable, but I understand the ploy for this type of method. I mean, If you were a size 20+ would you frown at being able to put on a pair of jeans that say size 8? I bought a pair when I was pregnant with my son back in early 08. I have to say it was a feel good moment because I was wearing a size 6 and my stomach was sticking out to here...
It's a mental thing that unfortantely I do believe a lot of women get sucked into, even ones who are denying it. Afterall, if this mentality didn't exist amongst the majority of women who are a size 12 and up (as that is the size that most plus-size sections do start), marketing trends would not be following this new sizing method. Report
I would really like to know what size I truly should wear! I'm tall (5' 11"), but not model shaped, so finding clothes to wear is a struggle (and makes shopping not all that fun). It's frustrating to know that I have to bring half the jeans back with me because the different cuts, brands, colors, will all fit me differently.

My husband can go to the store and pick out a pair of shorts or jeans off the shelf and know that they'll fit him. I can't do that and have a hard time explaining to him why it's such an issue.

With the vanity sizing, it just makes it all that harder to know what size I need to choose. It definitely makes me not want to go clothes shopping!

My mom is a lot more petite (5' 4" and a bit over 100lbs). She can fit in girl's clothing, which she often has to buy in order to get something that fits her. Growing up, she was always a size 9 jean, now she's typically a 2 or smaller. Report
What bothers me more is the insanity of labeling larger clothing with smaller numbers - "vanity" sizing. As a result of that, I have to shop in the Junior's department and hope I can find something suitable for a fifty-year-old woman like me. Multiply that by the fact that each manufacturer has its own different standards and I usually have to take mountains of clothing into a fitting room! Report
I usually have the opposite problem. I always try on the bigger size and have been told quite often that I wear clothes much to big and baggie for my size... Report
Numbers matter. They are motivating. I want my Spark Points to increase, my scale number to decrease, and my clothing size to get smaller. I don't like the manipulation from clothing manufacturers because it leads to a false sense of security for some people; and I just plain don't like being manipulated. Report
Wow. Does anyone else think this is sad? There is such a different standard for men when it comes to clothing. They seemed to have kept proper sizing over the years AND their clothes are almost always less expensive than women's clothing because the industry knows how much we are into fashion. I do have to admit that when I do go down a size in clothing, it excites me. BUT, it's all relative. Our "sizes" differ from country to country and brand to brand. We were conditioned to want to wear a certain size, so I think it is still possible to condition ourselves closer to reality. Why can't we just go by inches of waist, etc. just like men do? I know it is not ideal for so many who rely on the "smaller" number to make them feel better. But I think in the long run it would be better for all. After all, that is how we figure out our bra size, isn't it? I have just always found this frustrating that there has never been a standard for our sizing. We are being manipulated point blank and we continue to give into it. I hope more people will work on being happy with overall health changes instead of just the number on our clothing tags and the number on the scale... Report
Size does matter to me but not as much as it did when I was younger. I'm 53 and have gone through a lot of 'bumps in the road' and once it got up in the dbl digits, I quit caring as much. Now, I want the clothes to be as flattering as possible and I want to fit comfortably in a seat, etc. Report
I work in retail and it stings each and every time a super thin customer holds up the size 0 dress/skirt/pants and says "Do you have a double 0?"

What's worse is I answer by saying "Oh yeah of cousre we do" and hand her a 00. Bleh! DOUBLE ZERO?! Thats not even a number!!!! Report
Not exactly because I try to look at the way jeans or a skirt fit me. Sometimes though I am more tempted to buy something because I know the sizes run larger than other places, I still feel it is important to fit right. I did notice that in the last 35 years my weight gain of 40 plus pounds did not reflect the change in my closet. After gaining all that weight I wore a 10,but usually a12-14. Well when I weighed all so many pounds less in high school, I sometimes could fit into an 8 but usually a 9, 10-11. After losing 20 pounds I can fit into a 8-10. What would happen if I lost all of the 40 plus pounds? I know for a fact I wouldn't be thinner than I was in High School. I am a baby boomer and in order for us fat baby boomer to purchase more clothes the manufacturer has invented the size 0 and 1 which they did not have back in the day. Report
I bought a dress for my sister's wedding because
1) It was the right color.
2) It was a terrific price.
3) It lied to me. It looked me straight in the eye and told me I was a Size 6. Report
Ugg. I hate vanity sizing. Like a number on a tag that nobody sees really makes a difference? Seriously, I would not care if the number on my jeans said 100 as long as they make me look great. Report
I have real problems with the non-standard sizing mostly because I do a lot of shopping on line. It's so bad that I occasionally have to go to a store to try on their brands so I can know what I need to order when I need something. Grrrr. Other than that, I don't think whether I buy a 10 or a 6 matters as long at the items fit well. Drives me crazy not to be able to predict whether the item I'm wearing now will be the same size I will wear tomorrow./ Report
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