Vanity Sizing: How Clothing Stores Affect Health
by Christina Ly


Our portion sizes have increased, our waistbands have increased, and now so have our sizing charts — clothing sizing charts, that is. The traditional, standard measurements for what is a small, medium, or large have been shifted upwards by many clothing companies in order to accommodate for bigger Americans. The fashion industry has coined the term “vanity sizing” to describe this trend, and the word choice is quite obvious. 

Vanity sizing is actually found in many common clothing stores, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, and department stores. The rest of the world still adheres to standard measurements, and interestingly, American brands abroad also use standard measurements. Anyone can see this by shopping online. Clothes imported from Europe usually have “EUC” following the size to inform shoppers they should think twice about ordering the size they usually do. 

American Apparel has yet to give into vanity sizing. A women’s size small for American Apparel measures 30-32 inches across the chest, whereas Gap’s size small measures 34 inches across the chest. It isn’t that American Apparel is making everything smaller, it’s that so many other companies are making everything bigger. 

It’s great that you can say you wear a size small when in reality you wear a medium or large, but the reality of it all makes vanity sizing an idea that I find to be pitiable. Vanity sizing’s implications and effects on Americans are far more negative and harmful than they are positive. 

We all know that a plethora of ramifications come with being physically bigger and that America has an issue with piling up the pounds. These health issues should be recognized and addressed, not disguised. Vanity sizing is adding more fuel to the flame of America’s weight problem and belittling it. Like putting concealer on a blemish, the practice of vanity sizing does little but allow individuals (customers) to play along with the abstract norms our society holds so near and dear, those concerning self-image and reputation. It has to do with approaching issues with only surface-level solutions. 

Companies that use vanity sizing are not helping curtail the health epidemic in America; they are accommodating it. People need to know how large their waistbands are. They need to know they are not healthy so they can take the proper steps towards being healthier. Vanity sizing tells them, “Hey, you’re not that big after all.” 

It is ridiculous that a size small is now too large for some people and simultaneously gives others false self-perceptions. The fact that our society’s norms have affected the garment industry in this way really says a thing or two about Americans. The logic is that vanity sizing makes customers like an item more and become more likely to purchase it. Customers feel good about themselves in that article of clothing because the size on the label is favorable. Although almost no one else will see the size on the label, it is psychologically treated as if the size will be shared with the world. 

I don’t mean to haunt all of your future shopping experiences with all of this talk about vanity sizing, but if it does, may it be for the betterment of yourself. So many realities and truths are blurred by the nature of our social norms these days that it gets difficult to know the true state of an entity. I may be stretching this too thin by applying it to our clothing sizes, but the truth can never be spread too thin. Some may think that I am stretching the relationship between vanity sizing and health. However, I ask you, is it really all that healthy to lie to yourself and live in the self-indulgent fantasy of vanity sizing?