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3 Things You Should Know About Vanity Sizing

By Ayren Jackson-Cannady

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

WebMD Feature

You have three pairs of pants that are three different sizes, and they all fit you perfectly. How can this be?

It’s vanity sizing. "Every designer has their own standard of fit and measurements," says stylist Bridgette Raes, author of Style Rx: Dressing the Body You Have to Create the Body You Want. "There isn't a standardized sizing chart anymore because there was never one to begin with."

When you shop for clothes, you may want to keep these three things in mind about vanity sizing.

1. Disregard the Label.

It might be tough, but psychologist Jennifer Baumgartner, PsyD, author of You Are What You Wear, says tofocus on fit by shopping for clothes without looking at the tag size. "Rather look at the actual size and shape of the garment, and cut out the size tag after purchasing the item," she says.

A University of Michigan study found that when a woman thinks she wears a smaller size, she buys more clothing.  "What designers and manufacturers started doing was taking what was once their measurements for their size 8, for example, and putting a size 6 label on it instead, knowing that a woman would be more likely to make a purchase," Raes says.

"The problem with this method is that, while it can be psychologically encouraging for the shopper, stores have had to introduce smaller sizes to fit petite women. It's why we're now seeing size XXS."

2. Consider the Cut.

Just like no two thumbprints are alike, neither are any two designers' cuts. A general rule of thumb:

  • European labels are known for cutting slimmer in the hips and wider in the waist.
  • American labels are known for a more generous fitting hip and a smaller waist.
  • "Junior" fits are cut smaller than "Missy" fits.

"The only way not to get hung up on the size you wear is to understand how the fashion industry works and to realize that sizes on a label are essentially useless," Raes says. "Women need to see that when a certain size of clothing doesn't fit them it's not their fault, it's just the cut of the clothing that isn't right for their bodies."

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