For many of us, there’s nothing that a spot of retail therapy can’t fix, but that high you get from finding the perfect LBD on the rack in your size can quickly turn sour when you head into the changing rooms.
Others are fuming over the inconsistency between stores, which often leaves them ‘in tears’.
One disgruntled consumer recently said: ‘I’m so sick of all these sizes changing between brands but also within the same brand?!?!’
While another tweeted: ‘I hate clothes shopping. Good day I will find something, bad day? Guaranteed tears and just want to go home. Doesn’t help that clothes shops aren’t consistent in their sizing? A size UK 14 in one store may fit me perfectly while a size UK 14 in another is tight.’
Someone else claimed they were struggling with ‘vanity sizing’, saying it makes them mad and that sizes now mean ‘nothing’ to them. A second agreed, posting: ‘No, you don’t still wear the same size you did 10 years ago, they just keep vanity sizing the clothes.’
Alongside this they posted a snap of two T-shirts, one they claim is a size medium and the other a large. However, the image clearly shows that the medium one is much bigger than the large.
What is vanity sizing?
Vanity sizing, or size inflation as it is otherwise known, is the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming bigger in physical size over time. The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as ‘the practice of assigning smaller sizes to articles of manufactured clothing than is really the case, in order to encourage sales.’
Depressingly, it does play into societal beauty standards that frustratingly still tell us that slimmer is better.
The opposite phenomenon is also true, according to fashion psychologist, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, and it can have a big impact on your spending habits. Writing for Cosmopolitan, she recently coined the term ‘humility sizing’ which she claims refers to clothes being assigned larger sizes than they actually are.
The expert cited a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology which found that while many may assume having to size up in clothes might put people off shopping, it can actually cause ‘compensatory consumption’, where you end up buying more in a bid to repair the damage inflicted on your self-esteem by the change in your regular size.
Shakaila went on to share some food for thought, commenting: ‘If brands know they can encourage you to spend more by messing with your body image, inflating your self-esteem one minute and humbling you the next, what incentive do they have to get those labels in order? Absolutely none.’
In the UK sizing standards are set by the British Standards Institution, but these don’t specify which measurements specific sizes must have, so brands and retailers are often able to determine this for themselves. This means shoppers are often left in a position where sizing differs greatly between stores.
This is likely the reason you may be a size 14 in one shop and a size 18 in another. And while we know this can have a major impact on people’s mental wellbeing, it’s always important to remember that there is nothing wrong with fitting in different sizes. They’re just numbers and they don’t define who you are as a person. But what’s the solution?
Charlotte Broadbent, a fashion stylist and founder of charlotteloves.co.uk, says love to see a big change in the way stores label their sizes, moving away from traditional numbers like 12 and 18 and instead using inches to determine fit.
‘UK clothing sizes are illogical and incoherent. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 are outdated – and don’t get me started on small, medium and large!’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Let’s now move into the “inches era”, which would rely on a clearer labelling standard to include inches, on tags in store AND online specifications..’
Interestingly, she doesn’t thinkin making an industry standard for each size is the answer, because it’s still too easy to get caught up in the numbers.
‘Would an industry sizing standard help 100%? Maybe, but in all likelihood not, women’s body shapes differ wildly; proportions, torso length, where the waist sits on the silhouette etc. Jeans are the worst offenders on size differential, as well as being the items that produce the most “acquisition anxiety,”‘ she explains.
However, one area she believes would benefit from having an industry standard size is trouser length, especially when it comes to measuring the inside leg. Charlotte says she would love to see more extra short, short, regular, long, and extra long labels on trousers, which a few stores like Marks & Spencer already use.
She praised the high street brand for their ‘considerate’ labelling on trouser length, claiming she can return to M&S ‘time and time again for clients who are tall (5ft 10″ and over) and short (5ft 3″ and under)’ because of this.
But while some brands are clearly going above and beyond to help shoppers find the best fit, Charlotte advises against lashing out at those who aren’t quite there yet.
She explains how the design and cut of clothes varies between brands and the key to finding the right clothes for your body is simply to work out which brands work best for you and avoid the ones that don’t.
‘Blaming the brands isn’t always helpful,’ she says. ’Most brands choose a niche, and design clothes for that body type, i.e. LK Bennett cuts narrow and short (great for shorter, straight body shape clients), Mint Velvet cuts more square (flattering for apple shape clients).
‘Consumers have to take more responsibility for understanding their unique body shape and research/educate themselves on brands that work for them. Or work with a stylist who can help guide you through your individual body shape needs.’
She adds: ‘Take time to understand your body shape and proportions, working with a stylist on fabrics, styles and brands that suit your shape, lifestyle and budget will help reduce angst and shopping insecurity.’
The stylist also shared a top tip to help shoppers work out how much stretch an item of clothing will have if you’re looking for more comfortable fit. She urged shoppers to check the % of lycra or elastane an item contains. The higher the %, the more the item will stretch and the more ‘forgiving’ it will be. ‘Always check the label when making a purchase,’ she advises.
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