My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

NOTE:  This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.


Shirts Hanging on Clothes RackAre 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 they are extremely hesitant to buy anything larger than that “magic” size.

Size Inconsistencies

Some highlights of the 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 that I feel good when I can fit into a smaller size even if I haven’t lost any weight and I 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.

In my closet right now, I have pants and skirts from sizes 4 to 10 and tops from sizes small to extra-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 size 10s than I used to be, despite the fact that I wear size 8 on most occasions.  But if I ever need to grab a size 12, forget about it!  I just can’t bring myself to try on, let alone buy, that larger number.  This doesn’t work in the reverse direction, however.  Should I ever need to size down to a size 6 or even – gasp – a 4, bring it on!

No One Knows Your Size But You!

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 that has been presented in various articles is to cut the size tag off after purchasing the item.  That way, you don’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, then forget about it!

Progressive Recovery

I am not as obsessed about clothing sizes as I am about the number on the scale.  I have made better progress in terms of releasing my attachment to the sizes I wear than I’ve made about my weight.  Perhaps my recovery will be progressive and I will eventually learn to shrug off the three-digit weight numbers as easily as I can say “So what?” about grabbing a top in a size large instead of a medium.  That is my sincere hope and I’m moving in that direction.   Awareness of the absurdity of my obsession is the first step toward letting it go.

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 by media figures?

A Win for Curvy Ladies!

Last night, I watched the season finale of the modeling competition show, “She’s Got the Look,” the search to find the next top model over age 35.  Although I was a fan of all three of the finalists, I was very pleased to see Marilin named the winner.  Throughout the season, Marilin has had to overcome preconceived notions about what size and shape a model should be.  Marilin is tall, beautiful, exotic, well-proportioned, and curvier than most models.  She looks fabulous in clothes, walks the runway with grace and sensuality, and projects confidence and style in all of her assignments.  Her photographs were all lovely and her natural charisma shined through at all times.

The fact that Marilin was named the winner of “She’s Got the Look” represents a step in the right direction toward broadening the definition of beautiful for models and the general population of women.  Since many women take their cues for what’s attractive from magazines, television, and movies, I feel that the greater the variety of body shapes shown, the more likely that women will embrace their own unique body shapes.

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