Vanity Sizing is the practice of clothing manufacturers inflating garments in physical size over a period of time but leaving the nominal size label the same. This is not a new thing; clothing manufacturers have been doing this dating back to the 1930’s. An example I came across was that in a 1937 Sears catalogue a dress that was size 14 had a bust of 32”, by 1967 that same bust size was used in dress size 8 and in 2011 32” was considered a size 0. This is not unique to women by any means, Esquire writer Abram Sauer tested some common brands of men’s trousers a few years ago, and found that actual measurements were often 2-3 inches larger than the indicated size. The Old Navy trousers he checked measured 5 inches bigger than their flattering label! Just take a look at the chart below to show how wildly the sizes can vary.
Why do brands do it? It not only makes shopping more difficult but it also increases return rates. The reason is simple, it improves customer self esteem on the high street. A study published in the ‘Journal of Consumer Psychology’ found that smaller size labels actually increased consumers self esteem. In a world of mass production and competition it is actually quite easy to see why brands do it. In the same way that smaller size labels increase self esteem, larger size labels or even accurate ones have the opposite effect and can have a negative impact on the product itself. This is something that most retailers cannot afford in todays climate. Unless all brands work to a globally standardised size chart then you are always going to get a size war between brands. Consumers will like brand x because they fit in 30” trousers but not like brand y because they are a size 32” even though both brands could have the same physical size trouser. It has even been suggested by the UK’s chief medical officer that vanity sizing has contributed to the normalisation of obesity in this country.
What has all this got to do with us? As an online retailer it has caused problems in the past in terms of returns and customer queries and it is something that many consumers are not aware of. At Albert Prendergast we pride ourselves on ensuring that all our garments are true to size. To this end we encourage you to measure yourself accurately before purchasing to ensure you get the right size garment first go. Don’t rely on taking the measurements from your high street branded garments, as they may not be accurate. It should be noted that most brands also vary in size quite dramatically, not only due to vanity sizing but also due to the lasts, fabrics, mannequins and designers that they use. We really can’t stress enough the importance of measuring first. Please use to diagram below to help you find your measurements and if still unsure feel free to get in contact.