I will NOT be defined anymore by a size”  I thought, as I cut the label out of my pants; but it has taken me eons to arrive at this point, and I definetely still have my days.

llustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.

Where did vanity sizing start, you may be wondering? Well, back in the 1940’s “The “Works Projects Administration” ( a new deal agency), took to the task of studying the female body in the hopes of creating a standard labeling system; up until that point, sizes had been based off of bust measurements only. They sent a pair of statisticians to survey and measure nearly 15,000 women who were to be measured in 59 places, for a small participation fee. They hoped that these measurements would help to create a broad and simple standardized system of sizing, however, most of the women who participated were poor white women with hourglass shapes, and they quickly realized they could not be pinpointed to a “one size fits all” model. They dropped the project until the 1950’s, when the “National Bureau of Standards” published the “Body Measurements for the Sizing of Women’s Patterns and Apparel.” This study was largely based off of women in the airforce, although they did revisit some of the 15,000 women who were previously measured. The results were wildly inconsistent, and ranged from sizes 8-38; there was also a set of letters to represent height and girth. There were no non-white women who were invited to participate in the study, and this would not change until the 1970’s, and finally in the 1980’s the goverment ditched this standard, and left it up to brands to create their own sizing. 

Image from wtkr.com

According to an article from alltimelists ( <–click to go directly to article) “according to a 2017 study by Wan-Ju Iris Franz, luxury brands are the primary users of vanity sizing. But, brands like LOFT, American Eagle, Gap and J.Crew are also guilty. Speaking of J.Crew, the brand came under fire some years ago for adding pants size 000 to its line. Critics took to social media and accused the retailer of going too far and being insensitive to young women with body image issues. Others were happy to see the addition of size 000 pants because the retailer typically sells clothing sizes that run larger than other apparel stores.”

The current problem is, that our culture has become fixated in an unhealthy way, in regards to the label in our clothing; that is where vanity sizing enters the picture. Clothing manufacturers have realized that they could attempt to  flatter shoppers by altering sizes down, in the hopes that if consumers think they wear a smaller size, they will ultimately buy more. And THAT is extremely unhealthy and damaging to our pysche. Now, I would like to say an easy fix would be to start having all of your clothing custom made, or alternately if you are crafty, make it yourself. But with an economy they continues to spiral downward, that is not a viable financial option for most. I am always an encourager of thrift shopping, as to stop supporting the mounting fast fashion waste problem this world has, but we also need to separate ourselved from the letter or number that continously tries to define how we see ourselves. We need to love our bodies, no matter what is used to dress it.

As we progress into the future, I am happy to see many size inclusive brands (sustainable too!), that are commited to making a change and giving ALL sizes a chance in this size obsessed world. We need to stop the personal self loathing inside of us about an outward appearance, and we need to speak up when the media digitally alters an outward appearance of a human being and contributes to a false ideation of perfection. We need to to be enganged in positive relationships with friends and family who help to shape and influence how we feel; but mostly we need to “tear the tag”. Stop letting an intangible number or letter rule how you see yourself. You ARE more, DESERVE more, and ARE worthy of love! Are YOU commited to “tearing the tag” together and putting a stop to vanity sizing? I would love to hear your thoughts <3


Erin Bass

*Fashion Designer*Creator*Unicorn Whisperer*

*Erin hails from Portland, Oregon and is a self taught upcycled fashion designer, seamstress, and fiber artist. Want to see her work? Click here!




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