Vanity sizing isn’t a term that is familiar by the average North American consumer yet everyone who has ever purchased an item of clothing in the last ten years has been affected by it at one point or another. It’s officially defined as “the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming bigger over time” and has primarily been employed by retailers in both the United States and the UK. To put it simply, clothing manufacturers have adjusted label sizes in order to make them appear smaller than they are in order to incite customers to buy their merchandise.
The reason for the disparity is obvious but not one that many are willing to admit to. The simple fact is that the obesity epidemic is a reality and we, as a society, have become bigger to the point that retailers have to adjust the sizing of their clothing in an effort to address the issue. Obesity simply wasn’t common a century ago yet according to every relevant study that has been conducted in recent years, it now is. Therefore now women who had resigned themselves to being a size 8-9 approximately 15 years ago, find themselves a “lithe” size 4 without having lost a single pound. Conversely, those who were size 4s can now the enjoyable feeling of being able to go to a store, grab a size “00” off of the rack and slip it on, smiling at themselves in the mirror all of the while despite the fact that they aren’t any smaller than they were before.
This begs the question of who is actually at fault for the emotional manipulation that vanity sizing entails – does the blame lie on the shoulders of consumers who allow themselves to be in denial about their weight or is that of the retailers who take advantage of those who purchase their goods? Reasonably it can be argued that both parties share the responsibility. However ultimately, retailers are simply giving people what they want by appealing to their vanity and pride in order to make a profit and as we all know, pride is one of the 7 Deadly Sins.