Have you ever been asked, “What is your size?” and had to give a speech about your “size”? Or have you ever been in the dressing room trying on multiple sizes of one piece of clothing, or even having an employee help you find your size and they make comments such as “I can get you a bigger size”? This can be a very stressful and emotional part of shopping for women. Lots of clothing brands like to use different sizes that best work for their brand to represent the ideal fit. Some brands even use odd numbers; some use even numbers; and some just use the basic small, medium, and large to size their clothes. Sadly, not every store follows the same sizing guide.

Vanity sizing is one reason behind women’s body image concerns. Vanity sizing can be defined as altering measurement specifications for garments to enable consumers to fit into smaller sizes (Hoegg, Scott, Morales, & Dhal 2013). Brands like Brandy Melville, Zara, and Abercrombie & Fitch size their clothing in a way that fits smaller than expected. However, vanity sizing isn’t only about making clothing smaller but can alter clothes to fit bigger. Take the brand Victoria’s Secret, for example. It promotes women’s bras and lingerie to make women feel they have bigger breasts than normal. The company sizes its bras to fit up to three times larger than what is expected to help flatter chested consumers (Ketron & Naletelich 2017).

This can impact women’s body image confidence negatively. If all clothing brands used the same sizing method, then women’s body confidence would be more positive, and they wouldn’t have to worry about what sizes they fall under. Although vanity sizing can make women’s shopping stressful, it is important to remember that you are not meant to fit into clothes, rather, clothes are meant to fit you. Yes, seeing a higher size than what you’re used to is not fun and can be emotional, Size is just a number. Sizing means nothing when you try on clothes that make you feel confident and good about your body image and is not a measure of your worth.

Vanity sizing can be an overwhelming struggle for lots of women and extra challenging for college students. Illinois State University Student Counseling Services offers really good programs to address healthy body image, such as the Body Project and More Than Muscles. These are peer-led programs offer conversations about body image and eating disorders. Through fun and safe activities during the programs, you can learn how to maintain a healthy body image. Visit the Body Project website to learn more and to register.