Most people are familiar, at least somewhat, with the effect that media has on our own body image and self-esteem. However, what you may not be familiar with is the effect that media also has on producers and brands.
Vanity sizing is defined by Newsweek as the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming bigger in physical size over time. This phenomenon occurs mainly in the United States and United Kingdom, where clothing sizing is generally not standardized.
In a study that measured over 1,000 pairs of women’s pants, researchers found that pants from more expensive brands tended to be smaller than those from cheaper brands with the same nominal size.
And while you may have heard that “size is just a number”, it can have a negative psychological impact on consumers. According to an interview by Cosmopolitan, “Size is the latest way to evaluate self-worth,” says Susan Head, PhD, a body-image specialist and clinical psychologist.
The obsession with thinness undoubtedly stems from unrealistic and unobtainable images projected by media and advertising — which are constantly bombarding consumers.
“When thinness is discussed so regularly and with such
emphasis, it leads us to attribute enormous importance to
it,” body-image specialist Adrienne Ressler, national
training director for the Renfrew Center, an eating-disorder
treatment center also told Cosmopolitan, “Size seeps into your subconscious and you can’t help but ruminate about it on a consistent basis.”
Vanity sizing exaggerates the issue by allowing consumers to feel triumphant when they are able fit into “smaller” sizes, and laterally feel ashamed or disappointed when that same size does not fit in another brand.
“The gown in my usual size was
minuscule! I had to go up two sizes. In stead of feeling excited that I’d found my dress, I was depressed.” -Janet to Cosmo
What is important to remember is the fact that — vanity sizing, like many other marketing tactics, is often used to prey on consumers insecurities and by preying on those insecurities, turn a profit.
“The only way not to get hung up on the size you wear is to understand how the fashion industry works and to realize that sizes on a label are essentially useless. Women need to see that when a certain size of clothing doesn’t fit them it’s not their fault, it’s just the cut of the clothing that isn’t right for their bodies.” -Rae to WebMd