“Vanity sizing” is a term for the industry’s practice of inflating the dimensions associated with a particular size tag over time. What was considered an American size 8 a decade ago will pass for a size 4 today. Size inflation becomes more extreme the further back in time we go. Marilyn Monroe’s voluptuous size 12 body would probably fit into the equivalent of what we know as a size 6 today.
How this phenomenon started is anyone’s guess. It is thought that vanity sizing is “designed to satisfy the buyer’s wish to appear thin“. This boosts self esteem and thereby ensures the sale of a garment. Designers and manufacturers were quick to realize that there was money to be made by satisfying perceived insecurities.
The increasing dimensions of garments have subsequently caused retailers to introduce additional size designations at the low end of their size ranges (0, 00, or subzero sizes). This is hilarious! Next thing you know, a healthy size 8 will be wearing a size 0 and a tiny size 0 will be in a size marked “negative 8”. At the end of the day, there is no getting away from the fact that we live in a fashion world in which smaller clothing sizes are an obsession.
If you’d like to learn more about vanity sizing, Wikipedia is a good place to find related articles. What are your thoughts on downsizing size tags as a way of fooling us into a false sense of security?