Not Just a Number: Clothing Sizes Are Hurting Our Women

Updated on June 29, 2018
Sara Stietz profile image

Sara is the proud mama of two rabbits, Walter and Eleanor, Helga the cat, and a dog named Dante.

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Vanity Sizing

We have all heard claims that Marilyn was a size 14, which is plus size in the present day. But-Marilyn Monroe was certainly not plus size. Today, her personal clothing items can be placed on mannequins from size 0 to 8 depending on the item, as shown on the Marilyn Monroe collection's website. This is due to vanity sizing which is simply, assigning a smaller size to clothing to make people feel better about their size.

Shopping: Not As Much Fun As It Used To Be

We have all seen examples of sizing discrepancies from one season to the next. For women of all sizes. I recall seeing, arguably, the most gorgeous girl in my family post a photo of her new jeans compared to the year before. They were exactly the same size, in every measurement, but she is now a size larger at the same store.

Companies choose their own sizing. A size 2 at one store can be an 8 at another. A size 2 can jump to a 4, from one year to the next, at any given store. I have shirts in my closet that are M and some that are XL...they fit the same. And even if the XL is more flattering, I feel a lot better about myself in the M. Women's clothing sizes make no sense and that is hurting us.

I personally had the dreaded task of purchasing a new bathing suit last week. I don't think any woman in her 30's enjoys this particular activity. Gravity has begun to do its work. Carbs cause more damage than they had 10 years ago. You get the idea. I started by looking for my measurements on the sizing chart and discovered that I was too big for a large and too small for an extra large. Great, the already dreaded experience has only gotten worse. I then noticed there was a new size added to the plus sizes: 0X. Imagine my shock and dismay when I found my measurements there. Take a moment and think about that. I was too small for regular sizing XL. But had to buy the plus size 0X.

In a society where our beauty is so often defined by the number on our clothing tags, the ever increasing sizing can have real effects on how women perceive themselves. When countries feel they have to ban models who are unhealthily thin (I'm looking at you France) it shows an all time high level of irresponsibility within the fashion industry. Women are told it is better to be ill than fat. And with ever changing numbers on clothing tags, fat is thinner than ever.

We Should All Be Able To Shop Together

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Stop Calling Us Plus

The average American woman is now a size 16 as found in a new study conducted by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. Plus size clothing coincidentally starts at size 16. Where can the average American woman find clothing? The back corner of some stores, usually right behind the maternity section, or on-line. Imagine the embarrassment to have to shop on-line because you are too big to shop in store.

Clothes on the rack are becoming ever more impossible to fit into. Please, do not think I am skinny-shaming anyone either. I recognize that perfectly healthy women come in all shapes and sizes. Why can't the people who make our clothes see this? Why are average sized women less than? Be skinny or wear a curtain. Take your pick.

Men's fashion does not segregate. Their clothing also lacks "vanity sizing". If a man wears an XL, he can buy and XL from any company. He can buy the same shirt as guys wearing a S. He doesn't have to visit a special section of the store or select from frumpy floral prints.

Ruth posted this photo of herself trying to put on size 16 jeans
Ruth posted this photo of herself trying to put on size 16 jeans | Source

How We Are Affected

Mirror-mirror.org, an eating disorder help site, states that 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they are dieting. When surveying women at a college, 91% reported having tried extreme diets with 22% of them doing so frequently.

Eating disorders are ten times more common amongst women than they are men. Why? We are invited to feel fat everywhere we look. Plus size models are a size 8. When plus size models are half the size of the average American woman it is demoralizing. When we are herded into the back corner of the store like cattle, it makes us feel segregated. Many stores do not even make sizes large enough for most of us. Ruth Clemons made a point to call out H&M for not making reasonably sized clothing and she isn't even plus size. We are subconsciously told we are less worthy than the "skinny" girls. We get fewer options. We get less fashionable options.

The body-positive movement should not even be a thing. Our bodies are so much more than the size on our clothing tags. We can grow humans with our bodies. We can run marathons. We can hug someone in need. We can do so many beautiful things at any size. We should be allowed to feel beautiful while doing it.

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