On Vanity Sizing and Playing Ourselves: Plus 6 Tips to Get Your Best Fit

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Size doesn’t matter.

Wayment… Before you get all pointy-fingers and crazy eyes, let me explain: We all know that depending on what store you walk into, you’re gonna wear a different size. You may wear size 8 jeans at Old Navy and need a 12 at NY&Co. It’s called ‘vanity sizing’ and it means that the little letter or number on your clothing tag is a deceiver and doesn’t want you to have nice things; like pants that don’t cut off your circulation.

Vanity sizing, or size inflation, is the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming bigger in physical size over time.”

The truth is, clothing brands know that the little letter or number on the clothing tag is super important to many of us and to keep us feeling good about ourselves, they downsize the labels.  The lower the number on the tag, the better the customer will feel about themselves and the more likely they are to spend their money. So you wear a size 12 at The Gap but you roll up in the Banana Republic and try on a pair of size 10’s and they fit, now you’re convinced that those 5 squats you did worked and you’ve lost weight…

Fact: The fashion industry profits from our need to attain the unattainable.

Even though it’s gotten *slightly* better, the media still bombards us daily with images that depict the “ideal” woman. I’ll save the Eurocentric fair skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed standard of beauty rant for another day because this post is about size…

When it comes to “ideal” size, the fashion industry sample size is a 4. FOUR! I dunno about you, but a size 4 isn’t even on my vision board.

Now you may be thinking, she’s slim, what does she know? To that I say, girl, don’t let the creative camouflage fool you! I’ve got cellulite, back fat and these thighs are thicker than a Snickers. We’ve all got something. The trick is, dressing for the body you have. Not the body you used to have or the body you’ll have after you finish 3 rounds of T25 (which you haven’t started yet because kids/work/life/tacos).

So what do you do if you can’t trust the sizes? I’m glad you asked. Here are 6 tips to get the right fit every time:

Tip 1. Trust your measurements:

When shopping for women’s clothing, the three most important measurements you’ll need are bust, waist, and hip. It might also be helpful to make note of other measurements like shoulder width or arm length if you have fit issues in a particular area. Here are some measurement tips:

  • Use a non-stretchy measuring tape
  • Make sure the tape measure is level around your body and parallel to the floor
  • Keep the measuring tape close to your skin without tightening it

Here’s how to measure:

Bust: Measure all the way around your boobs and back on the line of your nipples.

Waist: Measure at the slimmest part of your torso. Here’s a trick: bend side to side. Wherever that bend happens is your natural waist.

Hips: Measure around the widest part of your booty.

Tip 2. Make a note:

Once, you’ve taken your measurements, keep those numbers handy for your next shopping trip (I keep mine in a note on my phone). Update your measurements as you gain or lose weight. When shopping online, the size guide is your friend.

You can find one of these size charts everywhere you shop. Just match up your measurements with the size for the perfect fit every time

Tip 3. Try it on:

This is one of my least favorite things to do, but the best way to find your fit when shopping in the store. Grab the size you think you need and the next ones up and down to save yourself the back and forth if one doesn’t fit. If you can’t comfortably sit, reach up or you know, breathe, you need to size up.

Tip 4. Focus on fit:

I recently bought a super cute pair of crop pants that, by my calculations, should have fit me perfectly in a size 14. That was not the case. I had to go up to a 16 and if I’m being honest, I felt some type of way about it.  I sized up because, at the end of the day, they were hella cute, I wanted them and I wanted them to fit me in a flattering way. If the size on the tag bothers you that much, cut that joker out. I won’t tell.

Tip 5. Get it tailored:

As a member of team tall, I can almost never find pants long enough for me right off the rack. I can, however, find pants with enough inseam for a tailor to let out and make them long enough. Alterations made by a good tailor or seamstress can accentuate your figure and elevate your look.

Tip 6. Read the reviews:

Read up on what other people are saying about the fit of an item before you buy. Pay attention to reviews that say the same thing. It’s normal to find one or two negative reviews about how something fits but if lots of people have the same thing to say, take heed.

I promise you, no matter your size, if you’re wearing clothes that fit you well, you will feel like a million bucks. F*ck that size girls. It’s wrong anyway.


What say you? Have you noticed vanity sizing in some of the places you shop? How do you feel about it?

Do you think the industry should come up with universal sizing standards?

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T. Espinoza is CEO at The Style Medic. She's the Diva next door, the girlfriend who always looks Fab but doesn’t spend a bundle. She works with the active, focused Diva who wants to look fly, save time and most of all, save money. T. can help you streamline your wardrobe, maximize your budget and take your style from flat-lined to FABULOUS!


  1. Kendro


    Girl this ain’t nothing but the truth! Ever since I was a teenager I noticed my size at certain stores would be different. Measuring is a BIG thing for me! Love these tips!

    • The size differences are just so different! I shop online a lot so this keeps me from having to go through annoying return processes.

  2. Really great tips for learning how to properly measure, especially with so many of us shopping online these days. I do try to shop the closet first so I love that you mentioned just getting it altered.
    Nadalie Bardo recently posted…11 Reasons You’ll Fail to Create Your Dream JobMy Profile

    • Thanks Nadalie! I prefer online shopping. It’s just easier and less stressful.

  3. Kasi


    These are some great tips! My size pretty much stays the same no matter the store, but knowing my measurements is helpful, especially when I’m ordering things like bridesmaids/formal dresses.

    • Thanks Kasi! Knowing my measurements have saved me when I’m shopping online.

  4. Ola


    Thank you for explaining that whole sizing game. Now I know I’m not imagining things!

  5. Sheena


    This is one of the reasons why I hate ordering jeans online that aren’t sized by waist measurement. I decided to try Fashion Nova jeans and have had the hardest time trying to get them to fit. They’re so tight, you have to size up. I’m so done with all the crazy sizing- I’m sticking to Shopbop, lol.

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