These are a size 2?!

Vanity Unfair -- What's Up With Modern Sizing?

I saw this pretty skirt featured in the most recent issue of InStyle:

Looks like wallpaper. Right up my alley. I suspected it would be too short and have no hem allowance, but Loft is nearby so I went to see. The sales staff was unfamiliar with the floral skirt. It had not yet come in.

The salesgirl advised me to call next Tuesday to see if it had arrived. I'll be sure to mark my calendar.*

There was yet another 40% off everything sale going on, bringing prices to just above where they should be, so I tried on some white trousers. Here is the tag from the first pair, labeled as a "curvy fit" for women whose pants tend to gap at the waist (that's me):

And here's how they fit at the waist:

As you can see, there's some room to spare. Are these group trousers? I wondered if this extra space wasn't where I was meant to place that mysterious "extra large snack sack" we've heard tell about:

But seriously. My waist is not exceptionally small. I sell many items I cannot fit into because the waist is too tight even for "you don't need to breathe so much" me. I know without a doubt that at least a few hundred women out there have smaller waists than I. So what possible size could they be wearing in a modern brand? How many smaller sizes are there, below 2?

Out of curiosity, I measured the waist on a pair of size 00 pants. You'd imagine that someone wearing a size 00 is not sporting a spare tire. And in theory these  "high waisted" trousers should fasten at the narrowest part of this tiny person's middle, an inch or so above her belly button:

Why, then, is the waist measuring nearly 30"? Granted, the trousers actually close about an inch below the waist. And they did close. Which makes no sense at all. These really should not fit me. At just shy of 5'6", and currently 5 pounds heavier than normal at 127 pounds, size 00 should not make it past my knees.

In contrast, here I am in a few of my own vintage items. The Gigi Young dress on the left is a size 12 or 14 (and there is no deep breathing going on while wearing it). The striped skirt at right fits nicely. Not too snug. It is a size 16. So when they try to convince you that Marilyn Monroe was plus size, remember... she's wearing 1950s sizes, and she had a 23" waist. I do not. 

But back to the present. First, I'd like to know why a size 00 exists. What kind of cockamamie designation is "00"? And if that 00 (or you could call it xxxs) has a 30" waist, then what size do you wear if your waist is 27" or 25" or a truly extra-small 23"? Size "fetus"?Size "nano"? Do we move into negative numbers? Or just go to Baby Gap?

The not-high waist was properly snug on the 00 trousers, but everything below was a semi-sheer sausage casing. Are lanky model types thick-waisted? Just who are these modern clothes cut for? Maybe Timer, the Hanker for a Hunk o' Cheese guy?:

Thing is, I know I'm not a size 00, or a size 2. I'm a medium-sized, medium-framed woman and even at my fighting weight, there's plenty of meat on my bones. The clothes in my closet span 75 years, with sizes from 0 to 16. So really... what's the point? Who are they -- or we -- trying to fool with these ridiculous vanity sizes? Is it a marketing ploy, or are they giving us what we, as a society, want?

Personally, I'd like to see manufacturers provide actual garment measurements, rather than body measurements or arbitrary numerical sizes. That's how nearly every reputable vintage clothing dealer does it. Because it's the only way to have confidence that an item will fit. We don't decide how snug you want your waistband. We measure the garment, you measure yourself:

For trousers and shorts, of course, you'd want rise and inseam measurements, plus width at the cuff if they're particularly narrow or wide.

But as things stand, when modern manufacturers provide size charts, they're giving you the body-measurement range each size is intended to fit. They may assume you like your waistband 3" larger than your actual waist, or your shirts extra roomy. Or they may be under the impression that a women's waistline lies 2" below her navel, and size accordingly. It's so unreliable and inconsistent, it's maddening. 

I propose doing away with sizes entirely. Give us clothing measurements. You no longer have to worry that you're a 4 at Old Navy and a 10 at H&M, because wherever you go, there you are. You have the same waistline, the same hips. You just read the numbers and do the math. No psychological manipulation. No "00" mumbo-jumbo.

Of course this goes both ways. They can't manipulate us. But we can't fool ourselves, either. You can't buy all your clothes at Loft and pretend you're not a bit bigger than you were 10 years ago, simply because their tags say you're now a 2, when you used to be a 6. A measuring tape doesn't lie. And it doesn't care what size you are.

* Not really.


Liza Dolensky

Great post! This is one of my pet annoyances, the absolute shambles RTW sizing is. Why can’t it be like shoes? That is one thing that (in Australia anyway) is fairly consistent. Fit of the style varies of course, but generally I know that I will fit into a 39 Euro which is an 8 Australian shoe size. Clothing, could be anything. Whatever is written on the tag is meaningless so I will whip out my trusty tape measure and measure the garment before I waste my time getting undressed and trying to wrangle something over my head.

This year I have put myself on a RTW purchasing ban, I either wear what is in my expansive wardrobe, or I sew something from my expansive stash. One of the reasons for doing this (other than the fact I have an expansive wardrobe) is that I just got so fed up with the shopping experience.

Liza Dolensky

I couldn’t agree more! I also am on the same page as Fashionista. I just got tired of the experience and the complete lack of quality. Who are they catering to anyway?

I also don’t like the fact we women are treated as though we don’t know what the heck they are doing with the faux sizing. Are they also doing this in Men’s wear?

Liza Dolensky

Great post and so needed
I was planning on addressing this issue myself in a vlog
Still trying to figure out the purpose of causing such confusion

Liza Dolensky

I’ve read this, and I agree completely.
Every word is true and in a proper place.
I have dealed with the subject myself some time ago, and like you’ve said, I agree: ZERO is no number, it’s a digit. You can not fit a digit.. :)


Liza Dolensky

Hello from Denmark. :) And the funny thing is that US sizes are so much different from European. In Denmark I am a size medium/large, but in the US I am a size small. So I am in for measurements, which I already always use when buying vintage. Great post. :)

Liza Dolensky

Liza Dahling,

This is such a great and educational post. It was such a leap of faith the first time I purchased a vintage dress on line at Couture Allure from Jody. I measured my bust and waist and hips and all the measurements fit the dress measurements.
When the dress arrived I couldn’t zip it and was upset and measured myself and
the bust waist and hips all were the same size though what I learned the hard way the bodice length is very important for tall girls. I’m 5’9 and though the bust and waist and hips were correct the waist came up to my ribs. Jody was so gracious in letting me return the dress even though it was my first purchase from her and she didn’t know me. Since then, if the bodice length isn’t given on a dress I always ask for the bodice length before purchasing.

Thank you for your fabulous blog and for educating your fans!


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