Fashion Debate: Vanity Sizing

This is a hot topic in the fashion industry, and in women’s changing rooms up and down the country: Vanity sizing.


Vanity sizing means that someone who may be a size 14 in one brand, is a 10 in another, but can barely squeeze in to a size 18 elsewhere.  It’s not right, and it can play havoc with our self esteem as women.  I know that personally I have flat out refused to buy an item of clothing that I like, and that fits me well, just because of the number on the label.  I used to think this was just me, a throwback to my disordered eating past, but this  phenomenon seems to affect an increasing number of women.

Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, has recently come out with some opinions (some of which are not going to prove popular) who said recently that being overweight had become ‘normalised’ in our society, where even clothes manufacturers alter the number on their labels so that people carry on buying their clothes without actually realising that they’re getting bigger.  She emphasised this point by revealing that a woman that a current UK size 14 would actually have been a UK size 16 in the Seventies. Similarly, a size 10 waist has grown from 24 to 28 inches in the same period, according to a recent study.  

It comes as no surprise that studies have found that smaller sizes on labels have a direct affect on the self esteem of customers. Obviously a customer is going to be affected by this.  It doesn’t matter how rational, educated or intelligent you are; if you fit in to a smaller size than expected you feel this rush of happiness… and you buy it! Simple as that- vanity sizing sells clothes.

What do you think of the phenomenon of vanity sizing? Do you think women’s clothing sizes should be standardised as menswear is? (I used to work in men’s fashion and was always so jealous of how easy it was for guys to buy jeans- pick waist size, pick length, pick cut, pick colour DONE.  I think I speak for many women when I say that jean shopping is genuinely almost always a painful experience!)


Barbie Girl

Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders found that to look like Barbie, the average woman would have to “grow two feet taller, extend their neck length by 3.2 inches, gain 5 inches in chest size, and lose 6 inches in waist circumference”.  Barbie is stated to be 5’9″ tall and weigh 110 lbs — a whopping 35 lbs (2 and half stone for my fellow Brits)  below a healthy weight for a woman of that height. Barbies neck is so thin she wouldn’t be able to lift her head and her ankles and feet are so tiny (childs size 3!) that she would have to walk on all fours… not so glamourous now eh?

In the pursuit of research on this subject I came across this amazing, terrifying, website:

Yes, Barbie is an unrealistic role model… but is she really a role model for the little girls of today?

I had barbies growing up.. loads of them. I had the ski lodge, the pink convertible, and the wardrobe full of tiny clothes and shoes.  I also had disordered eating in my teens.  Do I think these things are related? No!

I know that people could argue that in my subconcious, I, like many other young girls, thought that being thin, and blonde, and pretty= success in life. And while it’s true that I do have very long blonde hair, I do love make up and fashion (as evidenced by this blog!)… that’s not all I am.

Just like Barbie! Yes she is thin, beautiful and popular. But she also ran for president, and has had pretty much every career from doctor to astronaut. I’d argue that makes her a better role model for young girls than many real women out there.  Hello, Miley Cyrus anyone? Even Angelina Jolie.. all the papers talk about her charity work, her adoptions, and they forgot that she used to be the weird girl who wore a vial of her boyfriends blood round her neck (yes really…google it. and yes I’m team Jen, can you tell?)

The whole point of a Barbie doll.. the whole base of the story… is that she can be whatever you want her to be.  I love love love recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o’s thoughts on the matter.  She’s quoted as saying:

“Finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be”


Will I let future children of mine play with barbies? Yes. Without a doubt.  But I will make sure I tell them that they are so much more than plastic.  That there is so much more to strive for in life. That sitting in a sunny beer garden eating pizza with friends is more important than losing a pound that week. I worry, pretty constantly, that any child of mine is going to be genetically disposed to ‘end up like me’ and I tell myself how terrible that would be… and then I realise.

At 24 years old, I’m only just now beginning to make my own kind of peace with myself.  I may not be as thin, or beautiful, or popular as I want to be. I have been on an almost constant diet for the last 10 years of my life. But I’m educated, I’m articulate, I can make people laugh, and I have people around me who love me.  I’m fortunate, I’m brave, and I’m a survivor.

If my child ‘ends up like me’ … then they will be just fabulous.