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Re-Think Your Fit: 5 Issues with Clothing Store Sizes

We’ve all been there – checking tags and trying to squeeze into one size smaller. For many of us, this mentality towards clothing store sizes has been engrained in our thinking for years. But when you stop to think about it, even subconscious sizing preferences can be harmful for your emotional, psychological – and sometimes physical – health.

It’s time to rethink clothing store sizes and become more aware about how these numbers can impact self-esteem and self-image. After all, there are a lot of blaring issues with store clothing sizes! Let’s break them down so we can recognize just how ridiculous this sort of self-assessment can be.

Size Can Impact Self-Esteem

For many, size is synonymous with weight, meaning the larger size you wear, the heavier you are. We tend to mistakenly equate weight to health and beauty. Ultimately, this thinking triggers our brain to make a quick calculation when trying on clothes: “The smaller the size, the prettier and healthier I am.”

Not only is this categorically untrue, but it can chip away at a person’s self-image (how they view themselves) quickly. Self-esteem can follow suit, impacting emotional and mental health. It can also encourage unhealthy eating patterns in the pursuit of weight loss and a smaller size.

5 Issues with Store Clothing Sizes

Beyond this sort of attachment between clothing size and self-esteem, there are many inconsistencies with store clothing sizes that create confusion. Even as a basic system for finding clothes that fit, store sizing is far from perfect! Here are 5 issues to be aware of.

#1 Sizing Charts Don’t Account for Diverse Proportions

Bust, waist, torso, inseam – not everyone has the same ratio! Standardized store sizes tend to favor slimmer, uniform measurements, which don’t allow for the diversity of shapes and sizes that reflect real bodies.

#2 Sizes Vary from Brand to Brand

You’ve probably noticed this! Brands have the freedom to label sizes as they please, which means a size 4 pant in one brand could be a size 10 in another.

#3 Sizes Vary from Country to Country

European sizing uses a completely different scale, with sizes running in the 20s, 30s and 40s. This can make things more confusing.

#4 Vanity Sizing and Setting “Small” as a Beauty Ideal

As mentioned, sizes are often associated with beauty, and thus self-esteem. With the general desire to focus on fitting into a smaller size (rather than finding a fit that feels good), clothing designers have begun adopting what’s known as ‘vanity sizing.’

Many manufacturers now size down clothing in order to give a false impression that the consumer fits into a smaller size. Why? It makes them feel good in the dressing room, and thus makes them more likely to buy it. Capitalism at its finest!

#5 Sizing Standards Have Changed Over Time

While vanity sizing is the new technique on the market, size inconsistency throughout the years is nothing new. According to the Washington Post, a women’s size 8 dress today is about the same cut as a size 16 dress in the 1950s.


Clothing can play a psychological trick on self-esteem. But that’s not all. It seems that store sizing is so incredibly inconsistent, it isn’t even a great tool for finding an outfit that fits! Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to take the numbers on your tags too seriously.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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