Vanity Sizing Sucks and Clothing Size Labels Are Bullshit

I think vanity sizing sucks. It’s insulting to our intelligence at best, and bad for our mental health at worst.

Firstly – small, medium, large clothing sizes are the worst. Not just because of the loaded meaning of declaring someone’s size as “Large” or “small’. Heck even deciding what size is “medium”. Is it supposed to be average? As in average Australian women? Or just the average shopper in that particular store, based on their demographic? And how is one supposed to know what that is as they enter the store? Because I’m well aware that one store will decide I’m a large and the shop next door thinks I’m a small.

It all seems a tad judgemental. Especially when you start adding the Xs to your size. Whether you’re calling an adult “Extra extra small” or “Extra extra large” – neither seems like a particularly positive label to put on someone else’s body type.

Totally Meaningless

But not only that – with vanity sizing, clothing sizes become utter meaningless nonsense.

vanity sizing

Because I’m a small, medium, or large. Sometimes I’m an extra large, and on the odd occasion an extra small.

So it’s not even a helpful guide for choosing clothing. It doesn’t even have a meaning relating to your actual size. If the size on the label doesn’t actual relate to the size of the clothing there’s almost no point having the label at all. Just hold up the clothing and estimate if it’ll fit you… I mean.. That’s generally what I have to do anyway if I’m trying to work out if I might be a S, M, or L in that exact time and place.

And honestly numbered sizing isn’t always much better.

While I do appreciate the gesture sometimes when a store tries to tell me I’m a size 8 – isn’t vanity sizing a little bit of an insult to our intelligence? If you know roughly what size you typically wear, and a store’s clothing run bigger – or smaller – then it just means multiple trips to the dressing room. Or returning items if you’re shopping online.

So most numbered sizing still a little bit nonsense. Because I also have pants in sizes 8, 10, 12, 14. I also have shorts in size 26 and 34 purchased from the same store. I have no idea what sizing system that even is, but whatever it’s trying to be – it’s failed.

What’s the solution for Vanity Sizing?

What if… What if…now this might be a wild thought, but what if clothing could be sized using numbers the correspond to our actual measurements? Measurements in centimeters would be great, but honestly I can cope if they want to relate the sizes to inches. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

And I accept that there’s going to be some variation. I tend to go up a size in jeans compared to skirts and dresses because my thighs are proportionally pretty solid. Obviously there’s always going to be variation in the actual fit, but at least the sizing would mean something. It would be a genuinely helpful starting point for trying to work out what is going to fit best.

But I accept that this is me just screaming into the wind, because that’s never going to happen across the whole industry. Especially when we’re buying clothes made across the world. There’s no way to standardise clothing sizes across the globe.

Nothing is going to change.

So what’s the REAL solution?

Understand and accept that it’s meaningless bullshit. That it doesn’t matter if one store thinks I’m “Large” or “Extra large”. And that it’s equally meaningless when I’m a size small. They’re all stupid little labels and multiple trips to the dressing room might just be an unavoidable inconvenience.

It is what it is. And take deep breaths and try not to stress about it……

Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. Rachel is obsessed prams, car seats, carriers and all things baby. She has worked in the baby industry for several years, for both suppliers and also in a retail setting and has developed a passion for connecting parents with the right products to make their lives easier. When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.


  1. I make a lot of clothes and the sizing with patterns is just as bad! Some even have completely random numbering systems that don’t relate to anything else at all.

  2. I have a 3 pairs of gym tight, in the same size, from the same place, they are supposed to be the exact same just different colours. 1 pair doesn’t fit at all. I can’t even pull them up over my ass. The other two fit perfectly.

  3. Those shorts you have in sizes 26 to 34? That should be inches. SHOULD BE!
    I remember in my youth buying Levi’s. It was so easy. The width and length was measured in inches. It was consistent. I’m with you that I have a big butt and thighs and relatively small waist so can’t always go by waist measurements but at least it’s a good starting point.

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