I have a confession… I don’t really enjoy shopping. Maybe it’s because I don’t like seeing my paycheck disappear. Or maybe it’s because I get tired, impatient, and hungry before finding any good deals. Or maybe it’s draining for me because I have to try on armfuls of the same garment in a variety of sizes just to see what will fit. Either way, my mom always thought she drew the short straw by having 3 kids that don’t like shopping.

Recently, I read an article that introduced a new concept for me called “vanity sizing.” This is a trend created to satisfy buyers’ wishes to feel thinner and better about themselves, made possible due to a lack of standardization of sizes. For example, a woman who is true to a size 12 but can find pieces that fit just as well yet is tagged at a size 8 will most likely buy from the store that tells her she is only an 8 as it is a self esteem booster. As designers and retailers have picked up on this, the stores get away with charging much more for their pieces because of their “lower” tags. There was even a study done in 2003 that measured over 1,000 pairs of women’s pants and concluded just that… more expensive brands tended to be smaller than less expensive ones of the same nominal size.

A designer quoted in the New York Times investigated this way of sizing and found that in Sears’s 1937 catalog, a woman with a 32 inch bust would have worn a size 14 dress. In 1967, that same body would have worn an 8, and surprisingly, in 2011, she would wear a zero! Marilyn Monroe, whose voluptuous body required a size 16 in the ’50s, was actually more of a 6/8 by today’s standards. Because sizes continue to decline, a need for 00 and additional sub-zero sizes has emerged. Whether vanity sizing has arisen from marketing schemes, a rise in obesity, a lack of size standardizing, or just to make people feel more ok about their size, I would encourage you to consume a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and not to find your worth on the number on your clothing tag.