Vanity sizing is probably the reason your clothes don’t fit.

Now, in 2023, the term ‘vanity sizing’ has hit our vernacular, and has allowed people – including me – to have more literacy around online shopping, particularly when it comes to fast fashion and the vast discrepencies in sizing between high street stores.

Vanity sizing became a thing back in 1983, when the North American sizing guide was scrapped for a new version that reflected what the consumer wanted to buy — a larger cut with a smaller number on the label.

This move opened the door for brands to target their ideal shopper profile and create their own sizing strategy, cuts and styles.

Forty years and thousands of fashion labels later, vanity sizing has rendered size labels virtually pointless because today, clothing manufacturers may label clothes with sizes smaller than the actual cut of the garments.

So, a size 10 pair of jeans could easily fit a true size 12. And a dress labelled size 16 could have been made using measurements for a size 18 body.

Clothing brands’ purpose in doing this is simple: downsized labels make customers feel good about themselves. 

Michelle Barrett has been obsessed with fashion for decades. After studying and graduating from The London College of Fashion in 2000, she pursued a career as a personal stylist where she has been helping curate women’s wardrobes for 25 years.