I read a study a few years ago that indicated that if a women thinks she is a smaller size she will buy more clothing.  The fashion industry’s solution to this?  Glamour sizing.  If you’ve been living under a rock, glamour sizing is the act of putting a smaller label into a larger sized garment which gives women the false belief that they are smaller than they actually are.

Sure, we all act like the size on a label doesn’t bother us, but after nearly nine years of running this company, and dressing hundreds of women, I can confidently say that most women who say that it doesn’t matter are liars.  I’ve watched oodles of smart, confident and successful women dance up and down when they can get into a smaller size while shouting “I know this isn’t really a size 10, but I don’t care, I’m wearing a 10!”  I’ve watched women feel deflated, beat themselves up or vow to get to the gym more often when they need to size up in a pair of pants.  I’ve seen dozens of women okay with being lied to as long as the label validates that they’re slim enough.  Regardless of what we think or say, the size of a label affects our mood, our shopping habits and the overall way we feel about ourselves.

Prior to starting Bridgette Raes Style Group in 2002, I worked as a fashion designer for nearly a decade.  I’m one of the few people in this world who has had the luxury of seeing the fashion industry from both perspectives, the designer’s and the shopper’s as a style consultant.  While I will admit, I too can be a victim of size labels, I also understand just how arbitrary sizing labels are.  The fashion industry has absolutely no sizing standardization, whatsoever.  One must look at the sizing on a label to be as  grounded in any reality as a unicorn seen in captivity is.  At this point women are educated to know this…cerebrally but, given the response in a dressing room when she can’t get a zipper all the way up, I really wonder if she really does.

I don’t think one blog post could explore all the factors as to why women are so psychologically dependent on the size of their clothing, especially when that size has absolutely no meaning, yet I want to share some thoughts.

We’re obsessed with thinness.  We tend to treat plus-size people as second class citizens.  We find our worth in our outer appearance.  We’re so obsessed with being skinny because the way society perceives being large.  Even if it is psychological, that teeny-weeny number on a label assures many women that they’re not one them– the untouchables who are fat, who society tells us are sloppy, lazy, aren’t good enough, not acceptable and certainly not worthy enough to matter.

We never really leave high school, if you think about it.  In high school, there is a collective reality that is agreed upon.  It’s not like the student body holds a meeting to decide this, it is simply understood amongst classmates.  If you look, act and behave in this manner then you are good, accepted and maybe even popular….you matter.  Everyone else is a castoff who doesn’t.  Many (almost all) take a lot or a little of this attitude into adulthood.  Life often becomes the reality version of the movie Mean Girls.  Yet, instead, the way we collectively judge is on things like money, status and slimness.  Desperate to be part of the “in group” we get giddy when we slip our over-aerobicized starving bony asses into a size zero while subconsciously thinking,  “Yes, I’m good enough, yes I matter.”  Compound this by the ridiculous amount of reality television stars who are famous for doing nothing but being skinny and fabulous, and you have a hotbed for low self esteem and women obsessed with the size of a pair of jeans…along with how expensive they are.

Over the past few days several people shared a few links and articles with me on sizing.  One was from the New York Times that addressed the dilemma of sizing with hopes to eliminate the frustration found in the inconsistency of one being a size 0 in one brand a size 8 in another.  There is actually a body scanner called My Best Fit that will be premiering in malls around the country (Currently found in King of Prussia Mall.)  This scanner scans your body and gives you a printout of your size at the participating stores found in that mall.  In one store you may be a 4 and another a size 8.  A time saver, for sure, but can you imagine the reaction of some women when the print out says they’re a size 10 and not a size 4?  I wonder how many “Excuse me, this machine must be broken” the scanner operator will hear?

I also read about another solution called Fitlogic, created by Cricket Lee, that sizes clothes into three categories based on body shape was introduced a few years back but fell flat.  The concept was too confusing, which doesn’t surprise me, most of my clients have no idea what their body shape is.

Yes, I feel hopeful about new systems being created to at least help women avoid the hassle of having to lug an entire size range of one pair of pants into the dressing room just to maybe find a pair that fits.  Yet, until self esteem and personal validation stops being found in the slimness of a person, the sizing dilemma will always exist.