Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Recycled Article From the Old Blog: Vanity Sizing

I’m 32 now. It happened somewhere between getting married, having four kids, moving to the other side of the world, and buying a mini van. It snuck up on me, much like the extra pounds that won’t budge. It may be a fact of life that we tend to gain weight as we age, but it is especially true in America. Thankfully, there is an answer other than painful, costly surgery and the cabbage diet: vanity sizing.

Vanity sizing is a clothing company’s practice of mislabeling their merchandise based on size in order to appeal to the vanity of their customers. Their marketing surveys told them most women want to be smaller than they are. So they obliged them. A size 12 may be labeled as a 10 or an 8, an 8 as a 6. They rightly calculated that if a woman realizes she’s miraculously a smaller size in a certain clothing company’s clothes, she is more likely to go back for more fashion-centered ego massage. Of course, not every company does this- only those that desperately want to stay in business.

This is interesting on more than one level. For starters, experts are telling us that more than sixty percent of all Americans are overweight. This may be good news for McDonald’s, but it presents a challenge to clothing companies who create clothing for everyday people. I’m not talking about super-skinny models and anorexic actresses who appear on the front of women’s magazines next to captions like “Melt Away 10 Pounds in 2 Hours!” The rest of us need clothes too, and sixty-some-odd percent of us are holding a Big Mac in one hand and trying to pull our high school jeans on with the other. We let out a collective groan when the jeans don’t cover our thighs, much less our not-so-tiny heineys.

We’re embarrassed by the extra weight. We take to wearing long sweaters and jackets to cover our expanding selves. We invest in girdles, spandex body suits, and control-top pantyhose. We diet, we eat cheesecake, we buy cheap Thigh Master imitations at Ross, we get our daily dose of espresso, we invest in more diet books than our bookshelves can contain, and then we buy bigger clothes.

Whoever said corporate American CEO’s are selfish and unconcerned for us commoners was not aware of the practice of vanity sizing. There are those who create clothing that is not only attractive, but has our fragile self-esteems in mind. The caring corporate executives of certain fashion companies realize that we are gaining weight and need bigger clothes, but that actually purchasing larger sizes is damaging to our psyche. So, in consideration of our feelings, and possibly to boost sales, they began labeling their products differently. I can say from personal experience what an exhilarating feeling it is to take a dress in my regular size into the fitting room and have to ask the sales girl for a smaller size. I can feel the envy of all the other women around me. I begin thinking that possibly my metabolism has finally got its act together, or switching to unsweetened soy milk really paid off.

This method of self-esteem boosting does present some problems. For example, not all companies participate in this misleading labeling scheme. So, if you’re unfamiliar with the brand you must try your regular size, plus a size smaller. On the positive side, you can tell your friends you’re a certain size and be completely validated in this false statement by the lie sewn into the seam of your clothes. However, as America’s waistlines grow, it may eventually be necessary to vanity size down by 3 sizes or more to ensure against a total loss of self-respect.

The reality is, of course, that many of us are submerging ourselves into a comfy, murky pool of denial. We may be allowing ourselves to be whisked down a greasy path of fast food convenience, where our schedules are so packed that exercise is a laughable proposition and popular culture tosses photos of stick-thin teenagers and the latest fad diets at us, while most of us want to simply squeeze our eyes shut and hope for the best. The best being that our friends and family ate a few more Big Macs than we did, and haven’t discovered vanity sizing.

~Reese, who definitely cannot fit her heiney into her high school jeans.

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