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Vanity Sizing: How Do False Flattering Numbers Affect Women?

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A subtle phenomenon is emerging in America today. So subtle that it may practically fly under the radar: creeping up on us like the most normal of practices. Indeed, almost anything can seem *normal* if it occurs with increasing frequency to the point of general unquestioned acceptance.

You must be wondering: could this stealthy trend be the quiet erosion of democracy, environmental protections, access to healthcare, or the right to privacy? Not quite, although some of those features can be undermined by similar gradual processes.

No, the movement in question is much more superficial: vanity sizing!

In all seriousness, how important is the number on a piece of clothing in the great scheme of things? Does it really matter that a woman can wear a size six in one brand and a two in another?

Most women are used to a spectrum of sizing approaches by now. We are all too familiar with x-small, small, medium, and large; nebulous numbers ranging from double zero to double digits; and at long last, numbers that pretend to intuit waste measurements such as 24, 25, 26, 27 . . . and the list goes on. Conversely, men's clothing typically adheres to waist measurements, arm lengths, and neck circumferences. It's pretty straightforward, and not much is left up to interpretation.

Importantly, men aren't supposed to care about the significance of size as much. Their measurements are plain as day and they buy accordingly. Why should the number on the tag affect how they see themselves in the mirror? And why should a size inspire their willingness to purchase a garment more than their original interest would dictate? With men and fashion, the bottom line is: does it fit and look good?

As much as women care about finding clothes that fit and flatter as well, marketing masterminds have figured out a genius way to bank on our collective hyper-vigilance about size.

Yes, they have changed the rules on us yet again.

In fact, the supposed universal scale has been rewritten to confuse us even more than before. Walking into a variety of stores at a local mall, one will undoubtedly see that some brands have transformed the typical four into a zero or even a double zero.

While size manipulation appears to be the new trend among many brands, others still hold true to the basic accurate measurements. Still, a minority of clothing vendors will render their version of the four or six so small that a woman may be forced to purchase garments in larger sizes. As such, this trend is not nearly as profitable as mislabeling oversized articles as smaller than they actually are. Seriously, what woman would want to buy a size twelve or fourteen if her brain is used to feeling like an eight or a ten? Pure vanity may prevent her from purchasing that number.

In many ways, playing to the female consumer's yearning to feel and think smaller may help boost her self-esteem (and enthusiasm for buying a certain product) accordingly. The harm, you may ask?

On one hand, women can be made happy to feel smaller. On the other hand, numbers are contrived to be even more exceptionally important than they have been or should be, skewing reality for the sake of vanity and consumerism. The end result: caring about numbers more than fit and appearance? So what?

There are a number of outcomes that could arise from this. If women and fashion continue on the aforesaid trajectory, size may become so inflated and deflated that it will become meaningless, leading the public to care less about numbers. If a woman's size is all over the map, what ultimately matters is her perception of herself, not the number or the cult of measured thinness.

Nevertheless, the up-and-coming mislabeled sizing scheme can also guide women to be even more conscious of how important smallness is, and some may consequently strive to fit into the tiniest sizes in every brand, perhaps by acquiring eating disorders.

Alternatively, distorted sizing may support a sense of laziness about healthy living. If women have no numeric incentive to gauge and maintain fitness to squeeze into the supposed skinny jeans, perhaps America's pandemic of morbid obesity will skyrocket even more -- as if altered numbers will give us all license to get collectively bigger and more indulgent as a nation of consumers.

Really, anything could happen.

Regardless of how vanity sizing makes you feel, think, eat, or not eat, it is time to pull the wool away from our eyes. Make no mistake: it is crafty tool to dupe you -- for better or for worse.