Vanity Sizing and Realism

I’m a curvy gal. My hips are 42″ and my waist is 30″–so Sir Mix-a-Lot would have a lot to say about me. Lady Bootyton, at your service. 

I own a lot of size 4 dresses from Dress Barn. They fit perfectly. I’m a big fan of The Barn, despite their weird name. Cute shit, reasonable prices, and I get to say I’m a size 4. 

That’s the problem. The fabric store had a pattern sale a few weeks ago and I got a really cute “very easy” retro pattern from 1952. I opened it up today so I could figure it out and see how much fabric I need since I have a coupon. WELL. According to the eminent minds at Butterick, I’m a size 14. Fourteen. Ten numbers bigger than my usual Barn size. I’m starting to understand that whole “Marilyn Monroe would be plus-sized now” thing, even though that’s sort of nonsense. Her waist was smaller than mine, but my hips are bigger. (That was me bragging, by the way.)

But Jeezum crow, guys, what the hell? Yes yes yes it’s just a number, but why in the fuck are these two numbers SO DIFFERENT? Oh, I know, because we (Americans/Westerners) have an obsession with thinness (or the illusion of thinness) and body control. I knew that the size 4 label at Dress Barn was vanity sizing but I was completely ignorant of just how vain their sizing is. 

Let me be clear: I’m a huge fan of my body. My curves are awesome. I’m built like a very short pinup peasant from the Old Country. Wide and short, that’s me! It’s taken me years to get comfortable with myself, and it feels wonderful. And you know what I’d love? If our culture embraced this body positivity and just put the correct damn numbers on our clothes. Or do it like the industry does for men: measurements. My husband’s jeans literally say the size of his waist on them. Why can’t we have that too? Like, oh, I wear a size 30 waist/42 hip jean. 

Basically, let’s love ourselves and be honest with ourselves. Love those inches on your hips, love the width of your ribs, love your thick thighs. (Or tiny thighs!) Don’t let yourself get bummed when you look at your pattern chart and see a double-digit number. 

Vanity sizing doesn’t accomplish anything other than very superficially making you feel better for reasons that make no sense. Our standard of beauty should not be based on a dumb clothing tag. You know what they say in Botswana as a compliment? “You’re looking very fat today!” That is lovely. 

In conclusion: you’re gorgeous and I’m a size 14. 

Curvily yours,

Amanda K. 

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2 comments

  1. Tape measures don’t lie, nor do scales. And my husband feels how big my thighs and belly are, even though it’s dark. We do have to get over this size obsession. I am all about me being a smaller size, but you’re right, clothes manufacturers have some warped alternate reality when it comes to sizing.

    I, too, love Dress Barn in spite of the name (although the DressBar idea is slightly genius). Unfortunately I’m still a 14 there … And an 18 in a pattern. Oh well, it’s just a number.

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