Women#039;s sizes don#039;t mean a thing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Let me apologize in advance because I'm going to burst some bubbles.

The size you think you are, the one you casually brag to your friends, that pair of pants that makes you smile because of the number on the tag -- more than likely it's inaccurate.

More often than not designers are tagging smaller sizes on larger waistlines.

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What's the harm in that, you ask?

On the surface, it might seem like a good idea. Women, if they think they are a size six, will be less likely to obsess about their weight and their body perception.

Unlikely, actually. When the women visits a store that hasn't succumbed to vanity sizing, they may feel insecure when the smallest size they fit into is a 10.

The smaller size doesn't make women think about their size less, it makes them consider it more.

And clothing companies know it.

They know that a woman will probably be more likely to buy a pair of jeans that has a smaller size than a competitor's that has the same waistline, but a bigger number.

Women are being manipulated by clothing companies that latch onto women's insecurities.

"Good Morning America" did a story last week on how vanity sizing is being used more often. The reporter measured two pairs of khakis at 32 inches. One was labeled a size 4, the other a size 10.

Which one would you feel more comfortable buying?

Before you feel depressed about your size, consider this: Women, actually human beings in general, are bigger than they used to be, not necessarily fatter, but taller and broader.

I tried on a pair of pants recently that my mother wore in the 1970s. They were a size eight, the size I normally wear now. They didn't fit, they didn't even come close to fitting. Those pants would probably be a size four today.

A size eight obviously wasn't a bad number to wear back then. Why, then, as people are generally larger are the sizes shrinking?

It seems to me we can't accept anything but a waif-thin petite body.

Men don't have this problem. Their clothing is measured in inches. They know what size they can wear at every store they visit.

Women, on the other hand, are left guessing. They have to rely on a ridiculous scale that varies from store to store, making it meaningless.

Women's clothing should be measured just as men's clothing. A Canadian brand of jeans called Silvers, which is sold in stores like Maurices, Vanity and the Buckle, is measured by waist and length, not obscure numbers and letters like "8 Long."

This vanity sizing is more problematic when we consider body image in teenage girls. Many teenagers are very influenced by the way they look and the sizes they wear.

Vanity sizing just perpetuates this obsession with thinness -- an obsession that leads to poor body image and eating and exercising disorders.

As designers continue to put smaller sizes on larger pants, those sizes will become meaningless. It won't be enough to be a size six, because we'll all know that's not really that small. You'll have to strive to be a size zero.

Designers are insisting that women are smaller than they are. That puts unrealistic pressure on women to be thinner than they can possibly be.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I think it's the first step in realizing that those sizes don't -- and shouldn't -- mean anything.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at :mailto:cari.quam@austindailyherald.com