Vanity Sizing in the Fashion Industry -Who are the worst offenders?

Vanitysizing Breaking news from Planet Fashion this week as fashion retailers make an astonishing discovery: that women are not all the same shape! Gasp!

Women, of course, as The Daily Mail’s headline suggests, have known this for years now – probably forever.  Lucky is the woman who is able to walk into a store and find garments that fit her perfectly. There is no such thing as the "perfect 10" – or, indeed, the "perfect 8, 12, 16, or 0".  It’s possible to be one size in one store and a totally different size in the store next door. It makes shopping pretty tricky sometimes, and at last some sectors of the fashion world seem to waking up to the fact that their standard sizes aren’t working.

Spanish authorities are now set to abolish their standard European sizes and move instead to a system whereby garments will list the height, hip, waist and breast measurements. This is an idea which has been being mooted for quite some time now , but we’d like to know who you think the worst offenders are when it comes to vanity sizing – and who gets it right? Which stores come closet to "true" sizes, do you think, and which fall far short of the mark? Look over the jump to see what we think…

True to Size:

Mango (although leg lengths are ridiculously long in both of the Spanish chains)
Miss Selfridge
River Island

Cut Large:

French Connection
Marks and Spencer
New Look
Dorothy Perkins

Cut Small:

Due to the issues of vanity sizing, whereby stores try to "flatter" women into thinking they’re smaller than they actually are by sizing things up, it’s actually pretty tricky to find high street clothes that are cut on the small size. Small sizes tend to be found in stores aimed at teenagers, at the lower end of the price scale. These would include places like:


What do you think?

The list above is purely a reflection of our experiences when shopping for clothes. Your opinions may be different, so leave us a comment telling us what you’ll think and we’ll put together a new list pulling together the experiences of everyone who responds…

P.S. If you’re in the US… please don’t be put off by the fact that the stores listed above are mostly UK ones. This list is just a jumping off point, so we’d love to hear your opinions about the stores you shop in, and where they stand on the vanity sizing scale!


  • February 13, 2008


    Well, you can add Monsoon to the ‘cut large’ list, and I actually find M&S on the small side for my size…sometimes – I love M&S but no two pairs of trousers supposedly the same size actually are (that goes for tops and skirts too)!

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  • February 13, 2008


    I would say that Zara is small, very small, especially the leg widths of the trousers. They have the lengths I need but it’s just too depressing when the thighs are so skinny I can’t get even a size up from normal on. Topshop have been guilty of this as well.

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  • February 13, 2008


    US shopper here. Old Navy clothes are cut large. I often find I’m two full sizes smaller in Old Navy than other stores.
    New York & Co. is fairly true to size as far as I can tell, though they do cut a different shape from some other brands. More curvy. Since I happen to be that shape, I buy a lot of my clothes there, vanity size or not.

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  • February 13, 2008


    I agree with all of the above but would single out French Connection as a particularly bad offender. I’d consider myself a 10 but have found size 6 clothes in there that are “a bit roomy”. Topshop and Zara get it bang on and I, for one love the long trousers in the Spanish store, much easier to take trousers up than let down and at 5’10” I need the extra inches.
    The only shop that size small IMO is Abercrombie and Fitch.

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  • February 13, 2008


    Well, being a fashion professional (sort of) I do my bit of travelling around, mainly to uk, us, france and italy. And well I found out that in general us sizes are quite bigger than european ones (actually a size 28 of “7 for all mankind” jeans is bigger in the us than in italy…..strange). I consider only bottoms (because I’m really small on top) and I think truest are Zara, h&m, Philip Lim, River Island, Topshop, Miss sixty, Max Mara, on the large definately gap and it’s affiliates (old navy etc.), m&s, miu miu, marni. On the very small I think mango sizes are particularly small as well as abercrombie and fitch and diesel.
    But again, it depends on the country, the line of production etc.

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  • February 13, 2008


    Perhaps a bit off topic, but I have noticed that in many cases, according to the size tag, European M(edium) strangely equals American S(mall). It always baffles me a bit.

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  • February 13, 2008


    you’re right about mango and zara. being 160cm tall, i usually buy thing that are xs or s, but it’s very difficult to buy trousers. i find it quite strange because i don’t think there are that many women who are, say 175cm tall and have the same hip measurements as me, and thus can squeeze into xs or s.

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  • February 13, 2008


    Helen: That’s because those of us in the US are on the larger side, so of course, we need to make ourselves feel better by saying we’re on par (or better!) than our European counterparts.
    As for shopping, I no longer care about what size I wear. I have curves and I like them! (so does my boyfriend, so who cares much after that?)
    Besides, it shouldn’t be so much about what size you are. Shopping should be more about finding clothes that fit your body type. It doesn’t matter if I’m a US size 6 and I find a size 6 dress that is true to size. If it doesn’t look good on my pear shape, I won’t wear it!

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  • March 2, 2008


    For some of us out here, it’s not so easy to say “it’s not so much about what size you are”. Most stores’ smallest size in Misses is a 4. When that so-called size 4 is actually a 6 or an 8, that leaves us nothing to choose from. Yes, for a lot of us it actually is a concern about what size we are.
    So frustrating to walk into a store and find that they carry Size 4’s (Yeah!) — then another big disappointment when they are all way too big…

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  • May 19, 2009


    I agree with Anna. While someone is in the middle of the sizing can get the next size up or down, those on the smaller end of the spectrum cannot go down a size because a smaller size does not exist. I am 5’1″ and 100 pounds. This is actually a PERFECTLY NORMAL BMI. I am NOT too skinny! But the clothing stores seem to think so because they will not dress me.
    A simple alternative would be to just shop children’s or junior’s clothing. But children do not have waists and hips like women and juniors clothing are cut very different. They are super low waisted. A little unprofessional when coworkers can see your butt crack in my opinion.

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  • May 27, 2009

    Thomas Bailey

    The British Standards Institute has drafted a brilliant solution to this problem. The new labels, described under BS-EN13402, have a pictogram with actual measurements in centimeters. This was done originally to deal with the multitude of sizing schemes in use. Work began in 1996, and was ready for publication in 2003. I was ready for the new labels in 1983, when my body measurements “went metric”.

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