Why Are Cross-Brand Clothing Sizes So Inconsistent?

August 8, 2019

Have you ever noticed how a size 33 in one brand can be way smaller or larger in another brand? Cheddar examines the psychological trick meant to pump up a customer's self-esteem — and the company's wallet.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Speaker 1: We heard that the measurements of

Speaker 1: jean waists aren't always accurate,

Speaker 1: some brands can be tighter than others.

Speaker 1: But if waist size is based on inches,

Speaker 1: how can a 33 inch in

Speaker 1: one brand be tighter than all the others?

Speaker 1: Here we have 10 pairs of jeans,

Speaker 1: all with the same size label.

Speaker 1: We're going to measure them and see just how big

Speaker 1: their waists really are and hopefully,

Speaker 1: reveal the reason why some are bigger than others.

Speaker 1: [MUSIC] Before we get into these,

Speaker 1: click "Subscribe", you're already here.

Speaker 1: So here's the test.

Speaker 1: We got 10 pairs of jeans,

Speaker 1: five pairs of women's and five pairs of men's,

Speaker 1: each in the same size.

Speaker 1: The men's were 33-inch waist.

Speaker 1: Done. [NOISE] We measure

Speaker 1: their waists with a piece of ribbon,

Speaker 1: which we then lay it out on the ground

Speaker 1: and actually measured it.

Speaker 1: [NOISE] None of the men's jeans

Speaker 1: actually measured 33 inches.

Speaker 1: [NOISE] The women's were all supposed to be at 24,

Speaker 1: but none of them were the label's size either.

Speaker 1: [NOISE] Let's rewind.

Speaker 1: [NOISE] Clothing sizes didn't

Speaker 1: really become a thing until World War 1 [MUSIC]

Speaker 1: when people wanted trendy new clothes but

Speaker 1: didn't have the money to have them

Speaker 1: custom made to their bodies.

Speaker 1: Records of clothing sizes have been around since

Speaker 1: the Revolutionary War as a way

Speaker 1: to give soldiers uniforms that fit.

Speaker 1: By the War of 1812,

Speaker 1: the US Army had stocks of

Speaker 1: ready-made uniforms sized around

Speaker 1: one measurement, the chest.

Speaker 1: [MUSIC] Clothing companies said,

Speaker 1: "Hey, why don't we do women's sizing the same way?"

Speaker 1: But basing universal women sizing on the size of

Speaker 1: their chest is not the most accurate way of doing it.

Speaker 1: So companies abandoned regulated sizing for

Speaker 1: women until 1958 when

Speaker 1: the National Institute of

Speaker 1: Standards and Technology announced

Speaker 1: women sizes would be represented by

Speaker 1: even numbers from 8 to 38.

Speaker 1: These random numbers were chosen because

Speaker 1: women hated telling store clerks their measurements,

Speaker 1: like men did, according to Time Magazine.

Speaker 1: But that too was quickly thrown out in favor of chaos.

Speaker 1: In 1958, a size 8 was this big.

Speaker 1: In 2008, a size 8 has increased by 5-6 inches.

Speaker 1: Since 1960, the weight of

Speaker 1: the average American has increased 30 pounds.

Speaker 1: For example, people love to

Speaker 1: say that Marilyn Monroe was a size 8,

Speaker 1: but that was actually

Speaker 1: the smallest size available in her day.

Speaker 1: So it's pretty clear,

Speaker 1: sizing has gotten bigger.

Speaker 1: We looked at a couple of studies

Speaker 1: to see if we could figure it out.

Speaker 1: Academics have coined the term

Speaker 1: "vanity sizing" to describe

Speaker 1: the practice of using

Speaker 1: smaller size labels on clothes that are actually bigger.

Speaker 1: It's a psychological trick meant to flatter the consumer,

Speaker 1: and It really works.

Speaker 1: It's because of something

Speaker 1: called positive self-related imagery.

Speaker 1: Basically, when a customer sees

Speaker 1: themselves in a smaller size,

Speaker 1: a 28 as compared to a 30,

Speaker 1: they think about themselves more positively.

Speaker 1: That makes them significantly more likely to buy

Speaker 1: the product if they

Speaker 1: feel good about themselves while wearing it.

Speaker 1: It actually makes so much of a difference that

Speaker 1: companies that don't do it can be left behind.

Speaker 1: A really interesting thing I

Speaker 1: came across while reading up on

Speaker 1: this is that all these studies were done on women,

Speaker 1: men's sizes weren't even looked at.

Speaker 1: The researchers justified it by saying that

Speaker 1: women were more susceptible to

Speaker 1: self-esteem issues around size.

Speaker 1: One professor went so far as to

Speaker 1: say that vanity sizing didn't

Speaker 1: exist for men because

Speaker 1: they didn't have the same self-esteem issues.

Speaker 1: Of course, our tests proves that wrong.

Speaker 1: But we're not academics.

Speaker 1: And when we asked men around the office if

Speaker 1: they had ever experienced wonky sizing,

Speaker 1: they said, "Yes," and that indeed

Speaker 1: end up affecting what they ended up purchasing.

Speaker 1: It's been proven that the vanity sizing

Speaker 1: does help stores sell more products.

Speaker 1: When people think more highly of

Speaker 1: themselves because of a piece of clothing,

Speaker 1: they're more likely to buy it,

Speaker 1: including if it makes them feel skinnier or more fit.

Speaker 1: The research says that the lower your self-esteem,

Speaker 1: the more susceptible you'll be to vanity sizing.

Speaker 1: Vanity sizing is legal even though it's kind of lying,

Speaker 1: it's because there's no regulations surrounding

Speaker 1: the relationship between

Speaker 1: physical measurements and sizing labels.

Speaker 1: It's the Wild West of clothing.

Speaker 1: It doesn't look like we're going to

Speaker 1: get standardized sizing

Speaker 1: anytime soon unless the government intervenes,

Speaker 1: and that also seems pretty unlikely.

Speaker 1: After all, vanity sizing isn't about pushing

Speaker 1: an agenda to have the whole world

Speaker 1: look like runway models.

Speaker 1: Companies have only one thing in mind, their bottom line.

Speaker 1: The best advice I

Speaker 1: have for you is to bring a tape measure to

Speaker 1: the store so you don't buy into their smaller labels.