Style & Beauty

The Real Reason Trying On Clothes Is So Frustrating

Here's why there's no longer one standard size 8.

It’s always a pleasant surprise to try on a pair of jeans in a store only to learn that you actually need a pair that’s smaller than your typical size.

But before you thank all that extra time you’ve been putting in at the gym, consider this frustrating reality: All of your favorite brands think tiny means chic, so they’re labeling clothes with smaller and smaller sizes, even though the actual size isn’t changing.

In other words, what would typically be a size 10 is now being labeled a size 8, a practice known as vanity sizing or size inflation.

Retailers want you to feel good about yourself. If you do, you’re likely to spend more money on their merchandise, says Brit + Co. So, in order to entice you to drop more dough, they’re making you think you fit into a smaller size.

Flickr | Rene Schwietzke

According to the Washington Post, a dress that was labeled a size 16 in 1958 would now be labeled a size 8, which is crazy. Sure, Americans have gotten heavier, but the story is more complicated than that.

Brit + Co rounded up some of the most common women’s fashion brands and compared a size 8 at each one. Unsurprisingly, they found huge variation between shops like Old Navy, Gap, American Apparel and Dolce and Gabbana.

At The Loft, for example, a size 8 is considered a medium size and is recommended for women with a 28.5-inch waist. Compare that to American Apparel, where a size 8 will fit women with a 30-inch waist and is considered a large size. A size 8 at Free People has a 29-inch waist.

No wonder shopping can be so frustrating. On your next shopping excursion, try to keep your chin up in the dressing room and remember that size is just an arbitrary number some retailer came up with.