Waistlines extending – clothe size labels too. Clothing retailers in Britain are being accused of “vanity sizing” — marking items as smaller sizes than they actually are.
The Sunday Times reported on the trend, which retailers in the United States have used to flatter their customers, making them feel as though they are thinner then they actually are.
Clothing retailers are focusing on developing ranges of larger-size clothing in an effort to keep up with a obesity epidemic. (Mintel estimates that British women spent £2.3 billion on larger-size clothing in 2005, 17% of the total £13.5 billion womenswear market. Obesity in England is growing as rapidly, as anywhere else, and it is not confined to the older generations either. In the 16-24 age group – 9% of men and 13% of women are obese.) According to Handbag.com, a size 16, which twenty years ago would have been the top size, is now the average.
So expect to see many more displays of larger-size clothing. Marks & Spencer, which goes up to a 22 in all its lines, has introduced a `Plus-size’ range, going up to a 28 on about 5% of products sold in 75 stores nationwide. Next has also increased to a size 22 because of “straight-forward customer demand”, according to Retail Bulletin.
Of course, the stated size of a clothing item may tell only part of the story. Retailers are widely knwon to indulge in ‘vanity sizing’ by adding a couple of inches or more to waist or hip measurements to allow a size 14 customer to fit into a size 12 dress. Retailers do this because of customer demand and fear that outraged customers, failing to fit into a size 12, will walk straight out and into a competitor store where a 12 does fit.
French Connection was found to have the biggest size discrepancy, selling a pair of jeans in which the actual size exceeded the stated measurement by six inches. Gap, H&M and Zara also practice vanity sizing, the newspaper said.
“It’s deluding customers,” said fashion designer Jeff Banks. “Changing things by one size may be sufficient, but to do it by this much is something the consumer does not like.”
However, while “plus-sizing” and “vanity sizing” clothes for the customer, those same couturiers are promoting an absurd beauty ideal by sending anorectic models on the catwalk. This ideal cannot fail to be felt painfully contrasting with reality, much the same as the relentless “eternally-young”- or “24/7-toughness”-paradigms. Whoever is internalising such pseudo-values on an unconditional frame of mind will end up in the chasm between reality and those glossy ideals with feelings of guilt, insufficiency and depression.