Blame the Clothing Industry, Not Yourself


There’s nothing more depressing than picking up a pair of jeans in the size you’re used to and they don’t fit.

You pick up the next size, they also don’t fit. So, you pick up the next size, and they get over your thighs but they’re cutting off any hope of blood circulating around your body. By this point, you’re three sizes bigger than what you think you are, and any self-confidence you have is long gone.

So why is sizing so inconsistent? Turns out it’s more than just one simple answer, and is actually a lovely mix of years of forcing unrealistic ideals on women alongside discriminatory marketing techniques.

Vanity Sizing

‘Vanity sizing’ came along in the 1970/80s and completely changed sizing. Psychological studies found that consumers were more likely to buy clothing items if they were in a smaller size, almost as a sense of accomplishment. It meant that over time a UK 16 became a UK 8, which was originally the physical size of a UK 6. Sound confusing? It’s because it is, and not all companies quite understood how far to move their clothing down, so sizing went all over the scale.

A good example of vanity sizing is Marilyn Monroe, who seems to come up a lot when discussing clothing sizes. At her prime in the 1950/60s, she wore a UK size 16/18. However, at this time a size 10 would be the equivalent of a 0/2 now. So, if she was around today, she would probably wear an 8 (depending on the shop of course).

Mixed with vanity sizing came the rise of supermodels and the ‘ideal woman’. As companies began to put the idea of the ‘ideal woman’ into the media and magazines, they began making smaller clothing sizes to cater to this. There was originally no size 2 or 4, but as people wanted smaller sizes, these were introduced. Shops began marketing not only their clothes but their sizes to their target markets. This is brutal, but it’s how they sell their clothes. Chanel perfumes are marketed to wealthy women, LYNX Africa to men with extremely loud exhausts on their cars, and Hollister to skinny teenage girls. It’s the unfortunate cycle of target marketing.

External Manufacturers

Sizing differences within a singular store are usually due to the external manufacturers the store uses. Most stores choose to buy in basics, and then add slogans, pockets etc. These external manufacturers often have different sizing when compared to one another, causing inconsistencies. If you walked around H&M and picked up several tops of different designs, the quality and size of the tops will be different from one another. Ultimately, this is just a way for companies to save money as different manufacturers will charge different prices for different items. Primark, a sizing and ethical nightmare, is probably the worst high street shop for this. Primark pretty much always buy in their clothes from Asian factories where the sizing is usually smaller than UK or American based companies. This means that no two pairs of shorts from Primark will fit the same, as they make virtually none of their own clothes and they come from hundreds of different factories.


So what has this led to? These are all reasons as to why clothing sizing is inconsistent, but how inconsistent is it really? For a quick experiment, I looked at the measurements of a size 12 across a couple of UK high street stores, and it was messy. At New Look, a size 12 measurement at the waist is around 75cm, pretty similar to M&S. However, Topshop and Miss Selfridge sat at 74.2cm. It’s not a massive difference, but when you’re sweating in a changing room, it can make all the difference. Even smaller than that, ASOS’ own brand had a size 12 at 73cm, aka your blood circulation is about to stop.

H&M gets a lot of crap for its sizing. This is largely because most of their tops and dresses are sized by XS, S, M, etc. For example, a M is a 12/14 and it's sized by a size 12. So, there is technically no size 14 in some items from H&M. If an item is described as a size 14, it is supposed to be 80cm in the waist, which is larger than ASOS, but the same as New Look. If it’s sized as an M, your squeezing into a size 12 which has similar measurements to its competitors. This will be the same for sizes 10, 18, 22, 26, and so on. However, honestly, H&M sizes are known to be small and their measurements online seem to be extremely inaccurate so I personally don’t believe them.

If you continue to look at lettering sizes - which are never correct - it gets even messier. Urban Outfitters has an XL (size 18) at 83cm at the waist, whereas the XL at H&M is a size 20/22, but the 18 sits at 88cm - much bigger than Urban Outfitters. So, if you were an 18 at H&M you would have to size up to a 20, or bigger, at Urban Outfitters. However, Urban stops at a size 18 and doesn’t have a plus-size range.

By looking at the sizes from different stores, it becomes pretty apparent which stores are allowing a bit more room in their sizes. Urban Outfitters and Topshop specifically allow no room for your roast dinner when you’re wearing one of their dresses.

The Brandy Melville Controversy

I almost didn’t want to include Brandy Melville, but I feel if you’re talking about clothing sizes they need to be included. As a relatively new clothing company, Brandy Melville gathered popularity from teenage girls for its modern and contemporary fashion at relatively affordable prices. It gathered criticism from everyone else as the shop only runs one size, “one size fits all”, which is a small.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a store specifically for a size small. There are plus size stores, so why shouldn’t there be petite stores? I think the problem is in the “one size fits all” statement, because that is a lie. Brandy Melville wanted to be a collective shopping experience, where every girl in the group will be able to purchase the exact same item and not be embarrassed by not being able to find her size. Basically, they’re trying to create a Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants situation in real life, but that’s not how bodies work in the real world. By singlehandedly making young vulnerable girls who don’t fit into the “all” category feel automatically isolated, I personally believe Brandy Melville is doing more harm than good. If they sized these clothes as “small”, that’s fine. By using “all” you’re making most of the female population feel like trash.


As you’ve probably guessed, there is not a singular reason why your jeans are making your thighs feel like prepacked sausages. The clothing industry is a mess, but it’s also a massive part of our daily lives and mental health. Fashion is something that is extremely personal and close to you as an individual as we want to wear what we like and feel most confident in. To not be able to fit into something that we like is guaranteed to destroy our self-esteem. But it’s not your fault, your thighs didn’t triple in size between trying two skirts on. Blame the clothing industry, not yourself.


If you’re looking for some more juicy sizing discussions, here are some incredible Youtubers who talk about the topic openly!


Lucy Wood:


Sierra Schultzzie:


Carrie Dayton: