Unraveling the Mystery of Women’s and Men’s Sizing

I was lying in bed trying to put my seven year old to sleep when we got into a conversation about the size of his shirt.  Well, this particular shirt was made in Sweden and therefore had stupid sizing that mean’s nothing to Americans, the largest consumers on the planet, but I digress.  I told him it was 120cm.  I know, completely useless.  The only thing I know measured in centimeters is snow skis, and I already know my size, it never changes, so it’s a non-issue.  Then my son started talking about Halloween costumes and what size he needed for his Clone Warrior suit.  I said, 7/8 would do, and he said yeah because last year he was a 6/7.  I’m telling you he’s brilliant.  I concurred with his analysis and then got to thinking (follow my bunny trail here) what happens when he’s like 15, what size will he wear then, it’s not size 15, obviously, which led to, no, guys just have S, M, L shirts and then numbers for their pants.  Which then led to, wow, guys are so not like women.  No women in the world would buy pants that advertised her waist size on the garment itself, with one exception, jeans.  Some jeans do have the waist size on the garment, but you will notice they rarely go past 30, indicating only skinny girls buy them and therefore don’t care.

Sizing for women has far more to do with marketing than the actual size itself.  For instance, the more expensive the garment, the more generous the sizing, which is why Oprah can wear a 2.  It’s called vanity sizing.  Rich women want to feel thin, they will pay money to feel thin, get the distinction, not be thin, well there are the  surgery junkies but that’s a whole other blog, no feel thin.  It’s a state of mind, not body.

Here’s another strange thing about female sizing, teen sizing is all odd numbers, and women sizing is all even.  Why?  Is it so we know when we’ve wandered out of Style and into Brass Plum (Nordstrom’s references)?  As if the ridiculous lengths of the skirts on the heroin chic gun metal gray mannequins wasn’t telling enough.  Or is it for people like me, who feel just a little better than everyone else because I still fit into those lower odd numbered sizes.  If it’s the latter, that is marketing at its finest.  Loaded women who want to feel super skinny get to shop with the overly indulged teenagers and talk about the latest  iPhone apps and Twilight.

It really does all come down to marketing.  Men, are trickier to sucker into a purchase and therefore need something more subtle to persuade them into buying a pair of khakis or a Polo shirt.  That is why marketing executives have come up with hot chicks with big boobs… years of data, very scientific.

Women, however, are far less complicated.  Which is why marketing executives have come up with vanity sizing, myths about “loving the skin you’re in” and Oprah.  Women are constantly being bombarded by magazine articles and news clips telling them to like who they are, their boobs are big enough, their butt looks fine in those jeans.  Which, for some may be true, but for most, it’s bunk.  So here’ s how this works:

1)  Woman watches Oprah talk to totally hot ordinary women who are completely happy with their size 14 bodies.  Woman learns that she is beautiful just the way she is and that all she needs to do is eat healthy, moderate portions, exercise three days a week, keep a gratitude journal, and celebrate everyday of her beautiful life feeling the awesome warmness and fulfillment that comes from watching an hour of Oprah.

2) Woman feels good for about 30-45 minutes after Oprah.  Then lifes demands start creeping in.  Children, husband, dog, laundry, EVERYTHING!  Woman starts to feel tugged and pulled in 15 different directions.  She tries to refocus on how beautiful and fulfilled she is, she grabs gratitude journal and starts to make notes in the margins about things to write down and be grateful for later.

3) A few days have passed and woman has now settled back into survival mode.  “Oprah high” worn off.  Life has fully infiltrated.  Woman wants to get out and do something special for herself.  She goes to the mall.  Woman likes mall.  Mall is like one big giant comfort food that never ends.  Woman sees something she likes on the rack.  She deliberates, it’s more than a little out of her price range, but woman likes the color and thinks the cut would make her look skinny.  She then checks the size to make sure it fits.  Size 6, well, she knows that will never do so she grabs a couple sizes larger and heads to the fitting room.  Nice Sales Lady compliments her selection and helps her into the dressing room.  Woman starts to try on clothing.  WOW!  These are way too big.  Woman is confused and happy all at once.  How can this be?  She knows what size she is supposed to be.  Woman then hails Nice Sales Lady and asks for a size smaller.  Sales Lady agrees.  Nice Sales Lady is in on the racket by the way.  Nice Sales Lady returns with two garments, one that’s a size smaller and one that’s two sizes smaller.  Nice Sales Lady says she thinks woman needed something smaller than an 8.  Woman is now very VERY happy.  Oprah, love your spirit, happy.  Woman is very excited about shopping now.   She tries on the size 6.  THEY FIT!!!  IT’S A MIRACLE I’M SUDDENLY SKINNY!!! Woman, now on a vanity sizing crack high, asks Nice Sales Lady for one in every color size 6, put it on her Nordstrom’s card.

That’s how easy it is; and people get six figures a year to come up with what I just told you in 1000 words or less.


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