What is Vanity Sizing?

Commonly, Vanity sizing describes how over the years the fashion industry has made changes to size tags in order to flatter customers’ egos and make them more comfortable shopping. For example, what was labeled a size 6 or 8 thirty years ago might now be a size 4.

The human population has become bigger and taller over the years, yet the industry still pressures people, especially women to fit into the same numbers. In my opinion, it would make sense for the industry to adapt even with no malicious intent. Now this neurosis around sizes led to other issues. For example, the fact that one can’t always be sure of what size to buy depending on the store they buy from. There are both advantages and disadvantages to that, but it is now important to look at the measurement/size chart when buying from a new place.

Photo credit : sportsbrasdirect.com

How does it affect the lingerie industry?

In lingerie, vanity sizing looks a bit different. I am sure I am not the only one who grew up hearing that anything bigger than a D cup was huge and vulgar. Nobody wanted to be more than a D cup. A C cup seemed to be the perfect “size”. Obviously, anybody who thought like that didn’t know how bra sizing worked and ignored the meaning of the band sizes but it was what it was. However, the result of these commonly accepted opinions about bras, affected greatly a lot of full busted women.
Photo credit: Comics Girls Need Bras.

Meaning, people would rather wear a band size way too big than increasing their cup size. This is probably very good for unscrupulous bra fitters (I see you Victoria’s Secret) who would sell their products to people who actually are nowhere near the store size range. However, it also means that a lot of women don’t know how it feels to wear their actual size.

Furthermore, people are going for breast reduction not even knowing their true bra size and then feel desperate when even after removing their breasts tissue, they are still fitted in full bust bras. I realize that many surgeons aren’t the best bra fitters and do not properly inform their patients.

Also, you know how sometimes, young brands will change the name of their bra or clothing sizes to adjectives (like Fabulous, Gorgeous, Radiant etc…) in order to flatter their customers? While I understand where this might come from -we are so much more than our sizes- it is symptomatic of the lack of detachment we still have when it comes to these numbers and what they mean in our society.

I remember not being comfortable mentioning my bra size as a teen, simply because people would always act extra about it. It seemed that even if they didn’t think I had huge breasts before they knew I wore a GG cup, after I said it, well they really did. And honestly, lots of people have no manners when it comes to commenting on other people’s bodies. So I understand why it all became such a big deal. Nobody likes to be bodyshamed.

Image : Rampaige,  Busty Girl Problems comics

I just wish women’s breasts weren’t the center of attention of the entire planet sometimes. I have heard such terrible things about and said to full-busted women. People telling you that your breasts are huge now but “wait until you get pregnant” (as if we had never thought about it). Or, asking one why their breasts are sagging as if it was the result of that person doing something wrong. People literally commenting things like “that’s why I wear a bra, so my breasts never look like that” under the publications of women they don’t know. The world is cruel and vanity sizing in lingerie is of no help. But we can fight with our confidence.

Photo credit : Emma Fréry photography. Models: Le Salon de Frivolités, me.

Owning your size is actually a step further toward self-acceptance and finding lingerie that will make you feel great. Wanting to wear a size that won’t fit you is likely to prevent you from finding the amazing things that actually come into your size. It also helps the industry create more things that will fit your needs.

And most importantly, wearing a bra that fits your measurements can be life-changing in terms of comfort and the way you navigate your daily life. No more holding your breast to catch the bus when you are late (though, a well-fitting sports bra will always be your best helper for this situation). No more avoiding certain clothes because there is likely a bra or a solution suited for them. And honestly, no more feeling like nothing in your size is pretty, because, for most full-busted people, it is just not true.

Vanity is a shallow product of our ego for it has no anchor in our values. It’s a double-edged sword since nobody can stay exactly “perfect” at all times. Also, sizes have no real meaning. They are only a convenient and approximative translation of our measurements. Looking at ourselves with pride and kindness without trying to make a comparison to others is essential in order to be comfortable with ourselves. This alone is a start in getting some fulfillment out of life, in my opinion.

What do you think of vanity sizing in lingerie or regular RTW fashion? Do you feel that it makes you feel better sometimes? Or is it something that never affected you?

xoxo Wen

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3 Replies to “The tragedy of vanity sizing in lingerie : facts and consequences”

  1. All of this. I used to have that “four boobs” look when i was 13 to 15 because they kept saying I was a 32/36DD even though I had a larger cup size and smaller band and it is one of the ressons that it took almost 15 years to find a right bra for me and realise that they can be comfortable instesd of digging in while also having my chest constantly feel like they were slipping out.

    I am really glad I found your site as a black Canadian with a large cup/small band size and this was a really great piece!

  2. The stigma around cup size is still going on unfortunately. My sister was a lingerie fitter and frequently got pushpack from customers if she told them they were anything larger than a D cup, even after explaining how sizing works.
    As for vanity sizing in clothing, its annoying. I never know if the size I ordered is going to fit. Being both hour glass shaped and more muscular than the average makes pants shopping a pain even without the size confusion. Wish clothing companies would sell women’s sizes in measurements like they do men’s

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