Vanity sizing used to be the retail industry's little-known secret, seducing women into buying more by convincing them that they were a size or two smaller than they actually are—but now, it's just reality. Every woman knows that depending on what store she walks into, she's going to be a different size.
One editor at The Washington Post went a few steps further when researching the topic, analyzing why vanity sizing developed to begin with. He found that it all started in the depression era, when the government attempted a study to find out if women's proportions and measurements could be summed up "to create a simple, standardized system of sizing."
Unsurprisingly, the government failed, because the data they collected was so variant that one system of sizing couldn't be determined. The one lasting result from the study, however, was a numerical sizing system unrelated to actual measurements—i.e., the system women still use today, which came into being in 1958.
And here are the most startling numbers: The Washington Post found that when you compare sizing from 1958 to more recent data gathered in 2011, not only have women gotten progressively much larger over the years, but also, the sizing of their clothes is all over the place. Most remarkably, a size 8 in 1958 fits measurements smaller than a size 00 in 2011.
It should be noted, though, that when the initial sizing system was born in 1958, size 8 was the smallest size; there was no 0, 2, 4, or 6. This is where vanity sizing comes in: Retailers figured if they could put size-8 women into a "size 6," they would be more likely to buy. And the rest is history.
Keep scrolling to see the charts with the sizing data now!