GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- You know what it’s like to walk into a store and have one size fit you completely differently than the same size at another store.
“I could go from a size 4 to a size 8, depending on what store I’m shopping at,” says Kelly Boprie, a licensed master social worker.
The clothing sizing system -- a source of stress for many shoppers -- goes back to the 1930s, when the government funded a survey.
Patrick Plank, creative director at Leigh's in Grand Rapids, explained what went wrong and why: "They were paying these women to do this, so it ended up being very poor women, and they were impoverished. So the sizing was off. And it was only white women, so there’s no diversity as far as body type or style or things like that. So the system was kind of flawed."
Plank says by 1983 the system was completely abandoned, and stores began changing their sizes. "They’re making their sizes smaller, because there’s proof in the industry that you buy more if you think you’re a size smaller," said Boprie. "So, every store has a different marketing approach."
This is known as vanity sizing. “Vendors and manufactures started just doing it subjectively on what they would like the customer to be,” said Plank.
The difference in sizes can lead to body image issues for some or could cause others to just walk away.
Boprie recommends a change in thinking while you shop. “Instead of looking at the number, let’s look at the jeans," explained Boprie. "Do I like the way that I feel in them? Let’s stop engaging in what size I am, small, extra small, 2, 4, zero, and let's start looking at comfort."
No matter the size on the tag, it all comes down to trying things on.
“The label means nothing as far as size goes,” says Plank. "You just have to look at it subjectively, and if it says 8 and you're a 6, (...) try it on, because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever."
Experts say an easy way to ignore the question of size is to simply cut the tag out of that shirt or pair of pants after you bought them.