Not Made to Measure: How to Find Your True Fit in a World of Inconsistent Clothes Sizing
It’s a common conundrum: You’ve always been a size 8, so why do you find yourself barely squeezing into size 12 jeans at one store and swimming in a size small sweater at the boutique down the block? Whether shopping online or in-store, many of us have experienced the frustration of inconsistent sizing across brands and styles.
American women today average 168.5 lbs. (up from 140 lbs. in 1960), according to recent research, with an average size of 16 to 18. And yet despite our overall increase in body size, clothing labels are getting smaller—a modern waist size 0 is comparable to a size 12 in 1970.
When clothes run larger in actual measurements than their tag implies, it’s often called “vanity sizing,” since a shopper can feel like their body is smaller than it may actually be. But sizing data collected by thredUP shows that vanity sizing may not be intentional—overall, brands are just as likely to undersize clothing as they are to oversize.
For example, we measured label size 27 jeans across 59 brands and found that they varied greatly:
*Average size refers to the thredUP sample average. See the Methodology section for more information.
“The challenge with sizing is that there is no uniformity industry-wide,” says Steven Kolb, CEO and President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). “Every brand, whether it be mass or designer, settles in to their own sizing, and their customers are familiar and comfortable with that.”
Plus-size style expert Marcy Guevara puts it simply: “Vanity sizing only complicates the shopping experience. Women of all shapes and sizes struggle to figure out their size, and when there is no industry standard, it makes it very difficult and disheartening… Brand to brand, sizes fluctuate immensely.”
As the world’s largest online thrift store, thredUP receives thousands of clothing items each day, sorts through each and every piece, and lists over 30,000 items on our site every day. Customers can shop their favorite brands at up to 90 percent off or request a Clean Out Bag and sell their gently used and like-new items. With over 41,000 brands in our database, we examined over 12,000 of America’s most popular clothing brands and analyzed 287 unique brands in detail. Through this revealing data combined with insight from style experts, we’ll show you how to look past the labels to find your perfect fit.
The Ups and Downs of Clothing Size
thredUP manually measures every piece of clothing that is sent in by sellers. For this study, we compared the measurements of all available sizes for over 2.5 million items of clothing—including tops, dresses and jeans—to determine average sizes. By comparing each piece of clothing to the average overall measurements, we were able to determine which brands vary from average sizing the most.
thredUP’s study found that 32 percent of the 59 jeans brands we reviewed ran at least a quarter inch larger around the waist than the average measurement for the label size. That might sound like vanity sizing, if it weren’t for the 41 percent of brands that ran at least a quarter of an inch smaller.
Likewise, 19 percent of dress brands ran at least half an inch larger around the chest, versus 26 percent running smaller. For tops, 33 percent of brands were larger than average, while 32 percent ran smaller.
To illustrate just how much variability in sizing we see across different brands, we charted brands whose actual sizes differ from the label size across two popular clothing categories: dresses and jeans.
Dresses: Sizing Differences Across Popular Brands
*See the Methodology section for more detail on these numbers.