I tried on the same size at different stores to prove women’s sizes are bullshit


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I tried on the same size at different stores to prove women’s sizes are bullshit

This and the fact our jeans have no pockets are the biggest crimes in fashion

I hate shopping — it’s an exhausting day at the mall trying on 40 different items in a million sizes until I find just one that fits right.

For women, sizing is complicated. US clothing stores employ a sizing technique known as “vanity sizing,” which means clothing stores have shrunk their sizes over the years in order to make shoppers feel skinnier. However, the clothing items themselves are still the same size. For example, a size 16 dress in 1958 is now considered a size 8.

Not only are the sizes arbitrarily assigned to clothes, they’re also super different between stores, since there’s no standard sizing. One size can even vary as much as five inches between different brands.

To show just how annoying and inaccurate vanity sizing really is, I conducted an experiment of my own. I consulted with my friend Liz who studies fashion merchandising to determine what size I should be based on my measurements. I then went to four different stores to try on a pair of jeans and a basic t-shirt. At each store, I tried on the exact same sizes: a small (S) for the shirt and a size 4, or a 27″ waist, for the pants.

Forever 21

I didn’t exactly have high hopes going into Forever 21. As much as I adore their prices, their clothes rarely fit me correctly, and there’s always something about them that’s unflattering on me. Nonetheless, I charged forward.

The T-shirt and the jeans were basically opposites in terms of fit. The t-shirt fit exactly zero parts of my body and kind of made me look like a bag. It also scrunched up very awkwardly at the bottom.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, these jeans were way too damn tight and uncomfortable. I felt like I was suffocating in them. despite the fact that it should have been the correct size.


H&M has usually been a reliable clothing store for me – at least when it comes to tops. I almost always leave the store with something new at an affordable price, so I walked into the store with high expectations.

What I found instead is that their sizing system for pants and shorts is completely out of whack. Some of the sizes for their shorts appear to be insanely small and not in line with other styles of pants in the store.

A pair of size 2 shorts?

Not only that, but the sizes vary a lot between different pairs and styles of shorts. This time, I couldn’t even button up the pair I picked.

A true tragedy

The t-shirt, however, was a lot more flattering than I expected. It felt super comfortable and was definitely a step up from the garbage at Forever 21.


Ah, an old middle school favorite. As soon as I walked into Hollister, the overwhelming scent of cheap perfume made me want to immediately turn around and walk back out. However, my persistence and dedication to this very important research kept me going.

The sizes for pants here are pretty confusing. A size 0 is equivalent to a 25″ waist, while a size 9 is a 29″ waist. That means just four inches makes the difference between a size 0 and a size 9 at Hollister. As I later found out, this kind of jump is actually fairly common when it comes to women’s sizing.

It was also difficult to find a plain t-shirt that didn’t have the words “Hollister” stamped on them in big letters, so I settled for this simple shirt that had the words in the corner. It fit fairly comfortably, but it was nothing to get excited about.

Surprisingly, the jeans didn’t fit horribly; I could actually get them on this time. The only problem I saw was that they were a bit long and bunched around my ankles, which I hate. They were also a little too tight for my liking.

American Eagle

American Eagle has historically been a good place for me to get jeans. They’re well-made, decently affordable and generally fit well. As I expected, American Eagle did not disappoint when it came to jeans. The pair I tried on easily felt the best out of the four stores and weren’t too tight or too big. They did, however, bunch a little bit around the calves and ankles which I wasn’t crazy about.

The t-shirt I picked was incredibly soft and comfortable, but I don’t know that it really looked good on me. 10/10 would buy for comfort, though.

In the end, only one t-shirt and one pair of pants really fit me correctly, despite the fact that I tried on the exact same sizes for each item. At every store, I felt pressure to fit perfectly into “my size” — I was pleased when I fit into the size 4 and disappointed when I needed a size bigger.

As long as vanity sizing exists, women will have to continue to play a guessing game designed to psychologically manipulate our feelings about our body.

It all seems pretty unfair if you ask me.

A version of this story originally appeared on The Tab Penn State.