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The Struggle with Size: Clothing stores change sizes on purpose

Size labels on clothes don't always match our true size, but brands want you to think otherwise. The concept is known as 'vanity sizing'.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Are you a medium or a small? A size four or double-zero?

That answer all depends on where you’re shopping, according to a University of Tennessee professor in retail and consumer science.

“Styles are all so different,” Michelle Childs said. “It could be that a retailer wants a particular fit for the style, like a looser fit or a tighter fit and so they modify their sizes based on that.”

The concept is called “vanity sizing” where retailers are basically trying to sell you on size.

“For instance, if I'm actually a large or medium, but in that retailer, I'm a small, I may be more likely to buy it because I'm much more comfortable with that sizing,” the professor said.

Childs added the emphasis on size wasn’t really a thing in the early 1900s.

“Previously we had tailored goods, we had a small amount of products in our closet,” Childs said. They were higher quality, we wore them more often, and they were tailored to our individual bodies.”

Then in the ’60s and ’70s, fast fashion entered the scene.

“It’s basically disposable fashion,” the retail expert added. “It’s only meant to be worn 10 times, which is pretty incredible, so the quality is low, the materials are very low quality, and they're really fashion-forward.”

Childs added that finding your size can be easier with a website called 'True Fit', which can help save time and energy.

“Not all retailers have it, but at least you're trying to find your size, reduce sort of that risk of purchasing and returning by using that information," Childs said,

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