Column: The size lies 


Commentary by Stephanie Grabow 

I stood in the fitting room and sobbed. Big, snotty, heaving, agonized sobs. 

Thirteen years old and smack dab in the middle of a puberty-fueled growth spurt, I was eager to spend my babysitting money in a fancy boutique. A new pair of dressy pants seemed like exactly the thing an almost grown-up like me needed. 

I’d chosen slacks in my normal size to carry into the fitting room, and as I pulled those on? They gripped my thighs and all I could see in the mirror were sausages stuffed into too-small casings. I felt like such a failure because those pants were the right size, so it must have been my fault that they didn’t fit.

No longer was I that smart middle-school girl who loved to twirl a baton. Now, I was the girl who had gotten so fat she couldn’t put on a normal-sized pair of pants. At least that’s how it made me feel.

In that moment, my tender 13-year-old self-image was obliterated, and replaced with shame and self-judgment that took years to overcome.


Here’s what I wish someone in that store had told me that day. 

Size tags are nasty liars. 

There is no “normal” size. No right size that you should be. In fact, there’s no industry-wide proportional relationship between a woman’s measurements and a standardized size chart. 

It’s just a tag. 

It’s also insanity.

Size 8 jeans from different brands can vary by as much as 6 inches in the waist. If you’re pegging your self-worth to that size number, you’re going to feel like a hero or a jerk. And either way, you’re wrong.

And then there’s the monster of “vanity sizing”. That’s when a brand alters the dimensions and size label of a garment to make you think you’re wearing a smaller size. They want you to feel good about yourself when you’re wearing their clothes, but this trick only works if your ego is tied to the size label.

The takeaway is that when you’re shopping for clothes, there are only four things that you need to pay attention to:

  • Does the garment color flatter you?
  • Does the garment fit you properly?
  • Does the garment fill a need in your wardrobe?
  • Does the garment make you feel beautiful?

Everything else is just a distraction.

Thanks for reading this, and remember to wear something that makes you feel bold today.