After buying a new pair of shorts, one woman is calling out retailers for inconsistent sizing and the damaging impact this can have on body image.
When Missy Rogers recently tried on shorts from American Eagle, she was shocked to find that she couldn’t get them past her knees. Having previously purchased a very similar pair in a size 4, she was discouraged to find that she had to go up to a 10, leading her to question just how much weight she’d put on. Yet she quickly learned that size is just a number.
After comparing her old shorts with the new ones, the Jacksonville University student discovered that they boast the same waist line and width, the only difference between the two being hemline length. In a Facebook post, which has received more than 70,000 shares since it was posted on Saturday, Rogers asked how it’s possible that what was considered a size 4 just a short time ago is now produced with nearly the same dimensions as a size 10.
Rogers’s findings highlight a real problem in retail. Sizes are inconsistent throughout the entire industry, meaning one can be a 0 in one store and an 8 in another. Sizes aren’t standardized, although not for lack of trying. In the 1940s when manufacturing was on the rise and made-to-measure on the way out, the government’s Works Progress Administration attempted to institute a system based on bust size (which failed because it’s not a very accurate indicator). Then, nearly a decade later, analysis by the National Institute of Standards and Technology of a nationwide survey came up with recommendations for companies, according to Slate, using 8 to 38 with a corresponding T, R, or S, to indicate height, and a plus or minus, to represent lower body girth. This fell out by 1983, and no commercial standard has replaced it. Instead, a private corporation, ASTM International, releases annual suggestions.
A lack of regulations has led not only to inconsistency but also vanity sizing, a practice that sees manufacturers relabeling bigger sizes with smaller numbers in an attempt to make women feel better about their bodies. But what Rogers found seems to be the exact opposite of this, making customers — like her — feel even worse. She wrote that the ideal figure perpetuated by the media has convinced women that the smaller the size you are, the more beautiful you are. “This is not the case, and I think it’s important to show that clothing size should not define your beauty,” she added. “If a size 10 is what a size 4 use to be, what message are you implying to younger girls?”
It’s also entirely possible that American Eagle is normalizing its sizes or the shorts, which are made with slightly different materials, just run differently — or other factors may be leading to this incompatibility. But, according to Rogers, that’s not the point. “We should feel confident in our own skin and in what we wear. With everyone aiming to reach the perfect body, we are missing the bigger picture,” she said. “A size 2 is never going to be the same in every place or mean the same to every person. A specific size is not a number to describe your beauty, health, and body. It is literally just a number printed on a tag. Find clothes that make you feel confident, comfortable, beautiful, and, most importantly, yourself rather than worrying about the size. You are more than a number.”
American Eagle actually acknowledged Rogers’ concerns. “We agree fully with Missy that women are so much more than numbers, which is why we are so strongly committed to body positivity,” the brand tells Yahoo Style in a statement. “Like every retailer, we strive for consistency and clarity to help our customers make decisions. We’ve reached out to Missy to get her feedback on her shopping experience and look forward to engaging in a discussion around this important issue.”