12:16 20 April 2010
It's a common scenario; you go into a shop looking for a new outfit, pick up your usual size and head to the changing rooms to try it on.
Often you wish you hadn't had that extra cream cake at lunch but find by some miracle it's hanging off you and need a smaller size.
You may be pleased with your new slender purchase, however recent research has revealed that there is a growing trend for shops to trick customers into thinking they are buying a smaller size than they actually are.
According to a new report, shoppers are being flattered by "vanity sizing" as shops add a few extra inches while keeping the labelling the same.
Fashion blogsite Retro Chick found that there is a wide variation in sizing for women's clothing from store to store. And it seems that many high street stores secretly adopt this "vanity sizing" policy, which works by flattering the buyer into their purchases.
Furthermore, there are also differences depending on what type of customer the shop attracts. For examaple, a size 10 in shop aimed at teens and women in their 20s, such as Topshop or H&M, will have a slimmer and tighter fit than the same dress size in Wallis which is aimed at a more mature and affluent female shopper.
While a British standard for clothing sizes does exist, after its introduction in 1982, there is no enforceable requirement for retailers or manufacturers to use it.
Similarly, six years ago, a government sponsored national sizing survey which detected changes in women's bodies today, had no compulsory action to adopt its findings.
M&S says it last changed the sizes of its clothes in 2003 after conducting its own survey, examining 2,500 women with 3-D body scanners to find the average sizes.
The popular high street store insists that it has not altered its block sizing the patterns given to suppliers since then. However, it did admit that the sizes of the website have been "tweaked".
A size 16 at M&S has increased in its guidelines from 97cm at the bust, 80cm waist and 104cm hips to 101-84-109; the equivalent of an extra dress size.
Likewise, while it calculated then that a size 10 customer would have a figure of 85-69-93; the store has since updated its website to show that the ideal measurement for that size would be 86-69-94.
Like many women, Gemma Seager from fashion blog Retro Chick, has found that clothes sizes can vary as much as three dress sizes apart.
Seager is a size 14 with size 18 hips (according to the British standard sizing guide), however the Norwich manager can fit into smaller sizes in many shops even slipping into a size 10 M&S dress with room to spare.
John Lewis has also increased its sizes, with a 12 stretching from 90cm at the bust, 72cm at the waist and 97.5cm at the hips in June 2008 to 92-73.5-97.5 today.
American manufacturer Gap, which still uses inches, is another retailer which has seen some of its clothing measurements grow in the past two years. In 2008 a size 14 garment would be 37in at the bust, 29in at the waist and 39in at the hip. Today the size has grown to 37.529.5-40.
An M&S spokeswoman said: "We are not sweetening the sizes or softening the blow for anyone but in 2007 we introduced a size 6 and a size 30 to our range and we tweaked the sizes on our website so they are based on an average body.
"We were trying to more accurately reflect what customers' body shapes would be showing them. We did not change the size of the garments."
While thinking they've fit into a smaller size can leave women feeling delighted about their new-found slender lines, in reality "vanity sizing" could be perpetuating an unhealthy image of our bodies and proportions as a fuller waist can be lined with health problems later in life (although many other factors are involved of course).
John Lewis said it followed sizing guidelines from Sizemic (who conducted the 2004 government study) but "emerging fashion trends and seasonal influences dictate sizing adjustments". Gap said its sizes "depend on the fit and style" of the garment.
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