Illogical sizing system for women’s pants highlights blatant sexism in retail industry

Women are all too familiar with the struggle of shopping for pants or jeans and trying to find a size that fits them correctly. The sizing system for women and girls found in popular clothing stores across the United States is not only unhelpful, but also creates body image issues for women. 

In the U.S., male pant sizes are expressed differently than female sizes and are more straightforward. 

“Men’s pants are sized by two numbers: The first represents a measurement of the man’s waist while the second refers to a measurement of his inseam or legs,” according to the website Ponder Weasel. “This two-part measurement system ensures that men of all shapes and sizes can find pants that fit.” 

This pant-sizing system makes complete sense, and allows room for customization and individualization in the retail process. 

Men can assume they are the exact same size no matter where they shop because sizes are standard. The same courtesy of an uncomplicated shopping experience is not extended to women, and female pant sizes lack the logic found in men’s sizes. It is unacceptable that sexism and stereotypes are still being used when marketing and selling clothes to women and girls, even in the way they are sized.

In terms of the sizing of women’s pants, they are “meant to be an extrapolation of a ratio of measurements. This is to say that at one point in time, there existed a ratio developed from bodily measurement “that was used to standardize the original female numerical clothing sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.” according to Ponder Weasel. Furthermore, “It’s no secret that many brands engage in so-called ‘vanity sizing,’ in which they make the clothes bigger than what the size on the tag suggests. So, for example, a size 4 really fits like a size 6. The reasoning behind the tactic is that women are presumably more likely to buy an item when it makes them feel good about themselves,” according to Today’s website. 

The fact that the sizing system for women’s pants is based off of female body insecurities is indicative of the blatant sexism occurring in the retail industry. It is clear that this same notion is not used when selling men’s pants. 

While brands may feel that they are boosting a female’s ego by letting her feel like she is a smaller size than she is, they are in fact doing the exact opposite. The idea that smaller is better when it comes to pant sizes is not only encouraging women to conform to traditional body image stereotypes, but is also creating an unhealthy attitude when it comes to women hoping or wanting to fit into a certain size.

In addition, there is a vast inconsistency in the industry when it comes to female pant sizes. There is no regularity across brands, which causes women to constantly question or feel concerned about their own body. While one woman may be a 4 in one brand, they could be an 8 or a 2 in another, causing them to feel like there is something wrong with them when, in fact, the sizing system is the real issue. 

This type of internal struggle, which is so common for women, would never happen to a male trying on pants from various brands. It is clear that there is a major issue when it comes to women’s sizes and that they continues to harm women, and even young girls, as they shop for pants.

Pant sizes for women must be standardized and based on measurement, not a ratio. There is absolutely no reason a system like the men’s cannot be created and implemented. Having an arbitrary number of sizes that supposedly fits a wide range of women of different shapes, sizes and body types is unrealistic. It not only causes female consumers to become frustrated, but it also places unnecessary pressure on women regarding their body image.

 Shopping for jeans or pants can be extremely difficult for women due to the discriminatory sizing system that exists in the United States. The ratio system profits off of female insecurities sustained by societal pressures. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Shopping for jeans or pants can be extremely difficult for women due to the discriminatory sizing system that exists in the United States. The ratio system profits off of female insecurities sustained by societal pressures. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

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