The Issue With Clothing Sizes

Maybe it’s my own neurosis, but the extra small to extra extra large way of labelling clothing makes me uncomfortable. I have a small note about it in my shop, but it’s a subject I feel warrants it’s own post.

All words carry meaning. They are labels that we use to describe the world around us. Of course they’re necessary, but they’re also insanely arbitrary. We assign these labels to things to make sense of the world, but rules for how we assign them are completely made up. Nothing came into being as “small” – we decided to label it as small in comparison to other things. Held side by side, a pea is small than a peach, and the peach is considered large. But hold that peach next to a coconut… or a watermelon… what then? Is it still large? Or is it now small?

Our society grooms us as women to compare ourselves to each other. It’s how they convince us to buy all the weight loss and beauty things we absolutely don’t need. We are taught what to covet, and among beauty ideals, having a thin or small body is especially idealized. Being small means not being fat, which we’re trained to believe means someone is lazy, unhealthy, or dumb. We are taught that our worthiness is relation to others, and whether or not we live up to society’s ideals.

By labelling clothing using words like small and large, it means we are comparing one body to another. But we have been conditioned to see value, or worthiness, in these words differently. Extra large is good when it comes to salaries, but with bodies it’s synonymous with fat, unhealthy, and unworthy. It’s subjective. It carries emotions and worth that businesses have no right assigning to other bodies.

My favourite thing that I’ve seen lately is companies removing words from the equation completely. Instead, they group the sizes* (2, 4, 6…) using numbers (usually 1, 2, 3). The idea is still similar: it cuts down on the number of pieces produced by combining two or three sizes into one garment, much like small, medium and large now do. But instead, it removes the emotion. It takes away the words we use to assign worth. And I believe that is much more encouraging to women, regardless of their body size.


*Those sizes are a whole different post. No size is the same ANYWHERE. I wish they were standard – that a size 2 or 10 or 16 was the same no matter what brand they’re from. I don’t know how that would be possible, or if it’s even feasible, but it would be a dream come true if it was.

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