Vanity sizing has radically changed the meaning of a size 8 over time, as the chart below shows.
Studies have shown that shoppers prefer to buy clothing labeled with small sizes because it boosts their confidence. So as the weight of the average American woman rose, from 140 lb. in 1960 to 168.5 lb. in 2014, brands adjusted their metrics to help more of us squeeze into more-desirable sizes (and get us to buy more clothes), as TIME reported in a feature this week.
Over time this created an arms race, and retailers went to extremes trying to one-up one another. By the late 2000s, standard sizes had become so forgiving that designers introduced new ones (0, 00) to make up the difference.
More Must-Read Stories From TIME
- How an Online Pharmacy Sold Millions Worth Of Dubious COVID-19 Drugs — While Patients Paid the Price
- Why Literally Millions of Americans Are Quitting Their Jobs
- Meet the Women Participating in the Study That Could Change Future of Breast Cancer
- Inside the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Tomorrow's Business Leaders
- An Innovative Washington Law Aims to Get Foreign-Trained Doctors Back in Hospitals
- Why the Ex-Husband of a Missing Chinese Billionaire Is Risking All to Tell Their Story
- Timothée Chalamet Wants You to Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve