The Tall Tale of "True To Size" in Fashion eCommerce

In this article, our team of sizing experts dispels the myth behind the phrase "true to size" while detailing the fit revolution poised to change the very fabric (no pun intended) of apparel eCommerce.

Over 25% of people in the world shop online, and if you're one of these 2.14 billion people, you've likely seen the phrase "true to size" used when browsing your favorite apparel sites. It's an interesting phrase, isn't it? True to size. After all, what does this phrase actually mean in an environment where most apparel brands can't seem to get sizing right within their own collections, much less at scale? 

To further help shoppers navigate the vast and confusing world of apparel eCommerce, we thought it best to shed some light on the tall tale of "true to size" and the fit revolution poised to redefine how shoppers find their best-fitting products online.  

The Origin and Meaning Behind the Phrase, True To Size

The phrase "true to size" originated in the footwear industry, where customers would use a Brannock Device to determine their true size and order accordingly. Eventually, the phrase was adopted by apparel sellers during the early days of eCommerce on platforms such as eBay to inform potential buyers how a garment (or footwear) would fit prior to purchase. At the time, the seller's interpretation of true-to-size was when a garment's sizing and fit aligned with the existing products in the buyer's closet. While there are still several interpretations of what true-to-size means, it can best be defined as when a product is guaranteed to fit in accordance with the brand's specific size chart

Eventually, "true to size" made its way into mainstream eCommerce, and today, nearly every brand across the apparel industry uses the designation to provide shoppers with clarity on how products will fit during their journey. 

Why This Phrase is Dubious For Anyone To Use

an online clothes shopper sitting at their laptop looking confused

Aside from having numerous interpretations, the phrase true-to-size is inherently flawed for several reasons:

  • Sizing is not, and will never be, standardized 

For those who have yet to read our article on the history of clothing sizes, you've likely wondered why brands can't agree on universal sizing standards to alleviate the woes online shoppers face daily. As it turns out, both brands and government entities alike attempted to establish universal sizing standards in the early and mid-1900s to no avail.

After two consecutive failed attempts to establish universal sizing standards, apparel brands took sizing strategies entirely in-house, curating their own unique sizing standards around the body types of their target shopper. Today, because each brand's sizing strategy is wholly unique, the designation "true-to-size" only has applications within that brand's specific product line and is effectively useless in any other regard. 

It's also worth mentioning that there are a plethora of different sizing standards used across the globe, further diluting the usefulness of the true-to-size designation for brands that operate on a global scale.

  • The vanity sizing conundrum

What's worse than a glaring lack of universal sizing standards? How about rampant and persistent size inflation? Since the 1980s, clothing has become incrementally larger in both the American and UK markets while retaining their original size designations; a practice deemed vanity sizing

While vanity sizing seems counterintuitive in a world where apparel sizing is already convoluted, multiple studies have shown that shoppers feel good and purchase more when they fit into smaller-sized apparel. In this regard, it is no surprise why the trend became (and is) so popular.  

Some brands use the designation true-to-size to inform their shoppers that the garment is not vanity-sized while also including designators such as "runs large" or "runs small" to indicate otherwise. Regardless, the continued practice of vanity sizing hinders the usefulness of the "true to size" designation in apparel eCommerce.

The Data-Driven Fit Revolution For Fashion eCommerce

WAIR 3D sizing and body prediction tool in use

We know what you're thinking, "If established size designations aren't the answer to eCommerce's sizing crisis, what is?" The simple answer to that is sizeless commerce. In short, sizeless commerce is an experience where online shoppers can seamlessly find their best-fitting clothing sizes without having to rely on measuring tape, size charts, and intangible fit descriptors. 

We've already established that modern sizing standards are broken by design, and online shoppers have never been less confident in their ability to purchase the best-fitting clothing. Sizeless commerce by WAIR bypasses the antiquated size charts of old through personalized and data-backed size recommendations at scale.

So how does sizeless commerce work? Let's take a quick look into the typical shopper's journey with sizeless commerce. A shopper lands on your eCommerce site looking to purchase some new apparel. They find the garment they're interested in and need to determine what size to order. They use WAIR's sizing solution, a simple, seamless, and data-backed survey, to determine their best-fitting size. The shopper confidently completes their order, receives the product, and loves the look, feel, and fit. It's a simple yet unbelievably effective solution to the eCommerce sizing crisis that affects even the most prominent apparel brands across the industry.

But the sizeless commerce experience far transcends point-of-sale size recommendations. When shoppers use WAIR to find their best-fitting products, their unique body data is relayed to the brand for further analysis. This helps your brand tailor its eCommerce experience entirely around the body types of its core shopper base, breaking down the barriers to personalization and bridging the gaps between physical and digital commerce.

Now, let's talk performance stats. How successful are the brands that embrace sizeless commerce? Ask a few of WAIR's brand partners like Vineyard Vines, SHEFIT, BYLT Basics, and Johnnie-O, all of which have seen double-digit growth in conversion rates and equally impressive boosts to average order value.   

The Future of Fashion eCommerce is Sizeless, Not True To Size

While apparel eCommerce may never move past the antiquated and intangible designators we've become so reliant on, the least we can do as participants is remove the confusion surrounding sizing at every available opportunity. Phrases like "true-to-size" or "runs small" might have proven useful during the early days of eCommerce, but amid the recent influx of online activity and the growing diversification of shopper body types, these half-measures can and need to be remedied. Give your shoppers the confidence in sizing they need in 2023 with sizeless commerce!

Are you interested in learning more about WAIR? Schedule a demo here, and be sure to follow us on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and Facebook for all your fashion content needs!

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