Watch out for These Clothing Brands That Run Way Too Small

Age is just a number — and so is a clothing size. If you’ve spent any amount of time shopping around, you’ve likely come to the realization that retail sizing can be incredibly inconsistent and misleading. And it has also changed a lot over the years. Now, you may wear a size 2 in one brand but a size 6 or even an 8 somewhere else.

It’s not you, though, it’s them!

It’s virtually a one-size-fits-nobody situation, and there is really no such thing as standard sizing. Plus, vanity sizing is alive and well, with brands even owning up to selling clothing that runs big so shoppers can buy smaller, more desirable sizes to hang in their closets. (In case you’re wondering, J. Crew, Gap, and Banana Republic are just a few of the guilty offenders of the vanity tactic.)

Fitbay, a social shopping network, made it even more official when they sourced information from 100,000 of their users to determine which brands make shoppers size up or down. For example, Fitbay found 70% of women have to size down at Anne Taylor Loft while 40% have to size up at American Apparel. And, it’s not just women’s wear. Express and American Eagle are both tagged for men’s vanity sizing, too.

We know that such a numbers game may be putting a damper on your retail therapy, so we have a quick hit list of retailers and brands that generally run small in the whole sartorial scheme of things. One thing’s certain: These brands are certainly NOT guilty of vanity sizing. Oh, and by the way, if you shop with the retailers on this list, you didn’t grow two sizes overnight — remember, it’s the clothes, not you.

1. Forever 21

new Forever 21 store

Forever 21 is guilty of small sizing. | Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Notorious in the fast-fashion world for running forever small, Forever 21 delivers the 411 on the latest trendsetting, style-forward looks with a range of fun, chic pieces including dresses, tops, jackets, bottoms, intimates, loungewear, activewear, and swimwear. Incredibly accessible, the brand offers some of the most inexpensive prices around. The only sticker shock here is with the sizing. Don’t be surprised if you have to go up a size — or two — when you shop here. The other caveat is that, yes, you do get what you pay for in terms of quality. And, Forever 21 pieces may not, ahem, last forever or stand the test of time like higher quality garments.

2. H&M

entryway to an H&M store

H&M runs small as well. | Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

Fast-fashion with a high-fashion mood, H&M is beloved by many for its haute looks at hot price points. The Swiss retail powerhouse has also collaborated with a number of leading designers (from Balmain to Karl Lagerfeld to Alexander Wang, and the list goes on) for smash-hit, sell-out collections. All that to say, the runway-to-real-life influence can impact the fit of H&M garments. Depending on their cut and silhouette, some pieces can run quite small while others are more true to size. We call this case-by-case shopping.

3. Zara

shopping bag at Zara

Zara can be smaller than expected. | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

A stylish import based in Spain, Zara is an international clothing and accessories retailer with a style-forward, designer-inspired European edge. That European influence, though, also impacts their sizing, making it smaller than expected in some of their collections of dresses, skirts, trousers, jeans, jumpsuits, blazers, bombers, and more. Zara also has a TRF line geared to juniors with youthfully spirited pieces, where the small sizing is often even more prevalent.

4. Nike

store entrance to Niketown

Nike runs notoriously small. |  Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Nike’s motto may be “Just Do It,” but for many people, the brand also means “Just Go Up a Size.” Some fans of the athletic wear and athleisure line may have had their first brush of Nike’s smaller sizing with a pair of the brand’s running shoes. But, it doesn’t stop at the feet, as Nike tends to run small in general. So, “Just Deal With It” and wear the swoosh with pride, whether you’re hitting the gym or simply racing through the to-do list of your day.

5. American Apparel

american apparel

You’ll be sizing up in American Apparel. | David McNew/Getty Images

Touting made-in-the-USA, sweatshop-free clothing, American Apparel has all the T-shirts, underwear, dresses, pants, denim, and accessories you could want for your bod — with a side of provocative edge. Once embroiled in controversy for overtly not-safe-for-work ads, the brand has recently fostered a friendlier, and well, all-American image with their laid-back basics that come with a Cali cool vibe. The most controversial element now may be that the apparel runs small, so it’s not you, it’s the clothes.

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