Does my bum look big in this? Frankly, yes.

Stacia BriggsStacia Briggs

Does my bum look big in this? Frankly, yes.

There are some moments in life when you're offered just that little bit too much information.

Last weekend, I visited a charity shop with my mother, who brightly greeted the older lady behind the till with a cheery: 'How are you?' The woman shrugged her shoulders and said: 'A bit better than last week. I had constipation. I didn't go for days.'

Now, thanks to the kind of study that no one likes, wants or can bear to read, it has been revealed that women are being deceived by a cunning ploy called 'vanity sizing', in which stores flatter their customers by making clothes bigger so they think they're buying a smaller size.

Several major high street shops, including Gap and Marks & Spencer, are said to have increased the measurements on their clothes while the size labels remain the same.

Gemma Seager, from Norwich, is a size 14 with size 18 hips, but can fit into smaller sizes in many shops.

Most Read

'Under the British standard sizing chart, my measurements would make me a size 14, but in reality I wear a 12 in most shops and the M&S dress I bought is a size ten,' she said.

'The chart gives me hips on the lower end of a size 18 even though, when I was two stone heavier, I never once bought an item of clothing in a size bigger than a 16.'

Ten, 12, 14, 16, 18 - it's like a fashion maths lesson: to find out what comes next in the sequence, you may have to work your way through several large bags of doughnuts.

Of course we've all secretly known about the shops that sell 'big' size 12s for years, we just haven't shouted about it because being a size 12 at M&S makes us feel better than being a 'small' size 16 from Top Shop.

It shouldn't do, but it does. Call us shallow - we're not listening because we're pretending we haven't just heard the real reason why our French Connection size 12 velvet coat actually fits, and it has nothing to do with our backside getting any smaller.

I remember that a few years ago, it wasn't just the clothes that were being blamed for making women believe they were slimmer than they actually were, it was changing room mirrors, too.

However well-acquainted you are with all the really horrendous parts of your body, nothing can prepare you for the grisly truth delivered by the changing room mirror.

If you thought you'd reached the giddy heights of self-loathing at home, think again.

Brutal strip lighting, a cloakroom assistant like an anorexic preying mantis, overheated cubicles with curtains at least two feet too small, floor to ceiling mirrors that leave nothing to the imagination - it's like walking into your worst nightmare and then being expected to pay for the privilege when you wake up.

In 2007, Robert Kilroy-Silk, erstwhile talkshow host and MEP, took M&S to task about its changing room mirrors and called for them to be withdrawn under EU consumer protection rules.

Ah, Robert Kilroy-Silk. How I miss tuning in at 9am every day to see him lurching towards the camera like a tangerine on a stick to pose a mind-boggling rhetorical question such as 'It's your son's nativity play…and you're shooting up in the sandpit?' or 'Your husband's been having an affair…with a coypu?'

Those were good times.

Kilroy-Silk wrote to the chief executive at M&S to complain that stores were using 'distorting mirrors' to make women trying on clothes look slimmer than they actually were.

Immediately, people asked how Robert was so intimately acquainted with the fixtures and fittings of womens' changing rooms, suggesting he might be a covert cross dresser.

Obviously, these people were men. Women would have realised straight away that RKS had never set foot in a woman's changing room: if he had, he wouldn't have put forward such a ludicrous suggestion.

Personally, I'm all for as many distorting mirrors and as much vanity sizing as possible - wallpaper the streets with slim mirrors, pebble-dash every item of clothing with a size 10 labels, lie to me mercilessly because I can take it.

Especially when the alternative involves salad, the gym and the truth.

Sixth Scent

Celebrity perfumes are a really great idea: why just listen to Britney's music when you can SMELL LIKE HER too?

I don't just want to be wildly envious of Paris Hilton's playgirl lifestyle, I want to make sure that my bitter resentment is cloaked in a veil of her very own fragrance, therefore ensuring I line her pocket even more.

This week, Bruce Willis has announced he will be launching his very own fragrance, Eau de Man-Sweat, Fire and Guns (or something) in July.

According to the German cosmetics firm which will produce the scent, it will be 'extremely masculine', in other words able to impregnate women if they so much as look at the bottle.

Quite what the top notes, heart and base notes of this fragrance will be are yet to be revealed, but if it's not Bruce's own white vests wrung out and siphoned into bottles, I for one will be disappointed.

You have to admit, it'd be better to smell like Die Hard than smell hard and dead, which is what Bruce is in The Sixth Sense (if you haven't seen the Sixth Sense, I have literally ruined the twist for you in a matter of one sentence. Apologies. Please switch the lights off when you leave 1999).

Nick Clegg: 'not particularly brilliant or particularly bad'

To be fair to television, it has finally managed the previously unmanageable: bringing politics to primetime without causing a huge surge on the National Grid as everyone leaves the room to make a cup of tea.

The first Leader's Debate on ITV1 led to an immediate swell of support for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg even though we've previously discovered, thanks to Piers Morgan, that he is 'not particularly brilliant or particularly bad' in bed.

Having decided to base my vote entirely on self-analysis of sexual technique (do send me a mark out of 10, Charles, Adrian, Antony, Simon and Steve), I had ruled out the Lib Dems until I saw Nick Clegg on the telly. Now I think he should definitely get through to X Factor boot camp.

Having pondered Clegg's supersonic ascension from 'who?' to 'oh yeah, him', I have come up with 10 reasons why I think Nick Clegg's popularity increased overnight:

1) Now we know what Nick Clegg looks like, as opposed to being in a position where we'd have been hard-pressed to pick him out in a police line-up.

2) Nick Clegg is not Gordon Brown or David Cameron.

3) Because of increased media coverage, we now know that Nick Clegg has the best-looking wife out of the three big political hitters.

4) Someone on Twitter said that Nick Clegg's policies seemed 'all right'.

5) Vince Cable is on Nick Clegg's side and everyone loves Vince Cable, even misanthropes who hate everyone.

6) No one links Nick Clegg with his unpopular predecessors, as we link Gordon with Tony and Dave with Maggie, because no one can remember any Liberal Democrats before Nick Clegg.

7) Nick Clegg looks like the man who lives next door, as opposed to the troll that lives under the bridge or the toff that lives in a castle made of platinum.

8) We all love an underdog (see John Sergeant, Strictly Come Dancing).

9) Before, voters believed they faced a difficult prospect, feeling like Cinderella choosing between the two ugly sisters. Now they can choose the pumpkin, instead.

10) Nick Clegg promised everyone who votes Liberal Democrat their own flying car, timeshare apartment on the moon and an iPad (subliminally).

Personally, I will not be convinced before I see Clegg sing 'I Had a Dream' or doing a street dance routine, but that's because I went to university and realise the importance of thorough research.