It made me think about my own experience with clothing size categories, one that recently culminated in a frustrating realization: clothing designers seem to think I don't exist.
I haven't been able to shop in a Junior's section for a very long time, probably not since middle school. Even then, I was always broad shouldered and top heavy (apple shaped, as "they" call it), so even when Junior's clothes technically fit my body, it was clear they weren't quite meant for it.
|Here I am, wearing nothing but a shiny coat of wax.|
Step 1: I pick up stuff that I think is cute based on the way it looks on a hanger from the regular section. I go and try it on, realize that it looked cute on the hanger or mannequin because the hanger and the mannequin have roughly the same amount of curves, and stick it on the return rack. For a while, this is where my shopping experience ended, often with mounting frustration and feelings of failure on my part, but since I've gotten into a much better headspace about such things, I now either skip this step or move on to the next one without much fuss.
Step 2: I pick up clothes from the regular section that look a little ridiculous on the hanger or the mannequin, understanding that they will likely look better on my own body. I take them to the dressing room, and I find that they do look better, but they don't look quite right. They fit, for sure. There's nothing stretched too tight or busting at the seams, but I look like I'm trying to wear clothes that weren't made for me. I almost always have to have XL tops, and the extra material always looks like it was added as an afterthought. The cut isn't flattering, and dresses just sort of hang circus-tent like. There was a point where I would stop at this step, either buying a bunch of clothes I didn't really like and probably wouldn't wear or leaving empty handed and, once again, frustrated. But once I swallowed my ingrained fear of the "plus size" section, I moved on to step 3.
Step 3: "I'm a grown woman, damn it. Clothes are made to fit my body, not the other way around. What's the point of buying clothes that don't make me feel good? This is hard-earned money I'm throwing around, and who cares what the label says if it fits?!"
This is the pep talk I had to give myself the first few times I moved into the plus-size section. I know it's not right to have to give oneself a pep talk to simply walk over four aisles and look at a different selection of clothes, but I blame the patriarchy.
So, I swallowed hard and took the plunge. I was immediately struck by two things. First, the clothes that I thought were cute were much more flattering in their cut and designs. Stripes were placed at curve-hugging angles. Things flared and hugged in all the right places. Secondly, there wasn't that much that I thought was cute. A vast majority of the clothes seemed to be made for someone attending a wake or a job interview . . . in a very conservative town stuck two decades in the past. Still, there was a selection of things that I found worthwhile, so I grabbed some 1x shirts from the racks and headed to the fitting room.
They hung off of me like drapes. At this point, I'm not ashamed to tell you, I really did cry in frustration. Here I was facing my fear of being literally labeled "plus size," ready to accept it if it meant I got to wear these flatteringly cut clothes, and I was being rejected.
Later, I'd find a few stores that carried shirts in a size "0x," a fact that still perplexes me, but one that I thought would solve all my problems. Nope. They hung off my shoulders, bunched up in all the wrong places, and generally screamed to the world that they didn't fit me.
Step 4: A few weeks ago, I went shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding. This is a particularly frustrating part of the clothes buying experience because the bulkiness of the top half of my body and the fact that I am only 5'3" means dresses are a problem. As I was walking the mall, I happened upon a Torrid proclaiming itself "Fashion for Sizes 12 to 28." I wear a 14 in dresses, and I had some vague memory of Torrid being a Hot Topic offshoot, which made me all nostalgic for 30 seconds. I went in.
The woman working in the store was an amazing salesperson. She was friendly without being aggressive, and she immediately gathered up four dress/sweater combos I would never have picked out for myself. They fit! The dresses fit! Then she talked me into trying on some (gasp!) skinny jeans, which also fit . . . in the store.
I had to get the smallest size jeans they had, and I realized upon wearing them to walk around town a few days later that they stretched with wear. I'm going to have to belt them, which isn't the end of the world, sure, but it does mean that buying pants from Torrid, despite their wonderful styles and body-friendly cuts, probably isn't a good option for me, either. (But I'll be coming back for some more dresses. Believe me.)
I was talking to the woman at Torrid, and she explained that while most clothing stores create a dress in a size 6 and then scale up and down from there, they cut it on a size 16 and then scale from there. In other words, instead of my size 14 being scaled up 4 sizes (and losing a lot of shape and detail in the process), it had been scaled down one (and cut for curves in the first place). The dress was the same size as other dresses I had tried on and even owned, but it was simply made with bodies like mine in mind.
This did leave me in a weird spot, though. I'm training to run my first half marathon in October, and--since I have some time off in the summer--I'm hoping to work a little harder at roller derby skills in order to hopefully get cleared to scrimmage by the end of the summer. I'll probably lose some weight. That's not really the goal of the running/skating, but it is a likely byproduct. If it's enough of a byproduct, the cute dresses and belted jeans I just finally got to fit won't fit anymore. And then I'll once again be stuck in a No Woman's Land of clothes.
I don't think my body is all that oddly shaped. I believe that there are other people in the world who look like me. Surely we would all like clothes that fit us. Make some! Take our money, please!
Do you have any tips for shopping in the gray areas of clothing sizes? Stories of your own clothing sizing frustration?