I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for a really long time, but put off finishing it and publishing it. When I say a really long time, I think maybe a year or so.
Why? I’m not 100% sure to be honest, but my current theory is that I’m worried of how I’ll be perceived for publishing it.
At the moment, I’m probably in the ‘average girl’ category (albeit on the larger side of this group) – I’m not plus size, nor am I slim, just kind of in that middle ground that doesn’t have a defined identity (at least not yet, but ladies like Lucy Wood are doing their part to carve one out for people like we). So, there’s two reasons that make me a little uncertain about speaking out. A, because I don’t want the plus size community to believe that I’m speaking out about concerns that I have no business to speak about. C (and completely paradoxically) I’m scared it makes me look like just another girl who was once a size 10 gained a lot of weight and is bitter about that so is blaming everybody but herself.
But in reality, whichever of these camps you fall in, the concerns I want to talk about affect us all. The difference really is how it affects us – it could be sent to the self esteem, it could be the disappointment at no longer being able to shop at your favourite online store all of a sudden, or it could simply be the frustration in not being able to understand what the hell you’re meant to look for when shopping for clothing.
So, after this epic intro and no doubt overthinking justification, here’s what I think those issues are and you can judge what yourself…
- Size Exclusion
I don’t mean this as a straight “clothing brands should offer a larger size range to be more inclusive” I’m talking about those weird, sly sizing moves some of the brands (mainly the smaller brands) inexplicably make.
Picture the scene – you spot a nice top when your browsing an online store and the sizes as S/M/L/XL, you’re not sure which get so you hit the size guide page for some guidance. Size XL, the largest size offered, is listed as an equivalent of a size 12. Or, you check the measurements and yes, that’s my usual size so that’s what you order. But when your order arrived, it most definitely ain’t the size and measurements it said it was.
These are pretty confusing message for shoppers, and certainly for me it’s made a variety of things go through my head – am I wrong, is this the size that I should’ve start worrying about? Are they wrong, are they just not understanding women very well? Or….are these brands being shady bitches and making their range only accessible to people with body measurements that they think would look better in their clothes? As many of the brands I’ve experienced this with have been founded by young single men, I can’t help but think it’s likely to be a combo of the latter two.
2. Vanity sizing
This ‘trend’ comes around more often than than a Brexit deal vote, and this is where the sheer frustration and self loathing can really set in. Michael McIntyre wrote a whole set about this issue which means that not only have blokes noticed this is a thing, but that it’s so known that’s laughable.
For past two or three years I’ve noticed a steady trend of size guides increasing measurements, therefore the size you may have been in one clothing brand for years may not be what you are now. I actually noticed this more when I was on the smaller size – I’d lost a lot of weight to become a size 10 which I was for many years, and could comfortably order clothing on a regular basis knowing it would fit. All of a sudden, I became aware that my measurements had mysteriously been bumped up on the size grid. I hadn’t changed at all at this point, yet my favourite retailers were now telling me I had gained one or sometimes even two dress sizes virtually overnight. That simultaneously pissed me off and made me despair. Why had I put my blood, sweat and tears of effort into making my own body feel better to be told that in fact no, you’re in exactly the same position as you were before that journey.
I’ve experienced vanity sizing at the opposite end of the scale too – when I was smaller there were times when items of clothing would be a little too big in my ‘usual’ size so I would have to size down (usually things like dresses or skirts where the emphasis was at the waist. I’ve inserted a photo below from 2012 to show you a time when River Island was telling me I was a size 8, when it’s clear that’s not true). Unlike the other, I never felt flattered or in any way better about myself when this did happen. My head was clear enough to know this was a problem with sizing.
I know that size labels on clothing don’t matter and it’s how you look and feel in something, I know that, but we all have moments of vulnerability and vanity that mean sometimes these things do get in and physche you out. You can be as strong as you like but the fact remains that, if vanity sizing didn’t exist, it would remove the problem.
So, just why are we still accepting this?
That’s an excellent question, why do we? Because it’s been happening for such a long time and “that’s just how it is”. I can’t think of any other legitimate reason.
But, can we do anything about it?
Absolutely! I mean, surely?
The more society question why things are, and encourage the idea of alternative practices, the more likely change is to happen. But it has to be consistent and it has to be the voice of many, and we have to accept that it may take time. The most important changes often do.
This is a concern that goes hand in hand with diversity amongst fashion brands (and brands in general for that matter), social media vs Reality perfection and simply a person’s right to not have any more reasons to feel ostracised or disheartened by the world we live in.
Thank you for attending this impromptu and ever so slightly ranty TED talk; it’s an issue that remains very central to my daily life and one that impacts on me more than I should let it.
Let me know in the comments or on my social media channels if you’ve noticed either of these problems too and how it’s affected you.
Thanks for reading,