Going shopping shouldn’t be like playing Jeopardy! to guess your proper clothing size.
We’ve all seen that moment in rom-coms where the girl is downtrodden and all of her friends get that manic gleam in their eye before shouting enthusiastically, “We’re going shopping!” like it’s a magical salve that can ease the pain their friend is feeling.
Those portions of the film always lose me. If you’re going to montage a bunch of girls smiling while they pick out the “perfect” dress (that’s somehow magically in their size on the MANNEQUIN), then I’m going to fast forward.
Let’s face it: the only people who find shopping “soothing” to any part of their shattered psyche are people who don’t have any problem with the fact that their size is going to change with every cut of pants they try on — because if there’s anything we’ve learned from television, movies, and every advertising company out there, it’s that clothing size is tantamount to self-worth.
And again, romcoms, we’re looking at you. We also know that not finding something in a tiny, single-digit size means that we should hate ourselves.
Clothing sizes are total crap, and they might as well be completely made up. Despite this, “size” has become such an important factor in self-esteem that many girls feel the need to lie about it. That number on your clothes is like an identifier; it doesn’t change how you look, but it has power over you, and ladies, that is messed up.
But that doesn’t stop these numbers from controlling us, and, in some cases, we hinge our entire mental image on the tag we see on that dress. It can go from being a “dress” to a “circus tent” based solely on those perceptions.
If you’re like me, you’re well-versed in the struggle of the dressing room. The idea of getting naked in public with only a thin veneer between you and certain humiliation and the shame of returning garments to the rack after you’ve tried on three of the same shirt in an ever-increasing size are real. And that’s without mentioning the nervous sweating while you stand in the most unflattering, horrible light ever created as you glare yourself down in the mirror after yet another pair of jeans “in your size” won’t go past your hips, or a shirt still clings like a piece of demon cloth to you in every wrong way.
Going clothes shopping — if you’re not a size two — can be terrifying. But did we ladies ever stop and wonder why? Why do we let the numbers on the tag actually attach themselves to our self-worth?
The truth is, the female wardrobe sizing conundrum goes back a good many years, starting roughly in the 1940s. While men were getting their pants personally tailored to the length and girth of their legs and inseams, we ladies were forced to deal with completely arbitrary measurements that people just “decided” on and then later “decided” to change. This gives manufacturers the ability to change their measuring standards whenever they feel like it, without hesitation or a need to consult the people that they’re marketing to.
This ridiculous “standard” makes the dressing room a place of nightmarish proportions for some people. In those tiny rooms, the rosy glow that you’ve been seeing the world with is gone. It’s been replaced instead by the blue filter they use in horror movies, and then you’re not even in the dressing room anymore; you’re in the Silent Hill version of the dressing room and everything is terrible.
Clothing sizes are scary for the simplicity of their control, and in an industry that banks itself on twig-thin models and the latest diet fad to slap on the front of Woman’s World, that itself should be a warning. But somehow, it’s become the standard.
Going shopping shouldn’t be like playing Jeopardy! to guess your proper clothing size while betting your self-esteem. But retailers like H&M don’t care that they’re making people feel fat by purposely shrinking clothing sizes.
But here’s something that you should know before you go betting all of your worth and self-respect on those sizes: It’s all, every bit of it, arbitrary bullcrap.
The size on the label of those pants could literally be any number at all. Add a 1 to it. Add three zeroes; take away all the numbers; label the pants “J.” We need to remind ourselves that sizing DOESN’T MATTER and that we should feel confident at any size. It’s meant to be a guide to help you find clothing in your size, not to make you feel like crap for not fitting it.
I don’t know if women will ever get actual, reproducible, certifiable sizes in our clothing but in the meantime, we must remember to buck against the supposition that we are just “fat” if we don’t fit into a certain size. We have to keep reminding ourselves that clothing sizes are basically voodoo to begin with, and until we get a better way to determine them, we just need to ignore the number and go with whatever fits and looks good on us. And most importantly, whatever makes us feel good.
You’re not a number. You’re a person, and you can’t let some industry tell you that you’re not good enough. (But I won’t blame you if you just want to chop the label off your pants anyway.)