Size Really Does Matter
Getting Dicked Over by the Fashion Industry
Size really does matter. There, I said it. No, I'm not talking about anything associated with "natural male enhancement," or Cialis, or Viagra, or anything like that. I'm talking about women's clothing sizes, and how I have been hoodwinked by clothing sizes since I was a teenager.
We all know how wonky some clothing-sizing systems are. You go to Macy's, and you wear a 12, and you are pretty sure that is your real size. It is the size you wear in most brands of clothing. But, then, you head out of the Macy's women's section into the juniors section. You're not sure why you do this, as you are 42, and what the hell do you need to be wearing from the junior's section? Though, sometimes there are cute sweatpants that would not show off your tramp stamp if you had one. There are occasionally even lovely oversized sweaters or sweatshirts.
When you get to the junior's section, you find that you now wear a size 17. First, what is wrong with junior's sizing that they have to do it by odd numbers? Second, what is the idea behind using a human fetus as the model for an entire clothing-sizing system? And, third, who really wants to wear red-and-white-striped star-spangled hot pants anyway?
And it is not just junior's sizing that is so messed up! Have you ever gone clothes shopping at Target or Old Navy? The results are so unpredictable they give the weather during hurricane season a run for its money!
Here is the typical scenario for me, a size 12 woman who goes to Target because I want to find some affordable work clothing. And I don't have the money to spend the big bucks on the good stuff! Yes, Target clothing may fall apart in two months, but it's cheap enough that you can buy more, and that is one of the many beautiful things about shopping at Target!
So, I go to Target and find a pair of nice jeans in size 12. I try them on, and they are too small; I mean, like, shockingly too small, almost as if I have tried to fit myself into a little girls' size 6x.
I immediately question myself, wondering if I have somehow gained a large amount of weight in the past two weeks and not realized it. This prompts me to feel embarrassed because who doesn't know it when they have gained lots of weight since their last paycheck?
I then try on the 14, which also fits me like a children's ski cap fits King Kong. Feeling considerably depressed, I go back out and get a size 16 and a size 18, try them on, and realize that the size 18 is what fits me in Target dark-wash jeans today.
Absolutely crestfallen, I carry my size 18 jeans back onto the floor, searching for a shirt to go with them. Because I do not have high hopes, I choose a size 2XL shirt, even though I usually wear a large, and sometimes an extra-large. I try on the shirt, and it fits me like a tent.
So, I go back and get more shirts in several other sizes, and discover a size small shirt is what is going to fit me at Target this evening. I am ecstatic! Perhaps if I average the size small shirt and the size 18 pair of jeans, I will get my actual size, a 12.
The Target women's clothing section sends me more mixed messages than the last four guys I dated combined. I am then reminded of my abysmal and currently nonexistent dating life, but realize that not dating is a pretty sweet idea. Not dating means I can hang out in the Target clothing section on Saturday nights!
Doing so would be about as satisfying as going on dates, but way better. Because, you know, there are Icees and soft pretzels in the cafe, and even a Starbucks where they can write my name as "Marklyn" or "Marcus." I can even go to Target in sweatpants and a t-shirt!
Then, there are the times when it's not the clothing-sizing system that hoodwinks me, but my misperception of said sizing system.
I remember it well. I was 16 years old and a senior in high school. I was out shopping for prom dresses with my cousin. I found a dress I thought was really cute, and I got it in the size I wore, a 12. I thought it looked a little small on the hanger for a 12, but this didn't sound a warning bell for me. It made me feel way happier than it should have!
I tried on the dress, and after I got it over my head, it was challenging to get it over my chest and torso. I did it, though, and realized, too late, that I was encased in the dress like a sausage, I couldn't breathe, let alone move. Understanding that something was very, very wrong, I tried to remove the dress over my head.
The problem was I could not even get my fingers under the edge of the fabric to remove it—that is how tight the damn thing was. Feeling panicked and trapped, I called out to my cousin, who was in the dressing room stall next to me.
Even though we are cousins and friends, and even though we were still, essentially, kids, we never did the things you see female friends do on tv. We never got dressed and undressed in front of each other with no inhibitions. We were both pretty modest about stuff like that when we were together, so I was embarrassed that she would have to perform prom-dress triage and take my clothes off. But my panic had reached such a crescendo that I no longer cared.
She came into my stall and began to pull the dress up toward my head. It slid, inch-by-inch, and the part where it had to come up over my arms was particularly harrowing, but we made it through. We heard a rip as she was pulling it, and finally, it popped off the top of my head. She left the stall and gave me a few minutes alone to recuperate from my terrifying experience and redress myself.
After I was dressed in my own clothes, which felt like I was wearing an oversized Snuggie after that debacle, I looked at the label inside the dress. What do you know? It was actually a size two!
I had somehow envisioned a phantom one on that size label, either due to poor lighting, wishful thinking, or prom-dress-induced blindness. I checked the dress for rips and found that the zipper was torn away from the side of the dress in one spot. I showed the dress to the sales clerk and told her something was wrong with the zipper, neglecting to mention that what was wrong was I had forced my size 12 body into a size two dress!
Another mistake not to make is to accidentally put on men's jeans, thinking they are women's jeans. It will only end in tears.
I was a victim of my own misperception in this situation, too. I was in my early twenties at the time, and I had been losing weight. College isn't always kind to us in the "maintaining optimal body weight " department. I had about ten more pounds to lose when I tried on my "size marker" jeans.
In case you are unfamiliar with the "size marker" concept, a piece of size marker clothing is a shirt, dress, or pair of pants you try on when you are losing weight and hate the scale. It's a piece of clothing in the size you are trying to fit into, or maybe just the next size down from where you are at that moment.
When you can fit into your size marker clothing, you have a big old party and dance around your bedroom. Well, I tried on my size marker jeans, and they were several sizes too big!
"I have arrived," I thought, realizing I would finally remember how it felt to weigh what I did before college. But, something seemed off. I looked down at the jeans, and a few things did not look quite right.
The jeans were not the right color. They were frosted jeans, and I hadn’t worn frosted jeans since eighth grade. Also, they were too long. Then it hit me. The jeans were a pair of my dad's jeans that had ended up in my clothes by mistake! (I lived with my parents then.)
I removed the jeans, found my real size marker pair, and put them on. My size marker jeans were still so tight I could not zip or button them, and, there I sat, hoodwinked again and also sad, which prompted me to eat cookies!
I figure my struggle with clothing sizes is something universal. I could travel to India, Peru, or Iceland, and I would find women who share this problem. In fact, there should be a universal sign to show that you have just tried on a mis-sized piece of clothing, kind of like the universal signal for choking.
Then, when you give the signal, any woman in the vicinity runs up to you and helps you remove the offending clothing. Like, if you accidentally put on a size two dress when you are a 12.
Or, if the clothes are too big, other women run out and get you the correct size. I think this idea has many merits, and the way it would allow women to bond while promoting female solidarity is killer! Plus, women could comfort each other as we share the experience of being dicked over by the fashion industry.
The next time you go clothes shopping, know you are not alone. If you go to Target and have to buy pants six sizes bigger than what you usually wear, I understand how you feel. And so do millions or even billions of other women, and probably men, too.
Remember, if you go to a department store, you will be more likely to encounter standard sizing than you will at places like Target and Old Navy. If you ever accidentally put on a dress that is five sizes too small because you can't read labels properly, congratulate yourself. You possess the impressive acrobatic skills to accomplish removing the clothing, as well as the determination not to wear a tiny dress that prevents you from breathing for the remainder of your life.
Don't be too embarrassed to accept the help of your shopping companion or even a store clerk, or possibly a stranger to remove it. Take a deep breath, and realize that a woman who can remain composed while squeezed into a tiny, tiny dress is a woman who can do anything!