Woman’s clothing sizes are a myth. There is no universal scale, no measurements that always ring true. Each store uses a different tape measure that always reaches a differing conclusion. I have walked into a store wearing size 12 shorts, picked up a pair of size 12 shorts, tried them on, and found them to fit significantly snug on me. To be “plus sized” isn’t real either; the average clothing size of an American woman is 16-18. Not 6-10, like the selections at most stores would lead you to believe. I’ve walked into mainstream stores in shopping malls that only carry up to a size 12.
Fashion is a legend, too. A mirage of self-expression, its hiding a heart that beats consumerism and manipulation. I consider myself a fashion-sensible person, but I do not follow the industry closely enough to deem myself generally interested in what’s “in” or “out”. So I was surprised to learn that, according to Elizabeth Cline, a former journalist who penned a book entitled Overdressed: the Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, there are 52 micro-seasons of fashion per year. Stores are constantly restocking their shelves, changing their styles, so their loyal consumers always feel behind the trends. Trust me, there is no such thing as a trend. People wear what the brands want them to wear. We are not in control.
To be plus-sized is to be unwanted. I have never loved clothes shopping, I have never understood the point of magazines, because they were not marketed towards me. My parents did not raise me to believe “clickbait” manipulation, so I never felt drawn to the headlines that read “Miracle Diet-Drop Four Sizes in Four Weeks!” But there is a reason women are such reliable consumers.
The subspecies of humans known as females are an insecure bunch. It isn’t our fault; years of standards and expectations have conditioned us to hold ourselves to a certain standard. This is not a good thing, it is simply a fact. But that fact means that we can be very predictable. We dread buying a bigger size, and why? The store sizing doesn’t mean anything and we know that, yet we still feel pain crossing to the other side of the store, the side where they sell the bigger clothes.
I had a strange experience this past week. I mentioned that I never loved clothes shopping, yet here I was, in a new store, shopping for clothes with a friend. And while she was on one side of the store, debating aloud between a small and a medium, I gazed at the other side of the store. The side above which the words “Plus Sizes” hung like the top of a guillotine, waiting to crush my self esteem. I looked at the shelves that surrounded me, and I knew that I would not find anything there, nothing that would make me feel better, or convince me that I was not what I knew in my heart to be. When I am alone, in my bed, or on my couch, I don’t feel large. My clothes in my closet don’t look plus sized. I try not to feel embarrassed when I need help zipping up a dress, or when I can’t button up the sweater I’m wearing. So why was it so hard for me to cross sides of a store?
I knew that even looking through the selection of clothes in front of me, full of tags with the letters XS and M to taunt me, I would only feel worse. So as my friend began drifting through the aisles again, I hesitantly walked over to the other side of the store-the plus section.
I found a dress I liked. It was a 2XL. I felt a sort of welcoming, trying on something I knew wouldn’t be too small on me. I am just so sick and tired of putting on a Large and convincing myself and/or my mom that it fit me, when we both knew it wouldn’t make it past the first wash. I felt strong, looking in the changing room mirror and feeling that I looked good. When I pulled back the curtain, and my friend exclaimed that I looked great, and that I “was totally getting it”, a sense of ethereal joy came over me that I cannot really explain. It’s like all my fear of being a bigger size, and being ashamed-it was just another part of fashion that wasn’t real.
Size is just a number. Life is too short to worry about it. I’m happy that I decided to cross the store. I bought something that makes me feel comfortable, that makes me feel confident. There’s no point in letting the artifice that is modern clothing consumerism convolute my life. I should just wear what makes me feel beautiful. And if that means the tag on my dress has another X on it, I think I can live with that.