So I think some people might hate this post, but I also think its part of an actual problem when it comes to human beings, especially those with eating disorders. I don’t even think it’s just a body image thing either because I think a lot of it for me was based on what I had achieved rather than whether it looked good. But anyway I’m going to put a big trigger warning all over this because I can see how it could be ridiculously triggering. I like to think that it won’t, and I know this makes me feel better and could have saved a lot of tears, but none the less…
TRIGGER WARNING – This is basically going to talk about clothes sizes. Over and over again. And my size. If you’re not comfortable and happy with your size right now, it may cause you some upset, though it may do just the opposite. I duno. But it’s going to involve lots of numbers.
So anyway, I went clothes shopping yesterday. I’m pretty glad about it really. I know it must seem like all I do is clothes shop, but I don’t really. I’ve (obviously) grown out of a lot of my clothes. I think I’m going to sell like 8 pairs of jeans and trousers, 3 pairs of shorts, 2 skirts and 1 dress. It’s a lot of clothes, lots of which are really bloody nice and are in really good condition. I spent good bloody money on those clothes just to have to get rid of them and it’s sad really. It’s also meant that I’ve been without both basics and statements. Until yesterday, I literally didn’t have any standard jeans or trousers. I have great striped jeans and fabz patterned leggings, but I’ve lost 3 pairs of chinos, my blue jeans, my grey jeans, my black and grey striped cropped trousers, my black jeans etc. I still owned more trousers than your average person, but how I look matters a lot to me and I’ve always had a whole load more clothes than I should really.
Anyway, I wasn’t going to get any more big clothes items till after summer seeing as I’ve replaced two pairs of shorts and grown into two old pairs and I really don’t lose all that much from the skirts seeing as they weren’t basic and I have a whole loads of skirts anyway. The dress is just sad seeing as it’s my Auntie’s old dress from the ’60s. She is very, very short and did that whole tiny ’60s lady thing. I have a lot of her old stuff, most of which still fits great and its excellent clothes. I’m babbling again. So yer, I was just gonna stop seeing as I live off benefits and the fam are feeling a lot less wealthy right now and we’re scaling back a lot (both the parent’s work in the public sector, plus the Ma recently took a lower paid position seeing as she hated being a head teacher), but then I saw the summer sales and realised that actually, I could get identical plain jeans and chinos now and for half the usual price, plus with student discount, which I’ll probably lose before the next round of sales. And also, it’d make me happy to have the basics down so I can actually wear everything I own again. I have serious shopping guilt, but the fam put some money in seeing as I actually had to grow, so had to get rid of a lot of clothes, plus I figured I’m on benefits because I’m deemed unfit for work. Really, I should be spending this money on things that celebrate getting healthier and make being healthy easier. And I’ve quit smoking so have lots more money than I’m used to. So I trawled the internet, looking at all the jeans and chinos in various sales, picking out the ones I liked from various shops then headed out to the shops to try them on. In an ideal world, I would buy them online, but it’s not an ideal world and sizes are a mess.
I know my measurements. I don’t know all of them anymore so I couldn’t tell you the diameter of my thighs or anything, but I know my basics – inside leg, hips, waist, bust. I also know what size that makes me. Due to my new-found waist, I firmly believe I’ve got a pear shaped body as my bust is a 6, but my waist is an 8 and my hips are closer to an 8 than a 10 in fairly standard measurements, but I could probably wear either size. However, the width of my shoulders means I don’t look all that pear. In fact, I look incredibly boxy. My shoulders have always meant that fitted tops are a no go seeing as my bust and shoulder measurements do not match up. But anyway, seeing as I refuse to wear anything labelled with a 6 and I may have some weight gain in me yet, I go for 8 on top, 10 on bottom which makes sense. Or so I thought anyway.
There are lots of nice clothes shops out there. Lots and lots. I really like Uniqlo for instance and I think they’re jeans are actually a really decent material and are super comfy. I also like some of the designs and colours of River Island chinos. In fact, there are lots of shops, many of which are really great and most of which are having boomtingz sales at the moment.
I already don’t buy anything with a fitted waist at H&M. They’re sizes are stated as smaller than most other shops, though in reality, they’re clothes run such a variety of sizes that it’s impossible to tell. I have a pair of jeans from there that are a 10 and quite tight so I wanted some new ones. I thought I’d go for the same jeans in a different colour, but the sizes in that batch are way different and confusing and I couldn’t be bothered. When I bought those size 10 jeans though, I was a 6 in Topshop so go figure. Still, I can just about still wear them so I guess it’s no real loss. The joys of stretcy denim.
After trying on jeans and trousers in a few shops, I came to the conclusion that you know what? It’s not worth it. I’m purely going to buy fitted trousers from Topshop. I know what clothes fit me there, plus they’re clothes tend to be designed to fit boyish figures better and I’d consider my figure boyish as I’m definitely not curvy. All in all, it’s less traumatic because I know the sizing there well. I’ve been buying trousers there since school times so have quite a good idea of how my body fits their clothes at various weights and sizes. The fact that I’m buying clothes that are labelled as larger than I would in other shops doesn’t bother me too much as when thinking of my measurements, they’re labels seem reasonably true to size, which is something of a miracle in clothes shopping today. In fact, I didn’t get upset or worried or anything because it wasn’t a palava. I didn’t have to go back for a new size or anything. It was great. No drama.
I buy a lot of second-hand clothes so I’m pretty aware of the fact that sizes have been getting larger. A ’80s size 12 is a small 10/large 8 by today’s standards. Even so, most shops have size guides and most size guides are about the same measurements, give or take a few inches, so there really shouldn’t be that much difference between shops. Vanity sizing has pretty much thrown this idea out the window. I’ve gone to shops and found things that should fit too small, gone home and cried about it (during weight gain), and gone to shops and found things that should fit too big, gone home and cried about it (that’s recovery for you – you’re actually sad you haven’t grown into normal people sizes yet). I’ve done a lot of crying because of size diferences, but it’s not just the emotional silliness that comes with labels, but it’s actually completely impractical. Men’s sizes are somewhat easier I imagine as they tend to come in inches, though I guess the S, M, L sizing must be a pain, but they have that for women too. In some shops, a M is a 10, which is stupid seeing as the UK average is like a 14 or something, which would make the average woman an XL. In other shops though, it’s completely different and a 10 is an XS, which makes more sense, but is really confusing. So anyway, to stop myself getting worked up over sizing, I did some research on to vanity sizing and how it works.
Vanity sizing is essentially when you label things as smaller than they are so that when someone tries it on, they feel better about themselves as they fit into a smaller size than they thought they were. So you label something as a 12, a woman who is a 12 tries it on, but it’s way too big and she think “yuss! I’m slimmer!” and gets a 10, feels good about it, so in theory is more likely to shop there again due to the morale boost they get from smaller sizes. I see why this could be a nice thing, but to me, it’s the opposite seeing as I actually want to stay a reasonable size and find it hard to work out if I actually am. Plus I’m still on the small side so I can’t go down that many sizes as they don’t stock them. I also think it’s kinda patronising as it suggests women care more about their size than how easy it is to shop and the many returns they have to give if they don’t try stuff on. Some shops do it worse than others for sure, and it’s not the only issue with sizing out there.
Basically, the cheaper the shop, the more likely it is for their sizing to run small. I think this is likely to be true. H&M sizes are stated as smaller than most shops and I know that Primark jeans always seem to run smaller than other shops. Even at my lowest weight, their size 6 jeans were snug, when others were falling off. This is because fabric costs money and using less of it will up profits. So essentially, if you shop somewhere cheaper, expect to maybe need a bigger size than usual.
Sizes tend to run closer to true in shops aimed at younger women. In my experience, this is entirely right. Topshop and New Look and Urban Outfitters all seem to run pretty true to my measurements, whatever size I’ve been, though Urban Outfitters can also run a bit big. In Topshop, whenever I’ve taken my waist measurements to buy trousers, the exact measurement fits. Urban Outfitters tend to label as S, M, L, but you can check their size guide online and it does pretty much match up. Sizes run larger as target customers’ age. In my experience, River Island runs around a size larger than Topshop, Uniqlo (and apparently Zara) bigger still, with Next and M&S topping the size charts. I still struggle to fit M&S clothes as they don’t stock many 6s and the ones they do are still pretty loose. I am not a 6, yet M&S tell me I am. They were also the first shop I noticed I’d grown out of (I don’t shop in Next), swiftly followed by Uniqlo. However, at least I’m too big for the smallest Uniqlo jeans now (which makes me sad seeing as I loved mine so much and never got to wear them as I was always too small and now I’m too big. eBay time I guess). This is apparently because as women get older, they want to stay the same kinda size they’ve always been, but obviously babies, menopause and such changes body shape and often weight. The idea is that as you move through the market as you age, you don’t get disheartened or whatever. The labels and size guides may give you the exact measurements for each size, but what’s actually on the hanger gets further away from those measurements as the target customer ages.
The other variable is region. American brands run large, regardless of the audience. Apparently this is purely because the American population are larger than the population here in Europe. Gap is the worst apparently in the U.K.. I don’t shop in Gap, but their size 6 (labelled as an American size 0) is apparently more like a 10, so if I were to shop in Gap, I’d still be a 0 in jeans, which is ridiculous because I’m not, or a 00/4 in tops, which is even more ridiculous. Honestly, I read an article today which had a 34 inch waist man wearing a UK size 6 skirt because it was so big. European brands apparently run smaller than in the UK as we’re larger here than on the continent. I think this is true with H&M and also true when you’re abroad, but the other big European brand (Zara), runs bigger IMO.
And all of this before you get the standard deviations from size found in different cuts, materials, normal errors and such in production, and standard design mistakes.
I know I probably find this disheartening for all the wrong reasons, but I really do. Shopping online is a stupid idea seeing as all the sizes are so different that you never know what you’re going to get and unless you really know the brand, it’ll probably be wrong. What annoys me is that I’ve put a lot of work into being a healthy size and I’d like to think that although I may have to gain some more, I’m still a healthy size. I don’t like the fact that I can go into shops and they’ll tell me that my hard work isn’t doing enough. I know that isn’t true, but it feels like it. I hate that I’m now a healthy BMI, yet M&S is still a bit of a no-go shop for me. It shouldn’t be. It’s so disheartening to pick up a pair of trousers in the smallest size, only to find you’re still too small. Equally though, it’s horrible to put on your normal size, only to find you need two sizes bigger. Honestly, right now, I range from a 4 to a 10 (maybe a 12 or 14, but as I’ve said, I stay away from shops that make me feel bigger), which is ridiculous. And confusing. And also, seeing as I refuse to buy any tops smaller than an 8 or any jeans smaller than a 10 purely because I know I shouldn’t be that small, it’s prohibitive and annoying.
So anyway, I ended up in Topshop, as I always do. I picked up two pairs of chinos (one beige, high-waisted pair to replace a yellow high-waisted pair, one navy, mid-rise pair to replace my dusty pink ones) and a pair of standard blue, Baxter skinnies to replace some low-rise Miss Selfridge skinnies from third year. They are all size 10, all a little bit big (especially the high-waisted ones), but all very much wearable and I do own belts. I wonder if I should have got them in an 8 seeing as I do still fit my 8 skinnies, but in the end, I’m glad they’re a bit big as I’m less self-conscious about myself that way, plus I have room to grow if I need too (and I can still wear the 8s if I want to go for that skin-tight-I-look-buff look). They fit exactly the way they should, given my measurements and what I’m after. And they all look great. I think they’re all practical items actually, espeically the mid-rise chinos the low-rise Baxters. Chinos with brogues, literally any top and a boyfriend fit blazer always makes for a half decent, no effort outfit. Plus low-rise skinnies make any casual day outfit more respectable as you can pull on a super cosy, massive charity shop jumper with them and not look like a giant sack, you can wear anything untucked without looking like you have a lumpy growth on your belly, and the lack of tuck ability means that you never end up looking too smart accidentally. Plus I won’t lie, I already own mid-rise, boyfriend fit skinnies (actually the Ex’s actually. Same size jeans, different cut). Boring, but versatile wardrobe stables. I’m really glad that I’ve actually achieved fully functioning wardrobe now. Effectively, anything I buy from here on in is added extras (like the dinosaur t-shirt the Ma got me for finishing my NHS Stop Smoking course. Yuss!)
However, I’m sad that I had to stick to one, standard shop. I’d like more options, but it’s too complicated and too hard and this way, I know what I’m getting. I really want to get these shorts off eBay, but although they’re only 99p and right close to the end of bidding, I won’t, seeing as I’ve never tried on Armani jeans (the owner customised) and the size is a mystery. She says 29 inch waist, size 8, but those two statements contradict each other (unless they’re mens jeans). In theory, that’s a 10/12. Just saying.
Now at least I can finally wear all my lovely tops and t-shirts again without looking stupid. Fucking clothes sizing.