The Problem with Clothes Sizing - Rebecca Petch

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what being “plus sized” means to me. In all honesty, it feels a little strange describing myself as plus sized when I’ve never done so before. I think I’ve been reluctant to describe my body in that way because that would mean accepting that my body is different. Somehow it’s ok to describe myself as “too fat” and therefore ugly as a result of that (I know, the two are absolutely NOT mutually exclusive but I’m still unlearning that one), to pick myself apart because of my body but refer to myself as plus sized? Even the notion!

I’ve recently had a few events come up which I wanted to buy some new clothes for. I don’t know if this is every fat person’s nightmare but it’s certainly mine. My body has seen some significant changes over the last few years: I have been described as “too thin” and told I need to “go and eat a burger” and I’ve also experienced all of those comments becoming obsolete as my dress size grew. In fact, people suddenly stopped commenting on my body as soon as it started to get bigger. It’s almost as though it makes people uncomfortable… (although side note here, if it’s rude to comment on a fat person’s size, can we please acknowledge that we maybe shouldn’t be commenting on anybody’s body unwarranted?).

That aside, I’ve probably done more clothes shopping in the last four months than the last four years and it has definitely prompted some thoughts. I always fall into an anxiety spiral when I know I’m going to have to do some clothes shopping. Why? Because I’m suddenly met with the dawning realisation that mainstream brands do not have my body in mind when designing their clothes. It’s a real shock to the system going from the sheer confidence of knowing you’ll be able to walk in and find a dozen things that look good on you to the utter dread of knowing you’ll see lots of things you like but no longer feel you have the right to wear. It’s also an absolute minefield walking in and having no real idea what size you’re looking for. I stayed the same size for about five years and honestly I have no real clue these days. I buy sizes that are much bigger because I’m terrified I’m fatter than I think I am when I look in the mirror and I never know how things are going to fit from one shop to another. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out because that size in one shop was a good fit, it’s miles too small in another (despite being labelled as triple XL or whatever – that’s a whole argument for another time). This numerical sizing system is entirely reductive and, let’s be honest, makes most of us feel inadequate and, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, like complete shit. So why aren’t we doing something about this and using a more inclusive sizing system?

There are clothes shops that I used to love that now feel like an ex you’re not ready to move on from (the one that got away if you will). And I swear to God, each time you see them and know nothing good will come from venturing in for the sake of your mental health (fragile at the best of times), your heart sinks a little more.

But, like all break ups, you begin to find yourself again and realise that maybe it was never meant to be after all. Maybe there’s something different out there for you and it’s ok to accept that it’s not what you thought it would be.


Author: Rebecca Petch




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