Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Great Clothing Conspiracy

I've just come back from clothes shopping in Manchester. It's been a really hot week here, and I kind of realised very early on that I actually have no decent clothes for the summer aside from a couple of dresses that make me bulge out in bad places. Therefore, t-shirts and shorts were required.

I have such a love/hate relationship with clothes shopping, I really do. I love the buying of new things that I immediately want to wear as soon as I get home, and I love finding quirky t-shirts and things that nobody else will have. I hate finding my size.

I'm a strange person who is between a size 14 and 16 in most places. I'm not massively fat, surprisingly, I'm just wide in hip and shoulder, which means I can't go in a few high street shops. Places like Top Shop, Urban Outfitters, Pulp, Jane Norman and River Island, mostly.

The problem with these places is that they cater for thin, sleek types of girls - thinner than me, with absolutely no bust or curves. I don't even bother going in these places anymore (apart from Pulp, which occasionally has XL sizes that will fit), because despite them sometimes having nice things in there, I know there is literally no way I'll find my size.

Top Shop doesn't even have a size 16 - not in the shops, anyway. I find this massively discriminative. Why can't women of a certain size wear the same clothes as thin girls? It's like we're not allowed to look nice and expected to retreat to places like Marks and Spencer and various plus-size shops to buy our clothes. I went in a plus size shop today (I didn't realise it was one until I saw all the sizes started at 16, and the women in there were all obese), and the clothes in there were basically all shapeless t-shirts or baggy dresses - all the jeans had elasticated waistbands. That doesn't make anyone look nice, especially if you have a noticeable amount of flab on you.

I'm willing to entertain the idea that some of these places were established in different countries and are worldwide chains. However, it's important to remember that the average dress size is a 16. So why, then, are these shops not catering for the average size? American shops are the same, where the average dress size is no doubt even bigger than it is here. How they make any money from the public, I have no idea.

If I was feeling particularly cynical, I'd say it was all a giant conspiracy to keep fat people looking ugly so the thin people could still be the perfect idea of beauty. I might be right, seeing as I've still not seen fat women being used in clothes advertising (even for plus size retailers) unless it's to make a statement. Same goes for catwalk models, for that matter. A size 14/16 model looks odd and is usually made a big deal of in the fashion industry, if seen at all.

The fact is, people are still believing that thin people are better, and therefore more clothes are aimed at people lucky enough to have a size 0-8 figure. Things will usually look or fit better on these sorts of people too - a dress that looks attractive on a size 8 woman won't be as flattering on a fatter woman because of the cut of the dress.

I can't exactly think of a way to change this unless people try and make more of an effort to include size 14-22 women in more fashionable high street chains. However, I don't ever see this happening because people still have this image of a thin woman implanted in their heads as the aesthetic ideal. It's discriminative, sexist (because men don't have the same obligation to look nice) and backward as hell - but this is society.