No Sympathy for the Extra Small

Or, shut the hell up about “Vanity Sizing”

A few days ago I wrote about “Size 12” and how it is regarded by the fashion industry as a “plus size.” A friend commented that due to “Vanity Sizing” that a size 12 is not what a size 12 used to be. It’s bigger.

The notion of “Vanity Sizing” is that they’ve made the sizes bigger to assuage the egos of all of us fat folks. It’s not enough to squeeze into a size 6, they want to be sure that we understand that the contemporary size 6 used to be a size 14.  Women whine on these blog posts that they used to be a size 4 in High School, then a size 2 and now they’re a 00 and it’s all the fault of us stupid fat women. There’s nothing for them to wear!

Because clothing manufacturers are making clothes big enough for Divine to wear and labeling them Size 10.  Right?  Yeah, right.

Just try shopping in the “Plus” or “Women’s” department of any clothing store. The clothes not only look like they were made by Omar the Tentmaker, they are ghastly. Arms are too small or two big, patterns are loud and fussy (hey, look at me, I’m FAT!) and all of them run short. They cling, they sag, they billow. It’s not pretty, let me tell you.

For every nasty screed about “Vanity Sizing” there is a counter to it, usually written by someone in the industry, decrying it as myth. They don’t disagree that sizes have changed, but laboriously explain that sizes have changed as the general size of the population has changed. We’re not talking about obesity here, we’re talking about the average size of a North American human being is larger than it was 50 years ago.

Frequently cited in the arguments about “vanity sizing” is Marilyn Monroe and her dress size,  particularly since at some point she wore a British size 16 (and the dreadful Elizabeth Hurley was quoted as saying snarkily “I’d kill myself if I was that fat.” Oh that you would, you useless windbag of bones) — but when you look at Marilyn Monroe’s actual measurements, it works out to something more like a US size 10. And like many women, she wasn’t the same size everywhere, so most of her clothes were custom-made.

Many things affect whether or not clothes fit– not just one’s ability to squeeze into them and still do up the zipper. Are they cut in a manner that is compatible with your body style? Are they expensive clothes– which are better cut, but often smaller for the size. What is the target market for the retailer? Because Junior sized clothes are simply going to be smaller. In the clothes that I wear regularly, the sizes run from Medium (a Banana Republic shirt) to 3x (a J.Jill dress.)

The ridiculous thing about the idea of “Vanity Sizing” is the assumption that fat women are stupid. Do the thin really believe that we are so slow and naive that if someone labels a 2X as a “large” we will snap it up, believing magically that we are no longer fat? Give me a break. We own mirrors, you know.

If you’d like to know more about what fashion professionals have to say about the idea of Vanity Sizing here’s a cogent and thoughtful piece: The Myth of Vanity Sizing. Yet all the same, the myth persists, along with the stomping of tiny feet, the whining and the gnashing of big white teeth. “I can’t find clothes small enough because so many American women are so fat.”

Well, excuse me if I have no sympathy for you, little woman. Here’s what fits you: couture, children’s clothes, vintage clothes, American Apparel, Talbots petite line, every online clothing retailer, most department stores.  You can wear tights and a long pullover and call it good. Throw on some kid-size cowboy boots for good measure.

Here’s what fits me: Coldwater Creek. J.Jill (if I grit my teeth and order it at least a size larger than I usually wear– that must be the “punitive sizing system”) and the clothes in Fat Stores like Lane Bryant, Torrid, Avenue and Dress Barn Plus, if I wanted to wear clothes that look like that. It’s not your fault. I never said it was your fault, you little thin thing.

It’s my fault (and that of my good strong German genes) that I’m so hefty. But I’m working on losing weight so that I can go back to wearing regular clothes sold by most retailers. But please, spare us the whining.  Nobody cares. There are far, far larger problems in the world than your perception of Vanity Sizing and the fact that you can’t find (whatever it is you’re looking for) small enough.

Today’s target number is 60. I walked 2743 steps, still on vacation. For breakfast: banana, quarter cup raspberries, two gingerbread cookies, for lunch scrambled eggs and asparagus, half a cup of lemon sorbet, dinner was a chicken salad sandwich and half a cookie, with two pieces of glorious Esther Price chocolates.


6 thoughts on “No Sympathy for the Extra Small

  1. ‘Twas I who mentioned vanity sizing, and your reply to my comment was, “Suffice to say, men have it much easier in this realm where size actually has something to do with reality.”

    Well I don’t have a wife to buy my clothes for me, so unless I’ve been walking around in a dream, I do know a thing or two about buying men’s clothing. I have to concede the point, since I don’t buy women’s clothing, that women may have it more difficult, but I can offer personal testimony that men have to try things on because the size on the label doesn’t always reflect people’s understand of what the size should mean.

    For example, I just now, before coming back to my computer to post this comment, went to measure the waist of a favorite pair of shorts I bought earlier this year. They’re Tommy Bahama shorts, size “33.” 33? That means their waist is 33 inches, right? Nope. I’ve had my own battles with weight, and the Tommy Bahama shorts that I picked up in January in Miami that I liked so much actually measure 38 inches around the waist.

    One thing that hasn’t changed about my size is my height–my inseam is 30 inches (ugh, 38 inches sounds horrible in contrast to that!)–but let me tell you as a man who shops for men’s clothing based on men’s sizing, that one company’s 30-inch inseam is not always the same as another’s. I try on pants to make sure they fit, not just to make sure I can get my fat ass in them but also to make sure the cuffs won’t drag on the floor. I’ve always had to do this, even when I was a square (30 waist, 30 inseam).

    So nope, inconsistent sizing isn’t something that only women deal with, nor is it, unless the stores have super good gaydar, something only gay men deal with.

    • I guess we just have to try on the clothes– and it would be helpful if they would mark the clothes accurately. But when you’re dealing with fitted clothes, you almost HAVE to try them on anyway, since none of us (gasp!) is perfect.

  2. great post.
    I was a size 12 when i was a 15 year old 5’7″ 123 pound girl…who thought she was fat. Now, when I weigh under 170 I am a size 12. That is a very different size 12!
    …and I WISH I was under 170 now. I am under 190…not quite where I’d like to be. German and Italian background and grew up in an Italian restaurant. My formative years revolved around food and we still have a love/hate relationship.
    I sell vintage clothing for a living and can’t fit into any of it! It kills me keeping up my “vintage” appearance without actually being able to wear anything that is actually vintage….unless I want to live in caftans or the matronly clothes someone’s fat aunt wore!

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