why do we need the term plus size?

Last week I was reading a Washington Post article by Tim Gunn from the show Project Runway titled “Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women,” and in this article he criticizes fashion designers for making clothes that are only for smaller women that where sizes 0-12. He also criticized the designers that do make clothes for plus size women that wear sizes 14 and higher for making what he called “unattractive clothing.” I agreed with so many of the points that he made but one thing I kept asking myself is, “why do we need the term ‘plus size’?”

In Tim’s article he mentions the average size of American women which actually falls within the plus size category that the fashion industry has outlined which tends to be size 14 (sometimes even 12) and higher but I’m not going to go there, because I don’t see how it’s relevant. Why does it matter what the average size of women in America is right now? We don’t need to break up women shoppers into separate categories and the only reason we do is for the benefit of the clothing designers and retailers, not the consumers. Not to mention, using the word “plus” is just as insulting as it is unnecessary.

There are multiple reasons why designers chose to only make clothing for smaller sized women. The first one being that it’s easier. Think about it. Women’s bodies are complex, which also makes them beautiful, but dressing smaller women means not having to deal with as many curves, which makes it simpler and faster for the designer.

Another reason is that designers want their creations to be worn by people who are going to make them look good and according to America’s current beauty standards we think clothing looks better on slimmer women versus bigger and curvier. That’s why you usually only see Glamazons on runways.

Designers have a horrible understanding of what curvier women want to wear. I remember watching an interview Melissa McCarthy was doing on her new fashion line where she recounted how when she first started she met with multiple designers who consistently told her that curvier women did not want to wear prints, stripes or bright colors and they would tell her this while she was wearing all of these items.

Finally, there are not enough designers who are brave enough to break away from the pack. There have only been a couple of high-end designers who do make clothes for a diversity of sizes, including Christian Siriano who made the news this past summer when he dressed Leslie Jones for the Ghostbusters premier after she struggled to find a designer that would. A lot of people praised him for dressing the taller and curvier Jones which Siriano did not accept because he did not see his efforts as heroic. He was just dressing a famous woman, something he does every day, what’s the big deal?

In addition to the designers let’s not forget about the role that retailers play in keeping the term plus size alive. As much as designers don’t want to make clothes for curvier women, retailers don’t want to sell clothes to these women either. The majority of stores only carry sizes 0-12 and if they carry sizes that are higher they usually create a “plus size” section that is separate, because there is no way all of these sizes could be kept together (in my sarcastic tone). As if we need to create the illusion that there is a “normal” size and “other” size. There are also whole stores that only carry “plus size” clothes because we wouldn’t want to expose “normal sized” women to these “plus sized” monsters (again, in my sarcastic tone). It is ridiculous!

And why do we allow this to continue to happen? Why do we continue to put women into these small boxes. Why haven’t we learned that healthy bodies come in every size. I personally know women who eat way healthier than me and could run circles around me at the gym but because of various factors, like their body shape or height, will never fit into a size 6, and for this we punish them by making them shop in a different section of a store or a different store entirely.

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My plea is that designers and retailers stop using the word “plus” altogether and start offering a greater range of sizes in their lines and stores. Ideally they should do it because it is better for women, but realistically they should do it because at some point (I believe) the term “plus size” will be severely outdated, and because they are missing out on the potential to make lots of money from a market that has been underserved.

My other plea is that women do not let these ridiculous terms that the fashion industry has made up and put on us determine how we see ourselves. Our bodies are allowed to be different, difficult and complex. We do not need to fit ourselves into meaningless categories. We have what the fashion industry wants, our hard earned money, so let’s make them work for it.

 

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not every woman aspires to marriage

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You know those people who at age five knew what they wanted to be when they grew up? Maybe they wanted to be a doctor and they would spend time dissecting insects or frogs whenever they could. Or maybe they wanted to be a chef and made their first three course meal when they were ten years old. Or maybe they wanted to get married, have children and be a stay-at-home parent. Well, I was not one of these people. I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up, but what I have known since I was a young gal is that I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world.

When I graduated from high school an aunt of mine took me to London and we did it all. We saw Big Ben, the change of guard, Westminster Abbey, Picadilly and much more. We ate fish and chips, drank at pubs, and went to Harrods for high tea. It was amazing. I loved all of it. When I came back to the States I started to plot my next adventure.

As of today I have visited 42 states and been on 6 continents. During my travels I have couchsurfaced, stayed in hostels, AirBnBs, cruise ships, hotels, resorts, retreat centers and even a few school gymnasiums. In Australia I stayed in the scariest hotel room I have ever come across (thankfully, I wasn’t alone) and in Hawaii I stayed in the nicest resort suite I will probably ever see again (where I also survived my first earthquake and hurricane).

I drove a car on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car and managed not to hurt anyone. I arrived at Amsterdam at 6 am and saw a grown man in a Superman costume walking around and kicking trash that was on the street and had to ask my friend if I was hallucinating, due to lack of sleep, to which he assured me I was not. I teared up when I saw the pyramids in Egypt. I drank more wine than a person ever should when I was in Paris. I tried to sing along with the two bachelorette parties I stumbled across at a pub in Ireland who broke out in energetic song to John Denver (yes, John Denver). In the Caribbean I swam with sting rays who were terrifying. I got the worst stomach bug I’ve ever had in India. In Uganda I met women who filled me with pride when I saw their strength and determination. In West Virginia (yes, here in the U.S.) I met children who had to use a bucket as a toilet, and shower at school because they had no hot water at home and it broke my heart.

I have had a lot of experiences that I am proud of, and I truly love this life I have been able to live, but I’m always amazed that the question I get first and the most, whether it’s from a stranger or someone I haven’t seen in a while is if I’m married yet. As if I have somehow dropped the ball on what every grown woman should be aspiring to do. When I tell them I am not, and sometimes more quickly then I mean too, they seem either perplexed or sad for my situation. I kid you not. Let me give you two examples from this past year alone.

Example #1 – I was at the doctors office back in late May getting an annual exam and the nurse was updating my chart. She confirmed my birthday (I’m not sure why because that never changes) and then asked if my marital status had changed and I told her no. She then looked at me and asked, “don’t you ever want to have children?” I was so shocked by her question that it took me a minute to process. Did this woman have a crystal ball and could see that I was going to die in the next three to five years? Or did she have some kind of super power that allowed her to x-ray my ovaries and see I only had a few viable eggs left? Also, what does being married have to do with having kids? You can be single and have kids, many people do. This nurse truly seemed concerned about my “situation” of being single and barren so I tried to let her down easy by saying that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or not (which is honestly how I feel right now), to which she responded by looking at me silently for a very uncomfortable 10 seconds and then tried to joke off the situation by asking if I wanted to take her kids (yikes!).

Example #2 – At the end of July I was at a hair salon in San Antonio having my hair done for a wedding I was about to be in so of course the stylist and I were chatting about marriage and she told me all about her recent wedding in Vegas. I have always loved the idea of a destination wedding so I was happy to hear about how she had a cheap Vegas wedding and then she and her hubby spent their money on a glamorous Hawaiian honeymoon. It sounded perfect to me. She then asked me if I was married, and I told her that I wasn’t. She told me that she could see it happening for me soon. For some reason she was trying to comfort me and I thought it was a sweet thing for her to do. I should have just said thank you but instead I told her that I wasn’t sure if marriage was for me. She went silent for a few seconds and I could see her face in the mirror and could tell she was struggling with what to say next. She didn’t look sad for me, she just looked uncomfortable, like she had never heard anyone say something like this before. I quickly changed the subject and asked her about Maui because I have only been to the big island of Hawaii and our friendly banter was soon resurrected.

It is amazing to me how much value we put on women getting married. We could come across a woman that we haven’t seen in a while and she could be accomplished in many ways. She could have just completed her graduate degree, started her own business, ran her first marathon or climbed Mount Everest, but what we start jumping up and down over is whether she has a ring on her finger or not, as if marriage is the ultimate accomplishment, which it is not. Let me say that again, marriage is NOT an accomplishment. It is wonderful for women who want it, but as Natalie Brooke put it in her Huffington Post Article, “you don’t have to have a brain, drive or special skill set to get married. You just have to have a willing partner.”

Need further evidence of the value we put on marriage? Take some time over the next few days to notice what people react to on Facebook. This weekend a woman from a mastermind group I am a part of made the comment that she will post something about a social justice issue, like a brilliant article about how schools can better meet the cultural needs of students of color, and it may get 10-20 reactions, but then she will post a picture of her and her hubby, or a picture of her children and she will get 100s of reactions. What does it say about our culture when we don’t feel compelled to react to an article about Brock Turner’s early release but manage to heart the relationship status update of a person from high school we haven’t talked to in 11 years?

My plea is that we find a balance in what we celebrate for women. Marriage should certainly be celebrated but so should a number of other things. At the very least let’s have the question we ask first be about what she has been working on, or where she has traveled to, or maybe just a simple how is she doing. My other plea is that women not feel bad if they have not aspired to marriage. You are still able to live one heck of a life and although nobody may ask you about it or like it on Facebook you will still have the joy and lessons of those experiences to fill your thoughts and reflections. Also, if you ever find yourself traveling alone in Cannes River, Australia looking for a hotel room for the night just keep driving to the next town. Trust me.