I hate shopping. I know that this sounds like a violation of my goddess-given, double X prerogatives, but contemplating a trip to the mall makes me break out in hives, actually stepping into a store can be nausea-inducing. Oddly, I don’t have problems with every form of shopping. I can sally into Safeway with complete abandon, confident that I will find milk somewhere within those walls. Drug stores likewise hold no horrors: what could be difficult about picking up a bottle of saline solution and a birthday card? I can even tolerate my local Orchard Supply, where they have most of what I need and friendly guys to tell me how to use the stuff. No, my shopping phobia is focused on wearables. Maybe it’s not shopping that I hate, but fashion.
The process of shopping for, trying on, and purchasing clothes seems to me an opportunity to feel fat, ugly, and poor all at the same time. Fat, because the clothes never fit, no matter what size I pluck from the rack. Ugly, as I stand there in the execrable lighting, looking shlumpy in the simultaneously-too-tight-and-too-baggy garment. And poor every time I look at the price tag and wonder who buys this stuff and how can they afford to give up a month’s groceries for the pleasure of wearing a badly fitted swatch of petroleum product masquerading as style? I keep feeling that the fashion industry distains the very women it’s striving to clothe. This is a trade whose ideal consumer appears to be a tall, underweight woman with the fat-to-muscle ratio of a pre-adolescent male, plus mammoth implants. Which means cross-dressing twelve-year-old boys might have a lot to choose from, but what about the rest of us?
Then there’s sizing. Is it too much to ask for size consistency? Even within a single manufacturer, three different garments, ostensibly the same size, can vary so much that they feel like (in order) a bodysuit, a normal dress, and a tent. Then there’s what I call “vanity sizing,” which is a strategy used by the pricier manufacturers. They may be working with the same measurements as their more low-market colleagues, but they’ll take that size 10 and crank it down to a size 6; that way you’re too busy feeling flattered by the sudden loss of two dress sizes to notice you just paid $387 for a few ounces of stitched polyester. This is why you’re so much fatter at Target than you are at Georgio Armani.
And what’s this whole thing about “Misses” sizes and “Juniors” sizes? I’m 5’8", 135 pounds, so I need something for a medium build with long legs. I try on a pair of junior jeans in (say) size 9, and they fit my hips and waist (hurrah!). But … the current style for Juniors is a trouser rise so low my butt crack—and my c-section scar—are both visible. So, I try on similar styles in the corresponding Misses sizes (8 and 10). Misses being more conservative (or less trampy, depending on how you look at it), there’s everything from elastic-waisted granny pants, to nice trousers with a hip-bone level rise. However, the 8 is too tight in the hips and the crotch, and makes me look like an illustration in Webster’s under “camel toe.” The 10 fits the hips, but there’s a gap around the waist so large you can see down my underwear and (on a clear day) all the way to my shoes! So, do I need to alter everything I purchase? Eventually I work out (and then corroborate my conclusions on Wikipedia) that the American clothing industry assumes that young women are curvy, with a more noticeable bust-to-waist-to-hip differential. (Size 9, for example is 32–24.5–34; note that, although I fit beautifully into that size, this is NOT how I measure up, another indicator of size inconsistency!) Grown-up women, on the other hand, having apparently birthed a gaggle of brats while tilling the fields, are assumed to have slightly bigger boobs and bottoms, but much bigger bellies. (Size 8 = 31.5–26–33.5. Size 10 = 32.5–28–34.5. Note: these are not my measurements either!)
So, if you’ve somehow managed to grow up without growing a gut, you’re consigned to jeans that reveal a lifetime of sins. (And if you’re a young thing who’s kind of straight-up-and-down, you’re stuck with your mom’s pants …) I cite this sizing stuff as an U.S. problem because apparently, standards in other countries do not fluctuate with the fashion—pun intended—and are generally more consistent and stable. Perhaps American industry is simply placating our national obesity crisis.
Now, even if you find something that fits, there’s the whole issue of arm, leg, and hem length. The pants are too long because they are designed to be worn with dominatrix heels, and they’ll need to be taken up. The pants are too short, an all too common occurrence if you’re over 5’2"—but there not enough salvage to let them down. The sleeves are too long (rare, but it happens), the sleeves are too short, the sleeves are three-quarter length because the manufacturer is a cheap idiot who somehow thinks women want long-sleeve sweaters that aren’t. The dress is lovely and it fits—a miracle—but the millimeters-below-the-ass hemline suggests you are attempting to make your living on your back. The dress is lovely and it fits—but the bizarrely unflattering mid-calf hemline suggests you have joined a polygamist cult. With all the technological innovations available in the world, why has no one seen fit to create garments that offer a quick and easy way to raise and lower hem lengths—right there in the dressing room?
And while we’re on length issues, don’t get me started on what’s currently called Capri pants, at this writing finally ebbing out of style (and not a moment too soon). This fashion travesty—and its cousin, the crop pant—have the remarkable ability to make towering anorexic models look squat, chubby, and lumpen. The havoc they wreak on ordinary women is too grisly to discuss.
Part 1 | (Part 2)