‘Are you alright in there?’ inquired the impossibly thin sales assistant.
“Yep,” I answered, trying to stifle the desperation in my voice.
But no, I was not alright.
I had found my DREAM dress. It was exactly, everything that I had ever imagined I would wear to my birthday celebration. When I spotted it in the hip, upscale, but fashionably minimalist store (the kind that only have 8 different outfits in two different sizes) my heart literally skipped a beat and then, just as promptly sank when I realised they didn’t have my size (why would they?). I inwardly cursed my thick waist and broad bottom, and then like a woman possessed, grabbed the next size down and stormed defiantly into the change room. I was praying for a fashion miracle.
15 minutes later, I was just praying for a regular miracle.
Staring back at me, from three hideously unflattering directions, was a defeated, frazzled, sweaty, blotchy teary-eyed size 14 girl, with a beautiful ruined size 12 dress, cobra gripping her waist.
No I was not alright, I was the opposite of alright. I was stuck or should I say fucked.
The zip had broken, along with my spirits.
Thankfully, the impossibly thin sales assistant also happened to be impossibly kind. And after she had wrenched the beautiful carcass over my head, leaving me balaclava’d and baring my too-old cotton knockers for a little while, sent me on my way with a comforting lie – that ‘it happens all the time’.
What some lucky women may never experience is the panicked desperation of a woman who can’t find a dress in her size. Many times I have started hopeful in my search, but after an hour or so of no success, I begin to become a little unhinged. My movements become erratic, my eyes dart from rack to rack. I tear through the clothes with the ferocity of a drug addict, needing her ‘fix’. I start to think strange thoughts like ‘Did that mannequin just smirk at me?’ And mutter things under my breath, like ‘Don’t be stupid, that won’t work’…Oh yes, it’s fair to say that this plus size girl and shopping, have a very sadistic relationship, which almost always ends with a serve of greasy noodles from the food hall, because why bloody not?!
But what makes this exercise in shopping sadism all the more frustrating, is that I currently represent the average woman in Australia today. I’m not VERY overweight, I am like most women, and have ‘extra coverage’. So why then, is it so bloody hard to find clothes that fit? And just forget about shopping altogether if you happen to be above a size 14. According to most designers and retail outlets – you don’t even really exist.
But Is it really the job of fashion retailers to tell us what size our body should be? How thin our waist and thick our thighs? Haven’t we learnt by now, that women come in all shapes and sizes? Isn’t refusing to stock sizes above what they deem acceptable, really just another form of prejudice?
Well, they can try and ignore us all they want but we are here. Helllllloooooo?! Can you see us? We are looking after the kids, sitting next to you on the bus, teaching your children, designing your houses and working as high ranking executives in the corporate world…
WE ARE HERE.
…And not just in the form of the beautifully hour-glassed plus sized models you may happen upon from time to time, but also in the ‘no waist, saggy boobed, cankle’ form too. It seems that the Media only let plus size women be seen if they are exceptionally attractive and well-formed; or alternatively, willing to be a source of comedy and ridicule (Oh how hilarious, a sexually active obese woman!)
A very cool 12 year old girl (wearing a Nirvana top 👊) confided in me recently that she hated jeans because they didn’t come in ‘her size’. ‘Her size’ looked perfectly normal to me, but it seems not. At 12, she is already feeling the sting of a society obsessed with the uber thin and uber beautiful. Can’t find jeans? I suggest you lose some weight. Isn’t that the message that’s being silently screamed to all of us trying to squeeze into that too small outfit?
I know what I’m saying is nothing new. It’s been said time and time again, and far more articulately than I can do. But as a parent now, I’m starting to look with a more critical eye at what our kids are exposed to. It’s difficult to instil a healthy self-image in a child, who is being met with a sultry eyed Kardashian everywhere they turn. A child constantly exposed to representations of women who don’t look like the women in their little worlds.
So come on fashion Designers, retail outlets, magazine editors, film and TV Producers….stop ignoring us. Make a change. If not for us, then for all those beautifully designed garments being slaughtered by fat bottomed girls in change rooms the world over.
By Brooke Klaassen