Over the weekend, I had the dreaded mission of going to the shops to find myself some new work pants. My pants, which were an ankle length style, looked like Milhouse Van Houten’s flood pants on me (see below), so it was time to get a full length model.
Let’s get a bit of a background here. I’m 179cm tall, so just short of six foot; ankle pants probably aren’t for me, but that’s off the topic. By general sizing standards, I fit into a size 12, which for some time has been considered the average size for an Australia woman. What I continue to grapple with, as I’m sure many of you do, is the emotional rollercoaster that is shopping for clothes that don’t follow a centralized size guide.
Within Australian brands, my sizing can vary anywhere between sizes 10-14, or medium to extra-large, and its doing my head in! What is meant to be a simple task of picking up one size to try on results in me exceeding the number of items I can take in my change room, all to try on one style of pants. It’s a psychological analysis of my body image the moment I try on those pants and it’s apparent I’m not alone here with the inconsistency of sizing.
In 2007, the Australian clothing size standard for both adult men and women was withdrawn, resulting in designers creating size guides as they see fit, mainly in accordance with their sales data. This was due to the fact that the most recent size guide was updated in 1975 – that’s right, the readers of The Australian Women’s Weekly sent in their body measurements to the magazine, and as Australia’s largest cohort of magazine subscribers, created what has been considered the standard in Australian clothing for the past four decades. As the population has changed in shapes and sizes, for reasons including lifestyle, increases in multiculturalism and the rise of obesity, the sizes have remained the same.
So what are our retailers doing about it?
Rather than keeping things consistent for shoppers to relate to their clothing with a single number, they’re creating a numbers war in our heads that we have to fight with every time we head to the shops. For a self-esteem boost, they’ve integrated what is called “vanity” sizing, where brands add additional centimetres to your clothes without changing the size tag. In turn? Well for me, I walk into the store picking up a size 12 and enthusiastically walk out having fit into a size 10. I feel confident and at peace with my body, and all because the number is lower than what I’m used to. Why is it we dictate our lives around a number that sits on the inside of our pants and shirts?
Then there is the issue of size availability, with many of our high street stores limiting their availability of clothes in sizes 12 and up. Some cater their largest size to 14; others size 16, but that does not mean there is always going to be a variety of stock. Many boutiques will only carry one or two items in these sizes. A regular comment shopper’s receive is “that one’s a smaller make, we don’t have any bigger”. Here’s an idea – how about making it bigger? The same goes for petite girls, with many having to purchase clothes in the appropriate size and then spend just as much getting them altered.
Due to the lack of availability in our market, we’ve had to start looking elsewhere. According to the NAB’s Business and Research Insights updates, in 2012-2013 shopping online increased by 23 percent compared to instore which rose only by 2.4 percent that year. It seems the online retailers are making things more accessible to all sizes, particularly when they offer petite, plus size and tall ranges.
Fun fact: did you know that Australian’s purchase an item from ASOS every six seconds?
So what’s this doing to us ladies? Well, it’s giving us size anxiety. We’re fearing what is meant to be an enjoyable experience of finding something fun, beautiful, and an extension of our personality. We’re dreading what at times is a mandatory experience when we’re dressing for a new job, a bridesmaids dress, or a post baby body, and it stinks! You’re taking the fun out of playing dress ups designers, and it’s affecting our self-esteem.
The moral of my pants story is this – we’re not the problem in this equation, it’s the retailer who is making us feel like crap the instant of trying on those pants. Let’s not associate ourselves with numbers.
Share your thoughts below and have a look at the size charts between our major retailers. Their measurements can vary by up to eight centimetres.