High Grade Clothing is one of those stores that I have walked past many a time, but entered only once before this trip for #BoycottBrandy. On that other occasion I was with my older brother who, aside from having a very well-kept body, had the kind of job and money to shop pretty freely through such a branded place. That trip, unlike my ninth-grade nightmare with my sister, was on far better terms since we were shopping for him, and not me.
So, walking into this place already knowing there was no way I would be able to afford the clothing was, in itself, an experience.
Diesel logos plastered everywhere, Keely and I tried our best to just not look at the price tags as we started rooting through the stacks of jeans. The first main difference between here and Brandy was that we had to actually consult tags to find sizes, and there were different sizes, as well. The second obstacle was that the sizing scheme was unlike ones with which were already familiar.
These jeans were sized more similarly to men’s jeans, that is, in waist sizes in inches.
Arbitrary 0-14 even numbers were gone! It was a new experience in trying to find clothes. This time around, seeing our bewildered expressions, the sales associate running the store approached, asking if we needed anything. Explaining quickly how the sizing ran, she helped me pick out a few styles of skinny jeans in different brands and whisked me away to a fitting room.
Far more comfortable behind a secure dark door than I had been in the short-skirted curtained cubicles of Brandy Melville, I set to work. This first pair of jeans, called “Paige,” was probably the comfiest relative to everything I tried on here. A little snug, I knew I could reassure myself that in the event of purchasing and wearing them long term, they would likely stretch to be more comfortable. So, Paige had broken the experiment a little: I had successfully found a high-end pair of jeans that fit me, relatively well.
The next two pairs I tried were not so lucky.
The Diesel “Lowky” pair fared better than Brandy’s, but not by much. Although it had the same numerical marking as the Paige, they wouldn’t budge further than my knees. Disappointing, really — just because jeans with a higher spandex content are super comfortable, I was looking forward to potentially finding something with a different texture.
Finally, the “Skinzee” set seemed to do everything it claimed it would: stretch, cling, and flatter — until I tried the zipper and it, too wouldn’t budge. So what gives, Diesel? If I fit one pair of 32’s shouldn’t I technically be able to fit all of them?
Disappointed yet again — because in addition to being exclusive to body types, the price tags fall far too far out of my extremely modest student budget — we headed out of here, onward through West Edmonton Mall, to fit or not to fit in more clothes.
Our next stop was True Religion, where the service is much different. It felt like a library or shoe store for pants: a single sample pair of jeans in each style is was hung on a rack behind the counter, from which you would select one that you liked the look of (as if it’s ever helpful to look at something while it’s on a hanger), hand to a sales associate, who would then grab your requested size from the back storage before guiding you to a fitting room.
First, the fitting rooms were enormous. Second, the jeans were the opposite. Sized in the same way that Diesel’s were at the last store, I requested 32’s to try a pair of orange skinny jeans that boasted a mid-rise waist. I was not optimistic tugging them over my calves, nor inching them carefully over my squashier thighs — but at the very least here, the button closed, and the zipper budged even if it didn’t completely “do up.”
Trying on these jeans, I started to feel a long-lost familiarity in the sudden resentment I had towards my belly. Squashed over the top of the waistband here, even before trying the zips and buttons, I suddenly felt excessive — flabby, pudgy, overflowing. It was another exercise in private humiliation and passive rejection by yet another big-name company. “We don’t want you in our jeans.”
Examining the print and online advertisements for Diesel and for True Religion, their models seem to follow suit to Brandy Melville as well: overwhelmingly white, thin, and not inclusive. Representation, what? True Religion does have some non-white male models, but a quick scroll through the women’s collections and there is nary a shade darker than peach to be seen. This is another form of excluding marginalized groups from their clothing, their image, and furthermore the images portrayed and witnessed by society.
How can we challenge these prioritized representations of women in clothing? Not only does the whitewashed cast of models perpetuate an unrealistic representation of our diverse world and culture, when companies like Diesel and True Religion cast these kinds of people — and only these kinds of people — in their campaigns, it sends a message to everyone who does not match them, or does not fit into their clothes, that they do not belong. There is also a sense of socio-economic discrimination going on with these high-priced name brands: if I bought a pair of True Religion jeans, I would literally be out a month’s rent. The discrimination in this case comes not only physically, but socially — leaving me very stuck and feeling very lost.
Stay tuned for more later…
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