Shopping is hard.
Between having to find parking and mapping out a plan for how best to navigate the mall with efficiency, half the battle begins before you even get to the stores in mind for the day. Keely and I set aside two hours yesterday morning to tackle West Edmonton Mall, its long hallways and slippery, shiny new floors, to visit our pal Brandy Melville and some other places, to see just how much frustration we could experience with trying to find new clothes.
Over the span of these two hours, I personally tried on over a dozen pairs of jeans across 5 different stores. Removing the consideration of prices, there were about 3 pairs I would have bought based on fit, feel, and look alone. And this was not accomplished without a great amount of effort. But let’s get into the specifics, shall we — starting with the inspiration herself, Brandy Melville.
I think the thing that pisses me off the most about this store is that there is almost no excuse for it to not be basically immaculate at all times. Having worked in clothing retail in the past, the greatest struggle in the store’s cleanliness and shopability issues were about 90% to do with organizing sizes and having a good, even representation of those which were most popular on display for customers. Brandy Melville eliminates this struggle by bravely proclaiming that everything it carries is “ONE SIZE / TAILLE UNIQUE”, so it wasn’t exactly surprising when, upon our entrance at the strike of 10 this morning, there was only one person attending the store. There’s not a lot of maintenance to do!
This is the first article of clothing I tried this morning. My jeans in this pic are a pair I’ve owned since September (AE Hi-Rise Jeggings, size 14). I was a little anxious grabbing a crop top as I’ve struggled with body image and confidence for most of my life, but have in the recent past given myself more credit, started hitting the gym, and decided to give it a shot. This top also had me rethink this whole #BoycottBrandy thing for a second, too: because hey, I look like I can rock a crop top like this. The problem I have with it is that on the models in their photos and the mannequins in the store, the top is supposed to look loose; on me, it was stretched snugly (though not uncomfortably) across my chest.
Not a terrible start. But then came the next tshirt.
My initial skepticism still fresh, I contended also to grab a raglan tshirt that looked like it might fit me, albeit not in the “cute drapey” way it fit on the mannequin. But even then, it was uncomfortably tight. (Sorry for pantsless mirror selfie — I had also just tried to fit that skirt higher than that, to no avail…)
And that’s not all! The only pair of jeans to be seen in this vast expanse of clothing store was this lovely pair which — despite the overall “one size” slogan that was on every paper tag — sported a fabric label stitched into the back claiming “S”, alongside others which similarly declared “XS.” A spark of hope as one attempts to overcome the dread of being too big, thinking that maybe, just maybe, “XS” and “S” were being used arbitrarily as some kind of reverse psychology…
Not impressed, Brandy Melville. Not impressed.
In the interest of getting the best idea of what they might have to offer an “abnormal” body like mine, I also grabbed a tshirt dress, again hoping for the best. By this point I was about ready to roll on though, because —
I would maybe consider wearing something this short (not to mention shapeless) as pyjamas, or maybe as a swimsuit coverup if I felt particularly frumpy on beach day. But considering how short it was… nuh-uh.
None of this felt very good after the crop top. I felt like an intruder, and not just because my visit was motivated by this project: I genuinely hoped that there would be at least something more than half a shirt that might be there for me. And, I think I have a pretty good amount of self-confidence when it comes to clothes shopping. But all I could think about as I wandered around this store and in and out of the fitting room was the time I had to go shopping for my 9th grade “graduation” dress and my younger (and less fat) sister tried dresses on next to me just for fun, which was mortifying. Because she fit into and looked good in everything she tried, and I didn’t. And not being able to fit was terrifying, frustrating, and alienating — alienating from my own body, which is something I never want me or anyone else to feel, especially when searching for ways to adorn and present themselves.
Yeah, yeah, cry all you want about “then just don’t shop at Brandy Melville then!” — but think about every other girl whose waist isn’t 24 inches around that watches parades of girls whose waists are that small, and how they begin to internalize that as self-hatred. It’s a dark place.
Starbucks in hand, properly-fitting clothing around me again, I headed out of my fitting room and out onto the couch to wait for Keely. The shopping continued just across the hallway, at High Grade Clothing, hoping that with increased selection there might be more success…
To be continued.