Keely’s Fitting Room Confessions: Part 1

This past week, Kristin and I decided to go on an adventure to West Edmonton Mall in hopes of discovering the truth behind the “one size fits most” phenomenon. As well as comparing the sizes of different brands of jeans, from low-end to high-end, to better understand inconsistencies within women’s clothing. This is just a quick overview of our trip. A more detailed analysis is coming soon.

My Stats

me

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 160 lbs

Tops: M, L

Bottoms: 10-12

Those are my stats just for reference. And the picture here is me in my regular clothes. I consider myself very average. Not too small, not too big. Could I lose a few pounds? Maybe. Will I? Only if I want to. Also, the most common size in the US is a size 12, so I think I represent the majority just fine. So keep this in mind when looking at the photos of me in the “one size fits most.” Either I am much larger than a size 12, or one size doesn’t fit most. Spoiler alert.

Clothing Sizes around the World

We already know shopping can be hard, annoying, frustrating and downright painful at times. What makes it even more confusing is the fact that every single country has a different sizing system. Stores like H&M and Zara have the different sizes right on the label, which makes it easy. But other stores only have the European size listed, which is a headache.meee

Here’s a conversion table for women’s clothing sizes. It looks slightly intimidating at first. And it is! A lot of foreign stores are making their way into North America. Especially in huge shopping centres like West Edmonton Mall. This means that not only are the clothing sizes within Canada confusing and inconsistent, but now we have to worry about the systems in other countries too.

One other thing that really irks me about shopping is that half the time jeans are sizes 0-14, and the other half of the time they’re 24-32. What’s up with that? Why can’t we just come up with a universal sizing system for jeans? That would be nice.

The Stores

Kristin and I wanted to visit a variety of stores so we could really compare the differences in clothing. We visited some very, very expensive stores, as well as some more modest ones. We each tried on several pairs of jeans at each store, and I definitely noticed some patterns. This is a quick breakdown of each store we went to, price point, sizes available and some notes about what I noticed.

Brandy Melville

Price: $

Sizes: XS, SM, “One size fits most”

Overall Impression: I need to eat a salad.

This store makes me very sad. The clothes are super cute, but they literally only carry a size small or extra small. The tag will say “one size fits most,” but the tag on the actual piece of clothing says small! It’s ridiculous. Even the jeans were labeled SM or XS. The only thing that actually fit me was a sweater, but that’s only because it was meant to be very oversized. I would definitely not shop there. I wouldn’t want to give my money to a corporation that caters only to supermodel-sized women.

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High Grade

Price: $$$ – could barely afford to be in the store

Sizes: Up to size 31 or 32

Overall Impression: Nice jeans, but sizes were too small. Not a lot of options.

I was very uncomfortable when we first went into High Grade. Maybe because a pair of jeans is half of one month’s rent. There was definitely an air of pretentiousness. I also felt a little bit guilty since I had absolutely no intentions of buying anything. Not that I could buy anything anyways, since the largest size they had was a 31, which is roughly a 10.

True Religion

Price: $$$

Sizes: Up to size 32

Overall Impression: Not worth $400

I have the same feelings about True Religion as I do about High Grade. The largest size was 32, which is a 12. There was a pair that fit me, but they were also $400. No thanks. They don’t have any options for curvier girls, which is unfortunate. I guess the brand only caters to smaller people because they don’t want larger people to be seen wearing their clothes.

 

Old Navy

Price: $

Sizes: 00-30 (plus size)

Overall Impression: Awesome! Caters to ALL shapes & sizes. There’s an option for every woman here.

I commend Old Navy for being so all-inclusive. They have a bunch of different sizes, cuts, and lengths for pretty much any body type. They also go up to size 30 (plus size)! No one has to feel bad or ashamed, because there’s something for everyone here. And the prices are more than reasonable.

 

American Eagle

Price: $-$$

Sizes: 00-18

Overall Impression: Plenty of sizes & fits for every body type. Also available in short and long.

I may be a bit biased, because AE is my favourite store. But I think they do a great job at reaching a wide audience. Like Old Navy, they also have a variety of lengths and cuts. They also go up to a size 18, but only carry up to size 12 in store.

More pictures and a detailed analysis coming soon!

-Keely

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Kristin’s Fitting Room Confessions (Part 2) — Diesel and True Religion

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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…

– Kristin

Some Links for you!

http://www.highgradeclothingonline.com

http://www.diesel.com

http://www.truereligion.com

Body Dysmorphia and the Problem of “One Size Fits All”: An Aside to the Fitting Room Confessionals

Body Dysmorphia, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), is an anxiety disorder related to depression which affects both men and women equally.  A person who suffers from BDD is literally obsessed by their appearance, usually fixated on a flaw that is beyond their control, or which is almost unnoticeable by others.  Oftentimes, the flaw is imagined.  This obsession with an invisible or uncontrollable problem begins to manifest itself in compulsions to adjust, camouflage, or “fix” the issue, with some BDD patients going so far as to engage in extreme, and sometimes unnecessary, cosmetic surgeries, which may or may not rid them of feelings of inadequacy or discomfort.

While BDD affects both men and women equally, the areas of concern differentiate greatly: men with BDD tend to be worried about their body build, thinning hair, and genital size. Women, on the other hand, have a much longer list of common BDD concerns: skin, stomach, weight, breasts, buttocks, thighs, legs, hips and excessive body hair.

So what does this have to do with #BoycottBrandy?

Among other things, the idea that Brandy Melville’s clothing ought to fit “most” people who walk into their store could be seen as a trigger to people with, or at risk of developing, BDD.  Societal expectations and standards for beauty add to the pressure that people living with BDD feel to maintain their appearance.  Brandy Melville’s philosophy of “one size fits most” has the potential to trigger the panic and anxiety of the disorder.  Constructing the idea that “most” people can fit into Brandy’s clothes is alienating: if I don’t fit into those clothes, then am I not most people? Does that make me different? And is that bad?

Going to Brandy Melville and experiencing this kind of discrimination firsthand was rather disheartening.  Keely herself, as we finished up our trip, commented half jokingly, “Well, that was depressing.”  Having struggled for so long and so hard with body image and trying to find clothes that fit me properly, it’s easy to let the sentiment resonate a little.  And when so many stores have thin models in their photos and constantly stock more of the smaller sizes near the tops of their displays while hiding the larger sizes in harder and more awkward places to reach, the message that is being told becomes clear: the bigger you are, so are you less welcome.  To fit, you have to work harder for it.

And that, to me, is just plain unfair.

– Kristin


For more on BDD:

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-body-dysmorphic-disorder

http://bddfoundation.org/helping-you/about-bdd/

http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd

***Disclaimer: this post contains information from a quick Google search, including a summary of information found on the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, but should not be considered authoritative, medically.  For more information on BDD, remember to consult a professional.  This post also contains a personal opinion on Brandy Melville, the clothing industry, and how it can potentially be linked to BDD: this, is a personal opinion and should not be cited as an authoritative source.

Kristin’s Fitting Room Confessions — Part 1

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!

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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.

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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…

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Sigh.

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 —

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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.

– Kristin

Fat-Shaming 101

What is Body-Shaming?fatshaming1

Body-shaming happens to everyone, everywhere. It is universal and disgusting. Women in today’s society are often shamed for being too skinny, too fat, too tall, and too short and the list goes on. Thin-shaming and fat-shaming are not separate, opposing issues—they are stratifications of the same issue: Patriarchal culture’s need to demoralize, distract, and pit women against one another. And it’s working. Society shackles us with shame and hunger, focussing more on our flaws than our successes. We are also often shamed for even just being female. Or being too ugly and failing to serve the purpose as a beauty object in society. Or being pretty, which just means you’re a vapid air head. 5, 10 or even 100 years from now, the story will be the same. Women can never win. Fat-shaming is a specific variety of body-shaming and also one of the more common kinds. It is a social stigma and the fat-shaming experience can differ significantly from one person to the next.

So is Fat-Shaming Okay?

Obviously not. But a lot of people think it is perfectly acceptable. Because being fat is a disease, right? We’re only looking out for them by telling them that they’re fat. We are motivating them. If only those dang fat people would stop being so fat. Wrong. Shame does not create change; it prevents it.

Fatness is not actually a “lifestyle,” as some conservatives like to claim about homosexuality. Genetics primarily determine body size. And while fad diets and workout regimes work for short term weight loss, they more often than not fail over the long term. Fat people are stigmatized in our society, much like those living with HIV or aids, for a condition that is seen to be their fault. Fat people are constantly being subjected to a range of advertisements offering the “cure” for their “disorder.” Remember psychiatry’s attempt to cure homosexuality? Look how well that turned out.

Fat-shaming often takes more subtle forms. Such as suggesting the fat person should skip dessert, or go for a walk, or wear something a little less form fitting. This kind of fat-shaming is often the most dangerous since we sometimes don’t even realize we are doing it. Fat-shaming is such an intrinsic part of our culture, and that’s what makes it so problematic and difficult to recognize.

“The only thing you can tell for sure by looking at a fat person is the degree of your own bias against fat people.” – Marilyn Wann

Why do People Fat-Shame?

People body-shame to validate their own superiority. They do it to make themselves feel better about being such a shitty person. The do it because they have nothing better to do and they contribute to the distorted images of beauty we have in our society.

But isn’t the “Real Women Have Curves” Tagline is empowering?

tumblr_lmf9cv8DWj1qa749ro1_500The “Real Women Have Curves” is a flawed attempt at empowerment. All forms of body-shaming across all genders are oppressive. But the women portrayed in the “real women have curves” campaigns are curvy, but their bodies still appear to be perfect. No stretch marks, no cellulite, no bulges anywhere. Which is still not realistic. It makes normal women with cellulite and stretch marks feel bad, because now do they not only not fit into the norm of being skinny, but they don’t belong to the “real women have curves” group either. They just can’t win.

Another problem with this campaign is that is marginalizes thin women as well. Thin women do not deserve to be collateral damage in this experiment. When people attack a fat person for being fat, they’re just tearing down a person. But when a larger woman attacks a thin woman, it tears women down by trying to make themselves feel better about their marginalized bodies. That’s terrible. The anger at the system is justified because the bigger part is attacking the system that marginalizes them.

Why should we take a Stand Against Fat-Shaming?

Every single person should be able to make decisions about their body, and ensure that those decisions are respected. It’s their choice whether they decide to be content with themselves, or lose weight, or get a bunch of tattoos or dye their hair any colour of the rainbow. Don’t tell a thin woman to eat a pizza, don’t tell a fat women to eat a salad, don’t tell dark skinned women to bleach their vaginas, don’t tell skinny men to bulk up. We shouldn’t judge or publicly comment on anyone unless they goddamned asked you!

My point is, it’s their choice, not yours. The state of other people’s bodies are none of our business. All bodies are good bodies. All bodies are real bodies. All bodies are worthy of love and respect. The most feminist thing that we can do is to love ourselves just as we are and refuse to let anyone profit off of our insecurities. Because let me tell you something, when it comes to appearance and distorted images of beauty in our society, women can never fucking win.

Keely

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @BoycottBrandy and use #BoycottBrandy.

Sources

http://www.xojane.com/issues/whats-wrong-fat-shaming

http://bitchmagazine.org/article/sized-up-fat-feminist-queer-disability

http://jezebel.com/thin-women-ive-got-your-back-could-you-get-mine-1173888442

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/11/fat-shaming-slim-sanctimonious-cause-obesity-crisis

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/anne-theriault-/female-beauty-standards_b_4979840.html

Meet Ayan!

ayan.affiwgs

Hello Guys,

My name is Ayan and I’m a first year accounting student at the U of A. I decided to #BoyCott Brandy MelVille because of it’s discriminatory outlook on clothing sizes. What I what  to get out of this project is to stop the discriminatory clothing biases set in Brandy Melville’s “one size fit all “ branding policy. This standard of marketing is not only irrational but harmful for most young girls out there. Therefore, boycotting Brandy MelVille for me is a must for young girls out there like myself in order to address this issue at a larger scale.

What I hope to get out of our blog post is to encourage young adults out there to be more verbally outspoken and not timid when it comes to serious issues such as the one size fits all policy that Brandy Melville envisions for most  young girls out there. Moreover, this idea of categorizing 95% of most women “fat” due to the exclusive branding decision that a clothing company decided to make, brings no value but rather diminishes that companies foundations and ethics. For this reason, we will need your support and we eagerly encourage you guys out there to stand up to discriminatory standards that are evolving in most clothing stores such as Brandy Melville’s by supporting our endeavors or by signing our petitions, as well as tweeting us on twitter!

Thanks,

Ayan.

Introduction – Keely

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Hey guys!

My name is Keely and I’m somewhere between my first and second year Anthropology major and Physical Sciences minor. Although I’m considering changing my minor to WGS, because it’s freaking awesome. My interests include anthropology, archaeology, astronomy and feminist issues of course! I do quite a lot of volunteering around campus and am an active volunteer at the campus observatory. I also do lab analysis for an archaeology project one of my professors is running. In my free time, you can find me curled up on my couch with a cup of coffee, watching Netflix and cuddling with my guinea pig. I also enjoy looking up pictures of cats.

I definitely would consider myself a feminist. Although I do usually wear a bra and shave my legs – sorry stereotypes. I don’t believe women are better than men, or that women deserve special privileges. I believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. Some would say we don’t need feminism in today’s society. Because we can vote, right? Wrong. We need feminism because “acting like a girl” shouldn’t be an insult, because women are still expected to take their husbands name in marriage and because when a women is assaulted, she was “asking for it.”

#BoycottBrandy interests me because the company is openly racist and fat shames young girls. They set an unrealistic image for girls to live up to. “One size fits most” is not a size! 00 is not the size that most women are. I’m interested in comparing companies like Brandy Melville, to companies like Aerie. Why is sizing across all stores so inconsistent? Why are men’s clothing sizes consistent? Why is there no “one size fits most” for men? What kind of audience do stores like Brandy Melville target? These are the types of questions I hope to answer with this project.

Keely