Yesterday, I had a disheartening experience when I received my latest Rent the Runway shipment (side note: I use RTR’s Unlimited subscription to rent clothes monthly — not an ad, just my actual life): I received a garment in my shipment that’s a size bigger than what I would consider the largest in my ‘usual’ size range, and it fit PERFECTLY.
I felt myself start to mentally spiral out of control (“But that’s not my size. This dress obviously runs WAY small. But I only ordered this size out of desperation…”). It was clearly a mistake, I was obviously bloated, and I tried to put it out my mind. But if I’m being honest with myself and with you all, which I’ve promised to do, I let that one moment ruin my entire day.
“I let that one moment ruin my entire day.”
For those of you that haven’t gotten on the clothing rental bandwagon, first let me explain. I pay a monthly fee and get four garments of my own choosing sent to my apartment. If I don’t like one of them once I see it in person, it doesn’t fit, or once I’m done wearing it, I send it back and get a new one to take its place. This means that I have a constantly updating set of four garments that aren’t actually from my own wardrobe every month. The primary reason I love this service is that I’m at that age where literally everyone I know is getting married, so I have a constant stream of celebratory events that I need to get dressed up for in my social calendar. I promise I’m not exaggerating, in the last 18 months I’ve had TWENTY-THREE weddings. So instead of spending absurd amounts of money on a new dress for every single engagement party, shower, bachelorette party, not to mention the big day itself, I rent dresses. It’s saved me a lot of money, and I’d like to think it’s helped push me out of my comfort zone and try clothes I wouldn’t normally.
But the dark side of clothing rental is that, just like every e-commerce experience in the known universe, you have no idea how garments are going to fit you when you order them online. Sure, there are brands you wear a lot so you’re reasonably sure what size you wear, but in general it’s a bit of a crapshoot with RTR because there are so many brands to choose from, and as I mentioned I try not to limit myself to those I know well. So that means I’m frequently torn between taking up more than one of my four garment ‘slots’ with the same dress in different sizes vs ordering four different garments and hoping they all fit. And that brings us to yesterday’s fiasco.
I was already cutting it close not having a dress for this weekend’s wedding, and I have three garments at home that I really like and am not done wearing (sometimes I rent things not for weddings to pretend that I have other things going on in my life too). So that means that I had only one spot open to try to get a dress for this weekend — I know, I’m playing a risky game. Now I’ll note that RTR did recently launch an option to add an extra fifth slot for a fee, but on principle I’m trying to avoid using it because I already give them so much of my money, so suffice it to say I was determined to use this one slot to find my dress for the weekend.
I browsed through their dresses and eventually found one I liked, but of course it wasn’t currently available in my size. I looked at the extremely helpful customer reviews and photos, and deduced that the dress was actually pretty tight but still stretchy, so ordering a bigger size might not look all that bad, even if it technically didn’t fit the way it looked on the model (as if it ever does…). So I ordered the bigger size — and not just the bigger of my ‘usual’ range of sizes, but even one above that.
Well, imagine my dismay when I tried on the dress and it fit perfectly. Like a glove. Like it was made for me. Now, part of this was that the curve-hugging style happened to simply flatter my ‘hourglass’ shape (I’m honestly reluctant to even type that, because what do those shapes even mean anyway??). But the other part was that I had gotten a size that I would normally refuse to order purely on principle. And it turned out that that’s the size that I should actually be wearing in this particular dress.
Can you imagine what happened next? I’ll bet you can. Rather of reveling in my beautiful reflection in the mirror and thinking about how f*cking fabulous I’m going to look at this wedding (less fabulous than the bride of course, don’t worry, I’m not a monster) — instead I felt this soul-crushing SHAME that I had to wear a size bigger than the range that I had totally arbitrarily decided ‘defined’ me. How ridiculous is that??
Why is it that a single moment like this has the power to crush our self-esteem for the rest of the day (or week, or month, or year)? Without even realizing it, I spent the rest of the day yesterday more conscious about what I was eating, feeling guilty about the fact that I’d already decided my body needed a rest day from working out, and doing a mental tally of how many outfits I’d rented recently that I had had to size up in. The power that this single, totally insignificant moment had over me was totally overwhelming, and I had no power to even identify it was happening let alone stop it.
This all stems from the totally unrealistic expectations that society, brands, and other companies put on us as women. We’re told over and over again that our size defines us, our diet defines us, and beyond that we’re even told which sizes and diets are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ at any given time. It’s only recently that it’s become mainstream to even talk about how having a non-model body might actually be acceptable, or even healthy. And even then, it’s still sort of on the fringes, everyone still sort of wants to have that model body — but now we also have to pretend that having that body is achievable with balance and isn’t actually a result of strict, unhealthy diets and body-crushing exercise routines.
What I realized yesterday is that even as someone who thinks about these issues all the time, seeks out role models and confidants who are supportive of REAL women, I still have to fight the battle every single day to love myself as I am. I let my entire emotional wellbeing sit on a single size in a tiny tag that no one would ever even see. Why does that number even matter??