What’s your sign? Your Myers Briggs personality type? Are you more Beyoncé or Rihanna? It seems that our generation has become obsessed with labeling themselves — whether it be through seemingly harmless Buzzfeed quizzes (If I were an Avenger I would be Captain America and would NOT survive the Snap, fwiw) or more scrutinized personality tests like the MBTI.
But after my last post got me thinking about whether size is even the true culprit of our constant inability to find clothes that fit, I started to think more about the implications of placing these labels in our clothes — and thus, in our psyches as well.
The other day, I was out shopping for a dress for an upcoming party. I have an incredibly irritating habit where I create an elaborate picture in my mind of the perfect outfit for a particular event (anyone else do this?? Hands please.) so I was on my third store and still no luck. Then I spotted a dress in the corner of store #3 which was the exact, weirdly specific shade of jade green that I’d been imagining. I beelined over to it for further inspection and found that although the designer had deviated slightly from my mental image, it was still a great look, the perfect color, and well within my budget for this particular event. The downside, however, was that it was made by a brand that I’d never heard of.
“I started to think more about the implications of placing these labels in our clothes — and thus, in our psyches as well. ”
You all know the next part of this story. I grabbed three different sizes and headed to the dressing room, ready to hate myself forever.
This is the reality of shopping, and why so many of us have decided to avoid this situation altogether by only buying clothes from a particular set of pre-vetted brands. I can’t blame any of you for ‘solving’ the problem this way. It’s ridiculous how soul-shattering it can feel when you take three sizes of the same garment into the dressing room and somehow none of them manage to zip up properly. It ruins your day, and I totally understand why you’d try to avoid this at all costs.
But I love discovering new brands. I love supporting an up-and-coming designer. And I especially love the search for the perfect outfit to suit a particular event or theme party (please, send any and all theme party invites to firstname.lastname@example.org, thx). Needless to say, I do this a lot, and I have a standard procedure when confronted with an amazing potential outfit that I have no way to know my size in.
First, I grab the size that I think it’s statistically most likely will fit me best. Then I grab one size smaller in a fit of optimism. And finally one size bigger in case the brand ‘runs small’ — because let’s fact it, it’s about them and not me, right? The vast majority of the time, one of these three sizes fits me, and I know makes me one lucky lady compared to many of you beauties out there who have even less predictability when out shopping.
What I realized was different this time around was that I seemed much more aware of the mental signals I was sending myself when trying on the three different dresses. Maybe it was because I’ve started writing this blog for all of you, or maybe I was just more in tune with my subconscious that day, but I realized that without any deliberate decision, I had labeled the middle size of the three ‘MY size’, and I was upset that it was the size bigger that ended up fitting me best that day.
Sure, I mentioned before that the middle size is the one I think is most likely to fit me best, so stands to reason that that would be the size I wear most often and thus not completely nonsensical to call that ‘my size’. But given the amount of effort I now put into demonstrating the complete and total lack of consistency in women’s clothing sizing, why was I annoyed that this time around it happened to be the bigger size that made me look my best?
The reason, or at least part of the reason, is because we’re constantly taught to label ourselves. And furthermore, that once we’re labeled we’re not allowed to deviate from our newly discovered ‘belonging’. And even if we don’t advertise this label to society (I know very few women who would shout ‘their size’ to the rooftops publicly — as if it means anything anyway), our subconscious is still whispering in our ear that if we diverge from our self-imposed labels we have done something wrong.
Now this whole concept of labeling is relevant in literally countless areas of our lives, but let’s not get carried away. What makes it so nefarious in the case of shopping for clothing is that it is almost entirely contained within our own minds. This isn’t something we debate about with others over coffee, we just sit there alone in the dressing room, feeling like a failure if we don’t fit into society’s pre-determined place for us.
As I sat there in the dressing room, I found myself performing some major mental gymnastics to somehow justify not buying the size that had fit me best, the dreaded bigger size. I must be bloated. I’d had a very large lunch that afternoon. Yesterday I had carbs for dinner, and that’s some crazy cardinal sin, right?? (#sarcasm ladies, I love me some carbs). Surely MY size would fit me better the next day, so I might as well buy that one instead.
The only difference between this day and other days was that this time I was aware of what was going through my mind. I reflected back on numerous occasions where I actually *had* bought the smaller size, then either squeezed into it and been uncomfortable the entire night, or let it hang in my closet, brand new, waiting for the day when I’d hopefully be able to fit into it. And all of this for what? So that I didn’t have a dress hanging in my closet — that no one would ever look at the label of — that wasn’t MY size!
I’m happy to report that I was able to overcome whatever absurd emotional barrier was causing me to avoid the ‘bigger’ size (let’s just call it the right size? Okthx.) and purchase the perfect green dress. And on the night that I wore it I got SO many compliments on how great it was. And you know what? No one asked me what size it was. No one cared but me.
How about you ladies? Ever bought something you knew wasn’t the right size, just because you were convinced it was the size you were *supposed* to be??