My junior year, I dropped my meal plan and fifteen extra pounds went with it. Buying clothes became fun again. Collecting jeans with the precious embroidered “size 6” became a past time, and I quickly forked over plenty of cash on many a retail counter to collect this symbol of my new found thinness.
One Saturday in a Lord and Taylor dressing room, a gasp rang out that brought a sales clerk in to survey the situation. I stood before her with flushed cheeks and apologized for the disruption then retreated into the dimly lit mirrored cubicle where I had made an earth rocking size 3 discovery.
Size 3! What! I wasn’t even a size 3 when I was 3. I stripped down naked and stared at my familiar pale thighs, waist and buttocks in that God-awful dressing room mirror. They looked exactly as they had when they were a size 6 that morning. They had the same goofy shape and the same grandma underpants pulling them all together, but at that moment I loved those parts like I had never before because the label told me to love them. They were, after all, a size 3!
I clutched that pair of Calvin Klein Boot Cut Flares in one hand and the $89.00 they cost in the other. I blessed the clerk for selling them to me then sprung home sending “I’m a supermodel” glances at passersby as I pranced down Market Street.
When I arrived home and stepped on the scale, I was shocked that I hadn’t lost any more weight. I tried on the size 6 jeans that thrilled me the week before and they were more snug than the ones that had just rocked my Lord and Taylor outing. That’s when it hit me that something very wrong was going on – and I don’t mean my body obsession (that’s another issue all together).
I decided to investigate what makes a 3 a 3, a 6 a 6, and so on. I started my search on Walnut Street. First stop, Banana Republic, then on to Bebe, Kenneth Cole, Urban Outfitters, and the Gap. The results of my search appear in the chart on this page.
These results only confirmed my suspicions that clothing sizes are confused. I called DeDe Brea, a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York City who has worked in the fashion industry for the past decade, to ask her how sizes are regulated.
“They’re not.” she said, “Designers just try to stay close to approximations.”
Brea went on to explain that designers have been sizing down clothes in order to please a nation of body obsessed fashion magazine worshippers. She asked what my measurements were (waist: 25, hips: 35) and told me that by today’s standards I’d wear about a size 6, but if we went back in time to Marilyn Monroe’s day, I’d wear a size10.
When I shared with her my findings from my Walnut Street investigation, she wasn’t surprised. She asked if the more expensive jeans were sized smaller. They were… and I began to see the biggest reason behind those little white numbered squares that too often gauge my self esteem – the almighty dollar.
Brea suggested that I buy jeans that fit and ignore what the tag says. I’ve applied the first half of her advice – buying jeans that fit. Ignoring the tag, however, is still a bit difficult. So until I’m done working through my body image issues, or to help me on my way, I’ve started chopping off every last label in an act of protest.
I’m not exactly sure who or what I’m protesting against – maybe sizing (I’m not a number – I’m a human being), dressing rooms (the lighting – please), the fashion industry (those money hungry anti-Christs), my own obsession (it’s obviously there) – I don’t know, but all this chopping is good exercise.
Lord and Taylor
Calvin Klein Boot Cut
5 and 7**
*The sales assistant said that 28 the European size and equals a U.S. size 4.
** Both the size 5 and 7 fit comfortably