As many of you likely already know, I started swimming again, made changes to my diet and got a personal trainer, all of which has resulted in the loss of quite a bit of fat, several dress sizes, quite a bit of girth and a tiny bit (not much) of weight.
So every month or two, I have to go and buy new pants, which I did again last night. No big deal, except that this time, I was hoping very much to drop from the “plus-size” section to the “normal” section.
For those of you who are men, prepare to have your minds blown with a graphic description of how women’s clothing actually, really, truly works, and no, you are probably not going to believe this.
And let me say as a caveat, this is a store that I like, a store that even has plus-sized clothes. This isn’t a store that hates fat women more than other places, and in fact, it’s actually quite a lot nicer for us in this particular store than most stores.
Other stores are much, much worse.
Men’s clothes are in one section of the store, and children’s clothing is in a separate section, which is simple enough. The thing you need to realize is that in a typical department store, women’s clothes are divided up into four or five separate sections. Completely separate. Like, on opposite ends of the store from each other, with shoes or housewares in between.
These sections are:
Petites: This is where short women go to shop. It’s not the largest section, but the clothes there are stylish and colorful.
Juniors: This is where young women go to shop. This is the trendiest section, where clothes are very colorful, tend to be a little more revealing and they are also a little smaller in size (but not length).
The nameless section: This is where average-sized and below-average-sized women shop. Average, remember, is a size 14 in America. This size does not correspond to a measurement of any kind; it’s an arbitrary number, and sizes in this section go up to either 16 or 18–either one or two sizes above average. In other words, a substantial number of women cannot shop in this section.
Women’s: This is where it’s easy to get fooled, because Women’s is not for all women like the men’s section is for all men. It’s for plus-sized women, and the clothes here usually start at 16-18 and then range up. This is a small section, and mostly contains clothing that is either meant for older women or clothes in sedate hues that blend in with the background. When I’m angry I call it the “whale” section, because the only pants you will find there are whale-colored–grey, black, brownish, drab–and because they seem to want to segregate people of all sizes above average in a different part of the store, away from others.
The point is, before women can even shop at all they have to figure out what section to go to, and for those of us in the 16-22 range it’s going to be a little tricky and may require bouncing around the store either cheerfully (because we’re smaller than we thought) or gloomily (because we’re bigger).
It’s even more complicated because the size numbers don’t mean anything, so at some stores you can fit into an 8 and at others you will need a 12. This is to be expected, but what isn’t, necessarily, is that even within a brand the sizes vary significantly, and in fact, even the identical pair of pants in two different colors can be two different sizes.
Every garment must be tried on.
Now, what I learned yesterday is that the women’s section, which I’ve been shopping in since college, because I am fat, has its own sizing system. While you might think that a size 18W in a given brand would be the same as a size 18 in the exact same brand, you would actually be completely, totally wrong. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because the women’s section at this particular store goes all the way down to a size 14, which is well into the “nameless” section’s range.
So I dropped from a size 18W to a size 18, which was somehow very unsatisfying, even though it really is a meaningless number.
But I also learned something else. Within the “nameless” section, there were three different styles of pants: Modern, Skinny Style, and Curvy.
I did not try on any Skinny Style jeans, but I did give the size 18 Modern pants a shot. They were too small, even though the size 18W pants in the same brand and style are now barely clinging to my hips and dragging several inches on the floor. The Curvy pants fit a lot better, and I grabbed a pair of them. Then I looked for another pair, but they only had one pair in my size. Black.
I’m certain the store doesn’t mean anything negative by labeling them “Curvy,” but I couldn’t help feeling just a little bit bitter, so I texted a friend: Heaven forbid fat women should forget that they’re fat for 3 whole seconds! They might start thinking they’re people or something!
That’s when I realized that, unlike the Modern pants, the Curvy pants didn’t have pockets.
They won’t even let us have pockets, I thought.
I paid for my pants and escaped, hoping for and yet still dreading the next trip, when I’ll probably drop to a size 16. Or a size 14W, or hey, I know, maybe I’ll just give up and wear Jedi robes to work from now on.
These are not the pants you were looking for. Move along.