Up until a few years ago, when I tried on skinny jeans in Topshop and couldn't get them over my knees, I would peg it out of the changing rooms in a hot flush, feeling like my body was just all wrong because it wasn't the shape of a beansprout. WHY ISN'T MY BODY THE SHAPE OF A BEANSPROUT I would wail internally, hit the gym hard and avoid carbs for 6 weeks, look vaguely more like a beansprout, run back to Topshop, STILL not be able to get jeans over knees, resolve to get bum, calves and boobs all just REMOVED, so that I might (albeit a looking a little freakish) fit into the god damn Topshop skinny jeans.
Skip forward to 2013 and I have learnt 5 things:
1. Topshop clothes are made for a shape that covers about 1% of women
2. I am not that 1% of women
3. I have a latin bum in a Caucasian body, and I am stuck with it
4. I am healthy, fit and strong, and if Topshop don't want me shazzazzing about in their jeans, then more fool them
5. It was not my body that was wrong, it was the jeans
While I now embrace all my curvy curviness with glee and am almost pleased when jeans can't contain my frame, I do remain disappointed with High Street stores and their unrealistic notion of A) what the female form does actually look like, and B) how varied that female form is, or isn't in their minds. How are we supposed to love our bodies when we are made to feel 'wrong' by the very stores we buy from?
According to the world of High Street fashion, the average woman is approximately 8 different shapes (6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20). These are the sizes you can expect to find on the shelves of New Look, Topshop, River Island, Primark, Dorothy Perkins...and this was okay when I was a beansprout, aged 15 and my body looked vaguely like everybody elses, just fatter or thinner or taller or shorter. You could just go up or down a dress size and you would still slot in okay. This was before the whole shape dynamic was brought in, around the age of 18 (I was a late developer), when all of a sudden everyone starts going in and out in different places, and what looks like a flowing prom gown on your best mate looks like bodycon on you, your jeans won't do up round your waist but are gaping round the thigh, your skirt looks fab on your legs but your muffin top floweth over, your top sits great on your boobs but there's a huge gap between fabric and tummy - the problems are endless, and this is a direct result of a notion that ladies come in just a handful of different shapes and sizes.
Developed, matured, healthy, grown women do not fall into just 8 different body shapes and sizes. What if I am between a size 10 and 12 (I am and I continue the campaign to bring in size 11, as I might argue the difference between a UK Ladies size 10 and a UK Ladies size 12 is ghastly vast and usually means we, the size 11's, end up with items either gaping in places or clinging in others. It's always just a matter of choosing where best to cling and gape.) What if my bum is 2 dress sizes bigger than my waist and my boobs are a size smaller and my calves are giant and need specially made trousers to accommodate them? Am I supposed to patchwork my own clothes out of different sizes to create something that accommodates me? Need I be a walking fabric jigsaw? I have been a loyal shopper of the High Street since 1996 and I want more dammit!
In this day and age, where New Look have a whole range of specially 'Wide Shoes' for stupidly wide feet (me again!), where you can get backless/strapless/invisible/padded/push-up/multi-way bras, where you can buy running shoes tailored to suit your exact posture and foot-shape, where you can get every variety of coffee under the sun (skinny, tall, black, half-shot...) why and how are we still supposed to fall into 8 different body shapes. EIGHT. What if I am a square peg and you are offering me a very round whole to squeeze into? It's just not fair Topshop, when your clothes are so pretty, it's just not fair. Half my friends don't even bother going in Topshop anymore, as it seems to be the leading culprit in this ongoing saga of the sizes. As a woman of the High Street shops, until I can afford Gucci, I want to have the same control over my clothes as I get over my morning coffee. That is all I want.
Of course we cannot design our own clothes to exactly match our shape or even expect stores to offer anything even near a tailored service, but surely we shouldn't still be putting ourselves under this pressure to match these rigid sizing stipulations that have been dictating how we define our body shapes since the 1980's, when they thought gays were mental and Bono was cool. We have changed, our priorities have changed, women have changed. We are fit and strong and we exercise a lot. I have got massive calves, like they could feed a lot of people in an apocalypse (if you like that sort of thing), but I love my massive calves. Not only are they a great topic of conversation at parties/on nights out/in job interviews, but they remind me how strong I am - I worked, worked, worked, to get those calves. I traipsed up and down the hills of Sheffield as a student and then I ran miles and miles and miles to make myself strong. I love my calves, but man do they suffer in my skinny jeans, because what the High Street don't know is Strong is the New Skinny, in this here 2013.
Thank you in advance.
NB: A few months ago I did actually buy some Topshop skinny jeans, and they fit! Snugly, but comfortably. And I love them and wear them ALL THE TIME. I didn't expect this result though, I only tried them on because they were just so pretty (raspberry red, polka dot, need I say more) and it was with great surprise I found the waistband was able to navigate my calves, up over my bum and actually do up (without me breathing in) round the waist. Note - I have not changed size or shape, I am not a beansprout, this is purely a better made jean. The difference now is, if those jeans hadn't have fit me in the way they so kindly agreed to, I wouldn't blame my body and all it's 'failings' I would know that Topshop is a silly shop at times, with an unrealistic perception of women's bodies.