On Saturday, my youngest daughter and I visited Newcastle to do a little shopping. I rarely do proper shop-shopping these days – most of what I purchase is done online. To be perfectly honest, I really don’t enjoy high street shopping at all – too many people, too much stress, too much hustle and bustle. It overwhelms me – give me a cuppa and some time to browse through the sales pages of my fave high street stores online and I’m happy as a pig in muck.
I know what suits me and my shape these days and I have a good eye for the way a garment has been cut, so tend not to make very few, if any ‘duff’ purchases that need returning. I’ve also come to learn that unless I have a genuine emotional reaction to seeing a garment, that if there’s even an incy wincy whiff of hesitational ‘mmm, not *quite* sure about that one’, then it won’t be getting added to my shopping basket.
I’m also pretty au-fait with how various high street brands size their garments too – which as we all know, can vary quite drastically from store to store. For what it’s worth, my personal view is that Marks & Spencer has their sizing bang on. In Marks & Spencer world, I’m a size 14, sometimes a 16 (I prefer lose fit). If I order either of these sizes online, I can completely trust M&S to deliver garments that will fit me well. Another brand that has surprised me with it’s spot-on sizing is And Other Stories – I can actually fit into a Medium in some AOS garments, which was a rather lovely discovery. H&M is also pretty reliable, as is Next and Monsoon (a little on the small side sometimes). But there’s one high street brand who, as much as I love them (and I do love them), irks me no end when it comes to sizing. And it’s not just because I’ve discovered an alarming number of clothes have contained the wrong size label, it’s more so that they have chosen to use a labelling system that makes me feel like the size of a house.
According to Zara, I’m either an ‘XL’ or ‘XXL’.
That being ‘Extra Large’ or ‘Extra Extra Large’.
I know I’m not dainty – but my body confidence levels are pretty good. Using language to categorise my size does not sit well with me. With a number, I just sit somewhere on a sizing chart, but with words – it all feels a little more personal. A little ‘too’ personal.
Before you accuse me of being sizeist, please hear me out.
When I met my husband, I was a size 8 and much smaller than I am now. I was very conscious of my weight and didn’t particularly have much body confidence – in fact, prior to meeting my husband, I weighed less than this and made a concerted effort to be as skinny as possible. A mild case of bulimia in my teens came and went, and I spent years obsessed with weight and size and labels – anything over a size 8 was a fail in my eyes at the time. It’s difficult for me to look back at the person I was then and try to imagine what must have been going through my mind? There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a size 8, but it is not my natural adult size.
Dear Consumer – there is too much of you – we’ve had to create an EXTRA EXTRA large piece of clothing just to fit!
Thankfully, since meeting and marrying my husband, I’ve been able to overcome my body hangups and image issues. I’ve gained weight and in so doing, I have also gained confidence. I know this might sound a bit full-on but truly, I feel sexier and better about myself now than I ever have in my life before. I’m not the ‘biggest’ I have been in my life, but I’m certainly no waif, and that’s all good with me. I’m lucky – I’m in my 40’s now too, so have earned enough wisdom and experience through my attendance at the school of life, not to let the fact I’m an XXL send me into a state of image anxiety, or trigger a bulimic binge. Extreme? Sure, but I bet your bottom dollar I’m not the only consumer to feel irked that their size 14-16 body has to be categorised using words that make you feel, well, just ‘too much’. Dear Consumer – there is too much of you – we’ve had to create an EXTRA EXTRA large piece of clothing just to fit!
On the whole, I take no notice of labels and care not that I’m sometimes a size 16. They’re just numbers to me – I don’t strive to downsize to a 12, I’m happy with who I am. I also prefer to hold a garment out on it’s hanger and make a judgement with my eyes as to whether it might fit me or not. But there’s something cold and unsettling about turning a garment label over to see that it reads ‘XXL’. I’m quite happy having my size quantified by a number – it’s a system I’m familiar with and have used since I was old enough to understand how clothing is sized. But when it comes to actual words, it’s different. It kinda feels like Zara is making a judgement on me. And shit, if I’m an XXL, then what are all the beautiful size 16+ babes out there? As far as I know, Zara doesn’t cater for sizes past XXL (unless it’s stocking XXXL and XXXXL and I just don’t know about it?).
Zara really only caters en masse for sizes extra small (XS) to large (L) too. Larger sized garments that come in the XL and XXL size options are far fewer in number – you’ll be lucky to find many if any XXL garments in store (you’ll have more luck finding them online).
I really wish a high street fashion Goliath like Zara would change the way they label their garments to a numerical system. It’s so much more straight forward and less offensive. I also think if Zara has to tell me, twice, that my body size is akin to being massive/immense/enormous (and a myriad of other words you’ll find when you go look up ‘large’ in the thesaurus) then it’s failing in it’s ability to communicate a very basic piece of information to me as a consumer.
Also, I really wish Zara would cater more for women sizes 14-16+. Notice the plus sign there. By stocking far fewer garments in the XL and XXL size, Zara sends a message to me and millions of others that they don’t care to cater for women our size. I want to part ways with my hard earned cash for a brand I feel really genuinely gives a shit about embracing women in all their fascinating and beautiful sizes. We want to all feel uplifted when we find a beautiful item of clothing in store, not quietly crushed that we’re having to keep flicking past the hangers on the rail to find the elusive XXL and non existent size 18+ equivalents. Zara, why, in 2018, are you still getting the sizing and labels things so bloody wrong?
I’ve not even mentioned yet the alarming number of times I find garments mislabelled too (like the XXL stripy shirt dress pictured above that I tried on this weekend – that as it turns out, was so tight I couldn’t make it fit – the XL fit me like glove however. Clearly a labelling blunder).
But ugh, Zara, you do the fashion part so well. I love and hate you all at once.