In the dressing room, I grab the pair of jeans from the hanger and begin to pull them on. Too tight. I can’t get them over my thighs let alone my hips. I toss them to the floor and grab the next pair, checking the label.
Honestly, I grabbed this larger size by accident and now here I am putting them on, I remark to my unimpressed reflection. I shimmy into them, tucking in a bit of extra here and there. The button falls a little short of closing. I stand up straighter, suck my stomach in. Success. They close. I love the color of them. They have just the right amount of distressing. They are just what I’m looking for.
But can I sit in them? I move toward the dressing room bench in the corner apprehensively, and begin to lower down.
I feel the jeans pull tight across my thighs. The waistband cuts uncomfortably into my midsection but, still, I’m sitting without the button coming loose.
I can’t believe the size of these jeans. I can’t go bigger. I’ve never been that size. Maybe these will loosen up as I wear them, give me some breathing space.
I pull the jeans off and put them in my “maybe” pile.
Then, I reach for the cute dress. It looks perfect for a dinner I have coming up.
It should fit. It looks flowy and forgiving. And the color is to die for.As I pull it over my head I realize my error. I’m stuck. The fabric has less give than it appeared. I twist and turn, yank and pull, feeling a small seam rip. But finally, it’s on.
I look like a stuffed sausage. How does this not fit? And can I get it off again? I make a mental note to skip lunch.
After trying on several more items, I am thoroughly defeated. What began as a shopping trip to find something new and fun for an upcoming girls’ weekend quickly became a downward spiral of self loathing.
“Find anything that works?” asks a perky sales associate as I emerge from the dressing room.
“Not today,” I mumble back.
As I merge into the crowded mall, I match my footsteps to my thoughts. Too big. Too lazy. So flabby.
But then, I catch a cute jumpsuit in the next store window. Pause. Fight with my inner critic who tells me it’s too risky, that it will never look good on me. Defiantly I grab one anyway and head for the dressing room.
Here goes nothing. I pull the jumpsuit on, sliding it over my hips and up onto my shoulders. It’s way too big.
I twist around to try and see the label in the mirror. It’s the same size as the other place. What the heck?
Feeling my mood improve, I head back to the rack for a smaller size. Minutes later, the size down is also too big. Thrilled, I return for a size I couldn’t dream of wearing. Soon I’m twirling in the mirror, giddy with excitement. I’ve never been this size! I don’t love the color but I must buy this.
Yet as I change back into my clothes, I stop. I didn’t miraculously lose three sizes walking a few steps between stores.
Why am I so willing to let a number on a piece of fabric dictate my mood when the numbers clearly aren’t consistent? Maybe I’m not always the one to blame when something doesn’t fit. Maybe the blame belongs to the fashion industry for its lack of standards, or worse, for actively manipulating me. What if the numbers just don’t matter?
I remember the perfectly distressed jeans. And the cute, jewel-toned dress. I’d discarded them as the sizing numbers climbed too high even though they were perfect in every other way. I look back at the jumpsuit I don’t love but plan to purchase because of how its number tag makes me feel.
That’s it, I think as I hang the jumpsuit on the discard rack and head back to the first store. “I’m getting what I love, no matter what the tag says. After all, worst case, I do own a pair of scissors. That small tag doesn’t stand a chance.”