Last month, I wanted to buy a jean skirt to wear to Boyfriend’s work holiday party. This was the same day I went to the doctor and found out I had unintentionally lost more weight, so my body image was in a weird space (and most women can probably relate to the weird space body image occupies anyway when clothes shopping is involved).
I was fighting thoughts praising me for losing weight and saying I looked “better” smaller, and worries about what losing more weight would do to my overall health. Until I found a way to put my anorexia gremlins to bed, shopping was probably not the right activity for me. But I really wanted a jean skirt because I had super cute plaid tights, so I went to Forever 21 after work because I needed something quick (and hopefully cheap). I went in with the assumption that things would fit me differently as I transition back to my version of “healthy” (read: most of the things I own that should be fitted are now various degrees of loose)…
…and almost everything I tried on was too small.
Right now, I weigh about 127 lbs. The average American woman weighs 168.5 lbs. I honestly don’t even know what to type right now, because the fact that the majority of skirts I tried on were too small just blows my goddamn mind. I am 40 pounds below the average weight for American women, and at least 10 pounds below what healthy looks like on me. And I was struggling to find anything that fucking fit.
I did finally find one jean skirt that worked (luckily it was a style I liked) but honestly, if not for the tightness of my timeline, I would have walked out right then in protest. Typing that out makes me realize I probably should have forewent my jean skirt crusade in favor of choosing not to give money to a place that struggled to cater options to someone who is pretty much the epitome of thin privilege, but alas…capitalism got me again!
In 2018, it shouldn’t be hard for any person to find clothing that fits their shape. It just shouldn’t be. How many more conversations must we have about what real bodies look like and how to dress them? How is this still an issue? Hire a engineer if it’s that goddamn confusing and solve the fucking problem. I am tall and slim – isn’t that what society says a body is supposed to be like? And if so, why the hell can’t I find something as basic as a jean skirt at one of the largest clothing stores for young women? And what the hell does that mean for the majority of people who don’t fit this narrow assumption of bodily configuration? My body has always been tall and slim because that’s how my DNA is organized. The fact that more clothing options (and other social advantages) are generally available to me simply because my body was genetically built to be smaller than other bodies is not okay. I don’t deserve to be stylishly clothed any more than any other person. I really don’t know why this is still a point of contention.
Like most aspects of social existence, we need to start designing our clothes (and laws, and spaces, and media, and on, and on, and on…) for actual people. And actual people don’t have a standard design. The skirt I ended up buying was a size large. A large for a woman who is essentially underweight. Are you fucking kidding me? Set aside the massive anorexia spiral that triggered for me and think about all the other girls in that store who may have been looking for a jean skirt and couldn’t find one. Boyfriend’s 8-year-old niece wanted a Forever 21 gift card for Christmas, and I cringe to think what kind of messaging she will receive if she walks in and has anything close to the type of experience I had. We need to solve this problem so we don’t have to worry about our daughters, nieces, friends, mothers, and selves every time we want to find a skirt to show off our fun tights.
I’m mad for myself because of how this experience played into all of the negative tapes that run through my head when I experience my anorexia. But I’m also mad for the women I love who don’t align so well with society’s idea of the ideal woman’s body – beautiful women who will never know their beauty because they are not beautiful and thin. Women who believe, as many of us do, that our worth is tied to how beautiful society says we are.
There are moments when I am so excited about this time we live in – a time of the #MeToo movement, of self-love campaigns, of women (and people) reclaiming their identities in the face of those who tell them they are less valid – but moments like that shopping trip remind me how much more work we have to do. Society, get your shit together. People, start supporting one another. Stand up against things that are wrong, even if it’s something that seems as trivial as a jean skirt. These things aren’t trivial and it’s up to us to kick and scream and complain and be loud until these companies and institutions get the message that everyone deserves to experience the world with the same advantages (but then maybe we can just call them “essential rights”).
Forever 21, do better. America, do better. World, do better.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, there are plenty of resources to use! Something that has been helpful for me is the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) website. I used their online screening tool before I began therapy, which was one of the things that encouraged me to seek out support. The NEDA website and toll-free Information and Referral Helpline, 1-800-931-2237, provide extensive resources nationwide.