Shopping, Evil has a Price Tag

I love fashion. I adore walking through upscale stores and admiring beautiful garments. The cut, the fabric, the movement… it all speaks to me.

But, I hate trying things on and actually purchasing clothes. And hate may not be the right word perhaps loathe or dislike with a rancorous malevolence would be more apt.

Why is that? Because if you do not conform to the industry standard of what a woman should look like or be proportioned like it just sucks.

First there is the fact that a size # is not the same in any brand, sometimes it is not even the same across any given brand. Because I am apparently slightly masochistic I tested this one day. This was 2 years ago when I had lost some weight and was supposedly a size 10. I went to Kohl’s and got a pair of size 10 pants from every designer/label I could find and in each style I could find. I had about 35-40 pairs of pants to try on. There was a difference of as much as 3 inches in the waist circumference between the smallest and the largest size 10. Talk about being able to give someone a complex. Ask any woman and she knows her size number, that doesn’t mean she’ll tell you, but she knows it. So when you know you are supposed to be a size # and you go and try on that size # and it is to small, well most of us freak a little. Have I gained weight? Am I retaining water? It messes with our head.

Then there are the vast plethora of body types we women are graced with. I am 5’8 with a 36DD chest. I vary between 150-190 on my weight. And Sir Mix-a-Lot would not be jonesing for me. It is nearly impossible for me to buy a dress that fits my bust without swallowing the rest of my body. The industry standard is that if I am large on top I must therefore be large everywhere else. So separates are my best friend. I can not count the number of times I have ended up in tears because I see a lovely dress and by the time I find the size that will fasten in the back over my chest it looks like I am wearing a shapeless tent from the ribcage down.

The same is true for any top that doesn’t have some kind of an inherent stretchiness. And the bane of my existence are “bra-less” styles. If there is not some way to wear a bra with it I can’t wear it. Looking at many of the styles I can only conclude that designers assume we all have perky-stay-where-they-are-supposed-to size B breasts or that if they are larger they are fake and so defy gravity all on their own? Neither of which is the case for me.

Now add to this the fact that I am slightly short waisted and some dresses and tops end up making me look like my legs are attached directly under my boobs. I promise you this is not a flattering look for anyone.

Oh, and forget finding pretty matching underthings anymore – unless you want to pay a flippin fortune. Most brassiere makers seem to have decided that once you pass being a 36C you don’t need actual support – a shapeless boob sock will do just fine – and that you must only want black white or beige.

I cried at the checkout at Wal-Mart this summer. Why? Because after 3 weeks of swimsuit shopping (16 stores and at least 60 swimsuits) I had found the perfect swimsuit top and bottom. I was in the dressing room and the angels sang Hallelujah and for a brief moment all was right with the world. I was ecstatic. But it was not to last. As I attempted to pay for my precious find the checkout girl tells me she can’t sell me the top because it is supposed to be part of a set and they can’t sell it separately. I immediately offer to buy what ever bottoms are supposed to go with it as well or just pay the set price and only get the top (I’d still consider it as bargain), but no. It seems Wal-Mart policy says if part of a set is missing they will not sell you the other part. At this point I requested a manager. To no avail. I even explained about the weeks of shopping the angel chorus – but nothing. So as I set the now forbidden to me top on the black merchandise belt, and a few tears began to escape from my eyes, I begged. I said please let me buy this, please. That poor manager she couldn’t even look me in the eye as she said “sorry, I can’t.” I then left the other things I was going to get and tried to gracefully exit the store, well as gracefully as one can exit a Wal-Mart while trying not to fully burst into tears. It is mildly funny now. I was that person. The one that everyone else is looking at and thinking “Dude, what is wrong with her?” And I can fully see the ridiculousness of the whole situation. It was a swimsuit, but in that moment it felt so much more epic. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind where my usually omnipresent logic was hiding I knew I could go online or go to the other Wal-Mart and get the exact same top – but in that moment when it was in my hands and being denied me, I didn’t care. This is how crazy clothes and fit and the entire industry around them make us. A normally fairly sane down to earth sensible woman becomes “that crying chick” in Wal-Mart.

These are my specific shopping issues. I know that women of all shapes and sizes have their own – and many of us spend a lot of time wishing we had a different body type, thinking it must be easier. But clothing designers and manufacturers don’t make it any easier on us.

Why can’t designers accept that you can’t design a garment and expect it to fit every woman with nothing more than a reducing or enlarging of the exact same pattern and shape. Women do not even begin to have close to the same shape only smaller or larger. When you start adding up all the variables (height, weight, bust size, hip size, thigh size, waist, inseam, ribcage, shoulders and on) that is just not a mathematically feasible concept.

Makes me long for the days when everyone’s clothes were made to fit them specifically. I guess I need to win the lottery then I can just hire my own seamstress and tailor and call it a day.

Oooh, maybe I’ll get a shoe elf too!