A shopping rant

I’ve had it. I realize that many people in the United States are overweight. I’m sympathetic, to an extent. (Here’s the place where if you are bothered/offended/bitter about skinny people you might want to click away and read something else.) But here’s the thing. I’m not overweight. Not even close. In fact, most of the time, I have to make myself eat more, so I don’t get too skinny. Some people might say this is an enviable problem to have. I don’t see it as any better or worse than dieting. If anything it’s a more solitary experience — You don’t exactly see articles and TV shows out there about how to put on the pounds and maintain your ideal body weight. I’m often at a loss as to how to keep weight on without eating foods that are too high in cholesterol or are just bad for you in general. But I’m already off topic and I haven’t started my rant yet.

Anyway, I’m sympathetic to people who struggle to keep their weight down. Really. I try to be supportive to friends who are trying to lose weight. I realize this is a difficult battle. But I am not supportive of the assumption out there that everyone is fat. Example: Today, I head to Union Square to do some shopping. I’m in need of some nice black pants and a new pair of jeans. Contrary to popular belief, skinny people cannot wear everything they put on. They have trouble finding clothes, just like anyone else. So, just like anyone else, I have favorite stores. They are favorites because the clothes they sell actually fit me. That takes priority over style in my book. So today, I make a few cursory stops at stores that haven’t had that great of a track record in terms of fit for me in the past. I give them the benefit of the doubt. Stores change. But these stores hadn’t. Everything was ill-fitting: too long, or too big in the wrong places. So I do what any sane woman does, I went to my favorite store, the store where I’ve always had good luck, where I can walk to the rack pick up my size and the trying on is more for fun than a necessity. Things just fit. Ann Taylor has been that store for me in the past. If I needed something nice – a pair of pants, a jacket, a fancy dress – Ann was there for me. I quickly learned that the expense (unfortunately Ann does have a bit of a price tag) was worth the great fit and long-lasting, classy clothes. I walked into the store. I gazed longingly at dresses I didn’t need. I pawed the silks and wools. I grabbed up a great pair of black pants in a size 4. And then, I spotted another pair. I picked up a size 4. A nice lady unlocked a dressing room for me. My feet were getting sore and I was looking forward to choosing one of my pairs of pants and heading home. I slipped on the first pair. They were kind of big. No, not kind of big. I was absolutely swimming in these pants. They were too long, and so big through the hips, butt, and waist that I might as well have been wearing a pair of men’s pants. Ditto with the other pair. Ann, what’s going on? I dressed again and headed back out onto the floor to get a size 2.

This would be a great place to say that I am not, I repeat, not a size 2. I’m a 4. Sometimes, when I’ve been working out a lot, or particularly decadent in my food and alcohol consumption, I’m even a 6. Size 2 is pretty darn small. But I dutifully grab the size 2 pants. When I return to the dressing room I discover that size 2 is also too big all over, except in the inseam. Great: Pants that don’t fit and give you a wedgie. Now I am pissed. This is my faithful Ann Taylor store, where pants are pants, they fit, shopping is made easier. Only Ann Taylor has just made my shopping much more complicated. I ask the saleslady about the pants and she confirms that Ann Taylor has changed their sizing to better fit more of their (overweight) customers. But what about me? Where do you go after size 2? This particular store didn’t have any size zeros. I had to leave.

And now, I have to find a new go-to store.

I decide to try every possible store in the mall. I go to Express, which has a display of what they call “Editor” pants (they also have “Publicist” pants) and which are advertised as the best fitting pants in the world. In the world? Fantastic. I pick up three pairs, in size 4, because I have learned nothing yet. Yeeeeaaah. Huge. Huge pants. Apparently editors and publicists have large butts and are about 6 feet tall. Time to move on. Next, I hit J.Crew: No black pants. Nordstrom: I can’t figure out what department is mine, because they all have names like “Savvy” and “Encore.” I know it’s expensive too, so I try the last non-teen, non-high fashion (read exorbitant) store in the mall: Benetton. It’s Italian, I think to myself. Italians probably wouldn’t resize their clothes to meet the needs of an overweight population, especially one that’s not their own. I find some great black pants, and I reach for my size… Except all the sizes are European. Am I a 38 or a 46 or? A nice woman translates my American size into European: 42. The meaning of life is 42. I pick up a couple of styles of black pants and head for the dressing room. My conclusion: Italians are enormously tall people, with very short crotch to navel ratios.

Now what?
I had promised myself recently that I was going to stop shopping at Old Navy. My wardrobe has become bland and alarmingly solid colored. Part of the reason I was going to go shopping was to kick it up a bit, fashionwise. But after the Ann Taylor debacle, I cave, and wander into Old Navy. I don’t see any long pants I like, which is a relief, but then I see some nice black capris. I try on a size 4. It fits. Perfectly. Then I realize why I have been shopping at Old Navy so much. The sizes fit! Still, I make it out of the store with just the capris. Next stop: Banana Republic.

Banana Republic has always seemed to me to be a kind of Gap for the wealthy and the socialite. I’ve bought things there in the past, but don’t always like or fit in what they offer. The model Banana Republic customer, in my opinion, is tall, tan and skinny like a model. So I was hesitant about walking the 6 blocks to get there today. But I go. After wandering dazedly in the various rooms, I find a pair of black pants. I like them. I try them on, along with some jeans and another pair of pants that I really like and I am trying to ignore the price tag of ($148!). All three pairs are absolutely enormous, a la Ann Taylor sizes. I’m about to hunt for size 2s again, when a helpful saleswoman offers to find me the right sizes. “Have you changed your sizing?” I ask.

“Oh, always,” she said. “They just keep bumping down to the next smaller number.”

I mean, really. This is appalling. Do Americans hate their bodies so much that they need the gratification of being told by a faceless corporation that they fit into a size smaller than usual, even though in reality it’s the exact same size they always wear? And what happens when the clothing companies can’t go down a number anymore? What if you are a size zero, and you get bumped? Do they turn to negative numbers? This isn’t the first time I remember this happening. It’s occurred at least one other time since I moved to SF six years ago. I used to be a consistent 6 at Banana Republic. At the Gap (which I did eventually go into, despite promising that I would not) they now have “curvy” jeans. When the sales guy raves and picks out a pair for me I agree, but I know what’s coming. Turns out “Curvy” means the Gap has added the equivalent of a second butt into my size four. I can’t keep the pants up. What about the regular jeans I used to wear? Discontinued.

I’m being forced out of stores and clothes because I am skinny. I realize that there’s a probably somewhat equally valid argument out there that overweight people have been forced out of stores and clothes because they are overweight and I am probably being totally offensive and unfair.

I’ve done the work to stay the same size: I eat right, I work out. Why should I have to change? It’s not just me, either: My husband, who actually works much harder than I do to stay the same size by lifting enormous weights at the gym, has to shop in certain stores because they offer “athletic fit” which means that the shirts aren’t huge in the front to accommodate a beer belly. When he buys a suit, he has to get the jacket fixed, because the suit companies make them too wide, again to fit around a belly. When does it end? When will corporate America stop enabling our overweight population?

Finally, at Banana Republic, I find my pants. They look fabulous. They are size 2 short. Not only have I been made skinnier, but I have also been made shorter. Smaller sizes are the new black, I guess.


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