Julia Maher ’23
Some women may be familiar with the headache and self-loathing that can result from shopping for clothes. Trying on clothes can make women feel worse about their bodies and wish they were a different size, to the point that they deliberately choose a size smaller than what feels comfortable. Although men may experience this as well, it seems more like a uniquely feminist issue, considering all of the expectations that the fashion industry and our society at large places on women’s bodies, weights, and appearances.
Particularly, mid-sized and plus-sized women experience significant struggles when trying to find clothes that make them feel good about their bodies. It seems like the fashion industry makes clothes in very small sizes and straight cuts, which makes it difficult for curvy women to find clothes that fit. It seems like clothes are intentionally made very restrictive and constraining so that women feel like they are taking up “too much” space. In a world that is focused on making women feel small, why should we follow along with that ridiculous narrative when we have big and important identities?
In reality, all bodies are beautiful. We should not feel the need to squeeze into the smallest sizes possible just to make ourselves feel better. Although some women may want to lose weight for themselves, and that is completely okay, not everyone feels the need to do so. It is sad that we live in a world that seems to view only one body type as pretty—very skinny. I wish that more retailers offered a plethora of inclusive sizes and cuts of clothing so that all women felt like they could wear comfortable clothing that flatters them, and I wish that women didn’t feel so bad about wearing their legitimate size of clothing. Some stores, like Brandy Melville, even have a “one size fits most” mantra, which only makes larger women feel worse about themselves and like they cannot fit in with the group. A wider range of inclusive sizes for their stores is absolutely crucial.
The pandemic has certainly clarified and exacerbated these issues for many women, since some people have experienced weight gain. But it has also exacerbated and caused mental illness. Due to these struggles, it is more important than ever to remember that we are not the issue, but a larger structure that makes us feel bad about our bodies. Emotional eating and social anxiety can make it extremely difficult to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Now more than ever, self-loathing will only make us feel worse—we need to give ourselves grace and just be proud of how we’ve persevered this year. Just as no one particular size fits all, no mental health or physical health journey fits all people’s unique identities, needs, goals, and values.