Last month my friend and I took a shopping trip to New York. As we were trying on dresses, skirts and blouses, I couldn’t help but notice a trend that made me uncomfortable. At Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and The Limited, I was wearing size 2’s and 4’s. My friend, who is slimmer than me, was wearing a size 0. That is, when she could actually find clothing that ran that small.
Maybe we should have been ecstatic about wearing clothing that had such small size labels attached to it. My friend said she doesn’t even see herself as a size 0, but more like a size 2… She feels that is the size that she has always worn until clothing sizes started changing as people have gotten bigger. However, her weight and size have stayed the same. And, here I was, for the first time, wearing a size 2. It could have been a hallelujah, thank-the-fashion-gods moment. But it wasn’t. Because, without a doubt, I’m no size 2. And I just don’t feel good about wearing a small size if it feels like a lie.
My hips are 38 inches wide, bigger than Marilyn Monroe’s hips were. The film and fashion icon was actually reported to have 36-inch hips by her studio. And back then, Marilyn Monroe was rumored to be a U.S. size 12, or a British size 16. Banana Republic claims its size 2 dresses fit a 25.5 inch waist and 35.5 inch hips. That’s simply not true, at least not in the clothing I’ve encountered while trying on clothes there.
The fast food industry has been blamed for our widening waists. Some of these in-and-out eateries have responded to public concern with healthier salads and sides and by making nutritional information more readily available. Last year, a California county became the first in the nation to ban toys from fast-food children’s meals that were high in calories, salt, fat and sugar. Even with these efforts, obesity is still growing in America.
And it’s not just restaurants that should be called on to help with the battle of the bulge.
Shopping for clothing can also mislead someone into thinking their weight is OK when it could be creating health risks. The problem is, we’ve begun to accept that extra weight is normal and that smaller sizes are not. According to SizeUSA, American women are definitely getting bigger as a group. The average woman is about 155 pounds and 5 foot 4 inches, according to a 2003 survey by the industry research group [TC]². That’s about 20 pounds heavier than the average woman of 40 years ago. And we’re only getting bigger.
In men’s clothes, the dimensions are usually stated in inches. My boyfriend is pleased with the simplicity of that. He told me that a sizing system that goes by inches rather than arbitrary numbers means that men’s clothing sizes are more accurate. But he’s wrong. Esquire reported last year that popular brands like Old Navy, Haggar and Dockers are all selling pants with larger waists than what’s marked. So, even if the pants have a 32-inch waist tag, it could still fit up to a 37-inch waist, depending on how much the retailer depends on vanity sizing for their customers.
Down-waisting doesn’t help anyone. According to the American Cancer Society, larger waists increase risks for Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, among other things. In a study from American Cancer Society researchers, people with very large waists (47 inches or larger in men, 42 inches or larger in women) had approximately twice the risk of death compared to those with the smallest waists (35 inches in men, 30 inches in women) during the study period. The larger the waist circumference, the higher the risk was.
It’s unacceptable for clothing retailers and designers to lie about their sizes. If a woman with a 38-inch waist is wearing clothing that is advertised to fit a 32-inch waist, she might be dismissing health concerns because her clothing size is, inexplicably, shrinking.
I understand that some clothing designers and retailers are trying to make clothing that best fit their diverse customers. And I appreciate the variety in sizing, since my pear shape can already make finding clothes difficult. But like many consumers, I don’t want to be lied to, especially when it comes to my health.
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