Not bigger, not better

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I'm beginning to believe the fashion industry exists to make life more difficult for women.

I first suspected this when searching for prom dresses years ago. Never a fan of long dresses, I hoped to find a knee-length cocktail dress instead. This decision had many points in its favor; I wouldn't trip over my skirt, I could wear the dress more than once and I could dress it up or down depending on the occasion.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find very many knee-length dresses that fit my body correctly. I am bottom-heavy, so I expected to have some difficulty finding a dress that worked. That said, I did not expect every dress I tried on to have a reverse-mullet effect. I was incredibly disappointed with each dress I tried on, finding it perfect from the front and likely to get me thrown in jail for public indecency from the back.

My mother and grandmother laughed throughout all this, sometimes wondering out loud how I had picked out such ill-fitting outfits.

"Stop showing your butt!" my mom laughed.

My nana joined in, telling me to spin around even though I had already done that several times at her request.

I eventually found a dress that wouldn't make people think I was a cheap escort, but it shouldn't have been that hard. Why, I asked myself, do dresses designed for larger women have such short hemlines? Do all clothing designers think women with bigger hips, breasts or shoulders are just a larger version of a tall, waif-like model?

I've experienced this with every clothing item imaginable. Winter coats fit wonderfully throughout my waist and forearms but encase my biceps and shoulders like a sausage. Skinny jeans make my legs look amazing but often fail to stretch over my hips. Shoe shopping can even be a struggle; I've yet to find a pair of boots that fit comfortably over my calves without bunching at my ankles like a fat baby's chin.

It's really disheartening to struggle to find clothing that fits, especially since I've lost enough weight over the past couple years to finally feel comfortable shopping again. I am mostly out of plus sizes now, but that's not always a good thing. As always, the sizes I wear fit a bit strangely in certain places. If I size up, the same item of clothing fits a bit too loosely in other places.

In recent years, there's been a call for "fat acceptance." Proponents of this movement say they feel discriminated against for being larger, asking society to accept beauty at all sizes. They suggest that the fashion industry purposely manufactures ill-fitting plus-size frocks to shame larger women into dieting. I can get behind respecting a woman no matter her size, but I don't believe we should encourage obesity and I'm not sure there's a conspiracy behind the weird cuts in plus-size fashion.

Mostly I think plus-size clothing is designed the way it is because designers just size up the tiny outfits created for runway shows. Let's get real; no

woman, plus-size or not, is going to measure up to the standards set by runway models.

I wish that a woman with big hips could find a pair of jeans that fit all over. Someday, I dream of finding a dress that doesn't ride up when I walk or bunch up under my armpits.

Until then, I'll be wearing that winter coat that gives me sausage-arms and hoping for a brighter future.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.