Thursday, January 04, 2007

shopping, sizes, and magic numbers

Pastaqueen's post yesterday about Lane Bryant got me thinking about shopping and its inherent perils. For about a year of my life, I managed to size myself out of any store but Lane Bryant. Sure, there were the depressing "Women's World" sections of department stores, but the clothes they had made me feel about 20 years older. I was still in my twenties at the time. Somehow Lane Bryant was easier, even though the tags were embarassing, and I almost died one time when a male coworker picked up a coupon from the floor my car when a group of us were going to lunch and asked, "Why didn't you go get your free panty?" I was sure that even a bunch of guys knew what Lane Bryant was and were now picturing me in fat-girl panties. As if they somehow couldn't tell by my shape and size that I would be the kind of person who would shop in a plus-sized store.

Shopping with friends and family who were not in the Lane Bryant range became torture. There were a very few mall stores at the time that went above a size 14: The Gap, Old Navy, New York & Company. I was grateful for those stores but at other stores I just looked at XL t-shirts and socks, or cruised the earring racks. I did have a couple of LB shopping buddies and it was much more fun to shop with them. I would call them when Mode (Remember Mode? I loved that magazine but sadly, it is no more. This site is sort of an online version, though.) came out with their latest coupons and we would go shop -- LB is much too expensive to shop regular-price. One of these friends and I still go shopping together, but it's much less fun for both of us because the mall is suddenly divided into "my stores" and "her stores" and the whole thing is a little uncomfortable for both of us. It sucks.

I wish more stores would follow the Gap model of having sizes 0 to 20 in the same store, or even extend the range above 20. It's not like when you reach a certain size you suddenly think, "You know what, I really love a humongous print! And can you attach more sparklies and some fringe to this blouse, please?" As Pastaqueen so eloquently put it, "I suspect they allow employee's children to run around the store with a bedazzler, applying sequins and plastic beads to every tank top or blouse in sight."

In fact, my big weight loss push when I turned 30 was kicked off at least in part by wanting to shop at Ann Taylor, and their sizes only went up to 14. I think that they now carry a 16 or even an 18, though you may have to buy them online. I hate that, actually. They're willing to take your money but they don't want people to see you in their store?

When I go into LB now, the clothes look a lot better than they did when I shopped there, but I still can't bring myself to buy anything there anymore. I've tried a couple of things on when they were really cheap, but was relieved when they didn't look right on me.

The other day when I was shopping, I tried on some size 12 jeans at the Gap and they fit. Size 12 is a milestone to me. It's the "I no longer am just barely in the regular size range" milestone, which is way too long a name to be very catchy. It's also the "definitely can't shop at LB anymore" milestone. Though, of course, jeans being jeans, one style (Curvy) fit me in a 12 and the other style fit me in a 14 (Skinny).

These stupid numbers have so much power. The last time I was at goal weight I got especially obsessed with them. For about one and a half minutes, the size 8 at some stores fit me. I still have a size 8 Banana Republic dress hanging in my closet in case I ever get back there again. It made me unreasonably happy to have a single digit on my size tag instead of two digits, even if it was probably just vanity sizing (as I know all you party poopers out there are thinking). I remember the days of the 5-7-9 store at the mall, which didn't want to bother with any of us double-digit people.

I guess that's why this weight loss thing becomes so powerful. Clothing size, as fickle and unreasonable as it is, can seem like an elaborate sorting system. I got a little weird the last few days with the holiday weight gain, wanting to rid myself quickly of the holiday weight gain, and the total irrationality about food that came along with it. I realized that I was trying to cram myself back into "acceptable" territory as fast as I could. I had gotten within 10 pounds of my WW goal (I changed my ticker above to reflect this goal), and that magic number meant a lot to me, and then just as quickly that magic number got snatched away. And even that WW goal is sort of a milestone more than a goal, because a very shallow part of me wants to drop below 150 because that's another magic number, though not as magical as 135, which was my weight in college and probably the absolute lowest I could ever go now (though I still felt too fat at that weight at the time)...

You're getting the picture, I think. None of these numbers are ever going to give me what I'm looking for, some kind of magical ticket to "you're good enough, you can relax." I knew it when I started writing this, and now I'm even more sure of it.


  1. Been there, done that, LIVE that. I hate shopping with other people because either we look like a pod of whales invading the mall or we have to split to separate stores to actually find things that fit. I'm more likely to go alone and ask other people alone in the store what they think.

    So bravo to you for getting into clothes that make you feel good about yourself, that don't come from LB. I can't see Ann Taylor suddenly running amok with a sparkly gun but if you'd like us to bejewel anything for you, just let us know.

  2. I could really relate to your comments about single-digit sizes. At my lowest weight (128, for about 10 minutes), I tried on a lovely white summer dress in a size 4 that actually fit. Vanity sizing? You bet. The dress was very expensive and I had no place to wear it but I seriously considered buying it ... just because it was a size 4!

  3. Wow, a size 4!!! That Virtual Model on this entry would be my size at my weight goal -- still a size 10 unless there's some serious vanity sizing going on.

  4. The British Standards Institute has come up with yet another size label. These new labels will have a pictogram with actual measurements in centimeters . I have been ready for the new labels for 24 years, when I began taking my measurements in centimeters. This new label is due for release later this year. I am expecting considerable resistance to these labels in the USA, as the thought of needing a size 105 would cause panic. Your only hope to looking thinner on paper is to use kilograms, as I have since 1992.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07