This weekend I was told a story which, although I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, because holy shit is it ever obvious, is kind of blowing my mind.
A friend of a friend won a free consultation with Clinton Kelly of What Not To Wear, and she was very excited, because she has a plus-size body, and wanted some tips on how to make the most of her wardrobe in a fashion culture which deliberately puts her body at a disadvantage.
Her first question for him was this: how do celebrities make a plain white t-shirt and a pair of weekend jeans look chic? She always assumed it was because so many celebrities have, by nature or by design, very slender frames, and because they can afford very expensive clothing. But when she watched What Not To Wear, she noticed that women of all sizes ended up in cute clothes that really fit their bodies and looked great. She had tried to apply some guidelines from the show into her own wardrobe, but with only mixed success. So - what gives?
His answer was that everything you will ever see on a celebrity’s body, including their outfits when they’re out and about and they just get caught by a paparazzo, has been tailored, and the same goes for everything on What Not To Wear. Jeans, blazers, dresses - everything right down to plain t-shirts and camisoles. He pointed out that historically, up until the last few generations, the vast majority of people either made their own clothing or had their clothing made by tailors and seamstresses. You had your clothing made to accommodate the measurements of your individual body, and then you moved the fuck on. Nothing on the show or in People magazine is off the rack and unaltered. He said that what they do is ignore the actual size numbers on the tags, find something that fits an individual’s widest place, and then have it completely altered to fit. That’s how celebrities have jeans that magically fit them all over, and the rest of us chumps can’t ever find a pair that doesn’t gape here or ride up or slouch down or have about four yards of extra fabric here and there.
I knew that having dresses and blazers altered was probably something they were doing, but to me, having alterations done generally means having my jeans hemmed and then simply living with the fact that I will always be adjusting my clothing while I’m wearing it because I have curves from here to ya-ya, some things don’t fit right, and the world is just unfair that way. I didn’t think that having everything tailored was something that people did. It’s so obvious, I can’t believe I didn’t know this. But no one ever told me. I was told about bikini season and dieting and targeting your “problem areas” and avoiding horizontal stripes. No one told me that Jennifer Aniston is out there wearing a bigger size of Ralph Lauren t-shirt and having it altered to fit her.
I sat there after I was told this story, and I really thought about how hard I have worked not to care about the number or the letter on the tag of my clothes, how hard I have tried to just love my body the way it is, and where I’ve succeeded and failed. I thought about all the times I’ve stood in a fitting room and stared up at the lights and bit my lip so hard it bled, just to keep myself from crying about how nothing fits the way it’s supposed to. No one told me that it wasn’t supposed to. I guess I just didn’t know. I was too busy thinking that I was the one that didn’t fit.
I thought about that, and about all the other girls and women out there whose proportions are “wrong,” who can’t find a good pair of work trousers, who can’t fill a sweater, who feel excluded and freakish and sad and frustrated because they have to go up a size, when really the size doesn’t mean anything and it never, ever did, and this is just another bullshit thing thrown in your path to make you feel shitty about yourself.
I thought about all of that, and then I thought that in elementary school, there should be a class for girls where they sit you down and tell you this stuff before you waste years of your life feeling like someone put you together wrong.
So, I have to take that and sit with it for a while. But in the meantime, I thought perhaps I should post this, because maybe my friend, her friend, and I are the only clueless people who did not realise this, but maybe we’re not. Maybe some of you have tried to embrace the arbitrary size you are, but still couldn’t find a cute pair of jeans, and didn’t know why.