Shopping Got Easier When I Stopped Taking Sizing Personally

Shopping Got Easier When I Stopped Taking Sizing Personally

It’s not you, it’s the sizing system!



Shopping for clothes has always been a tossup between a triumphant hunt for new pieces or walking into disappointment. I’d enter the fitting rooms excited to try on a huge pile of clothes only to discover that nothing fit the way I wanted. A button-down polo holds on for dear life around my bust and shimmying into jeans suddenly becomes an Olympic sport because even the largest sizes won’t close around my belly. So I exit the fitting rooms sweaty, tired and disappointed, with a newfound resentment for my body.


For context, I’m a mid-sized girl with a large bust and an even larger bum. I’ve been on the heavier side for as long as I can remember, so I’m used to the frustration that comes with clothes not fitting the way that they should. But after coming to terms with my grown woman weight and the fact that I now pay for most of my clothes, I realized that my body isn’t the one at fault. I’m not to blame if I can’t fit the so-called “varied” sizing brands carry. After endless shopping sessions and suddenly discovering that one store’s L is another one’s XXL, I figured that sizing is but a confusing number (or series of letters) that shouldn’t define me. Then, shopping got easier—mentally, at least.



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It’s not you, it’s the sizing system!

In 2014, TIME got down to the history of women’s clothing sizes and discovered its bizarre origins. The early quest to standardize sizing came from a 1930 survey of 15,000 American women. However, the creators incentivized participation with a fee, so mostly low-income white women made up most of the data instead of a cross-section of American women. While American government agencies tried to standardize women’s sizing after the survey, manufacturers began ignoring these guidelines as the average American woman grew. Thus began “vanity sizing,” a phenomenon where accurately measured items get tagged with smaller sizes to encourage more to shop. This could be why your size varies in different clothing brands; it's because they don’t follow a standard chart and they want more people to shop.


On the other side of the world, specifically in Asia, we all know that the collective ideal body type falls under petite and skinny. So manufacturers from our region size their items accordingly to this standard. My friends who traveled to South Korea told me that most of the clothes were free size and shopping would be difficult if you were relatively above a medium. Meanwhile, most of my loot from Singapore and Thailand are large and oversized “one-size” items, because their Large look more like a Medium. So, as a Filipino caught between shopping from Western and Asian brands, where do we go from here?


Well, it actually starts with actively not taking sizing personally.



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Remember: Our clothes are supposed to fit us

And not the other way around. We wear clothes to show off our personalities and tastes. Instead, the things we wear should emphasize the parts we want to highlight and the assets we hope to flaunt. Moreover, women shouldn’t be at the mercy of such sizing systems, pressured to always stay in a specific size range for most of the time they’re alive.


But I get it: centuries of beauty standards and decades of mainstream media telling us that skinny or slim-thick is the ideal body has taken its toll on our mental health. They told us that adhering to these standards makes us desirable, beautiful and worthy of attention. So even if we need to size up to find a top that fits us better for various reasons, we struggle to accept that. Instead, we feel mortified when the label shows a number or size above our usual. TBH, I still feel this sometimes, especially when I’ve maxed out all the largest sizes that I chose for that day.


But when this happens, I go back to the fact that the fashion landscape, especially the one we operate in, still has a lot to work to do. Even if plus-sized clothing lines continue to look less conservative and more age-appropriate and trendy, and celebrity fashion lines have models of different sizes, shapes, ethnicities and genders, we’re just scratching the surface of change. Add in the absurdity of brands interpreting sizing charts on their own terms and standards; the issue is more extensive than what we can control. But it doesn’t mean we need to suffer because of it!



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Flipping the mindset helps

Given the phenomenon of “vanity sizing,” I began treating sizes as just item labels but not an identity. They exist to tell us what piece fits us best in that store, but it doesn’t tie us down into a category of human beings. After all, our bodies cannot be boxed into a standard system—human bodies are not a monolith. So when I overcame the dread of moving sizes up or down, I also found myself dressing the way I’ve always wanted. I no longer waited to have my revenge body or a major transformation—the time to be who I want to be doesn’t need a perfect window for it to happen.


However, getting over the sizing system isn’t the only solution to fashion’s problem. It’s a whole systemic issue we still have to work on for a long while. But on a personal level, shifting our mindsets relieves us of the mental load and dread. This could even open doors for others to explore their preferences and styles all the more.


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So the next time you pick out clothes to fit and shop, avoid tying yourself to a singular size range and start exploring the pieces that fit you best. You’ll find a newfound feeling of ease and comfort when you choose style over size.



Art Macky Arquilla

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