Thursday, January 13, 2011

Clothes make the woman—
so why aren't they made for us?

The Mossimo Smocked Empire dress from Target—cut up to your pantyline and down to your cleavage. Seriously, who wears this stuff???

Last summer I wrote about the fact that I was surprised to find out that one of my really thin friends hates to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses as much as I do. Sure, we have totally different reasons—she doesn't like to go without a padded bra, and I don't like to bare my upper arms—but the end result is still the same: a huge percentage of women's clothing is unavailable to both of us.

It bothered me when I realized this, but I also figured it was a bit of an anomaly. But then I was shopping with another friend over the holidays—this friend is older than me, and like my other friend, she is very thin too. But unlike my original friend, she has a little bit of a bust. So when were out shopping, I didn't hesitate to recommend a gorgeous white sleeveless blouse to go with a new red necklace she had just bought. To my surprise, she balked. "I don't do sleeveless," she said without a moment's hesitation.

"Why not?" I asked. "You're so thin."

"You haven't seen what I've got under here," she said, pointing to the part of her arm that was obscured by her short-sleeve shirt. "I'm old! This doesn't look good when you get old."

"You're being ridiculous," I said, but she wasn't budging.

I'm not going to lie—it really bugged me when I found out another one of my friends refuses to wear sleeveless clothing. It bugged me because everywhere I go I see sleeveless clothes marketed to women—sleeveless shirts, sleeveless dresses, sleeveless pajamas, etc. Next thing you know they'll have paper gowns at the gynecologist's office with spaghetti straps.

I know this to be true because I'm always trying to avoid sleeveless, but it's almost impossible to do because it's EVERYWHERE.

And when my friend said she doesn't "do" sleeveless either, I started to wonder who the hell does. I can name two friends of mine who I know regularly wear sleeveless shirts, but that's it. Just two.

And then I started thinking about hemlines.

Because if sleeveless dresses make me feel a bit sickly, short hemlines make me downright ill. But everywhere I shop, all I see are racks and racks of dresses and skirts that stop two or three inches above my knee. I know it's in style for young girls to wear dresses like this, but what about the rest of us? What are we supposed to wear? I promise you that if most women don't like going sleeveless, they certainly don't enjoy wearing a skirt that skims the bottom of their Jockey underwear.

What's interesting is that I just found two gorgeous dresses that come to the knee in the most recent issue of Lucky magazine, but when I looked at the price I was horrified—they were both over a thousand dollars a piece. So the only people who can wear knee-length dresses are rich woman? Does it really cost that much more to add a few more inches of fabric???

Of course, it doesn't, but for some reason, clothing designers and clothing stores seem to only make clothes that have too-short skirts and too little sleeves. I wonder why that is.

Or maybe it's more complicated than that. I was complaining about hemlines being too short with a female student last month when she said that has the exact opposite problem—they're all too long for her and fall between her knee and her ankle, like a prairie dress. I looked at her and realized for the first time how tiny she was.

"How tall are you?" I asked.

"Almost five foot," she said sheepishly.

No wonder dresses are too long on her.

And that's when it hit me—the reason so many women hate the way clothes fit is because they're not MADE to fit us. Think about it . . . men's pants are sized two ways—waist and length—but women's pants and skirts (and dresses) only have one size: S, M, L, or XL (or they're numbered from 2 to 24), but they do not have one measurement for height and another for girth like men's clothing. So the assumption is that if we're short, we're also tiny? And if we're tall, we're also big around? That must make it pretty hard for my skinny six-foot-tall friend to find anything to wear. Not to mention my short curvy mother. The truth is that it makes it hard for all of us.

That might be why so many people recommend that women have their clothes tailored after they buy them. I have friends who take every single pair of pants to the tailor to have that part that gapes in the back cut out. Every. Single. Pair. That's gotta add up. And I really don't think we should be expected to that.

Unfortunately, the only answer is for all of us to stop buying any clothes until manufacturers start making clothing that is truly designed to fit women of all sizes. But I know that you all like to go shopping too much for that. So instead now that we know this is a problem, we'll just have to start talking about why it's a problem that the clothes they make don't fit us. If we raise enough of a stink, maybe they'll actually listen.


  1. Do you remember your post about the Levi Curve ID jeans? You may not have done the test and tried to order some, but they're the only jean company I've seen that actually does girth and length measurements on pants.

    Also, people who make clothes also assume that if your hips are wide enough to fit into a size 8/9, that you must also be about 20 pounds heavier than I actually am. So I have a hard time finding dresses that fit my hips as well as my bust. And I'm a size D!

  2. Yes, Jessica, I thought about the Levi's Curve ID jeans when I wrote this--did you buy a pair? I'd like to hear if they really work.

    My hips and thighs have ALWAYS been bigger than my waist or bust, so I have the same problem. To get a pair of pants that fit my hips/thighs, I have to have a waist that is way too big.

    So what we really need are three sizes--girth, length, and hips? Honestly, I wish we could still have clothes made for us. I'd pay the extra money if things fit correctly.

  3. I AGREE. Especially about the skirts being too short. I can't imagine how any girl would feel comfortable moving around wearing dresses with skirt lengths as short as they're making them now.

  4. Thanks, Anonymous. Glad to know I'm not alone on this one.