6 January 2016

Why I HATE Clothes Shopping ...

I'm not quite sure what to title this yet, because I don't know whether it will unintentionally morph into some kind of rant or if in effect, even considering writing this has become a rant in itself - but I feel like I need to talk about plus sized clothing sections.

Today I went to my favourite shopping centre with my husband to pick up some birthday cards for the year (yes I hoard stationary) and just kind of have a browse before his four day work break ends. I have been planning for a while to basically redo my entire wardrobe since A. I have put quite a significant amount of weight on since sustaining my foot injury two years ago and B. my current selection is outdated and in need of re-styling. 

I am 5'3, 215 lbs and currently wear a UK size 18 in most of my clothes, and while I will admit I would like to  (and intend to) lose some weight healthily and in my own time, I can honestly say I have never loved my body more than I love it now. I think in a way I have grown to accept my size because I know how much my body has gone through these past 24 months! Anyways, that's another post, the point of this post is to just vent some thoughts I suppose - my frustration really - at "plus sized" fashion departments in chain stores. 

While I do fit into straight size 18's in "most" stores I shop in, I like to pop into stores that carry plus sized lines from time to time - since the actual sizing variation in larger straight sizes never seems to be consistent. 

A few months ago, I came across a line called "Inspire your Curves" in a particularly well know fashion store which I will not name and I have to say I was so thrilled to see plus size fashion receiving recognition in larger chain stores. I find it overwhelmingly upsetting to not find anything beyond a true to size 12 available at the best of times in these places (so often labelled as an XXL by the way - but I won't go there). Although I have mixed feelings about segregating a department for plus sized women, I was (at the time) so happy to see a nice contrast in style and cuts specifically designed with larger women in mind. That was .. until today.

Although I had no intention of clothes shopping when we visited the centre, I was conscious of the fact that I have a party coming up this Saturday. I love retro fashion, and own several pin up style dresses but since this party is less formal - I really wanted to find something dressy yet casual to wear. Lately, I have been growing increasingly anxious about how much I hide my body in baggy oversized cardigans, just as much as the lack of any kind of dressy strappy tops in my wardrobe. Knowing this particular store has this range, I decided to take a visit with my hubby in the hopes of finding something somewhat dressy to pair with some nice pants and accessories. Now before I start my rant (which I have now decided this post is) - I will mention - I did buy a beautiful top from this range, but it was literally the only strappy top available AND it had been marked down in clearance - then apparently "put back" to original sale price - which I will explain in a moment. I also purchased a gorgeous flannel shirt, so my issue is not with this store specifically but I suppose the generalisation and vast difference of style that was on offer from one department to the other, which I see becoming a growing pattern across a multitude of similar retail outlets. 

On walking into the store we passed rail up on rail of beautiful slinky clothing, heavy stretchy tweed printed leggings, flowy glittering tops, cinched skirts and finally ended up at the "Inspire your Curves" section. Even reading the name sounds empowering and sexy doesn't it? I wish I could say the same for the clothing. I stood and looked at my husband, who looked back at me with just as much disgust. Not a single thing in that section would ever inspire me or make me proud to be a plus size woman. Not a single thing made me want to show my figure off or embrace my curves (as they so blatantly failed to market in my opinion). Every single item (and I'm hoping this is just a mid season slump - please tell me its a mid season slump) was oversized, baggy, generic. There was nothing slinky, sexy or curvy on offer. The range pretty much consisted of oversized shirts, generic t-shirts and pants and an a-line tunic style pinafore. Now I don't know about other plus sized ladies feelings, but to me a "tunic" style dress makes me look bigger than I actually am. Every single thing that was there just made me feel like there was no effort or thought put into the collection. Why can't we plus size ladies have something like the beautiful stretchy tweed pants in the straight sized line? Everything in that section screamed "might as well stay at home in these lounge pants and that oversized t-shirt" to me. Even the maternity wear had a nicer selection of fitted clothing. It just made me feel - well - really crappy about myself if I'm to be honest. Nothing about the selection I seen today made me feel "inspired" by my curves and really was a far cry from the beautiful selection I seen in the store before the start of last summer. This feeling of disappointment in the selection of styles in these plus size sections is starting to become an increasingly normal feeling for me. 

As we were about to leave, and feeling defeated and pretty crappy about myself - Shane convinced me to just have a browse through the clearance section to see if I could find anything suitable. Having a sewing machine on hand is a blessing for last minute clothing alterations. I picked up a beautiful top in the straight sized section - size 18 - fitted, beautifully cut. So, naturally I was confused as to why all the size 18 clothes in the plus line were not fitted, twice as big and baggy? I put it back when I found a berry shade of strappy top from the Inspire section in the clearance pile. I instantly fell in love with it. Flowy, dressy yet casual and with the right accessories pretty perfect for my party attire. Shane also found me a gorgeous grey and black flannel shirt - also from the plus size range. Again this shirt was oversized - but I like oversized flannel so it was a winner in my books.

After trying the clothes on and happy with my choices, we made our way to the cash point to pay. We were convinced we had seen that berry strappy top in the plus size department at full price - but since there were several others of the same top priced at sale price in the clearance section - we decided to just go ahead and take it to the cashier. Low and behold, the top scanned at full price so I politely pointed it out to the cashier, who tried to inform me as she began removing the sticker, that someone must have stuck the lower price sticker on the tag. Since as I mentioned, there were several tops with the same price attached, you can imagine my dissatisfaction at being told this and I asked her if she could call a manager who was happy to offer me the item at the sale price displayed, which of course I was very grateful for. What she said next really is what prompted my little rant today and the reason I felt the need to write this post. The cashier basically told me something along the lines of "the top was on sale before at the lower price I had picked up, but went back up because of the department". I'll let you make your own conclusions about that one, but it really made me think. 

Are these stores happy to offer substandard fashion to plus sized ladies, because they know the demand is there for larger sizes within these brand names? 

I don't want this to come across as a post specifically singling out one particular brand or chain, because I find this is the case across the board with numerous stores! While in contrast, I find most "plus size" stores cater to straight sizes with little to no differentiation in styles or cut. So why as a plus sized woman, walking into a "plus size" department do I more times than not leave these stores feeling so inferior and disgusted with myself for wanting and failing to find something flattering to wear? Surely the intention alone of offering these lines would mean you intend to help larger women embrace their sizes, "inspire" them to "dress their curves" - not have the opposite effect?  I find most of these "plus" sized collections are simply lazy and uninspiring - catering to a need, not a desire to educate people on how to dress their bodies.

I know, I know - I could just "lose weight" or shop online from some of the incredible plus sized fashion sites, but I quite like the excitement of shopping in a store, trying things on and putting outfits together. It feels horrible to go shopping with my friends and not be able to compare clothes. As for the weight loss, I do intend to lose weight, but not because of the lack of flattering plus sized clothing - because I know in the long run it will benefit my health and I will do so at my own pace and in my own time. Do I not deserve to feel beautiful in what I am wearing until then or should I just continue to wear leggings and over-sized shirts because that is all that these stores will sell me?

I quit .. I'm better off taking fashion advice from Stitch

I don't want to end this post on a bad note. It has most definitely turned into a rant so I will end with my final thought on the matter. Don't rely on these stores and the power of subliminal merchandising to dictate what you can and cannot wear! That doesn't just go for plus sized lines, it goes for all shapes and sizes! Sure there are some things unflattering on a plus sized body much the same as there are styles unflattering on women with smaller frames and dress sizes. Everyone is different, everyone is unique and your body is YOURS to love however YOU choose to love it! What annoyed me most today is that someone lacking the sense of love or pride in their body that I feel in my broken, scarred and stretch marked body could potentially walk in there and leave feeling absolutely miserable about themselves. In this day and age we seem to beat ourselves up so much about what weight we should be that we forget to truly live. I see friends half my size TORTURE themselves about not living up to social norms when it comes to their weight. They want smaller boobs, bigger boobs, smaller waists, bigger hips - you name it. I have seen people close to me spend most of their lives consumed by fad diets, obsess over weight loss programs and set themselves unrealistic exercise challenges and yet when they reach their goals - still never find happiness. Hell I even went through it myself when I was younger! It wasn't until I had no control over what was happening to my body that I really began to appreciate it. 

Let me tell you one of my secrets that really has helped me accept who I am today. Happiness starts with YOU. The power to make positive changes in your life lies in your hands - no one else's and you need to learn to be accountable for that. The first step is learning to accept the amazing, unique potential each of us has deep down within us, and everything else will slot into place. 

Money, possessions, weight - none of them matter in the end. All that matters is that we lived our lives with a full, happy and healthy hearts (which may I add .. are generally speaking all the same size!)
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  1. I love this post Amy! This line stood out to me "In this day and age we seem to beat ourselves up so much about what weight we should be that we forget to truly live." You are beautiful and I love how confident you are in your body. It really truly is such a blessing to have people like you putting these stories out there for everyone to see and hear. There is most definitely a fundamental problem with much of society and their expectations of the female body. All I have to say is wow, and thank you for your down-to-earth posts like this. You are just so awesome! Keep up the hard work. Something needs to change in this world.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it and thank you for making it to the end! Haha

      But in all seriousness, it's a topic that has been driving me insane for months and it really all came to a head yesterday - I felt like it was just something I needed to vent about because I know it's not just an issue for plus size ladies - I had several people message me already saying they could relate being on the other end of the spectrum.

      It just makes me sad that in this day and age we have become our own source of anxiety and judgement and in most cases we can be our own worst critics.

      THANK YOU for always encouraging me and giving input on my posts and videos! I can safely say - I wouldn't be doing this without the support and motivation from people like you <3