Can real women find real clothes?


“Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets.” —Mignon McLaughlin, “The Neurotic’s Notebook”

The average height and weight of an American woman is 5 feet, 3 inches and 164 pounds.

Sounds about right. So, can someone explain why the jeans distributed within a 60-mile radius of my house are either size 0 low-rise, skinny or size 12 ultra flare, extra long?

And take it from someone who’s officially “below average,” it’s better to blow off the petite department. Judging by that section in the stores I’ve been in lately, the blueprints for constructing jeans for a “typical” petite woman must be printed with blue outline of Danny Devito.

If the length is right (which is unlikely) then the hips are too big. If the hips fit, then the waist sticks out 2 inches in the back. If the color’s right, the pockets sag halfway down to the knees. And if the inseam is good, the flare exactly mimics the base of two oak tree stumps.

I went shopping…is it obvious? I tried on nine pairs of jeans. I threw number nine across the dressing room and stopped for a candy bar on my way home. I was going home with something.

I decided to do some research on clothing sizes and not surprisingly found plenty of articles about the mysterious black hole of plus size women’s clothing. One LA Times article stated, “Even as Americans get larger, designers and retailers cling to the idea that style comes in one size: small.”

No, no, no! Small isn’t precise enough. What is “small”? I’ve been called small for the past 38 years because I’m shorter than the so-called average. But I guarantee, without a doubt, that I have just as hard a time finding jeans that fit me as a size 16 woman does.

So, fashion industry, I’m a small? And how about a 5-10, 120-pound woman? That’s pretty small. Or a 5-5, 115 pounder? Still pretty small. But different. The only body types that could fit into the “S” tags I saw today are Calista Flockhart in 1998 or a Jonas Brother.

It’s a frustrating dilemma. During my online rant/research session, the Levis website popped up. And they told me a wonderful thing, “Hotness comes in all shapes and sizes.” This is great news. I was excited to hear it. But as I stared at those words, the page suddenly faded into some very detailed (doctored, I’m sure) photos of impossibly perfect “back pockets.”

Does their cruelty know no limits?

No, I would find out soon enough, it does not.

I proceeded on with the recommended quiz* to find my perfect pair of jeans. The first thing I was asked to do was choose which of three body shapes shown was most like mine.

Oh, let’s see. Am I a tall skinny woman with slim hips and thighs, a tall skinny woman with even proportions or a tall skinny woman with a defined waste and fuller hips?

They forgot Option 4. So I mentally took 5 inches from their height, added 10 pounds to their weight, then clicked.

Question 2 was “choose my seat.” The choices were slim, proportional or curvy. (Close up profiles of the abdominal area were shown in the very commonly worn low rise boy-shorts and cropped white tanks—you know, stuff we all wear.)

Yep—feeling better with every click.

Next: hips. Straight, balanced or full?

Hmm…well, one of my doctors during my first pregnancy told me I had birthing hips. I was never sure I appreciated the honesty. But now I had a medical opinion to back up my selection. Thanks, Doc.

The last question was fair, but again, way too limited. Pick one of the following problems experienced when jeans fit in the hips and thighs: Is the waist too short? Does the waist fit but not flatter? Or does the waist gap in the back? A “yes, yes and yes” option was not given.

Alas, my best shape was chosen for me. The demi curve. I don’t really know what that means, but I feel so much better. And the option to view “women like me” in that style was especially comforting. And so true to life. Thanks to all the supermodels who posed in my recommended jeans style. I was very inspired without an ounce of bitterness.

Maybe you’ve never experienced a horrible day of shopping thanks to the dark side of fashion designers. If you haven’t, that’s really great for you. (Really, no hard feelings). But I’d bet another Snickers you have.

Don’t give up. I haven’t yet. I watch “What Not To Wear.” I know that the day someone hands me a $5,000 Visa card, I too will find the perfect pair of jeans for me.

* If you decide to try the online quiz I described above, I recommend a self-assessment of your hormonal balance and emotional screening beforehand.


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