If you’re a semi-frequent Facebook user, you may have seen this post floating around recently. It features a photo of two pairs of shorts, one on top of the other. The smaller shorts, the black ones, are a size 4 that she purchased two years ago; the larger shorts are a size 10 that she recently purchased. There’s a noticeable size difference between the two, but not much of one. The larger shorts are maybe an inch or so longer and the leg hole offers a negligible amount of additional space. The woman explains how upset she was over having to go from a size 4 to a size 10 until she realized that it’s not her size that changed but rather the size of the clothing.
Yesterday, my mom took my daughter and I shopping to get my daughter some shorts for the summer. Because our plans also included a stop at Sephora to get her some eyeliner, the first store we went to was JCP. Now, I’m not a conservative parent by any stretch of the imagination, but I do draw the line at paying money for clothing that’s not even going to cover my child’s ass. So we went right past the rack of teeny-tiny borderline-underwear shorts to some that were a bit longer. I let her pick some out and she chose some denim Bermuda shorts (brand: Arizona Jeans) in a dark blue. Knowing that sizes mean absolutely nothing in junior’s and women’s clothing, I just took a guess based on how they looked and grabbed a 5 and a 7. The 5 fit her but the size 7 shorts gave her a little bit more room to move so she picked those.
Next we went to Old Navy and found some cute cuffed denim shorts. The best thing about Old Navy’s sizing is that they include the length of the shorts so you can avoid the aforementioned teeny-tiny style. (I’ll be so glad when wearing shorts that crawl up your ass are no longer in style. It’s not even a body-shaming thing, it just doesn’t look comfortable. Plus I’ve noticed that some of the girls are caught between wanting to wear whatever’s trendy but also being in that stage where they’re not comfortable wearing anything so revealing as they’re still adjusting to their changing bodies. But that’s another discussion.) Anyway, she tried three different styles in Old Navy and needed a different size in each style which is just…odd. I mean it’s bad enough that sizes differ so much from one brand to another, but to be different from style to style withing the same brand makes it worse. After all of that, she ended up with a 3.5″ length pair of shorts in a size 0.
We also went to a consignment shop and a thrift store. Among those purchases were a pair of black khaki shorts from Hurley. The size? A nine.
Now I know vanity sizing was a thing for a while, encouraging women to buy a certain brand because they wore smaller sizes in that brand. But doesn’t it seem like it’s going the opposite direction now, like clothing companies are using larger sizes to make women and girls feel like they should be shooting for the smaller sizes by making last year’s size 4 this year’s size 8? As if young women and teen girls aren’t already getting all sorts of messages about what size they should be, how long their hair needs to be, how perfect their skin and teeth must be. And it’s hard to shield them from that, especially when it’s everywhere they go online. *glares at Instagram* But that’s our job as mothers, isn’t it? Not so much to shield them from it as in keep them from seeing those posts and those ads, but shielding them from the harmful message that their worth is based on what they look like. We have to teach them to love how they look, whether they are petite or plus-sized (or both, speaking as a short, round girl myself.)
Luckily, my daughter’s shopping experience this week showed her that you can’t trust those numbers stitched into the waistband of shorts and skinny jeans. Those numbers mean nothing and they definitely shouldn’t define how you feel about yourself.