I used to cut the labels out of my clothes. Not because they irritated me, not because I was ashamed about where I shopped, but because I was worried someone would spot a label when I threw my jacket over a chair or happened to leave it poking out of the top of my dress. I was so consumed by what was on that label that I let it impact me in so many ways, but mainly I spent years trying to fit into smaller clothes just because I thought that’s what I needed to do.
Memories of my teens and twenties are full of uncomfortable and ill-fitting clothing; rather than picking the size that actually fit me, or finding a style that worked with my shape, I insisted on shopping in Topshop like my slimmer friends and squeezing into garments that neither made me look or feel good.
What was that about?
One of the most liberating things about being in my thirties is the realisation that the size of my clothes really is the least interesting thing about me; nobody cares what number is in the back of my jeans, they just care whether or not I feel good in them. Once I stopped being restrained by numbers and started shopping to feel good, an unimaginable weight was lifted from my shoulders – like I was back in control and could enjoy all the comfort that went alongside throwing the size guide out of the window.
The problem with the high street (although a fundamental problem within the whole of the fashion industry,) is that there’s no apparent standard of sizing; they all make it up as they go along. You can be comfortably one size in one shop and two sizes larger in another – and even within one store find yourself flitting between three different categories. How can you put pressure on yourself to be a certain size, when the retailers can’t even make their mind up what that size should be?
A couple of years ago I bought a pleated midi skirt from Topshop and loved it so much that I went back and bought it in two other colours. All three were identical in size and design, the only noticeable difference being the shade of fabric; when I placed them next to eachother, having felt like I’d accidentally bought a smaller size in one, the difference between the three skirts was around two inches. TWO INCHES. All three were a size 16, but the difference between them was almost laughable. It’s no wonder women can find themselves feeling awful about having to size up when there’s absolutely no consistency.
My wardrobe spans a spectrum of five different sizes: from a UK 12 to a UK 20.
I’ve learned to ignore the label and go by visual cues when shopping in store, while online often sees me picking out a minimum of two sizes and often having to explore a third. In the era of Covid (who knew we would ever miss those horribly lit fitting rooms,) I’ve found myself opting for a size bigger more and more – knowing it’s far easier to add a belt or wear it oversized than it is to feel uncomfortably tight or faff about with getting a refund. And you know what? Despite where I started, I really don’t care.
I no longer let the label in my clothes define me or impact me in any way, and it’s allowed me to enjoy fashion in the way it’s intended: for helping me to look good, feel great and express myself every single day.
In a world where societal labels and old fashioned categories are pushed aside, maybe it’s about time we did the same for physical ones too.
SHOP THE LOOK
READ THIS: HOW TO SHOP ZARA IF YOU’RE CURVY