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Too Fat For Fashion: One, Two, Three Is Sesame Street
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One, Two, Three Is Sesame Street

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned: the beauty of the blogosphere (aside, obviously, from the word "blog" which I like to use as often as possible in the hopes that somehow, somewhere, Anna Wintour will cry out in pain and she won't know why) is that you can update round the clock, bringing readers the fashion news even before it has happened.

Yet here we are and I think the last update from your Euro correspondent was way back in the mists of time...when Rachel Zoe still had representation, when Professor McGonagall still had hopes that Albus would one day see what lay beneath her stern robes, when it wasn't so flipping cold.

Mea culpa. However please accept a number of delays between now and December as I struggle to complete my magnum opus on teen television. I hope to cast aside such worthy issues as "does Dan Scott from One Tree Hill use hair straighteners?" and "isn't Canada too cold for people to frolic al fresco like I'm seeing on Falcon Beach?" every now and then to bring you various fashion tidbits from across the pond.

Penelope Cruz for Spanish fashion label Mango

Like today's subject, inspired by a piece from The Independent, all about the Spanish fashion industry and standardised sizing on clothes:

Following years of complaints from frustrated consumers, the Spanish government has acted to bring order to the chaotic disparity of clothes sizes. The socialist health ministry, which has responsibility for consumer affairs, has struck an unprecedented deal with big Spanish retailers, manufacturers and trade associations to standardise clothes sizes and end consumer confusion.


Last month technicians from Spain's health ministry visited the first of 59 towns across the country to measure 10,415 Spanish women, aged between 12 and 70, to find out what size and shape the nation's females really are.


The aim is to promote "a realisable image of healthy beauty – neither Rubens women nor anorexic girls", according to the health minister, Bernat Soria. "It is our commitment that beauty and health go hand in hand."

The article goes on to note that the standardised system will also include promises from retailers to size up their window mannequins to at least a UK 10 (US 6), and to incorporate size UK 18 (US 14) into all ranges rather than treating it as a 'special' size and hiding it away.

It might sound like only a tentative move towards body acceptance, but UK 18 is one size larger than Topshop and many other uber-fashionable high street brands. Short of a bloody revolution and overthrowing the ateliers, or something, I think moves like this -- one step, or size, at a time -- are the way we're going to get progress in the industry.

The thrust of the article is less about the irritants of being one size in one store and another in another (annoying though that is, you eventually get to know your Size Per Store), and more about the negative effects differing sizes can have on body image. I can't speak for every Brit, but one of the delights of shopping in the US for us is -- aside from the strong pound and everything being totally cheaper anyway -- going down two sizes. Sometimes we'll buy stuff just to waft around and be all "I'm size 8!"

It's less fun shopping in continental Europe and coming out with a size 44 or whatever (not least because I really don't understand what that is). I have to assume that it's something metric that makes no sense compared to our thoroughly simple system of sizing things in pints, guineas and shillings.

Hastily constructed and not necessarily accurate size converter.

It's just too much. Like why do France and Spain go from a 46 to 50 in one sizing step? Just to be difficult and, y'know, French? What's with Japan going for the odd numbers? If S starts that low, do plus sizes end up being called XXXXXXXXL? Because that will look silly on the label and make nobody happy. And don't even get me started on Gap doing that annoying Sizes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. Size 3 isn't a size! Soylent Green is people!

I'm actually wearing right now: a Gap vest, Size S/P (?!), a Primark cardigan, Size 8-10 ( between sizes?), and Stella McCartney for Adidas track pants, Size 12 (the only label that gives a conversion to all other sizes, except, weirdly, the US).* Number-number style sizing I can cope with, up to a point, for stuff like cardigans or whatever -- if they're not meant to be fitted, I guess a random one-size-fits-several attitude is acceptable. Plus it's Primark. BUT 'S/P' IS NOT A SIZE.

*I'm at home and it's cold and I'm poorly! Please don't judge me on this mishmash.

Am I alone? Do y'all find yourself wandering around stores just utterly perplexed and guesstimating the size? Feeling crappy when you go up two or four numbers? I do think that using numbers or graded size words plays into this: would one strive for a size zero if it were called something else? And as pointed out above, if you start sizing S at a UK 10, you pretty quickly run out of options except to just keep adding Xs in the manner of the stalkery love notes I write to Bryan Greenberg until he gets a restraining order, um, you can't fit any more on the label.

I personally think the fashion industry needs to steal a leaf from the food industry's book (perhaps playing speedknob on it, and writing 'I smell' for good measure, then flicking its pigtails), and, following Spain's lead, standardise the lot. Perhaps not worldwide, but cutting a swathe across continents so you can flit between, say, London, Paris and Milan buying up a storm without having to carry a calculator. As each country's population has changed a great deal, and differently, measuring 10,000+ women seems a good place to start in drawing up the new sizing.

(If they can also make bra manufacturers stick to the same sizing chart, I and my boobs would say a hearty thank you also.)

Then when they're done measuring and cutting and sticking and drawing and deciding, (you know, the all powerful 'they'), a system that doesn't involve ever increasing numbers or judgey words would be super. I'd far rather be a size green or a size fabulous than a size 12 anyway. How great would that be? Not only are you the same size in every store, but it's a positive (if totally random) word, that bears no relation to any other size words. So instead of having people sniffle that they're now a size delicious and need to diet back down to size effervescent, they..wouldn't.


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