Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Are There Clothes on Mars?

Here's a topic I think about a lot, so it should be easier to write about, but I think I am overwhelmed by its universality - by that I'm not just making a Martian joke but also referring to the sad fact that other women I know (and consider gorgeous) have confessed to some of the same thoughts.

Here goes - I feel (or should I say, "I think"? - my brother Tim always corrected feel for think in his student's papers...although the older I get and the more therapy I have, the more I think/feel the words are interchangeable) that I have been imprisoned in a Martian body for lo, these many years

I was a chubby little girl...a skinny teen...a young adult of varying sizes...and in middle age still struggling to find my proper size. At some point I started theorizing to myself and anyone who would listen (a small subset of people) that I may not have a human body. It seems to defeat the odds that I was never a proper 6, 8, 10, 12 or 5, 7, 9, 11. "Odd" is a good word here - surely it is odd that I never hit any proper size, at any of my varying weights.

Catalogue and online retailers list their size charts, but when I plot my body measurements they are always at least 3 separate sizes on the charts and there are no instructions on how to approximate this into one clothing size. Part of the explanation is my inheritance of what my cousins call the Schmidt buttocks, pronounced "buh" as in butter (for good reason) with a very crisp "tocks!" at the end. Adding to the Schmidt buttocks (which remain even when the rest of the body is flat or starved, such as when I weighed 97 pounds, my near-anorexic phase) is the fact that I developed a bust very late in life, probably due to emotional stress in my teenage years (kind of a vicious teenage circle, since having no bust created more emotional distress), which accounts for an odd conglomeration of body parts for a certain time period, but I am now past my mid 40s and can't remember any segment of existence (shopping existence, which is surely the same as regular human existence) during which I was a legitimate size. In my anorexic teen phase I was a 4 or 5 - too big for a 4, too small for a 6, but 5's didn't fit either. In my slim adult years I was just below an 8 (that didn't last long...a couple of French fry sides with meals and I was back into size-8 land), then I hovered above 8 for a while (although various parts of pants and skirts still did not fit well), verging toward a 10 when I got bloated, and as soon as I gained even a few pounds I was a lumpy 10...and now I am more of a 12, but a "dryer 12" - meaning, when an item is clean and out of the dryer, size 12 fits me OK, but as soon as I put it on and it starts to stretch even a bit, it is too big. Yet...when I try on, or wash and wear, size 10s, they are definitely too small.

Would I fit in better, would things fit me better, on Mars? Do they actually wear clothing on Mars? It's too bad that the U.S. Mars Probe did not have these questions on its mission plan.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that cheaper clothing manufacturers (maybe almost all clothing manufacturers) don't use consistent sizing - so that you can never be sure that things of a certain size will fit you.

Some people assume I am a Petite, maybe because I'm short and have a high voice...? It's true that my shoulders are petite, but the proportions of my bust/hips/crotch are not. I hate to use the C word, but Petite clothing makes me feel pulled tightly into the center without room to breathe...apparently there are not enough parts of me that are Petite.

Given varying sizes, even within a brand (different Kohl's sizes, J Jill sizes, Land's End sizes...you know, all the luxury brands). I remain amazed that my body has never morphed toward a standard size at any point in its growth. But maybe, probably, I was a perfect Land's End t-shirt size 10 for a few days...during which time I didn't happen to wear t-shirts...and then let's say I gained a few ounces, which put me into a different size, but I was still wearing things other than Land's End t-shirts...and by the time I put them on, maybe a week later, they were getting snug across the something (bust, shoulders, or pulling up at the waist). See how this works?, or doesn't work?

So to theorize and throw in a sloppy metaphor, there is a very short window during which I am a standard size, but that standard is different for different designers of different brands...so the whole thing is a crap shoot, with terrible odds.

If you plotted on a graph the changing size of my body parts, and the sizes of apparel on the market, there would be no intersection. Although, if I tried on every item in my closet, every day...stood up straight and put my shoulders back...and objectively assessed the fit (as if any woman can objectively assess her image in a mirror), I guess it's possible that I could catch the brief moments in which my clothes truly fit me. But my gosh, is that any kind of a life?

In my attempt to cope on Planet Earth, I continue buying bigger sizes of clothes, which are often baggy although sometimes still constrictive, and to hold onto the older smaller-size items I hope to get back into. Probably I should consider the problem in reverse...if I gain easily, rapidly passing a size, on my way back down weight-wise I should pass the size again. (But even as I typed that last sentence, I did not believe it.)

There is hope for the future - sometimes I have glimmers that I have evolved (sunk?) to a point where I am more interested in fabric colors and jewelry than clothing fit, and thus can somewhat tune out my silhouette while finding esoteric pleasure in dressing (color combinations, jewelry design, etc.). But the key word is, sometimes.


Natalia said...

First - let me say that you are not alone... I often wonder what the manufacturers are smoking when they decide to set sizes.

Probably the only clothes on Mars are torn tee shirts and boxer shorts - women are from Venus afterall... and there we would all have tailors to custom fit us so that the clothes we wear would ALWAYS fit properly and be flattering.

As always I love your prose.

SarahBowie said...

You are so right! Venus should be moved to the top of the list for planetary expeditions.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Sarah! Keep up the fine writing!