A few days ago, I finally accepted the fact that my favourite pair of jeans had finally reached the end of their long, and much-loved life. They have brought me much joy and comfort over the time that I have had them, and after being worn almost constantly for months if not a year, it is finally time to send them to the denim heaven in the sky.
I hate shopping at the best of times, honestly… Even when I was skinny and like a size 8, I hated it, so now, being at the biggest that I have ever been thanks to poor health, a still bloated stomach from the operations a year ago and an inability to exercise, I have been battling with the self loathing that comes from looking like I do.
This in turn is not helped by the fact that certain members of soon to be family often comment on the weight that I have gained along the way, and have a house filled with photographs of me and Harry when we first met and I was skinny. I still had rocking tits and an ass J-Lo would write songs about, but I also had a flat stomach, could see my collar bones, I had that thigh gap which seems to be a thing of mystery and more importantly… no matter which angle I sat at, I only had 1 chin.
Anyway, I tell myself every day that I will get skinny, and I even got myself an exercise bike. I’ll do 45 minutes on it, convinced that it’ll make everything better, I then of course spend the next couple of hours needing a nap, because my body really can’t cope with exertion these days. But, if I didn’t do those 45 minutes, I convince myself that they’ll have to take a wall off the front of my house to get me out.
So, there I was, on my way to Debenhams, they’ve got a sale on and I’ve got vouchers. It was a match made in heaven. Or so I thought.
The jeans I went in wearing, were a size 16 from Next. These were way too big, and fell down, my mum is constantly telling me to pull my jeans up or get a belt. A couple of days ago I also managed to get back in to a pair of black skinny jeans that are a small 14. Obviously this left me feeling amazing, and Harry being the amazing husband to be and generally all round nice guy noticed (without prompting I might add) that I had gotten in to what I had (what I thought was secretly) been considering as my first pair of goal jeans and was looking good. You know the pair I’m on about – we all have them ladies. Those jeans that make your legs look long, and your ass look fantastic and make you feel fucking fabulous and even make you walk with a wiggle. I have a few pairs if I am being honest. All in different sizes, starting with these black ones and working my way back down to a pair I had at the start of mine and Harry’s relationship. Those jeans, the ULTIMATE goal jeans, are the ones that look like you’ve been poured in to them. They used to make me feel like I was the hottest fucking woman who ever lived. I would pair them with a white tank top and I felt a million dollars, like nothing could touch me. But until the day comes where I can once again get myself in to them, I have a few other pairs to work through. I am 1 pair down. Just a couple to go.
I still had all of this in mind when I entered Debenhams today. My mum was off work so she joined me. So we went in and I went to the sale rail, because who doesn’t always look for a bargain first?
We went through and I didn’t really see any I liked so I moved over to another section and I found some Red Herring ones. I looked at the sizes for a second and my mum even said “Why don’t you get a 14? You’re swelling has gone down and you look slimmer and those you’ve got on are way too big” I agreed and again had a little smile on my face. She was right, these jeans were falling down and I had gotten my arse in to the other ones, and they were comfortable… I went to dinner in them, it wasn’t like when you put them on, but you dare not sit or bend otherwise the button will pop off or you’ll rip up the back. No, I had eaten a 3 course dinner in them and they were still comfortable.
So I picked up a 14 in that style and in another couple, and we made our way to the dressing room. I kicked off my shoes and I took my jeans off without unbuttoning them… you know, they just fall straight down with a little wiggle.
I avoided looking at myself in the mirror as I can’t stand it, and I took he first pair of 14’s off the hanger…
As I held them there they suddenly seemed to have shrunk. I thought it was my mind playing a cruel trick on me, so I continued to put them on…
“MOTHERFUCKER!” I thought it myself. I wasn’t getting a leg in them, let alone my thunder thighs, arse and belly. I looked at the other 14’s I had picked up… They were the same. So I asked my mum to get me the 16. She came back, I put them on. This time my thighs and arse went in, but I couldn’t do them up. They looked great apart from that. So I opened the door, my shirt covering the front and showed my mum. “They look great! You look great” (She’s not one to bullshit or tell me I look thin if I really look like the back-end of the bus) Then she saw my face… “What?” She asked. That’s when I did it. I lifted my shirt to show her that I couldn’t do them up. Her and the changing room attendant looked gob smacked. They wanted to know if I had got the right size and I said “yeah, they are a 16.” Mum went back and she got me a 18 and a 20.
When she first handed them to me I went in to the changing room and I immediately burst in to tears. I couldn’t cope. I know that I am not as fat as some people and a lot of my weight gain is out of my control. But I always took for granted being slim, especially being slim without having to work out or watch what I ate, and now, here I was in a changing room trying to squeeze my arse in to size 18 and 20 jeans.
I plumped for the 20 first. I’d heard on TV, maybe from Gok Wan or someone who if you want to feel better get a size bigger than you think you are, and then it’ll be too big and then you get in to the smaller one and you then feel great!
Let me tell you something… that is a crock of complete shit and it doesn’t work. The 20’s were too big. I’m not going to cheer and be happy about this… So I put on the 18s. They fit, they were comfortable, perhaps a little big, but they were the better fit, at least I could do them up.
Tears were still rolling down my cheeks, I wasn’t hysterically crying, it was just tears of annoyance and anger and frustration. I took off the new jeans and chucked them on to the floor next to the old pair I was trying to replace. That is when I noticed something horrifying. So horrifying in fact that I had to test my theory and take a picture (below) and write this blog.
The light blue jeans, on the bottom, are my old pair. They are size 16 from Next. (Absolutely amazing jeans and I would recommend all the girls I know get their jeans from Next. A little more expensive, but they last, are comfy and the sizes are true.)
The dark blue jeans on the top, are the pair I have just bought. They are a size 18. Both are ‘regular’ – so not tall or short. Just normal.
The thing that absolute disgusted me, and made me even sadder and madder. The light blue ones are an inch, if not a little bit more, (the picture doesn’t give great perspective) BIGGER, even though they are technically a dress size SMALLER!!
I was so mad I called my mum and the changing room lady in, (whilst I stood there in my very fashionable Batman pants) to show them. They too were shocked about what I was showing them and they even asked if I had the correct size. But it says, clear as day, several times on the label of the dark blue ones 18R, and the light blue 16R.
Why is this so bad I can hear some (mostly men, sorry to generalise) ask?? Well, growing up I have always known that different shops do their sizes slightly different, so were as a guy is a 32R, he will be the same in every shop, whereas for us women that might change a little. But what I was not expecting was for shops and designers to now decide what size a woman should be.
We are being told that as people we are becoming fatter and that the average size of clothes that people are buying is rising. But I am calling bullshit on this. People might be bigger slightly, but actually, we aren’t changing nearly as much as the cloths sizes are.
I can comment first hand the psychological stress and damage it can do to a person, especially a person who is already insecure and concerned about their size. I had entered Debenhams with a bit of a chipper feeling, thinking I was about to buy the smallest pair of jeans I’d bought in a year, only to leave with a pair, in the biggest size that I have ever owned or worn.
How can 2 companies have dress sizes for the same item of clothes, being so drastically different.
These companies have got to start answering questions about their part in body and health issues that affect millions of women and girls across the world. These companies and designers need to take ownership of the part they play in creating unrealistic body standards for women. Growing up I seemed to be the only girl I knew, and I knew a lot seeing as I went to an all girls secondary school, who wasn’t obsessed with how I looked and getting thinner, and the fact that maybe my thighs touched and all that shit.
Ok, maybe it was because I was lucky, and I was slim and was happy with my body, or maybe it was because my mum never made me think that how I was wasn’t good enough or that people would want me to look a certain way to be attractive or accepted.
Maybe it was because I was blessed with big boobs, but if I’m honest it wasn’t until I was in college at about 16/17 years old when guys really started to pay attention to me and “fancying me.”
People blame magazines and celebrities, and they are partly to blame, but designers and companies can make a stand. They are really the people who could control it all. They could all gather together, and standardise the sizes, much like mens shops and designers do. Never before have I met a man who has been reduced to tears in a changing room because he was a 32 in one shop and a 36 in another.
Why are women constantly being victimised for their bodies. Women are always being told that men like curvy and fuller figured would, and that you should love your body no matter what.
Size might be just a number, but if that is so, why are people judged for being a size 18 instead of an 8? Why was I reduced to tears, and shame when I tried on a pair of jeans in a size that I’d never been before? Especially when it turns out that those jeans, are smaller than the ones I had already, but were actually labelled as bigger?
I suppose the lesson here is that you should ignore the labels and just wear what you like and what makes you feel and look good. But when shops are slowly stopping selling clothes over a certain size, all whilst making their dress sizes smaller, where does this leave us bigger girls? More and more girls are starting to believe that their perfectly formed bodies are now too big and too fat. That their thighs are too big because the might touch, or because she might be slightly thicker set than her friends?
When one season she can be a size 12, but a season later she is a size 14 without having actually gained any weight. She will think she has gone up a dress size but in reality the designers have just cut a few inches off the material, she will start to think she is getting fatter and she will diet needlessly, just to be the size she thinks she used to be. Can you not see how this is damaging and wrong?
Where does it end? Someone please tell me.
I like to think that I am a level-headed kind of woman when it comes to appearance and accepting my body for how it is, but after the experience in the dressing room, of finding out that the jeans I was buying are 2 sizes “bigger” than I actually am in other shops, I was destroyed.
On Saturday I went shopping with my bridesmaids to find and buy their dresses for the wedding, I already knew that I am bigger than all of them (probably combined) at the moment, and I was ok with that before. I knew that it wasn’t my own fault and that I wasn’t really that bad, and it was all just about toning up and losing a bit, because my body has been out of my control for some time. But after the shopping experience at Debenhams, where I was ashamed of myself, I found myself not enjoying the experience.
Buying my wedding dress had already been a traumatic experience and I had gotten over that, and was happy again. Well maybe not happy, but I was accepting. “This isn’t really you Emma, this is because you’re unwell.” I would get back to my old self.
But after this experience with my jeans I wasn’t looking forward to shopping with my girls. They are all stunning and I love them dearly but I started to get an anxious. I started to think “They are going to look so stunning in their bridesmaid dresses and I am going to look like a whale between them.
I had a little wobble and Beth (one of my bridesmaids) told me “You’re beautiful Em, and I’m not just saying it. You aren’t as big as you think you are.”
Part of me thinks she is just being nice and part of me, the sensible bit of me thinks “She’s right” because I know that I do fit in to the jeans I have here, that are size 14 and a small 14 at that, but I can’t get over the fact that I now own and am wearing a size 18 years.
All of the work I have done to try to keep my weight down and to keep my mind and thoughts positive. It isn’t easy to look in the mirror and see a person you don’t recognise. It’s not easy to believe that the man of your dreams means it when he says you are as beautiful now as you were when he first met you. Especially when you can look back at pictures of how slim you were.
It isn’t easy when you want to exercise but your body won’t let you. But through all of it I have tried to stay focused and happy and not let the numbers in my clothes define who I am or how I feel about myself. Yet it has all been blown out of the water by this and those fucking jeans.
I cannot even begin to imagine the damage that this kind of thing could cause to girls and women who aren’t maybe as robust or at peace with their bodies. Companies and designers need to really start stepping up and taking some ownership of what they are doing to generations of women. It is time that women got a standardised size, much like men do, from shop to shop. And that women didn’t have to deal with the shame or embarrassment of the number in the back of their clothes.
I will start ignoring those numbers myself and I will go back to wearing what fits and what makes me happy, and working as hard as I can to be back to the woman I remember.