Friday, 14 February 2014

Contemplation: Self-Loathing and Elf Clothing

[Disclaimer: This post was drafted last week in the fall-out from what I can only describe in hindsight as ‘hormonally-influenced body dysmorphia’]. Meh. However, give me another three weeks and the emotions contained within this here post will have resonance again.


Come on, now, ladies (and gents, I’m not exclusive here), I can’t be the only person bemoaning the entire fashion industry, can I? (And by 'fashion industry' I do of course mean any high street outlet at which one can pick up a marl-grey t-shirt for under a fiver.)

{via here}

…Let me put my rather disjointed opening rant in context.

I’m 5’3. (And a half.)

I’m OK with that. My legs stopped growing when I was about 11 so between junior school and secondary school I went from being one of the taller girls in my class to being on the shorter side of average. (The rest of me stopped growing upwards around the same time.)

For the last twenty-five years, my growth has involved a moderate expansion outwards, with one or two blips along the way. At my thinnest as an adult (and on the brink of being at my unhappiest, I should mention) at 25/26, I looked like this:

{looking spesh, at my best friend's wedding, July 2004}

The last time I stepped on a set of scales was well over a year ago, maybe longer, when I was training for the 2012 MoonWalk and my BMI didn’t compute (it was muscle mass, I tell you; MUSCLE MASS!).

{via here}

The last time I looked at a fashion or gossip magazine was much longer ago than that.

At some point after hitting the big 3-0 I made the decision to step away from these gauges. I was never going to be content with the body I have if I was constantly being reminded by the glossy synthetic media that some pop singer is down to a size 6, weighs only 7 stone and is surviving on jars of baby food and cigarettes following her divorce from some philandering sports icon. (I’m being deliberately non-specific and skirting delicately around libel, my friends.) Or some actress renowned for her ‘bravery’ in – ooh, shocker – sporting curves is sooooo much tinier in the flesh. As if this is the only way to be. As if the message is that you might look curvy on screen but it’s OK because you’re a waif in real life ergo you are an attractive person.

Some perspective, please! What’s with this malignant obsession with being the teeniest we can be? It’s not a contest. Or, it shouldn’t be.

Some years ago now, I got on my high horse (because short-legged folk need high horses, innit?) and wrote into the now-defunct freesheet, The London Paper. My letter was in response to a column written by a model who was complaining about 'real' women (as in "non-models", as in, the rest of us) seeping into the modelling industry via campaigns such as those run by Dove, and essentially putting her out of work.

"OK, so you're not Heidi Klum..."
{screengrab from Sex and the City, Season 4, Ep 2, The Real Me}

Here's the original article, dredged from my very own archive:

And this was my response, marked, you'll note, with my usual excessive verbosity and just a teensy undercurrent of defensive bitterness:

{Letter of the Day, you'll note. I thank you.}

Now, don't get me wrong. To quote Carrie Bradshaw, because sometimes I must, "I'm not a model. I'm one of the real people".


I still get angry when the magazines I do read (mostly for the home sections these days) make certain comments about women’s figures, congratulating the svelte and the slender as if the fact that they exist in a body at all is some divine mystery in itself, such is their ethereal transcendence.

And I still get angry when I go clothes shopping because apparently, apparently, in the world of ‘fashion’ and again by ‘fashion’ I mean ‘high street’ because I’m a fairly low-maintenance individual on a salary commensurate with a creative career, I’m persona non grata.

After a traumatic ten minutes in a changing room last weekend, I deduced that apparently there are no clothes suitable for women like me. Nup. Nothing for those of us at a shorter-than-average 5’3 (and a half), with – heaven forbid – a waist (or something resembling one). There is nothing for those of us whose legs are dis/proportionately short. A certain low-budget high street fashion outlet (whose name rhymes with Lime Nark) does not appear to stock jeans with legs shorter than 30 inches (I measured mine with a tape measure – they’re about 28 inches long short).

The current UK sizing system, also, does us no favours. I’m somewhere between a 9 and an 11. And yes I’m aware those sizes don’t exist in this country. Apparently neither do I in the eyes of most mainstream (low-budget) clothing shops and in each of those shops my size varies anyway. I do not deserve to wear clothes. I should just get me a potato sack and rock out in that. (It might itch a bit but that’s OK. Apparently I don’t warrant comfort.)

{Dangnabbit, Marilyn, disprove my point, why don't ya? via here}

Which brings me to my next bone of contention: fabric.

Unless you have the financial means to buy everything in the purest silks, linens and cottons, you are restricted to a delectable offering of acrylic, polyester and viscose.

{via Pinterest}

And it seems bar one or two exceptions everything on the high street is made of freakin’ polyester, acrylic and viscose. Much of my ‘clothes-shopping’ experience last week involved me turning up garments, checking the labels, growling and turning them down again. 95% polyester, 5% acrylic.

Which is, sadly, why it’s possible to buy a blouse at Lime Nark for c£14. Natural fabrics are as taboo as jeans for Women with Short Legs.

See, here’s the thing: I can step into a changing room feeling OK about myself. I concede that I could tone up a bit. (Into the pool I go.)

(I could also save enough money to shop elsewhere. Now, there’s a radical thought.)

And ten minutes later I can step out full of self-loathing. And with skin prickling with excessive static from all the freakin’ polyester. What happens in those ten minutes to turn a (fairly) rational female into a vehicle of self-hatred?

OK, I’ll admit, PMT weighs in heavily here. PMT, killer of all rationale and self-confidence.

{Behold! A gratuitous yet wondrous IT Crowd clip for your viewing pleasure.}

I’m sure there’s some advice out there telling aforementioned rational women not to shop for clothes whilst Under the Influence of PMT (and I apologise if this is TMI but that’s JTWII*, I’m just KIR here**).

According to a recent advert featuring one of TV’s most acclaimed advocates of self-love through self-acceptance***, negative body image expressed during clothes-shopping can, apparently, be quickly and effectively quelled by eating a yogurt full of good bacteria.



It’s my belief that negative body image can only truly be quelled if we aren’t forced to try on clothes that we thought might fit but don’t because we're rocking flesh over our bones (how very dare we...), whilst trying to glimpse our sorry, short-a*sed selves in a tiny, warped mirror under cheap, flickering strip-lighting, whilst under the influence of hormonal surges, whilst -- to add insult to injury -- listening to the poorly auto-tuned vocal stylings of that teeny-tiny pop star I mentioned earlier. Whoever she may be. 

Next time, I'm buying online and dressing in the dark. 'K?

*Just The Way It Is. 
**Keeping It Real 
***His name rhymes with Rock Pan. Sort of. And the message of the advert is not necessarily his fault. Dude's gotta make a living.

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