I have just spent a depressing day shopping for clothes. Trouble is it seems you can only get clothes to fit these days if you are so small you can live in a matchbox. Take Primark. Or rather, don’t, unless you’re an anorexic six-year-old. What is going on there? Its target audience seems to be enormous women, who routinely push you off the escalator when they breathe out, but the shop is filled with rails of clothes that will only fit a shrunken Barbie doll. Where do all these big women go? Is there a secret room in every Primark that I don’t know about? Is there an initiation rite I haven’t fulfilled? Do I have to have a loyalty card with McDonalds?
Primark, though, isn’t the only shop that sells optimistically sized clothes. A friend of mine who told an assistant in Gap that she was size 16, was told, ‘I’ll go and have a look out the back where we keep some extra large things.’
H&M, which I have to say is brilliant for kids, and has a great section for teenage girls, seems to have completely lost the plot when it comes to adult women. I am a size 14, but I couldn’t get into a pair of their size 18 trousers without an industrial sized shoe-horn and a hoist (and forget about doing up the zip, that’s what big jumpers are for).
And it’s not just getting something round you that doesn’t make you look as though you’re bulging out of a string bag, its getting something that’s long enough. I don’t want to buy a jumper where I can’t raise my arms without it riding up to my armpits. I don’t want to sit in a train with strangers and realise after half an hour that my new woolly has snapped back to being three inches long, and has now not only exposed my rather tubby midriff, but has pulled my shirt up with it (thereby exposing the straining safety pin in my H&M trousers). I’m 5’8” by the way, not 7’ 2”.
While we’re on the subject of woollies, can I just ask, what is going on with cardigans at the moment? Why do most of them have no buttons? How do you keep warm in a cardi that you can’t do up? I thought we were supposed to be turning the heating down to save the planet, not turning it up to warm our frontal systems.
I do, however, have a possible answer for all of this. A friend of mine, who used to be a buyer for a well-known chain, told me that when a new line of clothes is being made up, the company chooses women of every size, and uses their measurements as a template to make up the clothes. Sensible, huh? Only trouble was, when the company decided to outsource their work to China and sent the sizes to the factory there, the Chinese refused to believe that any women could be this shape. They assumed that there had been some kind of mistake and made up the clothes to fit local women instead. No wonder it’s cheaper to send work to these factories – they only use half the cloth.
Unfortunately, I am not a small oriental person. I wouldn’t say size 14 was gigantic, but I’m beginning to feel distinct fellow feelings with that colossal girl in the film Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. No wonder women burst into tears when good old Gok finds them a dress to wear. I’d burst into tears if he got me a jumper that fitted.
I did get one crumb of comfort, though, yesterday – I saw a shop mannequin in Zara wearing a clinging dress that made even her look four months pregnant.
There is a lot of talk at the moment about the decline of the High Street. Is it any wonder that customer numbers are falling, if people can’t find anything that fits them? And if normal women are made to feel so outsize, it should be no surprise to anyone that we are taking in droves to the internet. I found just the jumper I wanted this morning, from a factory in Ireland, and they classed me as small! I was so amazed I had to ask for confirmation.
Don’t get me wrong, I like shopping. I like city centres. I like the idea of travelling hopefully. I just don’t like the idea of having to conform to what the shop wants, instead of them setting out to give me what I want. Is realistic sizing too much to ask for?
In the end, though, I know that there is one sure thing that will cheer me up. And I’m not talking about buying socks or a chocolate muffin. After I’ve been into every shop, taken off my clothes, tried something on that doesn’t fit, or just makes me look silly, called uselessly for the assistant, put my clothes back on, and trudged gloomily once more into the rain, there is one thing I look forward to – shopping for some nice stationery. Although I have to say, my new Muji notebook doesn’t actually fit inside my handbag.