I have not become entirely deluded – I don’t think I’m the same age as a young girl twirling in a gazebo with a blond boy who, as it turned out, was a member of the Nazi Youth. Apart from anything else, I have only two brothers, and therefore I’m miles away from the required number of siblings for a successful musical routine.
What I do have, however, is this printed dress in a size 16. I hear you ask – Megan, it appears you are not a size 16, so why do you wear a dress that is a size 16? Is this a blog post about the powers and perils of Photoshop?
First of all, I clearly do not have any Photoshop skills, and if I did I wouldn’t be using them on this blog, but would instead be Photoshopping pictures of my friends into various scenes, in order to create a series of slightly weird but definitely hilarious Christmas cards.
I loved the print on this dress – the size of the print, the colour of the background fabric, the impenetrable geometrical shapes – but when I tried it on originally, in my size, it was horrendous. It was almost too tight across my legs and shoulders, with a strange paunch effect through the middle – I would have needed to be several months pregnant for it to suit. It seemed a bit much to become “with child” in order to wear a dress. I can almost guarantee that if the hand of God ever reaches down and, for reasons unknown, chooses me as His next vessel, I will immediately gain a billion kilos as I “eat for two” and “rest for the baby”. So the dress would never fit me anyway.
That’s where I failed. I didn’t look at the dress, at its shape or cut, and think about it. I just shrugged my shoulders, put back the dress, and went on my way with my childless womb.
Months went by and from time to time I would see the dress in the shop where it lived, and I would think about trying it on again, but I knew nothing had changed between us, that our differences were too difficult to overcome.
Finally, the day came where I discovered the dress had been reduced. Other women, with different bodies, who the dress had favoured, had bought all but this one. And on that day – I finally saw the dress not as the Requirer of Baby but for what it was – a sack, without shoulder seams, but with a useful seam that runs around the base to create a flippy skirt effect. I had broken my cardinal rule – I had looked at the size on the label, instead of at the proportions and construction of the garment.
I’ve touched on the idea of fit over size before, but this example, while not perfect, demonstrates better than any size 10 blouse could that what matters is two things: how a garment is put together, and how you wear it:
· In the absence of shoulder seams there is no obvious marker of fit at eye-height. Without a shoulder seam hanging an inch or two down my arm, the illusion is unbroken.
· There’s no waist line – because I am short, often my biggest problem is that the waist band on dresses (and some tops) is in the wrong place. Once you learn about a well-placed waist line, you really understand why some of your dresses suit so much better than other, apparently identical ones.
· I am bottom heavy, so the higher neckline works better for me in this dress, by creating a larger top half to balance my bottom half. It also avoids the problem I would usually have in a size 16 dress, which is that the front is usually so gaping that I could fit my entire Miracle Baby down the front of it without trying.
· Speaking of my bottom half, the size 16 (when un-belted) skimmed past my body in a straight line from shoulder to hem, without doing the unfortunate trick of getting tight over my bum and therefore paunchy in the front.
· It has enough length that I can wear it belted (as I did here) without flashing too much leg, but the flippy skirt action means I can also wear it Full Sack Style without looking like I quit on life.
I know it’s easy to give the number in your clothes some kind of meaning it doesn’t have – I have felt a weird sense of success, of worthiness, when I fit into a smaller size of pants. What is this thinking? It’s surely insanity, because the numbers in clothes are intended as a simple reference guide to assist you in selecting an option to try on for general fit, not as a simple reference guide to whether or not you have succeeded in life. Who gives a hoot if some other girl’s jeans have a 23 inch waist on them instead of a 32? Who cares if your dress is a size 4, or a size 14? I recognise that I haven’t had the struggle of being plus-size in a shallow, vacuous world with a surprisingly narrow concept of beauty, and no doubt I sound like an annoying idiot right now. But for those who can – ignore the labels and look at the dress. Half the time those labels are fecking useless anyway. Standardising sizing across all clothing – now that would be an achievement worth feeling good about.