Sunday, June 2, 2013

Impossible: An Essay About Women's Clothing

Here's something men and children just don't understand about women.

Clothes are impossible.

I'm not just talking about the lack of pockets. And you do have to remember that women's clothing is entirely unreliable in the matter of pockets. True, many women enjoy or even love purses--the fashion of them, shopping for them, wearing them as an accessory--but it is also true that we cannot rely on our clothes to carry necessities such as our wallet and keys. It took Hopper a while to understand this, and he was for a long time frustrated with me for never being able to find my keys. They were always in a different work bag (which is exacerbated, in my case, by the fact that I have multiple part-time jobs and need several different work bags) and finally one day he blew up at me.

"Where do you keep your keys?" I shot back.

"In my pocket!"

"Well, as soon as women's fashion reliably makes pockets in my pants, I'll do that, too!"

Since then, he's been much more tolerant of my key-locating tribulations.

Then there's sizing. Now, Hopper has had some sizing issues since I've known him because he lost a lot of weight. After that, he had to get measured by a salesman to find out what size he was. Get that, ladies? He got measured, and then knew what size he was! That's all it took!

Ladies' clothes are sold not by measurement, but by numbered sizes. Aside from the fact that the sizes increase numerically, so that a size 10 is in fact larger than a size 4, they make no sense at all. There is absolutely no consistency in size from one brand to another. None. There is also variability in shape--women can have generous hips, or generous bosoms, or both, or neither, or be pear-shaped or apple-shaped and so on and so on. Some designers take some of these things into account in their larger sizes, others don't, and finding a designer whose clothes fit and flatter you is an enormous challenge. Some designers don't even have consistent sizing in their factories so that one size 8 dress is different from another size 8 dress of the exact same size and color.

The sizes also change over time. When I was dangerously thin in college, I wore a size 4. When I got married I was about a size six, I think, and I tried on a vintage dress in size 12 that fit me perfectly. The very thin (but not dangerously) grad students I work with tell me that they wear a size 0. Zero. That's a size. Zero. How can a person be zero? In any case, the sizes have been steadily getting larger so that a size 12 was once rather small and is now close to average (the average American woman is, I believe, a 14) and they have to come up with ever-smaller numbers to describe the thin. I'm not sure where they're going to go now that zero is a size, but that's not my problem.

You'll notice I've only been using even numbers. That's because ladies' clothes are sold only in even sizes. The odd sizes are used for Juniors. That's clothes for teens, basically. The fashions are different and those sizes are different, too--usually less generous in the hips and bosom, because all teens are shaped like that, evidently. I was able to shop in Juniors until I was about 30, but now I just feel silly in most of those clothes, and they're less likely to fit me.

And then there is the fact that our bodies change. We don't just get larger as we get older, which is typical of men, too. Every woman I know has a range of sizes in her closet. It's hard to know from one summer to the next which set of clothes will fit, and that's without taking changing fashions into account. Additionally, as we go through our cycles, we get larger and smaller, so the trousers that fit one week might be too tight or too lose the next. (That's not taking into account the cycle our jeans go through from first wearing to second wearing and back through the wash to shrink and become tight again.)

I'm not even going to get into alternate sizing, but there is Petite (for short women) and Woman (for larger women) and of course Maternity, which is self-explanitory.

So, guys, the next time you're sitting there outside the fitting room waiting for your gal while she tries on clothes and you're wondering why it takes her so long to shop when you just cruise into the Men's section and grab some shirts and trousers in your size and head home, now you know. Women's clothes are impossible. IM. POSS. IBLE.

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