You are not a dress size



One thing I discuss in Tough Love is sizing. It’s always been such an issue for me and the people around me, because nobody in my family (or my group of friends) are actually ‘one size’ across the board.

So often I see magazine articles promoting ‘drop a dress size’ or ‘celeb X is now a size 10’ – but what does any of that mean? It means nothing, because dress sizes are different everywhere you go.

You’re not defined by your dress size – fact

I always thought growing up that sizes were grouped into ‘fat’ and ‘thin’. Anything below a size 10 was thin, 12-16 was middling, and over 16 was huge. This meant that as an overweight teenager I spent many hours in changing rooms feeling shit because I couldn’t get a size 14 or 16 pair of jeans near my thighs. To me, this meant I was ‘fat’.

But your measurements can’t dictate whether you are ‘fat’ or ‘thin’. I’ve since learnt that most women who appear to be a regular, healthy size struggle to fit into the size which would naturally correspond with that in a retail outlet. I’ve also learnt that sizes change from shop to shop and between different types of clothing – so really how can a size define you when you’re a 10 in Topshop and a 14 in Miss Selfridge?

What IS your dress size anyway?

Very few of us are created as per manufacturer’s instructions. The contradictory ‘one size fits all’ remit shops use (cleverly in some cases to exclude certain women) just doesn’t cut it for the majority of people who are all shapes and sizes. I use my own body as an example because my measurements are pretty extreme. I have a 24 inch waist and a 30 inch chest, but my hips are 37 inches. That means that I can be anywhere between a 6 and a 10 on top, and anywhere between a 12 and a 16 on the bottom. Loads of women have this issue – and whether you’re ‘top heavy’ or ‘bottom heavy’ it’s unlikely that high-waisted skirts and trousers or jumpsuits and dresses fit perfectly every time.

With this in mind, how can you honestly say you’re a 12, or a 14, or an 8? You could be all three.

Remember this when you’re feeling bad about your dress size

Unfortunately dress sizes have connotations attached to them. The ‘size zero’ debate has been raging for ages – and really there’s little argument against there. But what about all the other sizes? Why is an 8 acceptable, but a 12 isn’t? When a size 8 in one shop could also be a 12?

Next time you’re sitting in a changing room feeling fat, or hear your friends boasting about their dress size, remember that sizing is actually rubbish. It doesn’t define you – it means nothing. It says nothing about how you really look. Sizing made me hate my size 16 bum and thighs, but now I love them because my judgement isn’t clouded by pre-conceived associations about being ‘fat’. Lots of women hate their boobs because they make them a 14 on top – but those not blessed with a voluptuous figure are probably envious.

When you’re buying or trying on clothes, assess them on how they look on you, dress for the figure you have not someone else’s, and ignore the size labels, the mannequins and the marketing images filled with models who don’t match your body type. When you focus on your dress size alone you block out all the positives – and that’s a recipe for poor body image and low self-esteem.

Struggling with size? Want more on body image? Check out related blogs and Tough Love here.


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