For some, clothes shopping is a fun activity, filled with wonder and adventure. For others, it is dreaded and only explored in emergencies. On a recent shopping trip, I became more and more aware of how sizes in every shop I went into were completely different. Sometimes I need a bigger size in a shop and other times a smaller size and I can never tell until I try it on. What is the point in ‘Petite’ sections of clothes shops if they aren’t realistic?
I am a small human being. I am 5’2″ but, surprisingly, my body does not match my tiny height. My body is not tiny as all clothes retailers expect?! But how?! How can this be?! I have the strongest love-hate relationship with ‘Petite’ sections in clothes shops because I love the concept yet they rarely work out for me. My usual issue when shopping is with jeans or trousers. I love that the petite section recognises that people are different heights and that means that the clothing, therefore, needs to be different lengths. However, I think clothes retailers are yet to realise that just because I am a small girl, I do not have a small body.
I recently went on a shopping trip and did the normal rounds of New Look, Primark, Topshop, River Island, Dorothy Perkins, ZARA, Gap and H&M. From this, you would expect that I came away with a huge haul and an empty purse as I visited so many shops. However, I bought two tops. Just two tops, both from ZARA. As nice as those tops were, from visiting seven other shops and not buying anything, I would class that as an unsuccessful trip. It wasn’t as if I didn’t find any clothes I liked either, I would enter the changing rooms optimistic with armfuls of hangers and then do the inevitable hand-back and “Can I give those back to you? Thanks.”
Why can’t the sizes in clothing shops simply be consistent and save me the awkward, half-naked hang-out in the changing room while my mum goes to get a different size? I am definitely not the first to be annoyed by the variation of small, medium and large in clothes shops. In 2016, Ruth Clemens from Leeds, who normally wears a size 14, shared a photo of her trying on size 16 H&M jeans and the post received over 100,000 reactions. If that huge reaction doesn’t show how many people can relate to this girl’s struggle then I don’t know what else will notify these retailers of what they need to fix.
In the petite section, I have an array of issues. I struggle with shirts. I love wearing shirts and often buy cropped ones because I’m so small that they are the normal length for me. However, as I am not the typical ‘petite’ body type, I constantly get the dreaded ‘button gap’ where my boobs are wanting escape and the material is too thin to stand up for itself.
Another issue is the dreaded jeans. When I try jeans on, they are often a good length but they are so tight that I can’t breathe, let alone eat. I get the solitary role of belly fat above the belt that is the excess that must exist outside the jeans only. Also, when I wear jeans, or any clothes in general really, I’m likely to be eating something/anything whilst wearing them so if I cannot eat whilst wearing these jeans then I’m not going to spend money on them just because they are the right length. In this case, I often resort to the looser, more comfortable jeans that are too long and then get about ten metres of extra denim material having a party around my ankles.
So sometimes the ‘Petite’ section can make you feel like literally shopping ’till you drop into bed, watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and hoping you’ve bought something that vaguely fits you. Surely it’s time for a change.