By KATE LEAVER
On a scale of one to completely mortifying, where do you rate standing in a change room, looking at your body in a full-length mirror, and trying to wriggle into a pair of jeans that won’t even make it past your knees? The denim grips onto the fleshy bits of your calves, your shins, your thighs, and then your dignity. It’s the worst. “How are you going in there?” says a chirpy shop assistant, and you sheepishly ask for the next size up. And then the size after that. And then you give up, pack up your things, and walk out that shop feeling defeated – by fashion.
Imagine if that happened every single time you went shopping. Wherever you went, you just couldn’t find fashionable clothes to fit you. And whatever “I’m fabulous” confidence you had at home just completely dissolved within 30 seconds of walking into a store.
That’s what it’s like for most Australian women when they hit the shops.
Did you know the average Aussie woman is 161cm tall and weighs 71kg? Which makes her around a size 14? And yet, our biggest chain stores, department stores, and boutiques rarely stock a size 14. And a size 16? Please, it’s practically as elusive as the Holy Grail.
Step right up, because Cosmo just launched a campaign called Size Hero (or #sizehero for the trendy among us) to address this exact problem. Basically they’re running a petition that says “Hey retail! Hey fashion! You listen here! Make and sell clothes that suit everyone because sexy comes in every size. For realz.” You can sign it here.
My absolute favourite type of experiment is sassy, noble, and fashion-themed. And there’s nothing I love more than taking on Stupid Injustice. So, we sent out one of our lovely writers, Fiona Macdonald, on a shopping mission with the average Aussie girl – gorgeous Marissa, who is 161cm tall and weighs 71kg. They went to 13 stores, tried on 41 outfits, and found just two items that appropriately fit Marissa’s body. Two! TWO! A skater-style dress from Sportsgirl and a skirt in Witchery were the only two pieces of clothing that fit – everything else was too tight, too short, or too clingy in the wrong places.
Here’s the thing: even when shops sell sizes 12, 14 or 16, the actual clothes are not made to suit a curvy frame. A dress, for example, is made in the sample size, and then designers use a mathematical algorithm to create the bigger sizes, without taking into account the curves of their body. So, they basically make something that suits a small, size 8 frame and then add extra material, without thinking what might flatter someone with bigger breasts or wider hips.
It seems crazy – CRAZY! – to me, that designers and retailers are alienating women who wear bigger than a size 10. In Australia, that’s a lot of women. It’s actually… most women. They’re forcing average-size women to shop online, when they could be attracting more lady-buyers to their increasingly empty shops. With retail struggling as much as it is (have you taken a stroll down Oxford Street in Sydders recently? It’s a fashion-store graveyeard), why aren’t designers and shops meeting a very clear demand – for bigger clothes?
I spoke to my feminist hero, Lindy West, recently – she writes for Jezebel.com, often about body image. She said something that’s really stuck with me, about being what we’d call “plus-size”: “It’s so hard to be a woman and then be excluded from so many things that are supposedly woman things. To not even get to be beautiful…I mean, I’m physically not able to participate in fashion because there’s like four stores where I can shop. It’s perpetuates this thing that fat people are frumpy and don’t care about their appearance but do you know how much I would love to buy investment pieces?”
When I told her about our Cosmo Size Hero campaign, she said this about designers who don’t cater for the average woman: “What kind of message does that send? If these companies are saying ‘we don’t want your money, because we don’t want our brand associated with you’. I mean they’re turning down money. I’m about to give them my money and they don’t want it.”
And that’s the true insanity of all this: There are beautiful, awesome, fashionable women desperate to buy gorgeous clothes but they cannot find them. Nobody is making them, or selling them. Millions of women have money ready to throw at the first retailer or brand who offers them something flattering, something that fits – but there’s nowhere they can go.
And that’s where Cosmo comes in. For the past 13 years, we’ve had a Body Love policy – it’s something MM publisher Mia Freedman had to do with, and our beautiful current editor, Bronwyn McCahon has carried on. And some seriously famous faces have come on board for this Size Hero campaign – we’ve got Cheyenne Tozzi, Zoe Marshall, Jesinta Campbell, Carissa Walford, and Penelope Benson, for starters. They believe that clothes should be made and sold in every size because sexy comes in every size.
You can watch the progress of the Size Hero campaign at cosmopolitan.com.au/fashion/what-to-wear, on Twitter, Insta, and FB with the hashtags #cosmocommits and #sizehero. See you there.
Kate Leaver is the features editor at Cosmopolitan Australia. You can follow her on Twitter @kateileaver, on Instagram @daisykateleaver, and in person somewhere in Sydney.