I have two small bones and one massive, bitch-tonne of a bone to pick with you.
For years, I resisted your temptations. I have vague memories of disliking you since the first time I went through your shiny glass doors as a slightly chubby teenager.
At that time, it was because of your prices. BONE ONE. I didn’t even bother trying on your fancy stretchy clothes, because I was slowly saving up my pocket money for a ticket to see the Black Eyed Peas in concert (and yes, they were awesome). So I would just go in for the air-conditioning and loitering opportunities.
Sometime after, once I had become a successful and accomplished 20-year-old with slightly less chub and slightly more cash (and I use “slightly” very truthfully… 500 grams less, $50 more…), I wanted to buy an item of clothing with a proper label (i.e. not Kmart, as rad as they are).
I tried on the only loose-fitting dress in the store and convinced myself to buy it. It looked alright, it kind of fitted (cos it was a loose-fitting dress,) it was a nice green colour and lovely raw silk material, and it only cost half of my life savings. Do you know what, Kookai?
The strap of that dress (though I only ever wore it as a top, as it was embarrassingly short and I live by the old-fashioned motto “if you can see the crease of your ass-cheek, the hemline is too high”) broke the second time I wore it. I sewed it back on, and soon after, the other strap broke.
I was so annoyed at the time about how crappy the quality of your sewing was, that I didn’t go back into your store for SIX YEARS.
Until last month. I was on the lookout for a dress for a special occasion. I tried my usual cheap stores and nothing was taking my fancy. And then I saw your St Kilda store, like a shining beacon of downlights and clean glass.
The clothes on the pencil-thin mannequins in the window were such pretty colours, summery yellows and Tiffany blues, that I forgot about my broken-green-raw-silk-dress-top, and stepped into the cool air-conditioning and smell of Windex.
Instantly, I found a dress that I liked, and went to find it in my size. The first size I came across was size 1. Baffled, considering that this is not a usual Australian size* (except maybe for an actual pencil), I continued to rifle through the rack. Size 2. Nope… still had about ten sizes until we reached me. Kept rifling… but what was this? There was only size 1 and size 2.
I asked the lovely sales assistant, who explained they were THE ONLY SIZES, and why don’t I try them on? I gathered a bunch of dress styles in size 2’s – I’m generally an optimistic person, but I could see that size 1 would be totally fucking kidding myself – and went into the fancy change room with the swishy curtain.
Kookai. I tried on the first dress, and the seam began to rip before I’d even got it past my hips. This was not just a reflection on your shithouse sewing. This was about your absolutely ridiculous sizing system.
BONE THREE, KOOKAI. BONE. FUCKING. THREE.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an average Aussie woman is a size 16. At most stores, I am a size 12 – sometimes a 10, sometimes a 14, depending on how creative the store is feeling. I am well in the healthy weight range for my height. I may have a little layer of memory foam**, but I’m a fairly fit and normal woman.
And yet, I don’t fit into the BIGGEST SIZE THAT YOU STOCK. Do you know how that feels? Even for me, a fairly secure, self-assured female (and actor, which means I deal with having my flaws pointed out on a regular basis), it’s a shitty feeling.
I stood in your change room, spilling out of the second dress I tried on (which didn’t rip, but was so tight it showed the shape of the sushi I’d had for lunch), frowning at the mirror and making plans to eat only celery sticks and cotton wool for the rest of my life. For about five seconds. Then I took the stupid dress off, walked out of the store, mentally gave you the finger, and went to one of the many shops that cater to the other ninety percent of the female population.
Having done a Google search about your sizes, it would seem that thousands of women feel the same as me. A few women claim that they are usually a size 8-10, and your size 2 dresses would not zip up over their ribcages.
Apparently, others are pissed off that circa 2005, you GOT RID of your size 3 (good sales move, dickheads… you literally narrowed your market). I even found a petition begging you to upgrade your sizes, or declare yourself to be a specialty store for small/thin women.
I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with the women who do fit into your clothes (skinny people can get just as much sh*t as fat people, neither of which is fair or anyone’s business). I also concede that as a country, we are overweight, and 16 is not a healthy size to be the average.
However, women come in all shapes and sizes, and by not classifying yourself as a specialty store, you are promoting an unhealthy body image, which is particularly concerning for the many teenage girls with more money than I had at that age, who actually try on your stretchy clothes in your fancy change room, and end up crying at their reflection.
At the very, very least, you should be catering to the entire healthy weight range, and not making perfectly fine females like me want to stick their fingers down their throat just to wear your summery yellows and Tiffany blues.
Kookai, with your calming, cool-aired stores and beautiful, badly-sewn clothes, I’m sorry for being so angry at you.
But, unlike the Heart Foundation’s BMI calculator, you called me fat.
So screw you – I’m going to Kmart.
*As it turns out, the Australian Standard Size Coding Scheme was scrapped in 2008, which allows retailers to play fast and loose (or tight) with whatever sizing scheme they want. Cheers for that, guys. I’ve got a bone to pick with you, too.
**Memory foam – the fond term I have given to the little love handles and curvier bits of my body, that are testament to wonderful memories – Pot & Parma deals with friends at the local pub, afternoon ciders in the sun, movie nights with Maltesers, and so on. I don’t love the layer of memory foam… but I don’t have any regrets either.
Pressure for women to be extremely thin comes from all angles including advertising, magazines and clothing stores like this. This gallery is filled with photoshop fails, all aimed at making women feel bad about themselves:
Lucy Gransbury is an actor and cabaret artist based in Melbourne. In between visits to the Nutella aisle of the supermarket, she can be found performing her original comedy cabarets, ‘Dorothy Parker’s Sweet Release of Death’ and ‘Tell Me About Yourself’. Follow her on Twitter (@LucyGransbury), read her blog here, or just meet her in the Nutella aisle.