fashion

"Dear sales assistants: please stop telling me what size I am."

You know the scenario. You walk into a shop and see a dress you must try on immediately.

You grab your size, and head to the change rooms full of anticipation and thinking budget smudget.

It’s not fitting the way you’d like, so you pop your head out to ask the sales assistant for another size.

And – bam! Just like that, you’ve opened the floodgates to a lengthy discussion about your body.

In my literally decades of shopping, I’ve been told everything from “The ten will be too tight on your arms”, to “Perhaps you should go a couple of sizes up”, to “We don’t normally carry your size.”

(Keep in mind that whilst I’m not thin, I have also, at my absolute largest, been a sixteen: that is, I have a typical body.)

Yesterday, when I went to try on a size eight maxi dress, which I had in my hand, the sales assistant tried everything to stop me. For a good couple of minutes.

“That won’t fit you. You’re normally a 12, aren’t you? Trust me. You won’t be able to put it on.”

She went on and on about it, as I awkwardly stood there holding the hanger, replying that I know how it will fit me as I have other dresses of a similar shape. Which is why I wanted the size eight.

But what I was actually thinking was, how would she know what will fit my body? I was wearing a big puffer jacket – did she have x-ray vision?

I know she was trying to be helpful (perhaps), but seriously – what difference did it make to her? Was she afraid I was wasting her time? Did she know something about my body that I didn’t?

I finally had to explain to her that the dress was a maxi dress, and because I’m so short, I need less material around me, so I don’t look swamped.

That’s something I know about how clothes fit me because of the DECADES I HAVE SPENT WEARING CLOTHES.

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But no…my opinion was invalid, and so we went around in circles for a bit more. All of this to get her to let me try on a freaking God damn size eight dress.

And if you’re wondering, yes, the dress was worth it – and yes, it fitted in the eight. Perfectly.

But it made me think: is this the Pretty Woman poverty-shaming version of fat-shaming?

It’s certainly not the first time it’s happened, and this is how I usually respond: by explaining myself.

I’m actually a size eight from the ass down. I’ve got broad shoulders and a big chest, so I look bigger on top. I’m 42, so my face looks puffier than the rest of my body.

I’m smaller than I look.

The thing is, I don’t have to explain my body to anyone. I’ve been living with it as an adult longer than most sales people have been alive.

So please, let me try on the size I want. The worst that can happen is that I’m wrong. I’m not going to bust the zipper, or tear the seams. I know that sometimes happens when people try stuff on, but that’s not always because someone was too big for the clothing.

Surely, skinny people ruin clothing they’re trying on, too?

I know some sales people also worry that the clothes won’t fit the way they are ‘supposed’ to. But guess what? I like to show a bit of leg, so I’ll wear a top as a dress. I’ll wear a shirt as a jacket. I’ll take a size down so that a piece is more flattering to my body.

And I don’t need to explain any of that to anyone.

So unless you’re a tailor and you’re making me a bespoke dress, please let me dictate how I dress and fit clothes to my body.

Next time, I’m going to say, to save everyone a lot of time, “I asked for a different size – not your assessment of my body.”

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