Clothes shopping. Drab me hates it, with a passion – to the point that I rarely shop for clothes and just kind of draw them in through gravity (picking up t-shirts at trade shows and events and the like), or through a lot of stress and freaking out. Case in point, I have been wearing the same style and size of black jeans, all the time, for going on ten years. It was only when I’d lost a lot of weight that I got up the courage to go into Marks and Spencers and, gasp, actually buy a new pair of jeans.
They fit perfectly, unlike the ones I’d be bumbling around in which looked, frankly, like I could fit into one of the trouser legs. I could take them off and put them on without undoing them, but that’s not such a big thing as I can do it with the new jeans as well.
Which leads me, obtusely, to the stuff I want to chat about today. Bloody women’s sizes.
See for certain types like me, or at least me in the near past, who have to hide their love of all things femm for the sake of loved ones/not letting parents down/not being ashamed/sheer terror/all of the former, buying female clothes was and is a bloody nightmare.
Pictured – God Bless you Amazon, I can now buy all the dresses I’ve never needed whenever I want.
Firstly you can’t just wander into a shop and ask to try them on. That gets funny looks. Secondly if you’re not on hormones your body shape is vastly different to the average girl in the street. The difference between male and female bods based on hormone is the placement, and type, of fat tissue. Us hairy imbeciles get fat in all the wrong places; mostly in the old beer gut. Women get fat placement in the buttocks first, then the stomach, so they retain a nice pear like shape complemented by those large areas of fat on the chest.
And women’s clothes are designed explicitly to take advantage of those.
Pictured – not my actual bottom. Or breasts. Or waistline.
Now, if you can’t wander into a shop and try stuff on which is a problem for us mostly-in-the-closer types you have to guess. This involves, in my case when I first started, a combination of borrowing my mother’s tape measure and/or clothes, cough, and seeing what fit and what size I was around the hips, butt and chest.
And therein was my first mistake. I like to think I’m clever and in some ways I am very clever. But that cleverness comes at the expense of common sense. I looked up what the average female size, in inches, was for the given, random, dress sizes, and measured myself.
Sounds good so far, right? Well, I measured my naked body thinking that was the way to do it.
See, when you are a male and want to look like a female you don’t have those useful pieces of fat tissue. And if you measure yourself without, say, putting on a stuffed bra and some hip padding, and using a corset to move that male fat about to where it vaguely looks and feels like a woman should have it, the measurements are practically useless.
Pictured – for some unknown reason purveyors of female clothing tend to, well, model the shape around a woman’s body
Back then I worked out I was a ten. Which was fine, until I eagerly unwrapped the Laura Ashley dress (it was the 80s), put on my pilfered bra with a couple of pairs of socks in it, and found that while it fit, baggily, around my hips it was tight over my false boobage to the point of not being able to do it up.
So the first lesson was, if you’re going to measure yourself make sure you adjust your body appropriately. At that point, after ample hips and boobs were added, I came in at a 14, a lot different to a 10.
Pictured – me in my size 20/not quite as fluid or comfortable as I want to be phase
As I got older, and wider, I moved up the scale considerably. Courtesy of a period of intensive exercise, in that I lifted a wine glass up to one hundred times a day, I soared to the heady height of size 22, which accommodated my ample, almost pregnant physique nicely.
And then I decided to stop being Sarah for a while. About ten years actually. And when I decided she had done her sentence in her pink jail I dug out what remained of my collection (a number of purges had put paid to probably about eighty percent of my femm-stash) and found that everything was now a very pretty, sometime floral, tent.
So now I am an 18 if I don’t know how stretchy the material will be, a 16 if I know it will stretch and a 20 if I’m feeling particularly down about myself (which is actually a boon – if I buy a 20 because I’ve persuaded myself I’m fat it comes as a pleasant surprise when all the photos look like a girl playing in her mum’s closet).
Pictured – a size 16. Yay! That sense of achievement will mean nothing to a normal bloke
But then comes the next little obstacle on the way to finding a perfectly good fit frock – in all my years and all my experience of all things measurable I have never come across any industry that is so inconsistent around sizing.
One companies 16 is another companies 20, even if they both advertise as being a 16. Buying from Chinese sites is utterly pointless, their interpretation of UK sizes must have been confused with actual inches (I once bought a gorgeous silk bridesmaid’s dress from a vendor that turned out to Chinese and I swear I couldn’t have got the waistband of the frock over my head, nevertheless my cleavage).
Pictured – of course when I let Cindy choose the clothes I end up in a size 10 jacket and a size 14 pencil dress, because she’s way more draconian in a lovely way with what size she thinks I am
It’s like they want you to walk into a store and try them on. Bastards.
Anyway, there are some nice vendors out there. In particular places like Vivien of Holloway who state the material give on their frocks and also a useful piece of information around the ‘fit to true’, which is an amusing phrase in and of itself.
So now when I find the most gorgeous frock on, say, Instagram via an advert I won’t buy it, sob, unless the website gives an indication of how much give is in the fabric and how true to size it is. For example. with Vivien of Holloway I buy size 18 Kittys as they are true to size, but when I have bought a Grace or a Runaround Sue (great names) I have gone for a 20 because the fabrics in those have way less give than the Kittys.
Pictured – interestingly this was a size 18 and was so tight that I couldn’t put the corset on (which sounds like it doesn’t make sense but the corset actually pushes my ribs out a bit along with the fat around my midriff so I actually get wider at the bits that should be wider, for a girl, and thinner where I should be thinner)
So, long story short, it’s a minefield getting the sizing right when you buy a frock but follow the golden rules – strip down to your boxers, put on some hip padding, *full* bra (no cheating with no stuffing) and take the pain of a corset before you whip the tape measure around you. Then check the website for comments or info on the true fit of the frock and if it comes small or the fabric has no give it’s always safer to go up a size.
Or you could just walk into you local M&S, take a frock off the rack, walk up to the counter and say you are buying it for your wife and she’s about the same size as you, can you try it. Or maybe not…..
Stay beautiful and remain size aware, sweeties…..
Pictured – or just cheat, buy a false pregnancy belly, and enjoy wearing clothes that allow you to relax and let it all flow out without anyone asking you jokingly ‘are you pregnant’….