Even with my recent body fat gains (more on which here and here), I am a small human being. I am 5’2– a height that means I can comfortably lay down in bath tubs or sleep completely stretched out on sofas, huzzah!–with a 34 inch rib cage (38 bust — a 34D), 28 inch waist, and around my butt at its fattest part I am, as of 1pm on January 25th, 38.5 inches round.
If you throw me in a red dress into the absurd and terrifying world of professional photography, this is what I look like (in one of the flattering photos, obviously. It’s hard to find one where my face isn’t scrunched up like a troll on acid.)
Here, I’ll give you a troll on acid just to round out the reality of what I look like:
So anyway. I chose one of the more flattering photos for my body to make the important introductory point for this post of, ‘hey, I’m not out of shape.’ With more muscle than I know what to do with, clocking in at 130 pounds still lands me square in the “healthy” BMI range for my tiny 5’2 frame. I menstruate. I do not have the excess abdominal fat characteristic of pre-diabetes. By all accounts, I am a physically healthy and fit woman. My measurements also, by the way, give me a waist-to-hip ratio of .72, which is, as most of us know, in the neighborhood of the much puffed-up “universal attractive ratio” for people to find physically attractive across the globe (though this is now widely disputed–see the Wikipedia page for a simple explication). I wear small clothing comfortably. My pants are usually a size 3.
And you know what size lingerie I wear at Victoria’s Secret?
I am one of the smallest women I know, and I wear a large.
I do fit into medium panties, but they sometimes do that awful squeeze-your-hips-into-muffin-top thing. So I split the difference between mediums and larges (which sometimes are a big loose). Smalls are of course impossible.
Even when I was at my tiniest, when I measured 34-25-36, I could wear smalls but only when I dropped all water weight and super slimmed — mediums were still more comfortable for me. Here are two photos of me at my smallest:
All of which is to say that – I know exactly what Victoria’s Secret is doing. It is the same thing Abercrombie does. And Bebe, and just about every clothing store that markets itself as a higher end brand. It wants
1) Slim customers, which makes the brand appear more elite in our society
2) For you to feel bad about yourself, such that you use their products and their lingerie in a feeble, impermanent attempt to boost your self-esteem.
To which I can only say
1) screw this! I know our culture associates larger sizes with being unattractive, but my recent efforts to buck those norms has helped me, honestly, legitimately, see overweight bodies as just as attractive as stereotypically fit models. So giving me a bigger size does not make me feel worse.
IE, I consider my now jigglier body as hot as this one:
Why not, right?
2) screw this! How dare companies so liable for how we idealize and conceptualize beauty norms make beautiful people I love feel uncomfortable about the shape of their bodies. So many women are perfectly healthy, perfectly fit, and plain old larger so far as skeletons and muscles and fat go, and they simply cannot wear Victoria’s Secret lingerie. I was in the store the other week and it occurred to me that I have never seen a larger woman in the store. I mean – I wholly respect your choice to choose your clientele. And to list your sizes however you wish. I do.
I can only say, to that, that it is, frankly, wrong. Your sizes are not accurate, and I resent fully every effort you and every other brand and marketing agency makes to force me into a self-conscious, self-doubting mind-set.
In the way of a sign off, check out Victoria’s Secret panties. Here is a size small Pink undergarment held up in front of my body and held over my face.
The panties stretch almost from one ear to the other.
I don’t know about you, but I am perfectly okay with the circumference of my hips being larger than the circumference of my head.
(This is not to “skinny shame.” I only took the photos to demonstrate just how small their clothing runs… and not, again, to denigrate bodies of any size. Your natural body is beautiful. This is only to shame how our culture associates slimness with goodness and alienates the perfectly lovely large, when really all can be good and sexy no matter their size. Read more about your natural sexiness in my bestseller Sexy by Nature)
One of the commenters suggested that Victoria’s Secret lingerie runs particularly small in the Pink section of the store since those articles are designed with younger women and girls in mind (and she would know, since she is a designer). Fair! An excellent point. It might vary by collection. So I went and did a bit of digging around. I pulled out five more pair of small panties (clean ones-I never even wore them because they were too small) from my own drawer and laid them out next to each other. The blue ones on top have about 3/4 of an inch more material on each side, but I also wonder if that’s not because I managed to wear this one pair for several years and stretched them out. I also know there are several collections not represented here, so of course this is not a statistically, rigorously controlled study.
In any case, it appears as though there is a small (pun intended) range of measurements among the sizes in VS lingerie (as I imagine there would be), as all of the panties depicted above were sold as smalls. They are all more or less the same size as the Pinks, with Body by Victoria (the beige pair) and the purple ones being even smaller.
My charge probably applies to a wide range of lingerie lines, as my mother has pointed out to me her difficulty with sizes at department stores. Victoria’s Secret happens to be one with which I am particularly familiar, and one that is particularly important in the eyes of girls and women all over the world.
As a brief final note – the winner from last week’s giveaway will be announced tomorrow, and the new giveaway will also begin! Get pumped woooo.