The End of Labeling Women's Bodies.


I met with a new client yesterday. As she was talking about her style challenges, she mentioned weight gain. She said, "I used to look like you. Thin. Able to fit into anything at the store. Now, it's much more difficult." 

Like me? Let's be clear, I'm on the heavier side of my weight continuum. Thin like me is not what I expect someone to say. But, it was the reminder I needed exactly when I needed it. Really, we are our own worst critics when it comes to weight. And, this battle over plus size, medium size, extended sizes and the like has me thinking a lot about this. So, I ask you:


Why Do We Need Body Labels at All?

Yesterday I also happened to see a photo of a friend of mine on Facebook. She's lost nearly 100- that's right- 100 pounds. She looks amazing. Why? Because she looks so happy. She's shopping in any store she chooses. She feels included. She's celebrated. But, she isn't a size 6. In fact she's likely a perfect 10. (14 is the most common size for American women, by the way.) If she started as a 6 and had developed into a 10, society would say she had failed. But, because she was a larger size and is now a 10, she's "thin." Seriously, could we have more challenging messages coming our way?

We need to succeed at our careers, as parents (if that is our chosen path) and of course, have lots of interesting and unexpected hobbies. All the while, we must maintain the physique we had in college and look great. No pressure there. As a personal stylist, I actually think that looking great makes you feel better. But, looking great can be accomplished using a variety of tools in your toolbox. I vote for clothes. Staying near your target weight, exercising regularly, taking care of your skin and hair are a few others. Like I said, it's a toolbox.

So, back to the plus size, extended size, medium size debate, most recently exemplified by Amy Schumer and Mindy Kaling. Is it helpful or hurtful to label women of a certain size, "plus?" 

I'd say both. Therefore, I propose something new. Something different. I propose another tool for our toolboxes.

The only reason we need labels like plus size is for shopping. Really. It comes down to commerce. Retailers want us to buy things and we can only buy things when they fit. (Please tell me you only buy things and keep them when they fit.) So, how about we stop labeling women and start labeling stores? When I'm shopping for a client, I just want to know what stores I can go to. Do they carry pieces for women who are shorter than 5'3"? How about taller than 5"9"? What if she wears a size 14? Or a 16? Or a 00? Do they carry maternity pieces? 

Can we just have a ratings system like Zagat? Diners aren't rated four stars, restaurants are. Or use symbols? How about this? When we look at the bottom of ANY webpage, we see symbols for the social media platforms the brand uses. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. How about we have symbols for the categories that are helpful when shopping? Then, we can just scan for symbols on websites. Name those symbols and we can do a google search for the names. Done. 

Sure, it's unlikely that this genius (is that too strong of a word?) idea will take over the world. But, we've got to start somewhere. I'm tired of people placing my clients in boxes based on their current size.

So stressed that you can't find time to take care of yourself? I know the solution. Make it harder for you to find places to buy clothes that fit. Um, what? No. The solution is to make it easier. To accept us for who we are at whatever size we are and most importantly to the retailers, to make it easy for us to buy things.