“…for not such good results – drag behind car through puddles and blow dry on roof rack.” Now there’s a truthful clothing tag!
Jennifer Hudson, singer and American Idol alumnus, made headlines all over the world this week. Not for her legendary set of pipes and not even for her tragic family history but for her dress size. J.Hud has become a household name by schilling for Weight Watchers and dropping a bunch of weight. So much weight in fact that the Internet got its collective panties in a twist when Joy Behar announced that Jennifer was a size superduperextratiny. Half the pearl-clutchers gasped, “She’s gone too far! She’s too skinny! We’re so worried about her!” while the others lit up comment sections debating about whether or not she looks small enough to actually be that size.
So in other news you’ve heard there’s rioting in England, right? And you’ve seen the heart-breaking, inspiring and terrifying pictures? Wait, you haven’t? Because speculation about the number on Jennifer Hudson’s dress tag ended up ranked higher than this apocalyptic insanity on most of the major news sites?? Travesty.
“What size are you?” may be the most loaded question you can ask a woman, right after “Is it that time of the month again?” This is because clothing sizes are the nuclear option in body comparing, something we all do even though we wish we didn’t. The last time a friend asked me that I replied honestly, “I have no idea. It depends on the brand.” Call in size inflation, vanity sizing or the reason your old college roommate still wears her “same” size but thanks to the randomness of modern sizing I probably have 10 different sizes of clothing in my closet that all fit. And that’s not even considering my large (oy!) collection of vintage dresses that are sized on an entirely different scale. (Hint to vintage-loving girls: Most dresses from the 40’s and 50’s were sized with the intent that the woman would be wearing a corset underneath – so take heart – it’s not you, it’s the dress.)
Considering what a crap shoot sizing is you’d think we’d be able to chuck it out the window with all the other numbers that try and fail to describe us. And yet we can’t let it go. I get it. To this day, the #1 most read post on this site was an eating disordered confession I wrote about being obsessed with Audrey Hepburn’s measurements. I wrote it and I understand the dark place where that type of thinking comes from which is why I try so hard these days to combat it.
But if we can’t trust the number on our pants to tell us what we look like on the outside, then what do we use? A recent survey “found that 95% of non-eating disordered women overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25%, yet the same women were able to correctly estimate the width of a box.” In addition “Two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their life to achieve their weight goals.” Clearly this issue is about more than how many inches around our waists are.
These stats come from a new website called My Body Gallery that aims to show what “real women” look like by having ladies upload (clothed, headless) pics of themselves and their body measurements. At first I thought it was a terrible idea – what’s more disordered than looking at a bunch of other girls your same height and weight in order to compare yourself? – but then I spent a while clicking around the site and I had two revelations. 1) I look pretty darn good. And not because other girls look bad but because looking at all these other women made me realize how many different shapes, sizes and colors beauty comes in. 2) I don’t have an accurate idea of what size I am or what I look like. Maybe I have a touch of body dysmorphia. Maybe we all do from being bombarded with literally unreal images of “perfect” female bodies. But I found this to be a very illuminating and positive experience. I left the site not wanting to lose weight but rather feeling better about who I am.
Sometimes I think we forget that the end goal of all this health and fitness stuff is to develop a whole person, not just a body. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get back to listening to the BBC and praying that everyone over there is safe tonight.
Does it affect you to know what size a certain celebrity is? What do you think of My Body Gallery and similar sites? Does vanity sizing make you feel better or does it just make you mad?