I’ve talked a lot in this blog about my body and my weight, and how I’ve battled all my life against what I have to assume is my natural size. I also have to assume that my body is probably at a higher set-point weight today than it might have been if I’d never dieted – all because of my misinformed attempts to shrink it over and over and over again for 40 years.
At this point, with all I have learned about how our bodies are designed, I am now — at least intellectually — resigned to let my body be. I’m cutting my losses.
Dieting again, or attempting a rigorous exercise regime, or any amount of calculated effort to change what my body looks like will result in getting even bigger down the line. And while I don’t have the fear I used to have around being bigger than I am today, I don’t really want to intentionally go there. I want my body to be what it’s going to be. Big, small, or somewhere in between.
My particular body size has pretty much always floated in the international waters between normal and fat. I experience thin privilege when I’m compared to extra large women, and I experience fat phobia and pity when I’m compared to thin women. I’m kind of in nowheresville, body-wise.
My clothing size ranges from 14-18, depending on the store and the price of the clothing. At Target or Old Navy, for example, the cut of the clothing can be so terrible that I find myself drifting to the plus size racks to find really big flowy things. If I go to a high end department store I’ll fit nicely in a “regular sized” 14 or L/XL.
My legs and butt seem to fit into (stretchy) size 32 jeans and pants, but my upper body is a big bulky square that my husband lovingly calls a “swimmer’s body”. I can’t wear button down shirts, ever. I don’t even like how they look on thin women, so that’s no tragedy.
I’m mostly leg, which also means I’m short-waisted. I don’t like how shorter tops look on me, no matter how many times fashion experts say to make sure your shirt/sweater/blazer lands somewhere mid-hip/butt. Never lower. It might be more thinning to wear things that land in the middle of my butt, but I won’t do it. It somehow reeks of conservative Brooks Brothers mom in a suit to me – at my size. I feel strongly about this. Smaller sized women can pull off this mid-hip ratio thing and look French-glam-put-together. I just don’t like how it looks on my body.
I have magical feet and calves. They fit into almost all shoes and boots. I am certain I could be a shoe model. Perfection. I clearly like my calf and foot parts.
Hats always fit me too, but I buy them and never wear them. So hats have been put on my ‘no’ list, just because they are a waste of money.
Belts are complicated. Like hats, I buy them periodically in hopes that I’ll have the guts to wear them (ha ha). Every three months or so my husband walks in on me re-trying on belts. He quickly exits with a sweet and confused look on his face. One day I’ll figure out how to wear a belt and it will be a glorious day indeed.
But, all in all, I really love my wardrobe and how I look in my huge – yet also carefully curated – collection of clothes.
Stores that I rely on for good clothing for my middlesized self include:
- Anthropologie – this is the best place for me to find jeans that fit me, and the odd tunic dress thing for summer. I also love the big bulky sweaters from Anthro (with skinny jeans and boots/booties). My friends would call this my uniform, and I wouldn’t disagree.
- Old Navy – I like their cheap workout clothes, the odd amazing cotton boho tops that get so soft and perfect after a few washes, and rarely I’ll find a great cheap sundress that fits nicely. I love Old Navy for summertime – but their sweaters and heavier materials are crap. Itchy. Fall apart. Not worth the $7.
- Universal Standard (awesome new plus-size online store – size small is a 14-16). I have this t-shirt dress in three colors, and am considering buying the crepe version next.
- Eileen Fisher (if I’m feeling rich). I avoid all boxy mid-hip tops from EF. I stick to long tunics and basic long-ish cashmere sweaters when they go on sale.
- Free People – you have to pick through the teenager-tiny-boho loincloths to find the fabulous giant sweaters and tunics.
- Rachel Craven – an LA dressmaker. This Umpa Lumpa dress (with pockets!) is super expensive but I wear it nearly every day, and I have it in white and black. Beware that some of her dresses look really loose but are not really one size fits all. Returning things to Rachel Craven is challenging and getting money back takes a while (I’ve done it twice now). But when you find the right thing it is SO worth it.
- Nordstrom Rack for any “occasional” footwear (slippers, flip-flops, or rain boots, for example).
- Expensive, hand-crafted boots and shoes. I have discovered that cheap shoes are never worth it. I know these seem insanely expensive (full disclosure: I don’t own these particular boots, yet), but I have never gone wrong buying any of the shoes and boots from A Mano in downtown Seattle. And I wear them to death, and back (I love to get shoes and boots repaired). These shoes and boots are for life – trends be damned.
- Swimwear has gotten easy now that I’ve found the shape that I like – basically this v-neck ruched low-hipped style. Plus there are so many tunics in my day-to-day wardrobe that cover-ups are a cinch.
But, I am challenged to find anything I love to wear in the following situations:
- Slightly more formal work things – interviews, pitches, events, etc. I look terrible in suits. I cannot stand wearing pantyhose. I feel like a stuffed sausage who has a DJ scratching vinyl between her thighs. I hate traditional work clothes. It was one of the reasons I quit my consulting job at Ernst and Young. I couldn’t bring myself to start anew with my wardrobe so I could appear at least vaguely respectful toward the all-powerful (male and female) partners at the firm – especially the ones who are based on the east coast.
- Black tie and holiday parties. I don’t have the figure to pull of a little black dress. I wind up wearing a little black tent with fancy jewelry and I sulk a bunch because I want so badly to look glamorous and dress up and wear the make up and the sparkly things, but I can’t seem to find THE thing to wear. So I feel frumpy and fat and don’t have nearly as much fun as everyone else seems to be having. This has gotten worse for me since I quit drinking because I can’t pour alcohol over the feelings of inadequacy. I consider this a sad hole in my wardrobe. Maybe I’ll fix it this year.
- Outdoor activities. I swear to god if I never have to wear shorts ever again I won’t. I hate them. They ride up. They look terrible. They are uncomfortable (see “riding up”). I suppose I could throw on yoga pants/leggings for a summer hike, but then there’s always a post-hike activity, and I cannot stand to be in public in my yoga gear. Which is weird because I’m ok wearing leggings with boots and sweaters out and about in the winter time. This is one of my mental blocks re going outside to do activities. I love the activity part, but I am so (overly) concerned about how I look when my activity-outfit is taken out of context at a brunch place or whatever/wherever we go afterward. This is a strange all-consuming hang up that may be hitting it’s endpoint in my life. Newfound “not giving a fuck” powers, activate!
Being middesized can be hard, but it can also be fun. For example, at my size I think I get a pass in terms of “appropriate” wardrobe rules at work. I get to wear giant sunglasses or jewelry and my size makes them less dominating or weird looking.
But there’s also a downside: I don’t get to “identify” as truly fat or truly thin. My size is relative and situational. Slippery and intractable. I think maybe I crave a tribe for people who are me-sized.
So, If you are middlesized like me, post a comment and join my tribe!