It’s Not You, it’s the Clothes

its not you its the clothes

On writing this, I’ve just returned from the tailor. I needed two pairs of pants and a dress hemmed; Both were MILES too long, and I am 5′ 5.5″, which is quite an average height for an American gal according to every chart I’ve ever seen. Yet I am not anxious or uneasy about having to tailor my duds. I didn’t start questioning my proportions, height, or body just because the clothes I bought didn’t fit me properly. I didn’t worry that I should be taller or longer-legged because I know it’s not me, it’s the clothes.

I feel like more and more women are adopting this mentality, and I’m thrilled to see it. You try on enough dresses that seem ridiculously short and wonder if you’re an absolute giraffe. You struggle to find a bra that fits your girls and wonder if you’re a mutant. You search and search for cute shoes in your size and wonder if your feet are really that outrageously unusual. But you’re not. You’re not a giraffe, or a mutant, or a bigfoot. You’re marvelous. It’s not you, it’s the clothes. There is nothing wrong with your body just because it won’t fit perfectly into off-the-rack everything. You should not attempt to change how you’re shaped, how you look, or how you feel about yourself just because nothing at Zara or Forever 21 fits you. Needing to alter your clothing is not an indicator that you should alter your body.

It’s not you, beautiful. It’s the clothes.

Clothes should fit you, you needn’t fit them. The styles, shapes, and specific garments that slide onto your gorgeous form and make you grin at your radiant reflection? Those are the ones that deserve the honor of bedecking your bod. Don’t let ill-fitting clothing convince you that you’re wrong or strange. Celebrities – who spend hours exercising every day and hire chefs to keep their diets monitored – have every single item of clothing they own tailored to fit, including plain tees and camisoles. No one – not even a professional clothing model – looks amazing in every garment ever designed. Don’t expect yourself to, and try not to agonize over the items that fight your body.

Easier said than done, of course. I know exactly how disappointing and unfair it feels to realize that not a single item from a particular line is going to work for you. When I adore the aesthetic of a brand or store and cannot squeeze into anything they offer, I feel heartbroken and hurt. And, perhaps more importantly, I’m inclined to blame myself. I mean, obviously if my hips can’t be jammed into a single pair of those pants I’m a disproportionate, repellent eyesore. But I try to remember that those fit issues aren’t about me. They could be about the designer’s narrow view of bodily proportions, they could be about fitting a perceived set of average sizes, they could be about some quirk in that specific pattern or design. They could be about any number of factors, all of which are utterly unrelated to me, my figure, my body, and my value as a human being.

Many women can shop at mall stores, and many of those women look amazing in nearly everything they throw on. But the emphasis here is on the “nearly.” There isn’t a single, solitary soul walking this earth who can wear every garment ever designed and look ravishing. There isn’t a woman alive who has bought everything she owns from a mass-market store and had it all fit perfectly, as if tailor-made for her unique curves. Everyone deals with clothes that are “good enough,” everyone needs to visit the tailor for certain garments, and everyone looks awful in something.

Those off-the-rack clothes that just won’t fit you? They say absolutely nothing about you. YOU are amazing. Every last one of you.

It’s not you, it’s the clothes.

 

Image courtesy Gap // This post is such a favorite that I wanted to revive it for any new readers. I’ve been struggling with professional balance lately, and will be bringing back the occasional archived post until things calm down a bit. Thanks for your understanding.

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  • Bernie

    Mostly when clothes are so clearly out of proportion it just makes me laugh. Although when I spent some time in Australia, I did wonder where they kept all the Amazonian women as every medium length pair of trousers did penguin feet on me (and I’m 5’9″)… Made for amusing penguin walk moments in the changing rooms though.

  • Toby Wollin

    It really drives you crazy sometimes (which is why I’m glad I sew). For me, the issues (and I’m 5’2″ so you’d think petit ranges would be my ‘wheelhouse’) are that no one can take into consideration the fact that I have super-short arms. I got them from my dad, who also had super-short arms (just call us T-Rex, I guess), so even in petite sizing (which is supposed to be shorter in the arms anyway), I need to shorten sleeves several inches. My sister, who is much taller than I am, suffers from what I’d call ‘low knees syndrome” – that is, the proportion of leg below the knee is smaller than designers take into consideration so finding skirts that are not automatically minis for her is a real chore. Finding a seamstress or tailor who can do the nips and tucks you need is just standard operating procedure, really. No one should expect that what is hanging on the rack is going to fit them well — as long as you can find things that fit you reasonably in the shoulders (which is the hardest part to change) or bust (if you are larger there and need the coverage), if there is extra fabric or weirdness going on, you can certainly find someone to make it more YOU.

  • Laurel

    I think bra shopping is the worst of this. (Of course, I’m probably biased, since that is *my* biggest issue.) Pants and dresses can be hemmed. Bras come as the size they are, and that’s it. And to get “specialty sized” bras, you have to go to a boutique (not feasible for many people, including myself), or shop online (where more than likely you will have to send most back, since bras are so difficult to fit.)

    • jan.4987

      I think it could be the worst, because there are just so many different shapes and position of breast as well as size, and for some women it’s a very physically sensitive area so any tiny flaw in fitting is a constant irritation. There are some modifications you can do, in fact I have to alter all my bras as my shape is apparently so weird (sarcasm; I do blame the bras really), see http://bustyresources.wikia.com/wiki/How-to_alter_a_bra

      I do feel the need to share though the fact that when I googled “bra shape modifications” just now (knowing I’d seen tutorials but not remembering where) the FIFTH result was a cosmetic surgery site. The fifth! It came in above other sites detailing actual modifications to the shape of bras. Make of that what you will.

  • Ditto! this is so true and so well written, and as a new reader I do thank you for reviving it! Every woman should take this in mind while shopping or trying on clothes. Since every woman can find something that fits like a dream making her feel gorgeous, and clothes that feel like a niightmare on which were cut for… for someone else, actually.
    I am an average 5.7 and most pants/jeans are good, but occasionally I can find too long/too short, dresses hems are the same, often feeling they are too short to me (and still I am not a giraffe!) and then it comes to shirts: they are the worst to me and never fit well. But I know it’s not for my boobs or shoulders… often these shirts are just poorly cut. And not for me. So I go looking somewhere else. We should all know what fits us like a dream, and go for it, nevermind the brand or if it’s thrifted or whatever. We should love clothes that make us feel good – and love our body as is.
    Thanks for this brilliant article.

  • I’ve had this attitude for years now. Makes shopping so much easier and more fun!

  • jan.4987

    I too think more women are coming round to this way of seeing it. These days when I am party to discussions of fit, compared to 15 years ago I hear a lot less “I dunno, I just can’t find anything I can get into and look good in” and a lot more “why can’t designers just accept that a lot of women need [insert feature her]”. It’s wonderful. I think being able to communicate with each other online has taken a lot of us from “I wish I found it as easy as other women seem to” to “is there *anyone* who feels that designers understand their clothing needs?!”.

    It certainly makes me feel like I’ve got a voice; before, I felt like an irrelevant anomaly.

  • But! Finding a tailor any more is practically impossible – at least for me. I live close to Orlando on the beach and there are some good-size towns around me and……..no tailors or cobblers! I’ve tried a few women who do ‘repairs’ out of their homes with disastrous results.

  • Shawna McComber

    This is a great post and a good one to revive! I think the secret of women who seem like they look good in everything is that they are very particular and repeatedly buy variations of what they know does look good on them. I usually fall into the trap of just being more critical of myself in things than I would be of another woman.

  • Thank you. I struggle with this a lot, as a 5’3″-…ish… woman. I recently ordered a dress that I know will be perfect in everything BUT the length, and I’m taking it to have it hemmed when it arrives. I know the styles that fit me, and now I have to get a bit more comfortable in spending a bit more to have things fixed to fit PROPERLY.

    Thanks for this post.

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  • o g

    As a 5’11” woman, please understand that you can tailor pants to fit you. If they don’t come long in the first place, I can NEVER fix that. I wish I could find pants on the rack that were too long for me.