Recently, I ordered a custom, hand-knit sweater from an Etsy vendor and she requested my measurements. I’ve really botched my measurements in the past, so I took a series of photos and drew some lines on my body in Photoshop with inch measurements so she’d know exactly how I was measuring my shoulder span and bustline, where from, and what it meant to me. I trashed those photos ages ago, unfortunately, but the exercise was an interesting one. And I wanted to re-create it here for a number of reasons, which I’ll explain shortly.
I used this recent outfit photo because it shows a group of garments that I wear frequently (and frequently in this combination), because this is how you see me on a near-daily basis, and because I think the numbers superimposed over the clothes make for some interesting dynamics. Here are the measurements I sent to her.
Hopefully you can see all of those, but just in case you can’t, here they are again:
Shoulder span: 16.5″ (this is the only flat measurement included here)
Natural waist: 32″
Wearing waist: 37.5″
Arm span: 52″ (couldn’t find a way to fit that onto the photo)
Height: 5′ 5.5″
Weight: 150 pounds
How all of this translates into clothing sizes:
Dress size: 8 or 10
Shirt size: All. Seriously. It depends how I want something to fit. Typically an 8 or medium, though.
Bra size: 34C
Skirt size: 8 or 10
Pant size: 10 or 12
Inseam: 31″ (sometimes 32″)
Shoe size: 8
My proportions mean that I don’t typically have a lot of fit issues. I do occasionally have to get pants hemmed, or waists taken in since what fits over my hips is sometimes quite loose in the waist.
What’s the point of all this? I mean, besides arming you with info in case you want to get me a gift? Well, for one thing it shows that top size and bottom size can have discrepancies, even on a seemingly “proportionate” figure. It shows that skirts will fit someone with my figure quite differently from pants. It shows why I typically belt high on my torso, and that there’s a noticeable difference between high and low waists on me. It shows that I’m not built like a model and never will be, which has likely been clear for quite some time. Hopefully, the photo itself and the numbers that accompany it show that I’m just fine with that.
I have always felt comfortable using myself as an example on this blog. I’m all I’ve got, so if I want to illustrate a concept, I’ve got to use my own body and hope that you, as readers, can compare and draw conclusions that apply to your bodies. In this case, I’m willing to bet that there are droves of you who weigh 150 pounds or have 32″ waists or are 5’5″ and aren’t shaped a thing like me. And wear completely different clothing sizes. Weight, size, and proportion conspire to create an infinite variety of human forms, and two people who share weight, size, and proportion can look incredibly different from one another.
But perhaps most importantly, this post shows how little you know about someone just by looking at them, and how body stats actually provide scant additional, relevant information. I’d wager that most of you had no idea what I weighed or what my waist and hip measurements were. And even though you’ve now got a whole bunch of details about my body, you still don’t know everything. You don’t know how many vegetables I eat each day, or how much weight I can lift, or how far I can run without getting winded. You don’t know anything about my medical history or the various ailments that affect my weight, eating, and overall health. You don’t know my body fat percentage or BMI, and neither do I because I don’t consider either to be tremendously helpful figures. You don’t know how I look without a bra or barefoot or naked. You don’t know how often I exercise, or what I do when I exercise, or how it affects my figure or muscle tone. You don’t know how my body used to look, or what I love about it, or how it changes in response to life events, or how I’m feeling about it on a daily basis. You know the stats, but you don’t know the story.
Our bodies are so much more than they appear. And they are ever so much more than the numbers that describe them. Those numbers can be helpful in certain contexts, but they will never provide a complete picture. So don’t ever let stats turn you against your body. Don’t ever let them rule you, shame you, or hold you back. They are just one chapter in the story of your body. The true, whole story of your body is one that only you can know.
And, in my opinion, that makes it sacred.