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I was overwhelmed by the amazing response to my recent guest curator post on Etsy. Before listing my picks from the site, the team very kindly let me wax lyrical about Big Girls Browse and why I started it, and it was lovely to see some of the reactions from the Etsy community.
One comment in particular really stood out to me. Niftyknits said “I’ve been trying to pretend I’m still a UK14, not 16…but this gives me the courage to say heck – I’m a 16!!!”
I was so touched when I read that, because it sums up the exact reason I started this site. We live in a world where there’s so much stigma attached to a stupid number printed on a clothes label, and there shouldn’t be! Your dress size does not define who you are.
In my experience UK 16 (and sometimes even 14) seems to be a real trigger point for a lot of women. For many of my slimmer friends, it seems to be the unspoken barrier between being ok and being ‘fat’ (and I mean ‘fat’ the way an obviously not fat girl does when she turns to her friend and yelps “OMG I’m soooooo fat”). I don’t really know why this particular size has such bad connotations. Perhaps it’s because, for a long time, 16 was the biggest size a lot of shops sold, and the crossover to the plus size market.
Now that’s not so true. As a nation, we’re getting bigger. Size 16 is now the average. The likes of New Look, M&S, Next and George stock larger sizes as standard. Evans, meanwhile, starts at 14, not the 16 that most people assume.
My dress size has yo-yo’d between a 12 and 16 for all of my adult life. Over that time my body mass index (BMI) has been everywhere from 22 (healthy) to just under 28 (overweight). I have never been obese (a BMI of 30+) though I’m sure a fair few internet trolls would tell you otherwise if they saw a picture of me in a bikini.
My comfy weight (what model Crystal Renn refers to as the ‘set point’ in her book) is around a size 14, with a BMI of 24. This is on the high end of the healthy range, but healthy all the same. At that weight, I can enjoy myself, have the odd treat and resist becoming the Crazy Diet Girl that I was at my slimmest. But I frequently go above that weight, and it really doesn’t make much of a difference. I don’t morph into a different person when I put on 5lbs.
I once put a picture of myself on a blog and stated my dress size in the accompanying post. I was a size 14 max at the time. One woman took no time in getting her claws out to comment “Size 18 more like!”
I was livid. How dare she? I was proud at that time to be maintaining a so-called healthy weight. The last thing I needed when I was actually making an effort was for some nasty little witch I’d never met to make me feel bad about myself.
But then I thought about it, and I decided that by being pissed off, I was just as bad as this woman. I was letting dress size rule my life. Who cares if I was a size 18? IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER. The only thing I had any right to be upset about was the fact she thought I’d felt the need to lie about it!
The label in your clothing means nothing. It’s taken me a long time to realise that. There’s no magic change when you go up a size. You don’t suddenly become a heifer overnight. It’s just a number.
Two women can wear the same dress size and look completely different. Height, body shape, muscle mass, waist-to-hip ratio, even the size of your boobs can contribute to what dress size you wear. The BMI scale (which dictates that a woman of average height, were she a size 16, would probably be slightly overweight) doesn’t take into account the fact muscle weighs more than fat, or the fact that big breasts aren’t a choice. It also doesn’t take into account the reasons women are the size they are; from lifestyle to genetics to the medication they’re on (including, of course, the contraceptive pill). One woman’s 12 is another’s 22. It doesn’t matter what the label says as long as you’re happy.
More importantly, and the point I was trying to make when mentioning the comment that woman made, is that size is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, there are some people who will always look at women and see fatties, whether they’re size 12, 16 or 26. But there are just as many others who’ll look at a size 16+ and see a voluptuous, sexy woman who’s got better things to do than obsess over the label in her jeans. And that is a very attractive thing indeed.
If, with this site, I can make just one or two women of a similar size to me feel better about their bodies, then I’m happy. I’ve come to terms with the fact I wasn’t built to be super-slim, and I’m concentrating on being happy and having a healthy attitude towards my size instead.
And the happiest, healthiest people are the ones who don’t obsess, or care, what a label says!