we can't let the size of our clothes shape who we are

Alexandra Woolbright


Buying clothes as a woman has always been hard. It seems that no matter where I shop, I’m never completely able to find something to accommodate my hour-glass figure. My shirts are always too tight, too revealing or too big, while my bottom fights to squeeze into anything. It’s as if companies have forgotten the word “stretch” in making clothing, particular for women over a size zero.

Most of my shopping ventures turn into an afternoon spent crying into a Coke with lemon from Sonic because I couldn’t find anything to contain my curves, and I have given up on ever finding anything attractive.

So last week when I read about Lululemon co-founder Chip Wilson’s statements concerning women’s bodies, I was more than ready to douse him in my Coke and squeeze lemon juice into his eyes.

Lululemon yoga pants have been criticized in recent months for having sheer fabric and unraveling seams. There was so much criticism that the company was forced to recall shipments of the pants in March claiming “faulty production” as the reason. Though the company claims to have changed the testing process for the pants, many consumers are still complaining the pants are too see-through.

So, in response Wilson decided to tell his customers something heartwarming: it’s not the pants, it’s the person.

Appearing on Bloomberg TV, Wilson informed women that the knitted fabric used to make the pants can only be stretched so far before it becomes sheer saying, “Frankly, some women’s bodies don’t work for it.”

Being the gentlemen he is, Wilson went on to explain more, saying, “They don’t work for some women’s bodies… it’s really about rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

Of course! A product designed for women should never actually fit women, right?

Though Wilson released an apology video less than a week later, his sincerity falls flat.

“I’m sad for the people at Lululemon…that have really had to face the brunt of my actions. I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact that it has had on you. I’m sorry to put you all through this,” Wilson says.

Yet, I ask, is saying I’m sad the same as saying I’m sorry?

What is sad is that Wilson is not the first to say these types of things.

Abercrombie & Fitch, a teen retail store, refuses to stock XL or XXL sizes in women’s clothing because the company does not want overweight women wearing the brand. In fact, Abercrombie doesn’t even list XL or XXL on its size chart, with the largest pant size being a 10. For Abercrombie, nothing higher exists.

This attitude comes as no surprise since the company’s CEO, Mike Jeffries, expressed a very clear attitude on sex appeal in 2006 in an interview with Salon.

“It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people and, we want to market to cool, good-looking people.”

He went even further saying, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids…We got after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong, and they can’t belong.”

Sadly, these companies aren’t facing reality, and in turn are causing women everywhere to doubt themselves.

According to the CDC, on average women weigh 166.2 pounds with a waist circumference of 37.5 inches. This means that the average dress size for women in America is a size 14. In today’s language, this means most women in America are plus size.

Sadly, this distorted idea of size and beauty is making an impact on women of all ages.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, more than 20 million women in America suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

Also, 69 percent of elementary school girls in America say that the pictures in magazines influence their concept of the ideal body shape, and 47 percent say these pictures make them want to lose weight.

So, what can we do to stop this epidemic? How can we stand up as women and protect our sisters, nieces, daughters, cousins, etc. from a world that forces us to be unhappy with our bodies?

We will never be able to control what companies say or do. There will always be jerks in the world like Wilson and Jeffries who think the only way a woman can be beautiful is by becoming thin.

Perhaps all we can do to counteract the messages we are sent is to ignore them.

Whether you are a size zero or a size 10, it shouldn’t define who you are as a person. What companies like Lululemon and Abercrombie don’t understand is that there is so much more to a person than the clothes he or she wears.

It’s not about being a certain size; it’s about being healthy. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight offer lots of benefits that far surpass being a “cool kid” that works at Abercrombie with washboard abs. A person’s worth is defined by far more than her body shape.

Wilson and Jeffries may wear cool clothes, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say they completely suck as people. Having cool clothes can never cover up an ugly inside, and that is what we should be telling each other.