I'm starting to write my chapters about clothing size. If fit is the way the clothes are contoured to the human body, size is the set of industrial techniques for mass-producing and mass-marketing clothes. It offers a fascinating history of problem-solving as retailers invent new ways to sell clothes, and changing populations present themselves as new market segments needing to be wooed with new sizes.
But right now, I'm interested in how this system exerts itself on the feelings of the individual shopper. How does it feel to enter a shop, be confronted by displays of clothes, and have to figure out which ones will fit?
More importantly, how does it feel when trying on clothes goes badly? We often imagine that we're the only people who go home empty-handed, feeling like ugly freaks. We imagine that everyone else just waltzes into a shop and picks something off the rack if they like the look of it.
But shopping for clothes is, by definition, a battle. The vulnerable human body, so intriguing in its individual variation, is assaulted from two sides: by the weighty cultural meanings we attach to clothes; and by the implacable heft of the industries trying to sell them to us. This happens to everyone – old, young, thin, fat, men, women.
I plan to share some of my strategies and war stories in my book, but I'm keen to hear yours too. So I've done another one of my trademark surveys about trying on clothes in shops. If you leave your name with the survey, you'll be quoted here on the blog, and/or in my finished book.
Click here to do the survey. It'll only take about five minutes.