At the age of 43 I have established a new relationship. This is not a relationship with another person, it is with myself.
Now, before you think that I am going to launch into Whitney’s Greatest Love of All – just rip that needle off the record, I will explain.
I have never felt better about myself. This is in part down to a journey I have taken down a catwalk, an experience that is giving me a different perspective.
This morning I was flicking through the latest Next catalogue that arrived on my doorstep, in true timely fashion for Christmas. Although the clothes looked nice, I was starting to feel myself disengaging, experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance, which made me think. Is it me, do these models look just too thin?
Not thin thin, like stereotypical models, thin to the point of making me feel uneasy.
That feeling you get when you pass someone in the street who has clear signs of an eating disorder, poorly disguised under baggy scarecrow clothes, hollow socket eyes, long limp arms, avoiding eye contact. You don’t want to look, you do, it makes you feel sad, sorry, you know their life is in danger and (for the present time) ruined.
Does Next really think that using very slim (skinny) women wearing their clothes entices me to purchase? I won’t buy clothes that make me feel uneasy, that is for sure.
As a teenager I dieted and dieted and put on 4 stone in the process. I then resorted to making myself sick as soon as I felt too full. I equate a full up stomach with feeling bad about myself, even now.
When I was a teenager in the 80s, I, like so many others, wasn’t happy with my body image. I wonder how it must be now for girls when the pressures on body image are so much more prevalent than three decades ago.
Becky Leigh Hopper asked via Twitter if Top Shop mannequins were too skinny:
This sparked a backlash against Top Shop as Becky’s tweet went viral.
Last year Debenhams were the first UK department store to display size 16 mannequins. This is because the average female waist has grown seven inches since 1951, with almost half of ladies in the UK being size 16.
If the average woman in the UK is 5ft 3in tall, weighing 11 stone (70.2kg) with a dress size of size 16, mannequins in Debenhams are not “plus” size, they must be average, right?
We are all getting bigger, whether this is a good thing is to be debated, along with poor diets, food packaging, ultimately the implications to the NHS. For now I want to take another angle: How do we perceive our perfect size?
Research conducted by YouGov looked into perceptions around the ‘ideal’ British dress size. 29% say there is no ideal dress size, however the majority (62%) do have a perfect size; the average is 12. The average male chooses 12 while women choose 13.
Even though the actual average dress size in the UK is 16, both men and women estimate this closely – on average they say 15.
Younger people are more likely to have a lower ideal dress size than older people. 18-24 and 25-39 year olds choose 11 compared to 40-59 year olds saying 13 and those over 60 saying 14.
Are fashion retailers losing sight of their customers? Does this mean we are in fact comfortable with seeing bigger dress sizes represented, say models in catalogues, mannequins? Fashion retailers should understand that if we see ourselves better reflected in the clothes they sell it might better reflect in their bottom line.