Size matters … I know this as a woman who is 5ft 9ins tall. As a sylph-like young woman I was a size 14, and have been an 18 for the last 15 years. For the record, I also have very short legs, am very long in the waist, have no hips and no waist. I search high and low for clothes to suit my body shape. I even had a phase of “If it fits – buy it” regardless of whether I really liked it. It’s like “Challenge Annika” or “Mission Impossible” my challenge should I choose to accept it!
Women come into my shop with similarly challenging body shapes, sizes and proportions on a daily basis. I am presented with long legs, short legs, high waists, low waists, no waists, big hips, saddlebags, big breasts, no breasts, square shoulders, sloping shoulders, long necks and short necks . Add to this a recent audit of our shape and size showing the Average British Woman to be a size 16, 5ft 4ins and a D cup and we have half the women in the land struggling to buy the clothes they need.
To deal with bodies that are not an idealized shape we have…
- Squeezed it into shape … Trinny and Susannah advocate Magic Knickers to re-shape the body.
- Worked it into shape… my sister was always described as having “child-bearing hips ’til she went to live in California, went to the gym, and got rid of them!
- Cut it into shape… a recent survey asked young women whether a university degree or a boob-job would be better for their career prospects… the boob-job won!
This is against a background of self-improvement and “lifestyles” that pervades every aspect of our lives. Our homes are “styled” to reflect our beliefs, tastes and modernity they are statements! Our gardens are outdoor rooms where we partake of lifestyle activities outdoor hot- tubs and barbeques. Our kitchens become slick, contemporary environments for Jamie Oliver and Nigella.
The membership of Gyms and Health Clubs is soaring. Therapies, treatments, make-overs and D.I.Y. are all over us like a rash! If you want proof of our changing expectations, just look in the Yellow Pages. You’ll find a whole range of self-improvement services. Cosmetic Surgeons, Diet Clubs and DIY have replaced Greengrocers and Butchers.
We’re lead to believe that we can buy whatever we desire, but if the average British woman is a size 16, she can’t buy what she desires – clothes that fit! The TV programme Fat Nation revealed that 60% of us are over-weight … but the shops are full of size 10 and 12. I don’t understand how this makes commercial sense. For shops to survive by selling a huge number of 10s and 12s, must mean that small women buy a lot of clothes and poor Average British Woman buys hardly any.
Trinny and Susannah, despite their obnoxious style of personal interaction (which is obviously part of their entertainment value) are doing a sterling job of empowering women …and it’s so wonderfully positive. I was actually moved to tears by the transformation of one of their victims. Their “style rules” are excellent, but I think they ignore two important ideas…
Body focus (or not)
All the clothes that are offered to their victims on What Not to Wear are body focussed. They are the same shape as an ideal woman’s body. They fit tightly and curve in at the waist. There is, in fact, a wide spectrum of clothing shapes that are not body shaped and can be used to enhance a woman’s body.
I am apple-shaped. My hips and bust are small in comparison to my waist. I want to draw the eye to the smallness of my hips, my tiny bum and away from by considerable corporation! A fitted, waist-focussed top would look awful on me no matter how huge it’s the wrong shape. I look better in boxy tops that finish below the corporation and above the svelte hips, usually teamed with a tight skirt to take the eye away from my waist and towards my skinny knees!
Best used only on areas of the body you want people to look at. I don’t wear clingy fabrics around my waist, but I do round my hips.
Perhaps Trinny and Susannah haven’t included these two ideas because they too are victims of the restricted range of clothes available in our High Street shops!!
Hopefully the clothing industry will use the results of the audit to offer new shapes and fabrics for real women – who are, after all, the majority. It would make better commercial sense if the Average British Woman could find flattering clothes and all women could dress their bodies.
– Article by Janet Hassall
Owner of womens clothing shop Lillian Refern- Tel: 0114 2671167