The First Time I Cried in a Change Room

why I cried in a change room

I have felt like crying in change rooms quite a few times in my life but only once have I actually broken down and started crying. Now if you had asked me before hand what I was most likely to cry about trying on I probably would have said swimwear, brassieres or jeans, because they have the most finicky fits. But no, it was not trying something on that is unforgiving, that a sales person insists you should try on the ugly ones for fit, or something skin tight. But no I broke into tears while trying on something that makes you look like a warm fluffy marshmallow, I cried over the fit of snowboarding outerwear.

The last time I got a new snowsuit it was the year 2000, I was 12 and had just finished my shock year of growing from a child’s size 11 to a ladies 12. I wore a hire set of clothing. My mother saw a bright blue jacket in one of the stores, it was my favourite clothing colour at the time and I tried on and got a ladies 12. The jacket served me well for 15 years, the pants on the other hand sat at the hips and when I switched to snowboarding the button popped open as I tried to stand up. I wore an old pair of my Grandmothers which were a size 14 after that.

I had kept an eye out for a jacket I liked for a couple of years as my bright blue jacket was getting old and the new ticketing system meant I needed a pocket on my left side or to jump slightly for the reader to read it. I had a couple of things I wanted in a jacket: plenty of pockets; to be patterned; to have my favourite colour green on it; to have matching pants; and to identify me as female on the slopes with my hair tucked away. I also mostly wanted it to be a snowboarder brand and I particularly liked the Burton outerwear.

Before we went to the snow I stalked out Burton’s website and scoped out a few that I really liked. When we got down there and I tried on one of the Burton ones in a large I quickly realised that this wasn’t going to be as straight forward as I thought. The size large jacket was too tight around my hips. I couldn’t even do up the matching pants. I asked the sales assistant if she had any in an extra large and she replied that Burton didn’t make extra larges—in direct conflict with the fact that the website said their size range for that particular jacket was XS through to XL.

We went to two different stores after that and I tried everything I remotely liked on. None of the ladies jackets fit around my hips. Some were close, some would fit over jeans but not over ski pants, barely any pants fit at all. I tried women’s ones in the largest sizes we could find, even one XL that was called a slim fit was too small. I tried men’s ones on but most were too tight in the thighs even if they fit in the waist.

The last thing I tried on was a men’s jacket and some pants that I didn’t mind and fit and matched, but they failed my last requirement, I was not easily identified as female. Part of me wanted to say, screw the last requirement, who cares if people mistake me as a male on the slopes, the part of me that likes to be non conventional, the part of me that wore collared shirts with skulls on them in college, the part of me that likes to pretend I don’t care what people think. But the part of me that wants to look like a female knew that feeling a little kick-ass wouldn’t trump feeling frumpy and unattractive. The male set of snowboard gear wasn’t for me.

As I redressed myself and dealt with the carnage in the change room I broke down into tears. Pretty ski gear was not available in my size. There was one insipid pink and white jacket that fit but I didn’t like it. I’d just have to wear my stained neon blue jacket and ridiculously high waisted hand me down pants that kept getting caught in my binders until they fell to rags. All of the insecurities that come with being a chubby teenage girl all came flooding back. As an overweight female I didn’t deserve to have ski gear I liked.

I slunk back to our accommodation hoping the sales assistants wouldn’t see me. I know I have put on weight around my stomach, and that was affecting the way the pants fit, but I know my weight fluctuates and I didn’t want to buy ski pants that only fit me when I keep to a diet that has zero tolerance for cheese, chocolate or pasta. I know that some might argue that as snowboarding is a sport it makes sense that the brands only cater to ‘fit’ women. But I exercise, I run on an elliptical trainer three times a week, I do 4.8km in 40min, maybe that’s just not fit enough. Or maybe we need to reject the idea that a fit woman must be a size ten or under. Most frustratingly I own long-johns that I wear under my ski gear from the same brand and they are a size medium.

I think the issue lies somewhere between retail outlets stocking a full range of sizes and the so called ‘slim fit.’ It seems to be code for ‘a size smaller than the label’. If they were looking for a more tailored silhouette for women the jackets would be smaller in the waist and then taper back out for the hips, not just be smaller everywhere. The pants should be smaller in the knees, not just around my bottom. And if the whole range of clothes is going to be ‘slim fit’ why bother labelling it at all? Why not just declare that you don’t want either overweight or particularly tall women to be seen wearing your clothes?

While shopping for shirts for my father we’ve experienced the same thing, so many brands just do a slim fit, often branded in some ridiculous way like ‘metro fit’ or ‘European fit’ that means that we just have to up size. Less and less brands offer a regular fit and in less and less interesting designs. If the trend continues then my father will only be able to wear plain white shirts.
I have also noticed that bonds have been pinching fabric from their underwear sizes. My posterior has remained a fairly static size, but instead of continuing to buy the size twelves like the old pairs that still fit me I have to buy size fourteens. Presumably size fourteen women now have to buy sixteens and size sixteen women probably have to find a completely different range to fit them.

I’m not necessarily upset about being forced to upsize. Making sizes smaller does mean that there is more option for smaller women and that’s a good thing. I’m upset at not having a range of options that might fit me, or women larger than me. Calling something a ‘slim fit’ but not having a wide range of regular fits means that a brand can cut out a broad range of people, a broad range of people who have money to spend. My weight is not an indication of my ability or desire to snow board. And I am average height for an Australian woman, women that are ten centimetres taller than me, are the same size as me and are in their healthy weight range exist and might like to snowboard or ski in pretty gear too.

The next day after a pretty enjoyable snowboarding session we were looking at a different shop and I found an Icelandic women’s brand called Nikita had a jacket I liked that fit me in the large and matching pants that fit me in the extra large. My mother was chatting to the sales assistant while I was changing back into my clothes about our experience the day before (mercifully she left out the fact that I had an emotional breakdown in the change room) and the sales assistant said that they usually sell out of the women’s extra large sizes first. Well seeing as the average Australian woman is a fourteen, like me, I am not surprised.

Have you ever cried or felt like crying in a change room? How do you feel about ‘slim fits’? Have you ever been sized out of a brand you would otherwise wear?

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  • Jen

    I was glad you story had a happy ending and you found a jacket

  • daharja

    I really feel for you, because it’s something I experience all the time. It’s called “sizism”. I’m a 5’11” bodybuilder, and believe me, my shoulders are HUGE. And no, I cannot buy anything below a women’s size 16-18 in tops most stores. Which means that anything trendy that is in the fitness department, despite the fact I’m a very fit athlete, won’t fit me.

    I also have to buy gym trousers in the mens department, because I need the length and “give” in the seat, when I do deep squats.

    There are even clothing lines for “female lifters” that don’t do size XL, can you believe it? Perhaps they need to talk with a woman down the road from me, who is a world champion powerlifter (84 kgs and above class) and would not fit *anything* in any “fitness” range. Yet she’s a world record holder.

    It seems the retail industry has one image and one image only of “fit”,and that’s “skinny” and “small”.

    All I can say is, don’t let it worry you. Write to the manufacturers and complain, and tell them how wrong they are, and hopefully that will make a difference. I don’t know whether it will, but at least you’ll be doing what you can.

    Our society has an obsession with skinniness, and it needs to end. Although fat does usually mean unfit, skinny doesn’t mean fit, and tall and broad can mean muscular, strong and even elite in sport.

    • Jessica Chapman

      Sizism really bugs me, because on the one hand a brand might size for a very narrow part of the population but also complain that the retail profits are down, people won’t buy what doesn’t fit.

      I would have thought that at least the fitness clothing industry would have gotten their heads around the fact that female athletes come in all different shapes and sizes, watching any kind of elite sport would tell you that. Even in a single sport like tennis the women are hardly shaped the same. It upsets me that society still clings to the ideal of thin women to the point where even the people who would use fitness wear the most are sized out.