When You Grow Up Wearing Baggy T-Shirts . . .

I was fascinated by a recent post by Lana on clothes shopping as an ex-fundamentalist girl. So much of it rang so very true for me. I’ll be writing more on this topic soon, but I wanted to start by quoting liberally from her wonderful post:

You remember that scene in Tangled where the little girls have to fix Rapunzel’s hair up? That’s totally me in the clothing shop. I’m pretty sure most 8-year-olds know more about women’s clothing to me.

I hate clothes shopping. It’s painfully difficult for me. One would think it’s as simple as trying on clothes, fitting them, coming up with the money, and paying a cashier. Actually its a lot harder than that.

First of all, I never bought clothes at the store as a kid other than the thrift shop. From grade school until high school, I had maybe two or three store-bought dresses that I didn’t actually buy; my aunts/grandma bought them. The rest of my clothes came from thrift shops, garage sales, or were home sewn (the insane part is that some of my garage sale dresses were not only worn by my family for the next six years, but were still being worn by other little girls I knew 15 years later. Classic homeschool). My grandma bought me my first pair of store-bought shoes when I was 16, so I wouldn’t get made fun of while taking driver’s ed at the high school.

Second of all, I wore mostly dresses, or other baggy clothes, and all my clothes were 100% cotten (the Old Testament says don’t wear mixed clothing. :P ). So even if all my dresses had come from the store, it wouldn’t have transferred to today very well.

I didn’t learn…..

1) What fits me. I wore baggy clothes. What’s normal size?

2) About undershirts. OMG I had no idea why people wore them until I was in my 20s (I never wore them; I wore baggy T-shifts), and I still wonder what the heck sometimes.

3) Old people’s style verses young people’s style. Technically I was the young person in grandma style.

4) All about pants. When do I need a belt? What’s too low? I didn’t wear belts on pants as a kid. I wore dresses, elastic pants,and skirts that included a belt.

[Read the rest.]

Like I said, more of my thoughts later! I even have a post planned with pictures as examples of how I dressed as a girl and a teen growing up in the conservative Christian homechooling subculture.

 

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Katherine Hompes

    I’d love to see examples! I honestly have no idea what it would be like to be forced to dress on a certain way – growing up, I was the girl who wanted to be uber-stylish (while playing in the mud and racing the boys on my bike – I never thought it unusual – just well-rounded :P). As a teen, I took pride in op-shopping, when you came across that awesome find, it was such a thrill! And I certainly had quite a boho-chic style going on as a teen. In Australia, we just don’t have that kind of sub-culture visible to the rest of us- your posts have really opened my eyes to how it is possible for cults to become mainstream.

    I know this comment makes not much sense – I’m on pretty heavy painkillers at the moment, so apologies if I’m a bit difficult to follow :)

    • Mogg

      It does exist in Oz, just not so much. If you live near a community of Exclusive Brethren you will see families out shopping with all the girls in ankle-length skirts and headscarves. It doesn’t even have to be a whole community putting that kind of pressure on – somehow I managed to do it to myself, as I combined being a bit of a tomboyish girl who really didn’t get the concept of clothes as anything other than stuff to keep your skin protected from sun, cold and damage, with my interpretation of the idea taught to me of not dressing “provocatively” and being careful of those evil boys who only think of sex. I wore a lot of very baggy teeshirts and floppy jumpers. Then at 18 my family joined a church that was very big on modesty in dress for girls and women – no cleavage at all, no visible bra straps or other undergarment hints and preferably no exposed shoulders even on the hottest days, definitely no strapless or shoestring tops, no two-piece bathers for girls and even then, a teeshirt and swimming shorts over the bathers, no skirts above the knee, no top that showed any back or belly if you raised your arms or bent over. There was a whole joke about one of the elder’s wives going around with red marker to scribble on any skin exposed in this way, which would have seen her decked if she had ever tried it one me.

  • Rilian Sharp

    I thought undershirts were just a pointless part of “dressing up”, like ties and pointy shoes.

    • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

      They’re very helpful if you have a see-through-ish top.

      Or if, as happens a lot when you have a small bust, the front of the outer layer gapes enormously so you keep accidentally flashing the world. Having an undershirt in a matching colour can make it look stylish rather than totally stupid.

      • Jolie

        I don’t see much of the point or undershirts either; always preferred nude-colored bras, even with more transparent blouses.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        undershirts are great for sleep-wear, and, in the winter, are excellent layering for the warm.

    • Katherine Hompes

      Also, I wear undershirts because of being very busty – just to make sure I don’t show anything I don’t intend to :)

    • Saraquill

      They’re good for when it’s chilly, or you’re wearing a dry clean only top, and you want to keep sweat and body oils off of it.

      • Anat

        When I’m chilly I wear a non-baggy t-shirt underneath. Works better than an undershirt. Haven’t had an undershirt since I turned 12.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        Isn’t that still an undershirt?

      • Anat

        To me ‘undershirt’ is a sleeveless item that is never intended to be used as outwear even if it gets warm.

    • Rosa

      many men need undershirts under dress shirts so their nipples & body hair don’t show through.

      • Nate Frein

        They’re also good for absorbing sweat and such. I don’t understand guys who don’t wear undershirts beneath polos and buttondowns, dress or casual.

      • smrnda

        Most men that I know do. All the rest end up with visible sweat and stains all over their shirts.

      • Nate Frein

        Exactly!

      • Alice

        I know someone who doesn’t wear them under business casual clothes, but five-sixths of the building doesn’t have air-conditioning, so everyone has visible sweat. :)

      • Alice

        Also, most white dress shirts for women that I have seen are see-through, so I would wear one in that case.

    • Christine

      They’re useful to keep your nice clothes clean. Washing clothes used to be (and still is, especially if you’re stuck using a top-loading washing machine) what wore clothes out the most. If you can wear a shirt or dress twice before washing it instead of once, it will probably last at least half again as long. But these days, when everything gets thrown into the washer, there’s less point. I have, however, had shirts that, even though I wash them every wear, pick up body grease and get kind of gross without an undershirt.

  • J-Rex

    What I learned about modesty was that it’s not about making sure you don’t show too much, it’s about making sure that no one could ever possibly feel attracted to you. I would wear a nice shirt that wasn’t too low-cut or form-fitting and my mom would sigh and say that maybe I should wear something else. I would ask her why and she would say that I was very…”shapely.” I was all for being modest and would often guilt myself out of wearing anything that made me look too good, but it was very discouraging to have my mom comment on some of my most modest clothes. Other girls could get away with wearing any style of clothing they wanted, but I was expected to completely hide myself.

  • Ibis3

    “First pair of store-bought shoes”? What did she wear before, bare feet?

    • CarysBirch

      Secondhand stuff. As the oldest child and the oldest of my cousins, most of my clothes were bought new, but my brothers and my younger girl cousins almost never had new stuff, they just wore what the older kids grew out of.

      That can’t be all that uncommon, can it?

      • Anat

        In my family we handed clothes down – even as the oldest, I got clothes from my cousin and even the daughter of very close family friends. And my daughter, an only child, got plenty of hand-me-downs from her cousin. But never shoes. It’s really not healthy, as shoes get shaped by the feet that wear them. And anyway, the stuff that is made these days doesn’t last that long.

      • CarysBirch

        I just picked up a barely worn pair of shoes from my friends’ teenage son. He grew out of them so fast that they’re almost like new. I don’t see why those things shouldn’t get reused?

      • persephone

        That’s different. A pair of shoes worn a few times is probably not going to be a problem. At times my sons and I wore the same size shoes (they’ve since moved up to the far end of off the rack male sizes) and sometimes I ended up wearing slippers or casual shoes we bought but they either outgrew quickly or never wore.

        However, worn shoes are a poor choice. Everyone wears down their shoes differently. Wearing a pair of second hand shoes can cause back or leg problems, and back or legs problems can affect the entire body.

      • tesyaa

        My mother told me that worn shoes are unhealthy for the feet and back, but I read elsewhere that there’s no scientific basis for this; it’s basically an old wives tale.

        Naturally, if the shoes are worn down in such a way that they’re uncomfortable to wear, that’s a different story, just like one shouldn’t purchase brand-new shoes that don’t feel comfortable.

      • Jolie

        I always get hand-me-down designer shoes from my fashionista aunt :) but always obviously little-worn (I guess the fact that they’re high-quality also helps them maintain shape by the time they get to me)- and I admit I unapologetically LOVE IT.

      • Kate Monster

        Could you, maybe, introduce me to your aunt? And tell her I’m a long-lost cousin or something?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        We wore a few hand-me-downs, but we also mostly got new stuff. I know my sisters got a few of my old things, and I was thrilled when I went to college and my mom let me go through her closet for a few things, but it was also a choice. My sister got the shirts I outgrew because she wanted them, not because that was the only clothing she could have.

      • Ibis3

        “Store-bought” to me, implies a contrast with “home-made” which is why I was confused. I was picturing people cobbling their own or their children’s shoes and couldn’t quite imagine it unless they were wearing home made sandals, which don’t take a lot of expertise to make.

  • Kit

    I don’t think this is something entirely restricted to people leaving fundamentalist culture. I grew up in mainstream culture and I still have a hard time dressing myself or putting on makeup and things like that! I think it has more to do with whether or not there is a female role model around willing to teach you these things. My mom was decidedly unfashionable, so to this day, it was definitely girlfriends who taught me how to buy jeans and things like that.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I can totally relate. I had to have a friend help me put on makeup for my own wedding! And by help, I mean I sat there with my eyes closed while she did her magic. I’ve never had a ton of girlfriends (I get along better with guys in general), so while I’ve finally learned to do basic makeup and can buy cute clothes, it’s taken a long time. I didn’t ever have trouble buying jeans, though, other than the basic issue of finding ones that fit (size 0 is actually really hard to find if you don’t want to pay $80+). I wear size 3 now, though, so I can finally buy jeans in department stores!

      The only “style” thing I really did in high school was wear lots of rings. Cheap, but pretty. I think at one point I was up to eight rings as part of my general wear, and I would have had more ear piercings except my parents objected :/.

      • Anat

        I did not wear makeup on my wedding, or any other day for that matter (except for Purim costumes). No style whatsoever, ever. My daughter manages to be way more feminine than me, I have no idea who taught her. Her grandmas who see her for some 2 weeks a year? Her classmates? Observation and experimentation on her own?

      • sylvia_rachel

        I wonder that about my daughter, too…

      • Nancy Shrew

        My mom wore/wears makeup, but I mostly figured it out on my own through experimentation.

      • The_L1985

        Ditto. I didn’t like the idea of “dressing up;” to me, jeans and a T-shirt were all I’d ever need. It’s taken me until now to learn how to color-coordinate and the like.

    • SinginDiva721

      I grew up mainstream as well and wore baggy clothing and refrained from makeup for a period as well. My mother wasn’t especially fashionable, although the few times she would dress up she usually looked stunning. She had a knack for picking out dresses and outfits that flattered her body. But she was jeans and t-shirt person

      I wore baggy clothes to hide how big my boobs and body had gotten. I was a late bloomer so puberty didn’t really hit me until I was 15 and I grew giant hips, butt and boobs over the course of a summer (not to mention my metabolism crashed into a brick wall around that time too so I gained a ton of weight). Now that I’m (almost) 32, I’ve learned to love and embrace my curves a little more. But I still suck at dressing myself from time to time. Finding flattering clothes for plus-sized women can be tedious. I feel like they think all plus-sized women are also tall which can make it that much more complicated when you’re only 5’2″.

  • Mariana

    Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with that style of dressing for young kids. It sounds a lot like how I was raised in terms of clothing, and my parents weren’t religious fundamentalists, just hippie environmentalists. Now, the key difference is that in late middle school I was allowed to develop a style of my own and buy some of my own clothes, but it had nothing to do with my parents influence (I was in public school).

    As terrible as Lana thinks her experience was, it still seems less terrible than the shallow, materialistic, fashion-centric, judgemental ways that a lot of mainstream people raise their kids from a very early age. And it’s a lot less damaging to the environment than people who think that clothing should be bought, worn for a season, and then thrown out.

    I mean obviously, those are two extremes, and people can find a happy place in the middle, but I don’t think it’s as simple as, “parents dressing their kids in hand-be-downs dooms children to a life of terrible fashion and social awkwardness.”

    • Callie

      I beg to differ. I’m sure it depends on the child and on the situation, but for me it was a disaster. I was dressed in hand-me-downs and homemade clothes for most of my elementary school years and it certainly had a very bad effect on me and my social life. I went to public school and although it was fine when I was young, after I hit puberty it sucked big time. I was socially awkward to begin with at that time, but I still feel like if I had at least dressed like everyone else I might have had enough self confidence to actually interact with my fellow students normally. At 35 I have regained enough self confidence not to care about how I look, but I still feel like I suffer the emotional consequences of being a social pariah in junior high and I strongly feel that it had a lot to do with how I was dressed. I don’t think it’s the parents or mainstream culture’s fault. It’s the fact that kids are kids and teenagers are teenagers. They are not the innocent accepting angels that we want to believe they naturally are. They are judgmental and strongly dislike anyone and anything that is “different.” If you are the “different” one and don’t have the personality to win over your peers despite that, then you life can royally suck.

      • Jolie

        It really depends what kind of thrift store clothes/hand-me-downs I guess.

        Some of the clothes I enjoy wearing the most were either swapped/hand-me-downs from friends (or fashionista aunt), gotten in a “free shop” exchange or bought in charity shops/second-hand stores. My grandma knits the vast majority of my sweaters. I like the idea of getting clothes in charity shops or second hand, because it’s more sustainable for the environment, and because if you look enough you might find good-as-new designer/brand/quality clothing at a fraction of the price: I got, for example, a really good pair of Levi’s jeans from a thrift store. As a kid and teenager, while I never relied primarily on hand-me-downs and thrift store purchases, they were the source from some of the best clothes I had in my wardrobe and what helped me keep it fashionable in an affordable way.

        But then again, there’s no freakin’ way someone who abides by “modesty” rules would be OK with the sweaters my grandma makes (they tend to be quite fashionable and of the VERY form-fitting knitting-pattern kind (the stretch one, if you know what I’m talking about), and I’ve been blessed with friends/family with great style. So, it’s not the mere fact of clothes being had-me-downs/thrift-store-purchased but how they actually look like. I’m sure there are butt-ugly clothes available to be purchased new as well, so if what you’re going for is dressing your kid in unflattering garments only, that’s a whole different issue. (Plus- there’s a world of difference between something your aunt purchased two months ago, wore three times and decided she’s bored of it and something that’s been visibly worn-out).

      • Alice

        “It really depends what kind of thrift store clothes/hand-me-downs I guess.”

        Yeah, the clothes I buy at a thrift store are just basic color/style clothes that I could find at a regular store and pay 2-4 times as much money for. I don’t usually buy things that go out of style quickly.

      • Jayn

        “It really depends what kind of thrift store clothes/hand-me-downs I guess.”

        My mother did a lot of second-hand shopping, and for me the big thing (especially once I hit adult sizes) was being an unusual size. Invariably if I liked it it was too large, if it fit–and that was a rarity–I didn’t like it. It was hard to find stuff buying new–second-hand was nearly impossible. As a concept I like second-hand shopping, but as a practicality it’s never worked well for me.

      • Jolie

        I’m pretty easy with tops; with trousers, however, I’ve mostly given up on buying the exact right measure: I usually just get the ones that fit me at the waist and have my Grandma shorten them for me.

      • Little Magpie

        I hear ya, Jayn; I’m a plus-sized gal; I enjoyed second-hand shopping when I was a teenager, and snagged some really lovely stuff that way; (and also cheaply, which, you know, when you’re a teenager with limited spending money is a bonus) but the trend in my life has been becoming steadily more obese over time. Your regular thrift store will have a little plus size stuff in among mostly straight-size, and I’ve found it’s more likely to be 16 and 18s than 22 and 24s. There is, to my knowledge, *one* store that specializes in plus-size consignment in my reasonably-large city. And IIRC, it’s mostly fancy designer fashion and business suits and such —> which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but not really my style at this stage of my life.

        Soooo.. most of my shopping is new clothes. That said, I’m a voracious shopper and “consume” far more than I should; I try my best, when I periodically weed out my closet, to pass along my stuff either to friends or to where it can get sold second-hand eg Goodwill. Which means that hopefully some other plus-size gal will get a thrill finding nice stuff that fits her at the Goodwilll, :)

    • persephone

      I think you’re missing part of the background. Lana hasn’t gotten into it yet, but she was forced to wear baggy, shapeless clothing for one reason: modesty. Modesty has two prongs here: (1) she had to dress in a way that would not draw male attention, and (2) wearing clothing that showed a lack of pride.

      There’s nothing wrong with wearing comfortable, even baggy clothing. I prefer comfort over appearance. I spent a good chunk of my childhood living on a mini-farm. We raised most of our own food, and a lot of our clothes were homemade. We also embraced modesty as part of religious doctrine, but the concept of defrauding was not part of it.

      This was back in the mid seventies, so jeans and overalls were what boys and girls usually wore to school. And we went to public school. Lana was home schooled. She was taught to never wear anything that could attract attention, and she was held responsible if men or boys had sexual thoughts because of looking at her. It’s another blame everything on the woman doctrine.

      Lana was never taught that she had value beyond that of being a slave to the church and her husband. She didn’t have the right to choose or buy clothes. She was taught that she didn’t deserve to have anything more than she was given. She was taught to cover her body, not to clothe it. She doesn’t have any idea what size clothing she wears, so even if she is buying from a thrift shop she wouldn’t be able to pull something from a rack and know it would fit.

    • Rosa

      There’s a difference between young kids and teenagers, and between dressing that way because you choose it vs. dressing that way because other people are in control of your life including clothing.

      • ako

        The choice element is very important. I rarely bothered much with clothing and haven’t picked up much about fashion. My tastes run towards the oversized and baggy. But that is, and always has been, my choice. No one told me I couldn’t try tighter clothes, makeup, fashionable outfits, or anything like that. Knowing you can dress in a comfortable, practical, and not-stylish manner and do interesting things and be interesting in your own right is very different from being taught you must hide your body and avoid fashionable and appealing clothing or God will be mad at you.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I wasn’t homeschooled, but my clothes were about 80% hand-me-downs until I got to high school and discovered that marvellous thing, the consignment shop. I actually was, and am, a big fan of hand-me-downs, because (a) recycling! (b) a whole bunch of “new” outfits instead of just one! and (c) unlike new clothes you get as gifts, you can reject some of them without offending anyone. (Not hand-me-down shoes, though, which are terrible for your feet.)

    OTOH, I wasn’t *forced* to wear *nothing but* hand-me-downs — there was always some actually-new clothing in the mix somewhere — and my grandma used to buy me one or two really nice dresses a year, and we always got new shoes, although they usually weren’t as “in” as I would have liked. (The two worst clothing things that ever happened to me were the time my mom got matching red acrylic fair isle pullovers for my 4-years-younger brother and me, and the time she bought me a double-breasted fun-fur-lined boy’s ski jacket that made me look enormously fat in front. OMG.) In our case the issue was lack of money and time in a single-parent family getting very very minimal child support, not modesty/purity culture or fibre-mixing weirdness.

    For whatever reason, I do have trouble figuring out what looks good on me, never mind what’s in style :P. Fortunately, I now have my very own live-in fashion consultant, who, unlike me at the same age, knows All The Things about what to wear ;)

    • Rosa

      yeah, it’s not the cheapness, the used-ness, or even the bagginess, it’s the lack of choice and the insistence on not looking good.

      This actually makes me think of the dating analogies more than anything else – we learn a lot about style by trial and error, and being prevented from going through that process by having someone else in charge of all your clothing choices deprives you of a lot of chances to learn.

      p.s. I’ve never had problems with hand me down shoes and I wear them a lot. I actually finally wore out my great comfy sandals that I got used, and bought a pair of brand new Tevas that just about crippled me, so now I’m back to noncrippling (but not good for hiking) used flipflops til I find something better.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yes, choice is key! I’m sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed those boxes of hand-me-down clothes so much if I hadn’t been allowed to pick and choose which ones I wanted and pass on the really awful stuff. And while I never felt I looked as cool as the “popular” kids at school, at least I knew it wasn’t because my mom *wanted* me to look uncool; we just couldn’t afford to spend twice as much money for a pair of jeans with a designer label, for instance. (I was a kid in the 80s … designer jeans were a thing, and I had hand-me-down Levi’s. Imagine my astonishment and delight when the 90s happened and well-used Levi’s became cool!!) Intent isn’t everything, but it does make a difference.

        And you’re totally right about the dating.

        RE: shoes, this must be one of those YMMV things. I’ve never had a good experience with second-hand shoes … but I walk funny, so it might very well be me.

  • MyOwnPerson

    Up until age 19 I had to get pre-approval from my parents before we bought any piece of clothing. 19 was the first time I actually shopped for clothes by myself. Some of the clothes I chose were really tacky!

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Part of growing up in the modern age is having horrifying fashion taste in your teens and early 20s :P

      • Kate Monster

        Yup! There are certain stores in the mall that I refer to as “the place where parents don’t know their teenage daughters shop”. There’s something incredibly liberating about sneaking home with a regular t-shirt and something skankariffic hidden under it. I don’t think I ever wore 90% of my teen rebellion clothes, but DANG it felt good to buy them.

      • Jolie

        So true! You’d be scared how many badges on my jacket and how many bracelets on both hands I could have in high school :D Then, I used to wear a chain attached to my jeans like a belt and hanging on myhip, decorated with sort of big coin charms, that made a clinking noise whenever I walked, to teachers’ desperation. Att some point, age 15, I even ruined my school backpack by writing and drawing on it with that white corrector fluid thingy; and also ripped old pair of jeans. My mom silently rolled her eyes a bit, but patiently and non-judgementally waited for it to pass.

        My favourite look was: short-ish skirt (just above the knee) + form-fitting knitted sweater + jacket with a ton of badges + heels + hair plaited in pigtails + green eyeliner on the lower lash and blue on the upper (Yeah, age 16 to around 21 I went through the “can’t leave the hose without makeup” stage). There’s no way I’d be able to pull off that look now, but at the time it actually looked pretty good on me.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Heh. I never wore makeup (still don’t as a rule), but I wore tight low-cut jeans, too-small shirts that showed off my belly, and about eight rings (one to a finger).

      • Jolie

        I know the style, a lo of girls in my class were dressing that way :)

  • smrnda

    I started shopping for my own clothes around 10 or 11, when I figured out how to ride a bus to a vintage/thrift store. Clothes have always been a form of self-expression to me, and so I can’t imagine what it feels like to be forced to dress a certain way.

    There’s a difference between wanting to have a unique fashion sense and obsessing about clothes as status symbols, and I think the latter is a product of turning everything into a pissing contest where people can’t just dress ‘differently,’ but someone has to be *better* than someone else.

    On sizing – women’s clothes are notorious for not being sized in a uniform fashion which causes lots of trouble when shopping. I know that men’s clothes usually are sized by measurements, but I’m not even sure those are accurate.

    • sylvia_rachel

      My experience has been that (a) the more expensive the store, the smaller the size that will fit me, and (b) the same size is bigger in the US than in Canada.

      • Christine

        I hate that. If I’m paying $200 for a dress, I want a realistic size. I’m sure that, given how much it costs, you can afford to pay someone to put the right number on the stupid thing. If I’m a size 18 or 20, why does my dress say 16?

      • Mishellie

        So you can walk around telling people about how you’re a size sixteen. Vanity sizing.

      • Christine

        Oh, I know that it’s vanity sizing. And you’re more than welcome to do whatever you want to feel like the scale is lying to you (and I acknowledge that the fact that the shirt I was wearing the other day was a 42 was part of why it felt good – although that shirt has always been snug, even pre-pregnancy, so I’m sure it was more than just the number). But please, do it in some way that doesn’t make shopping for clothes an even more painful experience. It’s getting to the point that there is no reason to have sizes on the clothing, they convey that little information. And yet I’ve known sales staff to ask what size I wear.

      • Jayn

        One experience that sticks out to me is shopping for jeans in a store that ‘used’ waist measurements (like, instead of 0 it’d say 24). I tried on several pairs that were all labeled the same, and they ranged from a perfect fit to not being able to get them more than halfway up my thighs. That there was that much variance among pants that skipped the usual women’s sizing still surprises me, and strikes me as pointless if you’re still going to be doing vanity sizing anyhow. Thankfully, the one area where I have decent spatial awareness is being able to judge what will fit me off the rack.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I just wish I could find clothes that fit me all over. I’m 5’3″ (ish) with short legs and arms and a long waist, so petite tops are too short but the sleeves on regular tops are too long, and petite pants have too little non-leg while regular pants have waaaay too much leg and require me to expend extra time, effort, and/or money hemming them or getting them hemmed. Why do women’s pants not have a variety of inseam lengths the way men’s pants do? (Also: the low-rise pants trend needs to die already. Yeesh.)

      • Christine

        I’m lucky – I tend to fit into the middle of the inseam lengths (the stores I shop at only have three), so I don’t need to worry too much. Although I’d much prefer the hem-when-you-buy approach – standard hems are just a smidge too long for me – the next size shorter is too short, and it’s too close to right for me to hem it myself.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Most stores I shop at don’t even have 3 choices — there’s regular and there’s petite (some also have tall), and within each there is of course wide variation, because why would they want to make it easy?

        Where my body type does make things easier is with buying skirts — because I like my short skirts longer than is currently the style, I can often just buy regular instead of petite and have the hem more or less where I want it. Of course, if I want a long skirt/dress, I have problems.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        A lot of the places I shop are good at having lots of sizing variations; they’ll have the 0, 1, 3, 5, etc and then also long, short, and various cuts (bootcut, skinny, standard, etc). But these are stores for juniors- I haven’t actually shopped for jeans in a women’s section yet, not even petites. They are all pretty low-cut, which I don’t love, but I can usually find some style/size pairing that will fit. As short as you are (I’m the same height), maybe you could check out the teenager jean section?

      • sylvia_rachel

        I’m not even sure where to find a teenager jean section. (Also, I’m 39; I suspect I would look funny in teenager fashions ;)). I basically shop at Reitman’s, with occasional excursions to Smart Set and Mark’s Work Wearhouse, and at Value Village and sometimes Winners. Every so often I’ll try shopping somewhere like the Bay or Sears, but they have SO MUCH STUFF that I just find it overwhelming and stressful. I … actually don’t like shopping for clothes very much, now that you mention it…

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Heh. It’s usually under Junior or Misses in department stores, though I don’t recognize those store names (except for Sears, they’re all over). And yes, I don’t like all the fashions (I don’t like glitter/sparklies on my bottom), but you can usually find just plain jeans too. JC Penny and Kohls might work? Also Delia’s seems to specialize in lots of types and cuts of jeans.

        I like clothes browsing more than clothes shopping, myself. Look at the pretty clothes, maybe buy one or two things if I happen to find something I like, but not the “I need jeans lets go jeans shopping!” thing.

      • Christine

        Regular/petite isn’t the same as variation in inseam height. I’m actually about average height (167 cm), but I’m shaped like a petite woman. I don’t understand how, but it’s really annoying. Petites fit me best, if I can find them large enough.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I think my problem must be that I am short, but *not* shaped like a petite woman.

        Or something.

        For a while, when I was in university, I wore a denim overall dress all the time, with different t-shirts and turtlenecks underneath it. People on campus probably thought I was frum, but really I just wanted to be comfortable.

      • sylvia_rachel

        There, see, I wasn’t even clear on whether or not those are proxies for inseam length…

      • Liriel

        I’m the same way. I wear short length (but not petite) jeans. Dress pants are bit more difficult and black, brown, and gray are all I can find that fit me. Many shirts have sleeves too long, but I never really think about that when I have the three-quarter sleeves. I, too, wish we could have more variable sizes.

        I like mid-rise jeans, but I can’t find them anymore. It’s a pack of low-rise (or ultra low-rise) and a few at-the-waist jeans (some with elastic on the waists). Finding pants that fit right drives me crazy, but I don’t really mind the shirt sleeves for the most part – never wore petite tops.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yeah, what ever happened to mid-rise jeans? I’m so tired of worrying about butt-crack exposure whenever I sit down…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

      <—former men's clothing stockroom extraordinaire.

      Men's clothing is generally pretty damn accurate in their sizing when it comes to staples. The more fashionable lines can play fast and loose depending on who they are marketing to. Ralph Lauren's Polo line is very accurate. Something like Affliction is not.

      Business wear is where many women get screwed. It's horrible that men can get suits that fit perfectly AND are tailored for next to nothing. Men's suit pants don't even come with a finished hem in most suit-departments because it is expected that it will be tailored on site. Men's suit jackets have pockets galore both inside and out and the tailor will either open or close them as asked. Women who desire a suit are often left to the mercy of the fashion company's idea of sizing. Oh and only extremely expensive suit lines are sold as separates for women. Forget tailoring unless you are willing to shell out big bucks.

      • Christine

        The catch with men’s clothing (as my 2m, reasonably slim, athletic husband complains about) is that the style can drastically affect the fit. Sure, the measurements are accurate, but a lot of the time they assume that the larger sizes are because the man wearing them has a pot belly, so only one style of jeans fits him, because the shape is all wrong. (They also assume that the man has no thigh muscles. He has killed jeans that way too.)

      • Mogg

        That’s the same with larger women’s sizing, too. I’m pretty tall for a female, so even at my fittest and slimmest I’m in the largest size at most women’s fashion stores, and some of the trendier shops will never ever have clothes to fit. Whether or not I’m fit or overweight, I have hips, thighs and a waist, so larger sized pants with straight legs and big waists will only make me look like Bobo the Clown.

      • Liriel

        Pockets – pockets drive me crazy. It seems like 90% of women’s dress
        pants have fake pockets. Actually, they are worse than fake pockets –
        the pocket actually exists (causes lumpiness/wrinkles) but is sewn shut so it can’t be used.

      • Helix Luco

        in that situation, where the already finished pocket was sewn up for a mysterious reason, i’ve found it relatively easy to open up the pockets by using a slim pair of scissors or a razor blade without causing any damage to the clothing, maybe you could try something similar? if it’s not an especially expensive or precious pair of pants, i was working with a sibling’s thrift store pants myself.

      • sylvia_rachel

        A lot of pants (and blazers and such) have the pockets basted shut so that the garment doesn’t get pulled out of shape (same with kick-pleats in narrow skirts), but the basting is easy to remove.

        I once had a semi-argument with a co-worker who insisted that if the pockets are basted shut when you buy the thing, it’s imperative that you leave them that way, because OBVIOUSLY they were not intended to be used and you will just wreck the thing if you use the pockets as pockets. I pointed out to her that it’s a lot easier to make a fake “pocket” detail on a garment than to actually go to the trouble of constructing a pocket, basting it shut, and sewing it into the garment (I had done some sewing; she evidently hadn’t), but she remained unconvinced. (I had a lot of conversations of that sort with that particular co-worker. Fortunately, it’s all a long time ago.) So I just kept un-basting the pockets on my clothes and didn’t tell her ;)

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana Hope

    I was just looking at some pictures of us about 15 years ago in my grandmothers house. There was us and then all my other cousins. Crap there is a big difference in how we looked.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Okay, I love, love, love baggy clothing b/c it allows me more freedom of movement and ease of dressing. Fitted women’s clothing — hell, most clothing, period! — is NOT designed with the wheelchair-user in mind.

    HOWEVER, I totally grok that being forced to wear a certain style of clothing, for whatever reason (excluding actual demonstrable safety issues), is of The Bad.

    Speaking of clothing… anyone know where to find a good pair of cargo pants? I miss having pockets I can use.

    • Alice

      Yeah, I used to have a sweatshirt that was way too big, but it was the comfiest thing ever. If I still had it, I wouldn’t wear it in public anymore, but would still wear it in the privacy of my home. I would never wear pencil skirts because I like freedom of movement.

      Even though I no longer wear jeans that would fall right off me without a tight belt, I still wear them a little bit loose because there are few things I HATE more than jeans that dig into my crotch. Also, my jeans and dress pants MUST have deep pockets because I don’t like purses.

      • Jolie

        Pencil skirts are fine IME if they’re a stretch fabric or if they have a slit in the back. I admit though the elastic-waisted sort of a-line flowing-ones are much comfier. Personally I like the tight blouse + baggy skirt combination.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yeah, what *is* it with women’s clothes not having adequate pocketage?! I don’t mind carrying a bag (usually I opt for backpack over purse), but I hate being without pockets.

    • aim2misbehave

      The men’s section. In general, the men’s size that’ll fit you the best is the number halfway between your waist size and hip size.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        THANK YOU!

        (And that would be… pretty much my waist size. I’m rather… round.)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        Old Navy used to always have women’s cargo pants with real pockets. :(

      • Kate Monster

        I’d imagine (though it’s not my jam, so I’m not positive) that outdoors/active stores would have more pocket-y pants for women. Most of the women I’ve seen out hiking/skiing/etc have badass lady cargos, which both work on the different shape lady-legs tend to have from man-legs, and contain pockets. (Particularly women who snowboard. I don’t know if it’s like, snowboard fashion, or my brother’s snowboard friends or what, but the snowboarder ladies I’ve met always look both athletic, ready for anything, and put together clothing-wise.)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        Fleet-Farm!!!

    • The_L1985

      Ugh, I feel your pain. Why is it that men’s work slacks always have working pockets, but women’s work slacks almost never do?

      And when someone finds WMDKitty that pair of cargo pants, I’d love to know where to find wide-leg jeans. My thighs expanded right when skinny jeans went into style.

      • Mogg

        Right with you there. Even at my absolute fittest and slimmest I have curves that just don’t work with skinny jeans. Or straight leg pants. Or low waisted anything.

  • Trynn

    I wasn’t raised in nearly so strict an environment, and my family was fairly well off, so I didn’t do tons of thrift store shopping (we did quite a bit of it, but not because of religion or necessity).

    And it still rings true for me. I have no idea what fits because I grew up having to wear one size larger because ?

    My parents might not have been as strict, but somehow I got these odd ideas on modesty and always wore baggy pants as well…

    And I never learned to dress like an adult, either, because the stuff in the children’s section was more modest, and I’m small so I still fit it. Hence I also have no idea how to dress like an adult, and I’m in my mid 20s.

    • Mogg

      It was about my mid-twenties when a light switched on in my head and I suddenly found that dressing for my shape (tall, long body, short legs, curves) somehow made more sense. I can at least buy teeshirts in the correct size and know that a fitted shirt with a V or scoop neckline will look better now!

  • Snipe

    When I was growing up, my conservative parents enforced (somewhat inconsistently) the “praise the Lord” test. They required that my shirts should completely cover my midriff, even if my arms were raised above my head. I have a long waist, which makes it difficult to find clothing that covered adequately under normal circumstances, let alone under their scrutiny. Often, they would peer at my clothing, then order me to “praise the Lord” so they could see if my shirt was long enough. I had to go back and change many times. I sometimes got away with wearing shirts that didn’t pass their test, but I usually felt very uncomfortable about it.

    • The_L1985

      I’m pear-shaped, so if it doesn’t pass the “praise the Lord” test…it makes me look heavy/pregnant/etc. I adore men’s T-shirts and extra-long shirts. Tunic tops are ecstasy.

  • ako

    WWhat hits me is how that modesty culture stuff seems to combine the disadvantages of baggy and casual with the disadvantages of sexy and tight, with almost none of the advantages.

    I like baggy and casual, because I like things like freedom of movement, not having to put a loot of effort into my clothes, comfort, a personal style (or lack-of-style) that feels good for me (when I’m dressed up I worry about my clothes – I just feel better in my body in, for instance, a big t-shirt, worn sneakers, and old jeans), and not having to put my mental energy into thinking about how I look and whether it’s sexy or not. I have never heard a modesty standard that allowed for being able to climb fences without worrying who might be looking up your skirt, move without fretting about the angle of your body and whether a man (always a man) is aroued by it, spending a lot of time and energy planning outfits, and frequently sacrificing comfort for making sure you have enough layers to cover everything. It’s set up to suck for women who like fashion and women who don’t want to deal with worrying about clothes.

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