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Because You're Not Just One Size

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Stop Sending Me Links to Clothes That Don’t Fit

As far as I can tell, the internet is primarily made for three things: shopping, complaining, and porn. It’s only socially acceptable to tweet about two of those things, but two is more than enough, because anyone who ever went to the mall with their friends as a teen knows deep in their soul that shopping and complaining are meant to be done together.

Not only is shopping an inherently judgmental activity, requiring you to quickly sort everything into mental piles of worthy and not, but then you have to go about the ignoble business of trying to match visually flat garments to your three-dimensional body. Now that a huge proportion of that task has migrated out of malls and onto the internet, the wishing for the perfect piece has gone with it, onto social media. And with that migration has come a task I didn’t expect to have: constantly reminding friends, acquaintances, and well-intentioned Twitter strangers that I’m fat.

Until social media became a significant part of my life, I never had to remind anyone I was fat, ostensibly because my body did a good enough job doing that for me, but also because the social side of offline shopping is just fundamentally different than its online counterpart. In the regular world, the airing of a grievance can be an act unto itself, one that doesn’t necessarily ask anyone to spring into action. But the internet makes all problems seem potentially solvable, if you can organize exactly the right words in the right order in a Google search box, which makes those who see a wish or complaint feel conscripted into service for their friends. It’s a kind impulse, but when you live in a different kind of body than those friends, it’s also a stark reminder that most of them have never given a passing thought to the kinds of problems it causes that can’t be solved with a search engine.

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If I were a size 8, finding a bathing suit or a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding would be, at most, merely annoying. Being a size 18 makes it occasionally impossible, in spite of the fact that I’m on the smaller end of the plus-size spectrum. That’s a reality I’ve lived with my entire life, so for me, “I’m plus-size, and…” is always the implied beginning of all of my throwaway irritations, because if I weren’t, a leather motorcycle jacket wouldn’t elude me. Not only am I a literate person who knows how to use the internet, but online shopping is a big part of the job I’ve held for nearly a decade. If I can’t find something, it’s not because I forgot Zara existed, but rather because Zara has made it clear it thinks my patronage would damage how thin people see the brand.

Every time a friend asks if I’ve checked Shopbop when looking for a new coat or Gchats me a link to a dress they think is just so me but that tops out at a size 10, I wonder whether the cause is a failure of empathy, misplaced politeness in not wanting to assume I’m too fat for Rag and Bone, or a mixture of both. For most of them, I’m sure, it functions like any other privilege: In day-to-day actions, a person blithely assumes that the options and experiences open to them are open to everyone else, even if, when intellectually pressed, they know that probably isn’t true.

At first, I tried to keep my reactions to this unsolicited help as vague and polite as possible; I didn’t want to embarrass anyone who was obviously well-intentioned, but I also didn’t want to spend time managing the emotions that bubble up when you embarrass someone who thinks they’re doing a good deed. Talking about my body doesn’t bother me because I’ve lived in it for my whole life and, at this point, appreciate its unruliness. For people who have never been fat, though, it’s deeply uncomfortable for them to feel like they’ve forced someone to broach what they assume must be a humiliating topic.

Over time, I’ve started to embrace the discomfort these interactions inspire in others. Instead of offering a placatingly vague “Oh, looks like they’re out of my size,” while conveniently omitting that the store in question never carried it in the first place, I say what I mean: “I appreciate the thought, but this brand doesn’t make anything anywhere near my size. There are very few places I can buy clothes, and I’ve checked them all. I’m just out of luck.” Once the embarrassment dissipates, the would-be helpers are usually irritated on my behalf, indignant that so many women have such meager options for the basic human necessity of getting dressed. And that’s all I wanted all along, why I aired any of my frustrations in the first place. With clothes, as with plenty of life’s problems great and small, maybe your friends don’t want to be helped. Maybe they just want to be heard. Amanda Mull, contributing writer

Deal of the Day

American Eagle offshoot Aerie has a solid (and already affordable) swimwear offering, and tops and bottoms are currently buy one, get one free through 6 a.m. EDT Thursday. Our recommendation? Build a bikini basics wardrobe: Figure out which cuts you like best — are you more hipster (from $20) or hi-rise (from $25)? Crop top (from $30) or scoop (from $25)? — and buy them in a bunch of solids.

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In the News
Universal Standard Is Making Sizing Less Stressful

In many ways, clothing sizes make no sense. On top of the lack of standardization across brands and vanity sizing, it can be tough to figure out which sizes you should take with you into the dressing room, let alone which you should bring home.

Now, factor in what we tell ourselves about the size we are and the size we either hope or intend to be. How often have you passed on buying something because you’re planning on losing weight, or anticipate gaining it?

Universal Standard, which makes clothing for sizes 10 through 28, decided to do something pretty cool to solve that problem for you. Its just-launched Universal Fit Liberty program lets shoppers trade in items from the core collection within a year — if you no longer fit in what you bought, you can swap it out for a size that does.

What?! Yes, really! >>
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Feature
Brands Are More Responsible for Terrible Factory Conditions Than You Thought
Factory workers

Jenny D. moved to California in 2012 on a tourist visa, intending to take a job as a domestic worker. Her employer, who brought her from Malaysia, promised to pay her $1,000 a month. Instead, Jenny (whose name has been changed because of her immigration status) was made to clean both her employer’s home and office and received $200 every 35 to 38 days. Frustrated with these conditions, she ran away to Los Angeles.

Jenny now operates a coverstitch machine making yoga clothes in a factory in Los Angeles. She has been employed as a garment worker for almost four years, working 55-hour weeks from Monday through Saturday. She earns $400 a week, an improvement from before, albeit well below California’s minimum wage of $10.50 an hour.

Marcela Vazquez, another undocumented garment worker, earns even less as a sewing operator, making dresses and blouses in Los Angeles. Originally from Mexico, she has lived in the United States for a little over 20 years. While her weekly income varies, she explained through a translator, Zacil Pech, that “this week I was able to earn $120. However, I go in at 7:30 a.m. and I come out at 5:30 p.m.”

Advocates say that undocumented workers in Los Angeles’ garment-manufacturing industry like Jenny and Vazquez are particularly vulnerable to unfair wages, as well as poor health and safety conditions. Fear of deportation — often exploited by their employers — prevents workers from unionizing or reporting violations. To make matters worse, some say that fast-fashion brands capitalize on this in exchange for cheap, quick production.

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Shopping
25 Things to Buy Your Mom That Aren't From the Hallmark Store
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Your mother — and any other mom you plan to honor this Mother’s Day — deserves love every day of the year, but come May 14th, it’s your duty to make her feel special and appreciated. That means spending time with her first and foremost, but a thoughtful gift definitely can’t hurt, either. If you start shopping today, you’ve got just under two weeks to find her something good. (Big hint: Don’t opt for something last-minute from CVS or the Hallmark Store; she’s going to notice.)

Instead, go with something you know she’ll love based on her own unique taste, whether that means cool, big-ass statement jewelry, a fresh scent for spring, or something only you would know she wants (like the super-luxe electric toothbrush senior editor Alanna Okun’s mom has been eyeing).

If you need a little inspiration to get it right, go with one of our fail-safe suggestions here. We’ve included all kinds of gifts for moms of all ages and children of all budgets, from gifts that'll make her feel pampered, like a hamman-inspired spa set ($265) or great-smelling candles ($32), to things that will make her think of you when she uses them every day, like a cute graphic tote ($45) or a coin purse ($85) that quite literally tells her you love her (and donates proceeds to Every Mother Counts), to little indulgences she probably wouldn’t splurge for herself, like fancy socks ($30) or a special bracelet you can get engraved ($252) as a mother-daughter friendship piece.Cory Baldwin, shopping editor

See all the gifts here >>
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