My daughter is not a Barbie. She will never fit into skinny jeans. She is my first born. My heart. A talented, kind-hearted, perfectionist who rocks pretty much everything she does. (with exception of ballet, which she could never get the hang of, and one tiny area of math called measurement ) She is not a Barbie. She is not standard issue. She is a beautiful, smart, healthy, athletic kid.
Payton swims like a fish, just got third place at a dive meet in town, sings soprano with an acting troupe. She loves science and drawing and collects other kids who need help, then she lends them her seat, or her lunch, her pencils, her friendship. Soon she will be a candidate for her junior black belt. Hell Ya’! She is fierce and full of potential. And she will be something great, because she already is a fierce young girl. But this time of year, we are both made to feel inadequate when we tackle back to school shopping together. And I resent that.
Today I spied a tweet about Lululemon justifying hiding the “plus size workout gear” from shelves and that catapulted me straight onto my soapbox.
Every year, from the time my baby was eight, I have had trouble with this annual Back to School routine. I show up happily armed with credit cards, or cash, to hit the rounds of our favourite stores: H&M, Old Navy, Siblings, and by about the second store on my list, Payton has decided she will not try anything else on. Why? Tween hormones? No. Adolescent boredom? No. Crushed spirt. Bingo. Because the skinny jeans all the retailers make don’t fit her. Not even close. Her self esteem disintegrates right in front of me every year in the last week of August. Her self worth and image tied to a pair of jeans? At 8? And 9? And 10? And 11? Wait a minute, stop the madness…WTF?
Once upon a time we had some jeans that were boyfriend cut and we could find them at H&M in our city, at the local mall. We had some 1/2 sizes that fit my girl at Gymboree. That worked out well, up until about age 8, when everywhere we went skinny jeans followed. Boyfriend jeans were no longer in stock. They didn’t sell, said the sales representative at my H&M. Our local Gymboree suddenly only sold “Plus” sized jeans on line. Store after store gave the same old story.
About two years ago we found the Justice store and now we have one retailer where I can shop for my child. Guess what? It’s still just one store. Think this is a new problem? Nope.
The fabulous Geek With Style, my friend Aeryn Lynne has been blogging about her inability to find clothing that is stylish at major retailers for several years. I adore Aeryn and she has some killer style. We had a chat last week at Blogher ’13 where she noted this has been going on for her and another member of her family for decades. So, since childhood for her also.
I know my child isn’t the only girl in London, or Ontario, or Canada who has hips, and is built shorter than a supermodel. So where is the role model for these girls? Where is the Back to School retailer that caters to all sizes? The healthy girl store? More often than not, if I want to dress my child, I need to search small women’s section. Then I get to choose from completely inappropriate low cut clothing that even I wouldn’t wear, or booty shorts I will never put on a child.
Maybe you think I should be happy that I found one retailer – Justice – that fits my daughter. And mostly I am, because they could charge $100 for a pair of jeans that fit, if it meant she left the change room at 11 years old, or 12, not wanting to cry. I know I’m not the only Mom who thinks children’s retailers are completely missing the mark and contributing to eating disorders and body image issues. The booty shorts trend of summer 2013 was exceptionally ill thought out.
Not entirely unrelated, is the issue of no standard sizing for women’s clothing. Did you know a 12 can be considered plus sized depending on where you shop? Yup, my Mom was a 12 most of her life and she was petite. There was nothing large about my Mom. She was healthy. She hit the gym three times a week for the last 20 years of her life. One of my best friends who traveled to Blogher with me, told me she can shop in the Plus sized section of Forever 21. Also a size 12.
I hate the notion of my child growing up into this system. So what’s the answer? I’ll keep shopping where I see images of real kids reflected, and same for women’s clothing too. I’ll keep writing about the hurtful system that does not make young women healthy and strong, but instead tries to strip them down to sad little unhealthy clones of Barbies.
Where do you shop for Back to School clothing? Do you have your own tearful changeroom story?