parenting teens
Back To School,  Health

My Back to School Fashion Rant #BTS

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. 

Lululemon says they don’t sell plus sizes because plus sizes don’t sell. Thoughts? via @HuffPostBiz #brands
— Cindy Ratzlaff ★ (@BrandYou) August 2, 2013

 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?

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Carla WorkingMommyJournal

    Thank you for posting this! It is so true and so sad how stores do this (won’t even get started on the Lululemon one!) I can’t believe how stores have changed and cater only to one size – skinny. It ruins self esteem and confidence. This is a special and fun time in getting ready to head back to school and should never make a child feel bad. Hopefully companies start listening and carry lines for all sizes.

    • Paula Schuck

      Self confidence and self esteem are so fragile already during the tween years we need systems that build our girls up – not tearing them down. Thanks for your support and retweets.

  • Carla WorkingMommyJournal

    Thank you for posting this! It is so true and so sad how stores do this (won’t even get started on the Lululemon one!) I can’t believe how stores have changed and cater only to one size – skinny. It ruins self esteem and confidence. This is a special and fun time in getting ready to head back to school and should never make a child feel bad. Hopefully companies start listening and carry lines for all sizes.

  • Cindy Babcock

    N is also 11. And we don’t do skinny jeans either. We did have luck with track pants at gap (size small), and jeans at aeropostale. I think they were either bootcut, or flare fit. They still look skinny to me, but they fit. She also wears a couple pairs of yoga style athletic pants…I think they are also from gap. She is taller (5′ 6″), so that does help in finding pants in the ladies section.

    • Paula Schuck

      Right I occasionally have luck funding capris in women’s sizes at Aeropostale that fit Payton. She is not destined to be tall. At least their track pants are affordable.

  • Angela Thiede

    Great post! I have an 18 month son (thank the heavens), so I will not have to deal with this issue with my child. But Lululemon will never be on my list of places to shop.

    I have personally dealt with this type of stuff since my teens. I was never “skinny,” but I was not “fat.” I had the worst time finding clothing that actually fit at many retailers. I had hips…and to make matters worse, I was short.

    The phrase “zero is not a size” came to my mind while I read your post. This trend is sickening. We aren’t all size 0!

    This system that has developed over the years is wrong. Children so young should not have their self-image defined by a pair of jeans. I hope that retailers figure out their stuff and start realizing that not all girls (and women) are the same size.

  • Brandi Yee

    Awww that is so sad that there isn’t much of a stylish clothing option to accommodate kids of all sizes! Although I haven’t had too much experience with it personally, I have had many friends go through it and I do notice it when shopping. People come in ALL shapes and sizes and retailers, designers need to start acknowledging that more. Even though I’m a very slim person, I get so annoyed that almost ALL of the jean options are skinny jeans. I like having a variety of different cuts, and I can only imagine how someone who is a different size must feel. They need to have variety. Variety is the spice of life and everyone is different 🙂

  • Mommy Moment

    Your daughter is beautiful. I have the opposite “problem” with my oldest. She is 7 years old and super tall. She wears a size 4 shoe and shopping for pants is so hard because her legs are so long.

    • Paula Schuck

      Thank you, I think so too. I have two opposites. A tiny child who jumps and her pants slide off. No hips. And my Payton who can’t find jeans that are short in length and bigger in the hips and tummy. Ugh!

  • Julie Harrison

    This makes me so sad. And so ANGRY! I can’t stand the thought of your daughter’s self-esteem going down the tubes over a pair of jeans (and especially how she excels in so much!). I don’t have this challenge with my daughter. I have a different one that leads us to shop outside of all malls. My daughter does not like the styles for girls … the short shorts, the pink and the sparkly, the skinny jeans … she is not comfortable wearing any of this stuff and frankly, it’s hard to blame her. I shop online for her at places like L.L. Bean or in boys sections.

    • Paula Schuck

      This is the year I have started shopping in the boy section. I won’t put a lot of the junk they think is girly on my kids either. And my ygst does not like pink sparkly unicorn clothing. Black Adidas is her favourite.

  • Kelsey

    How sad about the stores!! Sometimes I wonder what is happening to this world, they act like plus size is the end of the world!! I am plus size and its a fact of life, doesn’t make me a bad person because of it.

    AND you have a beautiful daughter!!! Such a sweet smile 🙂

  • Laura O in AK

    I was a ‘big’ girl, too, although it was also for height at an early age. I hated shopping for clothes and am just now in my 40s to the point where I’m not filled with dread.


    Oh my goodness! I am just sick of what retailers and media are doing to our girls!!!!! My daughter thankfully is still too young to face this yet, but I am terrified for her. It gets worse every year and I just simply can’t imagine how bad it will be for her when she reaches this age.

    I think it is wrong of retailers to no longer sell plus sizes, or larger sizes, or boy cut! It is so not true that they don’t sell. Maybe they don’t need the same quantity as say like maybe medium, but that doesn’t mean they should do away with it completely or online only. That is just wrong. Even if you only have one retailer to shop at…well where is the fun in that. What if they are sold out at the time you shop? What are you suppose to do? You need variety. I think these stores should bring back those plus sizes and realize that not every girl is a skinny twig! And nor should they be!!!

    Ok..rant over. 🙂

  • Jodi Shaw

    It angers me as someone who spent my childhood being teased for being overweight that our society hasn’t changed. Shame on LL for stating that about clothes. I bet if someone made fat pants they would sell by the truck loads, super comfy as the real truth is there are more overweight people than skinny on our planet.

  • NPC

    My daughters are pretty slim and I haven’t had the problem of buying clothes for them. But, for me, that’s a different story. I’m short and when I gain weight, I gain weight. You see it. It’s also hard to buy clothes when I do. I hate the fact that stores and retailers would do this. They need to cater to EVERYONE no matter what shape or size.

  • Lyne Proulx

    That reminds me when my daughter was about the same age as yours. It’s hard to find clothes when they don’t have the size available. They were either too short,long, or too tight and not flattening at all. Please Mum was my favourite store as they offer slim for my son and also clothes for “chubby” kids like my daughter. Not too many stores offer these.

  • LisaLisa

    OMgoodness, I can so relate to this story with one of my daughters. It is sad how retailers has labeled the world as skinny and only seeing to carry clothing for those who are not plus size. I ask God for a health child and that is what he gave us, it saddens me to see how some of these so call major chains here have removed plus sizes clothing and shoes. One thing I can say is I taught my daughter to love HERSELF and not worry about these so call retailers that seek to only sell skinny clothing….both our children are sweet, unique, fun and very cute. No clothes or weight will ever defined them!

  • JDaniel4's Mom

    I had the opposite problem when I was little (many decades ago). There weren’t clothes for short skinny girls. I have to flip waist on pants and skirts to make them fit.

  • Heather @ Raising Memories Blog

    This makes me so sad and so angry at the same time. I hate to walk past certain stores in the mall when my girls are with me- the way women are portrayed (and exposed) is awful! My eldest is 7, but I know that this difficult stage is right around the corner. I’ve just begun back to school shopping and have been annoyed by the fact that skinny jeans are almost the only option- the poor girl couldn’t even get her feet through the ankles of them at some stores- crazy! A retailer mentioned to me that it is hard for most kids & that it is especially difficult for the younger kids becaues they can’t dress themselves! I find it very hard to believe that other styles “don’t sell”. *sigh* So frustrating.