We all know that our body shape changes over the course of our lifetime and for women it just changes and changes and changes and changes. No sooner have you gotten past one milestone, like child-birth, when your body is changing shape again to cope with menopause, sickness, or your changing body may have changed due to a new lifestyle!
Your body may have changed for lots of reasons, but apart from gaining and losing weight, your real body shape changes as your life changes. Most clothes are designed to fit a body shape that has no bulges, is straight up and down and pretty much straight out of the box as far as design goes so if you have a few extra kilo’s or just had a life changing experience like giving birth or menopause they don’t always fit comfortably anymore. During Peri-menopause you seem to gain weight every week! I know that I just keep going through clothes and sizes for a year despite rigorously exercising and being on a controlled diet, my shape changed despite my weight staying the same. Finally my weight stabilized. This is very frustrating. this is one of those times in your life when you really feel like crap but you still want to look good. During menopause, you are already going through so many changes in terms of your emotions, your thoughts about your life – and now you have to give up your favourite clothes as well!
In desperation, many of us turn to a comfort alternative, like elastic waistbands. Many of these clothes are designed to fit bigger women, they just make you look shapeless and don’t give you the style that makes you feel good – so too often you chose between comfort or slightly uncomfortable but stylish. I have a small frame so these types of clothes just overwhelm my body, making me look even more rounded and frumpish than I already feel!
During pregnancy and after child birth a number of things change and whilst will go back to their original shape it can still be annoying whilst you are waiting. Be patient, your hips will have expanded, your breasts will have increased in size and you may be carrying additional weight around the tummy as a result of carrying a baby.
As you get older, your body does start to change. You thicken in the hips, the thighs may get a little wider, your breasts have increased in size and your back has expanded. You may have a tummy as a reward for carefully carrying children through pregnancy. The tops of your arms will thicken, your fingers will get slightly thicker from years of productive work, and that delicate little necklace that you wore when you were nineteen now looks ridiculous on the neck that holds your wonderful head up. It doesn’t matter how you started out, you will change – some more than others.
Many of these changes are not taken into account by fashion designers, who continue to show off their clothes on young stick like models that bear little resemblance to a real women. So you wonder why your clothes don’t fit you anymore, and compare yourself to the magazines and television programs with smaller than small women representing a female body. Many very well known television and movie personalities have tiny frames in real life. Even Tom Cruise, who looks as large as life on the screen is actually quite short in statue. We are not comparing apples with apples when we compare ourselves to some on television.
We all continue to wear clothes based on the current thin flat body shape design model and I want to shift that design model to a new one. Here are some examples of what I mean about the current design model:
- When you buy a nicely fitting T-shirt with cotton and added elastine for comfort – do you find that it keeps creeping up over your stomach towards your bust-line and you have to keep pulling it down? This is because it has been designed to fit someone with hips that are not much bigger than their waist so the shirt just can’t stay on your hips unless you have a flat stomach and hips slightly larger than your waist. The elastine stretches past what it is designed for and just bounces up towards your stomach -much like an elastic band after it has been stretched and let go.
- Do you find that shirts don’t seem to have enough give in the back shoulder area and when you go to the next size up its then too big in the bust or too long in the arms? This is because they are all cut from the same pattern. Of course the sizing changes from a 10 to a 14, etc, but there is no real allowance made for what the change in size really means as you age and your arms thicken and your back expands. The concentration is on the bust measurement, the arm length and the shirt length. So if this same model is used (as it is) to increase the sizes it doesn’t take into account the changing women’s body shape.
- Shirt buttons that gape at the bust line – many shop attendants tell us to “just put a press dud in there to hold it together”. Again this is due to the standard measurements of bust size that I mentioned above. There is little thought for the positioning of the buttons for women that actually have a real bust. When these designs are tested on ‘models’ of course they look good. Models have little body fat so they are unlikely to have a bra bulge under the arm which puts more strain on the buttons and causes the whole blouse to gap.
I have observed lots of these issues over many years , there are similar problems with dress, skirt and trouser designs. There are some designers who have taken notice and designing fashion for real women. Slowly things are changing. We all want to be comfortable but still look good, and we all have days when we just can’t bear to put something tight on our stomach, so how would it be if you could feel comfortable and look good too? Fantastic!
WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS?
If you see advertisements that have unrealistic models wearing clothes that should clearly be for an older women, or the models wearing the clothes could not possibly represent a real person, then write to the company and voice your concern.
Here is an example that I sent to “The Knot” agency on 11 January 2011 after seeing an ad on Facebook for clothes for the ‘Mother of the Bride’, with the response below. (Please note: email addresses have been removed for privacy);
Sent: Tuesday, 11 January 2011 7:03 PM
To: [Grp] The Knot Support
Subject: [TKAU-GEN] General Enquiry
A message has been sent to you via the Contact Us form.
From: “Susanne Moore”
I went to your page from a Facebook link which talked about dresses for the Mother (of the bride) so I thought that there may be something of interest to me. Imagine my disappointment when I found that the models representing us “mothers of the bride” to just be old enough to have a child in preschool – if that! Hardly representing the body shape of an older “mother of the bride” type woman. Great dresses, but I would not be buying something that looks good on a young clothes horse as this just indicates to me that your designers (and many that I currently use) have not thought about the older woman’s body shape. Maybe the youngest mother would in reality be 32? But most, like me, would be closer to 42, 52 or older. Come on, why don’t you give us realistic models for some of these clothes? Is it because they really won’t sit well enough on those of us with a tummy, nicely formed hips, often big boobs and a desire to be comfortable whilst still looking great.
REPONSE FROM ‘THE KNOT’
Thank you for your enquiry.
I’m sorry you have found the images unhelpful. Unfortunately, the images supplied to us by brands are out of our control as they choose the models ect, and completely understand your disappointment in their choice of models.
We are working on pulling together a gallery of mothers from Real Weddings, who are Real Mothers (funnily enough!) which you may find more helpful- Stay tuned! Please let me know if there are any particular styles you were looking for?
I tried to contact Alexandra again before posting this to see what had developed, but she has left the company. Notice the section in bold “Unfortunately, the images supplied to us by brands are out of our control as they choose the models”. I can understand that if you are selling something then you would like it to look as good as possible – hence the young thin models so the clothes just ‘hang’ as designed. The problem is that there is an achievable expectation set in our minds of the way the clothes should look so when we put them on and they don’t look the same we blame ourselves. Instead if we can understand the logic behind the marketing of fashion it will help us to feel better about ourselves and our bodies.
Please let me know what you think, I would be very pleased to hear from you.
Susanne Moore – Changing Women, embrace your shape!