Why It’s Time To Ditch ‘Label Anxiety’ And Focus On How Your Clothes Feel

Megan Roantree realised that being able to breathe is more important than 'fitting into a size 10'.

“What size are you?” is a loaded question for many women. It’s something many people feel uncomfortable about, something people lie about – even to themselves. Many people have more than one size, one they consider they are ‘on a good day’ and another they might be when suffering the horrors of PMS. Some women wear a different size in every single high street shop. And look, it can make you feel awful when you try to fit in to ‘your’ size and it doesn’t work, or when even the largest size a shop carries won’t go near you (we’re looking at you, Zara).

A few years ago, I asked my mam for jeans from the high street for Christmas. Once I reached my twenties, I felt pretty ridiculous asking for presents, so now clothes are usually what I go for and with that comes the question of size. “Will I get you a 12?” my mam innocently asked. “No!” I said in disgust. “I’m a 10.” “The sizes are tiny in those shops Megan, it might be safer to go for a 12,” she
advised with good intentions. “I’m a 10,” I said, in a huff.

Along comes Christmas morning and I am sucking in as much as I can, doing the skinny jeans dance trying to wiggle into the size 10 jeans. Once they get up past my bum I’m forced to lie at on the bed in the hopes that they’ll close around my belly. And they do close, but I can’t bloody breathe. Doesn’t matter though, because, to me, all that matters is that I’m a size 10.

So I continue to wear them, but only with baggy loose tops because they’re squeezing my belly and creating a very unflattering shape. At this stage, I definitely understand the meaning of muffin top. When I have them on, I’m literally in pain, I have that raw red line across my tummy when I take them off at the end of the day, to remind me just how tight they are. I feel horrible and unhappy. It didn’t matter though, because the label still said size 10.

Eventually after about six months I gave up on wearing those jeans, because I finally realised the pain wasn’t worth it. And the next time I went into the shop I opted for a 12. When I was heading to the changing room I grabbed a couple of different styles and sizes, I brought 10s, 12s and 14s into the changing room. The skinny 12s fit me like a dream, made my bum look good and didn’t make my thighs look like cocktail sausages. Most importantly I could breathe. And as obvious as it sounds, that should be a fundamental factor when it comes to buying clothes, but many of us still ignore it.

I came out of the shop with a pair of navy size 12 jeans that fit me well, a new outlook on ridiculous sizing in shops, and a realisation that we as women punish ourselves and would literally rather be in pain than go a size up. In the past, I’ve left clothes that I loved behind in a shop rather than go up a size because I felt like if I take home the size 16, I’m accepting defeat, but I’ve realised that it’s high time to stop letting high street sizing dictate what you wear. It’s often referred to as label anxiety, and is frankly just another thing we have to cope with when trying to do something as simple as dress ourselves.

Every day we see viral posts on social media about how messed up sizing is in shops. We’ll see two pairs of shorts from the same place, both a 10, and yet one is noticeably bigger than the other. We’ll see a slim beautiful woman’s Instagram post about how she is usually a size 8 and yet a dress in that size wouldn’t go near her in a certain shop. But for some reason, this doesn’t shake us out of our predisposition; as much as we all agree that sizing in shops is ridiculous and that it’s all very unpredictable, when it happens to us, we blame ourselves (another thing women are great at doing)!

Dear H&M,I was browsing your sale items in your Leeds store and spotted this pair of kick flare jeans. They were only…

Posted by Ruth Clemens on Monday, 13 June 2016

As women, we are conditioned to believe that bigger means worse, when in actual fact, sizes in shops hold absolutely no merit other than the guide that particular shop uses for their clothing, and even then it’s often all over the place. So what I’ve learned through self- analysis and thought, is that we who have hang-ups about sticking to one size need to stop and think about how ridiculous
it really is. We have so many clothing options, made in different styles and different fabrics. For example, a size 10 T-shirt will sit comfortably on me but if I’m wearing something with buttons I’m going to have to go up at least two sizes so it doesn’t pop open. Likewise, it’s rare that a woman’s top half and bottom half is perfectly in proportion, so if you’re a 14 on top but an 18 when you’re buying jeans, dresses can be quite the minefield!

Try not to be offended, angry at yourself or let it affect your confidence, because in reality, sizing has nothing to do with your worth – they are literally all over the shop! People are finally starting to realise this, with movements beginning to combat it. In the UK, an organisation is aiming to make sizing more modern and standardised using a national survey. Shape GB is a project which will get 30,000 adults to submit their measurements via an app to help get closer to universal size templates and relieve the frustration many of us have when it comes to buying clothes. Popular women’s clothing stores such as ASOS, River Island, New Look and Next have gotten involved. The aim is that once the data is collected, retailers will use the information to update sizing charts to make it more accurate and uniform across the board. It’s not the first time a group has tried to combat this issue, however, and yet we are still faced with the dilemma of sizing when we walk into our favourite stores and browse online.

Perhaps it will be years until any real changes are actually made, so if the shops won’t change, your mindset has to. Whether you’re a size 6 or 26, everyone has hang-ups about their bodies and confusing, inaccurate sizing doesn’t help that. So let the anxiety go, wear what looks and feels good on you and forget about that bloody label.

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