I have a confession. Since I joined the retirement center, I’ve gained 6 lbs. My doctor didn’t seem alarmed. “A little extra weight as a person gets older is good,” she shrugged. Easy for her to say. She doesn’t have to fit into my jeans. Some extra pounds might be the result of training with weights. After all, I am wearing the same dress size as before; but my old clothes don’t fit like they once did. For certain, some pixies have altered the waistbands on my skirts to make them snug.
I look for “medium” when trying on clothes, but often find “large” feels better. As I head for the sales counter, I tell myself Asian clothing manufacturers are messing with the minds of American women. But truth be told, we gals have grown. Size 14 used to be average. Now we look better in 16-18. (The Market Sizes Up,” by Shelly Banjo, Bloomberg Businessweek, May 23-28, 2016, pg. 18.)
Unfortunately retail stores have been slow to accept the change, which may be why more women are shopping on the internet where stylish choices exist. Many brick and mortar stores carry a few plus sizes but hide them at the back of the shop as if gals should be ashamed of their curves. Lane Bryant specializes in full figures, of course but, recently, J. C. Penny has decided to join them. The shift hasn’t been easy. Creating a plus size dress isn’t a matter of making size 10 bigger. The larger the body, the greater the variations in proportions and so new patterns, often with more pieces and more material, have to be manufactured. Unfortunately, the increased cost can’t be passed along to the consumer. A plus size pant suit is expected to cost the same as its twin on the size 8 rack. (Ibid pg. 19.)
Nonetheless, in this tough retail environment, plus sizes are getting more respect. Designers understand full figured women want style, not tents, and are responding. Fashion in the plus size has been given more color, more bias cuts and more frills than in the past. In May, J. C. Penny joined forces with prominent fashion wizard, Ashley Neil Tipton, to offer a plus line of eye-popping designs. Nike, Under Armour and Nordstrom are casting gimlet glances at Penny’s experiment and may jump in. Under Armour already has a website, though the landing page reads: “Sorry, we’re currently working on more gear in this category.”
So what do I do? Let out my waist bands? Or head for the treadmill? What size to be is the question.