What We’ve Gotten Wrong with Body Inclusivity

A woman reveals her struggle with being a size that many clothing brands don’t carry.

Every woman obsesses over something about their body. Lord knows I do, and it consumes me daily: at pilates, during a night out with friends, but mostly while shopping.

You see, dressing rooms were never a positive experience for me. I shed countless tears in my mom’s arms and spoiled many shopping days for myself staring at my reflection and cursing the body I was born with, all because nothing clung to my petite frame quite right. I still remember thinking, “I can’t be the only one who goes through this.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been more miserable than I was in those moments (trying on clothes, of all things!). From age 15 to 22, my one birthday wish was to have a taller, curvier figure. Spoiler: My wish never came true. But I’m getting off track.

“Unwomanly” and “undesirable.” Those are adjectives that describe how I viewed my body because I wasn’t represented in women’s clothing stores. Because the media painted a picture of anything smaller than a size 0 as “unhealthy” and even “dangerous,” which I found quite ironic seeing as petite sizes were glorified in fashion—especially on the runway.

I just wanted to be able to walk into a women’s clothing store and not have my eyes automatically scan the racks for the tiniest article of clothing in hopes that it wouldn’t look too frumpy on my frame. It was exhausting trying to dress the body I was developing in…a body that I was ashamed of.

The Shift in Retail

A friend of mine introduced me to Aritzia, a Canadian women’s fashion store that carries various brands in a range of sizes, including 00 and XXXS. Bonus: It was (somewhat) affordable.

For the first time, my body size was included in a positive light and not associated with a negative connotation. For the first time, I was able to dress appropriately for my age and find clothes that actually accentuated my petite-frame. For the first time, I was able to shop at a store and not leave feeling discouraged. From then on shopping was a brand new experience; one that didn’t end with me in a dressing room and tears streaming down my face. 

I can assume there was a high demand for the size—it shows in-store and online. It’s often the first size sold out for any piece I’m interested in purchasing.

Today, I’m in my late 20s and still have a 23-inch waist. It’s not that I’ve starved myself to be a size 00, I’m naturally this size. I’m small-boned, stand at five feet tall and weigh under 100 pounds. So, it’s easy to see why it has always been such a challenge to shop for clothes—without getting a bajillion alternations—up until Artizia entered my life.

An Ongoing Battle

With Aritzia’s private label Babaton planning on adding extended sizing up to 18 in the spring of this year, I hope that size 00 isn’t removed in the process, which is what seems to have happened with size XXXS.

It’s hard to even articulate what this store has done for my self-confidence. Sure, I still catch myself in the dressing room knit-picking my body apart in the mirror, but it’s also become a place of reassurance that my body size is womanly, after all. And that’s something remarkable in itself.

I’m still learning to accept my body size. It’s a relationship I can only hope to improve and a fixation I can only hope will drown out as I continue to age. And while I rarely spend time shopping with my mom anymore, I do keep one thing she said in the past close to my heart whenever I’m discouraged in a dressing room: “Someday you’re going to love the body you were given.” I hope she’s right.

Next, take this quiz to find out if you have a healthy body image.

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