Thursday, June 13, 2024

How I learnt to navigate the frustrating world of mid-size shopping

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“It is so difficult, near impossible, to walk into a store in Australia and find clothing that fits.”

If you’re a mid-size girlie, as I am, you know all too well the experience of walking into a store and digging to the bottom of a display pile in the hopes of finding a size 16. Spoiler alert: it’s never there. 

I’m constantly reaching to the back of the rack in a futile search for something that will fit me, and I’m so tired. It’s hard not to take it personally. Experience tells me that in most mainstream Australian stores, a 14 is the largest available size, and even then, it’s almost never stocked to the same degree as the sizes below it.


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Some retailers have recently started advertising a larger size range, the (disappointing and very frustrating) caveat being that they only stock it onlineIt has never made sense to me. There are so many of us above a size 14, and so many of us love fashion and want to express ourselves through the clothes we wear. 

I recently came across a TikTok from Triple J radio presenter Abby Butler, in which she mourned Australia’s lack of size inclusivity. As a size 16 to 18, finding clothing she likes is exceedingly difficult. 

“As someone who cares about style and loves fashion, and loves talking about it and engaging in it, it is so difficult, near impossible, to walk into a store in Australia and find clothing that fits,” she said.

She described the turmoil she experienced finding a new pair of jeans, a task that should be simple, saying “It took me months of research, hundreds of dollars, and literal tears.” Unfortunately, I can relate. Clothing seems to be made small by default. 

And it’s more than your wardrobe that suffers. Obviously, there’s the emotional toll of constantly being disappointed in the changeroom. There’s something so demoralising about trying and failing to tug a skirt you love over your hips, when you know there’s no size up. And don’t even get me started on trying to shop for tops when you have boobs over an E-cup. 

The next layer, the one that Abby describes so well, is jealousy. It’s easy to be envious when you look around (especially on social media) and all you can see is the ease with which straight-sized people can find fashion they like, and how uncomplicated it is for them to cultivate their wardrobes. 

What we need is an industry overhaul, but that’s wishful thinking. Instead, I’ve had to learn to work with what I’ve got. I’ve gotten creative. If I had to give a recommendation for shopping as a mid-size gal, (in the cesspool that is mainstream retail) it’d be to thrift. But of course, thrifting and vintage shopping have their own issues.

Vintage stores are often curated with small bodies in mind, and the plus-size sections of op shops are often full of not-so-chic, drab pieces (a whole other issue in itself). I can work with a lot – I’m very imaginative – but not with that. Even Depop, despite its size filter settings, seems to constantly prioritise clothes that won’t fit me. It’s like having a carrot dangling right in front of my nose, taunting me, and knowing I’ll never be able to reach it. 

I’ve found that the key to secondhand shopping when you’re my size, is to do it often. Sure, that might seem overwhelming, but look at it as an investment. An investment in yourself. Say there’s a consignment store on the way to your coffee shop. Pop in every few days and see what you can find. Considering heading on a weekend shopping trip? Add Savers to your list of destinations. 

I would definitely recommend bigger warehouse-style thrift stores over smaller, curated ones as well. There always seems to be more on offer, and Savers even categorises its clothing by size. It’s about working with your body instead of against it and finding clothes that you don’t have to fight with in the morning.

The most exciting thing about thrifting, for me, is the possibility of finding something you’ve never seen before, that no one else has in their wardrobes. I would say that these days, my wardrobe is over 80 per cent preloved. Brands that keep popping up are vintage Target, vintage Millers (just trust me) and vintage Suzanne Grae (again, trust me. Do not sleep on Suzanne Grae).

I recently found an immaculate pair of dark-wash vintage Target jeans, and they’re my new favourite piece. They’re a low-rise bootcut, and they fit me better than anything I could buy new ever would. There are plenty of secondhand mid-size gems out there, it’s just about knowing where to look. And until mainstream retailers step up their game, you can find me at the op shop.

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