Like many women, I just don’t fit into anything cut "straight up and down." And my entire life has been spent trying to fit my pear-shaped body into hourglass-shaped clothes. To be honest, it gets depressing.
You know the feeling: You scour the racks for cute things, you head to the dressing room, and then … one after one, they just don't fit right. When you first bring a stack of clothes in, you think, "OK, I've got to narrow this down, because there's no way I can afford all eight pieces."
And then after the first three "don't fits," it's no biggie. And then the fourth doesn't fit. You start to get a little hot and claustrophobic and your skin feels itchy from all the different types of fabric. For me, a best-case scenario would be to walk out of the dressing room with one garment, usually an A-line dress (the hips).
Even though we're all totally rational human beings, and we know that it isn't our fault, it starts to get to us. "Why is my body so different? Can I exercise my hips away? Fewer carbs?"
It is ridiculous, and it's also disempowering. And shaming. Clothes mock your hips or your bust or whatever part of your body just doesn't fit into their rigid confines.
When I started my clothing company, Kit, I was determined to get to the bottom of this: I would make clothes that fit women's bodies—real women's bodies. But first, I had to figure out what that looked like. What shapes and sizes do women really come in? And because I had been living in an hourglass world, where everyone fit so well into their clothes except me, I was expecting to find that the vast majority of women would be hourglass-shaped.
I looked for the data and, right away, hit a roadblock: There is no recent and reliable data. If you want to know why clothes fit so poorly, this is the major culprit. Seriously: Women spend a trillion dollars a year on clothes, and we don't have accurate data on what women's bodies look like. The last large-scale population health survey of American women's bodies was taken in—wait for it—1937.
Clothing companies are making hourglass-shaped clothes because that's the way it's been done since 1937. To be sure, lots of cool things happened in 1937: The Golden Gate Bridge opened and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in theaters. Of course, the Golden Gate Bridge has also had no less than eight renovations and improvements to update it. Snow White has been digitally remastered four times.
Way back in the '30s, people had just begun buying their clothes instead of making them, and the results were all over the place. So much so that the government stepped in and the Department of Agriculture measured 15,000 women. They published their results in 1941, and that's been the standard ever since. This is the average American woman, according to that data:
Bust: 35.5 inches
Waist: 29 inches
Hips: 38.5 inches
She is 5-foot-3 and a near perfect hourglass. Oh, to be young and in 1937 again.
While there have been some partial studies since 1937, none is comprehensive enough to really represent all American women. Absent good data, we tried to make our own: We began measuring lots and lots of women—I mean lots. Old and young, athletes (we measured a whole roller derby league in Austin, Texas), and regular old eight-hours-a-day-in-a-desk-chair women. We were able to add to that bank of data after we launched, getting more and more precise fit data on what women's bodies really look like.
Here's what we found: We are diverse. And the vast majority of us aren't shaped like hourglasses.
And those are just body shapes. When you add in factors like height, weight, torso length, shoulder width, and others, you can come up with seemingly endless combinations.
What's the take-away? Your body is unique. Every woman's is. There's no need to try to exercise, diet, shame, or jam ourselves into some "normal" mold.
"Normal" bodies are a myth, just like Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster.
So, next time you're in a dressing room and nothing fits, don't fault yourself. Your body is powerful and awesome. The industry that is clothing it just happens to be stuck in 1937.