Have You Been Body-Shamed By The High Street?

Fashion, Uncategorized

Sifting through the racks in your favourite high street store, you feel that buzz of excitement at laying your hands on what appears to be the perfect garment. There’s an instant connection. It’s love at first sight. The elation, however, is short-lived – you get to the changing rooms only to discover that you can barely get the item over one limb. Yes, it is definitely your usual size, you’ve checked the label three times by this point. You wrestle with it for a bit before giving up, broken-hearted and half the woman you were when you walked in. I can assure you, you haven’t gained two stone over night, you are not fat, you are yet another shopper who has been body-shamed by the high street. It’s not you, it’s them.

As a human, who occasionally buys clothes, you’ll probably be familiar with the situation I am referring to and if you read the news or have a Facebook account, you’ll probably have heard of student, Ruth Clemens, who became a social media celebrity last week when her Facebook post to high street store H&M went viral. Ruth shared a photo of herself trying on a pair of supposedly size 16 jeans in the Manchester store, but despite only usually being a size 14, the photo clearly shows that the jeans barely make it over her hips. She posted the photo on the company’s Facebook page, alongside a strongly worded comment addressed to the store, bringing a number of issues to light, when she asks, “Am I too fat for your every day range?” and “Why are you making your jeans that are unrealistically small?”

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/student-slams-hm-sizes-jeans-11477647

ruth-postJPG

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. It seems that being body-shamed by the high street is a regular occurrence for women everywhere, as Ruth’s post was met with messages of support from high-street shoppers across the globe.

Hollie Wilson replied saying, “I’ve had the same problem. I am a size 10 (sometimes a 12 on the bottom, usually in Topshop) and couldn’t get their size 10.”

Emma Hall wrote, “I’ve had the same trouble in H&M. I’m a size 14-16 and can never find anything that fits. Their size 16 is like a size 10!! X.”

While Louise Fairbrass hit the nail on the head, writing, “So glad it’s not just me. I don’t ever buy bottoms from H&M as they are TINY sizes!!!!! It’s quite disheartening to fail fitting into a pair of trousers 2 sizes above what you normally wear. Such a shame H&M because some of your clothes are really nice….. i guess you only want single figure sizes wearing them?!”

I can wholly relate to these frustrations, as I’m sure many can. This post went viral just as I had returned from my own shopping trip, on which I found myself on the verge of tears in the changing rooms of Topshop, when the struggle to get a tank top (in my usual size 10) over my head left me in a rather compromising position. I will also admit to owning a pair of size 10 H&M jeans, which only make it out of the wardrobe on very slim days.

While I understand that sizing can vary depending on style, fabric and cut – the very excuse that H&M offered in their half-hearted apology to Ruth – it seems that this is an ongoing issue with certain stores, making their clothes in unrealistically small sizes. As the average women’s dress size in the UK is a 14, a hell of a lot of women are being persecuted, however unintentional it may be.

What saddens me is that it seems a lot of us have readily accepted the fact that in some stores, such as H&M (although they’re not alone in this,) the sizes are renowned for being too small and simply choose not to shop there. While some may think that this loss of custom is the comeuppance the store deserves, what I can’t help thinking is, why should we accept this? We should be able to enjoy the pleasure that shopping and clothes can bring, in any store, confident that when we head into the changing rooms with that great pair of jeans the sizing will be accurate and realistic. We shouldn’t have to forgo our favourite stores because the sizes are so ridiculously small. The high street is supposed to be the go-to place for real women of real dress sizes, affordable and accessible to all – sort it out please.

Destination, Barcelona.

Features, Uncategorized

People travel for many different reasons. To find themselves, to lose themselves, to escape daily life and to experience the unknown. Travel is a mental journey, just as much as a physical one. For me, travel is what I turn to when I don’t know where I’m headed. When my life reaches a sudden point of change and I am forced to decide on the next step, that step is usually in the direction of the nearest airport check-in desk.

It all started when I finished school and didn’t know what I wanted to study at university. Instead of dealing with this unnerving prospect, I decided to take a gap year and booked a flight to South East Asia. I spent six months backpacking through various countries and while I was there decided I wanted to study many things, photography, psychology and nutrition, to name just a few. I ended up choosing none of these subjects but having one of the best experiences of my life. Fast forward three years and I graduated from university and was faced with the even more daunting task of entering the ‘real world’ and perhaps even finding a job, so me and my best friend – neither of us particularly thrilled by this prospect – began planning a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness last year, despite the fact that just getting out of bed was the last thing I felt like doing, I cautiously packed my bags and spent two weeks travelling up the Croatian coastline with my boyfriend. The amount of prescription drugs I was carrying was enough to get me stopped at security, but the best medication was being in a new country, experiencing the unknown, discovering the undiscovered.

This habit of reaching for my trusty old backpack when things get complicated has stuck with me as the years have gone on – although admittedly now it is often a suitcase I’m packing for a weekend mini-break, rather than a six month expedition. When I’m feeling low or unfulfilled I find myself scrolling through stranger’s beach snaps on Instagram, manically Googling holiday deals online and day-dreaming about my next adventure.

Recently, my agreeable nine to five existence came abruptly to a halt and I was faced with whole load of those dreaded, daunting decisions, so naturally I reached for my laptop and Lonely Planet and began planning a trip.

Funnily enough, one thing I don’t mind deciding on is where to travel to on my next journey. This time I settled on four nights in dynamic Barcelona. A city bustling with art, culture, history, shopping, beaches and of course, nightlife. I would go so far as to say that Barcelona is the pretty much the perfect destination for a mini-break, whether you have in mind a romantic escape for you and your other half or an energetic girls weekend away. Culture buffs, sun-worshippers, shopaholics and alcoholics, Barcelona will prevail. Absorb yourself in Gaudi’s awe-inspiring architecture, soak up some sun on the beautiful coastline (the weather was just about warm enough for sunbathing when we visited, although I didn’t brave the bikini) or treat your tastebuds to the illustrious tapas dishes and sip copious amounts of Sangria. Do any or all of these things. This city is what you make it.

Fashion Mocking Mental Health, Now That’s Depressing

Fashion

Imagine my horror when, scrolling down my news feed yesterday, I came across a link to this petition:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/urban-outfitters-we-are-urging-you-to-halt-all-production-of-their-eat-less-and-depression-t-shirts-both-of-which-are-glamorizing-mental-illnesses-and-could-have-potentially-devastating-effects-on-your-young-target-audience

The petition is fairly self explanatory, to halt the production of these T-shirts from – what happens to be one of my favourite high street stores – Urban Outfitters. Although Urban Outfitters is famous for its novel, “edgy” brands and slogans, this back and white crop top emblazoned with the word “depression” is more than just a step too far. It is just not okay, and has quite rightly sparked great uproar, accusing them of mocking and glamourising mental illness.

This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has been involved in a scandal like this. In 2010 they sold a T-shirt with the words “Eat Less” in bold letters across the front. The best word I can find to describe the production of these T-shirts, repulsive.

It turns out, regarding the current issue, Depression is actually the name of the clothing brand that designed the T-shirt, however I still struggle to see the need for Urban Outfitters to sell this top in a society where one in four of us will suffer from some form of depression in the next year. Each designer to their own, but I can’t say I agree with mixing a serious mental illness with a lighthearted fashion brand. Fashion is supposed to be fun but not when it is making fun of an illness which destroys lives and especially not when it is at risk of glamourising that illness to young girls. As for the “Eat Less” conundrum, well, you don’t really need me to go into that one.

As someone who feels passionately about both mental illness and fashion (in very different ways, obviously,) I hate to see the two being entwined together in such a sinister and negative way. Fashion has endless potential to portray positivity, inspiration and creativity, I just can’t understand what would possess someone to design these clothes, let alone sell them and – heaven forbid – wear them.

So as it seems this is a recurring sales technique for Urban Outfitters, with various other clothing designs causing outrage over the last few years, it seems there is only one option. I must boycott Urban Outfitters. Just as we would any other brand or media form which shocked and disgusted us in this way. I can’t say I’m not disappointed, the idea is really quite depressing.

Don’t Wear Beige, It Might Kill You

Fashion, Opinion

Fashion has always interested and inspired me, regardless of what may be going on my life. Too many people look down on fashion as a subject, believing it to be a shallow, vain and self-obsessed industry. Unfortunately these things can be true, the fashion industry is a harsh, cut-throat world, where image appears to mean everything. Fashion itself, however, is so much more than that. It is much more than spending hours agonising over what to wear in the morning, what’s new in Topshop this week, or what Cara Delevingne is wearing today. Being stylish and enjoying fashion are also two very different things which are often confused with each other, however I believe they are two things which go hand in hand. If you don’t enjoy fashion, how can you be classed as stylish?

I was inspired to write this post after watching a fantastic documentary on Channel 4 recently, Fabulous Fashionistas. Those who watched the show will need no explanation, within minutes I was hooked, inspired and excited. The show followed four women with an average age of 80, who simply refused to grow old and disappear. Each of them had a fantastic wardrobe of clothes, gathered from charity shops, flea markets and life itself, but what shone through the clothes was their inspiringly influential attitudes. Though the aim of the program was to show viewers growing old could be an exciting adventure, for me, it represented perfectly, the importance of fashion and the effect it can have on your state of mind.

The phrase, ‘fashion is a freedom of expression’ is in my eyes, over used but here it is also necessary, as I can find no better way to describe what fashion is. It is freedom and expression. In a world where women have daily battles with their body image and pour over the features they hate, fashion gives us the power to like ourselves. It allows us to feel good in something, gives us confidence and even hide our so-called flaws. When it comes to choosing what to wear, we are given ultimate choice, and you change your mind you can reinvent yourself again and again. For years I opted out of buying items because I felt they weren’t ‘me’ or were too ‘loud’ – in other words, anything which would attract attention to me in the street was a no-go. Now though, I feel differently when buying clothes, perhaps it is down to my confidence growing, but if I see a pair of blue and green tartan trousers which I love, I think f**k it, I’m going to wear them, and this I have learnt, is how style blossoms.

Fashion is an opportunity for self expression, when it may feel like no one is listening, it is one of the most unique forms of creativity, without having to pick up a paintbrush. It can be a focus (as it has been for me) when other things in life aren’t going well. Fashion is one of the few aspects of life which we have total control over. Fashion is much more than materialism, it is attitude, confidence, power and freedom.

Here are some of my favourite items at the moment:

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 23.21.37

Checked Slacks, £14.99, H&M

Mesh panel jumpsuit, £38, Topshop

Mesh panel jumpsuit, £38, Topshop

Chelsea Boot, £45, Topshop

Chelsea Boot, £45, Topshop

Printed Kimono, £15, Primark, Gold necklace, £7.99, H&M, Cross belt, £5, Urban Outfitters

Printed Kimono, £15, Primark, Gold necklace, £7.99, H&M, Cross belt, £5, Urban Outfitters

The Men Who Lie to Make Us ‘Thin’

Food, News, Opinion

Despite the T.V being plagued with programs about diet, weight and exercise, of late, I find myself helplessly sitting down to watch each one. Whether it be critising people’s weight or targeting the size zero pandemic, the media is obsessed with the body, and therefore, so are us individuals. I usually try not to let myself become too wrapped up in these shows but The Men Who Made Us Thin, on BBC Two, really grabbed my attention.

Journalist Jacques Peretti investigates the people, from past and present, who are partly responsible for the world’s fixation with fad diets. It is no shock to most of us to hear, not for the first time, that diets are only a short term fix, but to hear the of the incredibly successful diet brand Weight Watchers say, “If the diets worked, there would be no business for us” is something else entirely.

Although I did find it shocking that they would speak so openly about this, I can’t say I was surprised. What is perhaps more shocking, is that the program also pointed out that some doctors are actually prescribing, the joining of Weight Watchers to overweight patients as a weight loss technique. Surely, any medically trained professional would know much better than that? Surely they would know that only 16% of these dieters keep the weight off long-term. After learning that Weight Watchers is actually owned by Heinz I had to ask myself the impending question, is the fact it is owned by a food company ironic or does this tell us all we need to know?

For almost 60 years, the diet industry has been preying on people’s self-hatred, shame and insecurities, in order to make a sickening amount of money from the selling of their diet products. The brains behind the product know that dieters will seek it out again and again, looking for that euphoric hit experienced at the start of a diet. This infatuation is what some believe to be a main cause of eating disorders.

These issues might seem so detached to them that they never think of the consequences. I can only hope that this is the case, because when children as young as six believe the word ‘fat’ is a disgusting then there is clearly a problem.

As someone who likes to think I know a bit about dieting, I learnt a great deal from Peretti’s investigations and I am not exaggerating to say it has impacted my life, or at least, changed the way I think. Now when I’m flicking through a magazine and see the latest diet plan, I no longer let the words draw me in. Despite knowing for a long time that these diets are superficial, I have finally accepted it. The only proven way to loose weight and be healthy in the long-term, is a healthy attitude.

‘I Can’t Afford My Eating Disorder Anymore’

Food, News, Opinion

A trip to the supermarket is a mundane task for most, a weekly necessity which takes up too much time and too much money. For those suffering from an eating disorder, the trip to the supermarket is an experience full of dread, obsession, fear and guilt. An obstacle to overcome. For anorexics and bulimics, money would not even be taken into consideration when fulfilling the task of the weekly shop. The only things which mattered, would be calories, fat percentage and the amount of guilt they would feel from consuming the product, but in the present day, when no one is escaping the wrath of the country’s recession, money has began to triumph all other issues.

Sufferers have another barrier to beat, a one which will relentlessly battle it out with those voices in your head.No matter what your state of mind or relationship with food, what you can afford will ultimately prevail over everything else. Hours can be spent trawling through the aisles, manically counting calories and painfully pouring over food packets, but if your budget doesn’t allow for those low calorie, 0 per cent fat, organic rye crackers, then it simply doesn’t and there’s not great deal you can do about it.

The financial climate has become such a huge counter part in our daily lives that it has even become a tool used in the recovery of Anorexia and Bulimia. Speaking to a dietician recently I was told, quite light-heartedly “When food shopping, a lot of people in recovery have found it helpful to look at the bargain bins and offers, rather than at the masses of products in the aisles.” Initially I was shocked and unconvinced by this, certainly not thinking that such a basic factor in everyday life, as money, could overcome those screaming voices of guilt, failure and self hatred which arise all too easily when faced with such a thing as the supermarket.

I was aware, of course, that money does have an impact, but I had never quite been able to counteract those voices and not being much of a budgeter, I had always focused on the product, rather than the price. However on a recent food shop, with my bank balance looking more miserable than I had ever seen it, I found myself gravitating towards the ‘savers’ brand, frantically checking and re-counting the total price instead of calories.

The hard fact is, eating disorders cost money. Generally speaking, they make a huge indent in the budgets of both the care system and the sufferer, leaving society and the many individuals with one more reason that they must be overcome. When financial times are hard, sufferers are left with a choice. Let anorexia take another part of their life from them, or use it to their advantage, and see the silver lining, an aid on the way to recovery.