“Plus” what, exactly?

ImageThe woman to the far right is Jennie Runk, pictured here in a Glamour spread circa 2009. The intarwebs have been a-buzz because she’s H&M’s new “plus size” swimwear model.

Let’s take another look. Here she is in H&M’s new swimwear shots:

ImageYes, apparently this size 12 woman is “plus-sized.” Excuse me? She looks HEALTHY. AND NORMAL. And pardon me, but I believe one finds size 12 in the “misses” (that is, the NOT plus-sized) section. Since when is this plus-sized? Certainly it’s not the size 0 we normally see, but should we really be calling this “plus”? Plus what? A normal amount of body fat and muscle?

As two women who are not size zeroes, we object. We object first because calling this woman anything other than normal is a gross misstatement. To imply that this woman is somehow heavier than she should be is nonsense. She looks beautiful as-is. I don’t just say this because when I look at most retailers’ models, I want to feed them giant Katz deli sandwiches by the fistful, but because this is the same kind of nonsensical distortion we get with the size zero model. Girls who are Ms. Runk’s size and one higher (14) are shopping in the section that advertises with size zeroes. Women who are size 16 and over are shopping for the clothes Ms. Runk is modeling. Isn’t it time we have just a bit of truth in advertising? If you’re going to sell “plus size” clothing, you need to use a plus size model. A model, that is, who wears size 16 or higher.

Additionally, there needs to be some parity across sizing. I give you the following anecdote: In December, I went looking for a New Year’s Eve dress. I headed to the predictable spots: Forever 21, H&M, etc. H&M was my first stop. My dress size, 95% of the time, is a 6 or 8. I do have a bit of trouble finding dresses that fit because I’ve got a lot of booty and not a lot of booby. But, I digress. I went looking for a black sequin number I saw on the website, and found they only had a size 4 left. I thought to myself, I might as well try this on. It’s realistically only one–maybe two–sizes below me. Maybe it will fit.

And what do you think happened?

Not only did this “dress” not fit over my ass, it hardly fit over my boobs! My tiny boobs! Most women who are my size or a bit smaller have bigger boobs than me! And, on top of that, the notion that this thing was a dress was a joke. Even if I had gotten it to begin fitting over my hips, it wouldn’t have made it much farther because there just wasn’t any more fabric! The damn thing was shirt for a 10 year old being passed off as a dress.

My call, therefore, is for parity in sizing as well as in advertising. I should be looking at models smack dab in the middle of the spectrum of “misses” (that’s a size six, by the way) and smack dab in the middle of “women’s.” And I should be able to reasonably enter a store and try on one or two sizes of clothing and find items that are at least close to fitting. I shouldn’t have to shop at store A as an 8 and then go over to store B and have to buy a 13/14. If we could actually get some real sense of what size we were and stick to it, and saw real humans modeling the clothes we’re buying, we’d significantly reduce the amount of body-hating that goes on.

Unacceptable Items of the Last Three Weeks

So, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, but I haven’t forgotten R&RC. In fact, some of the absurd things I’ve seen these past few weeks require some attention.

1. Flesh colored leggings. NO. NONONONONONO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, NO! Why? Why would you possibly think this is a good idea? I thought the Wal-Mart meme lady would have convinced the world, but apparently not.

2. Tiger stripe leggings. I’m not sure what happened to the students on my campus (there must be something in the water), but apparently standard black leggings weren’t bad enough and we needed flesh colored and tiger stripe varieties. Really?

3. Peek-a-boo shapewear. Shapewear is awesome. It keeps you tucked and set where you should be to look awesome. But looking at it? Not so awesome. So, when I was walking behind a girl in a short pencil skirt and suddenly realized, oh, it doesn’t have a lace border, those are her SPANX, I had to shake my head and wonder whether she could feel a draft. You would think, right?

4. iPod in your butt. Yes. Yes, I said iPod. In. Your. Butt. I was at the gym last week on an elliptical behind a woman on a treadmill. She kept adjusting her sweatpants as she was running, and I was pretty much ignoring it when suddenly she started digging around in her pants. Slightly aghast (my mother taught me not to stick my hands down my pants in public; I don’t know about the rest of you), I watched her pull an iPod out of her sweatpants and adjust the song and shove the thing back in her pants and keep running. W. T. F. Let me count the ways this is unacceptable: one, gross. Two, unsanitary. Three, YOU’RE KEEPING YOUR iPOD IN YOUR ASS. Four, IN YOUR ASS. Five, there’s a reason clothing companies don’t put pockets in the center of the back of our pants; items stored there make you look like you’ve shit yourself. Six, IN. YOUR. BUTT?!?!??!

Stop Comparing Me to Fruit

I’m sure by now, most women have heard of different classifications for body shapes. There’s the “hourglass” (think Marilyn Monroe and every pin up girl ever) and the “rectangle” (as in you don’t have a natural waist) and sometimes even varieties of triangle (standard and inverse, apparently). But all of this is weird. No one actually looks like a triangle or a rectangle. Hourglass, sure, I can see that. Then there’s the stupid food comparisons: apple, pear, and (this one was new to me) banana. I’m sorry but I definitely don’t look like a piece of fruit. This comparison is just weird and nonsensical.

In this case, the fruit doesn't even fit. And that does NOT look like a banana, damnit.

I’m sorry, but none of these shapes make any sense to my brain. I just don’t get it. Supposedly, because I’m small-chested and big-bootied (is that even a term?) I’m a “pear” shape. But I’m also supposed to have tiny, wimpy shoulders (which I don’t) and thick ankles (also don’t). I get the impetus for classifying body shapes–supposedly helping women dress to flatter their most “alluring” features–but it really needs to be rethought. On top of only being able to represent these so-called universal shapes that are supposed to fit all women on the planet in odd drawings without faces or  with creepy identical faces, when someone does try to represent these shapes in the real world, you wind up with ridiculously inaccurate representations. See, for example, figure three. All of these women, despite the fact that they’ve been classified as “different” shapes, all look the same to me. They all have chests of roughly the same size, they’re all fairly lean (though red bathing suit and black bathing suit have weirdly thin thighs that don’t touch), and they all have pretty defined waists. I’m also increasingly convinced that “inv” triangle and triangle are the same woman with a bit of photoshopping on the booty/thighs area. Alternative to the “models come in all shapes and varieties of anorexic!!!” photo above is the “all women look like worn out slobs and stand with their arms awkwardly lifted and suffering from an inexplicable case of bowleggedness” picture below. Kudos to the creator for using real women, but at the same time, it seems somewhat unfair to try to accurately represent body types when you’re using women whose ages vary from the fairly young (maybe 24, “lollipop”) to the fairly old (65? “column”), and whose relative body weight fluctuates from the very skinny to the verging on obese. And forgive me for asking, but what idiot came up with these horrible names. There’s the classic food items, but wtf is a cello body shape? Lollipop? Goblet? And can we all agree that “brick” is a terrible term for a woman’s body shape? As if you could be any less interested in making a woman feel beautiful–“Yes, dear, I believe you’d be classified as a ‘brick.'” C’mon!

This is not to say that using women of a variety of ages and weights is a bad thing, but it’s hard to get a sense of your body shape if you’re at the right weight but don’t look like Ms. Lollipop, Pear, or Cornet. What about women of average weight who are hourglass-shaped? Or heavy women who are column or goblet shaped? This system just sucks, to be honest.

Additionally, in my evening internet cruising, I keep seeing advice for pear and apple shaped women that encourages them to “hide” their big hips or busts, respectively, while telling hourglass ladies to just let it all hang out cause they have nothing to hide. What kind of message does that send? The only worthwhile, sexy shape is an hourglass one, I assume. Everyone else better try to wear dark colors or use ruffles to give the impression they actually have the hourglass shape instead of just embracing the great assets they do have, regardless of whether their top and bottom halves match.

I say, eff that. Whether you look like Barbie or you don’t, stop dressing to cover up what some people like to call “problem areas” (i.e. anything that’s not an hourglass), and just start wearing what you think looks good and gives you confidence.

This week in UNACCEPTABLE: Axe for Women?

A couple of days ago, I was at the gym, doin’ my thang on the elliptical, when all of a sudden it hit me. No, really, it hit me: a giant wave of stench. It smelled vaguely like spicy rotting fruit. It was… AXE. You know, that stupid body spray that guys think will make you want to sleep with them but really just smells like they forgot to take a shower this morning? Yeah, that stuff. I proceded to gasp for fresh air, and, it being inside of a gym with no air movement, began to hack up a lung.

Seriously, though–Axe smells like the equivalent of perishable cologne. Manfume gone bad. Very bad. But dudes LOVE this stuff; especially big meaty dudes who hang out at the gym and apparently think showering is for pussies. Or something. The gym always reeks like this crap (and the smell of feet/dirty socks, but you know. It’s the gym.) I don’t understand where–other than their awful ad campaigns–guys got the idea that any self-respecting female actually likes the way this stuff smells. A shittier version of Old Spice doesn’t make me want to jump your bones. Sorry.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, lo and behold, I was proven wrong while watching the Super Bowl.

Now women get to smell like spicy rotting fruit, too! Oh, joy. Actually it probably smells like the crappy cotton candy body spray everyone used in my middle school. I wouldn’t be surprised. I almost wished for a moment I had smell-o-vision so I could smell this strange new product. What’s the verdict? Weird rotten fruit or typical fourteen year old cotton candy smell?

More importantly, how will an ad campaign for women even work? Given that Axe’s big claim is, “Hey, AnyDude: use our stuff and hot models will come creeping out of the bushes to have sex with you all the time,” how would that work for women in a non-creepy way?

Funny or Die asked that same question, and here’s what they came up with.

Despite the crass ending to this commercial, they’ve got a point. Bottom line: Axe is unacceptable (or unacceptably bad-smelling) for dudes. It’s bound to be equally unacceptable for women, if not just plain weird.

Read more about “Axe Anarchy” in this New York Times article.

“Ethnic”

I got an email from a clothing company in my inbox the other day, and upon my perusal of said email, saw the following:

What the hell does “ethnic-embroidered” mean, and why is it a compound word? Why is the term “ethnic,” which is vague and non-specific (but is basically code for any “non-Western” aesthetic), applied to clothes, art, etc.? Especially when that clothing and/or art is mass-manufactured and is anything but “ethnic,” as in being a product of a specific community of people that share ancestry, culture, language, etc.? Why is it okay to use it as a blanket term for brightly colored, zig-zag looking elements? There are plenty of terms to describe a bag like the one above. Zig-zag bag. Geometric bag. Red and black bag. What about just “embroidered handbag”? I just don’t understand the loose use of ethnic to describe something that has an aesthetic that is not at once apparently Western or modern. By calling it ethnic, it seems to mark it as othered, abnormal, and as such, sets up a hierarchy that places more value on a western, modern aesthetic. Yeah?

Why baby-faced men shouldn’t grow facial hair

I’m usually pretty open to however you want to style your hair(s). Do what you will. Even if you want to sport ridiculous chops, dude, go for it. This all changes when you’re a baby-faced man. Baby-faced men should not grow beards. Never. Never ever. Are you unconvinced? I present my photo gallery:

That would be Zac (“Where’s the k?”) Efron. Dude looks straight up creepy in the first two. Five o’clock shadow is all right, but the moustache and the weird patch goatee? NO. Not allowed.

Whatchu doin’, Shia? You look crazy. CRAZY and creepy I tell you.

Hot Jake Gyllenhaal with weird hat vs. Jake Gyllenhaal as Man from the Mountain: Hot Jake wins every time.

Robert Pattinson took the WRONG memo from the above photo. He looks like a pedophile/drugged-out homeless creeper. NO FACIAL HAIR FOR BABY-FACED MEN, DAMNIT.

If you still are unconvinced, I believe you are simply in denial. The threat of facial hair in baby-faced men is a very real and present danger. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Justin Bieber.

BIEBER BEARD???

Rompers romping everywhere

The “Romper,” also known as the “Romper Suit,” is a bizarre piece of clothing. According to the Wikipedia entry, it is “a one-piece garment worn by children and sometimes women.” Originally made for small children, women began wearing them in the 1950’s as “leisure and beach wear.”

More recently, however, I’ve begun to see them on teens and twenty somethings everywhere.

Is it just me or are rompers strangely childish? Something about them reminds me of onesie footie pajamas, but for summertime. Also, their inherent femininity seems to sprout from their nature as an all-or-nothing garment, which really bothers me. It seems as if this is a weird modern version of the chastity belt (forget quickie sex in one of these–ever), except with the alternative of total nakedness. There is no in between!

On the practical side, I also have my doubts–how do you go to the bathroom in one of these things? Do you have to strip down butt naked? Who would want to do that in an American public bathroom where you can pretty much peek through the cracks of the stalls anyway? Not me, thanks. Additionally, what if you’re a woman with a long torso? Or a short one, for that matter? It seems that it would be impossible to buy one of these things and have it fit correctly without major tailoring.

I just don’t understand why it is necessary to have pants on these. At some point, it seems to make more sense to buy a cute white dress–which I am suspicious is lurking at the far right of the above photo–that is more versatile (and when wearing, makes it easier to pee without getting completely naked).

WTF, ear cuffs?

This is an incredibly stupid product. I give you, reader, the “ear cuff.” What is up with this? It’s like a piercing, but it’s not. It’s just awkward and kinda ugly. Especially when it’s a skull next to the kind of earrings that suburban moms wear.

Why? Why not just pierce it like a normal person? There is nothing cool about this weirdness!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, how about an Avatar wannabe… blue and ear-cuffed:

THIS IS NOT PANDORA! DITCH THE EAR CUFF!

Who came up with Baby Doll Tees, anyway?

Baby Doll Tees. You know, those tiny shirts we all wore when we were fifteen with stupid logos and cartoon characters and ‘sassy’ quips on them? Yeah. The ones that never fit right, and if you ever threw them in a dryer you could forget about wearing them ever again unless showing off your butt crack is your kind of thing. Happily, I grew out of wearing them (pun intended). It baffles me, though, how many I still see around. Who really wants to wear a shirt that obviously was not built for a normal sized teen or adult, but exactly what it describes: a baby? These stupid shirts never quite came down far enough to adequately cover my ever-lengthening teenage torso, which often resulted in the display of back dimples. Really that’s something I should have kept underneath my shirt… if it fit correctly. What continues to baffle me more than the baby doll shirt itself is the annoying idea that it is “made for women.” For example, the NFL recently began selling team merchandise for women, which means–

you guessed it–team baby doll tees. I get that they’re supposed to be cut for women (e.g. not baggy, have some kind of shape), which is great, except for the fact that they aren’t cut for women. They’re cut for pygmies or some other abnormally small race of people (e.g. children) who would be able to wear them without displaying butt crack or back dimples. Give me a shirt that is the right length, damnit!!!

Which, I guess is what we all wished for when the fashion industry blessed us

with those really long-torso style tshirts (which I can only describe as “tunic tees”). Admittedly, I still own a few of these, but they never made sense on my body and still don’t. But I was so tired of the stupid too-short baby doll tees that the ultra-long tee seemed like a viable alternative. What was I thinking?

Maybe wishing for clothes that actually fit instead of make me look like a small child or a hideously long-torsoed monster is too much. Or maybe asking, as a grown woman, to be able to wear something that is not associated with a baby or a doll, two things which I am obviously not, is too much.

One fine day, ladies, we will have clothes that actually fit real bodies. Until then…

A Friendly Guide To Leggings… Because It’s Obvious You Need One

When I was about four or five, there were leggings. It was 1992 and they had the strap that hooked under your foot to keep them stretched. I hated them because I had overly sensitive feet and didn’t like the strap. We called them “stirrup pants.”

Eighteen years later, we apparently needed to go back to the awful stirrup pants we wore as children when we were cute, small, and it didn’t matter if our underwear and/or diaper showed through our pants. But, let’s face it. We’re adults now and this is no longer acceptable. It’s really not okay for you to be showing off your panties. I don’t care if they have the word “PINK” plastered across your ass. I just don’t want to see it.

There are right and wrong ways to wear leggings. Going to work at the office? Yeah, choose something else to wear. Skin tight cotton “pants” don’t really work here. Work at a dance studio? Perfect! Throw on those leggings. Leggings can also be okay if you’re pairing them with a long sweater or something that doesn’t showcase your rear. The image below, for example, demonstrates an appropriate way of wearing everybody’s favorite un-pants.

As you can see, the long sweater prevents any unnecessary ass-showcasing and saves me from having to read your underwear.

So, let’s get this straight: Good Leggings don’t showcase your butt in weird ways, aren’t translucent, politely conceal your underwear, and don’t look trashy/lazy/frumpy. Got it? Great.

Problem is, I don’t trust you. I know you’re going to go out there and buy an awful pair of leggings, and I’m going to hold myself partially responsible. So, I’m providing you with a simple, easy-to-use guide of What Leggings Not To Wear. Observe:

Pleather/leather leggings are a resounding NO.

Whatever these are… also a no. And put a freakin’ shirt on, lady.

Ripped leggings… Are you homeless? Do you pull your clothes out of the dumpster behind Goodwill? Then stop dressing like you do.

When pleather wasn’t bad enough, they gave us metallic leggings. Unless you’re the bastard leprechaun from Notre Dame, don’t wear these.

AKJSHDKLAJSHFKJASD?!/??!??!?!?! IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, YOU DON’T NEED TO WEAR LEGGINGS. NO!

Hopefully by now you have the tools and know-how to determine for yourself which styles of leggings are appropriate and which are not. So do us all a favor and lay off the bad un-pants.