I was in a popular store (which shall remain nameless) about a month ago with a friend when I overheard a very disturbing exchange between two sales associates. I was waiting in line to pay for my item and a few steps away from me was a sales associate who was dressing a mannequin. As another sales associate walked up to him, he said to her “Wow our mannequin is like a real woman.” The other sales associate said something in response that I couldn’t hear. In response to whatever she said, the male sales associate responded in a really sassy tone “I refuse to put a size 8 on our mannequins! I refuse!” I was baffled and utterly confused. My friend and I paid for our items and left the store.
As I was leaving, I got a glance of the size of the dress that was on the mannequin; it was a size 6. So from this brief shopping trip I learned two things from this man. One: a size 6 is the size of a “real woman” and two: a size 8 is really bad.
Now I’m not one to get into labels and sizes but I think for the purposes of this discussion, size is of note in order to point out the absurdity of this man’s thinking. The first question I had was “since when is a size 8 considered extremely large?” and second, “why is it completely unacceptable to put such a large size on the mannequin?”
As much as I understand that there is a collective consciousness in the western world that lives by the doctrine of thinner is better its moments like these that make it reality for me. I mean, I get that in the fashion world; you really can’t make it as a model if you are over a size 4 (and even then you may not make the cut). But that’s the fashion world, not the real world; right?
In reality, very few women are that small. So perhaps that’s what the sales associate meant when he said that the mannequin was a “real woman.” He was inferring that because the dress they put on it wasn’t the typical model size 0-4, her body was somehow more realistic, closer to what a “real woman” looks like in the “real world.”
This man’s comments came down to one thing for me: size politics, which is the idea that a number or letter on a clothing label has some type of merit in this world. This man was assigning very specific meaning to very specific sizes and it seemed very natural to him to do so.
One of the major problems with sizes is how inconsistent they are. I mean, at the end of the day, can you really tell me what your “size” is? I personally wear one size at H&M, one size at Old Navy, one size at Target and another size at Forever 21. One size in pants, one size in jeans (totally depending on who makes the jeans), another size in tops and it goes on and on. I have everything from XS to XL in my closet. So why would I let something so completely inconsistent and ridiculous define who I am?
I don’t think that size politics has any place in the real world; it should stay deep within the dark realms of Vogue and the catwalk. But unfortunately, it’s people like this idiotic sales person who make it hard to keep size politics out of every day life.