One Shirt, Several Thoughts

Picture this: you’re shopping around, trying to find some great clothes. Maybe you’re looking for leggings for Pilates class, or a tie to wear to a coworker’s wedding.

Now picture this: you come across a shirt you thought was medium, but it turns out to be way smaller than you thought and it makes you question how anyone will be able to fit into it.

That’s what happened to me recently. I was shopping with my sister when we came across a little burgundy Henley-style shirt. It was on a hanger indicating it was a size medium, when the tag said it was small.

The catch? The shirt was extremely narrow. It looked like it was designed for an anthropomorphic Barbie doll. I never tried the shirt on, so I don’t know if it was actually designed to stretch out.

The photo of the shirt I saw at the store that made me think about how the fashion industry triggering eating disorders

The big picture here isn’t a shirt. It’s literally just a shirt. But it was the design that bothered me. It was the fact it was designed in a way that could potentially make someone develop an eating disorder.

Since my high school days, I have struggled with an on-again, off-again eating disorder. Sometimes it was to handle stressful situations. Other times it was because I felt fat when I was at a relatively healthy weight.

I still struggle with the issues to this day. I obsess over my weight and daily step count. The looser my clothes fit, the better. I worry over my jean size occasionally, and feel self-conscious about my very wide hips.

This photo was taken in 2015, shortly before I had a serious eating disorder relapse

The shirt made me think of the times where I felt I was too fat to look decent. It reminded me of times I felt uncomfortable in my body, uncomfortable in certain clothes, and desperate to be thinner. It reminded me of times I didn’t believe a word anyone said when they told me I wasn’t fat and I felt the need to burn off every calorie I consumed.

Someone could see that shirt and feel the way I did. That person could evaluate their body just by looking at the item or even trying it on and feel bad about themselves. They may see themselves as extremely fat when that isn’t the case.

That person might develop unhealthy eating habits that affect their lives. That person might become obsessed with counting calories, getting forty minutes of cardio in daily, and being as skinny as possible.

That person might eat one-third cup of applesauce for every single meal to fit into that shirt. That person might eat a five-course meal and then go on the elliptical for an hour every single day for six weeks for that shirt to fit.

They might give themselves constant sore muscles, stomach discomfort, and bone problems because of the eating disorder that shirt gave them.

That person might try on that shirt once, and then see themselves as fat every time they look in the mirror for a long time afterwards. That person might be so obsessed with being skinny enough to fit in that shirt that their social life falls apart.

This photo was taken in 2016, shortly after I took this photo of my outfit, I had an intense eating disorder relapse and was adamant about being as skinny as possible

It isn’t just that the shirt is the size it is. It’s the fact that literally any shopper can see it and lose body confidence. It’s the fact that the second someone sees that shirt, they could feel the need to dedicate their whole lives to looking skinny enough to fit into that type of shirt.

In my opinion, making clothes that only living, breathing dolls can fit into is disrespectful. It shows that the manufacturer’s only interested in one body type and others must change to look good in their products. It shows the manufacturer wants people to conform to society’s standards. It shows the manufacturer couldn’t care less about the variety of body types.

I want to let you know that you don’t have to conform to society’s standards. You don’t have to make yourself into an anthropomorphic Barbie doll or G.I. Joe action figure. You don’t have to sacrifice your mental, physical, and social health to look good in clothes.

Be kind to your body. Do your best to eat healthily, get enough rest, and remain hydrated. Get exercise in a way you enjoy, whether a stationary bike class or hiking your favorite trails. Surround yourself with love and support. Your clothing size doesn’t define you, your worth, or your well-being.

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