Clothing wars:the segregation of the female bod

By Gus Bode

It’s a nuthouse out there. Shopping malls. Mail order catalogues. Wal-Mart. Women are nutty for clothes.

It has been that way since the dawn of civilization when we discovered that we could wear stripes like a tiger and ensconce ourselves in rich velvets. We were the ones tailoring the fabrics to our bodies and later purchasing them in the marketplace.

Today women are the biggest spenders in our society, and we still want clothes clothes divided into a myriad of selections to fit all occasions and moods.


But the masterminds making these shorts, skirts and skorts obviously have no coherent idea of what our bodies look like. And then to add insult to injury, the system of any store is segregated by size.

The Junior’s or Misses’ clothing lines are thus named because they are geared toward the younger woman.

Here you will find the funky animal prints; the sleek, flared capris; the soft-and-furry-as-a-bunny fabric; and the one-shoulder-missing tops. Apparently, by the size standards here, any younger woman is not more than 140 pounds and she doesn’t have much in the way of hips or breasts. If you happen to be college age and would like to wear something that doesn’t have big yellow ducks or is not a three-piece suit, this area of Famous Barr is your best bet.

Unless you have a ass.

The average American woman is size 12 or 14. Misses’ sizes generally end at size 12. But it is some bizarre sort of 12. The clothing cuts in the bigger sizes don’t change dimensions, they just grow bigger so that the pants still have no room for hips and the XL tops won’t button. It’s as though they imagine what a thin 12-year-old girl would like look like and then cut all the clothes from that pattern, simply making them bigger without changing the shape.

The result is that if you are skinny enough, and don’t let body weight change you into a mythical being with kickin’ curves, your bonus prize is cute clothes.

If you happen to weigh, oh about 160, and you’re under 45, you’re out of luck. Again the masterminds have decided that you don’t exist. If you weigh that much and are not hitting middle age, there’s really no excuse, so you still have to shop in the dreaded Women’s section.


Don’t get me wrong, this section is great when you’re looking for something to wear to the next conference. Also, you can find a number of nice ball gowns for the black-tie affair afterward. But if you’re looking for a cool pair of faded floods and a sassy tank top to bum around Carbondale in, forget about it.

I guess they have decided you’re too fat for tank tops anyway, even though at that weight you actually have something to fill them with. Casual wear in this section is what every 50-something matron has on during the weekend. And while they may look stunning, I’m not 50.

So the question is, if the average woman is size 12 or 14, like a certain columnist you know, and she is the major credit-card maxer of the family, why aren’t clothes designed for her?

It must have something to do with ensuring that the weight-loss machine keeps cashing in on the American woman’s fragile sense of self. After all, the get-skinny industry in this country is bigger and badder than Enron ever was. As if Cosmo and all-night TV ads for fat-burning pills and super-ab-rolling rockers weren’t enough, we have to be bullied into being a certain size so we can buy the clothes we actually like.

If a store does include bigger sizes, they are always put at the back to suggest that you are not important enough to be marketed to to be in the window. And of course, they are different styles than the playful and sexy, magazine-style line up front.

Despite what Cosmo and my all-night TV says to me, I’m just as gorgeous as any straight-bodied, can’t-eat-any-sweets-so-I-can-wear-my-sassy-tank-top little girl. And I deserve to have beautiful and fun clothing made for my body size the one that the majority has anyway.

And I want it in the front.

Let the skinny minority pick their way through three-piece suits and ducky rompers in the back of the store. It’s my turn to be glorified.

The Femme Factor appears every other Friday. Marleen is a senior in journalism. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Egyptian.