One of the super-fun things about children is their pesky insistence on growing every year.
So, like millions of other Mums and Dads, I’m busy doing the rounds of clothes stores getting Flea her fresh summer wardrobe.
Flea is now 13.
She’s an active, healthy child of a normal weight, but puberty has happened, and this year she has very definite boobs, and hips. She’s shot up in height and is now 5 foot 5, with feet that are size 7. She eats like a horse, which tells me she’s probably got a bit more growing to do, still.
No problem, right? After all, I tell Flea, this is just a perfectly normal, natural process. So long as you’re eating well, and being active, your body will do exactly what it’s supposed to do.
Then we try and buy clothes.
Today’s teens don’t want to shop at Next or M&S or Gap. Those are very definitely “Mum shops” and my teen wouldn’t be caught dead inside their doors.
Instead, she wants clothes from Hollister and Pull&Bear. Sometimes she also wants clothes from Gucci and Balenciaga, but that’s a rant for another day.
So we ordered a range of shorts from Pull & Bear, which arrived just in time for our holiday.
Except they don’t fit.
Without exception, the shorts won’t fasten round Flea’s hips. They’re actually fine on the waist, but they’re clearly made for girls with slimmer hips and thinner thighs than my child. Note I said CHILD here.
My CHILD does not fit into the LARGEST size available in this style from Pull & Bear, a WOMEN’S fashion retailer.
How can that possibly be right?
Quite naturally Flea was dismayed when she realised the shorts were far too tight. She was distraught when she realised that she couldn’t fit into the largest size available (a 12).
It took me a good 30 minutes to talk her down from a fit of self-loathing and doubt. She’d never had reason to think about whether her body is “too big” before – but now she is starting to wonder.
Honestly, it was heartbreaking to see. I have a child who is perfectly healthy and active, and a normal weight for her height. She shouldn’t be upset by clothes that are simply NOT the right size.
I explained to Flea that:
- Sometimes retailers just don’t get sizing right. As you get older you learn which shops to buy big, and where to buy small. But sometimes even the same retailer can’t be consistent (I’m looking at you, H&M). That’s why her Guess jeans are a size 10, but her Jack Wills jeans are a 12.
- Sometimes retailers cut their clothes with a particular body shape in mind, because that’s the customer they want to attract. And sometimes retailers are targeting women whose bodies give no indication of having gone through puberty…
- As you get older you realise that you really don’t care about the label inside your clothes. You care that it fits, and it’s comfortable.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that Pull & Bear sizing seems to run small. After all, wasn’t Pull & Bear criticised last year when it was found that its clothing ranged from a Size XS (UK 4) to a Large (UK Size 10). How can a size 10 possibly be a large?
Where this gets tricky is when retailers have a primarily teenage customer base. If you’re Pull & Bear or H&M, you’ve got a responsibility to make your clothing realistic in its sizing.
What message does it give a child who is barely into her teens that she’s already too wide for even the biggest of your clothes? Or if a child needs to wear a size 14 just to get your jeans past her hips, even if those jeans then swamp her waist and are far too long?
It’s horrible. Just horrible.
Tonight I took Flea on an emergency after-school shopping trip. We headed to New Look, where thankfully the jeans seem to be cut with a bit of stretch, so that they are comfortable and flattering to girls who are a bit curvier.
We’ve also ordered some shorts from Hollister, which again seems to cut a bit more generously, and has jeans that stretch a little where it’s needed.
I’d love to know your experiences of this and how you approach the issue with sensitive teens – I don’t want Flea to buy into some retailer’s notion of what the “normal” body shape is. I want her to understand that a healthy body is the ideal body, and if a retailer can’t understand that, then you spend your hard-earned elsewhere.