Too Big, Too Small: I’m A Fashion Inbetweener

Rhiannon Evans explains the agony of never fitting in

Rhiannon Evans

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

Just call me high street Goldilocks – wandering around mumbling, ‘They’re too small!’ or ‘Ooooh, this is just too big,’ before slumping into one of the few shops where I know whatever I’m looking for will fit and, defeated, looking into the mirror and saying, ‘These are just about right.’

But it’s no fairy tale being a Fashion Inbetweener. We fit neither the increasingly incredible ‘curve’ collections, nor the high-street ‘straight sizes’ (clothes that shops usually stock up to a size 16 – I refuse to say ‘normal’).

Last year, I lost two stone and went from being one of those girls who says they’re a size 16, but actually only fits into their lovingly stretched jeans and carefully selected dresses to, well, someone who really was a size 16. I stared in amazement as my plus-size dresses swamped me (nothing had ever swamped me), and those jeans irritatingly kept falling down. I was ready, I decided, to finally break free of the one or two high-street stores where I could squeeze into jeans (Primark,New Look) and – scream! – actually try on a pair of Topshop jeans. Maybe I’d even give Zara a go! I wasn’t pulling size 12s off the rack, I just thought I might, for the first time, t into size 16s, the biggest size – the size I am – in some shops.

How stupid to think I would slip into even the largest jeans in those stores. I cursed myself, pulling on pair after pair. Some size 16s didn’t even go over my calves – ironically, muscly from all the exercise I’d been doing. Lucky I only live a five-minute walk from Westfield, I thought as I scurried home – the ill-fated trip was a crushing blow to my ego. I was still fat; not ‘normal’.

I had high-street imposter syndrome – except this wasn’t in my mind, it was objectively true that I still didn’t (pardon the pun) t in. I couldn’t pick up a bigger size – because there wasn’t one available. And now, the haven of plus-size collections was far too big for me. I was forced to return to the shops where I’d always found solace – before my honeymoon, I ran into New Look and grabbed three styles of the same jean in a size 16 (a shop where, if I’d wanted a larger size, they are actually available), taking no joy in my experience, just relief. Blaming myself, I assumed the brands that fitted me were ‘vanity-sizing’ me, cynically plotting to give me the extra inch so I’d be flattered and return. What an idiot.

I didn’t think much more of it until our fashion news editor, Laura Antonia Jordan, began extolling the virtues of another brand deigning to create a plus-size collection. Everyone thought this was brilliant. I felt sad, though: sad it probably wouldn’t t me; sad the idea of a brand opening up to ‘other’ women was such good news. Couldn’t all the shops just make clothes that fit, full stop?

It can be difficult being my size at a fashion magazine. People look to you (but try to look like they’re not) for your opinion when a curve range drops. It took me a while to convince them that ‘chub rub’ happens to loads of women.

I worry about speaking up when articles like ‘Everyone can do the crop top!’ are pitched, in case people think, ‘Ugh, the fat one’s banging on about real women again.’ The fact is, though, any insecurities are all in my head, and I love the fashion team here. But I’m keen to stress it’s about ‘different shapes’, not plus or ‘normal’. Everyone has their shopping bugbear – legs too skinny for any boots, big bums and small boobs that don’t t any dresses. I know retailers say they’re doing their best to deliver reasonably priced items for the majority, but it’s a misunderstanding to say it’s about fat versus skinny people. Being in-between, I feel left out of the body-positive vibe of a curve market coming into its own, but still denied the joy of popping into shops without reaching for the biggest size, doubtingly stepping into a changing room knowing nothing will fit – and there’s no option to swap for a bigger size.

Some will find it strange that I’m gutted when my friend sends me links to ‘curve’ dresses that start at a size too big for me.

I imagine some people will think that’s the ultimate humble-brag. I hope not. I wasn’t ashamed to exclaim that the ABSOLUTELY AMAZING black gown I wore to a wedding was an ASOS Curve Exclusive. I love swinging into Bravissimo because that scrap of lace in Victoria’s Secret is just not gonna do the job. But the problem with putting people in boxes (‘straight’, ‘curve’, ‘plus’, ‘petite’, ‘tall’) is that pigeonholes are created with bold lines – and now my curvy-but-not-quite- curvy-enough bum sits on those lines.

Fashion doesn’t do Venn diagrams – and more’s the pity.

What does it matter though, really? I could always lose some more weight. Or put it on? ‘It’s shallow to make such a fuss about clothes.’ All things you might say if you’ve never had your confidence crushed, tears brimming, because you feel ‘less than’ (or, really ‘more than, but not in a good way’) when you’re just trying to look nice.

And, jeez, what gets me is that I’m actively trying to give these shops my money. I know I am that size on those jeans where the zip gapes open. Why aren’t you making clothes that t me? Are you that embarrassed to have me walking around in your dress? I’m shamelessly worshipping at the altar of brands, begging them to take my wages while they ritually humiliate me. I don’t know what the solution is – but that’s not my job. It’s their job to make me feel better, dress me and have me bouncing out of their doors.

I’m literally paying them to do that.

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