I love high street clothes shopping.
The obsession began from the first rite of passage trip sans-mum with a few fellow 16-year-old friends round the local mall (OK, so it was a tiny Berkshire shopping centre, but Clueless had just come out).
Since then, shopping has almost always lifted my spirits – a way to solidify friendships and forge new identities, to prepare for first dates and get over exes with ‘screw him’ new looks.
As a teenager, I was lucky – my puppy fat somehow disappeared at 12 and I rarely had to worry about a shop not having my size.
Now, aged 36 and a size 18, I find that the high street shops, my old friends, have turned on me.
For all their adverts and soundbites about inclusivity and everyone loving themselves, I find most of them woefully ill-equipped for my needs.
And before you say it, no, I’m not interested in shopping in Evans or going online or to some ‘fat girl’ catalogue despite being, by my own definition, a fat girl (ps you’re not fooling anyone by calling someone voluptuous or curvy).
Why should I? I’ve given these shops my business for the past 20 years after all.
It’s my money that’s helped pay their (admittedly under-paid) staff, their electricity bills, their designers, and even their ad campaigns.
You can also bore off telling me to lose weight.
Besides, the fact is, I’m a size 18 now and I want to go shopping now – not in a year’s time when I may or may not have lost (or for that matter gained) weight.
So I feel let down by the high street shops and the so-called designers who develop their ‘plus size’ ranges.
Because it’s just not enough that shops actually stock sizes higher than a 16.
They actually need to design versions of their clothes with curvier women in mind.
It’s simple – size 18 women are a different shape to size 8 women.
And yet, whenever I go shopping, the dresses have waists in the wrong place, insufficient boob room, unflattering necklines and God knows what else.
The trousers are ridiculously long, the skirts don’t stop at the most flattering place on the leg and you can pretty much forget about jeans.
My annoyance at high street shops’ shortcomings came to a head recently when I decided to buy my first bikini in about five years.
When I finally actually found a bikini top in my size (thank you Debenhams) I realised that all the bottoms were just, well, wrong (screw you Debenhams).
Sure, they fit; but they also looked bloody awful, with my big mound of muffin top flapping out for all to see.
It was clear they hadn’t been designed for anyone with any kind of stomach.
In the end, enraged, I took a leaf out of a friend’s book and went over to the dark side, AKA the men’s section.
That was a revelation. It turns out that their sizing is not only a lot more forgiving but the shapes can look pretty good on women too.
I ended up with a black bikini top and what, in my mind anyway, are sexy board shorts that cover the bits I want covered and sit where I want.
The thing is though, I don’t see why I should start shopping in the men’s section (although now I’ve tried it once, it may become a regular habit, especially as it seems to be cheaper too).
This isn’t about one isolated incident – it’s about all the times I’ve tried on clothes clearly designed with smaller women in mind.
I’m not sure why it’s so hard for clothing manufacturers to, I don’t know, actually try putting their size 18 clothes on size 18 women and hear what they think of them instead of presumably designing for size 8s and then going ‘right, job’s a good ‘un – for the bigger girls we’ll just add a few more cm of fabric in every direction and hope for the best.’
I don’t give a damn what size the ‘average’ women is – if it’s your job to make clothes then those clothes should look fantastic on every sized woman – short, tall, fat, thin.
So please, manufacturers, make more of an effort. Don’t make me break up with the high street shops.