Give Me A Damned Break.


Well, Roy scored huge with the holiday gifts.  He bagged for me this absolutely amazing all-weather riding rain coat, with an adaptable skirt to cover the saddle and protect it from drizzle, and incredible styling.  I saw it in a magazine ad, checked the company’s website for the sizing chart, and then requested this item from Santa.

Santa delivered, with a stunning ruby-red intensely styling garment.

That fit, if by “fit” you mean “will zip up cleanly over underwear”.  I tried it on over my silk thermal top – apres ski present orgy – and it was…snug.  It zipped.  It “fit” in that technical sense.  The sizing chart wasn’t…wrong…it just failed to take into account that a person might want to be wearing something other than a bra under a cold-weather riding raincoat.  Now, I’m having a hard time imagining the circumstances under which I’d want to wear a cold-weather raincoat over a tank top and a pair of breeches.  And that’s what it would take.  Anything else would be snug.  And “snug” isn’t something I think of when it comes to athletic gear.  Stretchy, fitted, yes.  Snug, tight, no.

It’s bad enough that I’m going to have to send this astoundingly gorgeous coat back.  In my adult life, I’ve been as small as a size 14, as large as a 20.  I got down to a size 12 one year, when I was finishing my dissertation and getting divorced, and everyone asked me if I’d been sick.  For me to get into a size 12 requires that my shoulder and collar bones stand out like wire coathangers, that you be able to count and inspect every one of my ribs, and that my vertebral column be visible against the drape of a loose-fitting t-shirt.   And, as I said, everyone assumed that I’d been having chemotherapy or dealing with some kind of life-threatening illness, I looked that haggard, gaunt, and bad.  That’s what it takes for me to be a size 12.

I used a couple of internet calculators, and realized that I’ve been in the 97% percentile for height and weight since the day I was born.  So it should be a surprise to me that the smallest I’ve been in my adult life is still well into “Size Large” territory?  My shoe size, depending on who you ask, is anywhere from a 9 1/2 Wide (Payless) to an 11 Medium (Stuart Weitzman). I’m just…value sized.

So, as I say, it was bad enough having to relinquish the Amazing All Weather Riding Coat, but the truly depressing part was that – due to the “European Styling” no doubt – a size 16 (assuming nothing but underwear) was a 2XL for this company.  Yes. If we want to assume some rational degree of foundation garment, like a bra plus a long-sleeved shirt, this coat can have been no more than a size 14.  And that’s a 2XL.

This company isn’t alone.  This phenomenon is pervasive with respect to women’s athletic gear.  You want to do yoga in appropriate attire?  Awesome! As long as you’re no more than 5’8″ and 115 lbs.  You want to go riding in appropriate attire?  Super! If you’re 5’6″ and 100 lbs.  You want amazing alpine ski pants?  Better not be any more than 5’7″ and 105!

It’s really incredible. Basic catalog sizes assume that women are – at the very tallest – 5’6″.  I have at least as many women friends who are taller than this as I do friends who are shorter.  HELLO, PEOPLE!  Better prenatal nutrition => taller people!  Ask the Dutch!

Even without taking that important factor – height – into consideration, we wind up with Pure Insanity with the women’s size chart.  For point of reference, LL Bean considers a size 16 to be a Large (sometimes it is, not unreasonably, an XL).  Measurements for this size are bust (41.5″), waist (34), hips (44).

Arc’teryx and UnderArmour consider this to be between a Large (12-14) and an XL )(16-18).

North Face considers these to be just over the upper bound of an XL (16+).

Marmot considers them to be an XL (12!!!).

Mountain Hardwear and Merrell consider these measurements to be an XL (16).

Isis considers them to be a 2XL (18, only they don’t seem to make 2XL or 18s).

prAna considers them to be something in excess of an XL (12-14), the largest size they appear to offer.

Outdoor Research and SmartWool consider them to be an XL (no numeric size given).

Patagonia considers them to be an XL (16).

Columbia, Royal Robbins, and Nike call them an XL (16-18).

ExOfficio considers them to be an XL (18).

Asmar Equestrian, maker of my wonderful raincoat, considers these measurements to be a 2XL.

What the hell?  One set of measurements, 12 different sizing approaches.

And then, on top of it, these are size charts built on some kind of Theoretical Capacity.  As in, yes, the riding coat zipped so it technically fit but it wouldn’t have fit if I’d tried to put anything sensible underneath it.  And, I know from personal experience, this is also true for the size charts from Arc’teryx, North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, and Columbia. The only one on the list above that actually appears to factor in practical considerations like the need to move about comfortably and layer appropriately is Royal Robbins.  The rest of it is rubbish.  It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even bother trying to shop in the women’s department at REI.  The concept of “vanity sizing” is utterly absent from the field of women’s athletic attire.

Goddamnit.  This shit makes me totally sick.  I hate having to send back this gorgeous coat, in a size 2XL, because it is too small.

I hate having always to wear men’s clothes and look like a total shlub while working out.  I would dearly love to wear athletic gear – in particular, ski gear, that is actually designed for the shape of a woman’s body.  I look like the freaking Michelin Man out on the slopes, and if it weren’t for my red hair pouring out from under my helmet, I’d routinely be mistaken for a man.  Ask me how I know.  Because last year, dammit, my hair was bobbed.  And if I got called “sir” once in the lift lines, it happened twenty times.

There’s no good reason for this, by god.  Athletic women come in all sizes.  What we have in common is that we’re in shape, and we don’t want gear limiting our range of motion, and we want to look good while we’re doing our thing dammit.

It’s not like this is just a woman’s issue, either.  Last year I bought ski pants for Roy.  To his utter desolation, the only thing that fit was a pair of Columbias with a velcro waist in size 2XL.  He’s a totally normal sized guy, too.  It’s just that every damned pair of the ski pants were designed for some dude who is 6’4″ and 130 lbs.  “Welcome to my world,” I told him.  I don’t think he found this to be a comforting sentiment


About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner will take you right there.

3 responses »

  1. I feel your pain. These shoulders won’t fit into a L (of any size) even if I were a skeleton, and the occasional 1XL is in my closet, but I’ve never had to buy a 2XL in anything–frustrating. Real, active women come in many sizes and some of us were just born with linebacker shoulders. Things are better since the breast reduction, but button up shirts are generally out unless they hang off my arms like artists’ smocks and come down to my knees. Like you, I know what brands are just Out Of The Question even in an XL, no matter how much I love the cut/color/style. Don’t even get me started on bracelets that are supposed to slip over the hand….

  2. Pingback: Santa Baby… | I'm Not Your Father's Accounting Professor

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