Between the period dramas I’ve watched, all the historical fiction I’ve read, and the videos I’ve viewed with R about getting dressed in centuries past, I’ve stumbled on an astonishing realization: for much of history, women’s clothes were highly adjustable.
It makes sense, when one considers that most women probably only had a few dresses, and they weren’t buying new styles every year, either. If women were to wear the same few dresses for years on end, they’d better accommodate pregnancy, nursing, menopause, and everything else that causes women’s bodies to shift and change through the years. Suddenly all those lace-up bodices and full skirts with ties make so much sense, don’t they?
To some degree, I think we’ve gone backward in clothing design. Most of the clothes available to us are made to fit one size and one shape. Those pants may fit beautifully when you buy them, but next week when you’ve got PMS bloat going on? Not so much. And after pregnancy, your body doesn’t necessarily revert to its previous shape even if you’ve somehow lost all the “baby weight”. Things settle differently, and the clothes don’t look the same.
I thought about this a lot last week as I was getting dressed in my favourite Roots sweatpants ($15 at Value Village, did I mention?) and a stretchy t-shirt. These clothes have been with me for four years now, and they’ve never been uncomfortable, though my body has certainly shrunk and grown in that time. I could try to squeeze myself into my jeans—and spend the whole day feeling uncomfortable—but why? Just to perpetuate our society’s denial that it’s normal for bodies to change for a myriad of reasons? No, thank you.
Think about how much time I see and hear people devoting to the idea of “getting back your body” after a baby or dieting to fit into a particular dress; doesn’t it all seem a bit ridiculous? Our bodies do these marvellous things like protecting us from famine, building muscle mass, creating life, nourishing our babies… and we reciprocate by punishing ourselves mentally or physically until we can wear the same clothes we did five years ago.
Our bodies were made by millions of years of evolution… or a divine creator… or both. The clothes we feel like we have to fit into? Those were made by people—people who make money when you need a whole new wardrobe in a different size. Which is more likely to be wrong, d’you think: God (or nature)? Or the fashion industry?