Parenting body image

How school uniform is the latest body image blunder

I hate the word – I wish it was banned. Can someone neuralise the word “skinny”? It makes me baulk every time I hear it. Mainly because it is such a hoax. A false marketing manifesto of such power, it sells just about anything it attaches itself to. But It. Doesn’t. Make. You. Skinny. Find another word.

These skinny jeans I have on aren’t skinny. They are not human or alive so they can’t assume human attributes such as: clever or funny or skinny. They do not make my large legs skinny. They are still formidable legs. I hate how it is bandied around like catnip to shoppers.

This year, I entered a high street shop and was met with my (body conscious) version of a horror story. A uniform section strewn with body shape labels, in enormous writing: “slim”, “regular”, “plus size”, “super skinny”. And to me it all seemed wrong. I unstabled my high horse and wrote said store a letter, declaring that I would be boycotting their wares and finding myself somewhere more inclusive to shop. Except I later realised… actually there isn’t anywhere. That bandwagon is full to the brim and the horse has bolted.

Shop by fit

You see where commercialism has bled dry the women’s markets with that ol’ familiar format of selling ideas that don’t exist, the witchery in marketing offices has turned its attention first to men (male grooming is now a booming market) and apparently children.

“Ok guys, guys, we know that skinny sells, so what’s next”

“I know, I know… SUPER skinny!”

“Yes!” to rapturous applause “Give that man a raise!”

Now imagine you are the mother of a nine-year-old daughter who is tall beyond her years, (and please keep in mind the FACTUAL research that early dieting practices in kids/teens creates three times the likelihood of adult obesity) and imagine she brings an age nine dress to you to try on. In times gone by, Mothers have done the sensible thing and gone up a size or two to accommodate taller, wider, fatter, preparing for puberty, children. That would be the “diversity is normal” approach. The “people grow at different rates” message.

Now, I think I’m right in this, we are to tell her she is a plus size? Or she is quietly to come to this conclusion herself by browsing the rails and absorbing the messaging. Some of these labels are indicated from the age of three. Whether it is true or not, it is not surely shopping’s job to judge us. To apply body stigma.

Skinny school trousers

I am literally cringing with the thought of numerous unaware body shaming conversations as a result of this misfire.

“Oooh Billy, looks like your three-year-old legs and just too fat for these trews.”

“Jamie love, no rugby player’s going to get their thighs in them super skinnies. Not for you.”
“But Muuuum, regular one’s just aren’t cool!”
“I can’t shrink your legs poppet.”

After hockey, while Rose is in the shower, “Did you see? Her label? PLUS size” snarky, bitchy cackling to follow…

So here’s a thing. Ingrained fattism is rife and majorly misunderstood at all levels of society, and I’d guess most misunderstood in corporate marketing offices (and dance schools, and Hollywood, and most media industries and some doctor’s offices). Judgement and labeling of fat people does nothing to help fat people. We don’t need to help fat people. They’re just fat. We just need to accept it and shut up about it. Fat people are just fat, like people are just black or just straight. The narrative that we can all be Kate Moss if we tried hard enough… is an ever-so enticing vehicle to sell us more stuff we don’t actually need. We are all aware that 90% of women and 45% of men are unhappy with their bodies? Yup, good – how are we going to improve that stat for future generations? Ideas…

Like stop using the world “Skinny” in branding, can we mark it out as judgy (it is) and uncool. Find another system. Call clothes lines actual names. The Jamie, The Olivia. Or letters A, B, C. Or for the love of Cumberbatch, we have a metric system for a reason! Put clothes (all of them) into measurements! Just stop with the oppressive, emotive, desirous / non desirous labeling which is serving the body judging masses with ever-more reinforced messaging that hurts. They’re just kids. Can we please improve this in time for next year?

Postscript: Ive just remembered a conversation I had with my daughter a few years back. She said “Mummy I want to buy you a beautiful… how old are you?”

“I’m 34 darling.”

“…a beautiful age 34 dress.”

And it occurs to me the absurdity of using ages to size clothes. It surely is an archaic system. We don’t impose it on ourselves as adults, but do so to children who grow at exponentially different rates.

Emi is available for work-based body diversity in branding consultations and employee body image wellbeing training. Contact her for more info.



We never blame the clothes!

Last year, my trousers split – right down the bum. My favourite pair, after years of rear tension, up, down, round and round action. All over in the blink of a cotton-splitting eye! Oh how I loved them. Did I rationalise this with… RIP dear trews, thank you for your service.  Did I heck! I went into a sudden panic regarding the size of my sitting pillows! Because old habits die hard. It didn’t last long, I’ve thankfully upgraded my thinking in that department.

But also… why do we never blame the clothes! Why do we first presume it’s our body at fault.

I want to introduce you to another pair of bottoms. These are a pair of Zara jeans, bought approximately eleven years ago, shortly after giving birth to a human. Have you ever done this? Bought clothes to incentivise you to lose weight? What skeletons have you got in your closet? But I loved the jeans, just the perfect colour I was looking for. I loved them… I mean I loved the idea of them.

Because they didn’t get near me. For the purposes of this blog I’ve just tried to get them on and genuinely struggled to get one leg in!





I eventually did get them on with great hilarity –  how much weight was I anticipating losing? Or was I just intending to perhaps melt, from the pelvis!

What was I thinking? I can’t even get my bum in them!

Remember from last week’s blog that I’m at the peak of my physical fitness reader! That I was bigger than this when asked by my surgeon to put on weight for my fat-transfer op.





I have actually worn these out to dinner once. I can only assume I had to unbutton to digest.





Pah! I think these need a new home…




The thing is, maybe I could lose weight, but it wouldn’t be self care, it would be an obsession based on thinist ideals. When we reject our own bodies, or the idea that there are a variety healthy body types, we subscribe to thin idealism. It’s not real. I’m a working mum and even just from a practical point of view, it would rob me of my precious remaining down time, impact my work/life balance and rob me of food joy, and I’m just not prepared to do it. My body is great!

Try this one, I distinctly remember making the decision to keep this top, even though clearly, following my double mastectomy, it doesn’t really fit any more around the boobs, it’s really tight, they’re not bigger boobs, just less forgiving.


This top literally won’t fit me comfortably until I have my implants out – no matter how much weight I lose, these bad girls are staying put! Even before the surgery, I wore it with the buttoned sleeves undone, to accommodate my strong arms! Why is it still in my house? Charity bag!



Here’s another one for you. Two years ago we spent a weekend in London celebrating my son’s birthday. We visited the Hard Rock Cafe and all got commemorative t-shirts. They didn’t have my size. Rather than go without… I bought a size clearly too small and again said to myself great motivation to slim into it! 

I wouldn’t. I didn’t. Know why? Because it doesn’t fit me! I wore it the other day. The first time ever in two years… while my kids have grown out of theirs, surprise! I haven’t shrunk into mine.



Look at it! How thin are my arms going to have to get for this to comfortably fit? With my body frame and without removing my deltoid muscle, it’s just not possible. What was I thinking? I still wore it on Tuesday. I love it actually 😫 Still I assumed in the shop that it was my body that needed to change not the size of the clothes.


Because I was still in the habit of eschewing the reality of my actual body in favour of thin ideals.

And it brings me to another point, when we talk about the ideal body image, we’re not just talking about thin bodies, but bodies with all sorts of credentials: tall, great posture and poise… but one that rarely gets any air time is ideal ratio. I have a fairly slim body with broad shoulders and some quite powerful limbs. This can often mean having to go up a size in dresses with sleeves. Know what I mean? Or this…img_20190523_195457_9875156713174773869117.jpg



The lesser-spotted armpit shot…





Spot the hole in this totally natural shot of me staring at the sky in pure whimsey… I love both these dresses. But I have come to accept, it is the dress, or the cut, that doesn’t work for my body… not the other way around. And I will stop buying clothes that don’t fit. And please don’t look too closely at my armpits, because these dresses aren’t going anywhere, and maybe not the Hard Rock T-shirt either…