Body Type: Unavailable

For as long as I can remember, body types have been a topic of discussion in the fashion industry. Types vary by source, but there are always the principle few: apple for women who carry weight on their top half, hourglass for pronounced and proportional curves, pear for a slender torso and curvy hips.

 I’ve never understood the body type thing, probably because I couldn’t find one that fit me. Clothing websites handed out tips: “Perfect for the hourglass figure!” or “Pears should show off more shoulder!” None of them seemed to apply to me. I spent years googling which clothes worked best on my body type to no avail.

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 Then, about a month ago, I found the website I’d been looking for. The premise was simple: put in some measurements and we’ll give you your body type and a list of clothes to buy and to avoid. Perfect! But when I typed my measurements into the boxes and clicked submit, a bolded message appeared.

Body Type: Unavailable

    No list of clothing suggestions. No tips to “hide my problems areas.” Just a blank screen, confirming my worst fear. My body wasn’t normal.

    My friends tried to help, typing in their own numbers to see if the website was faulty. Their measurements all yielded results: spoon, pear, straight. I was in distress. What was I supposed to wear? Can unavailables still show off their shoulders?

    For the next few days I felt hyper-aware of every part of my body. My waist wasn’t pronounced enough; my legs were too short. Everything in my closet, it seemed, had been designed for some specific category of woman that I didn’t belong to.

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    My big epiphany came a few days later, when I slipped into a romper I’d recently bought. Even before my shocking body type discovery, I’d always thought of myself as unable to rock a romper. This particular one had seemed like an anomaly when I tried it on at the store, hugging me in all the right places and not bunching up between the thighs like I assumed it would. Since learning I was “unavailable,” I’d hidden the romper away, convincing myself it wasn’t meant for me. But when I zipped it up and turned to the mirror, I realized I looked… good.

    I set to work trying things on in my closet, clothing that had supposedly been designed for women who were taller, thinner, or curvier than I was. It was then that I realized that despite not fitting into one type, I exhibited elements of several of them. I didn’t have the right shoulder-to-hip ratio for pear, but my shoulders still looked awesome when exposed. My short legs and undefined waist were made to be elongated and accentuated by high-waisted jeans. I’d been dressing myself for practically my whole life without knowing if the clothes I owned were “made” to be worn by me, and it seemed like I’d been doing a pretty good job.

    The more I think about it, the more I question this push to label women’s bodies. On a marketing level it makes sense: exploit women by preying on their insecurities and convincing them that certain clothes are the only solution. But is letting someone else tell us our best and worst features really the way to make us feel better about our style? Maybe the perfect theoretical pear-shaped woman has the shoulders of a goddess, but honestly, my most pear-shaped friend once told me her shoulders are one of her biggest insecurities.

    Body types might tell us which mannequin will sell a skirt, but the reality is that our bodies are vastly different from one another’s. The act of labeling seems like more of a scam than a tool of empowerment. Body types are marketed as helpful, when really they make us question what we know about our bodies. But who can really know my body better than I do?

    I’ve learned to embrace my failure to fit in. My lack of a label leaves me full of options when I’m shopping. No more do the fears of waist-placement and leg-width dictate my choices. I pick out the things I like, and I buy the ones that make me feel the best. Personal style is so much more than how a garment fits around my bust and hips.

    Now, I know better than to seek out labels. I define myself by the clothing I choose for myself, not the clothing a website tells me will make my waist look smaller. My body type is unavailable, and that’s just fine by me.

Photos by: Hana Antrim