Let’s broaden our perspective on acceptable clothing for women


Emily Barltrop wants perceptions to change about women's clothing and body image.


Emily Barltrop wants perceptions to change about women’s clothing and body image.

NOTICE: As I sit here on a cold winter day, a bit caught up in the winter blues, I look down and notice that it has indeed been months since my body has seen and felt the warmth of the sun.

I haven’t even looked at my body properly for months.

I carefully lower a fluffy sock to reveal a very pale and rather spiky ankle.

Curious as to how much I lost the glare of the sun during those short, dark days, I decide to go back to the photos of the summer.

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Instead of going back to last year, my film takes me back to the summer of four years ago.

Who I see is barely recognizable.

Here I am. Tall, blonde, tanned and slim.

I’m still blonde and tall, and getting darker as the days grow longer, but one thing I’m not anymore is thinness.

In these photos there is a youth and a freedom in my eyes, a confidence that I can only attribute to two things. One, being eighteen and going into the world, and two, how my body looked back then.

As I stare at myself, which is no longer me, I notice that something else is wrong, and then it clicks. My clothes.

I’m wearing tiny denim shorts, a strappy tank top that shows my full length of my arms and my lower stomach is exposed.

To imagine myself having the confidence to wear this now is enough to make me spit on my sip of tea.

Last summer I never exposed my thighs above the knee and always wore tops that covered my upper arms.

But why shouldn’t I be wearing things like this again?

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Clothing stores traditionally cater more to thinner people.

To answer simply and personally, my body is not the same anymore. My thighs are thicker, my arms have a little padding, as does my stomach.

I weigh about 15 kg more than in 2017.

There are many reasons for this: finishing a stressful four-year degree, trying just about every form of hormonal contraceptive in the sun, being in a long-term relationship, and living and growing, taking time to really take care of myself. .

I know we live in a world that honors body positivity and loves yourself exactly the way you are.

I love myself and my body, but I also know that in reality the clothes most women see in the stores are designed for young and thin women. Can’t anyone disagree with this?

Yes, there are “curvy” sections and plus size models, but are they the majority of what we see in malls and online fashion stores? No.

Do the majority of women in New Zealand want to buy clothes that are smaller than size 12? No.

In 2009, the average New Zealand woman wore a size 14-16, and I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s average height was higher with rising obesity rates.

It just doesn’t make sense. If the average Kiwi woman is a size 14, why does every item of clothing we’re going to buy wrap around a petite young lady whose body wears them very differently from mine?

We are an evolving company, don’t get me wrong. We learn to love and appreciate individuality.

We know that there are so many factors that lead to the way our bodies retain fat and gain weight. We know there are women who will always be thin and others who never will, and that’s okay.

Maybe it’s time to broaden our perspective on what we consider an acceptable clothing choice for all women.

Maybe this summer I could show some more skin?

Maybe it’s time to embrace my ever-changing body and learn that just because it’s advertised for thin women doesn’t mean it won’t look so good on me.

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