November is coming, and the weather in the northeast part of the US is getting seasonally fall-like. I love pulling out my winter clothes: jackets and coats and sweaters and wool socks and skirts, as well as cold-weather cycling and ski gear. It’s like getting a new-to-me clothing windfall. However, for the past two years I’ve had a problem: my outdoorsy athletic gear jackets haven’t really fit me.
I’ve gained weight in my upper body, which is not where I used to gain weight when I was younger. My breasts are larger, my back is broader, and my belly is also rounder. Hello menopause!
The obvious thing to do here is to buy a new outdoorsy jacket, winter jersey or two in a larger size. This is the golden age of Internet shopping with free shipping, right? What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s what could go wrong: I was a size XL in jackets and coats and some shirts and sweaters (it varies, of course). I needed a larger size, but in most cases THEY DON’T MAKE THEM. That is, there’s no XXL in lots of outerwear.
As all of you know (as you have shopped in the world), size categories (S, M, L, XL, 1X–4X, etc.) mean very different things to different clothing makers. I’ve never even bothered to try on the largest item of Castelli women’s cycling clothing made, as they don’t see women who look like me as being part of the cycling world (can you tell I’m irritated by this?) Luckily, other manufacturers do make cycling clothing for people my size. But it’s catch-as-catch-can. You can’t reliably predict what styles will fit when you’re pushing the top of the sizing categories.
I am lucky that I have the privilege of being a fat person who can wear lots of outdoorsy clothing that major manufacturers sell. I’m a size 16–18 these days, which means I have much more access to more styles that work for my athletic activities.
Turns out, unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my consternation about this problem. On a recent Twitter thread, In Nicoled Blood posted that “outerwear sizing is bananas… it’s reverse vanity sizing”. By this she means that a L might fit someone who normally wears a size S. Her post unleashed a torrent of sympathetic complaining from men and women who are noting that outdoor clothing manufacturers don’t seem aware of people’s:
- broad shoulders from swimming or whatever;
- mighty calves from weight training or whatever;
- large breasts from just shut up and make the jackets big enough already;
- hips that require jackets that will zip around them;
- needs for sizing that allows layering under outerwear, as this is a thing not just for tiny people.
A blogger for Outside magazine wrote a largely sympathetic article (also found in the twitter thread) in response to a question about how to find athletic wear for fatter people. However, it took an odd turn when I read this advice:
Since you mention clothes as a specific problem, let’s get you a hiking outfit that makes you feel good. Most outdoor brands have a long way to go when it comes to making plus-size clothing and gear (you hear that, manufacturers?), but your local outdoor store will usually have at least one or two options. You can also choose high-quality material and bring it to your tailor for custom-made clothing. It might feel decadent, but it probably won’t be much more expensive than buying directly from a company—and you’ll end up with clothes that fit your proportions and are designed exactly how you want them.
Yes, it’s true that outdoor stores carry larger sizes, but they are mainly for larger sized men; many women will find them not well-fitting.
Then there’s the tailoring suggestion. Really? I’m supposed to buy some Gore-tex or Polartec material and get a tailor to make me a ski jacket? Who does that? I googled “bespoke down jacket” and got some schmancy website, but there was not even a whiff of pricing information anywhere. You know what that means:
It’s true that more clothing makers are offering more sizes, including more plus-sized clothing. But the variety and availability just plummet once the size is above L. This just won’t do. People of all sizes need clothing to explore all aspects of the great outdoors (and indoors too). And everyone is able to do so. Here’s a graph that even proves it (from that Outside magazine blog):
A good way to deal with the “I haven’t got a thing to wear for winter parasailing” problem is to share information. I found a North Face jacket in XXL that fits me well enough (big in shoulders and long in arms, but otherwise does the job).
Hey readers– where have you run into problems with outerwear sizing, and what solutions have you found? We’d be grateful for any tips you have. Thanks!