Hey, world. My name is Nicola and I'm average.
No, really. According to recent data, the average American woman wears a size 16. And so do I; depending on the brand and the item of clothing, I wear between a 12 and 16.
You'd think that being average would make it easy to shop. You'd think that having a body type like the majority of women in the US would mean that the majority of stores would have things in your size.
It's actually the complete opposite.
So I went shopping at some of the biggest retailers in the world to see which store, exactly, make clothes for the "average" size woman.
Spoiler alert: it's not many.
I started at Forever 21, a store I used to love when I was younger. I found this amazing red lace dress, and then wept as I realized it was only available in a size small.
There were at least 10 of these dresses on the rack in just this one size. I asked a sales associate if they had any other sizes, and was told to check online. Because only straight-size girls want to try dresses on — women my size have to buy blind, I guess.
A great start to a shopping spree.
At least they had cute jackets in my size — large, the biggest size carried in store. Well, kind of.
This coat was labeled a large, and it was a lie. This unintentionally cropped jacket slid over my shoulders but had no room anywhere else. The sleeves were the length of a child's sweater.
If the biggest size you carry in-store doesn't fit an average-size woman, MAYBE reconsider your inventory. I don't think that's too much to ask.
OK, so maybe jackets are hard. How about this flannel... shirt? Dress? In a size large. That's a basic item of clothing; it's sure to fit, right?
WRONG. Laughably wrong. Sure, it buttons up just fine, but if I stand with my feet wider than two inches apart, I feel like it's going to bust wide open.
Forever 21 does have a plus-size section that I love to shop in — but it's only a brick-and-mortar option for shoppers in big cities.
Until I moved to New York, I'd never encountered a F21 that had more than a single rack of plus-size clothing. This Forever 21 plus section is located on the second floor of a NYC store, shoved all the way in a small back corner. Anecdotally, while this Forever 21 location was almost totally empty, the plus-size section was pretty crowded.
Next, I tried Urban Outfitters. Everything I wanted to try on — like this mid-length lilac dress — was only available up to a medium.
Urban Outfitters made a big deal about hiring curve model Barbie Ferreira — who has measurements like mine! — so you'd THINK they'd carry clothes that would fit women like us. Not so. This purple dress was labeled a size 10, but to my eyes, it looked more like a 4.
Not a great start.
You want to see what this LARGE looks like on someone who's AVERAGE? Get ready to scream.
THIS PICTURE HURTS ME. My boobs are crying out for help. It was stretchy but so tight, and the cups were miniscule. Does Urban Outfitters think women over a size 10 have massive rib cages and tiny breasts? What is going on?
Next I tried Topshop — still the coolest fast fashion store out there — and immediately felt like a damn fool.
As always, I assumed the largest size carried in-store would work for me, so I was VERY pleased to find this embroidered skirt in a size 16. Then I realized it's UK sizing. I tried it on anyway, because that's still a US size 12.
Not only is it too tight, it's nowhere near long enough. My ass is hanging out. Someone who would fit into this 12 would definitely need more length than this.
Nevertheless, I persisted all the way to H&M. I know they have basics in my size, but heaven forbid I attempt to be bold.
Do I WANT these crazy color-shifting shorts? Yes. Does H&M carry them in sizes above a 6 in-store? No.
But when I turned around, the dress was unforgivably tight in the back. I could barely close the back zipper and I felt like it might rip every time I moved.
I'm a confident woman, but this started to take a toll on me. When the biggest size available in a store doesn't fit you, it's hard to remind yourself that it isn't YOUR BODY that's wrong.
I rolled into Levi's, the denim mothership. Surely they must have jeans in stock that fit the average person!
Wrong. I went for the stretchiest skinny jean I could find, dove straight to the bottom of the pile, and came out with a size 32. That was the LARGEST size carried in-store, and I — like most women — need to try my jeans before I buy them.
The size 32 did not fit my statistically average body. I had to jump and groan to get them over my thighs, and there was no chance of buttoning them up once they were on. It was such a miserable experience that I didn't even bother trying anything else on. The message was clear — this store isn't for me.
American Eagle Outfitters is trying to rebrand as a "body positive" store, so I thought for sure I'd have luck there.
Wrong. While American Eagle's Aerie brand made headlines for its "real girl" ad campaign, the size range only goes up to a 14 in stores. Any other sizes have to be ordered online.
I picked the biggest, stretchiest high-rise jeans I could find (a size 14) and it was awful. I *could* have buttoned these, but that would have caused the rest of my body to come tumbling over the sides. Plus, they were so tight I couldn't move. No.
The shorts were WAY worse. The front wouldn't zip, the hems dug into my legs, and the crotch was like nothing I'd ever experienced.
This was also a size 14 that ran MUCH smaller than its full-length counterpart. Am I not meant to wear shorts when it's hot because I'm not a sample size? Way to shame me out of being comfortable in hot weather, American Eagle.
Throughout this experience, I couldn't help but think that it was my body that was the problem — and that I should condemn myself to basic, baggy shirts forever. But it's not, and I shouldn't. And neither should you.
My body is average — and it's beautiful. It's bigger than fashion brands want it to be, but that's not my problem. These stores and designers are limited, not me. My body is worth celebrating, and it's worth dressing to my standards.
Dear retailers: As you're decrying the death of brick-and-mortar stores, know that the majority of women WANT to shop IRL.
Whether you intend it or not, you are forcing an unrealistic standard upon us with the sizes you carry — and don't carry — in your stores.
We should not and will not lose weight for the sole purpose of fitting into your sad excuse for a size large. We are your customers, and you're failing us.
So screw this, I'm going to Sephora. There are no sizes at Sephora.
Is my shopping experience similar to yours? Which retailers do you think need to improve, and which ones do you have the most success with? Tell us on our I Heart My Body Facebook page and like us for more!