I consider denim skirts my arch-nemesis. Being a plus-size woman with a full belly can make it close to impossible to find one that fits just right.
This size 20 skirt wouldn't even button. I felt like I was trying to squeeze into a 14.
Despite the fact that Forever 21's size chart goes to a size 22, I wasn't able to size up in this skirt or any other bottom — there was not even one size 22 pant or skirt on the sales floor.
Dip-dye mini skirt, $24.90, Forever21
I really had my hopes up for the denim skirt and planned to pair it with this off-the-shoulder top, which fit OK.
I didn't feel like my arms were restricted at all, but the top didn't have the slouchy, oversize fit that I was going for.
Off-the-shoulder top, $15.90, Forever21
Often when I'm shopping in a store with a small plus-size section, the one or two things I actually like are sold out in my size. When I saw this dress, I prayed my size would be available.
Lucky for me, this was the very last 3X. The material of this dress had no stretch, so it clung to my belly and hip area; fine for standing but no good for sitting down.
Off-the-shoulder dress, $27.90, Forever 21
This pleated cami, meanwhile, had plenty of stretch.
But why do I have to settle for stretchy dresses all the time?
Pleated cami dress, $17.90, Forever21
In my experience, most plus-size swimsuits run small, so I was shocked to find this one a little roomy.
The 3X is shown above, but I also ended up trying on the 2X.
Lace-up swimsuit, $29.90, Forever21
Then it was Nicola's turn, and at Forever 21, she has not one, but THREE sizes.
"My bust measures at 38 inches, my waist is 36 inches, and my hips are 44 inches. Therefore, according to Forever 21's size charts, I should fit into straight-size large tops and dresses, plus-size 0x bottoms, and size 12 denim. That means when I go shopping at F21, I constantly jump back and forth across the different size sections, just trying to find anything that isn't too tight or too loose. Ah, the in-betweenie life," said Nicola.
The first item Nicola tried on was an off-the-shoulder top — and she was already feeling the struggle of being an in-betweenie.
"When choosing a top, I went immediately for a gingham blouse in a straight-size large because I wanted to serve picnic table chic. To my surprise, it fit. In fact, it was actually very roomy at the top and around the shoulders. Like with most straight-size tops, I didn't find it flattering for my body at all: it was clearly made for a body with a little less curve than mine," she told me.Off-the-shoulder gingham top, $19.90, Forever21
Nicola had better luck with bottoms than I did.
"These torn jean shorts in a size 12 were another story completely. When I saw the size 12 on the rack, I thought they looked way too small to fit me and grabbed a backup 14 just in case — but I didn't need them. They were just short enough and just high-rise enough; they looked tight but felt roomy. Honestly, I was shocked. Size 12 denim, especially shorts, rarely fit me, despite what size charts dictate. But F21 pulled through this time," said Nicola.High-waisted denim shorts, $22.90, Forever21
The struggle of being an invisible size was more noticeable when trying to find the perfect dress. Nicola tried a now sold-out floral dress and it wasn't happening.
"Because I'm split down the middle of the respective size charts, I tried both a straight-size large and a plus-size 0X dress for this experiment, and they resulted in completely opposite experiences. The straight-size large, a simple chiffon shirt dress, had no hope of even surpassing my shoulders. Ugh."
This plus-size 0X was a perfect fit, but she wasn't feeling it.
"I was severely disappointed because this dress isn't really my style."
Open-shoulder dress, $24.90, Forever21
So she skipped over to the plus section and found a better option.
"It fit a little tight due to how tall I am, but I was more than OK with that because this thing was FLATTERING AF. The bright color did make it slightly transparent in some places that I wish it wasn't. But regardless, this suit made me feel more confident than any other I've tried on in my life. The peachy tone was the only thing to stop me from buying it."
So many people define their worth based on the size tag in their jeans. Vanity sizing and inconsistent clothing measurements really affects people.
One day, hopefully, we'll all get past the number on our clothing tags, but even then, shopping for your size shouldn't be this much of a guessing game! Forever 21 and a cast of other retailers need to expand and stabilize their sizes.
But until then, always remember that your size does not determine your worth.