Thursday, August 12, 2010

Age-defying t-shirts

It is a much-remarked fact about clothing today that sizes aren't what they used to be. For all the fuss about "size-zero" beauty standards, today's zero is yesterday's 10 or whatever. All of this serves to make women buy that pair of ill-fitting jeans because we are just that gullible; to make finding clothes that fit more difficult for genuinely tiny women; and to make vintage shopping kind of a let-down.

But one brand takes vanity sizing to a whole new level. At Petit Bateau,* women's sizes are children's sizes, listed as "ages." As in, a woman who usually takes a small (just a theoretical woman, not thinking of anyone in particular) is "14 ans." The store also sells clothes for babies and children, which can make their adult sizing extra-confusing. I asked at a Petit Bateau branch what size would fit me, because the t-shirts are mostly in boxes (do the gimmicks ever end?) and the answer I got didn't make a whole lot of sense. 14, in a country without quite so much childhood obesity, is a lanky, barely-pubescent age. A training-bra age. Whatever it is I'm looking for in a t-shirt, it's not for it to fit a 14-year-old French girl.

Yet the salespeople were correct. And gimmick or not, these are some fantastic t-shirts. Oddly enough, given the sizing, they seem much more designed to fit a grown woman's build than their Gap or Uniqlo equivalents.

That someone with my build is "14 ans" makes sense only when one sees that their "adult" sizing ranges from 12 to 20 years old. If "12" means "XS," this would make 16 a Medium, 18 a Large, and 20 an XL. (This is, I now see, spelled out on the US site. And boy was that same sweater cheaper in France.) Which is to say, a perfectly standard size range of women's clothing has been reclassified as children's sizes.

Which is, from a marketing perspective, brilliant. Because women (according to a cliché with more truth to it than I care to admit) don't so much want to be thin as to be the size they were during some personal Golden Age, probably during high school, to fit into their junior year jeans, their prom dress, their... whatever the French equivalent might be to such items. As much fun as it is to see that you thought you were a Large but aha, you're a Medium, think how much more exciting it is to go from thinking you're an L to discovering, if subliminally, that you're the same size you were at 18!**

The only drawback I can think of is that many women probably assume the store only sells children's clothes and don't go in in the first place. That said, women with babies or very young children would still go in, and these women might be more inclined than most to fall for the miraculous-return-to-your-youthful-figure ploy.

Oh, Petit Bateau, I feel as though I should be less loyal to your t-shirts ever since figuring out your scheming ways, but a well-fitting, soft-but-not-flimsy t-shirt is hard to find.

*Where I babbled about this previously.
**Perhaps the subliminal messaging goes further still: the labels, no matter the size, all have the word "Petit" on them, what with that being part of the brand's name and all.

3 comments: said...

women's blouses and shirts

makeupNshoes said...

Thanks! I read this blog post a while ago for some guidance on what size to order in a cotton v-neck tee and a turtleneck. I got a 12Y in the turtleneck (so it is more form-fitting) and a 14Y for the tee, and they fit perfectly. I'm usually a 0 or XS in tops, or S in tee's.

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