Not a Next Top Model
Prom. One of British cultures many submissions to the growing obsession with American life. If any there’s one thing American teen sitcoms have taught me it’s that prom will either be the best or worst night of my life.
When the subject was first broached I felt pretty positive about the entire situation. A nice sit down meal with my friends, speeches from my teachers, a good old Ceilidh – what more could you want from a night out? But when it came to finding an outfit, I was pretty nonchalant about the entire situation. I had exams to prepare for, it could wait. However, when mum and I finally dragged ourselves to Glasgow, we realised the predicament in which we had landed ourselves.
‘You’re really lucky to find something’, the shop assistant in House of Fraser said to a girl next to us in the ‘Occasion Wear’ section, ‘everything’s basically sold out by now’.
Mum and I exchanged worried glances. We had a month to find a dress – which seemed like ages, and yet this was beginning to seem like an emergency situation. We traipsed from one end of Glasgow to the other searching high and low for a dress, to no avail. Our worst fears were confirmed and the day ended with no dress.
So began an online quest, aiming to find the best prom dress at (hopefully) the best price. Now, I’m sceptical at buying online at the best of times and not because I don’t trust the internet like my Gran. I don’t trust what I’m looking at. I’m not a model, so nothing ever looks on me, like it does in the pictures.
Prom shopping however was extreme. I spent my time scrolling through page after page of gorgeous, slim models, whose bodies, although not unhealthy looking, did not resemble me or anyone else I know for that matter. I didn’t feel encouraged to buy, I felt encouraged to diet.
I’m a size 10 or 12, pretty much the average size. Yet, the women I saw in front of me on the screen were 6’s max. I’m a firm believer in body positivity when it comes to every body shape and size I’m not in any way attempting to debase the models in these pictures because of their body type, but they looked nothing like me and therefore the dresses they wore would look nothing like the way they did, on my body. So I spent days hunting online, again and again finding beautiful dresses with no real indication of what they’d look like on me.
Finally, I found a dress that was by all accounts beautiful. The model didn’t resemble me in any way but I was so in love I didn’t care. I ordered it straight away and eagerly awaited its arrival even making the mistake of showing it to my friends as if this was the dress.
It was a disaster.
To be fair, not only did it look nothing like the pictures on me but also nothing like the dress online in general – I can only liken the material to the stringy, fraying, glittery elastic that children use to bead bracelets.
Material aside, however, the fit was all wrong. The A-line skirt I thought would compliment my wider hips lay over me rather like a table cloth. The beautiful flowing fabric in the picture, which splayed out from the models waist, met mine and fell straight down. The halter neck felt like someone was trying to garrotte me from behind. This was already a size above normal for me and yet I looked and felt awful. On top of that, it was impossible to objectively judge the dress on myself when all I could think of was the way it looked on someone half my size.
Online shopping, for me, just never works. How am I, or any other woman for that matter, meant to feel good about myself, when the image constantly advertised to me, not only looks nothing like me, but appears to be completely unobtainable?
Show me a size 12 model looking curvy and killer in a shapely dress, or even better, someone in shorts without a thigh gap and I’ll hand you my money no questions asked.
Shopping should be an experience that’s enjoyable, not degrading. We should embrace the world in all its sizes and show off styles and outfits suited to everyone. The fact is, not every style suits everyone and that’s okay. I should be able to shop for prom stress free and feel like I look great, not that I look nothing like the model who wore it first.
Prom dress shopping didn’t make me feel special or pretty or like I was going to have one of the best nights of my High School career. It made me feel inadequate and abnormal, like the best I would get would be a concession. The problem was I didn’t want a concession. I wanted to have a great while night, feeling confident in myself and be able to look back and think ‘holy crap, I looked good’. Instead, I felt like in order to look good, I’d have to look like someone else. Why, clothing industry, do you do us this injustice?
I’m wearing a skirt to prom. It’s not exactly typical but so what?! I feel stunning in it and had I not seen it on a shop assistant my size, I would never have even considered it. I know hundreds of beautiful women whose confidence far outweighs the size of their waists. All body types deserve to be celebrated, no matter what size they are.