Should curvy girls wear short shorts?
Yeah, I know, contemporary wisdom says that if it’s in your size and in your closet, by all means, rock that outfit until the seams split. However, more cognizant wisdom says that just because they make it in your size, doesn’t mean it is the right fit for you.
Picture it: the hazy hot summer streets of Philadelphia, circa 2013. I’m walking down the street, minding my business when a group of young women, who looked like they were between the ages of 18 to 24, passed by me on the left. As per typical urban black girl-modus operandi during the summer, they were popping their gum, fast-talking, and cackling. I probably wouldn’t have paid them any mind if not for the fact that, as they passed by, I noticed that one of the young women appeared to have been bottomless. No, I don’t mean she didn’t have legs (because how would she have been able to walk past me? Duh!), but it looked like somewhere between putting on her halter top, her sandals, and her sunglasses, she got distracted by something – perhaps a telephone call or maybe one of those Everest College ads on television – and forgot to put on a pair of pants. I tried to hide my mortification, after all, she was just a young girl. And I remember at that age, rocking a lot of silly, ill-advised, and flat-out profane get-ups while trying to come into my style. But I swear, if I had pearls on, I would not only clutch them, but I would rip those bad boys from my neck and toss them at her bottomless-bottom.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. She did have on a pair of shorts. However, the shorts were extremely short and cut so high on the sides, that it actually looked like a pair of rainbow-striped high-cut bikini panties. Making matters worse, the “shorts” were made out of that cotton/polyester material with two percent Lyra for added stretch, so it clung for dear life to her behind, as well as all other curves, more than a regular pair of jean shorts would. As badly as I did not want to burden the girl with my judgments, I couldn’t help but to give her the stank eye and think to myself, How could she come out the house like that?
The crazy thing about it is that she has not been the only woman I have seen on the streets as of late in these short-shorts. In fact, she is probably about the fifth, so I assume that this is the style for the summer now. And that is why I don’t really blame these women for their fashion choice. As far as I am concerned, there is a bigger culprit here in need of being held accountable. No, I’m not talking about Beyoncé and her vast collection of leotards. I’m talking about the entire fashion industry itself.
You see, the fashion industry has been notorious for ignoring the versatility of shapes in women’s bodies. And according to a 2010 article in the Independent UK, one study, done by North Carolina State University, has found that designers and manufacturers still insist on making clothes that only cater to the eight percent of women with hourglass figures, even as the vast majority of women have more diverse body shapes. In fact, writes the Independent:
“Of the 6,000 women’s body shapes analysed, 46 per cent were described as rectangular, with the waist less than nine inches smaller than the hips or bust. Just over 20 per cent of women were bottom-heavy “spoons”, or pear shapes, with hips two inches larger than busts or more, while almost 14 per cent were “inverted triangles” – women whose busts were three or more inches bigger than their hips.”
I think this lack of attention to body diversity is at the source of why some of us, with non-hour glass bodies, find ourselves making questionable fashion decisions. There have been times that I wore a low-cut shirt or halter, thinking I looked cute, only to discover later (usually in the form of a Facebook tag on some pictures) that the only thing “poppin’” about my top was my doubles Ds actually popping out of my top. Sure, the short answer is that we should always dress for the bodies we have. But how can we keep telling women to dress to their body sizes if the industry does not make clothing for the bodies that we have? At least not the cute stuff anyway.
The crazy thing about the young girl in the short-shorts was that a couple of days later, I saw a white girl in downtown Philly wearing a similar style of shorts. The only difference was that she had a less-endowed bottom and didn’t look as obscene. And to be clear, this is not an issue of weight, but rather, this is an issue of body size. More specifically, the idea that a waif-like European cut should be the standard when the world of women – including many Europeans themselves – largely exist outside of that mold. To me, it seems like an easy fix. Start making clothing that actually reflects the entirety of body shapes. I mean, if the industry can make petite, tall and plus sizes of the same article of clothing, then it should be able to make rectangular, pear and inverted triangle sizes without being too expensive as well.