Mindy Kaling and the Right Fit: Size Matters

I placed Mindy Kaling's Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) on my summer reading list, and I'm happy to report that I can now cross it off. It was a pretty entertaining read, giving insights into the life of the comedy writer and actress who can count herself and her characters among the slowly growing list of quirky ladies getting spotlight time on TV and contributing significantly behind the camera.

It fascinated me that she frequently visited Walden Pond, the legendary place I'd only read about in AP English class. I laughed out loud at some of the things she riffed on—like a good deal of her high school social life being spent at the mall (this 80s baby can relate!), the craziest parts of the ups and downs of her career path, and the “hooking up” chapter (I agree that we need to standardize the definition) come to mind. But one thing that didn't make me laugh was her recount of her People magazine Most Beautiful people photo shoot experience.

It's obvious that, in this country, bodies that fall within the middle or to the right of the size bell curve are the outliers for women in Hollywood (and let's throw in the music industry, too), but this story really drove that point home for me in a rip-off-the-Band-Aid kind of way. I'm going to try to discuss it in a way that doesn't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read the book (or heard about this otherwise... But if I'm the last to know, bear with me...)

To hear of someone of Kaling's stature not having a variety of appropriately fitting, beautiful dresses at her disposal, especially to represent the distinction of being one of the “Most Beautiful” is a problem. The way the no-frumpy-dress problem was solved, with a temporary solution that Kaling had to fight for to make happen, one that she couldn't wear in public, is a problem in that the better solution, of course, would have been to have appropriate sizes in Hollywood-worthy styles from the start. And the fact that she was, apparently, inappropriately sized for the stylist at a size 8... my blood is starting to boil...

I felt sorry that Kaling had to go through that disregard for the reality of who she is and the body that she has, that after having been deemed beautiful for, uh, who she is, that some stylist rewrote the playbook and forced an asterisk onto the memory of that day for her. Kudos to Kaling for eventually going on to have fun at the shoot in spite of this.

My shock and disappointment might sound naïve, but having weighed 40 lbs. more than I do now for most of my adult life, and more or less finding clothes I could be happy with at that size, this story does not sit well with me. Though I was unhappy for a lot of reasons at that size, the least of my worries was finding clothes I could fall in love with—as long as I shopped at Lane Bryant or Ashley Stewart. Which I did religiously. Because of that, I never faced the indignity of a disapproving stare, a room full of nothing in my size, or my options being limited to a sea of racks of shapeless dresses and elastic waist pants. It was just friendly greetings from people who were more than happy to help me accessorize and check the back room for my size if I didn't see it on the floor. And guess what? There are more options for full-figured women to look fabulous in these days, more options than I could've dreamed would ever be available four years ago when I was still looking for them.

After living the life of a size 18/20 (budget) fashionista, I find myself in a place where I want to lose a little more weight (especially to cross the medical “obesity” line that is just a handful of pounds away), but it's also a place where I am a lot more comfortable with the body I have right now. Some stores still offer more options for my body than others, but my list of favorite stores has grown exponentially. Regardless of size, though, I think every woman should be able to find the outfit of her dreams, one that fits like a comfortable, non-restrictive glove, without any stares, attitudes, or alterations necessary. And that we should be able to repeat that experience every time we set foot in a store, no matter what goes on in the minds of the Hollywood stylists of the world.


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