As people adjust to a new country and a new community, there is certainly a huge need to learn, adapt and fit in. This can mean adjusting to the language, the mannerisms, and perspectives of living here. Another part of it though, it literally fitting into clothing that serves both function and fashion needs.
Shopping for clothes, at least for me, was not always smooth or easy.
Depending on the type of clothing there are several issues. For instance, for bras, the positions of the straps are usually too wide, making them fall off. It’s an awkward feeling, being self conscious adjusting them all the time. Another instance is pants. A joke I commonly tell is that “I have the height of a fifth-grade Canadian child” and there is a lot of truth in that. In almost every instance, when shopping for pants – even the ones labelled petite- there will be at least an extra two inches of fabric. That is where my sewing skills would come in handy.
It is not always that I get to say thank you and appreciate the things I learned in school. One of the most practical things that has come in handy for more than one occasion is on modifying clothing to fit my frame. Thanks to all those several years of Home Economics class that made handling a thread and needle or a sewing machine less intimidating.
Tops and blouses have their own set of adventures also. There seems to be an assumption for women’s clothing that someone’s torso size always is 100% proportionate to the size of the other parts of the body, which is not always the case. So, if a person is very tall and thin, a size XL shirt can cover the length of their body but there’s too much fabric on the sides. Or that a cute top that fits my torso would be too tight for my chest, but a larger size that covers my chest looks awfully baggy at the torso. My most recent purchase is a couple of business blazers for work. As expected, there was about four inches of extra fabric on the sleeves – enough to cover my hands completely with fabric to spare. Elegantly cutting and hemming a sleeve is more complicated and beyond my basic dressmaking skills. With the savings from the blazers being on sale, it was spent instead on a tailoring shop to be hem them.
Purchasing winter clothing is another story. Throughout my years working and going to university, there was this one winter coat that my Tita and I purchased together. I think for a typical person the length would be right up to one’s knees. Not for me though, it reached right down to my ankles. My colleagues have teased me sometimes that I looked like a ‘walking winter coat’ and nothing else as I walk to get home. But then it means that an extra pair of pants or knee warmers were not needed at all. A single piece of clothing was enough to get through our long and cold winters.
The past ten years helped me compile different tricks and hacks to make managing clothing a bit of a less of a pain. Eventually I’ve learned to embrace that it doesn’t matter how they are categorized in the clothing store shelves – whether they are technically men’s or children’s clothing sometimes – once I buy them, they are MY clothes. It is a learning process to let go of the angst of looking at clothing sizes, that it’s no big deal if I fit a size medium shirt at a local clothing store and then a size XL at another one that originated in Japan. There is so much variety and subjectivity in clothing, that there will be something that will fit with everyone just fine.