How The Clothes We Wear Tell Us We Are Not “Normal”
This weekend I had the occasion to do a lot of shopping and came back to a tired realization about who I am as a Latina in this country. According to most of the clothes I tried on, my body is not “right.” Which is to say, in different parts of the garments, it’s very apparent to me that my body is not fitting into these clothes they way they are “supposed” to.
First of all, my rear end is much too big. If I am to take the garments I find in a variety of clothing across retailers as any indication, my butt is simply abnormal. Finding skirts and dresses that allow me to step outside of the dressing room without scandalizing the world (a big rear pulls up the hems a few inches in the back) becomes a colossal undertaking.
That’s not even to mention pants or shorts. Given that shorts and pants are, apparently, not meant for that much junk in the trunk, they pull up in all sorts of uncomfortable places. This, of course, potentially results in more scandal for the general public because of the fact that my body is not “meant” for the clothes widely available for public purchase.
Finally, when it comes to blouses, even though I’m not busty, I can rarely fit into form-fitting tops. The way it breaks down is that I’m descended from laborers in Northern Mexico, the kind that do manual labor, the kind that have broad shoulders. Thus, trying to fit into cute tops has, at times, resulted in me ripping them, or at least busting a few seams.
Luckily, though, I’m patient and now know what kinds of cuts will fit me (loose tops and A-line dresses/skirts with plenty of room for my junk). And, after lots of searching, I’m finally able to find clothes that will allow me to not to shame my entire family when I walk out the door. But the reason I tell this entire story is not to talk about my wardrobe, but to talk about how this fact informs us about who we are.
When clothes tell me I don’t fit, is that like our popular culture telling me that I don’t fit? In an existential way? That’s an interesting question. I’m not melodramatic enough to believe that is actually the case. Rather, I think that our culture’s systematic exclusion of Latinos and other minorities (say, even, women) has unintended consequences. Say, for the sake of another example, when telephones try to auto-correct your texts in Spanish — would that happen if there was a Latino engineer involved when texting technology was created?
The moral of the story is, if you look around at our world, you will find all sorts of ways in which some of us are more “included” than others in our world. I’m not trying to say this is good or bad, albeit it is quite irritating when I go shopping, what I’m saying is that we all need to be involved in our world. While more Latino fashion designers may not solve all of my problems, certainly, it wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Copyright 2012 by Sara Inés Calderon