Out of Shape: Debunking Myths About Fashion and Fit caught my eye in the new non-fiction display of my local bookstore. I imagine it caught my attention for the same reason as it would a lot of women – the image on the cover of a faceless woman struggling into a garment that is clearly not going to work.
I found this book raised an interesting argument in the way size and fit are continuously combined with a dialogue on body image, nostalgia, health, pop culture and fashion marketing. Campbell’s attempt to actually separate these issues and to look at them individually without ascribing any cultural value is thought provoking. Campbell introduces the theory of what she terms “orthovestia”, which is the idea that our angst over size and fit stems from the notion that we need to constantly be working on our appearance in order to be socially successful. This leads us to believe that if our clothes don’t fit or we are an unacceptable size, we are personally at fault for not tending to our bodies or dressing them properly. This is where those clothing ‘experts’ leap in to guide us to the rules we should be following, which is offered as helpful advice, but is actually a kind of moral policing.
This book is well written, with chapters on current fit and size, a historical perspective, the idea of the wardrobe malfunction and body shaming, and contemporary consumption of vintage clothing. If you were to pick this book in the hope of finding an answer as to where you should be shopping to find clothes to fit your shape, you’ll be disappointed. This is not a What Not to Wear guide. However, if you are interested in exploring the idea of why there are so many other values caught up with the seemingly simple concept of buying and wearing clothes, you will likely find this an interesting read.