Update [4/22/15]: I’ve written an article about the unfortunately disappointing conclusion to this story here.
If you’re like me, a fat lady who loves nerdy t-shirts, you’ve long since resigned yourself to a lifesize of oddly fitting mens shirts. The sleeves hang close to your elbows, shoulder hem falling a good two inches past your actual shoulder. Not to mention that the body of the shirt makes it look like we’re wearing a shopping bag down the length of our torsos. Lady sized shirts are cut to better flatter a woman’s form. Everything from the slightly longer curves of the torso to the cap sleeves to the cut of the neckline is made to look just a tad bit cleaner. Because unlike your standard t-shirt, they’re made for a woman’s body instead of a man’s. They just never come in freaking sizes you can actually wear if you happen to be much larger than a women’s size 12.
I still remember in the foolish days of my youth ordering a ladies 2XL from Threadless. I wore a men’s XL and figured a 2XL should be a good enough guess given it was a little more tailored and womens sizes tend to run smaller. Boldly I ordered three shirts, and not only did none of them fit, I gave them to my roommate who wore a standard medium shirt and they fit her perfectly. So I gave up and spent many long years frumping around in men’s shirts. I’m sure there are plenty of women out there who can rock the regular t-shirt, but I’m sure not one of them.
Teefury is like the geek tee mecca. Cheap, creative designs that highlight nerdery in all its glorious walks of life. For a long time I ordered many a mens style shirt, but I never wore the as anything other than a night shirt. I just didn’t like how they looked on me. I went back on the site earlier this year and noticed they now carried a 3XL. A quick web search revealed that they had decided to alter the size of their 2XL and add a 3XL for women.
For customers who have previously ordered women’s 2XL, that size has now changed and we’ve also added a 3XL size. Our goal with the changes is to offer a more complete range of women’s sizes, providing great fitting tees to as many women as possible.
But I was still hesitant. I’d been lied to by women’s sizing before, and even though I only wear an XL in men’s sizes, I wasn’t fully convinced that a 3XL would be large enough. But this past month I finally took the plunge, and I was both right and wrong. The shirt fit me, just barely, but the discrepency between the men’s sizing and the women’s sizing is comedically depressing.
On the bottom you have a Teefury shirt in a men’s XL, washed in irresponsibly warm water many times and shrunk as small as it could possibly be shrunk. On top you have my newly arrived tee, unwashed and in a women’s XXXL. That’s right, you’re looking at what Teefury thinks a woman who’s three X’s above large should look like. And before anyone tries to chime in with “they’re at the mercy of vendors who don’t provide plus sized cropped women’s sizes,” I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit. Popular online t-shirt vendor Zazzle somehow manages to summon that unicorn, providing (gasp!) shirts cut for women that are actually sized the way normal plus sized clothing is.
So here we have the sizing chart directly from Teefury’s website. Do me a favor and check out the differences between the widths between the women’s and youth sizes. It’s cool, I’ll wait.
Notice a pattern? Maybe that they’re all only a quarter of an inch off in most places, and a whopping three quarters of an inch off in the XL category? Apparently Teefury thinks fully grown adult women should only be one fourth of an inch wider than children. This is actually a pretty prevalent issue when it comes to women and body image; there are all kinds of signs that we’re sent telling us we are supposed to eternally look like pre-teens. We’re supposed to shave off all our body hair, we’re definitely not supposed to talk about anything related to sex or puberty, and aside from an increase in boob size we’re expected to keep our bodies looking exactly the same as they were when we crawled out of the cesspool that is middle school.
And Teefury’s contributing to this message. What they are essentially saying is that even with breasts a woman should be about the same size as a child, that fully grown adult woman should be able to wear the same clothes as the children she bore. They’re saying that a woman that’s a size 3XL — that’s four sizes above medium, which is supposed to be the “normal,” middling size — should still be substantially smaller than a man who’s only two sizes above the same marker. Just for kicks and curiosity, here’s what Teefury thinks the size difference between a man and a woman should be at an XL.
As if infantalizing women wasn’t enough, here’s a quick insult to injury for you. Despite each involving substantially less fabric, these “extra extra extra large” sizes? All come with an up charge. So I get to pay a bonus $2 for a shirt with substantially less material than the men’s XL, which as you can see has no additional charges.
“It’s okay for men to be extra large, but women better not get any bigger than a men’s small* or we’re gonna make ’em pay a fee.” -Teefury, probably
So what’s to be done? I doubt Teefury’s interested in anything we have to say on the subject; as long as their sales keep up I’m sure they don’t feel like they have any obligation as to the kind of message they’re putting out there. I think it’s pretty crappy that they’re carrying the torch of “women should have the bodies of children,” but I think it’s even crappier that this is the norm for the industry. I wish more companies, especially relatively large ones, would step up and speak out against making women feel even worse about their bodies than we already tend to on average. Let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.
*According to their own chart a woman’s XL, the last free size, is 18.75″ across. A men’s small is 18″, and their medium is 20″. Cringingly, their youth’s XL ties for the closest size at 18″ wide as well.