Clothing is something that many of us use as a form of self expression- but can it also harm our confidence? When the label in our clothes dictates our size, and in turn our worth, then clothing can become something to be ashamed of. Christine Reppa is changing all that! She is the founder of Noya, activewear made for women by women, and taking the first step in removing labels by size from our clothing.
Throughout most of my life I've had a secret - my weight. I always thought that I had a talent for pulling the wool over everyone's eyes on this subject. People seemed to think I was smaller than I knew myself to be. I was a master of deception. I had everyone fooled.
It was pretty easy to mask my weight. I wore flattering clothes and never gave the impression that I was concerned about how I looked. With the exception of a few close friends and family, I really didn’t talk about my perception of my body with anyone.
Things would get tricky every now and then when a friend (who was clearly smaller than me) asked to borrow one of my tops that they liked. I handed over the garment with one hesitation in mind… well, she’s going to see the size and know that I must be bigger than she thought!
Though it didn’t come up that often, the other sticky situation was when someone tried to pick me up. Ummm. Just, no. That is NOT happening. How could I possibly hide all the weight if someone actually tried to lift me? These legs and booty are no joke people. You’ll get way more than you bargained for.
I remember the moment I realized just how much the label in my clothes affected me. I was attempting one of the biggest shams of all: hiding my weight while wearing a two-piece bathing suit. This mainly involves holding my body a certain way while standing. Or when not standing, sitting slightly laid back (or lying down). And if at all possible, the help of a cover-up is always welcome. So I went to the store in search of the perfect garment to conceal my goods.
It was fall, so beach and poolside cover-ups weren’t readily available. I decided to go with the next best thing that caught my eye: an over-sized tank top on the clearance rack. It was lightweight, fit me like a short dress, and even had some appropriate cut-outs which made it look like it may have actually been meant as a cover-up. I purchased it and went home feeling pretty good about my clever choice.
A few days later, on our weekend trip, I pulled out my new garb to throw it on and go to the lake. I immediately noticed the tag. The size was three sizes larger than the size I usually see in my clothes. I searched for a pair of scissors. That label had got to go! What if my tag was hanging out and someone saw it? My secret would be revealed.
While I scoured the Airbnb, I realized how ridiculous the whole situation was. I was letting my clothes dictate how I felt about my body even when I knew I intentionally bought that particular item at a larger size. I was a little appalled with myself… but I still cut out the tag.
Over the next few months I happened to be focusing on developing a sizing chart for my (then) new apparel company, Noya. While studying the different sizing systems on other brand’s websites, something became clear to me; it was all arbitrary. Each body is so unique, there is no way to correctly categorize each and every garment and identify who it will and will not fit. What’s worse is that I realized, I wasn’t fooling the world about my weight. The world was fooling me. I had allowed material items, brands, and societal “norms” to influence my own reality. My perception of my body had been affected at a profound level because of the label in my clothes. So I decided to make a change, and it started with Noya.
While sizing labels are necessary at a functional level, they should not hold the power that they do over our body perception. Labels are only a tool to find clothes that are likely to fit, they do not define us as people on any level. In fact, sizing doesn’t even accurately define if we’re “medium” or “XL.” At a basic level, the names we typically use for sizes are as arbitrary as sizes named after trees. We’ve all encountered the large in one brand that fits like a small in another. Numbers, letters, tree types, who cares? That’s why you’re a beautifully unique tree at Noya. It won’t solve all the ways the world fools us about our bodies. Not even close. But at least this way a tag won’t give you a panicked feeling to find a pair of scissors.
You’re not a number or a generic size, you are you. Love it. Own it. Don’t worry about the label.
Christine Reppa is founder of Noya, activewear made for women by women. She is an environmentalist, women’s rights activist, yogi, and adventurer. You can read more of her musings at the blog on her website, noyayoga.com.