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Melissa Kite: I can no longer find knickers small enough to fit me

As fat women become more powerful as a lobby, slim women who eat sensibly and exercise are treated as neurotic obsessives

23 November 2013

9:00 AM

23 November 2013

9:00 AM

Barely a week goes by when a female Lib Dem minister doesn’t pledge some new coalition initiative on ‘female body confidence’. The junior equalities minister Jo Swinson was at it again when she congratulated Debenhams for becoming the first high-street retailer to introduce size 16 mannequins. Ms Swinson said: ‘The images we see in the world of fashion are all pretty much the same. It’s as if there’s only one way of being beautiful. Yet nine in ten people say they would like to see a broader range of body shapes shown in advertising and the media.’

For broader range of body shapes, read fat, by the way. For nine in ten people, read nine in ten fat people. Because, of course, when Ms Swinson bangs on about ‘female body confidence’, what she means is the body confidence of fat women. I would hazard a guess she doesn’t give a flying éclair for my body confidence, or the body confidence of any other woman who happens to require size eight clothing. Our body confidence can go hang.

This is probably why, the other day, I had to go to three branches of Marks & Spencer to find a pair of knickers that would fit me. Row upon row of big pants in every shade and style imaginable and only the odd half-opened packet of briefs for a person who was not clinically obese. At the third store, on Oxford Street, I -mounted a stand for non-fat people everywhere. I became locked in a heated dispute with a sales assistant. I -pointed out that if I were a large woman finding myself devoid of choice because there were no comfortable bloomers for the fuller figure, I would probably have a case to take to the European Court of Human Rights. The assistant harrumphed. And then I noticed… oh dear, she was a large lady herself. I was probably about to be taken to said court by her. I cut my losses and left.


Let’s face it, if you are a slim woman these days, you may as well accept that you are in a minority that has absolutely no political or consumer power.

No one is the least bit interested in the non-fat community because all the money, the power and the glory is to be had in courting the lady couch potatoes. Or real women, as they like to call themselves. Real women have gleefully — confidently, one might almost say — let themselves have a good old chomp on the cream cakes, but because of the political correctness of our political class they now find themselves hallowed and grovelled before. Real women — size 14 plus, big hips, flabby tummy, thunder thighs, bingo wings — are on the march. Well, waddle. As their numbers and dimensions swell, they are becoming more powerful as a lobby, and ministers like Ms Swinson have to grovel more cravenly before them: ‘Have another Magnum. It’s good for your body confidence.’

Slim women who eat sensibly and take exercise, meanwhile, are denounced as neurotic obsessives who are foisting their fascist approach to body image on impressionable pre-teens.

Unsurprisingly, slim women are getting scarcer. Who would want to be such a pariah? And you can’t get clothes to fit, because the clothes have been made bigger to fit the fat ladies. This has been scientifically proved. All the research suggests the fabled size zero is now simply what a size ten was 20 years ago. Size ten is now the size 16 of yesteryear. So when Ms Swinson says it is perfectly super that the average woman is a size 14, she is really congratulating them for being a size 20.

And as a result of all this, people just go on getting fatter. You only need to look around you to see that an epidemic of thinness among the general populace is not our problem. The only eating disorder we really need to worry about in this country is the disease of overeating.

The director of Debenhams, Ed Watson, says of his new fat mannequins: ‘We hope that it will help people in some small way to feel comfortable about their bodies.’ Is he having a laugh? The problem is not that women don’t feel comfortable in their bodies. The problem is that they feel way, way too comfortable. If they felt a little less comfortable, a little less ‘body confident’, they might lose some of the flab.

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Face it, women`s clothes, particularly underwear are over-priced, impractical and lack basic durability. If the purpose of underwear is to make M`lady look good on the outside, then the “easy rape” junk being marketed fails miserably. She spends a fortune on underwear anticipating that “consummate the relationship” encounter, only to have the new man in her life say, “You having a bath or a shower, Luv?”
    Bummer!

    • Toby Esterházy

      The resident Japanese creep runs out of young Japanese women to stalk, now?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        When you have something worthwhile to contribute … keep it to yourself.

        • Toby Esterházy

          Do you ever, other than being the resident creep, and holder of many of the creep-of-the-year awards?

          • BoiledCabbage

            go back to page 354

          • BoiledCabbage

            and stay there

  • HJ777

    Melissa – you are completely correct.

    As a male, I have a similar problem. When trying to buy a pair of trousers in John Lewis 3 or 4 years ago (they just had entire new stock in) I couldn’t find a single pair with a waist measurement below 32 inches. I have a 30 inch waist.

    I asked the assistant and he said “there’s no demand for that size any more so we don’t stock them”. He was obviously slim so I asked his waist size – 28 inches. “So how do you manage” I asked. His reply was that he has them taken in.

    I consider myself a perfectly normal size: 5′ 11 1/2 inches, waist 30″, BMI 24 (towards the top of the ‘normal/healthy’ range).

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      In the same way that women’s dress sizes have been fiddled, you will find that a 32″ waist is likely to be a real 34″.

      • 8 Ace – £1.49

        Nonsense, I’ve stayed a constant 32″ ever since I was sixteen. Oh, hang on…

  • Toby Esterházy

    If you have problem finding knickers that fit, you either have bulimia, or something far worse (from thyroidisms to cancer), whether you deliberately regurgitate your meals back out into the kitchen sink or into the toilet, or not. Seek, solicit and request outpatient medical attention.

    • BoiledCabbage

      utter rot.

      • Toby Esterházy

        And I am sure that Osteoporosis and a Zimmer frame are fun in old age!

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      “Size zero.” Not in this neck of the woods.
      Check the slide show to grasp why Jock is experiencing a high level of envy and paranoia.
      http://www.slideshare.net/www.naguissa.com/swedish-versus-british-nightclubs

      A real knee-buckler to realise that the main source of the home comforts up north come in such unattractive packaging.
      Jack, Japan Alps

      • Toby Esterházy

        And I am sure that the author, “Daniel Naguissa” is a real person! I don’t see how someone who just posted before this one “viewing Internet child pornography, however reprehensible, and hands-on child sexual abuse are obviously different. Yet both are referred to as “paedophilia”. Surely this can’t be right” (on the BNP site, http://www.bnp.org.uk/news/national/operation-ore-ten-years#comment-1134255225 ) is not a creep.

        Why does the Spectator allow Paedo-advocates like you to comment?

        The first one and most of the other “Swedish” ones obviously vodka-drinking Poles or Russians! Their eyes and other Slavic looks do not lie! Why would the Swedes learn and speak English (or German, in the past) if Stockholm is not full of foreigners? (Medan resterande del, 27 procent, har utländsk bakgrund.)

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          For full text, see BNP site under Operation Ore. You might learn something, guys. Not you Jock, obviously.

          • Toby Esterházy

            That you are a creep and a sick pervert?

  • Kirsten Mills

    Vanity sizing is definitely on the up. Go to H&M if you want to be reminded of the old sizing standards (the smallest size pair of trousers that fit me are 14, despite being 10-12 everywhere else).

    I have a bit of a gripe with M&S too… the majority of bras that they stock tend to be in the +D cup sizes!

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Next time you find yourself “somewheres east of Suez”, say Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok… stock up on underwear. You`ll easily find your size at prices far less than the exorbitant rates charged in London. Although obviously you`ll need to get up to speed with metric sizes. The picture used would around average for young women in Japan. You shouldn`t have a problem with UK Customs either, a Customs officer is hardly likely to come between a lady and her underwear.
    Jack, Japan Alps

    • BoiledCabbage

      No duty on ‘worn’ goods?

      • Toby Esterházy

        Yuck! You sound awfully like a spiv who had done a good few years inside for dodging VAT!

  • Crumbs

    I’m paying to read an intellectual political magazine. Send this crapola to pad out a Sunday supplement where it belongs.

    • Teacher

      The health of a nation is a political issue. In a satirical publication an issue might well be dealt with in a light hearted or facetious manner as, indeed, this is. George Orwell devoted a large part of ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ to razor blades but he was making a serious point.

      • sebastian

        This is far from lighthearted or facetious; this is downright cruel and reckless.

        • Teacher

          Today’s headline in the ‘Times’, ‘”Sixty per cent of girls obese by 16,” says new waistline measure.’ It is not ‘cruel and reckless’ to point out serious health issues.

          • Guest

            Except that obesity is measured by the BMI, and not simply by the waistline.

  • Treebrain

    Why are so many women in the UK fat or obese?

    • Toby Esterházy

      Because you need the fat to withstand the cold?

  • rtj1211

    Who, pray, sees slim women who eat sensibly as neurotic obsessives??

    Certainly not men.

    Neuroses and obsessions are afflictions of the mind, not of the spare tyre.

    The neurotic obsessives are the anorexics. The fat women are fat for a reason.

    The slim women are the ones the blokes actually like the most.

    • Guest

  • ArchiePonsonby

    Well, Miss Kite, the solution that I offer is a trifle excessive, but here goes: you should move – or at least take a mega-shopping trip – to somewhere which has a large Oriental population, say Singapoire, Toronto or Vancouver. No shortage of petite clothes sizes there, I’ll wager! Of course, there’s always mail-order on the Internet.

  • BoiledCabbage

    Mainstream high street shops are only for freaks who cant use the internet.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    It is the same for men. Shoes are a particular problem. Once, slim fittings were the norm and wide fittings were something that had to be sought out. The reverse is true now.

  • Emily Nicols

    Oh look, a new Samantha Brick. And content more worthy of the Daily Mail too. Very disappointed in The Spectator for a complete nothing of an article.

    “The only eating disorder we really need to worry about in this country is the disease of overeating.”… nothing like flippant dismissal of other serious weight related illnesses.

    • Rocksy

      Overeating is a disease? It must be contagious then. I’ve had the ‘disease’ of being very slim all my life, long before it was fashionable, and long before Audrey Hepburn. I’ve loved it, even with the frustration of trying to find clothes to fit.

  • Mike Barnes

    “I mounted a stand for non-fat people everywhere. I became locked in a heated dispute with a sales assistant.”

    You didn’t mount a stand, you lost your rag because you were frustrated and couldn’t find what you wanted.

    I really feel sorry for people who have to go to work and deal with arrogant customers like you. The sales assistant has absolutely nothing to do with the store’s sizing policy or what products ends up in the store. It’s her job to help you find something, but if it’s not on the shelves or in stock what do you expect her to do?

    Get on the phone to head office if you have a complaint about knicker sizing, don’t get in ‘heated disputes’ with staff.

  • Teacher

    Your general point about weight and changing attitudes towards the acceptance of unhealthy levels of fat is very true. As true as it is that that Marks and Spencer is still the single acceptable place to buy underwear despite its only stocking huge pants. About a decade ago I solved the problem of being a size eight in M & S by finding my way to the children’s section and buying ‘Seamless Hgh Leg Sporty Girls’ Briefs’, size:- eight to ten years. Teeny tiny knickers which fitted like a dream. Alas they discontinued these until very recently a miraculous re-emergence of these lycra lovelies ensued. However, and this illustrates your point beautifully, I now have to buy the size intended for seven year olds. I am 57 but I am not paying VAT on my undies.

  • David Lindsay

    This is the second article in about a month to concern itself with M&S knickers.

  • Roger Hudson

    The children’s department for small knickers, just avoid those for 11 years olds with rude slogans, really.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Or those coeds drawers with hearts all over them.

  • Maryjane Heyer

    you couldn’t find a pair of knickers at Marks and Spencer? I call shenanigans.

  • ShabbyChicSarah

    My goodness, you really do sound like a rather nasty piece of work.

  • sebastian

    It just so happens that I’m a slim male who chooses to care about nutrition and being fit and highly active; but you’re a pathetic, out-of-touch, hateful, “entitled” bitch. I couldn’t even get through this article. I sincerely hope you get some kind of wakeup call in the near future. You know what, you ARE a minority, because I’ve only ever met ONE person in my entire life that was as despicable as you in their regard for their fellow human beings. You make me sick.

  • Ambar

    “size 14 plus, big hips, flabby tummy, thunder thighs, bingo wings — are on the march”(?). I am jeans size 12 at BHS, 14 at Debenhams and 13 at Canadian shops. I got a blazer size 10 at Tesco that fits me. One day I was bra size 34B and suddenly I became a 38B by Chinese magic. FYI there are sizing problems these days. I wear a shoe size 5 (UK) but if shoes are made in Vietnam or Indonesia I need to get size 6. There are thin women like Kate Most with cellulite, a word that you must fear to even utter. Some people are fat/thin due to endocrine problems, others due to food disorders or genetics. They are not what they eat. It does not matter if they train or not. We must respect everyone “normal”, “disable”, size 0 or 18. We are all human. Stop labeling people!: gay, hetero, African-American, Chinese-Canadian, fat, skinny… Our bodies are beautiful for some and ugly for others but temples indeed. If you do not feed them or dress them, please keep your mouth shut about them. Stop the bullying masked as health concerns.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Since all our underwear industry disappeared, I noticed the gussets in knickers have got narrower and narrower – unlike the gussets on mens. Some children’s knickers are completely spoilt – unwearable because of this narrowing of the gusset. For this reason, I’ve known really slim women routinely buy oversized knickers because they are more comfy.

  • Yarny O’Knitman

    I don’t care about your knickers or any other item of your underwear. Please desist from playing up to the nonceological urges of the Spectator editorial team

  • Geoff

    What a totally stupid woman this is. Write any old rubbish that enters her head …. job done … kerching!

  • ab

    I am a size 14, I am not obese, I eat very healthily, I exercise four times a week and until a year or two ago I played international sport. That paints a somewhat different picture from how I’ve been described here: “big hips, flabby tummy, thunder thighs, bingo wings”.
    Of course there is a healthy issue in our society, one would have to be blind not to agree, but I’m not sure that hatefully joking at the expense of others is the remedy. I am in excellent health and yet am still made to feel like I am not worthy, by people like Melissa. In any case, why should she care if “body confidence” initiatives don’t include her – it doesn’t sound like her confidence requires any boosting whatsoever!!!

  • Horation Nelson

    Melissa Kite has always lacked clear logic. It’s all angry diatribe. Meaningless really.

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