The 12 Ill-Fitting Outfits of American Women


Just to prove the muffin top is not limited to LA

Image by Malingering via Flickr


Though there are likely more than 12, I am guessing that the number one bad fit is some sort of trouser. It gathers unflatteringly at the crotch and produces a muffin-ish roll at the waist. It’s too long or a tiny bit too short depending on the female in question’s inseam because in America it’s 30″, 32″ or 34″. Period. With 31″ being the inexplicable default when manufacturers’ feel that catering to girth is duty enough.

What strikes me as amazing is that pouring ourselves into pants that obviously don’t fit has been in vogue for so long that women, more or less, can’t tell when they are wearing the wrong size.

Take muffining for example. Most young women spill over the waistband. Even those who are thin – by real life standards or Hollywood ones – feel that unless they are being squeezed up and over the top of their pants – they must be too big.

What a fantastic bit of salesmanship! Fashionista Americana must still glow pridefully for pulling off that neat trick.

A recent U.K. study* revealed that women, generally, have at least 12 outfits in their closets that don’t fit them at all. Too big.  Or, more likely, too small. And the decades old nonsense of buying something too small to encourage yourself to lose weight or get in shape is still one of the culprits behind this unsurprising revelation.

When I posted a link to the article on my Facebook feed, my sis, DNOS, replied that she probably had more outfits than that. Her husband is forever imploring her to thin the unwearable herd.  If I lived closer, I’d offer to help.  Some of the flock is mine.  Things I grew weary of or decided didn’t suit me. I bet that a good portion of my college days wardrobe is currently huddled together in my sister’s closet, discussing their days of yore – when someone actually wore them.

My youngest sister still wears a couple of my old pre-Dee pair of jeans I gave her during one of her many cash-strapped periods. Whereas DNOS will accept much of what I offer (though she considers my style and colour preferences fuddy-duddy), BabySis – a beggar if ever there was one – is choosy as hell. The only items she’s ever accepted were jeans and sweatshirts.

I pruned my own closet again mid-summer in anticipation of a garage sale that will have to wait until spring now. As I glanced through the closet the other day, I realized that Rob takes up most of the space. I would be hard put to find 12 ill-fitting outfits, but I could probably rid myself of four or five that I don’t truly love anymore.

True love is my criteria for keeping or purchasing clothing.

Which brings me to a list of sad statistics about women that this study also (re)discovered:

  • most women own at least three different sizes of clothing to accommodate their yo-yo dieting
  • Just 2% of women were happy with their looks
  • Most women think they are “frumpy”
  • 1 in 10 women thinks she is fat

I accidentally discovered I’d gained a bit of weight and am farther over my “happy weight** than I have been in a long while. The interesting thing is that I didn’t have much of a reaction. I happen to think that I look pretty good at the moment. The yoga I am doing has added a bit of muscle – which accounts for some of the weight – but it’s also changed how I “fill out” so-to-speak.  First time in my life that the number on a scale hasn’t sent me into a dieting free-fall. It was kind of nice.

It is nice.

I am whittling down my fabric possessions. It doesn’t have much to do with ill-fit. Much of what I sell or donate doesn’t fit my life-style anymore and what I can’t garage-sale, I have to pitch because it’s simply worn out. I have so few pieces of clothing that I am actually wearing them out – like I did when I was a kid.

*Boggles me a bit what people get paid to study.

87 thoughts on “The 12 Ill-Fitting Outfits of American Women

  1. Why women continue to buy clothing that does not fit is mind-boggling. The worst is the “I’ma buy this in a size to small to give me motivation to lose weight.” No sweetheart, you’re just going to end up with another pair of pants that make you look like a human deathcap mushroom. I did a post about the infamous muffin top last year if anyone is interested!

  2. Thanks for the post. It reminded me that I have five over-sized college hoodies in my closet that I never throw out because I swear I’ll need them again 🙂

  3. I enjoyed reading your post! I was also surprised only 1 out of 10 women see themselves as fat. I thought the number would be a little higher. I guess that is a good thing? Me and my husband both cleaned out our closets of our old clothes. Clothes we were “waiting” to fit into. I think he had a harder time than I did. It felt good, almost refreshing clearing the clothes out. I think it is unhealthy to keep all the old clothes that you hope to fit into one day. Although I am/was guilty of it myself.

  4. This is so true!! I just cleaned out some of my clothes…I have so much that I think I’m going to wear and then I never do. I’m very picky about what I will and will not wear. That being said, I wish I could help people pick out clothes. They don’t have to have the same style, but there are so many people who simply pick out unflattering clothes and I just want to say, “Stop!! You can embrace your beauty!” While not everyone is creating equal in the looks department, I would venture to say that everyone is beautiful in his/her own way and that we have to learn how to enhance that beauty and draw it out, not cover it up with unflattering clothes and frumpy hairstyles.

  5. I recon I spend about £70 on clothes a year- basically nothing. Most of my every bady wardrobe is made up of the same stuff I was wearing….9 years ago as a teenager. Lucking, I was a bit of a goth so its just lots of black…and was at the time oversized. Now though it fits perfectly. I think I prioritise pretty much everything above clothes. I’m coming up to my 25th birthday though, and all of a sudden I get the feeling that I should starting having a bit more self respect. Only problem being, I’m not really sure where to start, and I just haven’t got the money….

  6. Very well written and relatable blog! I’m also learning its not about the number on the scale but how you feel. Way to go!

  7. i hope other women who commented above see this post. i was 120 until about the second year in college, when i had a health issue that caused me to need meds that keep weight on. i got heavier and heavier, and i am a plus size now, and kind of stuck. the thing is, i did have a spiritual revelation that it was not what i looked like but what i brought to the table in terms of personality and kindness, etc. so i made a decision, with the help of an amish friend, to cover myself appropriately.

    i never had butt crack issues or cleavage issues but i now have the muffin top if i wear *any* pants. i am quaker, so it was not hard to go from ugly urban stuff to flowing jumpers, crisp white blouses, practical shoes, and even covering my head. i know that not everyone can do this, but let me tell you – once i’m covered i’m ready for action. no one can make me feel bad about myself. my body is my business.

    you may find this hilarious, but i have whittled my wardrobe down to three colors, three basic outfits, and black and white head covers, so dressing for me is like brushing your teeth – it’s a no brainer. i would never go back to letting others invade my privacy by asking insulting questions about my weight. please consider this for yourself – you’ll be so glad you did.

  8. My daughter who is a fashion major likes to tease me about my jeans that have a higher rise. One of them are a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans which I paid a higher dollar for but they fit fabulous. Now some of the other basic manufacturers are coming out with tummy control and lift and tuck just lot like Not Your Daughter. Wearing a control top that goes higher up keeps the muffin in check, and since no one tucks shirts anyway, nobody knows how high up my waist goes!

  9. Muffin tops can be found throughout the range of ages, but, sadly, I more often see this flabalanche occurring on younger, teenage girls. Besides the fact that this look seldom says, “I’m stylin'” it’s just plain unhealthy. Weight carried around the midsection is dangerous, pre-diabetes/heart attack weight. Most of the muffinettes will struggle to lose that bulge and often carry it into their 40’s. Fashion designers didn’t do this to us; we Americans are all just too overweight and too indulgent.

  10. Nice article..♥ I hate the trend of leggings as’s everywhere in the UK! Whilst too-tight jeans are awful, bagy clothes are not a good look either! It’s as if peeple want to hide themselves, instead of either accepting the way they look, or doing something about it.

  11. I was just bitching about this the other day. Jeans are horrible torture devices, thats why I stick to skirts.

  12. Great post! Is so true … there are women who don’t know what kind of clothes fits them and they wear sizes that are too small which show all the parts they are not very proud of… This is a reality…

  13. Haha this is so true.
    Why can’t people just but pants their size?
    It looks bad, especially from the back. Eww.
    Most of my clothes are a little loose.
    Cause I recently lost some weight.
    But it’s okay.
    Baggy is cool right? As long as it’s not too baggy 🙂
    Do check out my blog too 🙂

  14. I think this post is amazing. I to have a fashion blog and fit is everything when it comes to clothing. Clothing that fits you is so much better on you then clothing that is a size to small. When clothing is to small you get the typical muffin top and belly rolls that maybe wouldn’t be as noticable if your clothing fit you. Thanks for the good read.

  15. Nice post. I agree that some women are in denial when it comes to clothing that fit. Not being your slender type, I try to wear clothes that compliment my figure. Nonetheless, I see many women who attempt to wear clothes that show way too much of…well, body. I’m actually in the process of de-cluttering my closet and am pretty sure there are 12 outfits that don’t fit or I don’t like. Thanks for reminding me I need to donate soon! Congrats on Freshly Pressed! LB

  16. After 22 years, I’ve finally gotten back to my pre pregnancy weight. I lost 14 pounds over the course of 1 year and 3 dress sizes. Got rid of ANYTHING that was a size large, bought properly fitting jeans and tops (thank you Stacy London!!) and got a hair cut that is very flattering for my age. I’m in that 2% now.

    I don’t know how women can walk around with their guts hanging over their tight fitting jeans and think they look good. Same with the tops, boobs hanging out and midriff showing the gut that’s hanging over the jeans. It’s repulsive!

  17. I totally agree with this! I’ll be the first to admit that pretty much all of the jeans that I own at the moment don’t fit me—some are too small, some are too big. The only reason I still have them and wear them is because I absolutely detest jean shopping!

    Also yay to yoga! I just started doing it at my school twice a week and even though it’s not really proven to help you lose weight, it’s made me feel better about my body somehow.

  18. I know about the multiple size clothes in the wardrobe. That’s my story – anything between size 10 and 18 can be found in my wardrobe. I’m trying now – because I’m turning 27 next year and I can’t keep being fickle like this – to find the convergence point between body and spirit and have my body reflect the spiritual. What I mean is I’m trying to project health now, not bodacious curves or anything Hollywood-like.

    I just need to accept me and find where my body wants to be. And no, it doesn’t want to be oppressed in a pair of jeans too small for me!

  19. It aint easy being a chick. We are one size, then we have babies. We try to get back to our old size and continue to gravitate to the stuff we wore before we had kids… but it doesn’t work. So then we buy oversized stuff, which looks even worse. Sigh. I finally lost the baby chub, and I’m a size 2. It only took 11 years!

  20. I think that the low-waisted pant is partially to blame for the ubiquitous muffin-top. I first noticed muffin-tops proliferating when I switched from the corporate world to teaching high school in 2003…and that coincided with my first frequent viewings of girls’ thongs. It appears that low-waisted jeans have a knack for pinching a muffin out of even a fairly flat stomach…and even worse if the pants are too tight. Nowadays, I find I am very careful even when I bend over in those Lucky Sweet ‘n Low’s, because PLUMBER BUTT HAPPENS even to middle-aged women now! It seems like it’s either that or mom jeans. Where’s the in between we used to have? Curses.

  21. I know I have some jeans that cause me to have muffin tops (I have to actually gain weight in order to get into the military, so it’s not a too fat issue!) and I know that part of it is because manufacturers have made pants that fit one body part but not the others! If it fits my waist, my butt sags and the jeans fall off, if it fits my butt and stay up, I have muffin tops! OR they’re too short…I wish they made women’s jeans the same way as mens: length and width…and STOP WITH ALL THE STRETCHY JEANS…they don’t fit after wearing them for 20 minutes!
    whew…anyway, great post!

  22. Well as a plus size woman I watch what I wear and I make sure its my size not too tight not to lose. I wish plus and mid slimmer woman stop the madness with the muffin top.
    thank you prlissy01

  23. awesome post, just scanned it but i’m going to read it again and probably send it to my friends!!! how did you get the email by subscription thingie working? i heard it’s a huge pain but you make it look so easy!! i’m really new at programming, so my site’s very simple. yours is gorgeous. great job! jen

  24. I actually just went through my closet last week and filled up a bag with things that were too small, too tight under the arms, unflattering, etc. It feels hard at first–but when you see the ill-fitting things go, there is such a feeling of relief!

  25. I am so loving this article. I see this everyday and it is so frustrating. I went to a job fair and the invitation specifically said asked to come dressed professionally. I saw several women in tight slacks, blouses that can’t even button upand yes the so called muffin top look in slacks… I wish self confidence was sold like diet Pepsi… maybe then everyone would have a drink….Excellent post

  26. After many years of observation, I have seen many female of the species wearing clothing that, to me, was questionable, and shall I say not bringing out the true beauty of that woman. And some of it has been downright traumatizing. I salute the female who is comfortable dressing like that. As long as it makes her feel good about herself, more power to her.
    But, being a male, and spending many hours hanging with my boys on the corner, I have learned beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.
    I have also learned that, generally, women dress and wear makeup for other women as much or if not more than for the men. It’s something I feel that it’s built into a womans DNA.

  27. Great post! I’m off to empty my wardrobe of everything I don’t love… there may not be much left, but it’s probably the same things I launder every week and wear with comfort and the occasional touch of style.

  28. My 17 year old daughter is so pretty and normal weight but her pants are so tight and so low that they give her muffin top and ass crack. And she is forever pulling up her pants. I tell her, constantly, that this is NOT an attractive. It makes a pretty 17 year old girl look like a plumber. I cannot understand how young women go through “get up from the table, pull up your pants, down your shirt and then go.” It’s not attractive and must be annoying as hell. You have better things to do with your life than pull up your pants all day.

  29. Very interesting and I’m taking your attitude to clothes as an advice, true love. It could be dangerous though, because I might really love it at first sight and think it’s perfect when I try it on but then still not use it. One thing I try to do is to see something, I don’t buy it and then if I keep thinking about it and if it’s still in-store it’s meant to be. It can be very annoying sometimes and it’s bad you can’t do if it’s on sale or you’re abroad.

  30. Wait, only 1 in 10 women thinks she’s fat?? But in America, over half of the population is overweight, and 30% of us are actually considered obese. So if only 1 in 10 thinks she is fat, what do the other 2 or 3 in that 10 who ARE fat think?
    Great post! and yeah… we all have the “skinny jeans” that don’t fit anymore, but someday we hope they do. Someday…
    Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

  31. I am all for people having a healthy self image. Yet when you state one out of every ten women thinks she is fat I think of the recent study that claims 3 out of ten women are fat. That is if we equate the word fat with obese. Of course all statistics can and should be taken with a grain of salt. But when you combine your source data with that of the OECD health data from 2005, that leads me to believe that ten percent are being realistic while another twenty percent are out there with muffin tops squeezed into jeans 2 sizes to small.

  32. I’m proud to say that all of my clothes fit (aside from some being too long and needing to be hemmed – I’m a shorty), but that’s soley because I don’t care about the number I’m wearing. At some stores, I’m a Women’s US 2, and at others I’m a 6 or 8, just depending on how the pants fit. I personally think a lot of the unflattering trouser situation comes from women who refuse to accept that they’ve gone up a size – or just that certain brands tailor their clothing differently, and another size might fit better. Announcement: no one sees that number but the wearer. And, oddly enough, wearing clothes that fit correctly makes you look thinner (and overall better) than wearing something that creates super muffin top or camel toe. Who’d have thought.

  33. Well, I have been a muffin top. It has taken a lot of walking and watching my diet to whittle down that tummy. I am not doing it to fit into clothing but to lessen my chances for diabetes and heart disease. Being able to fit into clothes with smaller numbers on the size tag is a definite benefit. Congrats on getting freshly pressed.

  34. Muffin top is digusting and even worse with a thong showing! With so many waist-whittling options out there it’s a wonder women don’t make use of them!

  35. When most women realize that the majority of the advice and tip columns in magazines do not truely reflect what a REAL man thinks, then maybe we will see clothes being worn that fit, look nice and are comfortable. The reason the women of today do not look like the women when I was growing up is because we didn’t have photoshop back then. Be healthy, not a feather or a brick.

  36. I would say about 50% of my closet doesn’t fit. That’s b/c many are materity, or clothes from losing weight after having a baby, and my skinny pre-baby clothes, that I cn barely fit into… and the ones that actually fit now. It’s a nightmare and I am trying to widdle my clothes down, it’s so frustrating, many I haven’t even worn in over a year!!

  37. consider donating any extra clothing to a thrift shop…make space in your closets and help a good cause at the same time!

  38. I like your article – not enough gets said about American womens clothing. It is not all our fault, although what some women were thinking when they got dressed this morning leaves me baffled. That said, the fashionistas (does that mean the so-and-so’s who design womens clothing?) have a lot of blame that goes directly to them. The limited sizes and dimensions that clothing is available in is pathetic. Talk about terrorism. I am a size 8 and have been all my life; I have worked out and watched my weight since I was 15 and I’m 60 now. I HATE going to the mall to shop for new clothes. It is a major trial just to find some normal jeans that fit my waist and go over my hips. Yes, I am a woman and I do have hips. Pardon me all the heck! You have excellent writing, thoughtful and interesting.

  39. I wear clothes that fit me well and hide my muffin tops! I must say that although others look down on women who tend to wear super tight clothing while they buldge out everwhere, we must realize that they probably have something we don’t. That’s self confidence. Also, belive it or not, some guys really like it! You go girls! Well, I’d never do it. Tee hee

    1. “… we must realize that they probably have something we don’t. That’s self confidence” — Well said!

  40. My waist is perhaps a 30 or so; my hips closer to 40. And then my legs are about 38. (Top of waist to bottom of ankle.) I have never really been able to fit into jeans. Either they are too short, or they are too the waist is too big, or they pull up in the crotch or all of the above. It’s horrible. I gave up a couple years ago on trying to find pants that fit and switched to wearing only skirts (even in the South Dakota winter) because I don’t have any of that problem with skirts. (And no, I’m not overweight. Not under, but not over.)

  41. My problem with jeans is that they are all “super low-riders” it actually says that on the label. This means that if I even think about sitting down my butt crack pops out lol. Jeans are supposed to cover up that part of your anatomy, but more and more do I see plumbers crack walking down the street ON WOMEN!

    Then there is the problem that one store has one size jean, while another has a different size, and yet another store has their own size of jeans that are different from the others. REALLY Irritating if you ask me.

  42. My clothes have always fit me. I am very petite and slender, and I make sure I stay that way. I get offended when I see the “muffin” look on other ladies. Look, just simply eat moderate amounts of nutritious food and exercise daily – that’s the best way to get in shape.

  43. Hahhaa I can’t stand the muffin-top! I don’t care much what people choose for fashion, but this one just makes me cringe because it looks so painful. I can’t stand having pants pinch me in the middle.

    This puts me in a situation right now, as I’m almost 5 months pregnant and still getting by with my comfy summer skirts, but soon will have to find some winter pants that are not restrictive….even those pregnancy pants with stretch band tops look soooo tight! =(.

  44. I was surprised that only 1 in 10 women think of themselves as fat. I thought it would be more. It seems very few women are happy with the way their clothes fit them, and I am always hearing women complain about their weight or how they have to diet.

    I try not to get on that self-loathing train. When my clothes start to get snug, I know I need to pay more attention to what I eat and drink. Basically, it’s when I’m not getting enough exercise. Finding the right pair of jeans is the worst for me. I’d rather be comfortable so I can feel good about myself always. So, I don’t wear jeans a whole lot. Most don’t fit my shape–curvy, with a tummy. I always end up making some darts here and tucks there.

    I do wish more women were stronger when it comes to following society’s ideal of what a woman should look like. I’ve taught my daughter to use common sense and never let anyone else determine what she should look like or what is best for her. That’s my job! (Just kidding, sort of.) 😉

  45. The older you get, the more comfy you long to be. So I tossed plenty of ill-fitting things last month when I turned 40. Those skinny jeans I held onto definitely didn’t help me lose weight. They just remind me that I am not that weight, will never be that weight again and guess what? I really don’t care anymore. I’ve been practicing yoga for a few years now and I love how I feel in my body and I am fine with how it looks. Freedom!

  46. After reading your post, I find that I have strong feelings about women’s fashion. I love to look good…honestly I do. But I’m just a little too old to let myself be completely uncomfortable all day for the sake of a smooth line.

    I hate what designers do to women’s body image. Why, of why, doesn’t size have an actual meaning like it does in men’s cloths? Know your waste size, hip size, and inseam, and you could walk in anywhere and know what to pick up. But no…I’m an 8 petite some places and a 12 regular others. It’s maddening.

    And don’t get me started on all the people who think they are fat because of unrealistic expectations. A real designer could design something that an average woman could look good in without having to lose 5 pounds on one specific body part.

    Gosh, I didn’t know I felt so strongly about this! Thank you for this fantastic post!

  47. Good post about the silliness that we go through with the size of clothes and the size of our bodies.

    I’m a stickler for clothes that FIT, which means that I end up getting clothes tailored. It really does wonders for how a garment looks (on you, not on the hanger) and how comforatable you feel during the day!

  48. I think even more so I’m opposed to people wearing leggings as pants. It’s as though sweat pants became acceptable just because they were made skin tight. The amount of people I see committing this crime is atrocious.

    But I do see your point that this is happening everywhere. How poor is it that these women are in a culture that leads them to believe that muffin topping is a positive thing? Some people use the logic of ‘well, these pants will inspire me to get thinner!’ But I think that line of thinking is equally messed up.

    1. Raccoon, I totally agree. Women of all shapes and sizes are wearing leggings as pants, and you can see everything. EVERYTHING. D: It makes my eyes burn.

      As for this blog post, I’m 20 and haven’t grown an inch in any direction since I was 12, but still I have fairly new clothes that don’t fit right! Too big, too small…Sometimes I forget that most stores seem to go by their own size charts.

    2. I totally agree. Leggings have defied all laws of elasticity. There are sizes – S (small), M medium, L – large, XL – extra large, XXL, extra large, XXXL, and Jumbo. Imagine Jumbo leggings. EEW!
      I think some people have those slimming mirrors. That’s why you see so many muffin rolls. It takes guts to wear leggings when you’re the size of baby elephant!!

  49. I also have come to the conclusion that muffin tops often happen more because some people subconciously suck it in (denial) when they look in the mirror, then, when they walk away from said mirror, or sit down they relax and…muffins abound.

  50. All my clothes fit because I haven’t changed sizes in twenty years. Some of the things I bought then are back in style! My quandry comes when I think about going back to work (still a hope) and I don’t want to have discarded every appropriate piece of clothing just because I haven’t worn it in three years.

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