BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – It’s 7 p.m., and Karina Salazar, 26, has visited more than 10 stores in a commercial area of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital, searching for a pair of jeans in her size. The design student says it hasn’t been easy.
She finally finds a pair of jeans that fit, but now she is tired and angry. She says it bothers her that shopping, an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, has instead become frustrating because she wears a larger size.
“Going out to buy clothes discourages me,” she says. “I don’t feel the excitement that a thin woman can feel. For me, it’s terror.”
Salazar is about 5 feet 2 inches with a curvaceous and full figure. She wears a size 46, or a size 16 in the United States, which she says designers and clothing manufacturers neglect.
“Each time that I notice the need for new clothes, I think about the torment that I will have to undergo during the day not knowing if I will find what I’m looking for, if I will have to resign myself to something that in reality doesn’t satisfy me or, worse, leave empty-handed because there is nothing for me.”
She says this hurts her self-image.
“Each time that I go out to buy clothes,” she says, “my self-esteem returns home worse than when I left.”
The lack of clothing options for women who wear larger sizes reflects a stereotype of beauty in Argentine culture that critics say is disseminated by the media and advertising. Activists and government officials are debating a bill for a national law to regulate clothing sizes. While some stores maintain the right to target a certain market, new stores are emerging to cater to people who wear larger sizes. In addition to a wider selection of sizes, advocates say increased education is key to expanding the country’s concept of beauty.
Various provinces enacted laws in 2007 to regulate clothing sizes, including Santa Fe, Mendoza, Entre Ríos, Santa Cruz and Córdoba. The Autonomous City of Buenos Aires also has a law on sizes, as does Buenos Aires province, though it governs only adolescent clothing. On a national level, a bill governing clothing sizes gained approval from only one body of the bicameral legislature in 2009.
In 2007, a nongovernmental organization called Fundación Mujeres en Igualdad conducted a study of commercial areas in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. In a survey of 35 stores, the study found that there was no uniform system of sizes. Some stores used sizes such as 1, 2, 3 and 4; others used small, medium and large; and others used 19 through 37. Stores didn’t carry sizes larger than 42, though manufacturers produce sizes up to 56.
In January 2012, D’Alessio International Research Online surveyed 268 women older than 18 from Argentina’s middle class about their level of satisfaction with their bodies. Ninety-six percent responded that they had at some time felt uncomfortable with the way they look. While 17 percent said they had had