In the body-positive world of Neon Moon lingerie, size doesn’t matter. Or rather, it doesn’t exist at all. The self-described “feminist lingerie” brand offers undergarments in three euphemistic categories: “Lovely,” “Gorgeous,” and “Beautiful.”
The idea, of course, is that every size body is equally right and perfect, and that there need not be a hierarchy of dimensions. “Neon Moon is mindful to all in our community, as some people are triggered by measuring,” Neon Moon founder and CEO Hayat Rachi told Mic. “We recognize that so much pressure is placed on people to fit a certain size, a certain norm,” she expounded at Bustle. “But why not compliment yourself and say, ‘Hell yeah, I’m a size Beautiful!’ rather than judge yourself on whether you’ve gained or lost inches?”
Sizes exist for a reason, though. The number 16 is slightly bigger than 14, which makes it easy to predict that if a shopper is slightly too big for a size 14 dress, she’ll probably fit into a size 16. Sizes do vary across brands, but standard sizing helps most people narrow their fit to a range that works at multiple retailers. Neon Moon customers who insist on getting fitting guidance more specific than compliments can consult the retailer’s size guide, which lays out each category’s respective numeric size range—meaning that they must rely on their actual clothing sizes after all. Neon Moon clearly means well, but its cloying labels further the condescending notion that women are delicate daisies who can’t handle the simple act of buying numerically labeled underwear.
Speaking of daisies: Mic points out that Manifesta, an athletic clothing company, recently nixed numbers to name its sizes after flowers, a hyperfeminine gesture that evokes gratuitous yonic imagery. (It’s likely no coincidence that Neon Moon’s smallest size is the ever-so-delicate “Lovely” and Manifesta’s is the waiflike “Willow.”)
This trend is moving clothes merchandising in precisely the wrong direction. For generations, to the great frustration of customers, clothing brands have adopted arbitrary sizes that have nothing to do with measurements, making it difficult to compare the clothes of one retailer to another. From the very beginning, clothing manufacturers decided they’d have to fudge the numbers to make self-conscious women feel okay about their sizes. This is the impulse that has found its rational limit in “Lovely,” “Gorgeous,” and “Beautiful.” Before Neon Moon, the biggest mainstream offender was the Kafkaesque sizing system at Chico’s, which still uses numbers but converts standard sizes into such baffling figures “000” and “3.5” in a feeble attempt to protect women from their own body image woes.
But women don’t need compliments from our clothing tags—we need to buy garments that are the right size for our bodies. It’s no fun to find out that a once-perfect size is now too small, or that a hip clothing company doesn’t carry our size. But growing out of Gorgeous and into Beautiful could be just as “triggering,” in Rachi’s parlance, as going up a pant size, because it means exactly the same thing. If someone is triggered by numeric sizing, having to click over to another page full of measurements because she doesn’t know what “Lovely” means won’t ease her mind. In fact, the unnecessary extra step, during which shoppers are forced to confront the exact, impersonal dimensions of their bodies, might be more traumatic than simply choosing “size 12” or “Large” from a drop-down menu. If a shopper hasn’t recently measured her body, Neon Moon’s sizing labels will force her to either break out the measuring tape or consult the sizing key to find the same standard sizes Neon Moon is trying to avoid. I know what size clothing generally fits me, but I couldn’t conjure my exact waist and bust dimensions off the top of my head—and some days, I’d rather keep those measurements a mystery. Neon Moon knows this: A note on its site advises shoppers to email Rachi for help “if measuring yourself is triggering.”
Trauma induced by numeric sizes isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom of a fashion industry and popular culture that consistently devalues women’s bodies. Neon Moon and Manifesta are already promoting body positivity with their models, who are are diverse in race, gender presentation, and body type. By using trans models and models with body hair, rolls, and blotchy skin, Neon Moon is subverting the norms of the lingerie industry in a far more lasting and effective way than substituting “Beautiful” for “12-14.” It’s also refreshingly practical. Instead of trying to imagine how the undergarments would look on a body less airbrushed, bald, and de-fatted than the typical lingerie model, I can approximate how I might realistically look in any given bra.
For these reasons, and not its flattering sizing labels, Neon Moon deserves our praise. Observers on Twitter have an even better suggestion for how the brand can live out its commitment to body positivity: making underwear bigger than a size 14, the size of an average U.S. woman.