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Dad Concerned After Wife’s Family’s Annual Clothing Swap Gives Daughter Body Image Issues

teenage girl looks in mirror while holding up clothing
Dylan Ellis/Getty Images

When people are not off-the-rack sizes, finding clothing that fits can be an expensive nightmare.

But if your whole family is the same size, it makes things much easier. You suddenly have options in your relative’s closets.

But is your clothing exchange “mean and exclusionary” to any family member who can shop off the rack in any store?

A father who thinks so turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

Wildwestdw asked:

“AITA for wanting to end a family tradition that excludes one child?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“Every April, my wife’s family holds a family reunion. They don’t celebrate holidays together often, so they go all out for these, renting a hall, catering, the works.”

“The only weird event at these reunions is a clothing swap between the women of the family. For whatever reason, when my wife and her sisters all had daughters close in age, they decided a long time ago that this was the best way to do family hand-me-downs.”

“All the women in my wife’s family ended up being very short (4’10”-5’1″), so they all wear ‘rare’ but similar sizes, so it’s always worked out.”

“With a 70/30 gender split and the only men in the family being myself, my brother-in-law, and my sons from a previous relationship, this swap meet is the MAIN event.”

“They make it a whole show about it. It’s incredibly boring from the outside, so my boys and I always head out early if we go at all.”

“This would be a non-issue if it weren’t for my daughter, Kate. She’s my wife and I’s ‘ours’ baby.”

“Kate took after my side of the family. We’re a taller family, or at least not Keebler Elves, so by the time she was 11, she started coming back with nothing from those parties.”

“The first time, I assumed that she was just picky until I realized that she was starting to be bigger than her older sisters and cousins and had outgrown any size they would wear.”

“My wife thought she needed to realize that not everything was for everyone and to just have fun being there. Last year, she started having body image issues, thinking she was ‘fat’ and needed to go on a diet, and now I’m thinking having this event is feeding it.”

“This year is going to be a massive deal as my mother-in-law is going into a nursing home and is downsizing. She was so into fashion that she has an entire storage unit full, so this is going to be a TON of stuff.”

“I’m starting to think the reunion shouldn’t involve a clothing swap at all, and all of that should be done privately at another time. Family shouldn’t be about a fashion show.”

“My wife thinks that’s ridiculous, and Kate is just having typical teenage problems that will go away on their own, but if she’s so bothered, she can just not go or stay with the boys.”

“I don’t think that’s right. This is mainly a girl’s reunion!”

“It’s not like there’s anything else for an alternative for her to share in because they don’t really get rid of accessories or anything, it’s JUST clothes. This event is starting to get mean and exclusionary, and it needs to end.”

“I’m trying my best to make them see sense, but I’m getting nothing but arguments.”

“Am I really in the wrong here?”

The OP summed up their issue. 

“I want a tradition that’s been going on for over 20 years to end because one child doesn’t fit into it even though there are members of the family who already don’t go and never have.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors were split in their judgment, with some saying the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).

“Just avoid it, let the ones that like clothes swapping do their thing if they get something out of it.”

“Let Kate bring a friend and go out for the day doing something fun. It doesn’t have to be a gendered thing and it certainly doesn’t need to be something she joins in despite getting no benefit from it.”

“NTA, but don’t overstep and try to stop people having fun.” ~ joolster

“NTA, but I don’t think you should try to stop the tradition. The tradition needs to evolve.”

“Ask the family if they can include accessories, or maybe add a new tradition of a secret Santa style event where everyone brings a specific person an item of clothing in their specific size.”

“You could also start a tradition that includes the men and any women who want to participate. Maybe a novelty sock exchange?”

“Something goofy that doesn’t steal the show entirely but gives another focus and something else to take home.” ~ Foxtastic4D

Some offered no official judgment in their response.

“Is the family saying mean things about her? Do they call her the opposite equivalent of a ‘Keebler Elf’, as you called them?”

“If they are, then I’m not sure getting rid of the clothing swap will solve anything. If they aren’t, you and your wife need to talk to Kate about different body types and sizes.”

“Nothing will be solved by brushing this aside as your wife does, and depriving all other women in the family of a cherished tradition, like you want to do.

“Even if you do think it’s weird—which by the way is not your place to judge.”

“I would approach this matter carefully. You’re dealing with what looks like a tradition everyone else enjoys.”

“It also seems like you have some prejudices against it (calling it weird, incredibly boring, saying it’s become mean when no one has been mean, family shouldn’t be a fashion show, etc.) that you may be conflating with valid concerns for your daughter.”

“Besides, teenage girls will need to deal with many body image issues and they will be brought on by more than one thing, esp now with all the social media etc. You won’t be able to control everything.”

“I agree with everyone else saying just take her out to do something while the swap is happening.”

“Maybe also talk to your family about having the girl cousins and sisters hang out outside of these reunions so they build stronger bonds and Kate doesn’t feel like size excludes her by default.” ~ PanSeer18

“Yeah, no one is being unkind here, it’s just a fact of life that people are different sizes.”

“As a tall woman who was plus size for most of my teen and young adult years, I could never swap clothes back and forth the way my sister and friends could.”

“Would it have been fair for me to say, ‘I can’t do this, so everyone needs to stop’? Of course not.” ~ hill-o

And others deciding OP is the a**hole (YTA).

“If I may, the clothing swap is for what you stated: ‘rare’ but similar sizes.”

“While this event is seemingly exclusionary for Kate, it’s made for women who struggle with finding inclusive sizing in the world. This is probably the only time in their life they are readily ever to have clothing fit them without having to think about tailoring it to their bodies, special ordering or scrounging the very limited petite areas of a department store.”

“The irony in you wanting to shut down an inclusive event because it excludes your daughter… who readily has access in sizing for a world made for her is confusing.”

“You’re N T A for wanting to protect your daughter’s feelings, but YTA for thinking that hers are the only feelings that matter and haven’t approached it from making it a teachable moment for your daughter when it comes to her privilege… finding clothes that fit is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Also, in regards to body image and body issues—as a woman who went through puberty and also raised one through it? Your wife isn’t wrong when it comes to this age.”

“Kate’s age is the worst when it comes to body issues—she’s going through hormones and developing curves and it’s really hard for girls to not see these body changes as ‘fat’ vs entering a different stage in their life.”

“However, your wife is wrong that she’ll just grow out of it—it’s important that you and your wife do what you can to communicate and build her confidence, but you can’t remove every obstacle and most certainly can’t do so based on an assumption.” ~ happytobeherethnx

“He wants to end a 20 year family tradition which dozens of people enjoy, because it’s upsetting his daughter. And he thinks he’s not the a**hole?”

“Why would it be up to him to end this tradition? OP is definitely the a**hole. YTA OP.” ~ NoLikeVegetals

“YTA. Let them do their clothing swap, it brings them joy. OP can come up with a fun activity to do with the others during this clothing swap.”

“Talk to the rest of the family and see what they would like to do. OP said this was a special event, so create something special.”

“Cornhole tourney, karaoke, card games, dominoes, heads up, laser tag, paint ball.”

“Instead of trying to take away something that a majority of the family enjoys doing, come up with something fun the others can do.” ~ RezCoug

“YTA. You could make suggestions that do not attempt to end something 99% of the participants enjoy. You could refrain from saying things like the event is ‘mean and exclusionary’ when it is not.”

“You are choosing to try to put an end to something that isn’t yours to put an end to.”

“Suggestions include your daughter choosing things that she can upcycle or resell to buy other things, choosing things that she can wear in different ways, or including a bag of things that you (or your wife) have thrifted that will fit your daughter.”

“I have three girls, two are very very petite and one (the youngest) is tall. Now she hands down things to her older sisters or they thrift together, upcycle things to fit, etc… They make it work and have since she was a preteen (which is when she outgrew her sisters).”

“If your daughter doesn’t enjoy the event, she doesn’t have to attend. It really is that simple, but there are ways to make it so she will enjoy the event.”

“But again, making it out to be mean and exclusionary is not truthful. It isn’t mean or exclusionary. No one is seeking to not have things that fit your daughter, they are just shorter than your daughter.” ~ sheramom4

“Especially since he says the other women are all RARE sizes. It’s a longtime fun tradition that makes sense!”

“I’m short (5’0″), and have a really hard time finding clothes that fit. I’d love to find a good source of clothes that fit instead of paying an extra $30 per pair to get my PETITE pants hemmed so they’re not dragging 3″ below on the floor. Used clothing would be fine!”

“Instead of ending everyone’s fun, OP should take his tall, NORMAL-SIZED daughter for a fun shopping spree the day before. She’ll have things to model in the swap that won’t fit anyone else.”

“Trust me. I KNOW what it’s like when nothing you see fits—for 60+ years! So do all the other women in OP’s family. The big difference is his daughter’s not wearing a hard-to-find size that IS available off the rack.”

“Don’t steal their joy, OP. Make your daughter happy without doing so. If you cancel everyone else’s practical fun, YTA.” ~ FamilyRedShirt

While people’s judgments varied, almost everyone’s message was the same:

The OP shouldn’t steal his wife’s family’s joy.

How do you think this family could resolve their wardrobe woes?

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.