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1159 Describing the Fit of Clothing

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,159 – Describing the Fit of Clothing.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,159. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

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This episode is a dialogue between Vera and Wang about how we describe the way the clothing fits – how it looks and feels on you. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Vera: How do these pants look on me?

Wang: Uh, aren’t they a little too tight? They look like they’re cutting off circulation in your legs.

Vera: They’re a little snug, but they show off my curves, don’t they?

Wang: I suggest going up a size. Something a little less formfitting would be a lot more comfortable.

Vera: I’m not going for comfort. I’m going for style.

Wang: Here, try these pants. They’re looser and offer more room.

Vera: These don’t show my shape at all. They’re not in the least flattering.

Wang: But you can move in them without busting a seam.

Vera: You’re missing the point. I want to look good in these pants no matter what.

Wang: Spoken like a true slave to fashion!

[end of dialogue]

Vera asks her friend Wang, “How do these pants look on me?” Vera wants to know how a pair of pants look on her, meaning do they look good, do they make her look fat, and so on. Wang says, “Uh, aren’t they a little too tight?” If we say a pair of pants or a shirt is “tight” (tight), we mean it’s a little too small for you. It fits against your skin so much so that it looks small on you.

Wang says, “They look like they’re cutting off circulation in your legs.” Wang is telling Vera that the pants she has on look like they’re “cutting off circulation” in her legs. “To cut off circulation” means not to allow blood to flow or go freely into a certain part of your body. Wang is saying that these pants are so tight on Vera’s legs that the blood isn’t able to go there correctly. He probably doesn’t mean that literally, but he’s trying to emphasize to Vera that they’re too small for her.

Vera doesn’t agree exactly. She say, “They’re a little snug, but they show off my curves, don’t they?” If something is “snug” (snug), it’s a little too small – perhaps not so small that you can’t wear it, but a little tight. Vera recognizes that the pants are a little too small for her, but she says they’re just a little snug. However, she likes them because they “show off her curves.” “To show something off” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to reveal, to let other people see easily.

Your “curves” (curves) are, in this case, the parts of one’s body, especially a woman’s body, that seem to go out from the straight line of a body – so basically, a woman’s rear end, her butt, and her breasts. Those would be her “curves.” Vera wants “to show off” her curves – to let other people see them more easily. Wang says, “I suggest going up a size.” “To go up a size” (size) means to use or try a piece of clothing that is a little bigger, that is one size bigger.

In the United States, as in most countries, clothing is given a number. That number is related to how big a piece of clothing is. This can be very confusing because different countries use different numbering systems for shoes, for pants, for shirts, and so forth. That’s why if you’re going to a different country and you want to buy some clothes, it’s usually a good idea to try them on first. “To try a piece of clothing on” means to put it on your body and see if you like it.

Wang suggests that Vera go up a size in the pants, meaning she try a pair of pants that is a little bigger. He says, “Something a little less formfitting would be a lot more comfortable.” Something that is “formfitting” is something that is a little snug, perhaps even a little tight on someone – that fits against his or her skin with very little extra room in between the piece of clothing and the skin.

Vera says, “I’m not going for comfort. I’m going for style.” The phrasal verb “to go for” something here means to try to have or do something, to have a particular goal or intention. If someone says, “I’m going for comfort,” he means that’s what he wants from this piece of clothing. He wants it to be comfortable. Vera isn’t going for comfort. She’s going for style – that is, she wants the piece of clothing to look good on her.

Wang says, “Here, try these pants. They’re looser and offer more room.” For a pair of pants to be “looser” (looser) means that it is a little bigger and not as tight as something else. It has more room, that is to say, between the actual cloth or fabric of the pair of pants and your skin. Wang says that these pants he is asking Vera to try on, “offer more room.” “Room” here means space. A piece of clothing that offers more room means you can move around in it more easily.

Vera says, “These don’t show my shape at all.” Vera is concerned that the pants Wang suggests to her won’t let people see the shape of her body, and that’s what she wants in order to be stylish. She says, “They’re not in the least flattering.” Something that is “flattering” (flattering) is something that makes one appear more beautiful or more attractive. The verb “to flatter” means to say something to someone in order for that person to like you – to say something complimentary about him or her, to say something nice about him or her.

If you say to a woman, “You look very beautiful today,” you perhaps are trying to flatter her. You’re trying to say something nice to her so that she will think that you are nice or that you like her, perhaps. “Flattering” can be used to describe a piece of clothing that looks good on someone – that makes that person look more attractive or more beautiful. So, you can see the connection between the verb “to flatter” and the adjective “flattering.”

Vera says that the pair of pants that Wang gave her are “not in the least flattering,” or are not flattering in the least. When we say something is “not flattering in the least” or “not in the least of anything,” we mean not at all, not even a little bit. If someone says, “Are you hungry?” and you say, “I’m not hungry in the least” (or “I’m not in the least hungry”), you mean that you aren’t even a little bit hungry. You are completely without hunger.

If you are asked, “Are you concerned that your son isn’t doing well in school?” You might say, “Oh I’m not in the least concerned about my son.” Actually, you probably wouldn’t say that. You would be concerned about your son if he isn’t doing well in school, or your daughter, but “to be not in the least” something means that you don’t have that quality even in a small amount.

Am I worried that the Dodgers are not going to win the World Championship of baseball, what we call the World Series (which of course is not the world championship but the championship of the U.S.), I would say, “No, I’m not in the least worried.” I know that they are going to win the World Series this year. Depending on when you listen to this episode, you may see that I was right or wrong.

Back to our story – Vera says that the pair of pants are “not in the least flattering.” Wang says, “But you can move in them without busting a seam.” “To bust” (bust) means to break something open. A “seam” (seam) is where two parts of a piece of clothing come together. A seam is usually “sewn” (sewn) with a machine nowadays, although in the old days, it was done by hand. You would attach two pieces of fabric, two pieces of material, together in order to make a piece of clothing. The line where those two pieces of material come together is called the “seam.”

“To bust a seam” would mean basically to wear a piece of clothing that is so small that if you moved in it, you would rip it or bust the seam. There’s another expression, “to be bursting at the seams.” “To be bursting at the seams” means that you are so excited about something that you can barely contain yourself – that you are really excited. “I’m bursting at the seams to tell you some news that I have, some good news.”

But here, Wang is using the expression “busting a seam” to mean that the clothing is so tight on Vera that she won’t be able to move in it without basically ripping the clothing, making the seams come apart. Vera says, “You’re missing the point,” meaning you don’t understand why I’m buying these pants. “I want to look good in these pants no matter what.”

The expression “no matter (matter) what” means regardless of what might happen, even if the consequences are bad, I still want to do this. “I want to go to the opera tonight no matter what” – even if I have to pay a thousand dollars, even if I have to walk to the Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. I want to go no matter what.

When someone says they want to do something “no matter what,” he or she means it doesn’t matter what the consequences will be, what the bad effects might be – he or she wants to do this thing. Wang says, “Spoken like a true slave to fashion.” The phrase “spoken like” is used to usually make fun of someone or to characterize someone’s personality or attitude. It’s used to say that this person is typical of a certain kind of person. Let me give you another example.

If I say to you, “I need to go to the grocery store. It’s only two blocks away, but I’m going to drive in my car. I’m not going to walk.” You might say to me, “Spoken like a true resident of Los Angeles” – an “Angeleno,” we call ourselves. “Spoken like a true Angeleno.” That means that’s exactly the way someone from Los Angeles thinks – that even if I have to go two blocks, I’m going to use my car rather than walk there.

Now this isn’t exactly true for me. I would walk to a store two blocks away. Three blocks? Meh, I would probably drive. It’s embarrassing, but I will tell you a story. There’s a big shopping center about a mile from my house, and on one end of the center is a grocery store, and on the other end of the center is a pharmacy, a drugstore, and the two stores are about maybe a block from each other.

Once, when I was feeling really lazy, I drove to the grocery store, parked in front of the grocery store, got my food, got into my car, drove to the other end of the parking lot, walked in the pharmacy, bought my drugs, and came out. Instead of walking down to the pharmacy, buying my drugs, and then walking back to my car parked in front of the grocery store, I drove between the two stores. Now that’s a terrible thing to do, really, but that’s what people do in Los Angeles, and I am a terrible person. I keep telling you that. You don’t believe me. Now you know it’s true.

Anyway, let’s finish our story here. Wang says to Vera, “Spoken like a true slave to fashion.” The expression a “slave (slave) to fashion (fashion)” refers to a person who is always concerned that what he or she is wearing is the latest look, the latest clothing, the most current fashion – what everyone else is wearing nowadays. That would be someone who is a “slave to fashion.”

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Vera: How do these pants look on me?

Wang: Uh, aren’t they a little too tight? They look like they’re cutting off circulation in your legs.

Vera: They’re a little snug, but they show off my curves, don’t they?

Wang: I suggest going up a size. Something a little less formfitting would be a lot more comfortable.

Vera: I’m not going for comfort. I’m going for style.

Wang: Here, try these pants. They’re looser and offer more room.

Vera: These don’t show my shape at all. They’re not in the least flattering.

Wang: But you can move in them without busting a seam.

Vera: You’re missing the point. I want to look good in these pants no matter what.

Wang: Spoken like a true slave to fashion!

[end of dialogue]

For the most fashionable English, we rely of course on our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
tight – with little or no extra room or space; immediately surrounding another object

* Ulysses knew he had gained weight when he noticed his wedding ring had become tight around his finger.

to cut off circulation – to not allow blood to flow freely to a part of the body, usually because something is wrapped tightly around that part of the body

* When the doctor measured my blood pressure, it felt like the device was going to cut off circulation in my arm.

snug – tight; fitting very closely; with little or no extra room or space; immediately surrounding another object

* This sweater is beautiful, but it’s a little snug. Do you have one in a larger size?

to show off (one’s) curves – to use clothing that reveals the shape of one’s body, especially referring to a women’s hips, waist and breasts

* Professional business attire really shouldn’t show off your curves like that.

to go up a size – to buy, have, or use something in a larger size

* These shoes are too small, but if I go up a size, it will be too big.

form fitting – referring to clothing that is tight and/or that stays very close to one’s body; following and revealing the lines and curves of one’s body

* The men complained that the new uniforms were too form fitting and didn’t allow them to move freely.

to go for – to try to have or do something; to have a particular intention, purpose, or goal

* In this painting, the artist was going for dark, mysterious beauty.

style – fashion; referring to clothing, hair, and makeup that are popular and widely admired

* Liyun isn’t interested in style. She would rather wear jeans and a t-shirt than a fashionable dress with high-heeled shoes.

loose – baggy; not tight or snug; with a lot of space or room to move in; not restricting one’s movements

* At home, Monica likes to wear loose pants and shirts when she’s relaxing.

room – space with nothing in it, allowing freedom of movement

* I’m not sure we’ll have enough room for your entire family to visit all at once.

not in the least – not at all; completely without

* A: Are you offended by what I said?

B: Not in the least! I’m just surprised.

flattering – making one appear attractive or beautiful

* A simple black dress is flattering on almost any woman.

to bust a seam – for a sewn line in one’s clothing to break, usually because one is too big for the clothing or has moved in an unusual way

* When Papa bent over, he busted a seam in his pants.

no matter what – regardless of what might happen; without concerns or worries about the consequences, even if they are bad

* We’re going to attend that concert no matter what – even if it means working overtime to get enough money for the tickets.

spoken like – a phrase used to characterize one’s words, often in a humorous way

* Yunze said that he actually enjoyed staying at the office until 3:00 a.m. Spoken like a workaholic!

slave to fashion – a person who is obsessed with wearing stylish, modern clothing and will do almost anything to appear fashionable

* You’d have to be a slave to fashion to wear those high-heeled shoes. They must be at least six inches tall, and they look incredibly painful!

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Wang suggest selecting a different pair of pants?
a) Because it is more fashionable.
b) Because it has a nicer color.
c) Because it seems more comfortable.

2. What does Wang mean when he says, “Spoken like a true slave to fashion!”
a) He admires how much Vera knows about fashion.
b) He thinks Vera should get a job in the fashion industry.
c) He thinks Very spends a lot of time thinking and worrying about fashion.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
snug

In this podcast, the word “snug” means tight and fitting very closely, with little or no extra room or space: “To be safe, please make sure your seatbelt is snug while you’re seated in the airplane.” The word “snug” can also mean warm and comfortable, especially surrounded by blankets: “The children are snug in bed and fast asleep.” The word “snug” can also refer to a place that is comfortable and makes one feel good: “I love how you’ve decorated this snug little bedroom!” Finally, as a verb, “to snuggle” means to move into a warm and comfortable position, possibly within the arms of another person: “On a cold winter day, I love to snuggle into a quilt with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa.”


spoken

The phrase “spoken like,” in this podcast, is a phrase used to characterize one’s words, often in a humorous way: “She can barely cook, but she stated that truffle oil is far superior to olive oil. Spoken like a gourmet chef!” The phrase “well-spoken” means eloquent and speaking correctly and clearly: “Sheila is very well-spoken, and is always able to share her ideas clearly with others.” The phrase “soft-spoken” means having a quiet, soft, and pleasant voice: “Carl is so soft-spoken that sometimes it’s difficult to hear him in a noisy room.” Finally, the phrase “to be spoken for” means to be reserved or to not be available: “Sorry, this seat is spoken for.” Or, “That last piece of cake is spoken for.”

Culture Note
Vanity Sizing

“Vanity sizing,” also known as “size inflation,” refers to the way in which the sizes of clothing, particularly women’s clothing, have slowly increased over time. American clothing sizes are not “standardized,” meaning that the numbers on sizes do not “correspond to” (match up with) actual measurements on the body. This allows clothing “manufacturers” (the companies that make clothing) to “label” (put a tag or sticker on an item to provide information about it) their clothing as whatever size they like. And over time, they have shown a “tendency” (likelihood of doing something) to put smaller size numbers on larger pieces of clothing.

Many people believe that vanity sizing exists because clothing manufacturers want to “flatter” (make someone feel good about himself or herself) customers. Many customers who “struggle with their weight” (have trouble maintaining a healthy weight; would like to lose weight) are pleasantly surprised when they find that they fit into a smaller size than they expected. Some “studies” (research) have shown that some “consumers” (people who buy things) are more likely to purchase an item if it has a label for a smaller size – even though it “fits” (hangs on their body) the same way. They like it better knowing that it is a smaller size.

“Dieticians” (people who help people eat well and healthily) and other healthcare professionals are worried about this “trend” (something that changes over time), because it allows people to “remain in denial” (continue to believe that something bad is not true) about their growing “waistlines” (the distance around the center of their body). But vanity sizing will probably not go away anytime soon.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c