Super Fat Clothing Woes – A Crowd Sourced Post

Published March 22, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Twitter is bloody awesome yo.

After a conversation with a friend via email over the past few days about the quality of plus-sized clothing, particularly clothes for we Super Fats, in sizes 22 and over (I chose 22 because size 20 is where many supposed “plus-size” lines cut off) as opposed to the quality of straight sized clothing, I threw out the following question on Twitter (over two tweets):

Hey death fatties: do you think we are more tolerant of clothes that are poorly made because of lack of options? Eg weird fit/crap fabric?  I’m particularly curious for those at a size 22 or above. Do you think you tolerate lower quality in clothing?

Well… did I get an overwhelming response!  Over a hundred replies in about 6 hours.  Aye caramba.

It seems like I hit a real nerve with this particular topic.  To be honest, I am not surprised, being a death fatty myself, I’m quite used to the frustration of not being able to find, or afford, clothing of reasonable quality to fit my body.

The overwhelming response was that yes, many Super Fats do tolerate poor quality garments, simply because there are no other options, or at least, no other options that they can afford.  As @silentbeep3000 says:

yes i tolerate lower quality of clothing because i’d rather have clothes than not.

I saw this sentiment echoed over and over again.  From clothes that are poorly made, to those that are made of cheap, uncomfortable fabrics through to clothes that are cut badly and do not fit the bodies they are designed to be worn by, lower quality clothing is pretty much the norm for those in sizes over a size 22.  That’s without even getting into whether or not the styles are something fashionable that we like.

@erinvk says:

Yes. I am so happy to be wearing something fashionable on my body that I am happy to hand sew tears after one or two wears.

How often have you found yourself mending garments because a) you love them b) you know you won’t get another like it and c) your options are very limited when it comes to clothes that will fit you and look good?  I know I have a mending basket that sits beside my sofa, so that I can mend when I watch DVD’s.

There were also several mentions from Super Fats regarding learning to sew, so that they may properly mend, repurpose or make from scratch clothes that are of a reasonable quality, cost and fit.  @SabrinaSpiher says (over several tweets):

Bad cut is worse to me than shoddy material/craftsmanship. I’ll reject stuff that’s too big in the rise or tight in the waist but if it’s cheap and falls apart and gets holes … I’ll tolerate that. Not much choice, really.  My friend is an amateur seamstress. She says this summer she’ll help me learn simple sewing for shirts, skirts, dresses.

Bad cut/shape is a repeated complaint as well.  Many plus-sized women find that clothes are made so cheaply that they are from a design that manufacturers can churn out en masse, with little regard to how they would fit a fat body.  As @andreakc73 says:

It’s not long enough (the shirts) or you are suppose to be fat and short. Little given to any shape above a 22. Expensive too.

We see the same styles over and over and over again because they are cheap to manufacture.  Go into any plus-size retail chain, and tally up how many surplice necklines, shark-bite hems, peasant tops, shoe-string/empire-line maxi dresses and gypsy skirts you will see.  Regardless of whether or not these actually fit a fat body properly, or the underwear worn beneath them, they’re cheap and are considered “flattering”, so there are a plethora of them to be found.  Personally I like surplice necklines, shark-bite hems and empire-line maxi’s, but I don’t want my entire wardrobe to comprise of them and only them.

Of course, even if you like a style and a cut, the fabric quite regularly lets you down.  This from @AbigailNussey:

The summer dresses? Hot fabrics. The winter dresses? Thin as paper. All of them? Too $$$.

And @silentbeep3000 refers to having to choose between good properties in a garment, rather than being able to find a combination of all:

ideally i’d have great natural fibers AND good style. I rarely get both. I so often have to pick between the two

Which brings us to pricing.  Even when the garments are cheaply made of unpleasant fabrics, we have to suffer through them being overpriced.  @jennifergearing says:

I wouldn’t mind lower quality if it was priced that way, but if I’m paying $50+ for a top it makes me sad.

Coupled with this tweet from @MadamQ:

I wouldn’t mind so much if they came at Supré prices etc. Autograph a prime offender with their acrylic and poly!

So why aren’t there any options for plus-sizes to a full range of sizes (not just stopping at 20 or 22) for budget clothes like Supré?  For those of you outside of Australia, Supré are a straight size clothing retailer who sell mass produced clothes at very budget prices.  There are lots of others like them in Australia now, like Valley Girl, Cotton On and such.  Where are the clothes for plus-sized customers that are mass produced but ultra budget?  The answer is those mass produced, cheap clothes are being sold at a premium to customers who have little or no other options.  Unlike straight sizes, we cannot take our money elsewhere (though some options are starting to open up with online shopping, particularly from retailers like Yours Clothing), so there is no incentive for them to provide bargain prices.

As @bargainfatshion shares:

While thin people usually have many shops to choose from, all offering a slightly different fit, death fats have 1 or 2.

What it boils down to is that the level of quality for a garment costing say $50 or $100 is markedly lower for plus-sizes than it is for straight-sizes.  How often do you hear that old trope that fat people are poorly dressed and frumpy?  Perhaps this is because when we spend $50 on a garment, all we get is shoddy and frumpy?  As @sweetnfat says:

I get frustrated when these poor-fitting clothes wear out quickly, but can’t afford $50-$100 for one or two pieces.

There is a whole lot of classism at work too.  Quite often, the more upmarket retailers ignore fat bodies altogether, either cutting off at size 20 (I’m looking at you Leona Edmiston) or simply not holding any plus-sized lines at all.  From @DBFiveGirl (several tweets):

apparently well paid, professional women are not meant to be bigger than s16/18. We’re meant to be unemployed it seems.  DJs (David Jones department store) at Bondi Junction have no fatties section as apparently no affluent fat women live in the eastern suburbs. Total otherness

When it comes down to it, not only our quality of clothing is affected by the lack of options for Super Fats.  As @ThePlusSideofMe says:

…not only my style, but the quality of my clothing is dependent on what is offered.

And @downtogirth says:

my biggest gripe is not quality, but style. My style is dictated by what I can fit into & what I can fit into is not my style.

When your choices are limited to just a few sources, and those sources have limited styles (see my mentions earlier about the repeated design features), how you express yourself through your clothing choices is severely limited.  No matter how much you want to dress yourself in a particular style or sub-culture, if there are no clothes available to you in your size at a price you can afford, then you are simply not able to do that.

It’s not just limited to women’s plus-size clothing.  This from @bigboyfashion:

Yes. When you feel like you don’t have any options, you’ll wear whatever you can find, and that sucks.

And this from @bilt2tweet

Definitely. If you can’t make your own you’ve no choice but 2 wear what you can get frm a store. Crap quality poor fit or no

and

I’m a 4XL mens and I’ve bought clothes that didn’t survive the second washing. This after paying 65 – 75% MORE for it than Reg

But most of all, through lack of options and quality of clothing for Super Fats, there is a whole lot of discrimination at work.  Even if something is of poor quality and you try to protest it, there are often aspersions cast at you.  As @snicketyflick says:

& gods forbid that you go to return something instore it’s like they think eww fattie wore it to death and is trying to con us

Most importantly, having to work so hard to find clothes that are suitable, reasonable quality and affordable perpetuates the stigmatisation of fat people.  From @DBFiveGirl:

I never feel more marginalized as a fatty than when I am shopping for clothing in stores.

So what do we do about this?  We Super Fats are restricted so much that we have to spend an inordinate amount of time sourcing clothes that are attractive, of reasonable quality fabrics, well made and finally affordable, that we are unable to spend that time focusing on other aspects of our lives.  It affects public perception of us, our employment prospects, how we are treated by other professionals (both within our work and our general lives), our finances, how we spend our time (I know I’d rather do a lot of things than spend time mending shoddy clothes) and most importantly, our self esteem.

It’s about so much more than just being able to shop for cute things.

Thanks also to @StilettoSiren, @ilaeria, @astryid, @SassyCupcakes, @mimbles and @mymilkspilt who also shared similar experiences, feelings and frustrations as the tweets above.
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25 comments on “Super Fat Clothing Woes – A Crowd Sourced Post

  • I had just sent off a post of my own on the topic of plus-size catalogues when I saw this. I think there is a lot of discrimination at work there. Face it, a fat body does have different proportions from a stick-thin one. But then, at least in Europe, even a short person has difficulties finding clothes that need no alterations. Most likely it´s just cheaper for the manufacturers to make clothes for a uniform fictitious body. Still, I, too, wish for clothes to be available that are fit to the bodies of real women.
    Case in point: most jackets or blouses even in plus sizes are really tight around the chest. The number of females who are flat-chested enough to fit in there certainly is below fifty percent of the female population. So, if you need more room there, you´re out of luck. Or end up buying something that is too big in other places. Perhaps, some day, the industry will open their eyes and see what a live customer looks like…

  • Great post. This has been mentioned elsewhere and isn’t directly on-topic with style/cut/cost of plus size clothing, but one of my biggest beefs with shopping for plus clothes is that even in dept stores which carry a reasonable plus section, you’re shoved in some corner of the store, a few tiny racks by the dressing rooms or between men’s and babies’. There are few dept stores that go up to my size (US 28/30 Tall), but all the ones that do (minus Fashion Bug, though it has few 28/30s over all, and they’re usually horrible cuts and thin, hot, highly-flammable fabrics with gaudy prints or rhinestones) shove us off into a forgotten corner somewhere.

    • Actually it is on topic bigliberty. It’s another instance of discrimination and poor quality – but in this case, poor quality of marketing/store location.

      Another reader noted on Twitter that she feels that many stores act like there are three genders – men, women and fat.

      And yes, what is with either bedazzling the bejesus out of garments (embellishments my arse) or making them so bland and boxy and plain that they look like public institution garments? Can we please have the same clothes as everyone else?

  • bigliberty, I am assuming you are in the USofA. Have you been to a Fashion Bug lately? I went to the local store last week to find that the fat chick clothes are back in the corner again. I get the impression they’ve done this in all their stores. I emailed customer service to politely express my disappointment and haven’t gotten a reply.
    So much for being treated like a normal customer.

  • Fabulous post. I dont sew much of my own clothing because I love to iron for hours, or fiddle around with a sewing machine. I sew many of my own clothing because the quality just isnt there- Ive come to expect that most things Ive purchased from brick and mortar stores wont last through a season. One of my biggest beefs is something you quoted “I’m a 4XL mens and I’ve bought clothes that didn’t survive the second washing. This after paying 65 – 75% MORE for it than Reg”- I mean honestly, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!?

    Fit, I think, its a totally different story that has more to do with industrialized garment construction than fat. Outside the thin folks I know, who you just wear tees and jeans, most have to have their clothing altered unless its a specific style or cut that fits their bodies. LB’s Right Fit jeans address a little of this issue, as well as Igigi’s “Shape Stylist”, but for the most part, I’ve just accepted the fact that current clothing standards dont meet my own.

    Whats more, Im more pissed off about plus sizes “stopping” at a size 20/22. I just cant wrap my brain around the logic behind that one…

    • The stopping at 20/22 (or any other arbitrary number) is what infuriates me more than anything else. It’s like they say “We want to clothe plus-sizes, but not you, you’re too fat to be seen in our stuff.”

  • Oh god yes!! I am job searching at the moment and trying to find a nice simple white shirt to wear to interviews is almost impossible! I’m actually terrified I’ll get an interview, because I have nothing to wear to it!! Have ordered one online, but suspect I will be disappointed with its size and fit. Am considering biting the bullet and finding a tailor to make me a few things. I mean, at $80 for a shitty pair of black pants that last 2 months, and $70 for a shirt that probably won’t even fit, a tailor can’t be that much more expensive, can it?
    As for quality of off the rack plus size clothing, don’t get me started. To pay sooo much for something soooo shoddy in workmanship is terrible (especially for me, who loves her bargains!), but what choice to you have, other than walking around town naked, or in an old lady tent dress?

  • There is so much I agree with here, especially about style – so much of what I wear is dictated by what fits and doesn’t make me feel horrible that the idea of me being able to come up with some kind of style is laughable (and kind of wishes I was still Goth). I do love reading fatshion blogs and see lots of fat women who clearly have found a style that works for them, but none of it is really ‘me’ and rarely practical for day to day bumming at home.

    For me, there are two reasons why I’d like to be smaller – because sometimes my body gets in my way (though a boob reduction would go a long way to solving this), and so I could buy good quality clothes, that actually fit my body, make me feel good about myself and allow me to have a sense of style. There is sooo much standing in the way of me having that second point at my size that it’s hard to even know where to start.

    Like everyone else I am tired of buying expensive clothing that has weird cuts that wouldn’t suit any kind of human, that are made with crappy fabric and even crappier sewing skills, that totally change shape after one wash or fall apart at the seems, that only come in black or other ‘fat friendly’ colours, that are either bedazzled to within an inch of their life or so incredibly plain that it really highlights all the problems with the cut, and that leave me staring in the mirror wondering which of the three options I have to wear today have the least problems and will leave me feeling the least self conscious.

    I could go on for hours, but I’ve got to go work out away to add straps to a Medusa costume because I need to wear a bra and have yet to find a strapless one that doesn’t spend the night digging into my underarms or sliding one way or another. Also, I need to put some sequins across the front because it seems nothing will get gold nail polish out of this fabric which will teach me for doing my nails in the car again. And when I’ve sorted out the straps I’ve got to deal with the skirt issue where I can’t move or stand near a breeze without flashing my knickers. Clearly the people who make plus size costumes think we must only ever wear them to enhance our sex lives.

  • One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to plus size fashion is the constantly low-cut necklines on basic tops. I have very large boobs and don’t like them spilling out of shirts and I have to wear tanks or camis under a lot of them because the neckline is too low. That’s uncomfortable when it gets hot out. It’s as if the retailers are assuming all we want to do is show off our cleavage. I know many women like to do it and more power to them, but for us modest deathfats, more crewnecks and slight V-necks surely shouldn’t be that hard to come by.

    • Variety is the key Bree. Straight sizes can choose from any neckline, any hemline, any shape, any colour, any combination that they like. Why are these varieties not available for plus-sizes as well?

      An aside: I’d kill for t-shirts that DIDN’T have crewnecks!

  • I certainly have nothing to add. I agree completely with all of the above and thank you Kath for speaking up about this and sharing so many lovely fats’ thoughts on the subject. Whew! Certainly seems as though there is a bunch of money to be made if someone were to just LISTEN!!!

  • Before a recent short holiday, I went shopping for a few new clothes. I looked in two Autograph stores and found a cute-ish cardigan I could have dressed up, only to find in horror that it was $79 for a very thin 100% acrylic knit, the kind of thing you’d find in Supre for $19. Later I looked in David Jones and found 100% merino classic jumpers and cardis for $99. (I’m going for a 1950s sweater-and-skirt look ATM.) Guess where I spent my money. I did then pay $59 for a nylon/elastane cardi in City Chic but it was actually a reasonable quality knit and very cute.

    Went to the new Myer in Melbourne CBD and was really disappointed with the plus size section. Again shoved down the back away from the “nice” stuff, and it was all either that kind of boho/deconstructed look stuff, or wannabe-Toorak Matron look, which is nice if you like that, but none of the trendier stuff they had for a while like the Monroe label. Awful, considering that this new store stocks a fabulous range of straight sizes and is supposed to be about a great shopping experience. Not for fats! At least the Melb CBD David Jones had the whole Sara range as well.

    The fact that retailers/designers would rather not sell a decent range of quality plus sizes and miss out on big fat $$$ (heh) because they don’t want their product associated with fat people is really, really telling.

  • I couldn’t agree more. A prime example is Katies/Autograph. In my local store, they share the space. As I work in a professional job (an auditor) I need to dress in a certain manner, and I’ll look forlornly over at the simple black, brown or charcoal a-line (my very favourite and most flattering style on me) skirts and tailored or pretty shirts and tops available apparently only 1 or 2 sizes lower than mine in Katies, while I stand dejectedly in rows of stretch pants (which I hate), shapeless shirts or tunics (which are just totally wrong for my body shape) and gypsy skirts in loud prints. Worse is being told by the store staff, that those styles are what suits me and what I need. No, they don’t and no they aren’t. I will never wear a gypsy skirt, it’s just not something that I’d wear (not meant in an offence to people who do, it’s simply not right on me.)

    And absolutely the quality is poor unless you’re prepared to pay $100 per garment. I get so jealous of “regular sized” girls who can pop into Cotton On or Temt or Jeans West etc and pick up $30 dresses. For me they start at $60 and mine will fall apart first, that’s if it ever fits right.

    I’m pretty much buying exclusively online from Igigi and Kiyonna now. They have clothes that suit me and my lifestyle, and I feel they are well made, and flatter me. (I certainly get lots of compliments wearing them.) But even they are limited in terms of the separates they have available (they specialise in dresses afterall) and are in the wrong season for me, so it’s nice for sales, but heading into winter I can’t shop through them. So what on earth do I do? They also cost a lot, so I can’t shop as regularly through them as I’d like.

  • I just want to tell you of my experience with clothes.
    I live in New Zealand and some of the chain shops (the ones that do everything from clothing, to homewares etc: The Warehouse, K-Mart, Farmers) do cater for larger women with their specific ranges.
    But I do find most of them are lower quality and are mostly “sacks”. It’s like they think we have no body shape (I’ve often heard “round is a shape”). But we don’t want to be stuck in a top/dress that is straight up and down. We have boobs too and sometimes, we want to accentuate them. It just so happens these shops are also the cheapest, so I’m stuck shopping there with their crappy clothing, just because I can’t afford it. And most of the clothes are ugly too. Occasionally, you’ll find a piece which is fantastic and you’ll wear it and wear it, but soon it will look horrible and you find it doesn’t look so nice anymore.
    I do find Farmers is better than the other two, I tend to find more clothes there suitable than anywhere else.
    I definitely can’t shop in stores like Supre or Valley Girl. Occasionally I can find stuff in Glassons and Pagani (not sure if this is in Aus? They go up to 18NZ)
    and I have just discovered a new store here called City Chic. The clothes are amazing, very fashionable, but for me, also very expensive. They’re definitely targeted to the younger age group.
    Then there are shops that cater for the larger sizes but a lot of the clothes can only be described as “old-ladyish”, like K&K (I don’t have anything against older woman, just saying, but I’m in my 20s and tastes vary A LOT.)
    There is also Ezibuy, which I shop at a lot too, because they have Sara. They’re kind of middle of the range in price. Usually I can handle the pricing, sometimes I can’t.
    Those are pretty much the only options in NZ for larger women. I can only hope that some of the stores you have in Aus make their way here soon because they sound awesome. Like Autograph.
    I could always buy online, but it’s hard not knowing the right size without trying on, then it’s hard to return if it’s international.

    • splatdevil the only store we have other than those you’ve mentioned (in fact I think you have a few more) is Autograph. So I wouldn’t be holding your breath for any Aussie stores to rescue you.

      If you find it difficult finding things within a size range that goes up to 18NZ, imagine how those of us who are a size 22+ have it. Retailers often just ignore our existence altogether.

  • I would love to see a website with updated links to good superfat-size clothing sites. If this exists please let me know!

    I have settled for basically wearing bags on my upper body. I consider it a lucky day if I find a fabric pattern that I like. Style? For that I’d have to have choice. Why does our local plus size store (Pennington’s) seem to think that it’s great to produce one style of top in eight different colours? Then they change the neckline slightly and there it is in eight colours as well… but if you actually want something different, forget it.

  • I agree:

    “I’m quite used to the frustration of not being able to find, or afford, clothing of reasonable quality to fit my body.”

    It’s too bad that there aren’t more high quality clothing options for us.

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