I’m wearing a new dress today. It’s a really lovely maxi dress in a black and white print that I picked up on mega special (80% off original price I think) at Big W last Friday. I’m also wearing a little black crochet shrug/bolero thing over it, just because the dress is a little cleavagey, and that wouldn’t be very appropriate for my workplace.
This morning, a colleague complimented me on my dress, and then said “Good idea wearing the shrug over your arms, they hide a multitude of sins.” Now I don’t know about you, but I felt that the compliment was nice until that moment. Because I wasn’t wearing the shrug to hide my arms or my sins. I have no problem baring my arms, even though they are yes, shock, horror… fat. Very fat.
Why is it that fat people, in particular, fat women, are supposed to hide their bodies away, or obey long lists of rules about how they dress? And furthermore, why is it acceptable for people to hand fat people a compliment, and then take it away by suggesting that their outfit makes them look slimmer than they are, or hides their “sins”? Why does “flattering” always mean “slimming”?
You know all the rules. Fat people:
- Shouldn’t wear stripes, especially horizontal ones.
- Should cover their bodies.
- Shouldn’t wear skinny jeans.
- Should cover their arms.
- Shouldn’t wear anything too fitting.
- Shouldn’t wear anything too loose.
- Shouldn’t show their tummies.
- Should wear muted colours.
- Should NEVER wear bright colours.
- Should wear big prints.
- Should wear small prints.
- Shouldn’t wear ruffles.
- Shouldn’t wear pastels.
- Shouldn’t wear different colours on the top and bottom of their bodies.
- Should flatten their tummies, thighs and butts with control top tights or spanx or some other kind of heavily elasticated undergarment.
- Shouldn’t be tanned.
- Shouldn’t be pale.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH!!
Notice how many contradictions are up there in that list? Yes, for every time you’re told one thing to do as a fat person when it comes to dressing, someone else is lining up to tell you the exact opposite.
Well here’s the thing. This is my body. My body isn’t slim, or the same shape as everyone else’s body. It’s big and fat and lumpy and has a HUGE tummy that I couldn’t hide even if I parked myself behind a screen all day. But it’s a healthy body that works and is beautiful in it’s own unique way, and that I have to clothe in a way that is a) appropriate for the venue that I am in and b) a way that makes me feel good and expresses my personality. I DO NOT have to hide it, apologise for it, atone for it’s “sins”, disguise it, or be ashamed of it. My body is not sinful because it is fat. Fat does not have any connections to morals. It’s just fat, not Satan.
I wear clothes that I like, that when I put them on, make me feel good, and express the mood I’m in and my personality. I love bold prints and bright, rich colours, bare arms, dipping cleavage, soft, drapey fabrics that slide over my skin, prints that are feminine and prints that are cheeky and fun, styles that are comfortable for my busy day to day lifestyle and that are durable enough to last more than one or two wearings.
Of course, I do have a responsibility to wear clothing that is appropriate for the place I am wearing it. A bathing suit is not the right outfit for my workplace, nor is a cocktail dress the right outfit for going to the dog park. In my workplace I have to be groomed, clean and professional. Being fat is not unkempt, dirty or unprofessional. It’s just the shape of my body. It’s not ok for me to be too cleavagey or show too much leg in the workplace, that goes for everybody regardless of their body shape/size, but it IS ok for me to bare my fat arms or wear horizontal bloody stripes!
If a fat body offends someone, it is THEM that has the problem, not the owner of the fat body. If someone is upset at a fat person wearing something that they’re perfectly ok with a slim person wearing, then yes, it is THEM that has the problem, not the people wearing the outfit. Bodies are not public property, nor are they bound by any rules as to what shape or size they have to be or even appear to be. Yes, that means that a fat body doesn’t have to wear “slimming” or “flattering” clothes. They can break any and all of those “rules”, because they’re rules imposed ONLY on fat people, never on slim people.
Nor do fat people have to suffer in silence over those false compliments about how clothes “make you look thin/like you’ve lost weight” or “hide your sins”. What’s wrong with just complimenting someone with “You look great today, that’s a beautiful dress.” I’m far more likely to wear the dress that gets that compliment again and again than one that I’m told hides my fat away. I think next time someone tells me that an outfit I am wearing hides my sins, I’ll suggest I should take it off because “If I’m gonna sin, I want to wear it like a badge of honour!”
But I know not everyone has the ability to be as cheeky and loud-mouthed as I am. I know it really, deeply hurts a lot of my fellow fatties out there when people say these sorts of things, and I know a lot of you agonise over what you wear because you want to avoid people saying such things. I used to as well. Then I realised how bloody stupid all the rules were and that I couldn’t make everyone happy no matter what I did (unless I could miraculously become thin – but even then people would talk behind my back and say I was thinking too much of myself since I lost weight and blah blah blah). So I decided to make ME happy. And I found my cheeky, loud-mouthed attitude, screw what anyone else thought.
Wear what you want to wear my lovelies. Wear what makes you feel good, what you like on yourself, what expresses how you really feel. Wear it proudly and screw what anyone else says about your bodies. When you feel good, you look good, and you show your beauty. Every single human being has beauty, they just need to find the right way to show it, and I believe that is by being happy, proud of yourself and holding your head high. YOU are worth it. Every single one of you.