More Barrel than Apple

Published February 5, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I’m being plagued by the black dog.  To be honest, I think it’s the heat, I never cope well with hot weather.  I’m happiest when I’m sitting steaming in two feet of snow.  Yeah I know, I’m on the wrong side of the planet.

One of my strategies when it comes to dealing with bouts of depression is to immerse myself in the Fatosphere, reading and viewing as many positive posts and images about fat people that I can.  It is just something that I know works to lift me out of that dark place, and get me back on to the road to my regular moods and ways of thinking.

I have been watching Fatshion February unfold on Tumblr, and the topic of representation of “death fatties” came up.  Now for any of you who are unaware, “death fatties” is a term coined for those of us who are classified as “morbidly obese” on the BMI scale, which is an arbitrary measurement of someone’s height to weight ratio, but is used by the medical field (and insurance industry)  to classify the fatness, and therefore health-by-their-measurement.  In reality, BMI does not at all give an accurate representation of someone’s health, only their height to weight ratio.

There was a mention of the scarcity of deathfatz posting Fatshion February photographs, and then a whole big discussion of whether or not “fat is fat” fired up, whether there should be any blogs or spaces that are dedicated just to deathfatz (there are) and whether this is excluding “smaller fats”.  I won’t get into that whole topic, and besides, Marianne Kirby has said it all beautifully on her Tumblr repeatedly, so it’s no use me rehashing it here.

But what I have got thinking about, is why I haven’t submitted any Fatshion February photographs.  What I’m struggling with is the fact that not only am I considerably bigger than most of the posters (it’s true, the deathfatz are under-represented), but regardless of the size of the posters, I see a whole lot of traditionally “beautiful” shaped women there.  All those hourglass figures, with breasts and hips that are bigger than their bellies.  Which in no way represents me.

There is a whole lot of celebration of “curvy” women.  Well I’m simply not curvy.  I am more… lumpy.  I do have big breasts, but my belly is clearly the largest part of my body.  I get it from my Grandma, she’s the same shape.  I look like I am heavily pregnant with triplets.  According to most plus-size fashion retailers, I don’t exist.  They’re all about the curves.  When they do actually use plus-size models, they’re flat bellied ones with small waists.  They’re women whose bodies stay the same shape when they sit down.  When I sit down, my belly shifts and becomes even bigger, resting on my lap.  Some plus size fashion even cut off before my size, despite my size being the usual top size of plus-size fashion.  City Chic?  Asos Curve?  I’m looking at you two in particular.  Not to mention all of the other lesser known brands that top out at Size 20, or 22.

Then there’s all this talk of apples, pears and hourglasses.  What about those women like me, who are shaped more like barrels?

Where are the true diversity of body types?

It becomes a spiral.  We don’t see bodies like ours represented anywhere, so we become too ashamed to share our own pictures.  Therefore, there are no bodies like ours being posted.

Just because my body shape isn’t considered “beautiful” or “fashionable”, doesn’t mean I don’t want to dress fashionably and enjoy dressing and styling myself.  Nor do I want to spend time finding things that “flatter” me and give an illusion of the shapes that are considered beautiful/fashionable.  My body is shaped like a barrel, and no amount of styling is going to change that.  I want to dress and adorn my body as it is, not disguise it as something else.

I’m thankful that there are those who put themselves out there.  I’m thankful that there are deathfatz like me who post their pictures and talk about their experiences.  Those of you who are at the top or beyond a standard plus-size range for your region.  Those of you who have big bellies, or any other body shape that doesn’t fit the predominant “curvy”.  Those of you who are extremely limited as to where you can get clothes to fit your bodies.  There aren’t many of you, but to those that are out there,  I admire you so much, and you make a difference to how I see myself, and what I am able to do with the limited fashion choices available to me.


43 comments on “More Barrel than Apple

  • I hear ya. I’m a barrel too and it’s so hard to find any plus-size clothes that aren’t designed for the classic hourglass shape. Empire-line dress anyone? Makes me look 8 months pregnant! I share your frustration…

    • I don’t mind the Empire-line, mostly because it’s comfortable and accommodating to my belly and highlights my magnificent rack of doom. I’ve learnt not to give a shit if I look pregnant. But I understand some don’t like to feel that way.

  • I just scrolled through Fatshion February and… well, it’s interesting. I think I’ll go to now and see some fat.

    • I think you’re not the only one to feel that way. However a lot of people are posting to their own Tumblr’s with the tag “Fatshion February” and there are deathfatz in there.

      • It makes perfect sense when I take into consideration the strange cultural phenomena of people believing they’re fat when they’re not.

        And this is a whole separate issue than fat visibility, or fat discrimination. We’ve all been brainwashed to believe our bodies are too fat.

        The fat acceptance issue is like a big fat blooming onion.

        (mmmm, blooming onion!)

      • Don’t try to “get” Tumblr paponda, just treat it like any other old blog with posts, but if you want to share them you just hit the “reblog” button. Or if you want to save them for later, just hit the “like” button.

  • This resonates with me so much! Seriously, I get tired of NOTHING EVER FITTING off the rack, assuming I can find something to try on int he first place, which only happens in two stores near my home. Not cheap stores.

    Then I feel like a freak, and thanks to media images, hideously ugly as well….so I dress to hide the belly. In tents.

    Yeah, I’m still working on that whole loving yourself thing. So thank you so much for saying this.

    • I’m working on not dressing to hide the belly. But because I’m self conscious about it, if it highlights it too much, I’m not comfortable, and when I’m not comfortable, an outfit doesn’t look good. Comfort and confidence in your outfit is what makes it look awesome.

      I’ve been shopping with friends who are either hourglass fats, or are straight sizes, and they are bamboozled by how I pick up a top/dress and instantly go “Nope, will look awful on me.” “How can you know without trying it on??” I’m asked. Because I know what shapes and lines work for my ginormous belly, and what don’t!

  • Totally hear you on this one, and thanks so much for positng it, I am also very unconventionally shaped, I have a belly which is significantly larger than my breasts and this does cause me the continued question ‘ooooh whens it due’ etc.. I will admit it does sting sometimes when I get asked this but I realise that I am certainly going against the grain shape wise.

    I do find it very hard to dress given this shape, and there are lots of times it really gets me down. I look at plus size catalogues etc and lilke you always see very ‘hourglass’ models, it would be easier to see the clothing on someone more my shape.

    Thanks for this Kath, I always say that you are one of my biggest inspirations, your honesty and thoughtfulness make my world a brighter place.

    • Thanks hon. It’s really hard when you can’t see representations of your body in either clothing catalogues, advertising material or even just online in fat positive communities. Hopefully we can just keep pushing the envelope and opening up the communities to cater to us too.

  • you are right. please keep posting. it is a cycle, people see them selves as under represented so dont publish. i guess thats why the real work of blogging and other sites are there to encourage all types of body shapes.

  • I’m one of those at the top end of the scale, deathfatz to the max, and there are a few reasons I don’t post fatshion pics. I’m not into fashion much at all, for one thing. I usually wear bootcut denim leggings, in various colors, with coordinating tops (mostly t-shirt knits, in solid colors, prints if I can find ones l like). I’m not into jewelry at all, the only jewelry I wear is my wedding rings, and maybe a watch, once in a while. My hairdo is short, one that I can wash, towel-dry, brush, and I’m ready to go. I don’t do make-up (the last time I wore make-up was to my son’s wedding 4 1/2 years ago). And I don’t have a clue what my shape would be called – my measurements are 62-54-62, with thunder thighs, big ass, big boobs, and a belly (the boobs overshadow the belly, but not by much).
    When you wear a 4X/5X in tops, it’s next-to-impossible to find anything that even comes close to being fashionable, let alone cute or comfortable or stylish. I can sew (and have been sewing for almost 45 years) but arthritis and fibromyalgia make that something that just isn’t fun anymore – if I take the time to make one top, I pay the price in pain for a week or two after, and it’s just not worth the pain to have clothes that I really, really like.

  • Count me as a mid-size fat (usually 22-24) who was an hourglass for years, but has found myself a definite apple, probably edging toward barrel, more as I get deeper into my 60’s. I love jeans, but I love them with lots of stretch, &, since I also love the skinny jeans/tapered leg look, I am falling more in love with jeggings all the time. I, like vesta, wear little jewelry, no makeup, like large, loose tees (& this time of year am inordinately fond of hoodies), & sneakers, so am not a fashion maven. However, I do empathize fully with the problem of trying to dress well according to my tastes & feel that I look good despite my body not conforming to cultural expectations. I have always had fairly slim hips, thighs, & legs, & a large belly in comparison to the rest of me, even at my thinnest & most perfectly hourglass-shaped, so real women, of all sizes, do not conform to ‘ideals.’ And, yes, I do love coming online & seeing photos of women my size & larger looking great & feeling great about themselves. It gives me a huge lift.

  • I don’t fit the common plus-size shapes either. I have broad shoulders, big upper arms, a huge rack of doom, thunder thighs, a somewhat flat butt. My waist is narrow and my hips don’t jut out. I have a belly but it’s not the standard “apple belly.”

    I got my shape from my mother, who looks just like me but she wears sizes 14-18 and I wear sizes 24-32, depending on the cut. Many of the fat women in our family look like this. But retailers think we are either an hourglass, an apple or a pear. When you’re a combination of all three, you do get pretty much shafted.

    • Bree I’m in the same boat – most of the women in my family, in fact on both my maternal and paternal sides, have this shape. But many of them are still in the smaller fat sizes, or even a few in the straight sizes. And I hear you on the wide range of sizes – I wear anything from a 22 to a 32!

  • Well, I’m right there with you on this one. I have seen your pictures and you do dress cute. I don’t have that much nerve. You’re right about women not posting photos of themselves that look like us. I have a picture of Dino the Dinosaur as my facebook photo. I avoid cameras like the plague. I would never go to a high school reunion (they just had our 30th – those people called me names in HS and I wore a size 14 then). When I see a photo of myself, especially next to others who are small, I just want to die. So, how to get past that….hmmmm. Girl, I’m not sure how it can be done. I try to hang with the postive self-image stuff, but I’ve never had one – so, how do you get it later in life? I guess we just plug along at it, day by day, there will be some good days and some bad days. Maybe that’s the best we can ever hope for. I’m not sure, but I’m willing to keep on plugging along and trying. You do so many postive things for yourself and for those of us who read your work, just keep on doing it, everyday. I’m sure these negative things happen to all people, not just us. Maybe we need that realization as well. To some extent, I think a lot of us deathfatz people “assume” that all thin people have an awesome life. I seriously doubt if that is true!

    Thanks for all you do – we do appreciate you very very much!

    • La, I’m so sorry that you’re struggling with your confidence so much. If it helps at all, I learnt from a photographer friend of mine lots of little confidence tricks with being photographed. The first one being the more you avoid being photographed, the more people want photographs of you! I didn’t go to my last HS reunion either, not because of how they treated me, but simply because I had no desire to socialise with any of those people!

      I consider myself a “late starter” with positive body image and self esteem. I was 35 before I began to even entertain the idea that I was anything but worthless.

      And thank you so much for the support and encouragement.

  • I’m really so sorry you’ve been feeling down lately. I know when it gets hot here in the summer (like 46-49 degrees C), I feel like the Grumpy Queen of Hell.

    As a deathfat who carries a more hour-glass shape, I still feel your pain. Even the largest size in Lane Bryant, or Old Navy sometimes doesn’t fit because the bottom half of my hour glass is 60-61 inches.
    I think one of the ways I started to accept my body more was to look bodies that looked similar to mine- you and I both know how difficult that can be! I felt like a stalker, obsessively looking a photos on Flickr, and other death fat blogs, until I realized I needed to add another variation to the mix. This is actually the reason I started to outfit blog in the first place- to create more diversity in what kinds of bodies folks can relate to.

  • Death Fatty, Represent!
    Honestly, I didn’t know about the fashion February thing until the 2nd day. And then? Well, I just didn’t see how I could participate. I enjoy the pictures and all, and damn Marianne is a snappy dresser, but I just don’t have the energy lately.
    I feel ya on the lack of death fat thing. I do think that we get pushed aside in the mix, as so many smaller/in-betweeny fats seem to garner more attention. It’s BS, but unless we’re willing to get more involved, be more visible (I am not sure how, you’re doing an excellent job of this, Kath) and participate even more and even then, what would be the result?
    I think I’m more fed up than depressed at this point. With so many things, but not FA over all.
    When you are feeling blue, remember that we’re right here rooting for you! ❤

    • Yup, I see a whole lot of smaller fats and inbetweenies getting reblogged and “Oh you’re so cute!” than I do we deathfats. Particularly the younger ones. It’s frustrating that the appearance of the woman garners more attention than her style and clothing.

      One day I’ll have to explain to you what “rooting” means to Australians!

  • The tumblr discussion has been equal amounts weird and interesting. I’m a small fat. I’ve been told I’m not fat and I’ve had my involvement in fat acceptance questioned, which sucks. An extra, separate space for death fatties? Doesn’t suck and doesn’t question my fatness. I’m fat but I have thin privilege and it’s really strange that a lot of people aren’t ok with admitting that themselves.

    The whole thing was a really good reminder for me to keep Hey Fat Chick as diverse as possible. (My content leans towards white and femme, and I’ve got to shake that up too.) The interesting thing is that I’ve been looking at photos of fat women for so long that the under-represented body shapes are the most interesting to look at.

    PS. I love your lumps.

    • That’s kind of why I haven’t weighed in (oh, see what I did there) on the Tumblr discussion. Simply because by saying that I want to see more deathfatz and that I want a space where I’m with people who understand what it’s like to be deathfat gets conflated with saying that smaller fats or conventionally acceptable shaped women are not welcome in the fatosphere, and I don’t have the energy to debate that at the moment.

      And Frances, Hey Fat Chick is one of the few spaces that I do see variety. Sure, there’s room to broaden that (oh God I did it again!) but you already have representations of FAR more diverse body types than most other spaces. I source many of my favourite fatties to reblog from you. And I’ve told you before that Hey Fat Chick was one of the resources that just blew open my world when I was first exploring Fat Acceptance.

  • I was just talking to notblueatall about this yesterday! I am myself in the ‘death fat’ category, and I have a hell of a time getting clothes that fit right. My biggest problem is that while I am a big woman, I really don’t have that big of boobs. I’m usually at lest a cup size below fitting in tops that otherwise fit my wide shoulders but look horrible on me because they just hang on my chest. Also, women with big chests complain about finding bras that fit, but try being having a big ribcage and a small cup size. I think they don’t think I exist.

    So that is why I’ve resolved to improve my modest sewing skills. If I don’t like what I see in fashion, I’ve got to be the change I want to see!

    • Hi Squeegeelicious, thanks for jumping in to comment.

      I think the bra thing is SO arbitrary. There is this narrow band of size proportions that manufacturers have decided is the “majority” and that’s what they make to. If you’re a combination of size/shape/proportion that doesn’t fit into that narrow range (say either large band and small cup, as yourself, or very large cup such as myself), then you’re ignored.

  • Alas, I too am a barrel. :0) I come from a long line of barrels. I’m not deathfatz but damn, it’s hard finding clothes that fit properly! Couple that with a not-so-magnificent rack and it’s near impossible to find a bra that fits too. I feel your frustration, Squeegeelicious. Any of the plus size stores I shop at don’t even carry B-cup bras, which I need. Any B-cup bras I find in other stores won’t fit around the old barrel.

  • Sending some love at you babe.

    As I have become fatter I have become more ’round’. My belly is large enough to obscure the fact that I used to be more of an hourglass shape. But I don’t have the ‘luck’ of the traditional apple shape (who usually has thin legs and a rounded body). So I have fat legs, fat butt and hips, fat belly, big boobs and fat arms. And yeah, it is hella hard to buy clothes (let alone nice clothes) when you are this shape. I hear you sister.

    (How goes that beautiful bald head of yours?)

    • I’m fuzzy now, rather than bald. Actually I think I might even be fluffy. It has grown SO fast. I think it shall be time to colour it something ridiculous very soon.

      I’m like a barrel with limbs. Fairly solid limbs at that. The body is the hard bit to dress though.

    • sounds luscious!!!

      Yeah I have the thin legs of an apple… which looks more like a caramel apple on a stick…!! 🙂

  • Ah, I’m so glad I stumbled upon this blog. I always felt so alone when it came to this issue. So I guess all I have to say is thank you!

  • Hello,

    So I read your rant about how you have big boobs and a big belly and that clothes today are made for hourglass and pear shaped women… I am a pear and every time I try a dress on it’s huge boobs, huge belly and tight hips. If you know of a place that caters to pears please, I BEG YOU, let me know asap, because I can safely recommend crossroads, city chic and target for huge top with small bottom. If you can’t seem to find clothes I think you’re trying the wrong size. 🙂

    • Wow. This possibly wins the prize for THE most ignorant, dismissive and experience erasing comment I’ve ever received.

      Firstly, you don’t read the post properly. Then you comment and effectively say “If you can’t find clothes to fit you, you’re too stupid to try the right size.” You erase the experience of every woman who has a body shape other than the same as yours, AND you cap it all off with a passive aggressive smiley face.

      A few dot points for you:

      *If someone says they are unable to find suitable clothing to fit their body size/shape, then that is their experience. Your assumption that the clothes YOU find would be suitable is offensive.
      *Read the post again: we are talking about size 24 & above – Crossroads & CityChic do not cater to these sizes.
      *A “barrel” shape is not “huge boobs, huge belly, small butt”. The discussion is about a large torso (regardless of breast/hip size) that is not hourglass.
      *Not finding clothes for one body shape does not imply that all other body shapes are suitably catered for. Nobody is suggesting other fat body shapes do not have issues finding clothes to fit them (except you).
      *Saying that people “are not trying the right size” treats them like they are stupid and incapable of knowing what fits their own body.

      Your comment is rude and condescending and frankly a really shitty attitude to have for someone who supposedly supports fat acceptance.

    • Prickly Pear,
      If I were to reply with recommendations on a blog, I’d at least read the post to see if the author already mentioned it.

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