Clothing is one of the most visible ways we get to express ourselves. Through the things we wear, and how we wear them, we tell the world something about ourselves. Everything from our beliefs and personal standards, our taste in music, film and television, our sense of humour, our favourite colours, how confident we are (or aren’t) with our bodies, what kind of work we do, how we spend our leisure time, and indeed our personalities can be shown through the way we present ourselves with clothing.
For fat people, taking pride in dressing, developing style and dabbling in fashion are all radical acts. We are constantly told we’re not allowed to enjoy dressing, fashion, style, shopping and expressing ourselves. By being visible, we’re giving ourselves a presence and a voice in the world. This is why fat people are regularly ridiculed for the way we dress, because we pose a threat to the status quo.
Which makes me think of this hilarious video from Flight of the Conchords:
For fat people, our clothing options are severely limited. We don’t have the vast choices that are available in straight sizes, nor do we have as many affordable options. Thanks to the availability of online shopping and a lot of campaigning on behalf of fatshionistas in the US, UK and Australia (and many other places too), those options are starting to open up a little more, but they are nowhere near the level that are around for straight sizes. You only have to look in department stores and compare the floor space given to straight sizes as opposed to those given to plus-sizes to see evidence of that.
Not to mention that fat people are expected to “flatter” their bodies in the way they dress. These limits are placed upon us by people who are offended by seeing fat bodies, so we’re expected to minimise, disguise and cover our bodies with dark, shapeless clothing. Baring skin, wearing bold or busy prints or bright or light colours and choosing form-fitting or “body-con” clothing is seen as “innapropriate” on a fat person when it’s found perfectly acceptable on a not-fat person. Even our own clothing brands and providers constantly sell us ways to “flatter your figure” or “dress for your body type” – which I feel is shaming their own customers. When are plus-size clothing companies going to realise that WE are their customers and WE don’t need to be shamed by them to buy their products?
So, how do we get around these factors to be able to dress ourselves in the way we want and need to?
The first way I think is to let go of what other people think of the way we look. We are under no obligation to make our appearance pleasing to others. Besides, we all know, you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. Instead, we need to be focusing on making ourselves happy and wearing the things that make us feel good. If you are happiest in the kind of clothes you can just throw on and ignore for the rest of the day, then go for it. If you prefer to dress in high fashion style, then go for it, no matter what anyone says you should or shouldn’t be wearing. I’m personally somewhere in between – I don’t feel the need to be a slave to fashion, but I love developing my own personal style and love taking time to dress and present myself to the world. I like being able to express myself through my clothing.
Because we have so few options, the next thing I think we get really good at doing is “making it work”. I know myself, I love clothes that have colour and vibrancy, but so much of plus-sized clothing is black and plain. I’ve had to build a collection of colour and work out ways to accessorise to bring colour and vibrancy into my wardrobe. And you know what they say, nobody accessorises like a fat gal!
Part of making things work is being able to doctor your wardrobe as well. Adding embellishments, shaping things to fit your body, letting them out, a little tweak here, and a little tweak there.
But finally, the most important thing is to work on loving your body. When you start to love your body, you begin to look at dressing differently. You don’t see that red stop sign of “shouldn’t” when you go shopping and look at garments. When you start to be unapologetic about your body, the range of clothing you can wear greatly expands. You give up the whole list of “I can’t…” clothes. No more “I can’t wear sleeveless.” or “I can’t wear skirts/dresses.” or “I can’t wear form fitted clothing.” and that opens up your options so much wider than when you had those restrictions. Of course, it doesn’t happen overnight. Maybe you start with a dress when you’ve always worn pants. Or you whip that shrug or cardie off when you get too warm. But slowly, when you immerse yourself in body positivity and work on learning to love your body, you find yourself taking more and more risks… and things that seemed risky once, no longer seem so.
I think I will hand over to the amazing Virgie Tovar, with her video on how to FatDazzle your wardrobe:
So, tell me how you work your own personal style? What kind of clothes and accessories do you love? How do you “make things work”? And what about your changing view of your body – have you seen your clothing style change with it? And how? Let’s have a discussion!