Shame from Within

Published September 14, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I need me a good vent!  And you, dear Heffalumpies, you’re gonna hear it.

There’s something that really pisses me off.  It’s the amount of body shaming and general snark that goes on wherever plus-size clothing retailers share their product.  Be that on blogs, Twitter, their Facebook page or anywhere else their supposed customers can comment on their stock and catalogues.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe very strongly in giving businesses feedback, and if they treat their customers like shit, I’m going to say so.  What I’m talking about is the body shaming and snark that goes on between the customers, about other fat bodies.

Now I completely understand wanting to be able to find clothing of certain cuts, and not being able to wear some styles.  For example, I can’t wear anything that buttons through the front.  Simply because I feel uncomfortable in it and they pull and gape over my magnificent giant boobs.  I also don’t wear anything with high or crew necklines, because I feel like they are choking me.  So if a company posts a picture of something with one of those features for their customers to view and give feedback, I’m going to ask if they have something that has a scoop or v-neckline perhaps, or simply leave feedback that I’m unable to wear button through garments myself.

What I am NOT going to do is suggest that they should not produce any garments with high necklines or button through fronts.  Because that defeats the whole purpose of trying to get plus-size companies to listen to us.  We need MORE options, not less.  Besides, it would be pretty bloody arrogant of me to assume because I don’t want something, nobody does.

The other thing that REALLY shits me, is the way people comment with body shame.  Instead of saying “I prefer not to go sleeveless.” or asking if there are any options with sleeves because they’re not comfortable going sleevless, we see “DON’T YOU KNOW FAT WOMEN CAN’T GO SLEEVELESS???!!!”  Or “That’s just not flattering!”  Sometimes they even say things like “You clearly don’t know how to dress fat women.”  They assume that because they want to hide their bodies away, and that because they loathe their own fat bodies, that everyone should.

To my mind, plus-size clothing threads should be the ONE place we can escape from body snark and bitchiness.  It should be the place we go to talk about fabulous clothes, to share the things we need and want while making sure these companies know what works and what doesn’t.  After all, we’re all in the same boat – we’re all fat, we all need plus-sized clothing and we all have a vast lack of options (some of us less than others), so we should be working together.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, just that we work together to get plus-size clothing companies to produce a variety of things in a suitable quality, price and sizing.

It’s so frustrating to have so much shaming coming from my fellow fatties.  I know that’s because society tells fat women that they should hide themselves away, and be ashamed of themselves, but surely we have enough experiences with being shamed by non-fat people that we’d avoid shaming our fellow fatties.

All I want is to be able to talk about plus-size clothing options without seeing body shame!  Is it that hard?

34 comments on “Shame from Within

  • Guilty as charged!!!! I have always thought that there were certain taboos in clothing that fat women should not do….sleeveless, short skirts, etc.

    BUT – then I found your blog and others and realized that we need some variety, we need to be able to be comfortable in our clothes and comfortable with our bodies. No more wearing 3/4 length sleeves in 100 degree weather because I don’t want my fat arms to show.

    I will admit that I suffer some discomfort when I wear something that is out of my normal “comfort zone.” But, I’m working on it. It’s really hard to change your own pattern of thinking!!

    Thanks for another thought-inducing post!

    • You’re welcome La. And I still have lots of styles and shapes that I don’t wear. The aforementioned high necklines and button throughs for examples. I don’t wear them because I don’t like how they look on me, and that’s perfectly fine. The difference is when people don’t like them on their own bodies, so they assume that nobody with a fat body should wear them.

      I never, ever wore sleeveless at one point in my life. I never wore skirts above the knee. I never wore fitted styles. Because I listened to all those voices who said “Fat women shouldn’t…”

      I reject those voices now. The only person who decides what I should and shouldn’t do is… ME!

  • I know exactly what you are talking about, and sometimes I feel like smacking people upside the head when they start generalising like that!

    I love my bingo wings – flappity-flappity-flap! (guess who!) 🙂

  • Agreed x 1000! I also hate that certain perfectly innocent styles have been labelled as “flattering” or “appropriate” for fat women, so that if you do like to wear them, many people think you’re being a good fats for following the stupid rules. I like sleeves…for sun protection, not because I hate my arms (couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of their fatness!). I like long skirts, because they’re swishy and fun, not because I think my legs shouldn’t be seen. I like empire waists because I’m so short-waisted they fit my torso normally not because I want “skimming fabric to hide whatever”. I like to wear all black not because it’s allegedly slimming but because I’m a tragic old goth. 🙂 DAMN YOU FASHION AND BODY POLICE!

    • Yeah. Much like eating and moving, wearing clothes is annoyingly divided into “Bad fattie, you need to be shamed!” and “Good fattie, you must be doing this because of all of the rules and shaming!” (and a lot of people get stuck on both sides at once).

      I tend to dislike tank tops and most patterns and like big shirts and a lot of black, and not because society told me to. I like short sleeves, casual shorts and not feeling obligated to wear extra layers when I don’t feel like it, and not because I’m a bad fattie with no idea of what’s flattering.

      (And I would really like more plus-sized tops that have either no patterns or fairly quiet patterns, and no fake jewelry stuck on.)

    • Indeed Madam Q – like the colour black, or even navy, burgundy and chocolate brown. And people always feel the need to comment on it too. Every time I wear lots of black, (which isn’t very often), people say “Oh, that’s so slimming.” Or when I wear certain cuts/styles, they comment on how flattering the shapes are.

      BLARGH! I wear things because I like them, not because they are slimming or flattering. I also wear things because they are practical – ie sleeves to protect from the sun, long skirts to keep the wind off my legs, etc, not because I’m trying to hide my body!

      • Great Post!
        I recently decided to buy an outfit before a trip on short notice (on the way to the airport). I ended up with a long embellished tank top and sweater–the tank was much longer than I normally would wear and completely covers my stomach. I have gotten more compliments on this ensemble than anything else I’ve worn in months. Folks seem to think they’re just being nice, but I want to yell at them–I wouldn’t normally have chosen this! You only like it because it covers my stomach! There’s nothing wrong with my stomach!

  • I have noticed that too Kath. I think it does a disservice to those of us who are trying to encourage clothes manufacturers to make clothes to fit us larger people.

  • I’d gladly wear a tank top, if I could find one that wouldn’t expose my bra. And I’ve tried on zillions, it’s very frustrating. Exposing skin is one thing; I’d rather keep my underwear to myself.

    • Holy crap, I have this same problem. I noticed it’s two-fold: larger bras have more coverage nearer to the neck (including thicker straps), and bad cuts based on a nested doll pattern that starts at the proportions of a size 12 doesn’t work when you get to most size 24+s, leaving gaping armholes and necklines that plunge to bellybuttons.

    • I have the same issue Meowser – they have those giant armholes, or have scrawny little straps. I wouldn’t mind if I could actually buy plus-sized bras with pretty straps to show off, but the ugly bras that are the only ones that fit me are not what I want to be flaunting.

  • Here, here!

    I want empire waists and dropped ones and ones that hit the average natural waistline! I want long sleeves and short sleeves and sleeveless and strapless! I want every color of the rainbow and beyond! I want short skirts and long skirts! I want tight pants and palazzos!

    Okay, I personally don’t want every piece of clothing on that list. But I want to have the choice. I want to be able to walk into a brick and mortar store and find a variety of styles, colors, and fiber contents to choose from.

    I vividly remember once going to the (at the time) only store in my entire city that carried plus sized clothing because I needed a new shirt. Every. Single. Shirt. In. There. either was completely sequined or had rhinestones on it. Every single shirt had a huge, wide neckline that turned obscene when I bent over because I’m a small-busted fat woman whose waistline is slightly bigger than her bustline. All of them were in grayed out or browned out pastel tones with swirly paisley or Victorianesque floral patterns. They were virtually all polyester blend tee shirts with three-quarter sleeves.

    In short, I had zero choice. None of these features was bad in and of itself, though several of them held absolutely no appeal to me, and one… well, those necklines were a real problem for me. I had the choice of getting a shirt that I could barely squeeze my waist into or of getting one that revealed my nipples and slid off one shoulder a la Flashdance if I moved slightly.

    I finally chose a shirt (I was desperate) in a slightly moldy (to me) blue swirly floral with less rhinestones on it and wore it over a tank in the summer and a turtleneck in the winter. Oh, and I spent an afternoon picking off the rhinestones. I hated the neckline, I hated the rhinestones, I hated the print, I wasn’t crazy about the color, and I hated the fact that I could only wear it in layers.

    I never did like that shirt. But I was stuck because it was the only thing I could get. I never want to feel that frustrated and stuck while buying clothes again.

    • Oh Twistie, I hear your pain with the loathed shirt that you were forced to choose. I am discovering that there is a whole section of my wardrobe that was purchased around about the same time, that consists of so many tunic tops with shark-bite hemlines that I just want to build a bonfire and burn the fucking lot of them. I have them because at the time, there were no other options. Then once I had paid good money for the only garments I could find, I had to wear them because they cost that good money and needed to be used. Thankfully now my wardrobe has expanded away from needing to wear them, so I can rid myself of the scourge of the shark-bite hem. I fucking hate shark-bite hemlines!!

      But that said, if other people like them, I’m not going to stop them wearing them. I just want OPTIONS myself.

  • I saw a woman on a fat space who was really working a mini skirt and top combo outfit and looked superb, even though I wouldn’t dream of it myself, so what? She looked fab.

    Someone just had to say, erm oh hum, I really hate to tell you, but erm, err, I’m a really nice person etc., but its a fatz duty to fight the power by “flattering” themselves, yahwn.

    Oh really? I will never get the seconds it took to skim that, back, thanks for that. Luckily the lady in question didn’t give a damn.

    • The same thing happened to me recently wriggles – I saw this awesome photo of a young fat woman in a boob tube, tiny denim shorts and braces – and while I would never wear that outfit myself, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable in it, I’m not going to tell her she should cover her body or dress in a different way. She was completely rocking it with her confidence and style.

      But then, someone came along and played the old “I’m really nice and I’m being kind… but hide your fat body.” card.


  • When I used to belong to Torrid’s facebook page, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen “FAT CHICKS SHOULDN’T WEAR SKINNY JEANS” whenever Torrid posted about their skinny jeans.

    Those who said “well I can rock them” were shot down.

  • This behavior is infuriating. And the attitudes of the damn retailers is even moreso. I was skimming the Lane Bryant website yesterday (as well as Catherine’s & Fashion Bug, part of the same company) & they had a survey about your body type, clothing preferences, etc. I took it just for the hell of it, not that I give a damn what anyone else tells me to wear, & their computer so ‘carefully’ analyzed my answers & told me that I should wear lots of conservative dark colors, big shirts, no shirts tucked in, or belts, no horizontal stripes, make sure to hide my big belly, yadda, yadda….the same shit I was reading 30 years ago! The clothing they recommended to me was diametrically opposed to everyone I actually like or really wear. And, no, they didn’t have a damn thing on all three websites that I personally would wear to weed a garden &, given their emphasis on ‘flattering’ & ‘slenderizing’, I wouldn’t buy it if they did. Provide decent clothes for us & let US decide what we want to wear.

    And I have been repeatedly going this week to SFWeekly online, to read Marilyn Wann’s articles, & especially to look at her photos of fashion modeled by people in the No Lose Fatshion Show. Looking at those pictures gives me a huge lift & makes me smile.

    • I tried the Lane Bryant survey. I’m a smaller fat. I’ve bought their dresses once and I’ve recently purchased bras from them. The dress that I bought this summer was a size 14 from Dress Barn. I don’t even know if a size 14 from Lane Bryant would fit me or be too big. Anyway, the survey suggested that I layer my clothes. Wear shirts that hide my tummy. It said no horizontal stripes. Its suggestions made me feel like I was trying to conceal instead of enhance my figure.

      If I believed their suggestions, I would never go outside in a tank top. The only time I don’t like having bigger than average size arms is when I’m looking for a jacket since it makes finding one that fits harder. I don’t want to cover them up. I think my arms are very sexy and look very toned for a woman my age. I think I’m blessed with smooth, healthy looking skin and I want to show it off.

      I rarely wear layers on top or long shirts like Lane Bryant suggested. I do think it would look good on me, but I don’t want to spend the time and money replacing all the clothes I have.

    • You know what Patsy? I can tolerate it a whole lot better from the retailers than I can from my fellow fatties. It’s bad enough the retailers buying into that “flattering” crap, but when it’s my fellow fats shaming other fats, it REALLY burns my bread.

      And hey, when does Marilyn Wann’s work NOT cheer one up?

  • I hear ya. I, for example, are not very keen on most of the Asos Curve clothes; they’re just not my style, the dresses are too short for my liking and most of the styles don’t work so well without a decent strapless bra, which I haven’t been able to find. I still love what they’re doing (excluding the limited sizing), even more because they’re one of the only retailers that bring the trends to plus sizes at the same time they’re presented with the main range. And even though they’re not my kind of clothes, I just love seeing people wear their cutesy short dresses and playsuits and other stuff! When I do, I never think “ooh that’s too short on her” but more along the lines of “ooh I would love that in midi length”.

    This behaviour, though, is totally related to that of some commenters in FA spaces who try to pass judgement as “fellow fatties”, like if having a stigmatized body somehow gave you a freebie on body shaming someone else.

    • beep, I have seen that too. It’s like some folk think “Well I know what it’s like to be harped on about my body, so it’s ok for me to do it.”

      No it isn’t. It’s never ok, no matter who is doing it.

  • Y’know I think part of it comes from the lack of visibility of fat bodies. I’m a fat with huge knockers and I’d sell my left arm for clothes with v necks that rock my cleavage! And I used to assume that all women my size had big boobs – after all, if we’re fat elsewhere we’ll be fat there too right?

    But then one day I was changing at the swimming pool with a fat friend of mine (the only person I know IRL who’s as big as me) and I looked over and saw she actually had quite small boobs. It was a bit of a revelation to me. Seeing her clothed I’d thought her ‘flat-ish’ looking chest was due to her clothing choices but naked it was obvious she just wasn’t built the way I was… and I had expected that, being of a similar size, she would be.

    Anyway going by what I see in the shops (the little we have over here in New Zealand) I assume that it’s not just us fatties that don’t realise we’re all built differently – plus size retailers do too. We need only 1 thing: more variety!

    • I agree tanz33 – we never see the clothes modelled on bodies like our own, unless we go hunting in fatshion blogs. If we only saw a variety of sizes and shapes, we would have much more normalisation of different kinds of bodies, and people wouldn’t get so snarky about seeing a body that was different to other bodies.

  • I don’t layer unless I’m going to be in an environment of uncertain temperature.

    @Twistie, I’ve always been a proportionately small-busted fat woman – don’t know what decade you’re referring to in your post, but years ago in your situation, I would have gone to a men’s store or the men’s department to try to find a proper shirt in a better material. Men’s shirts would probably have been a better fit for your shape. In my case, the sleeves were always too long, but turning up the cuffs worked well.

    Clothing issues – at one time, BBW magazine (sadly defunct) did a survey where they asked fat people to go to the thin women’s department and pick out some clothes that they’d like to buy if the clothes were the right size for them. I think today’s retailers should do something like that – show a selection of clothing styles they’re thinking of producing and doing some surveys and getting thoughtful comments like “I’d buy that if it weren’t in polyester”, or “I’d wear that if you sold a good supportive bra that would go with it” or “nice outfit but the colors are too drab”.

    The body shaming, as you pointed out Kath, comes mostly from other fat women – that’s the sad part of it.

    • I would LOVE to see the same clothes made for straight-sizes offered for plus-sizes. Yes, they have to be adjusted slightly to fit different shaped bodies, but only slightly. What we see are radical differences in the styles between straight and plus sizes!

  • Bad in the dark days of my Ed, i would do the “good fattie” dressing thing. dark colors. Dont show arms. In my case i never wore dresses or skirts,even though i liked them because i would get a rash. Every single time. It made me feel, well fat. bad. wrong. I couldn’t wear the main bit of clothing for women for like fucking eons because i was ashamed of my chub rub.

    Getting into FA has let me be more Seeing other fatshonistas, while not really my thing at least showed me, DARED me to dress with an eye to style, and quit hiding. I exist. Its OK to take up space, and not try to blend my body into the background. Turns out i love color. I look great in bright pinks. bright greens, deep purple. and OMG jeggins. i use the shorts to let me wear skirts….turns out biker shorts=no more chub rub…and aint nobody trying to look under my skirt but my fiancee…and he knows whats there.

    I am big busted and very tall but shortwaisted for my height. shirts usually fit me perfectly….i guess plus sized retailer think of my bustline when it comes to shirts. my tits fit et. i just stay away from strap less. i have yet to find a comfortable strapless brat that also fits my hip width correctly. that is my problem area in clothing…. waistlines. Hip huggers don’t fit my butt right…and everything else buttons like 2 inches over my belly button. i have no idea how to fix this issue, but i am the one buying the empire wiasted thing, the babydoll dresses. their “artificially” high waistlines are perfect for me.

    fianlly i cant ever EVER find pants long enough. im 6 foot 2 and becuase of the short waist i am all leg. short skirts look impossibly vulgar on me. mid leng stuff will hit me like 4 inches above the knee. “floor” length stuff hits mid calf. i think i have found exactly ONE dress in 20 years that gets anywhere near ankle length.

  • First time poster, long time reader and this topic really irks me! I tend to watch the show Fashion Police on E! with Joan Rivers and several other celebrities, I know its a shallow show but I enjoy looking at beautiful dresses so that’s why I watch. But the Emmy’s special outraged me! There was a beautiful full-figured actress/singer wearing this goregous bright yellow strapless dress and she looked stunning. Yet all Joan Rivers et al could talk about was the silk stole she wore because it was appropriate that she covered her arms. They immediately assumed that because she was a larger lady she would, of course, want her arms covered! God forbid someone sees an arm that isn’t the size of a twig and it was so insensitive and just focused on her size rather than how beautiful she looked. They said practically the same thing about Melissa McCarthy who wore a long sleeve dress because ‘obviously, she wants her arms covered’ (that is paraprashed but pretty much the exact quote). I know this particular post is discussing fat-shaming from within but the whole arm debacle you mentioned in the post just made me think of this occasion. I don’t know whether to continue watching the show but I will always, always, always show my arms if I want/choose to!

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