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.
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
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.