I get it. I’m a size 28. Not a small size 28, but an end of the scale Lane Bryant standard size 28, and my friends can attest to that being a product of something other than sitting on my butt eating bon bons, and I think this may actually be true of most actual plus and simply average-but-convinced-they’re-plus (say, sizes 12 and 14) women. I can always tell when a friend isn’t going to stay a friend for very much longer, when that person wants me to shop with them. It’s always someone who’s size 12 or below who knows the shops they visit will offer me nothing. I’ll get stuck standing their lamely while my soon to be ex “friend” goes on an ego parade.
I don’t foresee my body changing, and I don’t foresee tormenting myself to make my body acceptable. I do foresee a lot more mainstream stores that right now stop at size 8 and get self-righteous about it suddenly “discovering” the economic wonderland of plus sizes …. and getting it really, really wrong. Hell, that’s what Ann Taylor did, and when no one bought their so-called plus that only ever went up to 16, they scrambled for an excuse to drop the line, citing the bad economy despite a)designs that only worked for a few people and b)never, EVER advertising outside of a company mailing list that they extended their sizes.
Because I run this blog and I research rather than shop, I’m more tuned in to the options that plus women in the US, and I have a general sense of what’s available in the UK, Canada and Australia. The conditions of Canada and Australia make me want to start a Fashion Amnesty International, because the lack of choice is deplorable.
But the US? It needs improvement, but it’s better than it was even two years ago for plus women. That’s because some core assumptions are changing, and some core fashion-philosophy conflicts are rising to the surface.
Here are some assumptions that have changed:
1. There’s a long running belief that fat women need to dress to look thin to look nice. The entire fatshionista movement has raised a glorious middle finger to that concept. Thank the punk movement, I think. Fat women are dressing to feel good as much as to look good, and a lot of women over at my favorite fatshionista group are embracing even what is popularly perceived as socially unacceptable curves. The outfits these women post themselves in don’t generally make them look thin. But they work.
2. Fat is automatically unhealthy. There’s a whole lot of research suggesting that fat and fit are not mutually exclusive, and yes, there are healthy fat people out there – even Death!Fatties that train for and participate in marathons. Yes, these people are real. If your first response to this is anger and denial, it makes me wonder why you enjoy believing the worst about people.
3. Every fat person wants to wear the “skinny” designs. Sometimes, yes. I know a lot of people who gaze longingly at Anthropologie and the like. But now that there’s a plus fashion design movement of its own out there designed for larger bodies, I think the game has changed and will continue to change as new designers appear yearly.
Here is where fatshionistas may conflict:
1. Some of them want larger sizes of the “skinny” clothes. While certainly manufacturers use a lot of excuses for not offering plus, “brand damage” being the excuse behind refusing the market, any mass produced clothier CAN produce plus sizes. What they do instead is a consumer fake-out: Forever21 clothing is barely plus sized, only really covering a size 16 at the largest (though I have seen pics of women at 22/24 squeezing in to some of their tops – that’s body variety for you) – and H&M stops dead at size 16, which I would classify as “not actually plus size.”
I think in terms of pick-and-choose when it comes to wanting a mainstream clothier to offer TRUE plus sizes, and most just won’t do it until their market share dwindles to nothing. What women have to look out for is contempt in design. I can see places like American Apparel designing stuff for the fatties that’s intended to punish them for being fat. And I can see some people being so enthralled with the brand that it turns them blind, and buying the crap just because it’s American Apparel, or Anthropologie, or wherever.
2. Some want high-end designers to step up. We’ve got our specialists in Anna Scholz, Ralph Lauren (yes, there’s a true plus offering from them), Qristyl Frazier and Eileen Fischer – but there are folks out there who want Hermes, Gaultier and Chanel. While I again think it’s mainly brand hypnosis behind this, a)there’s been some progress and b)I’m curious as to how we’d be treated.
3. There is a camp that believes plus designs should be different from small-size design. There’s much more variety in body type and shape once you get past a size 10, and that’s also one of the rare valid reasons for mainstream/mass produced designers to skip out on offering plus sizes. Think about the multiple companies offering custom jeans fits: most of them have women above a size 12 in mind, because nobody has exactly the same hip shapes these days.
I personally think that if a brand refuses to carry my size, finding ways to throw money at them is not going to improve their inclination to clothe me, but is simply going to give money to someone who already views me with contempt. I’d much rather invest in myself.
But, if the money doesn’t matter to you, here’s a better “bite me” flag:
See if you can find the clothing piece you want, any size, from a friend who no longer wants it, a garage sale, thrift store, wherever. Carefully rip out the seams. If you yourself can sew, use the clothing for a base pattern and draw a new pattern in your size. If you can’t, heavily bribe a friend who can sew to do this for you, or take it to a seamstress. You’ll get the same outfit, and it’s likely yours will be made better if you take it to a single point professional.