When you’re a size 28 – or even a size 24 – or a size 16/18 in the 7th grade – you get used to the following behaviors while shopping:
1)You expect disappointment. Even now, with massive improvements in plus size designs, the majority of plus size clothing still falls in the ranges of “yuck!” to “eh.” When I dive into a consignment shop, a new store or even a familiar catalogue I know I will reject far more than I like. I choose to focus on the positive as much as I can – besides, it’s not like all straight size fashion is a hit.
2)You anticipate disrespect. From “The large sizes are over there –“ (in THAT tone”) to holding up a couch-print caftan and hearing “this would looks really cute on you,” (female social violence, oh, the party never ends) people don’t just not even try to get what you are looking for, they can’t fathom that a snappy pair of heels and a diet won’t fix what’s really going on in your life. I have often done the “apologize for my weight,” thing – something I am most certainly NOT sorry for – just to get a saleswoman to drop her attitude.
I have done this far more than I care to admit.
3)You find yourself judging others, especially those of your own size. It’s sad. The default position is still one of female social violence, as though we’re not beating ourselves up and getting beaten up enough.
I like to think these things are improving, but I also realize that more women around me know I have a blog, and at times an acid pen when it comes to certain “female typical” behaviors. (Men are just as subject to my ire.)
I might not be seeing or even feeling the true experience of the plus size shopper anymore. I go online a lot. When I do shop “live,” I’m a lot more outspoken – I have stopped people dead in the YWCA locker room when they ask about my weight and fitness goals. “I don’t discuss my body, and I mean it. I am here for exercise, not for goals.” I have stood up for myself to people in retail – with great empathy, as I have worked in retail. “I know what suits my life. It isn’t spike heels.” I have called out people for using “fat” as a term for some sort of character failing, and it happens so often that it’s now reflexive. The response is generally the usual screwed up body spew, but that I’m getting that spew does mean I’ve jarred a few neurons loose.
Whether conscious or not, I’ve gone from advocate to activist. It’s actually very natural to me.
Digging for Clothes
I am also so used to the majority of plus-size fashion choices being lousy that I expect to spend a lot of time digging. That’s how Fat Chic started, after all. I noticed a proliferation of plus size shops emerging online, and they weren’t getting a great reach. There were more choices – more things to dig through – and it increased the odds of finding good stuff. To be clear, I didn’t do the blog for those shops – I did it for the shoppers, namely one shopper, namely – me.
In 5 years of blogging and 30+ of digging through plus size clothing stores, here’s what I’ve learned:
1)No shop will ever suit ALL your needs.
3)Sensible shoes can actually be cute – and you’ll be a better human being when your feet don’t hurt.
4)Always look. Always dig. No matter how often a brand disappoints me, I always look – because when I do, I might find that one thing. Maybe it’s a lovely shell top, or a retro-style dress. Maybe it’s unbelievably awesome shoes, or a magic bra. No matter how underwhelming the retailer, I can often find that one thing that rounds out my wardrobe or makes living in my clothes easier.
It’s a complicated business, this plus size apparel niche. First of all, it shouldn’t really be a niche. Second of all, because it is, there’s this horribly awkward feeling from companies that want to break into the market, even from those that have already been in the market for a long time. They just don’t know how to talk to the fat girls. “Can we call them fat? But that’s so loaded…” Nevermind that it is they themselves that have loaded the word.
It’s still complicated, and the culture of Fat = all the evils in the world versus fat = one possible physical state to live in that is NOT always a health problem has become an all-out brawl. The diet industry is scared. It should be – the diet industry is the cause of this whole “obesity epidemic” and if anyone calms down despite the constant scare-mongering fed to the media, they’re going to be in a whole world of trouble with every single person in North America and Europe. China may have good reason to get in on that action, too.
I look forward to that day.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep digging, keep creating, and use this blog as a place to start transformation. Start within, with how you think, with what you tell yourself. For some people, a good outfit can really help with that.