Fatshion–or not?

I was watching Margitte Kristjansson’s documentary ‘The Fat Body (In)visible“. . .I’ve heard people talk about it, refer to it, and comment on it for months, but I never really got around to watching it myself until tonight.

One of the ladies being interviewed, Jessica (tangledupinlace), made a seemingly harmless comment that made me upset the more that I thought about it. She said Fat style is one of the biggest ways I believe you can be political as a fat body. She went on to talk about how fat fashion is limited (thin girls have an entire mall to shop in while fat girls have one store of matronly, shaming clothes.) And it’s true–don’t get me wrong!

What I’m going to discuss is something I’ve seen go around tumblr for a while now. That many of the mouthpieces for Fat Activism are fatshionistas. They’re mostly white, generally on the smaller side of fat, still with thinner arms and legs, and they have the means and the money to dress impeccably whenever they’d like.

I know that as a white woman myself, I have a certain amount of privilege. But when it comes to fatshion–let’s just say I’m a disaster.

First of all, tipping the scales at a size 30/32, I struggle to find clothes that fit, and fit well. I know it’s an issue for all fat bodies, but even moreso when you’re on the larger end, as I am. I can’t squeeze myself into straight-size clothes. On the majority of the nicer plus size sites, the more attractive clothes always stop a size or two before mine.

And even if they had my size, I couldn’t afford them. On top of being a full time student while working a job that makes not much more than minimum wage, and living on my own in a state that has one of the highest costs of living, finding fresh new outfits, accessories, makeup, etc., to make a statement with my fat body is pretty low on my list of necessities.

People suggest that I go thrifting. That I learn to make/alter my own clothes. I tried to take that suggestion. Cheap clothes? Hell yeah! And so I’ve gone thrifting, many times. And I’ve never found anything fashionable. If there’s only one store in the mall that I can go to that sells matronly, shaming clothes, imagine the ugliest of the clothes there, that wouldn’t even sell. That’s what’s waiting for me at a thrift store.

And making my own clothes? The last thing you want to do is put me near anything sharp or anything involving a pattern. I’m almost certain I have undiagnosed dyscalculia, and it makes me wary of anything involving measurements or patterns or long sets of instructions. Making things is just not one of my talents.

I make do with what I have, and I’ve come a very long way from where I used to be fashion-wise, but I get disheartened every time I see some of my followers post an OotD (outfit of the day) that are meticulously put together, pictures taken with expensive cameras and good lighting. Sometimes I think, what’s the point? My fashion’s nowhere near on par with that. No one’s going to take me seriously. No one’s going to notice me. I’m never going to be as visible in this movement as I want to be.

It makes me frustrated. All I really have is my simple blog (between here and my tumblr) and my words and my experiences, and more often than not, when I look at the people I respect and follow, that’s just not enough. It doesn’t compare. There’s nothing flashy behind the words. And so it makes me feel like a failure sometimes to the fat acceptance community. It makes me feel like I’m not being political enough, I’m not trying hard enough.

What I wear shouldn’t have to be relevant to the fight for all bodies to be accepted.  I understand that a well-dressed fat body can be a big fuck you to a society that wants to demean fat bodies even down to the clothes that they wear. But it shouldn’t be as important as I’ve seen it be.

I guess sometimes I wish people would focus more on what people like me are saying and less what we’re wearing.

Or maybe I’m just blowing it out proportion. Who knows?

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14 Responses to Fatshion–or not?

  1. naomi. says:

    Thank you for this post. I relate to this a lot. We’re about the same size; I’m chronically broke and don’t have the means to buy new clothes. However, I do (thankfully) have two plus-size consignment stores in my area as well as surprisingly stocked Goodwill (from which the majority of my “new” clothes originate). Sometimes I feel a bit left out because (not to play fat olympics but) I am fatter than most of the fatshionista stars, and for the other reasons you mentioned (not being able to buy new/fashionable things, even more limited options than smaller fats, etc). For me, I don’t see it as being less political or being failure of a fat activist. Oh, no. Quite the opposite! I’ve been following the fatshionista community for years and would sometimes feel discouraged because larger fats sometimes seem to be the minority in the community (at least from what I’ve observed). We’re involved, yes, but in noticeably smaller numbers. Therefore, it feels EVEN MORE IMPORTANT for me to step up and participate, to represent for the ladies rocking a 28-32 (and additionally, for those with limited means). Without trying to create a hierarchy between between smaller and larger fats, THERE IS a difference of experience and it’s important to recognize that. My outfits may be boring, a bit redundant, but they accurately reflect my experience. And maybe, just maybe, my participation and my being vocal about struggles specific to larger fats, or being poor, will help others feel more comfortable in the community, and I hope inspire them to step up as well.

  2. I totally get you. Maybe not totally, but mostly. I started blogging my outfits I guess to “prove” fat people could be fashionable too…like that even matters. For a couple months I had a decent clothing budget but I haven’t been able to shop in about 3 months and it’s made me feel really shitty. Like, hey all these other bloggers keep ordering Dorothy Perkins (which I don’t think even sells my size) and ASOS (ordered from there and everything fit like shit…even had a pair of jeans altered for $10 and I still never wear them, so hooray for throwing money away) and ModCloth (not a single thing they sell fits me) and going thrifting (I swear the south is supposed to be chock full o’ fats but they NEVER EVER give away their decent clothes. I haven’t found something my size since I was in 6th grade, and back then I wasn’t the same size I am now) and I just can’t do it. My outfit posts have slacked off because it seems like it’s Not Done to repost the same shit over and over, and let’s face it–I wear the exact same dress/earrings/shoes combo over and over and over,

    Clothes just don’t come in bigger sizes. Even at the Ross or whatever, I can only find a couple things that I would actually consider wearing. And of course in the straight sizes, I see a TON of stuff I would love. I don’t get why we have to be punished, but I guess that’s the way it works. I long for the days of steady paychecks so I can once again scour the web looking for clothes that may or may not fit and then hopefully selling them on Fatshion Xchange if they don’t work out.

    Oh wait, that sounds not fun at all. 😦

  3. kevkeve says:

    The whole purpose of size acceptance is to accept all regardless of appearance, yet there is a definite hierarchy based solely on appearance, only it revolves around the name of the manufacturer on your shirt’s label now instead of whether the size on the label has X’s after it or not. It’s a sad truth

  4. Jaclyn Rae says:

    I just wanted to say that you & your blog are beautiful. ❤

  5. The thing that gets me is that the clothes I AM able to afford (on clearance, ha) are not very good quality, so they fall apart pretty quickly or ball up or whatever ends up happening to poor quality clothes. Jessica (tangledupinlace) has said multiple times that she alters clothes she finds at thrift stores, which is great if you have the means to do that. I don’t. I do wish there was more emphasis on what we’re saying and less what we’re wearing (or not wearing), and I wish there were more voices from the higher end of the spectrum, which is why I’m so glad you’re writing this blog.


  6. I’m new to your blog and found this a thought-provoking read. As a smaller end fat, (though one resident in the UK where until relatively recently, the choice of plus-sized clothes was parlous, overpriced and unremittingly dowdy), I’m keenly aware that I fall into the category of which you speak. That is until you factor in the fact that I’m in my early 50s, which has the potential to render one invisible and one’s views redundant or irrelevant to younger members of the FA community. Everything is relative.

    A lot of my writing and activism over the past 25 years has revolved around issues relating to the problems of getting dressed while fat – particularly the inability to present oneself in ways one might wish or need to in an appearance-fixated culture. I’m also acutely aware (through shopping with one of my best friends who, at the time, weighed 120 lbs more than me), how much more difficult it is to find attractive, fashionable, well made clothes as an appreciably larger size, even in the US where the overall choice is better than anywhere else in the world.

    For some, being a fatshionista is their main or sole form of activism and I do think it’s powerful, inspirational and necessary to effect certain, much needed changes – both in fat individuals and society as a whole. But it’s by no means the only valid form of fat activism and there are many blogging about other aspects of the fat experience, such as science, health, nutrition and child rearing. With regard to hearing more from those in the upper echelons of fat, I’d say Marianne Kirby and Lesley Kinzel are indiputedly two of the most prominent names in the fatosphere and while they each have a distinctive and hard-won signature style, (and enough money, one assumes to fund it), they are also both around your size and share many of your frustrations.

  7. Megan King says:

    Important points! I agree that fatshion is one way to exemplify the fat body. It’s certainly what sold me on FA, but it wasn’t so much the clothes themselves as it was the photographic proof of the existence of fat people looking happy and confident. But I think you are right – until the FA community is willing to address the classism inherent in OOTD culture, we’re going to be stunted as a movement. I tried to start a conversation about this once before, and contacted by fatshionistas who were/are unemployed, or even broker than I am, who were upset that I had been so critical, and had insisted that “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” It’s just frustrating that it seems that so few people are willing to accept that their activism might be exclusionary, or even hurtful to some people.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I’m hearing you on the thrift store thing – I never find things bigger than a UK size 22, and I’m a 26/28.

  9. But Megan, how would acknowledging that, (assuming many fatshion bloggers aren’t aware of class differences already), change the situation in any meaningful way? Fatshion and fatshion blogging are pretty crucial to the movement. They boost confidence, they challenge stereotypes, they attract newcomers, they are slowly bringing about change among plus-size clothing manufacturers – and will in time, I believe, bring about change in the mainstream fashion industry too.

    These things are crucial because ultimately they affect all fat women, those who are desperate to join in but are currently excluded, even those who aren’t bothered about fashion one way or the other. The more vociferously we demand better and the more of us who do so, the more manufacturers will begin catering to our demands. And, as a result, the more choice everyone will have in terms of size and price range. Similarly, the more choice we have, the more willing we will be to recycle our clothes (instead of hanging onto them forever for fear of never finding anything to fit us again), and the easier it will be for those who don’t have a great deal of money to find decent, affordable clothes in thrift shops. And so it goes.

    I’m sure you can’t be advocating that fatshion bloggers cease posting because some can’t join in. Should they post with disclaimers? Had Jessica said, “Fat style is one of the biggest ways I believe I can be political as a fat body,“ Amber would still be aware of and hampered by the factors that prevent her from following suit.

  10. Jen Elam says:

    I totally get where you’re coming from. I just wanted to add that Torrid does sell some nice clothes, but with your financial situation, that’s also out of question. It’s mainly for the girls you were talking about that buy clothes that are WAY out of their price range and take pics using really expensive cameras and lighting to take their pics. Luckily i’m in a size enough to where I can still fit in to some not-plus sized clothes *I can wear Faded Glory’s size 20s in some things* kinda makes me not in the same situation, but I can sympathize. I wish I was more into clothes designing where I could make affordable clothing in bigger sizes.

    • Adipose Activist says:

      I would be a size 5 in Torrid’s clothes. And every time I go to the website, there’s NOTHING under any of the categories that’s a size 5 except some ugly overpriced t-shirts :-/

  11. Katherine says:

    I’m considered the smaller side of fat; I wear 20s in most things now. Some websites or stores that sell plus sized clothes often have their sizes labeled in ways where I have to buy 2 or 3 sizes larger than that. Some of that is simply because my boobs are larger than the bust measurements they have for my usual size. I, too, am a broke college student. I have financial aid(that I don’t have to pay back for the most part), which makes me lucky. I have a job that pays a whopping $8 an hour, where I’m lucky to get 10 or so hours per paycheck. I can’t afford pretty plus size clothes typically either. It’s nice to see people promoting how gorgeous fat people can look in clothes that fit right, that wouldn’t always be considered to be for “fat people”, but it’d be nice to see them showing clothes that wouldn’t cost my entire paycheck to buy. It’s also rather depressing that in most places, the instant you go larger than a Large, or a 14, they start charging you $3 or $4 more for the item. Fatshion(which is a new term for me since I first started using tumblr) is a wonderful thing, but it should also be an affordable thing. End with a quote I love from Tim Gunn, “Have you seen most of the plus-size sections out there? It’s horrifying. Whoever’s designing for plus-size doesn’t get it. The entire garment needs to be reconceived. You can’t just take a size 8 and make it larger,” says Gunn, the former head of the fashion design program at Parsons. “I’ve been talking to designers, but only a half-dozen make an effort. Most say, ‘I don’t want a woman who’s a size 10 or 11 wearing my clothes.’ Well, shame on you! It’s not realistic. We need to address real women with real needs. At Parsons, we had fit models that ranged in size from 2 to 10. We’ve got to reconceive clothes for all sizes.” I don’t really like this whole designers thinking a size 10 is plus size, but it’s a good concept. Clothing has to be designed with all women in mind.

  12. Pingback: An important perspective on fatshion « Tutus And Tiny Hats

  13. brittbre says:

    Hi I’m also plus sized but I shop online at 599 fashion they have some cute clothes I get 3x from there and I wear size 30/32 and they fit fineish also 10dollormall.com and the money I save from there I go and buy a nice pair of pants that I never wana take off at avenue great store have one locally and online

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