Archive for June 15th, 2010

Fatshion Forward

So today I’m going to talk about fashion. Like food, this is a complicated subject for most fat people (especially fat women, but men deal with it as well).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been big. As a child I was already wearing adult-sized shoes because my feet were so much bigger than everyone else’s. I was always the biggest in my class, male or female, until I got to high school, when some of the guys finally caught up and got bigger than me. Then I was just the biggest girl in my class.

Problem is, our society doesn’t have much room for big. Whether it means fat, tall, or fat and tall, big isn’t generally welcome. Now, from a marketing standpoint this might make sense. If you make a product, you want to market that product to the most amount of people. Even though average height and weight have been creeping up in the past fifty years, mostly because of better diet and more abundance of food for even people who can’t afford it, still most products are firmly ensconced in the average territory. This isn’t just clothing, either. Trying to find a car that I (or my brothers, who are both 6’8” and big) can even fit into is a trial, especially since none of us have the money or inclination for SUVs. In fact my brother Greg and I have the exact same model car (his is one year younger than mine) because of the rarity of finding a car we can both actually drive (and he has to lean his seat way back, otherwise his head bumps the roof).

So we’re already coming from a place of disadvantage in not being average. Now, in some cases, being “above average” is a good thing. Intelligence, for instance, is an area where it’s good to be above average. Height and weight, however, aren’t. And this doesn’t even end when it comes to products we wish to buy. Public transportation, for instance. Have you ever tried to sit comfortably on a crowded bus when your butt is so wide that you have to take up a seat and a half and your legs are so long they fill up the entire aisle? Because I have, and it is not fun at all. The dirty looks I get, as if it’s my fault that I’m six feet tall and 370 pounds.

Of course, clothes are the absolute worst when it comes to being screwed over as a fat and tall person. Let’s start from the fact that mass-produced clothing is ill-fitting for anyone. I long for the days before the industrial revolution, when all clothes were hand-sewn. Yeah, that meant you generally only had one or two outfits, but they actually fit you because they were MADE for you. Hell, even fifty years ago there were people making their own clothes, because fabric and thread were always cheaper than pre-made clothing. These days we’re raised to buy things already made, from clothes to food, but it wasn’t that long ago that wasn’t an option. And of course, the main reason machine-made clothing is so cheap right now is because we’ve outsourced all our labor, but that’s a rant for another time. So these days it’s considered normal to go to, say, the Gap, and get a shirt that doesn’t really properly fit you unless you’re in the 1% of the population who looks exactly like the model they used to cut the pattern for that shirt. And for only $15, what a deal! Of course, you could learn how to sew and make your own clothes for cheaper (that look better), but between IMing, blogging, and your busy social schedule, who has TIME for such nonsense?

So take an already ill-fitting garment, based on what’s probably an hourglass-shaped model, and then size it up a whole bunch. This doesn’t involve any research on how clothing hangs differently on fat bodies, or whether a fat body might also be a lot taller than the average, or anything else. It just means extra fabric and extra cost for the manufacturer, a cost which they are quite happy to hand down to the fat consumer. This is the majority of clothing you find as a fat person. Just like what all the skinny people are wearing, except it bunches in the wrong places and hugs the wrong curves because you’re not a skinny person and your body doesn’t act like a skinny person’s body. And, just to add insult to injury, you get to pay a premium for this bunching, wrongly-fitting garment, because the only other choice you have is to pay a seamstress out the nose for hand-made clothes, or make your own clothes and spend hours making patterns and sewing garments for yourself.

And this isn’t just the case if you’re trying to shop at Walmart or Target. Oh, no. This is also generally the case at many “plus-size” stores, such as Lane Bryant or Avenue or Catherine’s. First, if you can even find clothing that doesn’t hang like a burlap sack (I’ve never been able to at Catherine’s), that’s in your size, you try it on and it fits just about as badly as most of the clothes you’d find at a big box store. But since you need a pair of black pants in a month and you’ve already looked all over town and it doesn’t look so horrendous that you want to puke at the sight of yourself, you buy it. And pay $50-100 for it, because that’s the price of designer clothing. Even though it’s not really better made than that $10 pair of pants at Target, and might last you two years with normal wear (less if you have the chub rub in the thighs, which wear out pants much faster).

Now add into that whole nightmare the idea of being tall, and finding pants and skirts that go down past your ankle, and you begin to feel a bit like Indiana Jones. If you actually find a pair of nice black pants in your size, that don’t fit too badly, that don’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s like the goddamn holy grail. And if it’s on sale OR they have more than one in your size, you buy as many as possible because who knows when it might happen again?! I’ve known fat women to admit to buying clothes they didn’t even think they’d wear, just because it was in their size, because it’s so goddamn hard to find cute clothes in your size to begin with, might as well cling to every piece of clothing you can find.

And don’t even get me started on shoes. I actually managed to find an online shoe store that carries my size, with some wide widths, the other day, and as I explained to a friend I was chatting with, it was like finding “the unicorn of shoe stores”. Finding women’s size 15 shoes, in styles that are actually cute and wearable, is something I had never managed before this one store (www.barefoottess.com if anyone is curious). Of course I don’t have the money to buy any of them, because their cheapest pair is $50 plus shipping, but once I have the money, you’d better believe I’m going back.

Yesterday I went out with a friend for a specific errand, but I asked her if she would be willing to stop at Lane Bryant (the only local plus-sized store for about ten miles around) to see if they had any black pants, as I need a new pair of nice interview/work pants (what with the looking for a job and all). And miraculously, I actually found a pair that didn’t fit too badly (and was only $50). I also found a treasure, a nice black knee-length work skirt, in my size, on sale for $18. o.o I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I bought both, the pants because I needed them and the skirt because it was a miracle and you’d better believe I wasn’t going to let it get away. I don’t even generally like skirts (at least if they’re not big floofy hippie skirts), but anything that looks nice and professional enough for working in is fucking going home with me.

Being fashionable as a fat girl isn’t easy. I spend a lot of days in sweat pants and a t shirt simply because that’s most of what I have (I haven’t been able to find a comfortable pair of jeans in the past three and a half years). I tend to only wear “nice” clothes if I’m going out somewhere with friends, or have a job interview, and both events are rare enough to merit special dressing up. The thing is, I have more nice clothes than most of my friends my age, because of performing. You had to dress up to perform, nice shirt, nice pants or skirt, nice shoes. Hell, I had to dress up for studio class if I was singing, and that was just in front of my fellow students, who didn’t care. But it was required, because it made it more professional. And you could tell the difference between our singers and those in other studios that weren’t required to dress up. They treated the performance as something to be gotten through, rather than something to do their best at. So I learned that clothes are important. If I’m going to a job interview or similar, I’m going to dress up. I want to look my best. I just wish it wasn’t so damn hard to find new clothes when my current ones wear out. XP

Anyway, on to today’s pictures.

This is the skirt.

I forgot to smile for this one.

I'm beginning to notice that when I (indeed, when most people) smile for photos, I tend to tilt my head. I once had a friend who did this so extremely that in every photo I had of him, his head was touching his shoulder.


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