I’m what is known in FA (fat acceptance) and fatshion circles as an in-betweenie. This means that I am somewhere in the range of an aussie size 14-18. It means I have big-girl issues with clothing (weird fit, darts hitting me in the wrong places, inappropriate styles available) but I can still shop in straight sized stores, although what I can find there may or may not be extremely limited, depending on the store, the season, current trends, how stretchy the clothes are or how willing I am to wear skin tight things.
I was listening to fatcast last night and they were discussing what a plus size actually is. They said it might start at maybe 14, but really their cutoff is about size 18 (depending on locale and other factors such as height and general body shape – it’s harder to find nice flattering things if you are large and live in China, or are a body shape that the fashion world dislikes). I thought ‘but wait! I’m a fat girl! Why don’t you count meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’. I’m used to being told ‘don’t be silly, you’re not FAT!’ but usually by people thinner than me, and as code for ‘but I don’t find you repulsive! And fat people are repulsive!’ I had a really strong reaction to being told by fat people that I couldn’t join that fat people club (which was not what they were saying, btw). And then I had to look at my Thin Privilege. Yes, yes I just said the P word, and also refered to myself as thin, IN THE SAME SENTENCE.
Right now, fads are doing me kind. There is a lot of jersey and a lot of loose fitting, which means I can get into medium sizes a lot of the time, if there isn’t a large. And tghe larges fit comfortably. They don’t fit me the way the designer intended them to, but since the designer generally does not want to acknowledge that people my size or bigger exist, I am not particularly fussed about this. Case in point, last week I went into Cotton On (being the only clothes store in town that is open after 5:15pm) and spent what I consider to be quite a lot of money there. And then I reflected that actually, I spent less than the price of a dress I was looking at on the City Chic website, which I really liked but was clearly made out of some horrible acrylic fabric. So then I felt better about that.
Let me put this another way. I went into a trendy store, which caters for young people who want the latest trendy thing. And I tried some stuff on and I bought a lot of it, because it looked good on me. This is something that many fat people just cannot do. Ever.
I bought three jersey pencil skirts – one in black, one in navy and one in black with little rosebuds on. Tres trendy, and also reminds me of a dress I owned when I was five. (Apparently the eighties are back. Again. Why won’t they die?) I bought two tank dresses, one black and one navy and white striped. (BIG HORIZONTAL STRIPES oh noes don’t I know that’s against the rules??) I bought two light jersey cardigan thingies and four 3/4 sleeved tops in varying degrees of stripes and spots, with ruching on the sleeves so they have sort of eighties shoulders. The things I bought were a mix of XL, L and medium. This upped my wearable, work appropriate wardrobe by about half. The only problem being that I need to get some fat girl stockings, because I generally only wear stay ups and knee highs, having been traumatised by going to a catholic girls school and the horrible brown tights (but was fortunate enough to learn the undies-on-the-outside trick for keeping them up). But the skirts are really to short to wear to work without stockings, and the ones I have technically fit, but are mighty uncomfortable, and gusset hoiking is generally frowned on in public.
And here we are back to being in between. A lot of stuff technically fits, for which – do not get me wrong! – I am eternally grateful. If I went on holiday and my luggage got lost, I would not, as the lovely ladies on fatcast point out, be fucked. I could walk into a store and buy something that fit me. Even a gift store. It might not be sartorially elegant, but I wouldn’t have to fashion a toga out of a beach towel or two. There are clothes that fit me. They are readily available. They are affordable. Sometimes they are even trendy or beautiful at the same time as being affordable and readily available. I can shop in op shops and it isn’t that much more frustrating than for the average punter. I can avoid ‘big girl’ clothes which are often badly made with a poor cut, from terrible acrylic material.
I’ve been looking at ASOS, which has a very lovely plus size section, much of which I covet. I also covet most of their straight size section. According to their size charts, I am smack bang between an 18, their last straight size, and a 20, their first plus size. This is making trawling the site very annoying, because most of the time the top and bottom sizes are sold out. And sometimes the straight sizes go up to 20, sometimes they only go up to 16. If it’s something stretchy, I probably want an 18, and it isn’t I’d want a 20, but I have to look in two seperate sections so I can’t just pick one dress and choose the size.
Ok, so it’s annoying. That’s a pretty low bar, I’m not saying that ASOS is oppressing me or anything. And I really, truly do not want to underemphasise that I can go on a last minute shopping trip and find clothes that fit. This is super important. Plus, my proportional ‘hourglass’ body shape (apart from my annoyingly long waist) is the shape that about half of commercially available clothes are designed for (the other half being for people built like a pole) so that helps.
However. If we’re taking the fatcast cut off of a size 18 as canon (which they wouldn’t endorse, they fully admit it’s subjective etc) my recent weight gain has put me over the top, US sizes being a bit bigger than Aus sizes. I believe I would now be a US size 20. And I would absolutely say that there is a line, somewhere in the middle of a size 16. When you are a 14 or a smaller 16, you can buy things on sale. You can buy BRAS on sale. You can buy bras with lace and colours, you can buy bathers, and more styles are open to you because things that are designed to be baggy are. If you want to be ‘on trend’, you can, although depending on the trend it may be inadvisable as you will possibly look like an egg with two rubber bands around it. But if the thing of the moment is tshirts with sparkles on, you can probably find one that you fit into.
From Married to the Sea
Once you hit a high 16, bras come in beige, beige, ‘bone’ beige and off white. There are never any in your size left by the time the sales roll around. The clothes that make the sale racks are all cut in a way that does not do your body any favours. Things designed to be baggy are tight, even in your size, and things designed to be tight are TIGHT. Things cling in the wrong places, darts are in weird spots. Things get sized up without the proportions being revised, so they get weirdly massive in strange places.
Buying clothes can be a challenge for everyone. Besides the venturing out into public and the spending of hard earned dollars, there is the social aspect of it. What you wear says something about who you are. They do – even if that thing is ‘it’s Sunday, and I’ll wear my uggboots to the shops if I damn well want too’. Sometimes it’s hard to find the things that accurately represent you to the world. That gets harder as your size gets larger. Not least because when some people look at you the first thing they will see is a fat person. It’s tempting to dress to be invisible. To be non threatening and part of the background. Which is fine – frankly it’s relaxing. But I find myself shying away form certain things, not because I think they will make me look bad, but because they will make me look FAT. Not ‘unattractive’, which is what ‘fat’ is code for, more often than not. but that if I show a bit of leg, people will see that it is a fat leg. Because, you know, they couldn’t have guessed that it was going to be a fat leg just from looking at the rest of me, no matter how covered that leg might be.
I don’t really think I should end this with another ‘FUCK YOU IM FAT AND IM NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE’ because I did that last time, and that’s not what this is about. What this is about is ‘whatever. This is my leg. It’s fat. It’s sexy. I will show exactly as much or as little of it as I choose. Goodbye.’
I’m still not really ok with the nuggets I get in front of my armpits, though. I’m working on that one.