Living the Fat Lifestyle: Clothes Edition
(taking silly pictures of myself. UGH this word of the year thing sucks.)
I have been out of the fat closet for a while now. Well, I guess I’m in the fat closet because nothing in the thin closet would fit me worth a damn. *drumriff*
I’ve spent the majority of the last ten or fifteen years learning how to do the radical: living while fat. I decided I was done waiting for a miracle or my diet of the week to work and start living with the body I had. I’ve hoarded shiny jewels of fatty wisdom over the years, scouring blogs and searching stores to find ways to allow me to be in the world the way I chose, as often as I chose to be there.
Being fat, like being left-handed, is not something this world accommodates for well. I’m pretty glad I am right handed, because trying to use wrong-handed scissors or shift gears would be a nightmare for uncoordinated me. As a fat person, I do not experience a world that is well-suited for me to live in any more than a leftie does.
Every fat person you know has been the one shopping with friends at the mall, only able to fit into accessories and *maybe* shoes at 99% of the stores. In the mall nearest to my house, there is one store with clothes that both fit me and are not dowdy as fuck (I’m looking at you JC Penny). One, out of 25 clothing stores–I counted. That one store is fairly new, too. This is an example of thin privilege. I know that all of us struggle to find well-made clothing that fits us well. We all have weirdly long arms or smaller waists or a shape that somehow does not qualify as “standard” and it can be a struggle to buy off the rack. Thin privilege is having 25 stores to shop from to begin with. I get one. (Four if you count the department stores but now we’re back to dowdy as fuck, and also unpredictable in their plus sized selection.)
Near as I can tell, the argument goes that I should change my body to suit the stores. If I just lost weight I would be able to fit in all those “normal” clothes. We blame the millions of fat people, rather than alter like two stores to be more accommodating. It’s weird to me. Seems like there would be lots of money in clothing sized to fit all ranges of bodies. But if we did that, we’d give fatties permission to GET DRESSED! GASP!
Okay back to tips. I have some shiny jewels of fatty lifestyle wisdom and I want to share them.
This week’s installment is clothing, how to buy it and where to buy it.
(Note: My appearance tips will likely apply best to people who like to present as femme female, since that’s how I dress/look. If you have tips for other presentations, please leave them in the comments! I would love to dress more masculine sometimes but I’m sort of default femme.)
Know your measurements. If you’re like me, you fear numbers because they remind you how much you’ve failed. Try to think of them as saving you from hours of wasted shopping time, instead. Write them down, put them in your phone. Measure your neck, arms, waist, bust, underbust, sleeve length, height, hips, thighs, inseam and calves. Find a tutorial, like this one. If you have a willing participant, have them do it for you. Much better results. If your body tends to change, take them every six months or a year. We all know not all plus sizes are created equal. A 3X one place is an 18 somewhere else. Measurements, however, are universal.
Always try everything on. Try a size up and a size down if you like the outfit but you don’t think it looks good. Once I picked a dress I loved but I looked frumpy in it. A size down did the trick that time, totally unexpected.
Try things you wouldn’t. Most places have free return shipping (check), so get some stuff and try it. If you hate it, send it back.
Develop a sense of style. Not what magazines say, but your own sense of what looks and feels good on you. I wear a lot of long skirts and maxi dresses even though I’m not super tall. Long dresses on a short person are considered a fashion “don’t.” I don’t give a fuck. I like the swishing around my legs. I like the way I look when I see myself in the mirror. That matters more than any magazine. When you feel confident, you look hot.
Fuck flattering. Dress the way you want. If you want clothes that hug your belly, do that. If you want clothes that hang off you, do that. If you really like to mix plaid and stripes, DO THAT. Feel good in your skin and in your clothing.
I’m resigned to doing about 80% of my shopping online. Am I bitter that most of the best clothing is online? Yes. Do I have much of a choice? No. I get most of my clothes from three stores:
Torrid: the only place I buy jeans, expensive as fuck but they always fit right. My latest pair is called “boyfriend skinny” and fit so well I keep washing and wearing them instead of my other pairs. I LOVE them. Sometimes you get uber lucky and they have a geeky teeshirt or pretty something to buy that isn’t 100000 dollars. I would also check here when it came time to buy a bathing suit.
Old Navy: basically all my work out clothes, tops, dresses and skirts. I sometimes buy maternity wear here in an XXL, because I am hella short-waisted and their first trimester stuff doesn’t look all that maternity-ish. I tried Old Navy jeans once. Never again. I got a wool trench that looks fantastic and cost 40 bucks here once.
Lane Bryant: upscale tops and dresses for work or fancy wear. Some time back, Lane Bryant decided to raise all their prices 30-50 dollars per item, and now I refuse to buy most of what they sell on principle. However, there is one exception: undergarments. Lane Bryan’s underwear and bras are my favorite thing in the world, because they are both cute and functional. I’m not stuck with armor-like bras, which makes me happy. If you have local stores, stalk their clearance section like a hawk and you’ll find some good deals. Not to mention some horrific tragedies of design. *So, I went over the weekend to Lane Bryant after writing this piece. Their spring line is AWFUL. Unless you like neon lime green and orange, I suggest you don’t even bother looking.
There are other stores to check out: We Love Colors for tights, Domino Dollhouse for looking punk, Sock Dreams for knee high socks, Zappos for wide width shoes and wide calf boots. Doc Martens and Converse are always accommodating to my wide feet (I’m not saying fat=wide feet, but I just happen to have both). Target has a selection of plus size offerings, but they are so random and the sizing is so wildly unpredictable that you really just have to shop whenever you’re at Target for something else. Don’t go there thinking you’ll find clothes.
One last thing: on chafing, rubbing, and itching. I have very sensitive skin. It will welt and itch with small amounts of sweat, rubbing, or just long hours of contact with tight-fitting clothing like bras and jeans. I’ve learned that if I’m going to walk, I wear jeans or knee length yoga pants under a skirt (anything shorter just rides up, defeating the purpose and looking dumb). Some swear by Spanx but I don’t like my clothes that tight, ever. I let my fat fly.
I picked up a bra liner for welting and discomfort at the bra line–it works fairly well, and stays in place as long as you can get it there. It’s sort of a process to get it just right. I’ve also found that layering a soft tee or tank top tucked into my jeans and under whatever shirt I’m wearing can be a great skin protector. Tip number one, which I’m sure most of you fellow fatties know already, is stay dry. The drier your skin, the less you are likely to get irritated. No–the less likely your skin is to get irritated. I can’t do anything about your irritation levels.
For shoes, try medical tape around your heels to prevent blisters. Band aids are useless.
There are stores and goodies I haven’t listed, of course, and only because these are my go-to things. We’re still fairly limited in what’s out there for the fashionable fatty, but things get better all the time. Keep your eyes open! If you’re too ashamed to Google it, you’re never going to find the good stuff.
Go forth, fatty, and explore. In short: live fat, dress the way you want, enjoy.