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Dear fatshion retailers

Posted: August 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: fashion | Tags: , , , , , | 26 Comments »

I have a request.  It’s quite simple, straightforward even.  But it’s so important.  Are you listening? Are you ready?  Okay. Here we go.

Please make clothes that people would actually want to wear. Please.

See, I told you it was simple.  At least, I think it’s simple.  But apparently you – all very few of you – don’t seem to think so.

What I want is not so hard.  Clothes that are age-appropriate (for someone in their very early 30s), vaguely stylish, reasonably comfortable, and made from fabrics that don’t disintegrate on the second wash.  Options other than black would be wonderful, but I’m not actually that fussy.  Options other than black that aren’t aggressively loud would also be nice.  I know some people dig them, but they make me look like a clown.  And since I want to be an academic and not a clown, avoiding clownishness seems like a fairly high sartorial priority.

I don’t mind showing a little cleavage, but there are occasions when a neckline that plunges all the way to my belly-button is just not appropriate.  You know, like work days.  Or in a classroom.  Or catching the last tram home on a Friday night.  Sometimes strapless isn’t the best option either.  Come to that, there’s only so many occasions where a girl can wear satin (and fewer where some of us would actually choose to).

Is it too much to ask for natural fabrics? Even natural blends? A nice cotton/lycra jersey would be great.  Even better if it didn’t pill the moment you look at it.  Just a thought.  Chances are I’ll put up with the pilling because I don’t have any choice.  But you know that already.  That’s why all my clothes are sad and pilly.  I refuse to wear polyester, though.  I refuse to pay ninety bucks (on sale!) for a printed polyester sack.  I won’t do it.  I certainly won’t pay a $130 for a more-shapely version.  I did, however, layby this dress today, which has most of what I want – it’s cute, and natural, and scrapes in under $100, which is something of a miracle for a fat girl dress.  It’s not even black. But it’s still a bit…meh. The fabric feels like it should be used for curtains.  Or maybe upholstery.  Something that doesn’t require drape.  That doesn’t matter if it clings.  Something that no one will mind when all the stray bits of cotton in the room stick to it.  But it was the only thing going. The ONLY thing.

I’d also like work-out gear.  And sports bras.  Actually, just any comfortable bra that fits would be great.  Preferably one that doesn’t show under that plunge-to-the-belly-button neckline.  I’d also like some cardis.  Just plain cardis with full-length sleeves.  My wrists get cold in winter, too.  I used to have a magnificent cardi, actually.  It was blue with sparkly gold thread through it.  I don’t even usually like sparkly, but I loved that cardi.  But I loaned it to someone one night, and now it’s gone and I’ll never get it back.  Sometimes this literally makes me so sad I could cry, because magnificent cardis in my size are truly rare and special things.  If I find another in my lifetime, I won’t be so careless.  I won’t lend it to anyone.  I won’t even let anyone touch it, unless it is safely and firmly buttoned around my ample body.

Am I being unreasonable, dear retailers? I’m not even asking for things I really want.  Things in ‘my style’ – or rather, the style I wish I could have.  Things with a little vintage, a little whimsy, a little edge.  I know that’s far too much to expect.

I’d be willing to pay for what I’m describing.  I mean, I can’t really manage what seems to be the going rate, but really, $550 for a shirt dress is a *tad* out of most people’s range, don’t you think?  But surely we can find a middle ground? I know I’m not the only one who wants this.  And yes, I have heard of the internet.  But dear fatshion retailers, is it really so strange to want to try things on before handing over my cash?  Is it really so unreasonable to not want to spend around $50 on round trip shipping when most of the order turns out to be too big or too small or just plain wrong for my shape?

Dear retailers, I have wanted to give you my money for so long now, and you seem totally uninterested.  I’m starting to despair.  I fear you will never let me love you the way I want to love you.  I’m almost at the point of giving up.  I do have a sewing machine, you see, but I have so little time to sew, what with all that time spent at work and in classrooms and actually studying.  Maybe if I spent less time scouring your ultimately barren racks, I could change that.  Maybe it’s time I started to think of myself.

This is not some frivolous complaint, dear retailers, not at all.  It matters.  Access to clothing matters, in a way you can’t possibly imagine until you don’t have it.  Access to clothing can enable or deny access to professional opportunities, to social spaces, to activities, to romantic situations, to certain possibilities of identity, in short, to the whole of life.  It matters.  It matters a lot.

All I really want is some clothes to wear.  Nothing special.  Clothes for work, and for working out.  For going to uni and to brunch and hanging out drinking.  For this work dinner that’s coming up.  For this conference I’m going to.  Just ordinary clothes for living a life.

Is that really so unreasonable?


Taking Up Space

Posted: February 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Fat acceptance has given me my body.  Of course, I always had a body, but for a while there I was pretty disconnected from it.  I remember years ago someone telling me that they had seen me some place and I was shocked.  I was shocked that they had seen me, that I was visible, that I actually, physically existed.

I’ve also, in the past, had trouble consciously acknowledging physical pain.  I’ve had chronic ankle and knee problems since I was a kid, and even though I knew that, and could articulate it to some extent, I would recast the physical limitations engendered by that pain as defects of character.  Rather than consciously acknowledging that I couldn’t walk too fast or too far without causing myself pain, I would ‘forget’ about how much it hurt and interpret my reluctance to engage in physical exercise which actively hurt me as being a bad, lazy fatty.  I have, thankfully, developed much more awareness, and I find it easy to manage when I’m by myself – I’ll just catch the tram for two or three stops rather than walk, for example.  But it’s harder when I’m with other people and have to negotiate the shame (or fear of shame) of being (perceived as) a lazy fatty.  I not only walk with them, but often try to walk at their pace.  Which hurts me.  And I have to stop.

In the last year or so I’ve also had pretty bad RSI in my shoulder, from all the time I’ve been spending on the computer (note to self: blogging may be a break from thesising, but it’s not a break from the computer!).  I’m doing what I can to manage it – gym, stretching, regular breaks, yoga, massage.  One big factor – and by far the hardest for me to negotiate at the moment – is that I need to let my body take up space.  I find it particularly hard on public transport, where space is extremely limited already.  I’ve noticed how I hunch my shoulders, draw my arms across my body, try to shrink down to take up less space.  And how I stay that way even when my shoulder starts to ache and my neck muscles spasm.  Well, at the point of my neck muscles spasming I start to stretch and wriggle and find some way of sitting that doesn’t actively hurt me.

I do think it’s useful to be aware of my body in space and how it relates to other people.  I am endlessly infuriated by people (mostly men, but certainly not all or only men), who  s p r a w l  a n d  s p r e a d  o u t  and take up a four-seat all to themselves when the train is packed.  But this is not simply an awareness of my body in space, it’s also an awareness of how taking up more space is coded as selfish, anti-social, and shameful.  And how this coding affects the way I manage my fat body in public spaces.  And how subtle the monitoring and disciplining of the body can be.