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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?

Towards a fat aesthetics

Posted: July 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fat and aesthetics.  Actually, I’ve been thinking about it for a really long time – at least since this post at fatshionista.com a year and a half ago.  Specifically, this bit:

The freedom and confidence to dress to fit one’s fat body and not hide it is, absolutely, a revolutionary experience, especially for a girl who lived in jeans and baggy t-shirts for most of her life.  But it is equally revolutionary, for me, to choose not to put myself out there as a curvy, slightly more acceptable, fake-voluptuous shape.  I ain’t voluptuous.  And if I don’t feel like faking a shape my body doesn’t fit, I’m not going to do so.

There had been a bit of discussion in the fatshionista livejournal community around that time about the idea of ‘flattering,’ and how it was usually used to mean ‘slimming’ – or sometimes ‘smoothing’ – either way, making the body appear closer in size or shape to the dominant ideal (slim, smooth, curved).  Which, well, is a fine thing to do, but it’s not exactly going to start a revolution, or change much of anything at all (except perhaps how the ‘flattered’ person feels at the time, which is not nothing).

And it got me wondering: what would ‘flattering’ mean in the context of fat fashion if it didn’t mean ‘slightly-more-like-a-thin-body’?

The topic has been on my mind a lot lately thanks to the release of Beth Ditto’s collection for Evans.  There’s been a lot of praise and a lot of criticism about the collection.  I kinda have a foot in each camp myself – there’s some pieces I adore, and some that just sort of make me go o_O.  The collection is incredibly on-trend and in line with what’s coming in with small-size collections, but at the same time, it feels to me like it’s doing something different, something more than just upsizing the current fashions.  It seems to me to be about fat in a way I don’t think I’ve seen before.  I think it’s partly the rhinestone-eyed kitty t-shirt that is so evocative of pretty much the only style of clothing available to me as a young fat girl in the 80s.  I think it’s partly the domino dress that doesn’t try to flatter or slim or smooth.  These are pieces I would never wear because I’m too deeply invested in being ‘acceptable’ fat, but they still say something to me.

One of the things I love most fiercely about Beth Ditto is that she’s not afraid of ugly.  When I saw The Gossip live (please come back to Australia soon!), at one point in the gig, Beth posed for photos by looking down and tucking her chin in, saying ‘Did you get the double chins?  Make sure you get the chins!’  Watching her emphasise rather than try to hide her fatness, I had a Moment.

And so, for a while now, I’ve been thinking that one of the things that is happening in fat acceptance – in the various manifestations of fatshionista, in (some) other fat fashion blogs, in Beth Ditto’s unashamed display of fat flesh both prettified and uglified – is the development of a fat aesthetics.  A recognition that fat bodies are different to thin bodies (and different to other fat bodies, and that thin bodies are different to other thin bodies, and that the line between fat and thin is pretty impossible to locate definitively) and that finding ways to make a fat body look as much like a thin body as possible is not necessarily the ultimate aim of the game.  That there might be a way of fashioning fat bodies, of valuing the visuals that doesn’t have to be about ‘curves’ and cleavage (although it can be), that isn’t about adapting and adopting a certain set of standards, that isn’t about ‘what’s inside’ being the only thing that counts.

I think all this and I get very excited, because I think it means that fat bodies – that a fat aesthetics – could be truly revolutionary.