For me, clothing is an identifier of who you are and how you want to present yourself to the world. If I gave anyone one rule, it would be to dress for yourself and for your needs.
When I was younger and obsessed with fashion, I couldn’t afford too many magazines. So instead, I absolutely lived for fashion and makeover shows on TV. All of them. And over the years I internalized every tip they gave, all the rules, regulations and reference points when it came to the fine art of dressing. I could walk into a shop and instantly pick out the what would look good on me and disregard everything else…
…wait, that’s not so cool is it? Why blinker yourself by arbitrary rules set by people who’ve never met you (and in a lot of cases, probably died before you were born)? Especially if you’re plus size, when there’s so much more to consider – usually boiling down to black, plain, baggy. Where’s the fun in that?!
Perhaps in my own little bubble, I thought myself and my peers were past all this sort of stuff. Trinny and Susannah are long forgotten, Gok Wan seen, rightly, as a misogynistic fatphobe in cuddly stereotypical gay clothing. But recently I’ve seen a lot of posts and articles in body acceptance spaces talking about the rules for dressing, repeating the same old guff without question. And then, eventually, my old nemesis rears its head: dressing for your shape. Nothing sets my teeth on edge quite like a “dressing for your shape” feature, no matter how well intentioned it is. Because ostensibly, as soon as you go over a size set by the person writing, you’re automatically an apple – otherwise known as OH SHIT FATTY COVER UP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. When I first started this blog I was in the middle of a weekly sewing group which I loved. One day our lesson was on body shapes. Apparently, body shape designing and styling works on one premise alone: to make everyone look as hourglass as possible. And, hilariously, apples/ovals have no chance of looking like an hourglass with their fat fatty mcfat waists – the best they can hope for is an inverted triangle. Sexy!
I remember reading Ben Goldacre’s epic Gillian McKeith smackdown, where he talked about how instead of just explaining that eating fruit and veg, getting some exercise (for the most part, and only if you’re able to do so) to people, “nutritionists don’t stop there, because they can’t: they have to manufacture complication, to justify the existence of their profession“. I look at makeover stylists in much the same way. To me, it’s very similar to the patterns and rules imposed on eating. It’s about taking the decisions away from you, telling you that you don’t know how to dress yourself without outside help. And I think that’s wrong! Not to mention the cis-normativity of most makeover shows, which almost always take a woman who wears “masculine” clothing such as jumpers and jeans, and put her in a sexy, feminine dress. But if that’s not who they are, why change them?
Anyway, I am rambling. With all of this in mind, I’ve come up with the different things that go through my mind when shopping for clothes (including online) to get maximum fun and perhaps even surprise yourself. It’s fully optional, of course. I imagine a lot of you think I’m a hypocrite for slagging off sets of rules, then creating my own! But I’m nothing if not a raging hypocrite…
The Fat Gal’s Clothes Shopping Manifesto!
I will forego every piece of fashion “advice” I have been given beforehand.
I will consider, order and try on clothes that I like, not which I believe will fit
I will consider, order and try on clothes that may not necessarily “suit” me
I will consider, order and try on clothes that may not necessarily be my “size”
I will not purchase clothes that make me feel self-conscious or uncomfortable emotionally
I will not purchase clothes as an incentive to change my body in any way
I will no longer ignore stores that I believe don’t cater for me
I will take a trusted friend if I feel self conscious going into a store
I will decide to purchase clothing based on my confidence levels when wearing them
I will dress for my own needs and happiness
I WILL FIGURE OUT MY STYLE FOR MYSELF.
So, there you go. Thinking about it, this doesn’t necessarily need to be purely a fat person or gender specific exercise, as I know some of this affects my slimmer friends. But I still think the best thing anyone can do in shopping for clothes is: wear what you want, and what makes you happy. No more, no less.