For two decades of my life, I was a skinny gal who loathed shopping. While all of the stores I went to carried a plethora of options in my size, I was trapped in a body image prison that kept me from enjoying my thinness. Dressing rooms used to bum me the fuck out, browsing the clothing racks with friends and family was a constant source of anxiety, and I spent many years seeing a painfully larger person in the mirror than who was actually standing there.
Since becoming a mom to two fabulous kids, I’ve naturally gained 75 pounds and gone up to a size 18 in a matter of two years. My body looks nothing like it once did, and the journey to wholeheartedly embracing it has been a vulnerable one to say the least. Even though the average woman is a size 16-18 in our country, the plus-sized population is an underserved and underrepresented demographic. And now, I consider myself one of them.
When I first gained the weight, I found comfort in discovering other fat women on social media and delightfully stumbled upon the body positivity movement. Created as a way of advocating for the acceptance of larger and diverse bodies, this awesome group is filled with loud and proud activists who fight for people of every size to be embraced, respected, and — most importantly — publicly represented. Now that I’m joyfully shaking my big ass all over social media, I guess you could say I’ve become this movement’s number one fan.
These days, I am loving my fat body more than I ever did when I was cripplingly thin. It certainly helps that size-inclusive shows like Shrill exist now and plus-sized celebrities like Lizzo are shining their self-love beams brightly for all of us to enjoy. It certainly feels like fat acceptance is becoming a slow and steady part of our societal pulse, and I am so fucking here for it.
Except that there’s one frustrating glitch in the system. Most of my go-to stores don’t carry a damn thing in my current size, which leaves me in an unfortunate pickle. I’ve finally become accepting enough of my body to take her out shopping, and yet I can’t enjoy the act of buying clothes in person because nothing fucking fits.
Even more frustrating than the lack of available options has been the deceptive labeling of “body positive” clothing lines. Last year, fashion line Madewell was publicly criticized for using a plus-sized model on their Instagram feed without actually carrying a single legitimate plus-sized item. This form of false advertising had the internet abuzz with customers wondering why the fuck they couldn’t purchase stuff in the size that the model was wearing. Since then, Madewell has gotten wise and become more inclusive with its sizing. But the fact that they temporarily got away with duping a bunch of women into thinking they cater to more of us just plain sucks.
You’d think that plus-sized fashion, an industry making over twenty billion dollars a year, would be a financially appealing avenue for clothing companies to consider. Yet, it’s only really been in the last year that we’ve seen substantial expansion in the sizes of major brands. Even worse, a lot of clothing lines are still mooching off of the “body positive” label as a way of driving profits without realistically providing customers with size-inclusive options.
I’m here to call bullshit on this absolute fuckery.
I don’t care if the name of your brand has “self-love” written all over it or if you’ve paid a bunch of plus-sized models to don your dresses in ads. You cannot call yourself a “body positive” clothing line unless you actually embrace the true definition of body positivity. Until you start carrying clothing that fat babes can wear, you’re just lying to your customers. To be honest, I’m not even cool with you calling yourself “size-inclusive” if the biggest shirt you’re selling is a measly XL. And don’t even pretend that going up to a size 20 is size-inclusive enough, because you’re still alienating an overwhelming portion of our society that deserves stylish fucking clothes.
Thankfully, there are a bunch of companies that have either been celebrating size-inclusive fashion all along or have recently jumped on the body positive bandwagon, and they are totally worth mentioning here. Lane Bryant is one particularly awesome brand that Tim Gunn championed online in his 2016 Washington Post essay about the fashion industry’s total lack of plus-sized representation. Old Navy has also brought back its plus-sized line to a lot of stores, and my forever BFF Target has majorly upped their production of clothing catered to larger bodies. Hell, even Anthropology – the store I practically lived at as a teen – has expanded its sizes in select shops.
I consider this mild progress, but it’s not nearly enough for my fat bod to feel satisfied. The rest of the fashion industry needs to get with the fucking program. The average woman is begging for more stores to celebrate her, and she deserves to be heard. We all do.
Until the vast majority of clothing brands get their act together, I’ll be over here wearing cute threads I found at plus-sized hot spots like Torrid and the local thrift stores that carry a shocking amount of shit in my size. Thanks for keeping a fat gal in second-hand style, Goodwill!