Fat and fashionable AND happy? Impossible!

This Times article on plus-sized clothing lines isn’t nearly as bad as it could be — it even features Beth Ditto! — but it of course includes the tired old trope about how fat girls are really unhealthy and the body acceptance they display may just be a cover for self-hatred. Because if you don’t love your body, obviously it’s because you’re fat, but if you do love your body, then you must be lying. Because, you know, you’re fat:

More than tokenism, such fashion and media tactics seem born of a conviction that larger young women have become more self-accepting. “They are inclined to show off the parts of their bodies they love,” said Ms. Sack, the Chicago retailer. Pushing the trend is a broad movement of fat acceptance among academics, anti-bias activists and some psychologists. “It’s important to reclaim ‘fat’ as a descriptive, as even something positive,” argued Ms. Maribona of Fat Fancy.

But others point to serious health consequences of being overweight. Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a study supporting Ms. Marks’ contention that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not happy.” I’ve never been “overweight,” and I certainly wasn’t happy as an adolescent; a lot of that unhappiness came from anxiety about my body not being thin enough. I’m still not happy with my body and I’m an adult woman. But maybe adolescent girls — especially girls who don’t fit into our thin cultural ideal — are unhappy not because they’re fundamentally flawed people for being fat, but because they’ve been told their entire lives that being not-skinny makes them less attractive, less worthy and less valuable than other young women. That sounds like a pretty good recipe for unhappiness if there ever was one. A Sarah has more on that.

And yet despite all the negative cultural messages about fat and size, many young women (and older women) do love their bodies, and have the nerve to not even apologize for it. Many women want to wear clothes that are stylish, pretty or even — wait for it — sexy. Or they just want to be able to walk into clothing stores like everyone else and find clothes that fit. That doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me.

I’m sure someone will comment on this post arguing that stores are businesses, and this is purely about capitalism — that is, if there’s actually such a huge demand for larger sizes, then stores will carry larger sizes. But I’m not sure that’s the whole story. Size, in the United States, is strongly associated with class and attractiveness; a lot of designers refuse to make larger sizes because (1) they argue that their clothes don’t look as good on larger women, and (2) marketing a plus-sized line is still perceived as signalling a down-scale brand. Designers don’t want their clothes and their brand associated with larger women because it might challenge their brand’s cache. That’s why it’s particularly important for women like Beth Ditto to stand up and demand that if they’re being used to market clothing, it had damned well better fit them.

In the comment section to the Times article, there are the predictable arguments that we shouldn’t cater to an “unhealthy” fat lifestyle, and that maybe if we don’t sell plus-sized clothes, people will just stop being fat. If you’ve been around these parts long enough, you’re probably familiar with the argument that fat and health do not necessarily correlate, and that it’s silly to assume that someone’s weight is an indicator of how healthy they are. I’ll just add, though, that people who feel good about themselves are more likely to want to take care of themselves and make healthier choices, no matter what their weight. Telling fat people that they’re so unworthy of participating in society that they don’t even deserve clothes that fit is pretty fucked up, and certainly not intended to promote physical or mental well-being.

All that said: We know that people come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. So why are designers making whole new lines for women above a size 12? Why not just make the same styles in a wider variety of sizes?

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69 comments for “Fat and fashionable AND happy? Impossible!

  1. June 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    I don’t understand. If we shouldn’t be making clothing for fat people because it encourages them to be fat, are these people saying they want us fat people to walk around everywhere naked?

    Because that’s the message I’m getting.

    And, you know, I’m more than happy to oblige (til October or so, anyway). I like my in-betweenie body quite a lot, and clothing is so often uncomfortable anyway.

    Just wanting to confirm here.

  2. Ali
    June 18, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Why not just make the same styles in a wider variety of sizes?

    Not only this, but can someone please get it through clothing designers’ heads that we need a wider variety of fits too. Shocking, I know, but not everyone of the same size is shaped the same way. I’ve been between a size 10 and size 13/14 for the past several years, but it’s only been in the last couple months that I can buy clothing off the rack because I just got my mondo rack of doom downsized.
    How hard is it to have a couple shirts that fit well on busty women, a couple shirts that fit well on flat-chested women, and a couple shirts that fit the standard B to D cup ranges?

  3. June 18, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    …and a couple shirts that fit the standard B to D cup ranges?

    Heck, I’m in that “standard range”, and its hard as heck for me to find shirts that fit well- that don’t pull or gap. It’s always mystified me- if the average woman wears a 12 in the US, why is it so damned hard for me (I wear from a 10,12 or 14 in misses, and 9,11,or 13 in juniors) to find clothes that fit?

  4. AutumnWytch
    June 18, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I think what we equate with beauty in this country is what’s making young girls miserable, because no one is, nor can achieve, the picture of perfection that you see on magazine covers, billboards, advertisements, etc. I sure as hell can’t! But our view of beauty has become so skewed because of these things that we don’t recognize true beauty when it kicks us in the ass! And to assume that just because someone is miserable because they’re overweight or packing a few extra pounds is ridiculous! I’m a size 16 and, yeah, I could stand to lose a few pounds, and I felt better when I was thinner, but it doesn’t make me a miserable human being!

    Sheesh! We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t!

  5. June 18, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I’m sure someone will comment on this post arguing that stores are businesses, and this is purely about capitalism — that is, if there’s actually such a huge demand for larger sizes, then stores will carry larger sizes. But I’m not sure that’s the whole story.

    One of the stores they mention– Fat Fancy in Portland is seriously amazing. They’ve been running as an underground boutique (that’s super affordable) out of a friends basement/garage for the last two years, and are finally getting ready to open a store front. & they’re at least one store that’s not just about capitalism.

  6. leah
    June 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Ali – totally. And there’s the rub: Clothing is designed for a very specific, very rare body shape. Heck, I’m in the 8-10 range and can hardly ever find clothes that look good on my body, because I’m not shaped like an adolescent. I have curves, boobs, and yes, even a roll or two. I dread pants shopping and only go once or twice a year because over 90% of pants are tight in the front but gap so badly in the back I’m showing cheek. If clothing were designed for real, grown-up bodies in a variety of shapes, both in look and in fit, I think a lot of people would be happier about their bodies. They do it with men’s clothes – why not womens? Don’t we tend to have more parts that can vary greatly in size and shape? Wait, don’t answer those questions, I already know the answers :/

  7. June 18, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Clothes shopping is such a nightmare that I’m seriously considering spending the limited amount of funds and time I have to buy a sewing machine and learning to sew. In the long run, it cannot possibly be more expensive, and at least I know the clothes will goddamn fit me.

  8. RMJ
    June 18, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Size, in the United States, is strongly associated with class and attractiveness; a lot of designers refuse to make larger sizes because (1) they argue that their clothes don’t look as good on larger women, and (2) marketing a plus-sized line is still perceived as signalling a down-scale brand.

    This is accentuated by the story’s focus on discount retailer KMart’s plus-size line – it’s mentioned in quotes and other references more than any other retailer in the story. While I don’t have a specific beef with KMart and I think it’s great that they make styles in large sizes, this emphasis clearly betrays the author’s attitude that fat women should be relegated to downmarket stores and are not worthy of upmarket or sophisticated threads.

    Great post! I wrote on the same article earlier today.

  9. June 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Did you all see Maureen Dowd’s column on Sunday? Even the so-called “beautiful people” can’t keep up with modern standards of perfection on HDTV.

    The best course of action for women with curves is to make a tailor their best friend. It isn’t right, but it’s often the only choice.

  10. kim
    June 18, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    can someone please get it through clothing designers’ heads that we need a wider variety of fits too.

    hear hear! Also, can someone please inform bra manufacturers that women with small breasts don’t necessarily want 4 inches of padding and gel inserts in the cups?

  11. misteranthropist
    June 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    This notion of beauty is the quintessential “American Dream” for women. I really like the last sentence about lying about your body image. I think it’s interesting how it’s not just older women who feel neglected due to the capitalism of skinny, but teenagers struggle as well. It seems that every year, the new trend is a little less cloth, and a little more skin. If men control the images of women, then men are doing a terrible job at supporting modest attire for women, and women feel that if they don’t show, they won’t be respected. I think this to be such a huge misconception, because too much skin points to the idea of being a “slut.” The best way to create a healthy image is to not only show comfort, but be happy with appearance. When images cloud the minds of women, none of them can be satisfied no matter what size or age.

  12. beth
    June 18, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    heh, i’m a fairly avergae size (apart form being really short) and i find the best thing to find variety is to go to a second hand shop. I find it really annoying looking for first hand stuff, especially bras (no, i don’t want padding, no i don’t want crocodiles or whatever, just cause i’m small doesn’t mean i’m 14. I want sexy! and comfy). I just find it so frustrating…

  13. June 18, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    designers are making whole new lines and not just making the same line in a greater variety of sizes because if they did that then they couldn’t put big hawking “dusty rose” flowers on everything or wash the material in dirt water before making the clothes…

  14. Cecily
    June 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Hmm. I’m of mixed feelings on the last line of this post, “We know that people come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. So why are designers making whole new lines for women above a size 12? Why not just make the same styles in a wider variety of sizes?”

    I oscillate between sizes 10 and 14 (depending on my size this season, the brand’s sizing, and which half of my body goes into the garment) and so I often can find the ‘standard’ garments in my size. And many of them do NOT work. When you’re designing for a size 0 through 4, the garment you make will very seldom look great on a 10 through 14. Sometimes I luck out, sometimes I don’t. But I don’t think making the same STYLES in different sizes is the whole answer. I think designing FOR DIFFERENT SIZES is key, and it’s probably one of the reasons companies would rather embrace the status quo — they don’t have to work harder.

    Even a simple style — say, the T-shirt — would benefit from a redesign for larger sizes. Arm holes are often uncomfortably constrictive for my tweener self, and two darts can make a shirt a LOT more flattering on a big-busted woman than it is if it’s tenting out under her bosom.

    A variety of bodies considered would be great across the board — I walked by a Lane Bryant the other day and all their mannequins were veeeeery busty with proportionally smaller hips and butt. I don’t think you’re serving your whole demographic there, Lanie.

  15. Gwrthryfel
    June 18, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.

    It’s hard for many women of all body types to feel good about their bodies and how they look. I myself have a normal, if plump, weight for my height, and it has taken me so long to get to the point where I can look in the mirror and not be completely disgusted, and perhaps even be happy. (There are many reasons to be unhappy with one’s body, and I think maybe they don’t all stem from physical appearance.) If these women/girls have acquired self-acceptance and are happy with their body type, why readily try to take that away from them? They love how they are and that should be good enough for everyone. Perhaps some of them are using it as a cover, however I think that this is actually another idiotic societal taboo slowly being unraveled, like tattoos and piercings, or women wearing pants.

  16. June 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    How hard is it to have a couple shirts that fit well on busty women, a couple shirts that fit well on flat-chested women, and a couple shirts that fit the standard B to D cup ranges?

    Amen to that! I’m an A and it is very difficult to find tops that fit sometimes. One of my good friends is a DD and she says she’s resigned to either having to wear tops that bag or are super tight.

    Even a simple style — say, the T-shirt — would benefit from a redesign for larger sizes. Arm holes are often uncomfortably constrictive for my tweener self.

    I can relate! My upper arms have always been much bigger than my forearms and as I get older I’ve noticed that I have that extra skin and fat that hangs down. But what’s interesting is that I’ve been working out and gaining some shoulder and tricep definition, armholes and the top of my sleeves don’t fit correctly anymore, either. Damned if I work out, damned if I don’t, I guess!

  17. June 18, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Eh, Marks’ comment aside, I’m just glad to see an article on fat women that doesn’t quote one MeMe Roth or some other anti-fat zealot bitching about how making fat women wear anything other than burlap sacks is promoting the big bad “obesity epidemic.”

    And, it’s sad to say, but I’ve found more in the way of plus-size offerings at KMart than I ever have at Target. Not that they’re great offerings, mind you, but at least their plus-size section is larger than the maternity section. Still, I absolutely agree with you about the class snobbery at play. Some 60 percent of Americans are estimated to be overweight and obese and yet stores are reluctant or downright refuse to cater to this demographic? It defies fiscal logic. As I wrote here when Old Navy and The Gap began offering plus-size clothing online only: they don’t want fat people in their stores, they still want our money. I, for one, prefer to spend my dollars in actual brick-and-mortar stores that aren’t ashamed to have me as a customer.

  18. June 18, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Okay, so while we’re talking about bust issues and sleeve issues (I have the former fairly frequently, and the latter occasionally, fwiw), can we also talk about pant legs, specifically jeans?

    You see, I’ve got big thighs. Plain and simple. They’re big. And so I always have a problem with jeans shopping of finding pants that I know damn well would fit me in the waist, but I can’t even get up very far past my knees. And then I find myself needing to go up a size, at which point I can get my damn legs in the pants, but there’s too much room in the waist and I have to deal with that. This is why, in addition to my liking the way they look, I always tend to go for wide-leg pants. Usually solves the problem. But it’d be nice to not have the problem constantly, and to have more options than that, and to not feel like someone with freak thighs, and to actually be able to buy pants that really fit on regular basis. Seriously.

    Just thought I’d toss it out there :)

  19. June 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Yeah, cecily, that’s sort of what I meant. In my experience, smaller sizes do come in a variety of shapes for a varity of body types. I look at my room mate and I, for example — we’re both about the same height and on the smaller end of the size spectrum, but she’s fairly busty (a D cup) with narrow hips and a tiny butt, and I have wide hips and a big butt with a smaller upper body. I’m pretty pear-shaped, and she’s generally just miniature with big boobs. Not every single size 2 piece of clothing is going to fit both of us; I can’t fit into her jeans, and she can’t fit into my fitted-on-top strapless dresses. But there are enough smaller-sized items cut in a variety of ways where both of us can find clothes that fit and that are flattering. Of course, shopping is still frustrating — I can’t shop at a lot of the mall stores because the clothes are over-sized and cut larger in the waist, and she has some trouble finding fitted dresses that don’t cut off circulation to her chest — but we’re both able to find stuff, because there’s just such a huge amount of smaller-sized clothing out there.

    So when I said “make clothes in all sizes,” I was working under the assumption that such a statement would include making a variety of styles and fits so that women of all body types can find flattering clothing, no matter their size or proportion.

  20. Alyssa
    June 18, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    …and the first photo shows the model in a supermarket. For goodness sakes.

  21. Sassenach
    June 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.

    Sheesh. I pity the poor adolescents who have this woman for their physician.

  22. June 18, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Cara I hear ya.
    With me if I want something that’ll not be skin tight on my thighs I have to get it in a size that usually puckers at the waist, or is a little to big at the waist. Soooo annoying. And since I’ve decided to start wearing long skirts, and try to only get a few things from second hand stores it’s a little better, but there’s the problem that a lot of times second hand stores have almost nothing in a certain size range (at least from my experiace). I’m about a size 18/20 in skirts, and a 2x in shirts. I went to my favorite consgnement shop that usually only sells really nice stuff (though some of it is more than gently used it’s still high quality and expensive brands) and most o the skirts were 16 or below, and almost all the shirts were up to a size XL or over a size 3X. Goodwill was even worse in terms of having nothing in my size. I actually thought about getting the 5X shirts at the consignment shop tailored down b/c they were so nice and cheap (even at $10 tailoring cost a piece woulda been less than $15 on each shirt).
    Also, before deciding to gradually adopt the modern plain dress, Ipretty much gave up on stores other than Cato’s, Lane Bryant, and Ashley Stewart, all of which I could only afford to shop the clearances at (except Cato’s). I hot some realy nice stuff at Kohl’s too. But yeah, going to most stores was just depressing. I remember watching part of an episode of MTV’s True Life about a girl who was plus size and happy ( Can’t remember the show’s general topic, but I think it also featured a plus-sized girl who advocated for larger desks at her college), but at one point she was crying b/c her friends had basically jumped on her for complaining about the lack of clothing sizes she could find in most regular stores. It was hard to watch this beautiful, confident woman be basically insulted by her friends and told she souldn’t complain about the lack of options because she chose to be that way. It was almost as if her friends enjoyed putting this fat girl who dared to be happy and love her body in her place.

  23. shah8
    June 18, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Couldn’t find an email to the blogmistresses, but I thought this would be of interest.

  24. Literate Shrew
    June 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Quote from Jill: “But there are enough smaller-sized items cut in a variety of ways where both of us can find clothes that fit and that are flattering.”

    THIS. I don’t mean to open a can of worms or anything, but this right here is thin privilege.

    As a woman who wears a 1X or 2X or 18 or 20 (depending on the item/brand/stretchiness), I can’t just walk into a random store and probably find at least one item that fits. This isn’t about “oh, it gaps here” or “oh, the arm holes are tight.” NOTHING in the store will fit! I have honestly stopped going to malls because it’s just not worth it. Fat women have literally, maybe, oh, a tenth of the choice as women who fit 0-16. Period.

    Oh, and just to blow another hole in the “it’s just business” argument — If fat women are poor, then why only put plus sized lines online? Because poor people don’t have reliable internet access and maybe not even a credit card to order with. So…. maybe it’s not “just business?” Hm. Could be.

  25. June 18, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Telling fat people that they’re so unworthy of participating in society that they don’t even deserve clothes that fit is pretty fucked up, and certainly not intended to promote physical or mental well-being.

    *nods enthusiastically*

  26. Maureen
    June 18, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Thank you, Jill, for pointing out that while straight-size people also have trouble buying clothes, they still have more selection than plus-size people do. Furthermore: Tailors. Know them and love them. It’s easy to fix a too-big waist or too-long arms; it’s impossible to get a size 18 out of a size 14.

    I’ve seen a lot of these fatshion threads on feminist blogs lately, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve created Fat Fashion Bingo:


    (Note: I applaud all those who do sew their own clothes — but it’s something we should choose to do, not be coerced into doing.)

  27. June 18, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Maureen — while I fully get your point that clothes for thinner people are easier to alter and easier to access in a wide variety of areas, and agree, I must say that I find your “just go to a tailor” solution to be rather classist. Tailors cost a lot of money. (Not to mention are just plain unrealistic if your weight tends to fluctuate.) And clothes cost a lot of money as is. I can’t even comprehend the idea of paying a tailor.

    That said, while I do think that the lack of clothing options for all women who don’t fit into a narrow set of proportions is important, I recognize and appreciate your point about thin people hijacking threads about clothing options for fat people and making it all about them and their comparatively much smaller difficulties. So as someone who wouldn’t generally be considered “thin” but can find her size in most stores, if just barely squeaking in under that mark, I’m just going to step out now.

  28. allie
    June 18, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    It’s the same thing here in Australia – only the low-end chain department stores or expensive “specialised” boutiques carry sizes higher than a 12 or 14 (American 10 or 12, I think?), and the cheaper stores that cater exclusively to teenagers, like Supre, have a different sizing code where the ‘Large’ is I’d guess around an 8-10 (American 6-8). I hate this last one most of all, because when you’re a teenage girl with a limited income but you want to wear nice or fashionable clothes, shops like Supre are where you have to go. And when you get there, if you are going through puberty and starting to develop hips, breasts, and a belly, the sizing system tells you that you are XXLARGE.

    Extra, extra large.

    And we wonder why ‘fat’ girls have low self esteem? Must be because they’re so unhealthy. Yeah, that’s it.

  29. annalouise
    June 18, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I love your bingo, Maureen. I think all the people complaining about how it’s so hard for their very skinny, or short or slightly big busted selves to look at it and do a little reflecting about thin privilege because I find this kind of talk in the context of fat positivity very offensive.
    I wear a size 24-26 and a size DDD bra. That is a whole different animal from unflattering pants styles and too much padding.

  30. William
    June 18, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    If clothing were designed for real, grown-up bodies in a variety of shapes, both in look and in fit, I think a lot of people would be happier about their bodies. They do it with men’s clothes – why not womens?

    They don’t really. I mean, you have a little bit of variation, but especially once you get to suits you pretty much have three cuts: skinny, average, and large pear. No amount of tailoring will make a size 52-54 jacket fit properly if you have a 40 inch waist. I’ve got an 18 inch neck and I just can’t buy shirts that won’t have me swimming below the chest. It gets even worse when you’re looking at the L/XL/XXL conventions. I guess clothes just suck in general.

  31. Maureen
    June 18, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Cara, on reflection, the advice to go to a tailor is – yeah, it’s classist. To be honest, I’m not sure how much most tailors charge for making a waist smaller. And there’s some stuff that is hard to alter.

    Annalouise – thanks!

  32. rosasharn
    June 18, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    I guess non-fat people just shouldn’t post here since their experiences are “offensive.”

  33. Bagelsan
    June 18, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I guess clothes just suck in general.

    I believe you and the first commenter have found a solution. :)

  34. roses
    June 19, 2009 at 12:38 am

    What Literate Shrew said. When I wore a size 8, I had trouble finding clothes that fit well. I had big boobs and a big butt and clothes weren’t built to accomodate that. But I had the option of going to every one of the 30 or 40 stores in the mall that carried my size, and trying things on until I found something that fit passably well. It was frustrating and difficult, but it was an option. Now I wear a size 16W, and no longer have that option. The mall near my house has one store that carries my size, and it’s a department store that I’m not particularly enamoured with. So I have to drive to the other mall, which has three stores that carry my size. The same department store, a women’s clothing store that has a few plus size pieces hidden away in the back – mostly black polyester – and one plus size women’s store that actually has cute clothes. So if nothing fits me in that one store, I’m pretty much out of luck and stuck resorting to mail order. And you know what? I’m fortunate to have that one option, because that store only goes up to a 26W, and only to a 24W in most pieces. I’m honestly not sure if there are any stores in this city that go up to a size 28, 30 or 32. So it’s really not the same as pants that pull at the butt or gape at the waist or shirts that can’t button over the chest.

    Maureen, I love the bingo card.

  35. RacyT
    June 19, 2009 at 2:15 am

    “if there’s actually such a huge demand for larger sizes, then stores will carry larger sizes.”

    This concept is bullshit, for reasons beyond my understanding.

    I recently went shopping with a friend who is, like me, a healthy size 14. She brought me into the Gap (which I generally avoid) and we looked at all the sale stuff. EVERYTHING in the sale section was size 0-4. Tons of overstock. We’ve been watching this for years. One month into the season, all size 8-16 are gone. The small sizes end up in a bin that never empties. How exactly are they making more profit by carrying small sizes that nobody buys? If they ordered more average sizes, wouldn’t they sell more stuff at full price?

    Instead, they have massive amounts of overstock that noone will ever pick up. This seems like an insane business model to me. Why put shit back in the warehouse when everything points to you making more profit by ordering more average sizes? I just can’t get my head around it. If I owned the company, I’d fire them all. What gives?

  36. Marisa
    June 19, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Honestly, I don’t think it’s really a matter of not making the same styles bigger, but i honestly think they would not look as good on someone larger. I think when you have different body proportions, you need clothes that flatter different parts of you. For example, “normal” (by that I mean mainstream designer size) size women might want to flatter their smaller waists, but larger women might want to flatter their usually larger chests or hips. As far as designer clothes go, I think designers can be rather stuffy about their clothes being for “thin people”. Apparently fat people don’t deserve clothes by their standards.

  37. June 19, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Is anyone else struck by how much the “by giving them sexy clothes, you are encouraging their fatness” line sounds like “by giving them access to free birth control, you are encouraging rampant promiscuity”?

    I’m sensing a theme here: if we deny people basic protection–like clothes or condoms–then they’ll stop engaging in behaviors we dislike, such as premarital sex or, you know, EATING.

    But anyway.

    Antigone said: “Clothes shopping is such a nightmare that I’m seriously considering spending the limited amount of funds and time I have to buy a sewing machine and learning to sew. In the long run, it cannot possibly be more expensive, and at least I know the clothes will goddamn fit me.”

    I don’t sew–I’m fundamentally unskilled in the so-called womanly arts–but my mother is one of those super-crafty people who makes baskets and cross-stitches and quilts and God only knows what else. And when I was a child, she totally made clothes for me and my two siblings. But she doesn’t do it very much anymore, because fabric usually costs upwards of $3.00 a yard, and when you consider how many yards of cloth it takes to make even one dress…she made me a circle skirt a few years ago, and the cost of material alone was something like 30 bucks. And that was for a cotton print, nothing super-fancy.

    Making children’s clothes makes economic sense, but adult garments? Not so much. Especially not when you factor in the cost of the pattern (you can often find them on sale for well under $5.00, but I’ve seen them go for as much as $20.00), any buttons or elastic or zippers or other accoutrements, and the labor. Oh, dear god, the LABOR. Not to mention the pinning and the fitting and the let’s stop talking about this right now because my god, what a pain in the ass.

    When my mom was a child and a young woman, making your own clothes actually WAS a less expensive option, but it’s really, really not anymore, which is yet another reason why the dearth of plus-sized options really irritates me. I mean, what are we really supposed to freakin’ do? Put on burlap sacks until we’ve crash-dieted down to an “acceptable” size? Wrap ourselves in blankets and hide indoors so that no one can see our shameful, shameful flesh?

  38. Chialea
    June 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

    @RacyT: What sizes are sold out varies widely depending on your area of the country. In, say, Pittsburgh, things are precisely as you describe (except that they usually have a ton of things up to size 6 and quite a bit of 8). Clearance racks are a bonanza for thinner people. Shoe store clearance racks are great for people with smaller feet. However, in an area like the SF bay area, things are completely backwards from that. Smaller sizes (other than 0) never seem to hit the clearance rack at all. Small shoes sell out quickly.

    I suspect that part of the issue is that demographics in different areas aren’t sufficiently accounted for in chain store stocking.

  39. June 19, 2009 at 9:51 am

    @Maureen: Your Fat Fashion Bingo is great!

  40. Zoe
    June 19, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I know I’ve walked into a few different stores where my size, which is between a 10 and 12, is the last size that they sell. It always makes me nervous. If I were to gain just a little bit more weight, it would feel like I’m being kicked out of the “normal” stores. Which is so fucked up. I’m somewhat overweight but can pass for healthy. I suffer from my own low self-esteem and I don’t need clothing stores to help me along.

  41. June 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

    All that said: We know that people come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. So why are designers making whole new lines for women above a size 12? Why not just make the same styles in a wider variety of sizes?

    Well, the truth is that there are things that look good on a size 8 that won’t look so great on a size 18 – even in a larger size. I don’t want bigger clothes, I want clothes that flatter my shape. So that’s why there need to be different lines.

    There actually are a lot of great stores with plus sizes: Kohl’s, Fashion Bug, Torrid, Maurice’s to name a few, but then it brings you to the other problem with plus-sized clothes, they cost more. I’m not actually sure why they cost more. Is there more material involved? Yes, but a size 6 pays the same as a size 12. There certainly isn’t enough fabric in my bigger panties to justify a $3 price difference. More labor? Again, maybe, but a lot of our clothing is made in free-trade zones where workers are paid a pittance, so I doubt the people making the plus-sized clothes are seeing my extra money. The conclusion I come to from all of this is that since my buying options are limited, prices are set to reflect that. And that stinks.

  42. June 19, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I’m totally with Beth D. here. I worked at Lane Bryant for a couple years and I was always surprised when some of their clothing would essentially be nothing more then a larger version of something that was popular at the time. There was no consideration in regards to the fact that bigger bodies don’t jut need bigger clothes. They need different cuts as well.

    I also noticed that a lot of women who wore size tens or twelves would shop at Lane Bryant (which starts at 14) for their slacks because they were tall and other stores weren’t catering to their height. The smaller sizes (14 through 18) always sold out the fastest and were the most requested.

  43. carol h
    June 19, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I am one of the women alana is talking about. I am very tall, 6’2″ and currently wear around a 14-16 but it is a rare garment that fits me at all, let alone fits well. I aften buy a size larger than I need to shirts or jackets to get the arms long enough but then they are too big in the sholders, ect.

    I’m actually in a better shape than I was a few years ago when I wore a 24-16, I’ve lost a great deal of weight for a variety of reasons. When I was fatter, my dress size along with my height made buying any clothing at all almost impossible. Even so called “tall” sizes are designed to fit women around 5’7″ which to me is not tall at all. In addition, many so-called tall cloting stops at under size 20, meaning I could not wear them. Walking into a mall and realizing that there was not one garment I could buy destroyed any good feeling I had about my body.

    I am middle-aged, and my size made it almost impossible for me to feel any good feelings about my body. I don’t want to get into the whole weight loss thing except to say the I did not lose weight unlike I learned in therapy to like myself better. A lifetime of having to buy only what I could find and not what made me feel beautiful is part of what made me hate myself and my body. I wish things were better for young women and it makes me so sad that it is not.

  44. inkybrushes
    June 19, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    “Size, in the United States, is strongly associated with class and attractiveness; a lot of designers refuse to make larger sizes because (1) they argue that their clothes don’t look as good on larger women, and (2) marketing a plus-sized line is still perceived as signalling a down-scale brand.”

    It’s true. A lot of sizeist attitudes are based on class issues: after all, a super organically grown, vitamin fortified bag of apples has the “it’s trendy to be healthy and earth friendly and vegan right now” premium slapped on it. A Big Mac does not. With $5 foot long subs and $1 value meals pervading the fast food industry, the attitude implied is “If you’re ‘fat’, you must be eating this cheap crap, whereas the people who are thinner can obviously afford to spend $300 a week at Whole Foods.”

    It’s no coincidence that curvy, full figured women used to be featured in paintings and sculptures and considered the height of beauty back when it was high class to actually have enough food to fend off starvation.

    I think we should follow the example of those buxom beauties in old paintings and just go naked. XD

  45. carol h
    June 19, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I know that many people cannot afford to have clothing tailored but the limited use of tailors and dressmakers has been very helpful to me.

    I panicked when my son got a married a few years ago because I had not idea where I could buy a mother of the groom dress that fit me. Trying to explain the difficulties of clothes buying to my very tiny size 4 fashion major future daughter in law was very difficult to me.

    The tailors and dressmakes I have employed are not wealthy women. They are usually immigrants and often self employed. I know how to sew like many older women do and in fact made my wedding dress because of my size and to save money but I do not want to do sew anymore. I would rather pay another woman to make a beautful garmet that fits me perfectly and lets me feel beautiful than go into a store and struggle with the clothing.

    I wonderfully skilled woman made me a beautiful red Asian silk jacket and black skirt for my son’s wedding. I chose the pattern and fabric and she made it to fit my body, not someone’s idea of what my body should be like. She also took into account my uneven shoulders from my mild scoliosis. It was expensive, as it should have been, and I was glad to pay every penny.

  46. La BellaDonna
    June 19, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Talulah: I’ve been a seamstress for years. It’s true that a “plain cotton print” CAN be expensive – in fact, for one you really like, it can easily hit $20 a yard or more. Or a dollar a yard. It depends on where you shop – and there are more resources available on the internet, and thank dog for that, considering that brick and mortar fabric stores are disappearing.

    It depends on what you want from your options. Do you want cheap clothes? Sewing can be an alternative. If you like really beautiful clothes – those are MUCH cheaper to make yourself. If you want classics in high-quality fabrics that will last for several years – again, that will be to your advantage to make. If you’re looking for five or ten dollar blouses – it’s not necessarily the best use of your time, but you can use non-traditional fabric sources, including remaking existing clothing; I’ve made bathrobes out of second-hand sheets, fabric can often be found on Ebay or at flea markets. If you want clothes that fit and flatter you – you are so much better off making your own, than depending on MAYBE finding them in a store. Somewhere. And if you want to know what goes into making the clothes you wear, making your own is definitely the way to go. I know that plus-size women want the same advantages that smaller women have, including access to inexpensive clothing. The problem with most of that inexpensive clothing they’re buying is that the people who make them are generally not being paid a living wage. I can’t find it in me to fight for the right to help oppress somebody else.

    Beth D., there’s actually a LOT that goes into making clothes for plus-size women. At one point, I’d provided the information that had been passed on by a professional patternmaker that explained some of the differences and the costs, and it was posted on Big Fat Blog. People just didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t want to hear what the reasons were, she was accused of being sizist … and that was one of the more polite things. But there IS more involved – enough to make producing plus-size clothing a daunting venture for manufacturers. It’s not as simple as just making the clothes bigger. I happen to think the market is extensive enough that it would be worthwhile for manufacturers, but it is an economic risk for some of the small designers. It is not economically feasible for a manufacturer to make all designs to fit all sizes. It’s not. Consider: for every size, there are a minimum of 5 basic possible shapes: the Ruler (liner; 6″ or less difference between bust/waist/hips); the Apple (widest part is in the middle); the Hourglass (waist a minimum of 8-10″ smaller than SHOULDERS, bust, hips); the Pear (widest at the hips) the V-shape (widest part at the shoulders/bust). And there are variations inside those body shapes: you can have an hourglass who is short-waisted; an hourglass who is long-waisted; an hourglass who has her waist in the average position. The same holds true for each of the other body types. So now there are five shapes, with three variations each (15 different shapes!) for each size – every one of whom wants a garment that fits HER. For ONE STYLE, that means fifteen different patterns for the SAME STYLE to fit ONE SIZE. And the store is being asked to carry the line in, say, 2-18, with the 0s and 20s complaining because their sizes aren’t available. To make that one style to fit everyone is to make those 15 variations for each size; 135 different shapes. The patternmaker has to be paid for each of those patterns. And what if the garment doesn’t sell?

    This is one reason why having measurements on a garment would HELP shoppers figure out what they needed, but why it’s important that each manufactuer still be able to make clothing that fits his/her designated customer: so that the hourglass, the pear, the apple, the ruler and the V can learn what manufacturers produce clothing that is most likely to flatter them.

    Or: why I learned to sew.

  47. dan
    June 20, 2009 at 1:44 am

    interesting la belladonna. It always did annoy me that my clothes always cost more, i chalked it up to just more material but wow, theres a lot more to it. At 6’6 300 its tough to find things and nothing is ever on sale, save for at casual male which sucks. Not sure how this will ever be solved with all the variety in humans but the person who does solve it will be a billionaire!

    At a certain point though does it make any sense to expect to be able to find clothes that fit in chain stores? Once youre far enough away from the average height and weight numbers wouldnt it just get too hard for the manufacturer? Id love to save up and get a really nice pair of italian leather shoes i could keep for 20 years but they just don make much of that in size 15.

  48. June 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Literate shrew and others, thanks for pointing out this isn’t an appropriate thread for people who are non-fat sizes to be complaining about finding a good fit. And for anyone who complained about it after it was pointed out, check your privilege.

    Love, a size 16 to 18 who doesn’t want to hear it right now.

  49. Bonn
    June 21, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I think the point of the supposedly “privileged” posters is that they’re not as privileged as you seem to think. Don’t take out your anger at the fashion industry on people who can actually find something in the store sometimes. And I could argue that a size 16 is still pretty “privileged” compared to someone who’s a size 24 or 30.

    These conversations bother the crap out of me since moving to Japan. In Japan, probably over 90% of stores carry ONE SIZE.

    ONE. SIZE. It’s about a US size 3.

    Sometimes they carry two. 3 and 5, basically.

    And very, very few stores carry a variety of sizes. Yes, if you are over a size 10 you are expected to wear sacks. Shapeless sacks. So I get this feeling like … be glad that you just have anything.

    CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE to live in a country that actually sells plus sized clothing in major retail stores. Plus sized stores are rare here and ordinary stores do NOT carry anything over a 10. And your feet better not be bigger than 8 either.

  50. Lilith
    June 21, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I’m also an overweight Aussie. I hate trying to find clothes that fit properly, are well-made in quality fabrics, and don’t look like something my granny would wear.

    I haven’t been able to wear women’s pants/jeans since high school – anything that fits my ample butt is waaaay to big between crotch and waist, to the point that I can pull the waistband up to my boobs and still have it comfortable in the crotch. I finally discovered that men’s pants (esp. jeans) fit me perfectly. I may have to shorten the legs a bit, depending on cut, but they fit really comfortably.

    I have been particularly irritated this winter that I have not been able to find anywhere in Canberra that sells a knee-length wool/cashmere blend overcoat in plus size. Nor can I find any plain lambswool sweaters in my size. Not anywhere. The department stores that had that sort of thing a few years ago (Myer, David Jones) no longer do, and plus size ranges are getting smaller across the board, even in the cheap stores like K-Mart, Woolworths, and Target.

    I don’t have the problem, as some others obviously do, with non-fat women also complaining about not finding clothes to fit, because just about every item of clothing in stores these days are overpriced shoddily-made imports that don’t fit anyone particularly well.

    And so much fashion is aimed at skinny little teenaged bodies, that even women who are a healthy weight for their height and body type are made to feel that they are fat.

    If anything is going to make women (fat or not) unhappy about her body, it’s never being able to buy something stylish and of good quality, that you can feel good in.

    I’ll probably get slammed for this, but on the other issue of whether fat women are faking being happy, my experience is that many are. But it’s less that they are unhappy because they are fat, and more that they are fat because they are unhappy. Discounting people with medical conditions leading to weight gain, I believe you have to have a low level of self-esteem to allow yourself to keep piling on the kilos (and keeping them on) when you know it’s going to negatively impact your life and health. YMMV.

  51. June 21, 2009 at 9:01 am


    “Privilege” in this case is being used in this sense; non-fat women ARE privileged over fat women, even if life isn’t easy for non-fat women either. It’s not about “who has it easiest;” it’s set in a social justice context where you are afforded certain advantages through society because you are not fat. Think of how men often complain that they face troubles in a gender-binary society too — of COURSE they do, and those troubles are important, but that isn’t somehow a refutation of the fact that they ARE the privileged gender.

    (I say this as a woman who was decidedly skinny until last year, and now I’m just average.)

  52. June 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    OK, look, I get that the whole “omg I’m a size 8 and I can’t find clothes either!” thing is annoying.


    The assumption that we’re all just whining because we have “slightly big boobs” or a “unflattering pants”? Um…no, not so much. I can go to all of those 30 or 40 stores in a mall and NONE of them will have a bra that fits me. None. Do you know how much I have to pay for an *attractive* bra–oh, I don’t know, maybe something whose purpose isn’t to “minimize” me? Upwards of 150.00. Then if I really want it to fit, I have to pay for tailoring. Yeah, so not happening. Let’s not even talk about clothes that would allow me to move faster than a walk.

    Not to mention the fun suggestions that if it’s bothering me so much, why don’t I have them cut off, or just drop to a size 2 and they’ll disappear, etc, that it can’t *actually* bother me because I’m not fat so why don’t I shut up, etc. Oh, and apparently exercise also makes your breasts smaller, who knew.

    Anyway, point is that the “busty” thing is not always thin chicks whining. It can be a real physical and emotional issue. That said, in terms of non-undergarments, I do not know why the heck advertisers and businesses haven’t woken up and smelled the coffee yet.

  53. June 21, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I spent most of my life underweight, a few years “average” and now on the very low end of overweight. Clothes just don’t fit any women. Period. Finding clothing that fits attractively and comfortably is the kind of thing that happens a handful of times in your life. (My disability may be coloring things there, but.)

    But. Thin privilege does exist, as Jill illustrated pretty well. Most thin folk have at least a handful of satisfactory choices (reasonably comfortable/flattering, if not perfect). Fat women may be lucky to get anything that covers their skin, period, and if so may only have a handful of choices, period, not even considering comfort/attractiveness yet.

    But women’s bodies — and here’s what designers just do.not.get yet — ARE ALL DIFFERENT. We aren’t just reproductions of a “How To Draw Women” book sized up or down by Xeroxing the pages and changing it to 95% or 105%. Even fat women have VERY DIFFERENT body types. (Go figure!)

    So yeah, they design clothing that leaves some of us hung out to dry. I have pretty damn wide hips — when I was a 17 BMI (5’8″ 110lbs give or take), I was still wearing size 8-10 jeans minimum. The minute I started gaining weight, I was sometimes having to look at “plus”-range jeans depending on where I was shopping. And the jeans I could afford weren’t the ones tailored to fit me, so I had huge gapping problems around my waist.

    OTOH, I had no boobs, so I would have to buy shirts that were long enough (since I was taller) but that would leave gaps and bunching on the top of the shirt, front and back.

    I honestly think no woman can win.
    That does not, however, refute the very real existence of a privilege system.
    Sometimes, even if you got the short straw, someone else got one even shorter.

  54. Laura
    June 21, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    What a timely post. I *might* have thrown a temper tantrum in the mall this weekend over my inability to find pants that fit my waist AND ass at the same time. Lane Bryant introduced a “right fit” line a while ago that’s designed for 3 shapes (straight, moderately curvy and curvy curvy), and I am still wayyy straighter than their “no ass” jeans. I really, really need a pair of decent work pants by July 1 (“decent” meaning “No, this serious fat overhang at the waist is not an acceptable compromise; I buy plus sizes so that I don’t look like the fat chick trying to squeeze into clothes three sizes too small”). 90 minutes of trying-on later, and I was ready to cry, and still had no pants. Stupid, stupid pants.

    Completely made up for it the next day by venturing into the maternity section. For years, have been joking that I’m built like I’m 4 months pregnant. Who’d a thunk it, shirts that fit my boobs and are flattering, and pants that can accommodate my waist without leaving my ass swimming in fabric.

    So Amen on fighting the good fight for expanded sartorial options for all, but for the other “apples” out there, get thee to the maternity section!

  55. meerkat
    June 22, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Discounting people with medical conditions leading to weight gain, I believe you have to have a low level of self-esteem to allow yourself to keep piling on the kilos (and keeping them on) when you know it’s going to negatively impact your life and health. YMMV.

    And this is not WILDLY offensive because there is NOTHING genetic about it AT ALL EVER, dieting WORKS SO WELL and is SO HEALTHY. I’m sure there are other blogs where your hatred of fat people would be more appreciated. Maybe you should get some 101 level education before you comment on this kind of thread.

    Also, various commenters, please stop saying you are a “healthy” weight without throwing some scare quotes on. Haven’t you read about those studies in which “overweight” people have a lower mortality rate than “healthy weight” people? But the real problem is that referring to “healthy” BMI as “healthy” implies that anyone else is UNhealthy and talking about how unhealthy fat people are makes the thread hostile to fatties.

    I do think we should keep in mind that thin people also have trouble finding clothes that fit well, and clothes shopping is not the walk in the park for them that we might assume from how TV portrays them as enjoying it so freaking much. But this thread shouldn’t be focused on that once it’s been duly noted.

  56. Lilith
    June 22, 2009 at 11:46 am

    meerkat @57
    To avoid this becoming a flamewar, these are my last comments on the issue:

    I am currently morbidly obese, have been for most of my adult life (and was never thin as a kid either), and it is entirely my own fault. It’s not the fault of society, or the media, or the fashion industry, or my mum. To blame others would be just playing the victim.

    I choose to eat too much and the wrong things.

    I choose not to make time for serious exercise.

    I chose over years to let my emotional/psychological issues dictate my lifestyle.

    Sure, I didn’t do well in the genetics stakes: short, stocky frame and really crappy metabolism, but all that means is I would need to work harder than some other people to get down to what I feel is a comfortable weight, and I accept that no matter what lifestyle changes I make, I’ll never end up looking tall and willowy (and I really don’t care).

    But that doesn’t mean I can’t choose to work past my internal bullshit and improve my health by losing weight and exercising more. I managed to quit smoking 5 years ago cold turkey after 20 years of smoking a pack a day, so I know can make any lifestyle change I set my mind to.

    Being very overweight IS unhealthy. It can lead to type 2 diabetes, and other medical issues that shorten life expectency, not to mention the discomfort caused by damage to joints (as my knees can attest).

    I don’t need a “101 level education”, as you so superciliously put it, to comment on this stuff. I live it. I just don’t chose to live in denial.

  57. James
    June 22, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    “The best course of action for women with curves is to make a tailor their best friend. It isn’t right, but it’s often the only choice.”

    I’ve talked about this with women before, because the men’s store I frequent has free tailoring on most purchases, and free or cheap tailoring afterward. In fact, some things (e.g., slacks) have to be cuffed to fit. A lot of women really like this idea, and I’m kind of surprised that there’s no similar model for women. But it definitely is not a one-size-fits-all solution, pun intended:

    1) Clothing has to be made to be tailored well, and that isn’t cheap: The stitching has to be good, there has to be extra cloth at the seams and for that matter the cloth has to be good. The men’s store I shop at has many virtues, but low prices are not one of them. I shop there because I’m large enough that the rest of retail (including, especially, used/vintage clothing) is a wasteland, not because I enjoy paying their prices.

    2) This is not a problem for men’s clothing generally, but any translucent or sheer fabric could be tailored at most once.

    3) Because of 1), I get by with 3 pairs of pants and 6 shirts (3 short sleeve, three long), and some heavy work clothes from the local farmer’s supply. I expect them to last for 10 years or more (that is one advantage to the tailored stuff: it’s better made, so if you take care of it it lasts as long as you want it to). That’s fine with me, but if it’s not fine for you then tailor-to-fit is not the answer.

    It is a nice option to have, though, especially for formal wear. I’d bet that the first women’s clothing store to try it would be pleasantly surprised. They’d have to find someone who offers clothing made with good stitching and extra fabric, first. I imagine the designers would pitch a fit at the idea of some tailor somewhere modifying their precious designs.

    I think that part of the problem is that there’s this ideal that clothing should drape like a curtain over the body, which implies a very particular and fairly unusual body type. Clothing that is more structured or designed to wrap around the body instead of hanging from the shoulders and hips works a lot better on a lot of people, male and female.

  58. ACG
    June 23, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I was about to make a comment, and then I read Maureen’s bingo card, and… now I have a lot to leave out of my comment.

    There is this, though: I don’t remember who made it, but just one time, in just one place, I found a company that almost got it. They had a cute little camisole with a shelf bra and spaghetti straps for probably 2-6. After size 6, they had wider straps – just wide enough to cover bra straps. After size 12, the straps got even wider and the neckline got a little higher to accommodate a bigger bust. Sure, they didn’t really account for large-busted tiny women or small-busted larger women, but they did recognize that a) plus-size women also like to look cute and b) clothes have to change slightly as they get larger.

    Thus: More structured skirts, please. Lined pants. Tilted waistlines that are higher in back. Wider straps. Blouses with darts. There are companies that do this and don’t charge a fortune for their clothes; don’t tell me it can’t be done. Oh, and how about a little bit of lace or a cute pattern or something on a larger bra? Just because it has to be functional doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty.

  59. ACG
    June 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    And Lilith – Congratulations on coming to terms with your size and the choices you have made. I’m sorry to hear about the emotional issues that you have allowed to dictate your lifestyle. I’m glad to know that you’ve identified what you consider to be a comfortable weight, and I’m sure that since you can make any lifestyle change you set your mind to, you’ll be there soon.

    I can’t congratulate you on your powers of deduction, however, because they’re kind of weak. Generalizing your experience out on the whole of overweightdom is a reach at best and kind of self-satisfied at worst. It’s a bold move to start diagnosing things like denial and unhappiness from a distance. You don’t need a “101-level education” to speak to your own experience; you do need a fairly big pair of balls to speak to others’.

  60. ACG
    June 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    (And for “balls,” read “ovaries.” Or whatever. Okay, now I’m done, I promise.)

  61. Meg
    June 24, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Cara writes ” I must say that I find your “just go to a tailor” solution to be rather classist. Tailors cost a lot of money. (Not to mention are just plain unrealistic if your weight tends to fluctuate.) And clothes cost a lot of money as is. I can’t even comprehend the idea of paying a tailor.”

    My income puts me in the lower classes, and my tailor is an awesome woman who runs her own successful business and gainfully employs several other women. I believe she gives them benefits too. My experience has not been that it costs a lot to have clothes tailored – most jobs have been under $15. And I would rather patronize her and have a smaller wardrobe than sport all the latest fashion trends, which may or may not have been made by exploited women in other countries. From a historical perspective I think it’s worth noting that ready-to-wear clothing is a relatively recent development. It seems to me like women have never had so many immediate-gratification clothing options for such a relatively low percentage of income (please correct if I am wrong). And yet from reading the comments it seems like hardly anyone is “able to walk into clothing stores…and find clothes that fit.” So I’m not sure that lobbying for more mass-produced standard styles and sizes is the answer, especially considering the clothing industry’s impact on women & children around the world. Kinda off-topic…

    PS I hear you on the wide-leg pants, my thighs laugh at regular leg cuts.

  62. June 26, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I believe that every person, regardless of size, should have access to attractive, age-appropriate clothing. I am glad to see that the plus-size market offers more choices beyond tent dresses and pants with skinny legs and pleats.

    That said, I am very concerned about the significant number of Black women who are seriously and dangerously obese. White women are creeping up on the scales as well, but, obesity has long been a serious health concern in the Black community. Big and beautiful? How about, a healthy weight where I can move about on my own power without struggling.

  63. La BellaDonna
    June 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    (I apologise for some strange-looking bolding which seems to be beyond my control.)

    Laura, over at dressaday.com I have suggested to apple-shaped women who want nice clothes to try on quality maternity wear. It’s an excellent choice for apples, because it’s clothing designed for women who are widest in the middle. It’s not a matter of “unfair” or “limited” or “manufacturers SHOULD be making clothes for…” – It exists. In many price points (so it can be found without ruffles, appliques, etc. cluttering the clothes). And the target market is the apple shape. It isn’t “giving up” for apples to shop in maternity wear; it’s a solution. There are price points everywhere from Target, through Pea in the Pod for professional wear. Also, if you are actually that straight through the waist, I would encourage you to try on men’s trousers; they are designed for a figure which is NOT nipped in. It’s not a “failure” of some kind, of ANY kind, if you can find attractive clothing that fits you via non-traditional sources. You might even want to check out men’s jackets. Who will care what the source for your black or grey or pinstriped pantsuit is? And sturdy casual clothing can be found in men’s work clothes: Carhart, white summer trousers courtesy of chef’s wear, etc.

    Dan, I think you’re correct; once you are sufficiently outside the standard size or shape, it is, at the very least, unlikely that you will find something that fits to your satisfaction in a chain store, unless it is a chain store that caters to your particular size/shape. It is also much less likely that you will find clothes on sale. I know that I do see ads for stores that specifically target Big and Tall Men, and it would seem to me that that might be a source for you – I know that I see suits being shown, so there is certainly more than just casual wear being offered. I would suggest that, unless you are holding out for John Lobb made-to-measure shoes, you may want to do some more searching on the internet: there are more custom shoemakers out there than most people seem to realize.
    Part of the frustration, I think, that is being experienced by everyone here and many more as well, is caused by the fact that the ready-to-wear market is really not that old. It’s not. In the long history of people wearing clothing, centuries upon centuries, the general ready-to-wear market didn’t really start to exist until the early 20th century. Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward sent out their catalog offerings, but the quality of what was offered permitted people to make alterations, if necessary, and some companies provided partly-made clothes: skirts that were not stitched up the back, or ready-made skirts with a blouse-length so that the buyer could make the top to fit. And in terms of women’s clothes, at least, there was a certain standardization in that the clothes were being made to fit over standard-sized support garments: a corset gives a ready-made standardized torso shape over which to fit a garment.

    Even standard-sized patterns are a relatively recent development. People, rich, middle-class or poor, either made their own clothes or had them made (yes, even the poor), or they wore other folks’ hand-me-downs and were grateful to have them. Ready-made clothes didn’t really take off in Europe until after WW II, because the quality of the clothing, and the fit, was so poor. America had a head-start on manufacturing standards, although European designers had the consumer appeal.
    All clothing is affected by the fit model used by the manufacturer; yes, she may have a 38” bust, and you may have a 38” bust, but maybe the fit model is a B cup, and maybe you are a D cup; that absolutely will affect how clothes fit. In addition, perhaps you carry most of your 40” around the hips in your backside, and the fit model carries it in her hips, from side to side. The result is you need to find a manufacturer with a different fit model: regardless of your going up a size or down a size, the shape of the garment will not fit you.

    Clothing shapes matter, too. It’s not just a matter of what will be most “flattering” to the wearer, it’s simple math: if you have a waist which is significantly smaller than your hips (10” or greater), you will have a much harder time finding, say, a straight skirt that fits you properly, because most people do NOT have waists 10” or more smaller than their hips, and therefore manufacturers are generally not cutting straight skirts with those measurements in mind. You will find it easier to find a skirt to fit if you look at gathered skirts, or at gored skirts, or at circle skirts. (These skirts will also be more flattering to you.) It is very difficult to cut trousers to fit someone with a large waist/hip difference; it’s almost impossible to do it without darts. If you look for trousers without darts, you will therefore be much less likely to find a pair that fit you well. If you buy a pair of mid-to-low rise trousers, they are MORE likely to fit you than a pair of trousers that hits at your natural waist, because the further down your hips that the waist of the trouser hits you, the LESS difference in measurement there will be between the “waist” end of your trousers than your hips. If, on the other hand, you have a very linear figure, with less than 6” between your bust, waist and hips, you are more likely to find a man-tailored or boyfriend jacket to fit than you will a jacket with a very nipped waist or peplum.

    I know it isn’t what most people want to hear, but I strongly urge you to consider changing the way you expect to acquire your clothing. People really don’t have the “right” to cheap, disposable clothing. The only way cheap, disposable clothing can exist is because other people (often women and children, often in Third World countries), are not being paid a living wage, by which I mean a wage on which they can live in the countries in which they live. Just because it costs less to live in another country than it does in the U.S. does not mean that the workers are being paid enough upon which to live in that country.

  64. Sarah
    July 6, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    There’s a logical reason why stores carry fewer plus sizes.
    If you look at the distribution of US women’s weights, the mean is quite low, but the tail is long. The average weight for a woman under 30 is something like 135, if I remember right. There are plenty of fat people, sure, but their weights have a much higher variance: “overweight/obese” for a 5’6” woman would be anywhere from 165 to 300 or more.

    So, even if the average woman wears a size 12, there are fewer people buying the size 16 than the size 8. Each additional size a store carries brings it less in revenue.

    You don’t have the right to clothes that fit, frustrating as that may be. I’m short and I have to hem my pants, and sometimes take them in at the waist. I recognize that there’s a whole ‘nother level of prejudice against fat people (though I am convinced that weight is less immutable than most people think, that’s no excuse for treating anybody like less than a person.) But capitalism produces what’s demanded. It’s not retailers’ fault if they can’t profit on the kinds of clothes you’d prefer.

  65. Sarah
    July 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Other thoughts:
    Why can’t women’s clothes be sized with measurements, like men’s clothes? Are we children, that we need vanity sizing to soothe our egos? The same damn store will sell two pairs of pants, sized the same, and one is loose and the other is tight.

    About fat in general: we have a situation where the average is not the ideal. It’s the skewed distribution again. The “norm,” society’s mental image of a woman who’s a “normal” weight, is quite a bit below the actual average. And you don’t have to be slothful or gluttonous to be a size 12; a “healthy” diet and regular exercise won’t make everyone thin.

    Now, you can understand that as Kate Harding does, and argue for fat acceptance. But the other side of the coin is simply that it takes a pretty extreme diet/exercise regimen to look ideal: think never having a sandwich again. But it can be done, and I’ve seen it done.

    As in everything, I think we need to cultivate personal independence. If you’re interested in making a physical transformation, then do it, accept that it’s challenging, and don’t be embarrassed by your choice. If you’re not interested, then be sane and happy about who you are. (Men seem to be good at this; I’ve had male friends who cheerfully refer to themselves as fatasses and then put all their energy into their great jobs and relationships.) It ought to be about choice; choice cuts both ways.

  66. Alandra
    August 3, 2009 at 6:27 am

    While I’m not overweight, I still have trouble finding clothes that fit because of my small breasts, but it seems the problems of not-overweight women aren’t important here, so what I wanted to say is:

    My cousin is about 1.53m tall and, while not fat, quite chubby with large breasts. We often went shopping together this summer and it was really hard to find things that fit her.
    There were shirts and pants made for small people and also shirts and pants made for chubby people, but there was almost nothing for her.
    We bought the same dress, it’s long for her and short for me. She has to wear a shirt under the dress, because it exposes too much of her breasts, I’ll have to take it to the tailor to change the straps so they don’t fall down and show everything.
    But yeah, back to my cousin. We went shopping for a bra… And, oh wonder, there were no bras for her. While there were enough C cup bras (which is a lot for her size) there weren’t any bras that fit her. I don’t know how that’s possible, but aparently it is.

    And about the designers thinking large sizes will make them look cheap:
    In Switzerland, and to some extent also in Germany, being overweight is still considered a lower-class problem. (Note: I’m not saying it is. It’s just considered as such.)

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