I am a true clothes-loving femme. I love dresses and button-downs and comfy jeans and t shirts. I can go from high femme to tomboy femme and be perfectly happy. I like to plan my future in terms of the outfits I get to wear. Maybe it’s being indoctrinated into a consumer driven capitalist agenda, but it makes me feel happy to dress in clothes that make me feel good.
As a plus size girl in a skinny fashion world, however, shopping often sucks.
It sucks to try on clothes designed with smaller bodies in mind, just made a few sizes bigger. It sucks to not be able to button shirts over my ample chest when the rest of a shirt fits fine! It sucks to try on dresses that cling or hang baggily on my body, as if I don’t get to look good because I don’t fit into ideals of beauty. There are a lot of style trends that are created around smaller bodies that make other women look cool and effortless, but when I try them out I feel like people see me as sloppy and lazy.
Last week I made my first foray into the American South. I visited Dallas and I saw many things for the first time, like long horn cows and bedazzled rhinestone hats that said “USA.” I also found several different stores that sold clothes that actually fit my body! I don’t know if it’s true that everything is bigger in Texas, or if it has to do with Southerner’s penchant for putting sugar in everything, but it seems like people in Dallas, Texas know what a full-figured woman wants to wear!
I went to local businesses and chains I had only previously seen on the internet and I was surrounded by things that were made with me in mind! When I walked into Torrid (a store that exists in New England but that I had never actually seen before) for the first time you couldn’t pry the goofy grin from my face. It doesn’t matter that they lean heavily into the hearts and skulls motif, being in a store where the employees and customers all looked like me made me feel finally seen in a world I sometimes feel rejected from. Trying on clothes that were too big for me at times was a privilege because it meant other women were sharing in my joy.
I’ve spent a long time working on loving my body. For a while clothes meant covering up something that was too big. When I was a young college queer I would go to stores with my friends and see feminine clothing that I thought was so cute, but just not for me. I lived in oversized men’s button downs, which effectively hid my shape and advertised my queerness.
Then I learned about femme identity. I learned that my body and my voice shouldn’t be afraid of being too much. That I could dress my body for myself and not for the consumption of others. That I could be feminine and queer. I felt good about playing with fashion, and with some much needed confidence (as well as the endless affirmations of my femme friends), I started feeling like my body isn’t something I need to hide. It felt like a one woman revolution. In a community that often privileges skinniness and masculine-leaning androgyny, I could make a little space to just be me.
For me being fat is intrinsically linked with being femme. It’s about taking up space and being unapologetic and making choices for my own happiness. It’s about finding community with people who share my size and affirm it. It’s about not being ashamed to eat in public or wear something that’s ugly or to use my style to make a statement. It’s about not letting overarching ideologies about femininity or size make me feel bad for being who I am.
It is a continuous challenge to unlearn the many “isms” we internalize over the course of a lifetime, but the work is infinitely rewarding, as we learn to love ourselves and each other in new, more complete ways.
Thanks @Dallas for the fun trip. Sorry I made fun of the cowboy hats so much.