Call me a tad naïve, but before I came to America I had the impression that it was approximately 1000 times easier for fat girls to get their hands on dope plus size threads than it is in Australia. Given how many “celebrity” indie designers this country holds (ok, ok – “celebrity” within the community), given how many more people in general there are, and given how much more buying power the plus size amongst them must have… I believed it was going to be a utopia of finally being able to shop in department stores, and excitedly stumbling across cute and trendy boutiques with a vast range of sizes. Like, all the time.
This past week in America has got me reeling, because I am having a really hard time finding any establishments to take my dang money! And trust me – money for fashion, I currently have. It’s one of those times where you’ve saved really hard for something (this trip), and you can justify making a bunch of big ticket purchases because, well, you literally NEED that stuff (dope clothes). When I moved here I brought 3 summer dresses and a pair of jelly sandals – a month later, this bitch is getting some serious wardrobe fatigue.
So last week, after spending days exploring Boston (hey blisters), I managed to find the one H&M store that (still?) has a plus size section.
I was already feeling a little raw because i’d recently asked in two other H&M’s – to the sound of crickets. I’d struck out at a Forever 21 – “sorry, not here”. And i’d been so tremendously body-shamed asking about plus size underwear at a Lord & Taylor that for the first time in close to 5 years I thought I was going to cry in the middle of a shop.
When I got inside the H&M in Newbry, Boston and saw that “PLUS” category listed on the wall at the entrance (always so tactfully right beside “MATERNITY”) I metaphorically fell to my knees and kissed the ground.
That is until I made it upstairs and found the 2 metre by 2 metre display.
You guys… what, the actual, heck?
My eyes began to bleed as I surveyed the offerings: oversized t-shirts, floaty tops (2004 wants it’s trend back, y’all) and the “flattering” khaki array. I could feel the bile rising in the back of my throat, and the situation was made even worse by my quick glances over at the rest of the floor, and peeks of the ENTIRE WALL displays from downstairs: Thin Girl Land… *whispers*
feathers, faux furs, pleather, pleats, short shorts, tapered legs, strapless, racer backs, crop tops.
All the things that I am not “allowed”.
WE are not allowed.
Talk about rubbing salt in my open fashion wound.
To sound only half as dramatic as it felt: I was angry, and baffled, and terribly alone. I gaped around to see another girl of size rummaging through the racks with a few things tentatively in her hand. The outfit she had on was drab and uninspired, but I wasn’t judging her on that because more importantly; I could see she was not excited by fashion. Not even a bit. And how could she be?
And then another chubster girl entered the area and started shuffling through the rack beside me, and I heard her grumbling to herself. I looked over and we made eye contact, and she finally mirrored what my brain had been screaming for the past few minutes; “this stuff is DISGUSTING!”
“HOLY SHIT I KNOW!!” I ecstatically exclaimed, so damn relieved that somebody else felt the same way.
“What, so because i’m bigger I have to wear SWEATS?” her adorable accent asked me, as she held out an actual pair of sweatpants.
I literally hugged her.
So here’s the thing – why does H&M (and other stores running a similar racket) even HAVE a plus size section, if they don’t actually value their plus size consumer?
Are we supposed to feel grateful? Or relieved that we have been granted the honor of getting to say we own at least one item from H&M (/insert other ignorant conglomeration)?
Although it makes me mad as hell, I actually find a SHRED (just a shred) more respect in companies who don’t even have larger offerings. In my opinion, it’s one thing for a company to say “nah we don’t want fatties in our clothes because we feel it diminishes our ‘cool’ image”, and quite another for a company to say “oh your FAT MONEY is good enough for us to take, but only on the proviso that you continue to feel shit about yourself, and sit over in the naughty corner and watch all the other pretty things on display and know that YOU CAN NEVER HAVE THOSE THINGS because you don’t deserve them. Oh, but MONEY PLEASE” – as they hold out their greedy and narrow-minded hands.
Here’s what else I don’t get: why is it SO HARD to make the clothes they ALREADY MAKE but in a LARGER SIZE?! Yes it requires a bit more fabric, but I bet you anything that the .5c less profit on each plus size item sold (when compared to the profits of a straight size item sold) are totally negligible, and would be well overshadowed by the fact that they have an almost untapped market of larger ladies who are in desperate need and want for some decent choices in the fast fashion arena.
THEY CAN DO BETTER. And the fact that they aren’t makes me scratch my head and reach for the nearest conspiracy theory about multi-billion dollar fashion companies also being the diet industry, who are profiting off us from every angle of the game. But that’s just crazy, right? Right?
So here’s what i’m proposing:
If you feel that this is NOT GOOD ENOUGH, please share this post (or anything in it) and make some noise about your own experiences in these places. I’m not sure they’re aware that this is how a lot of plus size women feel, but if they don’t – THEY WILL.
Post your fiercest fat girl fashions on any social media platform and let’s show them #whatfatgirlsACTUALLYwear.
Note: all of this ranting also applies to the men’s section – maybe even two-fold. I just don’t write about that because I don’t have personal direct experiences with it, but please know that for every time I go into battle for women’s fashion, I am hoping that it will help pave the way for a more accepting situation in all facets of the industry.
Another note: I am tremendously aware that fast fashion is bad, and I am pleased to say that 95% of my regular wardrobe is either recycled, upcycled or comes from indie designers. This battle is more about social justice and the right to options for people of different sizes and economic backgrounds.