don’t call me a horse

This is a true fact of being fat: The world wants you to be
frumpy. At least, that is the way it seems, because the abundance of kitten-appliquéd
sweaters and tapered tan slacks is overwhelming, and frustrating, and it makes
you a little crazy when all you fucking want is a suit to wear to an interview that won’t make you look like you’re applying for the position of Sad
Lonely Fat Person Who Hates Herself a Little Bit. When you want a dress to wear to a party
that will make the gorgeous people want to eat you alive, but does not involve
a long, floaty column of flower-printed sack (which hides your lumps! and your
lack of waist, because fat people–they don’t have waists!) covered by an overcoat
of the same material that falls to the floor and hides all the lumps
the sack might have missed, and makes you look like the most depressed curtain
the world has ever seen.

So shopping as a fat person–it was a world of hurt, for the
longest fucking time. If you wanted to not have to contemplate killing yourself
with your hose or your bra every morning, there was a lot of effort involved,
trying to pull together pieces (do I sound so fancy, calling them
"pieces"?) that would create a wardrobe that, if you squinted, made
you look almost like you were either the tiniest bit trendy, or you didn’t care
for trends, because you have Your Own Unique Style. It could be a little
heartbreaking, walking past the line of whatever it was that was the next big
thing. Snakeskin leggings. Whatever. It wouldn’t fit you. But with a lot of
effort and time and irritation and shopping online and off and fashion hacking,
you could almost pull off a wardrobe that made you not want to die. A little.

Then, there was a renaissance. Sites like Too Fat for
Fashion showed up and amazing designers started to design for bigger bodies. Lane Bryant suddenly got trendy and Torrid seemed to have come out of nowhere
and Monif C is opening up a store in New York. Igigi with their wrap dresses
that make everyone look hot and crazy-boobalicious bloomed, and, suddenly, it
seemed to have gotten easier to be hot, to feel good about yourself, to almost
be trendy. You still had to be careful about what you bought–you couldn’t just
pull any trendy thing off a rack and waltz out of the store with it. Plus-size
clothes tend to be cut schizophrenically, as if the designers were taking a
regular-sized garment and just blowing it up to enormous proportions, without
maybe considering that many fat women are not actually nine feet tall with
waists like tree trunks and bosoms like mountains.

There is, I know, a similar problem with misses’ sizes–I
will never take that universal shopping experience away from anyone. But for
plus sizes, you have to understand that there is such a limited selection. And
while it had expanded, it was still insanely tiny compared to the
regular-sized boutique world. For instance, the mall nearest my house? Not a
single plus-sized store on any of the four floors, which each cover an entire block. The
closest Lane Bryant is a 45-minute bus ride, the closest Torrid,
practically in South San Francisco. And the size of the stores? Small. Tiny. If you are
efficient, in a one-hour shopping trip you can make a circuit of the entire
store, and look at every single item of clothing available, consider it, reject
it, accept it. One hour. There was a feeling of coziness and containment that
was soothing, a chance to really concentrate on finding a couple of good items
(because even once you’ve cased the entire joint, it was more or less
inevitable that you’d only end up with a couple of good items) and go away
generally satisfied, and about 300 bucks poorer for your jeans and
your cute blue top that you think makes your bosoms look sassy. The stores were
rarely crowded, the salespeople were generally generous with their time, and
while the experience could be insanely frustrating (WHY THE FUCK DO THESE
PEOPLE THINK MY ARMS ARE NINE FEET LONG?
) it was comfortable, familiar,
nonthreatening.

Here is the cue for the subject change! I have
started to fit into misses’ sizes. I suspected I was for a long while, and
confirmed it with a trip to Old Navy, where all the pants are cut down to your
pubic bone and they think your bosoms are just the teeniest little plums. Old
Navy, where I had shopped back when they had plus sizes still in the store
(fuck you, Old Navy) felt familiar and comfortable. It was a little terrifying,
venturing outside of my little corner of the store, but I managed to live
through it. And I thought that if I could live through Old Fucking Navy, I could
maybe try the Gap! Or Banana Republic! Or, like, Forever 21 and H&M! Holy
crap, the world is like, totally my oyster.

How do you do it, misses’ sizes women? How do you walk into
a store like Forever 21 and not find your head immediately exploding? How do
you suppress the panic and fear when you’re faced with so much selection? And so many fucking people, and overstuffed
racks, and salespeople who hate you and everything in the whole fucking world?
How do you find anything to try on? How are you not immediately bolting from
the store, and its techno, and its teenagers, to go home and wind yourself into a sheet and declare yourself done? I was meeting my friend
K.T., and was a little early, and I found myself standing in a corner, frantically
texting her "I don’t know if I can do this. This is huge. And there’s so
much. And I won’t fit into anything. Oh god."

We did it. She came, and she patted me on the head, and she
waited in dressing room lines with me. (Lines! For the fucking dressing rooms!
Jesus Christ!) And I found things that fit. Tops, anyway, because Forever 21
girls are not allowed to have hips. Some of those tops, though, they were a medium. And they were cheap. I know they
are not going to last forever–my Lane Bryant clothes? Most of them died in a
year. But I spent 19 bucks on this top I’m wearing right now, and while
I’m sure it looks like it, and despite the panic and the fucking lines and the store, the giant four-story store filled with
prepubescent animals, I am overwhelmed by the possibilities I suddenly have.

I
just need to get a credit card, that’s all.

  12 comments for “don’t call me a horse

  1. July 3, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    *sigh* shopping is overwhelming for people of all sizes.

  2. July 3, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Haha! Congrats on all of the new shopping opportunities that await you. As for the bottoms at Forever 21, well, my size 6 friend wears a ‘Large’ there, so I have given up – but it’s great for trendy shirts and jewelry! As the owner of a credit card that makes too many trips to Anthropologie, I highly recommend that you NOT get one! ;)

  3. LadyCiani
    July 3, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    This problem goes across multiple body types – it makes you think designers are completely incapable of reading a pattern.

    We already know designers are completely disconnected with the way women actually wear clothing – as in, women actually wear clothing to cover up, not to show skin they would only show to their significant other.

    I’m only half joking when I advocate for a move back to when women made their own clothes. At least it would fit.

  4. July 3, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    It is hard. I have a big rack, long arms, and am only 5’2″ on a good day. Finding clothes that are professional and normal looking is hard. I have a suit that is in separates I got at Filenes (now Macy’s) in the petites dept. It doesn’t fit perfect, but it got the job done. I can’t buy dresses b/c I am so radically disproportioned. I remember when I was a size 6/8 a few years ago, it was so much simpler. Hopefully with hard work I can be a 8/10/12 and have it not be so hard at 14ish.

  5. Cat
    July 4, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I think this takes a while, especially after weight loss, but if you know what looks good on you (I repeat, with ongoing radical weight loss, this will not happen soon), you can still eyeball, say, Banana Republic (sweatshop bastards that they are) in fifteen minutes and decide whether anything’s worth trying on, because even though you’re now, say, a size 10, you will still be lucky to get away with one or two items (that you can afford, at least, especially at Banana Republic.) You cast a cynical eye over the room and heartlessly nix This Summer’s Too Sexy for My Shirt sundress because the straps are too narrow to hide a bra and it’s boatnecked and you know that in boatneck you look like, yes, a boat. You pan around the shop (which at least has no technofunk dance music and gay porn, unlike Abercrombie and Fucking Fitch, which I will never enter while it is masquerading as a trendy dance club) and note tha This Summer’s SuperHot Colors are tan, white, aqua, and day-glo orange, which did not look good on you in 1978 when you were eleven and will, you can safely infer, not lookk good on you now. You sneer masterfully in the direction of the pants and find that This Summer’s Cool Length in capris clearly hits at the meatiest part of the calf…and voila, you have just elminated ninety-eight percent of the store. Then you scan for colors you might actually look good in (four items tucked on the sale rack from last year’s trendy colors), but the sale rack is, with eerie helpfulness, actually arranged by size, and you note that of the four items, one is a size when-pigs-fly-out-my-ass, one is banded-collar and you look like a neckless alien in banded collars, one is a micro-mini, and one might actually be worth trying on. With these three scans you have done Banana Republic in less than fifteen minutes, unless you hit a really weirdo year where their colors actually are flattering to whatever your skin tone happens to be. When Banana Republic has a year marked by wine-red and cobalt blue solids and sculptural batiks instead of seventies ur-floral, I will give them more than a quarter-hour of my time. Till then, or unless you look good in this seventies revival, clutch your wallet and practice the scan. It looks like everything’s available, but it’s just a similar challenge in a slightly easier register: three hundred channels and next to nothing (as opposed to absolutely nothing) to watch.

    Hang in! At least it’s fun to have the option of masterfully sneering at Banana Republic instead of having them masterfully sneer at you.

  6. anon
    July 4, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Oy, I feel your pain.

    I always hated shopping and in many ways I still do. New clothes are nice to have, of course, if they fit and are flattering, but obtaining them has always been a tad painful for me.

    When I was fat (it’s been seven years now…wow) they didn’t have ANY cute or designer clothes for me. I shopped at Lane Bryant (pathetic) or Dress Barn (more pathetic) with lots of older women, even though I was still young and wanted to find pieces (ooh, look, I said “pieces” too) at least marginally cool, and I had to pick and cull from among the So Many Fucking Flowered Frumpy Frou Frou clothes to find basic items like a long black skirt or a nice neutral top. It was hard, especially when you want to dress to hide, to buy clothes for big women. Because all big women apparently were supposed to dress like my Aunt Bertha. (Ahem. I don’t actually have an Aunt Bertha, and no offense to any woman with that name. But I think my point is made.)

    Now they have cooler clothes for big women but I’m shopping with the hordes and I won’t deny it’s somewhat easier but it’s still not a barrel of laughs. Because my body? The one I hated when it was fat and like better now…but? That “but” is because I discovered that even when you get thin you don’t automatically wake up withy a model’s body. Huh. Imagine that. You have the same body, with the same flaws as before, just much smaller. So it’s still a challenge, finding clothes that fit. Especially when you’re 37 and every item in the stores seems to be geared toward a 17 year old girl child with a little boy’s body.

    I avoid malls like the plague. I stay out of stores with too much selection because, yes, it is over-freakin’-whelming. I find a store I like, even if I can’t really afford it, that is a manageable size and has clothes for adult women not girl children, and I gnash my teeth and I go in and I find some things that fit and sometimes I am happy about it, certainly happier than in the past when I was shopping for my oversized body, but it’s still hard, damn it.

    Oh, and the clothes that do fit? They are never the same size, oh no, because why should there be any standardization of sizes, for god’s sake? The size I wear in one style of slacks shouldn’t be the size I wear in another style of slacks, even from the same store, because then my shopping experience would be easy and then what would we write about here?????

    Sigh. But it IS undeniably more pleasant, despite all above complaints, and less painful too, to shop for this body. So enjoy it, even as you freak out a bit, because there IS a whole new world open to you once you can fit into “regular sized” (Whatever That Means!) clothes.

    And we already knew you were stylin’, what with your cool red dress and all, so rock on with your bad self, sister!

  7. Dolley
    July 5, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Plus, you have an excellent shopping tool: your body. No, I’m serious. You know you have an hourglass figure; there are certain specific shopping requirements for an hourglass. You need to buy garments that fit the widest parts (bust, hips); you know that you will, generally, have to take the garment in at the waist. Women with hourglass shapes must wear clothes that are fitted, or they will look as wide all over as the widest area they have. This doesn’t mean “overfitted” “too tight” or “uncomfortable;” merely, that’s how it is when you have an hourglass shape.

    If you wear a button-front shirt, try to find ones with darts, or, better yet, that have rows of vertical seams under the bust (think “fitted Empire-line shirt”) usually, this means there’s room for the bust, and you can take the shirt in along the vertical seams if you need to. If you buy a button-front shirt without darts, have them put in.

    If you buy a button-front or a wrap shirt, you will most likely have to add a hook-and-eye (NOT a snap!) where your bust stresses the front the most. You will find a lot of knit-style tops are just easier to fit a large bust and small waist. If you buy any shirts or dresses with Empire seaming, the seam must sit below the bust – the Empire seam should never bisect the bust.

    If you buy a bias-cut dress, you will probably have to add darts, front and back, so you don’t look as if you’re wearing a bias bag. Stay friends with that nice tailor!

    Princess-line dresses are wonderful on an hourglass, yes they are. Take them in at the waist an equal amount along each seam until the dress fits you properly. Princess seams can start either at the shoulder line or from the armhole; either type is good. They’re good in jackets, too.

    If you are looking for trousers, look for a waistline that sits about two fingers’ width below the navel. If you try to wear trousers at your waistline, the waist will be too big, and if you take it in at the waist, it will often shorten the crotch. Plus, if you have a belly, it will emphasize that belly. Wear your trousers a little low-waisted, and you obviate all of that. Look for a straight leg in trousers, the same width all the way down the leg (in a dark wash, for jeans); you can also try boot-cut or flares in jeans. No skinny jeans! They will make you look like an ice cream cone. No pegged pleated pants, for the same reason. How do you tell? Fold the bottom of the trouser leg up so that it’s at the crotch. The bottom of the leg should be as wide, or wider, than the width of the leg at the crotch. No pleats at the waistline! Look for flat-fronted trousers; if you can get the zip on the side, even better.

    Straight skirts will tend to be too big in the waist because of your hourglass shape; wear a fitted top over the skirt, or move the button on the skirt over. The right length for a top worn outside a skirt or trousers is just short of half-way across the belly, about a hands’-breadth down from your natural waist. Too long a top will hit at the broadest part of the hips and hug right underneath a belly, emphasizing it. Don’t be afraid to hem a shirt shorter, whether it’s woven or knit. Be wary of straight skirts cut on the bias; they tend to cup under the belly. You don’t want that! So check your side profile carefully when buying skirts. A skirt shouldn’t cup under the belly or the backside; any side pockets should not gap open; neither should pleats. If they do, the skirt is too small.

    Large busts often are accompanied by large arms. Cap sleeves will make the arm look larger than it would if the shirt/dress was completely sleeveless! If you like the puffed sleeves currently being shown, make sure the band cuff of the puff doesn’t cut into your arms. My own preferences tend to be sleeveless or elbow-length/three-quarter-length sleeves, for comfort and proportion. I’ve taken tops or dresses that had weird tight short sleeves, and slit them right up to the shoulder line, so I have some coverage, but freedom of movement (of course, I finish off the edges of the slit, too).

    You will tend to look better proportioned in a V-neck or a scoop neck, a low square neck or a sweetheart neckline, than you will in a crew neck, peter pan, or bateau neck top. A lot of “experts” will tell busty women to stay away from turtlenecks, because a turtleneck emphasizes the bosom. I own lots of turtlenecks. :)

    By and large, single-breasted rather than double-breasted coats will work best. The classic trench tends to make an hourglass look like a sack of potatoes tied around the middle with string. It takes work to find a coat that doesn’t make an hourglass look like a great big box, but it’s worth it when you find the right one.

    Hope this helps make the hunt easier!

  8. Red
    July 5, 2007 at 11:36 am

    I thought shopping would be much easier once I lost the bulk of my weight. The fact is, while my body is definitely smaller, it is still basically the same shape it was when I was 55 lbs heavier. I’m a size 10 now instead of an 18, but I will always be a petite hourglassy apple with big boobs and arms and narrow shoulders, even if I lose these last 10-15 lbs. So the same styles of clothes that looked good on me when I was fat — wrap dresses, v-necks, 3/4 sleeves, dark-wash straight leg jeans — still work for my body now. The difference is, I can look for those pieces in a wider variety of stores, which as you so aptly pointed out, is a curse as well as a blessing. Shopping is still terrifically frustrating; I just have a wider selection of stores at which to be frustrated.

  9. littlem
    July 9, 2007 at 5:47 am

    In single or double digit sizes (and who the hell made that up anyway, when men get to actually use the numbers that match their actual MEASUREMENTS?!?! *Ahem.* Sorry),

    shopping sucks.

    You may also want to keep an eye on the food/shopping “transfer addiction” thing. (Seen it happen to compatriots. Especially in NYC or other urban centers with trendoid trendesque boutiques? Soooo Not Pretty.)

    Darts are your friend.
    Online shopping is your friend still. (You pick out your things, you call, you chat with the girls, they hold things and send them for you.)
    TAILORS are your friend. (Yes, truly.)

    And then you can run out for your jewelry and your Ferragamo sunglasses.

    (Because once you know your size in the Ferragamo shoes, you can get them where? Say it with me — online.)

  10. *S*
    July 9, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Well, sis, it’s like this. I’ve got no scoots. So this eliminates the problem of which product of the nanosecond I should go with. I only buy what I need to avoid becoming the MidWest Pantsless Wonder. Nobody’s buying – let alone scalping – tix to that freak show.

    Another easier way to eliminate choice issues is only shop selected salvage (Sally Ann, etc), consignment or Nordstrom Rack (which sux in Daly City, I admit, although I did find a 100% cotton great paisley skirt there for 7.95 two weeks ago). 2nd hand makes so much more sense if you aren’t at your goal weight cos you’re gonna have to recycle anyway. Ecofriendly and cheapish. What isn’t there to love?!

    Dolley gave some great tips there about how to dress with a with a largish bust/hourglass figure. I’m looking to trade some work with a local seamstress to have her take in some of my faves rather than go out and buy new, probably more poorly made, clothing, that may or may not fit my standards of fashion and modesty. But, then again, you know I’m cheap.

    *S*

  11. July 9, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    I just discovered that Forever 21 at Powell Street – I almost cried when I found the cutest summery skirt, put it on.. and then paid like $22 for it. Unfuckingbelievable.

  12. Earthdiva
    December 17, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Well ladies I’ve been every size from a 10 to a 28 and the one thing that is most important is for me to love and accept me unconditionally. I had lost down to a size 10 and I was in Hawaii (paradise, right?) wearing a pair of shorts and freaking about my cottage cheese thighs. That is until I noticed all the 60+ year old people passing me by with their wrinkly skin, knobby knees and spindly legs. I realized that they were just happy to have a body that functioned. I stopped focusing on what I perceived to be flaws. I’ve spent a lot of time learning what styles look good on my body type. I am an hour glass figure and my eye naturally gravitates toward fashion and colors that look good on me. I stopped wearing clothes that don’t fit either too big or too little. The key to buying is to know little things about the designers. Some like creating for specific body types. Some don’t allow enough room for the arms or the waist is too big for the fit in the thighs. I don’t buy for the trends I buy for my body. I stick with timeless pieces that are my go-to outfits for ready wear. There are so many choices now for full, juicy, ripe women to look fabulous it is inexcusable to look frompy unless you want to. These are a few places to look for good looking clothes: Ashley Stewart, Fashion Bug, Avenue, Roamans, Jessica London, Iggi, Macys, La Redoutte, Sillioutes, JC Penney,

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