One Size Fits All: The Dilemmas of a Fat Fashionista

There is something I think I need to disclose with you readers that I forgot to mention when I began this column. That is my weight. Currently, I weigh 190 lbs., stand at 5 feet and 6.5 inches, and have a 35-inch waist.

I am what you would call, “pear-shaped” or “hourglass,” if we’re being generous. I am fat (and yes, I say fat. That word is always the big elephant in the room, something people are afraid or uncomfortable to say; people like to use plenty of other euphemisms, but I would like to say from here on out, that I am FAT. Deal with it). You might be wondering why this statistic about me matters, or why I should be so willing to disclose these facts publicly; well, this is a fashion column and matters of weight have always been painfully intertwined in the world of fashion.

I find it difficult to love an industry that has for many years ignored and shunned anyone who was over a size 2. High fashion has always been historically unfriendly to fat women (and men), constantly favoring the slim and slender bodies of young white women. We live in a culture that shames fat people into self-hatred, idolizes physical perfection above all else, and creates an atmosphere that is dangerous to the development of healthy self-esteem. We revere thinness as the ultimate sign of female beauty, and demonize body fat as a sign of failure.

Fat women such as myself are constantly being patronized by the rest of the world; fat jokes never seem to get old, the cover of every magazine is screaming at me about how to lose 10 pounds fast, and I can’t drive on the 405 without seeing at least one billboard for the Lap Band procedure. Why are we so desperate to eliminate every ounce of fat from our bodies? What is so wrong with being chubby, chunky, curvy, big, fat? I am fat, healthy and happy, but it’s not very often that you will see a girl my size on the cover of Vogue or Cosmopolitan.

As much as I love fashion, I can’t condone the way plus-size women are treated by the industry. Our bodies are just as worthy of love and admiration as those of thin, “straight-size” models, who are not exactly “representative” of the populations they are supposed to be appealing to.

The fashion world is, in my opinion, partly responsible for creating the ridiculous standards of physical beauty that people feel forced to conform to. Look at the runways of any fashion show and you’ll see the legions of girls who fit the same mold: young, tall, thin, bony and generally white. Designers seem to be unaware of the widely diverse spectrum of human appearance, because they seem to be ignorant of people of different colors or weights. There is a dangerous trend in the fashion world of hiring increasingly younger and thinner models; waifs like Kate Moss, Jessica Stam, Freja Beha and Karlie Kloss (and bodacious beauties like Miranda Kerr and Adriana Lima) are widely considered to be the gold standard in physical beauty. I won’t argue that these women are stunning, but where are the beautiful curvy women being represented?

The disparities between reality and what the fashion world sees as normal are great. PLUS Model Magazine reports that 20 years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman; today she weighs 23 percent less; most runway models meet that Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia; and 50 percent of women wear size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets carry size 14 or smaller.

A fat fashionista such as myself has to try a lot harder than any other skinny girl; we struggle with sizes and finding things that fit just right, and yet we still manage to “make it work.” And yet, we are still pretty much ignored by the mainstream fashion world. At least with the popularity of fashion blogging, girls of every size can put their style talents on display for anyone to see.
I deal with these sorts of conflicting emotions every time I flip through the pages of my favorite fashion magazines; page after glossy page of Photoshopped perfection stares me in the face; my body represents the polar opposite of all of these beautiful women. I have lumps, bumps, stray hairs, bad skin, fat thighs and stubby fingers, but I still think I’m pretty beautiful. Like any other person, I have days when I find myself to be stunning, and other days when I wish I had never crawled out of bed. I’m like any other person in that way, regardless of their size. But I have to struggle everyday to tell myself that I am as beautiful as the women in ads and on billboards, and that the shape of my body does not dictate my value or self-worth. It’s about embracing uniqueness and individual beauty and taste, rather than trying to conform to what everyone else preaches as being ideal.
Maybe in a few years, Adele won’t be the only curvy woman to grace the cover of the fashion magazines I love so much.