home Beauty, Commentary, Culture, Feminism, Society Fat women need clothes: where’s the revolution?

Fat women need clothes: where’s the revolution?

It’s that time of the year. Lots of parties, selfies, family photos and videos, and you want to look your best. And whether your shopping preferences are charity shops or high-end fashion stores, you have a significantly easier time finding something nice to wear if you are slim than if you are fat.

What something “nice” to wear is depends entirely on your preferences. Perhaps it’s figure hugging and revealing, or it covers everything and feels modest. Whatever your style, in this day and age you should be able to find something that suits your aesthetic, is within your price range, and fits your body. If you’re an indie kid or a raver, have a goth vibe or love to look subtle and refined, it is relatively easy to find things that match your style and also fit your body when you are slim.

When you’re fat, you are often left wearing something simply because it fits rather than because you love it. Or even like it. You’d be amazed by how frequently fat women in particular wear things they have no desire for, or even actively dislike, just because it’s the only thing that would fit around their stomach or their thighs that was within their price range. Or the only thing that was available at all.

It’s why we can also find ourselves hoarding nice clothes that fit. I grab bras in my unusual-ish size when I see them available at an affordable price, whether I need them or not. I won’t let go of well-worn tops or stretched skirts when I might otherwise do, because I never know if I’ll be able to find a decent replacement.

Plus size clothes are expensive, they are extremely limited, and they are frequently frumpy. They do not match the spirits of the many fat women I know and love, and some kind of revolution needs to take place if we are to ever have a chance of being equal to slim women when we want to dress ourselves a certain way.

Going to a fancy dress party? Good luck with finding anything that fits!

Having a Christmas do at work? Do you dare go glam, if you can find anything glam to start with?

Being photographed by the press at an awards event? Expect, like comedian Sarah Millican experienced, to be laughed at when you say where you bought your dress, even though the ‘posh’ places people expect celebrities to shop in wouldn’t store anything close to your size.

When a brand emerges that is a bit different, word spreads quickly. I wore a quirky CowCow dress to a friend’s party last week, covered in robots, and a gang of us quickly got onto the topic of how great it was to be able to find something quirky to wear at all. This quiet brand that I hadn’t heard of until earlier this year was an absolute hit amongst this group of friends because it helped us to express odd sides of our personality that are missing from the fat clothes that are normally available.

We even know which are the ‘good’ brands overseas, because rad fat online support groups talk clothes as much as we talk politics. We need to find something we can wear.

Where’s the revolution?

Fat women are demanding better products, better representation and better service. And while this is improving, it is taking place far too slowly. We have allowed ourselves to have high expectations and are faced with disappointment again and again.

So where are the innovators? Podcast ads go on about revolutionary underwear and socks, exciting new designs of bras are being designed around the world, clothes that help us to blend into the background or charge our mobile devices, and bags that protect us from theft… innovation is happening and small, new brands are taking the world by storm. They are changing the clothing and fashion landscape.

So why are they not catering for fat women?

Did we even want innovative slippers? Had anyone asked for special knickers? Maybe. But there is an overwhelming, deafening demand for better and more fat clothes that is being ignored.

The market is there, and the customers are desperate to part with their cash for better stuff. Where are the entrepreneurs now?

As Amanda Mull wrote in an enlightening piece for Racked, “We’ve been taught so effectively to loathe fat people, and especially women who refuse to make themselves small and convenient, that not even the endless drive for profit can convince some of the world’s most enthusiastic capitalists to consider them a priority. At this point, most of them seem content to let $20 billion in low-hanging fruit wither on the vine”.

The world is crying out for better clothes for differently shaped bodies, and entrepreneurs that really took that issue on and addressed it head on could make a killing, if they did it right. We’re bored of Evans and Hot Topic’s shipping is far too high for international customers.

Give us some options and we will lap them up. And stop ignoring fat women, for whatever reasons your prejudice has arisen. We’re here to stay and we will take up the space we need.

Photo: Mike Mozart/Creative Commons


Philippa Willitts

Philippa Willitts is a British freelance writer who specialises in writing about disability, women's issues, social media and tech. She also enjoys covering politics and LGBT-related topics. She has written for the Guardian, the Independent, New Statesman, Channel 4 News, Access Magazine, xoJane and many more publications. She can be found on Twitter @PhilippaWrites.