When I leave my house in the morning, I always have three things with me. My phone, my wallet, and 20 pounds of what many would call ‘excess’ body fat.
It’s true. I confess. I’ve got some extra stuffing in a number of my nooks and crannies. But I’m not an unhealthy person. My doctor has never told me that I need to lose weight. I’m capable of [fairly] strenuous physical activity. I eat a vegetable — sometimes two! — every day. I’ve never been bullied because of my size.
A lot of people look like me.
Yet here I am, very aware of my voluptuous padding. I’ve spent as many hours waiting in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s for a large Diet Coke as I have hating my body. That’s so many hours of my life.
Recently I realized how exhausted I was thinking about how much I hate my arms in tank tops. I decided I was sick of googling ‘inexpensive stretch mark removal cream.’ I was done letting this stuff consume me, letting it determine my worth, letting it get in the way of loving myself.
Letting it get in the way of what I wear.
Deciding to practice self-love meant that I could finally start buying the clothes I’d only ever admired from afar. It meant that my years of hypothetical shopping at Topshop and Francesca’s could become a reality.
I love clothes. I love them so much. One of my top three pastimes is spending hours filling up an online shopping cart and then never buying anything.
Why don’t I ever actually buy anything?
Because I’m afraid to wear the stuff I think is cute. Afraid that my thighs will look weird or my back fat will show; positive that there’s no way that bandeau would look cute on me.
So I put my negative thoughts aside and went shopping. I hopped in my car, eagerly anticipating all of the tops and skirts in my future. So excited that I was finally letting my body wear what my mind never let it.
In the past, I have always confined myself to certain sections of stores, the boring sections. Those short bohemian dresses and cropped t-shirts; they were always ‘too cool’ for me. I didn’t think I deserved them; I didn’t want them to hurt me.
This time around, I leapt into those piles of dresses like the confident college gal I was trying so hard to be. I grabbed everything I could carry—in a size large—and headed to the dressing room.
That’s when it went all down hill.
Nothing fit. Nothing. The dresses didn’t zip, I couldn’t get the shorts past my knees. The sleeves were too tight, the pants too snug.
What the hell is happening?
I had just spent so long working towards this place of self-love, of finally letting myself dress and express how I wanted, and it was for nothing.
My body, my healthy and curvy body, was denied access into the ‘cool’ part of the store.
My size large bones and boobs and butt were too big for size large trendy clothes. And that realization was super disheartening. Because I worked really hard to come to terms with my body, to be proud of my extra jiggle.
And while I’d been making all of this internal progress, what had the stores been doing? Making healthy girls feel fat and unwelcome and ashamed? Practically asking girls my size to feel insecure and unworthy, when in fact, we’re very worthy of feeling good in our skin and dressing as such?
Shopping brought me back to where I’d promised myself I’d never go again. Shopping allowed me to shun my body when I should be celebrating it.
And I’m pissed off about it. I’m mad that I’m restricted in where I can shop because stores are incapable of making clothing for everyone. I’m mad that it feels like all of my hard work was for nothing.
Because there are so many beautiful, bigger girls out there who deserve to not only be confident, but to be rewarded for their confidence—with clothes that actually fit them. With clothes that make them feel, well, beautiful.
Why doesn’t the fashion industry understand this? And what can we, as shoppers do to make the shopping experience—and fashion—feel more welcoming to body shapes of all sizes?
Image via Lily Beck