Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adventures of an Accidental Fat-shion Designer: Motivation

When I go shopping for clothes, most of the time I end up wanting to scream and throw things.  Given that I’m on the low end of the plus size range, it can only be even worse for women who are bigger than me – and I’ve read plenty of horror stories of women crying in the dressing room out of sheer frustration, women being humiliated by horrid sales personnel, and women generally having an awful, disappointing experience in trying to find clothing that fits and flatters them, something that in a just and fair world should be a relatively easy process.

When you consider how the acquisition of clothing and the fashion industry have changed in the last 100 years, this is hardly surprising.  Clothing used to be made to fit the body that would wear it, whether by the wearer herself or by her seamstress or modiste.  The rise of off-the-rack clothing has resulted in poorly-defined clothing size standards that do an abysmal job of addressing the variety of shapes and sizes that women come in.  In addition, the dominance of the fashion industry by gay men has resulted in an increasingly de-feminized female beauty “ideal”: a barely-curvy, stick-thin human clothes hanger, devoid of the lovely fat deposits that that the overwhelming majority of women are blessed with (especially those who have given birth and those who refuse to starve themselves).  Sadly, so many women buy wholeheartedly into the lie that, if an article of clothing does not fit them, the problem is not in the design of the clothing, but in the size and shape of their bodies.  Average women are subjected to a campaign of unachievability that erodes their self-esteem and denies them the knowledge that they beautiful at the size they are.  

The situation is even worse for fat women.  Whether by their actions or by their own words, mainstream fashion designers tell fat women that they hate us.  They don’t want to see us in their designs; they don’t want to see us in attractive, well-fitting clothing (let alone exert the effort to figure out how to design such clothing, a skill most mainstream designers are sorely lacking – see Episode 7 of Season 3 of Project Runway to see how badly that season’s winner dressed a competitor’s mother!); and, all in all, we get the message that they don’t want to see us, full stop.  When I peruse the offerings available from most plus-size clothing chains, I get the impression that they don’t even like fat women; sure, they might want to sell us clothes, but they don’t want us to look nice, let alone offer us clothes that reflect current fashion trends (for those fatshionistas among us who might actually want to do so).

I, on the other hand, love fat and big* women.  Not only am I one myself, but as a bisexual woman I can say that, save for the first girl I experimented with in college, every woman I’ve ever been attracted to was either big or fat or both**.  I love big and fat women, both generally and, in many cases, personally: I have many, many beloved friends who are big and/or fat.  I have heard and shared in their frustrations in finding attractive, figure-flattering clothing.  We have been denied the ability to do that most girlfriend-y of activities: having fun by going clothes shopping together, since clothes shopping for us is usually an experience that falls far short of being enjoyable.  Years of complaining online and in stores has had little result, so it’s up to one cussedly determined fatshionista to stand up and say “No more!”  

Ladies, I am that fatshionista.  Though my idea of “what I want to be when I grow up” got changed as often as my underwear when I was a kid, and I’ve had no great direction settling on a career as an adult, I never imagined until just a couple years ago that I might want to become a fashion designer.  And indeed, I don’t want to be a fashion designer, I want to be a FAT-SHION designer: I refuse to design for skinny women***, as there are plenty of people falling all over themselves to do just that.  I’ve heard it said that there are jobs, then there are careers, and above all that, there are callings; although I am an accidental fat-shion designer, it was nothing less than a calling for me, a calling from both within myself and from all of my big and fat sisters.  

The best efforts are those with are motivated by love, driven with will, tempered with intellect, and seen through with competence and skill.  It is my considered opinion that no one has yet applied all of these to designing clothing for plus-size women, so it falls to me to do so.  I accept the challenge, and will do my utmost to make you happy and proud.

*My definition of “big”: If you’re tall, but slender or average in build, you’re not big.  If you’re fat and tall, or you’re built like an average-sized person but scaled up to a height where people start using words like “Amazon” or “Valkyrie”, you’re big.

**The only exception I can think of is Lady Gaga, ‘cuz she’s too fierce and sexy not to crush on.

***Though if Lady Gaga wanted to commission something from me, we could talk.

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