Toward the end of high school, I somehow convinced myself that there was only one style of pants that would fit me. The Internet wasn’t what it is today, and stores simply didn’t carry many options in my size. Even as a person on the smaller end of the plus-size spectrum, I had trouble finding the right clothes. So, for four or five years, I wore loose, drawstring, khaki pants. They were terrible and didn’t fit very well.
Beyond not being able to find pants I thought looked good, I was paralyzed by a wish to go unnoticed. So I opted to wear something so nondescript and milquetoast that I thought no one would see me. I hoped no one would notice I was fat. The thing is, if you’re fat, there’s really no hiding it. This might sound obvious, but it’s something that took me years to learn for myself and even longer to get over.
Once I realized the absurdity of this, coinciding with the explosion of online resources in the early 2010s, I began to dive into my own personal style. But it was still difficult to find what I was looking for. And while it’s gotten much easier in recent years, in many ways it still is quite difficult.
I couldn’t then — and can’t now — walk into a consignment shop or thrift store and find much of anything that fits. It is rare to walk into a store that doesn’t explicitly specialize in plus-size clothing that offers options in my size. Even some companies that offer plus sizes don’t carry them in their brick and mortar stores. Nothing sends a muddier or more hypocritical message than a company that tries to keep you out of its stores while still trying to make a buck off you.
Lauren Audet photo by Jennifer Moore
The world of online shopping has come a long way, but unfortunately, many of the online plus-size options are of the unethical, fast-fashion variety. I would like to walk into local stores and shop for cute clothes. I would like to find more plus-size clothing in local consignment shops. I would like the opportunity to spend a little extra money on a quality piece of clothing that will last. I would like to be able to try on clothes in a store so I don’t have to rely on the U.S. Postal Service to shuttle garments back and forth until I find the right size, adding to what is often already a large carbon footprint for products made halfway around the world.
According to data from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two out of three adults are overweight, and 36.5 percent of the total adult population is considered obese. Considering that overweight people comprise the majority of our country’s population, it seems like there is a real missed opportunity here. Where are the capitalists when you need them? And why are they enforcing what I like to call the Catch 22 of fatness — you know, that special place between “We don’t want to look at your body” and “You aren’t worthy of nice clothes”?
It took me years to reject the nondescript drawstring pants of my youth (and, now, my nightmares) and learn there are huge advantages to showing the world my real body and style. The thing is, while those pants never made me go unnoticed, they did make me feel frumpy, boring, lazy — a number of terrible things so many people incorrectly associate with fatness and fat people. At some point it dawned on me that those who were inclined to comment on or judge my body were just as likely to use my uninspired appearance as confirmation bias for their anti-fat prejudice. That whole time I was trying to disappear, I was actually working against myself!
Showing the world your true self — no matter who you are or what you look like — can be terrifying, but it’s important. It creates space for others to do the same. It slowly shifts minds and opens hearts. It creates a kinder and more creative world. To do this, I and the many fat people in this country need access to clothing that represents our needs. We must not be relegated to the hideous prints, shapeless tents, and shoddy construction of clothing that reinforces the absurd but prevalent notion that we do not deserve better.
We are so worth better, and it’s about time.
classic pump silhouette by Eloquii photo by Jennifer Moore
Where to shop
Wear House (Congress Street, Portsmouth) — If this consignment/second-hand shop carries plus sizes, I haven’t found them, but what I have found there are great accessories: shoes, jewelry, bags, and even (!!!) belts that fit. I hope we’ll see them carry a wider range of sizes soon.
Club Boutiqe & City Shoes (Pleasant Street, Portsmouth) — There are some plus-size options available here — a good spot to check out if you have a penchant for funky/casual to formal attire.
Étaíne (Congress Street, Portland) — While so many intimates stores can feel like factories of anxiety and shame (is it just me?), this store feels like a celebration of the body in all its forms. The vibe here is supportive (no pun intended), body-positive, fun, and relaxed. They carry a wide range of sizes, styles, and offer expert fittings — a winning combination. Bonus: dressing room mirrors covered in body-positive phrases. Worth the drive, for sure.
Eloquii (eloquii.com) — Eloquii provided the clothes for our photoshoot for this issue. They have a large selection of trendy and classic pieces that are well-constructed.
City Chic (citychiconline.com) — a wide range of styles and fun patterns.
Swimsuits For All (swimsuitsforall.com) — Need a cute swimsuit? They’ve got you.
SECOND HAND OPTIONS
Savers, Goodwill, Salvation Army (various locations) — Not always a lot of selection here in the plus-size category, but I’ve been able to find a thing or two I’ve liked. Like most thrift shopping, the key is to check back often. This is also a great place to buy large men’s shirts and too-loose pieces on which to practice your tailoring skills with little investment.
Lands’ End (inside Sears at Fox Run Mall) — always classic, great basics for heavy accessorizing. Even more options available online.
Lane Bryant (Kittery Outlets) — Not always in line with my personal style, but a good place to check out for yourself. I find it particularly useful to fulfill those business-casual needs.
All photos taken at 3S Artspace by Jennifer Moore.
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