Montag, 15. Oktober 2012

The Body Politic: No. 2 - Clothes

I want this blog to be positive.

It's just that from time to time it will be necessary for me to go off on a rant - because one of my many daily conundrums is living as a fat woman in a fat-hating society. So this category, "The Body Politic", will provide a space for these (angry) musings. If you can't handle a bit of rage and disappointment - please stop reading right now.

Only a few years ago I discovered that I actually like to play around with clothes, different styles, different accessories. Before that (fashion-wise at least) my life used to be pretty bleak. I hated the clothes my Mom bought for me (well, that’s not that unusual, I’m sure) and they tended to be the usual tent-like clothes for fat people, even though back then I was big and muscly rather than fat.
Being so much at odds with my body I settled on a kind of well-what-else-is-there hippie style, but mostly I wore what few clothes fit my height and the width of my shoulders: flannel shirts and corduroy flares. This became my uniform for most of my school years. If I dared to wear something different the reactions of my school mates showed me that I was not supposed to make an effort, “it’s not right for you”, “it’s not you” etc.

Like so many fat girls I had the usual horrible shopping experience: being made to watch a thin friend in a high street store trying on hundreds of different outfits while literally nothing in the same store would have fitted me. I usually came back from those trips thoroughly hating myself and the world around me (as well as the particular friends who didn’t even realise what they were putting me through).

When I discovered the plus-sized store chain that is situated on every high street in Germany this was a genuinely astonishing experience for me – a shop in which everything could (at least theoretically) have been worn by me! Of course I still didn’t have the money to buy my own clothes there but I usually convinced my Mom to buy at least a few pieces. The more affordable plus-sized range at H&M tends to cater for a very unrealistically shaped fat woman but at least I found some clothes there that fit my own idea of what kind of a person I was.

Clothes tell stories about the identities we wish to assume. I usually pick some fashionable pieces each season that I really like and so my wardrobe tends to be a thorough mix of pieces I wear again and again. My feelings towards the fashion industry are deeply ambivalent though. I like to watch documentaries about various fashion labels and to see how new ideas about clothes develop but the body image the industry (usually) promotes is so very disturbing … I guess a lot of healthy scepticism is needed when discussing fashion. In a way I am grateful for being fat and interested in fashion. It gives me the opportunity to view all this from a critical perspective – but also to enjoy and make the most of the possibilities given to fat people.

However, it must be stressed that the scarcity of plus-sized clothes ranges seriously restricts fat people, especially fat people who wear larger sizes (like me) and thus are made to feel like proper social outcasts. Another example is the non-existence of plus-sized pregnancy clothes – a fat friend of mine who is in the 7th month of her pregnancy got very frustrated when she tried to find anything wearable on our local German high street. She said this made her feel really freaky – as if fat people were somehow not supposed to have babies.

Finding a way to dress that tells the story of myself that I want to tell, has been quite a quest – although I am sure that a lot of people would tell me that this is frivolous and unimportant, it has been a valid experience for me in order to find at least a sort of inner balance. People still react strongly to my appearance and the comments that are made about my body have actually become more frequent – I guess people think: Well, she makes herself visible, this gives me the right to say something about her fat arse. But I’m starting to find a way to cope with this; the playful aspect of fashion appeals so much to me that I refuse to give it up and sink back into blandness …

I am aware that this is just another kind of uniform and a brightly coloured façade to hide my annoyance and at times my vulnerability. I tend to dress really colourful whenever I am feeling unsure about myself and my ability to cope with my life. We fat people interested in fashion have to work hard at our own style – and I have the feeling that our style often becomes something much closer to ourselves, much more personal than the style of people who just take their pick of everything in the shops. This impression might be unfair – please let me know if you wish to talk about these issues, I would be delighted to discuss them!


Ich habe noch keine deutsche Version dieses Textes. Wenn Du eine Übersetzung lesen möchtest, bitte kontaktiere mich unter und ich werde mich bemühen, sie so rasch wie möglich anzufertigen. Danke!

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