It’s no secret that plus-sized (fat) people have trouble shopping for clothing. The world of fashion is a world built for people without bellies, thick thighs, and back fat. If I go into a Forever21 or an Old Navy, chances are my options will be severely limited. And of those options, even less will fit my height and bust size well enough to constitute the high price of women’s clothing. Torrid is an option, albeit an expensive and not always fashionable one. Most places only carry up to a size eighteen in pants and an XL in tops but, that simply isn’t enough for most of us. Besides, everyone knows that the sizing of women’s clothing matches up to body type about as well as a rainbow fits into a black and white movie.
But I’m not here to complain about brands doing the bare minimum. Tackling the entirety of the “built-for-the-thin” world in one article is way too tall an order. Let’s narrow the focus;
Let’s talk about thrift stores, or rather, the experience of thrifting.
Recently, I went thrifting for the first time. It was an…interesting experience to say the least.
I went with my thin friends, who neatly fit into the vast majority of the things you’d find in a thrift store. For them, the sky was the limit. Dresses of all sizes, shapes, and colors spread out on wooden hangers in front of them. There were small, medium, and even large clothes as far as the eye could see. I watched them present fabric to each other, delighting in the options. Meanwhile, I scoured the racks for anything above an eighteen.
Let’s be clear about one thing, I love thrift stores. I love the concept of cheap clothing that’s a bonding experience to discover. I love that the lower prices make clothing more available to impoverished youth, and the vibe is downright awesome.
What I don’t love is how I feel shopping in one.
I don’t love it when my thin friends suggest a thrift store for clothes shopping for all of us and fail to take into account the fat perspective. I don’t love the sinking feeling I get, the dread of knowing I very well might not find anything.
I don’t love that the experiences of my body type exist outside of the public consciousness. I don’t love that, if I myself were thin, I most likely wouldn’t have a clue about those experiences and how body size shapes the social interactions of fat people.
In this way, thrift stores aren’t so much the main focus as they are a jumping-off point for processing my feelings towards society simultaneously criticizing and ignoring my body.
I am visible when people want to make a statement of solidarity or a vicious attack covered up by claiming they “care about my health.” I exist not first as a person but as a symbol of body positivity or “fat America”
Like so many other fat people, I often feel undervalued or overlooked, even judged simply because I dare to have a body. I’m not looking to be a symbol of resistance or a love letter to overcoming insecurity. I don’t care about your unwarranted medical advice, that’s what my doctor is for.
But I do care about being seen. I want to be considered. I’d like it if the people around me took steps to understand my fat identity like they have my bisexual identity. I’d like it if I didn’t have to feel nervous to voice my concerns about social activities like going to the beach. I’d like it if the conversation didn’t revolve around telling me I can wear whatever I want. I know I can wear what I want, and I know I look damn good wearing it.
What the conversation should be centered around are the questions; why did I feel the need to assert my body in the first place? Why did I need to take up space in the conversation instead of trusting my thin friends to understand my plight? Why is body confidence something I’ve had to learn and struggle with?
Thrift stores and going to them then exists as a microcosm of a larger, more pressing phenomenon. Through the lens of going to a thrift store, I can describe to you a larger issue, one that defines every aspect of my life in some way or another.
The social implications of being fat in a world that isn’t built for fat people are widespread and impossible to summarize in a succinct, effective manner. I trust I have done a good enough job of pinpointing any of the experiences that affect me strongly and, I hope you learned something along the way.