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How I Learned To Feel Confident Shopping For Clothes As A Plus-Size Woman

The clothing store: A place where you can hear the constant scratching and screeching of the hangers on the racks, as customers try to figure out what works best for their bodies. “This is too big,” “This is too small,” “I hate how it gaps right here.” This used to be the place where I would pick myself apart, piece by piece. As a plus-size girl, it can be especially difficult to find clothes that fit your body shape.

Shopping for plus-size clothing has always been the bane of my existence. I constantly faced the same two problems on a loop for years. The first was the location of the plus-size section. It would normally be in the back of the store in a super cramped area. The smaller sizes would always make up 95% of the store while the plus-size section was the small 5%. The second would be that the store wouldn’t have any plus-size sections at all. All of their plus-size clothes would be either online or non-existent. Most of the time, they would have a card at the top of racks saying, “Sizes have been extended online, go check it out!” Both of these situations affected my self-esteem greatly because they made me feel like I didn’t belong. As a young teenager, I used to always feel like I was getting punished for being the size that I was.

In 2015, ModCloth did market research that found that, out of 1,600 women, 60% of women felt embarrassed while shopping for clothes in a separate department/store. That means out of 1600 women 960 women were embarrassed. 79% of the women believe that the fashion industry ignores the needs of plus-size women. I completely understand this feeling and have felt this way for a long time. 

As a young teenager, I used to always feel like I was getting punished for being the size that I was.

Growing up, my body always moved faster than my age. When you combine your body maturing at a faster rate than your peers’ with being plus-size, it can feel like a recipe for disaster. Plus, I didn’t really have anyone as a role model to show me that being plus size is okay. All the shows I watched on Disney and Nickelodeon had smaller-sized girls. Even when I aged out of Disney and started watching reality shows, I was still bombarded by smaller-sized women. Over time, the constant exposure to this one body type represented in the media formed a message in my mind: “If I lose weight, I will finally be just like everybody else.” 

Having this mindset led me down a dangerous path with weight loss. There were times where I would skip eating or feed my body very little, and then work out my hardest thinking I would reach my results faster. If anything, it destroyed my body and my mental health more than ever. 

The biggest battle I had to face when it came to feeling confident was not caring what people think. I know we’ve all heard it before, but I’m serious. It can be very freeing not caring about what people say. When I was in high school, I cared a great amount about the opinion of my peers. I wanted to wear the cutest and trendiest clothes I possibly could just so I could fit in and be a part of the in-crowd.  

I didn’t even know what my personal style was because I was so caught up in following what everybody else was doing.

This behavior wore me down over time because to fit in the trendy clothes, you had to be a certain size — or at least, that’s what I thought at the time. This mindset led me to treat my body poorly in hopes of being the coveted size 2

As I transitioned into college, I had to learn the true meaning behind self-love and self-confidence. This was a long journey for me, but it freed me from the opinions of others. I looked up to celebrities like Lizzo and Ashley Graham, who embrace being plus size and confident. My favorite quote from Lizzo is “Never ever let somebody stop you or shame you from being yourself,” which she said after being fatshamed for twerking at a Lakers game in 2019. This quote helped me realize that this was exactly what I had been doing.

I was allowing society and the people in my community to tell me what I should and should not be wearing. I was allowing the culture to tell me what my likes and dislikes should be. I didn’t even know what my personal style was because I was so caught up in following what everybody else was doing. Now, I don’t mind being on-trend and liking certain things, but I try to always incorporate your personal style too. 

Self-confidence doesn’t just happen overnight; it’s a process.

I learned that people are going to have to accept me for just that, me. I wear the clothes I want to wear whether people like them or not. I’ve learned that my style is my style and if I love it, then I’m wearing it. I’ve worn crop tops, shorts, tank tops, and many other clothing items that a lot of plus-size women avoid because of negative comments from others. I’m not avoiding them anymore. 

I look at the woman I am today, and I have come a long way from my high school mentality. The relationship I have with my body and self-confidence is constantly improving and growing over time. 

Self-confidence doesn’t just happen overnight; it’s a process. I look at self-confidence and the relationship I have with my body like a real relationship. You have good days where you feel great, happy, proud, and confident. Then you have days where you feel not so great, like everything is going wrong and you look horrible. Everyone has these moments. It’s what you do in these moments that matter most. When I’m feeling down, I speak affirmations. “You’re beautiful,” “I am enough,” “I am loved.” I say these affirmations to myself because this is the time where I need to encourage myself, not tear myself apart.

I’ve learned that no matter what size you are, you are never exempt from nourishing and treating your body how it’s supposed to be treated.

Through this journey, I have also learned how to take care of my body. I’m on a new healthier plan where I’m not focused on the scale, but on how my body feels. This plan isn’t a certain diet or a strict regimen of exercises. I do workouts that I enjoy and eat healthier than how I was before. I make sure my body is nourished from the inside out. I’ve learned that no matter what size you are, you are never exempt from nourishing and treating your body how it’s supposed to be treated. At this point in my life, I’m loving my body at every stage no matter what. 

When I go to stores now, I don’t pick myself apart in the dressing room like I used to. If I don’t like the way it looks, I simply take it off and move on to the next outfit I chose. Like I’ve said before, I refuse to go back to the time where I would leave feeling discouraged and sad because nothing fit. Don’t allow society to dictate what your closet should look like. If you feel good in something, then go out there and wear it.

Sources:

ModCloth. (2015). ModCloth says 60% of plus-size women are embarrassed to shop separately. MarketWatch.

Amber is a senior at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University. She is passionately working towards a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. She is a fast learner who enjoys trying new things and analyzing any problem. She is the Social Media Co-Chair for Her Campus GSU and the VP of Advertising for American Marketing Association GSU Chapter. Amber is currently looking for marketing opportunities in social media, tech, and other related fields. In her free time, you can find her either reading, listening to a podcast, or watching Netflix.
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