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clothing stores, stop the fatphobia!

May 24, 2019
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Last week, I went to Forever 21. In my new city. For the first time. I was excited because this one was rumored to have multiple big ole spaces dedicated to fat and plus sized women.

I booked it there almost immediately and let’s just say I was underwhelmed by what I saw. Plus sized and fat women had been given a whole section to allegedly clothe ourselves. Compared to regular-sized men getting two and regular sized women getting the whole rest of the store.

The ones in my previous Orange County “home” (I use that term loosely) hadn’t fared better either. Costa Mesa and Anaheim have dedicated smaller sections, that I would honestly only refer to as “rings” (as in we maybe got three rings of plus-sized clothes), and only Anaheim even thought to have a clearance plus-sized section.

Now compare this to my previous home of Tennessee — where the biggest Forever 21 in the state had two whole floors — and an escalator — dedicated to bigger bitches like me. And you know, while I’m sure the regional and cultural differences each share some blame in these vast differences (in California, you can be ugly as shit, but as long as you’re “fit”, no one seems to give a damn; in Tennessee, they’re obviously used to seeing bigger people there, so it makes sense they’d accommodate for “bigger” clothes), this wasn’t consistent across my home state.

And now that I’m reflecting on it all, it bears the question: Why the fuck do people pretend it’s so hard to dress fat and plus-sized people?

Aside from my one, multi-state and multi-county example of Forever 21, the general attitude around plus-sized and fat-sized clothes is to treat them as extraneous or burdensome things. Impossible tasks that don’t deserve the proper attention or care.

Just as the people who wear them are treated.

It’s the reason I can’t automatically rush out to by new clothes from just anybody—celebrity or not—because chances are it probably didn’t occur to them that fat people would want to wear their clothes and that the biggest size they’re gonna offer is an XL.

And that’s not it either. For the few stores that do happen to have some plus-sized fashion, what usually ends up happening is that the clothes will be sized so strangely that said plus-sized fashions will BARELY fit you at all (even if you are sure about what size you wear) and you’ll be on the verge of having your 5839294939th breakdown that month just because you want to find a nice pair of jeans that make your ass look succulent.

And the funny part is these attitudes—that it’s so cumbersome to dress us or that we don’t deserve consistency—don’t stop at average, everyday people either. I remember being genuinely shocked when the fairly fit Leslie Jones recalled how no designer wanted to dress her for the Ghostbusters’ premiere until Christian Siriano stepped in. Even though it would be more lucrative to include Jones and other people outside of a certain coveted body type (Siriano has mentioned before how he tripled his business by being intentional about including plus-sized women). She’s not the only one of course. Other not average-sized celebrities have let it slip how major designers were content with completely snubbing them when it came to dressing them for major red carpet events.

This is the thing! This is the norm!

It was an important lesson to learn—that even riches and celebrity don’t somehow make people inclined to treat fat people better (much like with any other marginalization). And of course, you can complain about it, but then people who know better will whine and moan about how much more “labor” and “fabric” it takes to make “bigger clothes”.

Which brings me to my last point: Even when certain people decide to dress us, our options still suck ass or are more expensive than most.

The extra “fabric” and “labor” arguments when it comes to fat people’s clothes have always blown the hell out of me because you are essentially arguing that fat people deserve lower quality clothes because…fat. Which is laughable. But not as laughable and dangerous as the other side of that logic, which is to say that fat people should pay way more for similar (or higher) quality clothes in comparison to our skinner or less curvaceous.

The latter line of logic is far more dangerous and harmful to me because I see that shit everywhere. I see it in the fact that Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Torrid, or similar places that supposedly “cater” to us will price the hell out of a simple shirt or pair of jeans. I see it in not-so-subtle price differences between mere jumpers and jumpsuits with Forever 21—in between the standard sizes and plus-sizes. With the plus-sized one always being pricier. Even if it is the SAME goddamn suit.

But my favorite example of this has got to be the subscription services that have cropped up to address this “fat people need awesome clothes too” problem and just exposed more of what’s wrong with the entire business. There’s plenty out there of course, but the one I forced myself to try was Dia & Co, and man, let me tell you. On top of the clothes being ugly? It was also expensive in ways that made me audibly guffaw and my roommate look at me like Nick Young might look at someone on crack.

I first had to deal with the fact that they had sent me things that only my mother might wear or think to buy for me (you know on some mammy “you’re fat so might as well cover-up” shit). Like, listen. They sent me capris. Capris, y’all! You know the last time I wore capris and even DARED to show my cankles like that? I was in middle school. I was WHOLLY in middle school. It’s been decades since I even saw capris and I barely remembered what they looked like.

But here they were in my Dia & Co. box.

And it got better (read: worse). The other jeans, dresses, jacket, and skirt they managed to shove inside the box all looked like some Flower God had thrown up on the box and that someone had decided to go rob the maternity section at K-mart (RIP). These pieces ALSO were ALL at least 40 dollars a piece—with the jeans being a price I won’t even repeat here because I found it so ridiculous.

I was fairly disgusted that day, canceled my trial subscription (they really thought they were doing me a favor) IMMEDIATELY, and vowed that whenever I had the money and the means, I would invest in my own clothing line for people my size. Something I could be proud of and something that wasn’t immediately more expensive because of the asininity of the marriage of capitalism and fatphobia.

But that’s also the thing too. It shouldn’t take some disgruntled fat person to see the problem and then decide that it must be fixed. Marginalized people shouldn’t be out here fixing the problem ourselves. It should be taking the whole community to fix it. It should be taking everyone to fix it. But none of us are quite there yet because of the overwhelming attitude when it comes to issues like this—issues that seem minor or intuitive; this is CLOTHING for fuck’s sake—is that if it doesn’t affect you…it doesn’t matter.

And that’s bullshit, really.

I want to live in a world where clothes shopping doesn’t send me spiraling or give me hives. I want to live in a world where our sizes aren’t “extraneous” or an afterthought or “extended”. I want to live in a world where I can go shopping with my bad bitch coalition — OF MULTIPLE BODY TYPES — and we don’t have to split off toward 478399505050 stores to get clothes that make us feel good all because some twat decided making fat people clothes was too “hard”.

And I want to say that it is possible for this world to exist, but that would require me, a fat person, to have some optimism about the treatment of fat people and what the hell is that?

CLARKISHA CLAPS BACK is a weekly column that humorously and honestly claps back at the world around writer Clarkisha Kent, from culture, politics, sexuality, gender and her personal life.