Sounds like a post on finding love in the digital age right? Sort of. But what I want to talk about is an essentialist approach to FAT FASHION.
Yes. I said the “f-word” – FASHION.
Growing up fat there were fewer options for me than the other girls I hung out with. Mine was a wardrobe dictated by what would fit/ what Mum could make for me/ what I could scrounge as hand-me-downs from my cousin Ann. Even back then I knew that the options available for fat girls and women were terrible.
Trying to develop personal style, an expression of who I wanted to be, was complicated by the pressures of being a teenager in what was in hindsight a very toxic high school environment. This was typified by the popular fashion amongst the girls of wearing 3-4 pairs of sports socks, carefully arranged so that the brands could be seen and giving the appearance of giant puffed up ankle boots – this was the early 90’s after all and allegiance to brand was just becoming a “thing”.
Like anyone in their late teens/early twenties I too went through a goth phase, an op shop (grunge) phase and lastly a “I’m over the patriarchy and dressing in man trousers and a tie as a statement” phase. I then started to make my own clothes…
Flash forward to the past few years where there has been an explosion in fat fashion. Like any fat girl in a lolly shop I am part excited/ part afraid of my own ability to rapidly consume to the point of illness. Online shopping for beautiful/ cute/ interesting clothes produces the same physiological and psychological response as any other form of addiction and I have been an addict. I have also experienced the post-purchase cognitive dissonance that comes when you realise you spent that much. Again. And on what?
Now, as I consider how to simplify my life and my surroundings I am also trying to simplify my wardrobe. This doesn’t mean adopting an anti-aesthetic, monochromatic, or layers of only “ethically sourced beige cotton” style. Rather, for me it is taking a position of sourcing clothes that I always feel good in, that don’t have conditions dictating how they are worn (like needing a cardigan), and supporting local makers when I can.
Fat women have always faced a compromise – we have not been given choices, therefore we create no market demand. We adopt certain styles as they are the only ones supplied to us. We participate in the socially and economically damaging worlds of cheaper and cheaper fast fashion that relies on the exploitation of others, because finding ethically produced and affordable clothing for fat women is almost impossible.
There is a deeper meaning at work here too. One which tells us to not invest in good clothing for ourselves because our bodily state is only temporary. We might think that embracing a minimalist approach to fashion is exclusionary because we’re under much more pressure to appear polished and not just lazy.
Which brings me back to the essentialist approach to fat fashion. I was reading Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and it struck me that what I had been doing in consuming vast amounts of brightly coloured fat fast fashion was trying to play out all the characters I could be without focusing on the person that I am. It was a hollow attempt to develop a sense of identity beyond the expectations of others, or maybe in spite of other people.
This led me to a deeper thought. Perhaps the reason I consistently say yes when I should say no is an attempt to feel acceptance; acceptance I had never received just for purely being.
To be a fat minimalist, to work/ behave/ consume/ create less but better means self-acceptance without all of the layers of junk getting in the way. It is about paring down to what is essential.
What is essential is different to different people.
In this way I am inspired by my father who is the ultimate essentialist when it comes to clothing. As a young adult I took great delight in teasing him for having that one type of pants/ shirt/ socks/ underwear/ shoes in tones of blue and grey. Now, I see the wisdom in finding “the one” – the one essential just right style in each essential item of clothing.
So I will be looking for “the one” – every time I click on my favourite local designer’s sites, whenever I have a need for an item of clothing, when I’m pinning away on Pinterest, I will ask myself “Are you the one?”
Disclaimer: My dinosaur dress and my bat dress will ALWAYS be essential!
Image: Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na #batdress