I’ve been talking about writing an updated post on my favorite plus size brands for a few months now and have pushed it off over and over again. Confronting my body changes has been hard and confronting my current clothing options has been absolute shit. I’m the largest I’ve been in over a decade as I’ve worked to eliminate every single food rule and eating disorder behavior that has controlled my life for over two decades. I didn’t really have to confront my body changes for most of quarantine as I wore pj’s and sweats exclusively. But eventually, I knew I needed to go through my closet and was met with racks and racks of clothes that were too small.
But Shira, plus size clothing options are so great now! There has been so much improvement since you were a fat teen! You’ll be able to find clothes that work for your recovered body with ease! Um…. no.
I want to preface what I’m about to say with the disclaimer that my small fat body has a ton of privilege. I’m on the smaller end of plus size and can sometimes wear the biggest sizes in straight size stores, depending on how the clothes run. Once you get past a size 24 or 26, your options are a joke.
With all that being said, there are only a handful of plus-size brands that truly feel like “me.” And then there’s the fact that I’m really short and it appears that brands believe that you can only be thin and short as petite sizing is almost always available in small sizes only. So yes, I have way more options than someone in a mid or super fat body, and confronting my changed body and the dismal clothing options it brings has been really painful.
Photography thanks to Kelly West
It brings me right back to being a fat teenager and having to dress decades older than I was. It brings me right back to going to store after store to find a dress for Shabbos only to come home empty-handed and humiliated as the store owner told me, “You gotta lay off the chips.” It brings me back to shopping with my thin friends and when the biggest size didn’t fit, they’d say, “Oh, just get the next size!” Uh, there is no next size. Or having my thin friends say, “Oh, you can just borrow something from my closet!” That was also baffling because on no planet would their clothes even come close to fitting me and I had no idea what would possess them to say that.
Having to dress like I was 75 when I was 15 was dehumanizing. I already knew I was an outsider and learned early on that my body was wrong and that because of my size, I was unlovable. There was no such thing as social media then. There was no such thing as a body acceptance movement in my ultra-orthodox community. So it was about the clothes on some level but it represented so much more for me. It was the barrier to acceptance and love that I couldn’t break.
And when my bulimia turned to anorexia for the first time in my early 20’s, I was thrilled. I wasn’t thrilled by the eating disorder destroying my life but I was thrilled by the privilege my smaller body offered me. Suddenly, I could shop at any store I wanted to! Suddenly, the people around me were telling me that it was okay to eat. I was able to dress in a way that reflected my personality and who I was for the first time in my life and it felt like a dream come true. That’s when I became a bit obsessed with fashion because for the first time I had access to it all. And then, throughout the next decade, I cycled in and out of anorexia, and in and out of having access to clothes in any store.
And here we are with stores like Eloquii, Asos, and Modcloth that didn’t exist when I was a kid. It’s wonderful but it’s not even close to enough. It’s a testament to fatphobia that most stores are not inclusive when over 67% of women are over a size 14. Why wouldn’t brands want to make money and sell clothes to fat people? Instead, plus-size options make up around 3% of the fashion industry. And if you’re over a size 26, your options are miniscule.
With all this being said, I’m finally writing the post and with it, I’m doing a lot of grieving my changing body. I sold and donated 10 giant bags of clothes over the last month and it’s time to face reality. I’m not going to include stores that I’d never shop in just because they exist. And for those of you wanting sustainable options, maybe that’ll be a post I write when I see inclusive and sustainable brands that I actually like.
And as I said on instagram here, “Give yourself permission to grieve your smaller body and the clothes that no longer fit. And then get rid of that shit. It’s your clothes’ job to fit you, not your job to fit the clothes.”