15 Plus Size Fashion Resolutions To Make In 2016 If You're Hoping To Toss Convention Aside
When you live in a fat body, it's almost impossible to separate yourself and your beliefs from the grander cultural dialogue that surrounds fatness; and that applies to the way many of us perceive fashion. In 2016, however, I'm hoping we can all take some plus size fashion resolutions on board. Because for every so-called rule that has told us we don't deserve style, there is an alternative narrative to cultivate instead. I dread to think of the many moments of sartorial empowerment I missed out on as a child and teen, when I was often too afraid to wear anything but boot cut jeans and tunic tops. But as an adult, I can try to never let that happen again.
What's the worse that can happen should you choose to take a fashion risk? Maybe some teen will make a face as they walk past your crop top. Someone might yell a rude comment about your bodycon dress. The thing about all these bullshitty things is that they're survivable. Sometimes it takes a while to remember that they're not your fault; but actively reminding yourself of that fact can help in the process. Experimenting with the clothes you've always wanted to wear isn't likely to make Earth implode, or children cry, or people vomit on the subway. It is likely to make you feel... different. If not empowered, then at least a little more in control of the way you choose to present yourself. While everyone's comfort levels are different, and everyone's tastes in clothes equally distinct, here are 15 plus size fashion resolutions I'd recommend considering in an effort to take back some of the control social norms try to extract from us.
1. Wear A Crop Top
Whether you opt for showing off just a little sliver of tummy or everything from your underboob to your belly button, a crop top is one of the biggest sartorial eff yous to beauty standards I can think of. When we consider that the stomach is often the body part we're told needs the most "fixing," showing it off is nothing short of a radical statement. Perhaps it can be a testament to your ever-growing body appreciation; or perhaps it can be a tool to help you get there.
2. Opt For A Statement Accessory
For a long time, cute accessories and shoes were all we fat women really had. The world of plus size retail consisted of tunics, stretch-waist denim, and boot cut jeans for the better half of a century, if not longer. Even then, though, I think we held back from accessories that were too eye-catching — that ran the risk of negative commentary. Maybe 2016 is the time to go the body chain, route. A statement accessory might feel very "look at me," but there's nothing wrong with drawing attention to yourself, especially for reasons of self-empowerment.
3. Wear A Dress Or Skirt Without Tights Or Leggings
Worried about the cellulite on your thighs? Concerned a spectator on the train may catch a glimpse of the stretch marks on your calves and proceed to run away screaming? You need not fear: Chubby legs, cellulite-y legs, stretch-marked legs... Yeah, they're all in possession of their own beauty. And guess what? Women of all sizes have cellulite and stretch marks. Hell, men get stretch marks too.
That being said, chafing is a real thing. If you want to go tights-less but avoid the burn of the chub rub, I'd recommend investing in some bandelettes. They're an arguably more body positive spin on shapewear and bike shorts, protecting your upper thighs while not stuffing your entire upper body into a sausage-like encasing of Spandex.
4. Experiment With Androgynous Styles
The other day, I caught a reflection of myself in my iPhone. The first thing I thought was, "I look like my little brother." By that, I meant that I looked more masculine than is usual for me. Or perhaps just more androgynous.
When you look through the e-pages of plus size fashion bloggers, it's very rare to come across androgyny. Maybe it's because as we continue to fight for visibility and inclusion, we're afraid of putting "too much" out there. The world has ignored fat bodies for so long, that those bodies being fat can feel like enough of a deviation from beauty standards before some invisible line is crossed. However, combatting beauty standards should, I think, mean deconstructing every single layer of those standards. Fat women are entitled to androgynous cuts and silhouettes and beauty routines just as much as anyone else. Fat women have as much of a right to express the vast and unique spectrum of their genders and sexualities as anyone else.
5. Show Off Your VBO
I hear from a lot of women (of all sizes, really) that their visible belly outline is one of the hardest things not to hide behind layers or peplum. Again, it's likely because "lose your belly fat now" seems to be an advertisement of choice in almost every women's magazine, tabloid, diet commercial, or otherwise body shaming propaganda.
There's so much diversity to be seen in a VBO, though. Think about it, the way our tummies fall is uniquely ours. Sometimes they poke out, sometimes they hang, sometimes they touch our legs when we sit. It's such a rarity to see a stomach that isn't flat in our media streams. But I'm willing to bet most of us don't have a flat stomach; at least not entirely. The more we see this truth represented in all walks of life, the more we'll hopefully remember that a VBO is a highly normal, highly lovely thing.
6. Tuck In Your Shirt
I love tucking in my shirts. It's a look I always coveted whenever I'd see the fashionistas of the '90s rocking it on Friends or in fabulous fashion magazines as they smoked their cigarettes and kissed Johnny Depp. Yet it was the tunic top that was my go-to for the better part of a decade, thanks to its loose-flowing nature and ability to cover up the general stomach region.
I suspect a lot of fat ladies avoid this look because it chops the body's proportions. It might create the illusion of a double belly when you only have a single one. It might even make a bulge pop out in a way it never would otherwise. Most such fears are rooted in internalized fat shaming, though, and I'm a firm believer that the best way to change our minds (not to mention those of others) is to change our actions.
7. Slip Into A Low Rise Bikini
As much as I adore the fatkini movement and all that has come with it, I really do wish plus brands and designers started making some more low rise options. The fact that so many plus women have taken to their social media accounts and posted photos of themselves wearing two-piece swimsuits (something the so-called rules of being a fat woman who wears clothes staunchly protested for so long) feels revolutionary. But more often than not, the bikinis are a higher rise.
Awkward tan lines aside, I think swimwear equality should mean we feel free to put our bellies out there, too. I know; I know. It's a hard ass thing to do. It's a thing that will make you paranoid of evacuating entire beaches and making children cry. More often than not, these things won't happen, though. People will stare; because they always do when they see something they're not used to seeing. But that's probably a sign you're fighting for visibility; and that's a damn good thing.
8. Go Strapless
Arms. Arms were probably one of my biggest body hang-ups in the history of my body hang-ups. Years after immersing myself into feminist and body pos dialogues, I would still put on a bolero every time something strapless or spaghetti-strapped touched my body. It wasn't necessarily because this was something fat women were "supposed" to do, although not choosing strapless options was one of the "rules" I'd heard time and time again. I think baring my arms just made me feel somehow... vulnerable. Like, through them everyone would actually know that I was fat.
Here's the thing: Your body isn't a secret. What I'll never understand about so-called style rules is that, no matter what, people will know that you are not thin. A fat body — like any kind of body — will always look like what it is. No amount of shrugs or black or tunics can ever stop someone from clocking your body type. And that's OK — because there's nothing wrong with any body type.
9. Wear Your Politics On Your Sleeve
Fattitude V-Neck Crop Top, $29.99, redressnyc.com
Most of us style-lovers probably believe, at least to some degree, that fashion can change the world. Or at least some people's perceptions of it. It can empower. It can inspire thought. It can perpetuate beauty standards or subvert them. That's why I think messaging tees are so important.
By doing something as seemingly benign as wearing a fat positive T-shirt, you're unashamedly telling the world that you don't get a damn about its standards and its conventions. And when someone catches a glimpse of your tee, they might just have to check their opinion. By wearing a fat positive piece of apparel, you will make people consider — if only for a moment — fat acceptance; and that's something more humans should definitely be considering.
10. Don't Feel Bad About Your "Minimalist" Days
Feel like wearing jeans and a T-shirt, or jeans and a sweater, or a sweater and leggings? Just go for it. One of the many, many stereotypes out there about fat bodies is that they're all a "consequence" of laziness. When being trolled on Twitter, something people with pseudonyms and fake profile images tell me constantly is that I'm a "slob who doesn't try." I think this is why so many plus women feel reluctant to dabble into minimalism; be it the genre of clothing itself or the act of going out into the world in a simple outfit for no other reason than you can't be bothered to put on makeup or a dress.
Again, you can't stop humans from staring or commenting or being generally awful. But you can desensitize yourself to it. Your clothes don't have to mean anything you don't want them to mean. No one gets to define the meaning of your leggings, much like no one gets to define the meaning of anything else you do.
11. Challenge Yourself Not To Wear All Black, All The Time
Black-on-black is a pretty chic aesthetic. I get it. It makes you look all cool; like you're a Brooklynite and you're about to order your third overpriced coffee of the day. Or it makes you feel put-together and grounded. But you know what else it is? The only color fat women were supposedly "allowed" to wear for far too long.
Personally, I love colors. I love rainbow palettes and pastel dresses and skirts that look like they were born out of a Nerds box. Colors aren't about hiding; they're about being seen. If there's anything we need more of when it comes to diverse representation of fat women, it's for them to be seen in a macro way that will continue to influence our perceptions of what bodies look like.
12. Try A Bodycon
Granted, a bodycon won't be everyone's style, and that's totally cool. If you feel like it is your style, and you just haven't gotten around to experimenting with it, why not let 2016 be your time? A bodycon, unless worn with some heavy-duty shapewear underneath, is likely to show off some rolls and wobbly bits. But personally, I think becoming acquainted with how your body feels physically (and how it makes you feel!) in all different kinds of garments. Hell, you might even find that you like the feeling of your squishy back boobs when underneath a bodycon velvet dress. So sumptuous, ya know?
13. Buy Some Daring Lingerie
"Daring" can literally mean anything here. Well, anything that isn't a granny panty or a tummy-tucking brief. Back in the day, plus women didn't have a ton of options here. I mean, they didn't have a ton of options in retail at large, but lingerie was especially bleak.
From Hips And Curves to Curvy Couture to Curvy Girl Lingerie to Addition Elle, loads of brands are producing some truly remarkable stuff for plus size babes, though, and they'll undoubtedly continue to do so in 2016. Whether you've always fantasized about a backless panty or a silk chemise or a mesh and cut-out babydoll, you can totally own it. Your body is glorious; and spending some time in lingerie that makes you feel sexy is a total psychological game-changer.
14. Forget About Rules
Most of us have that "one thing." That one item of clothing or style we've always wanted to try, but never felt we could. Let next year be the year you can. Because you really fucking can. Be it bright colors, bold patterns, short skirts, booty shorts, crop tops, or bodycons, just say yes to the literal (or metaphorical) dress.
15. And Spend Some Time Ditching Clothes Altogether
I really do believe that clothing has the ability to empower; but in a way, it can also do precisely the opposite. Not to be grim here, but the reality is that a society in which there is no body shaming and every body is treated and catered to equally doesn't feel like something I'm likely to witness before I'm dead. In the meantime, all I — and maybe any of us — can do is try to change things day by day.
Growing comfortable in my body, for me, meant spending a lot of one-on-one time with it; from working on my blog while sat naked on the couch to sleeping in the nude to cleaning the house in my birthday suit to feeling comfortable with allowing romantic partners to really see me — every angle of me. I avoided mirrors for years in high school; never wanting to see just how "bad" said body really was. But when I actually started looking at it, what I discovered is that nothing about it was, or had ever been, bad.
I believe that before we can try to change the world, we have to change ourselves. We have to change the way we think about our own bodies. We have to change the way we dress them; and make sure the clothes we're putting on are being put on for ourselves and no one else.
Images: Marie Southard Ospina (3); Re/Dress NYC (1)