I come from a long line of women who were taught that their principal sartorial duty must always be to condense themselves, shrink themselves, and pretend that they had no fat. This means that so-called plus size fashion rules have been uttered to me from the time it first started to seem like my baby fat wasn't going anywhere come age 10 or so. Add to that growing up with a mixture of relatives from both Colombia and the States — two countries with their very own specific narratives for what it means to be a beautiful and worthwhile human — and I would reach age 22 before I really began dressing for myself.
I consider myself pretty lucky, in that I'm only in the first quarter of my life or so, and I've already been able to immerse myself in enough body positive dialogue to understand that there is no such thing as style rules. Fashion, contrary to what some might tell you, is not a vapid interest. The clothes you wear can be both personal and political. And if you have a marginalized body type? Even more so. Every time a masculine individual wears a dress, or a feminine individual wears blue lipstick, or a fat woman wears a crop top, a challenge (whether intentional or otherwise) against the made-up rules for bodies and how they must dress is made. And it's a challenge that has the potential to inspire a hell of a lot of people along the way.
This year, I intend on taking my plus size fashion rule-breaking even further. I hope to squash every rule, in even greater frequency. And I hope you, glorious plus size humans, will join me in trumping the following 29 "guidelines" throughout this year and beyond. Fatphobia needs to be confronted, and we can all do that, sometimes just by slipping into booty shorts.
1. Crop Tops Are Only For Flat Tummies
Actually, showing off your belly has no size limit. Don't let anyone tell you that there exists any kind of belly that isn't totally rad.
2. Horizontal Stripes Aren't Flattering
Quite frankly, I think what you mean is "horizontal stripes are perfect to wear on any part of the body."
3. Shapeless Garments Will Drown You
Some people love a good shapeless look. Others prefer a tight-to-the-body one. Others love to experiment with both. But the shapeless trend is for everyone who wants it, y'all.
4. Form-Fitting Garments Will Make Your Fat Too Obvious
Form-fitting garments might not hide your fat, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Fat doesn't have to be a secret. It doesn't have to be shameful.
5. Sleevelessness Is Not For Fat Arms
Why, because sleeveless tops and dresses don't hide your big arms? Again, there's nothing to conceal.
6. Short Shorts Can't Be Worn With Cellulite-y Legs
Cellulite is frikin beautiful. It's like artwork on your body. Marvel at the patterns, and let others do the same.
7. No Mesh Or See-Through Anything
I think there's a typo in this "rule." It should definitely be "mesh and see-through everything" because rolls and wobbly bits are damn fabulous.
8. Low-Rise Underwear & Bikinis Are Only For Very Thin People
I think they're for all people. We're never going to de-stigmatize having a non-flat belly if they all stay isolated in the metaphorical closet.
9. Pattern Mixing Will Make You Look Bigger
This one truly confounds me. Even if there was truth to it, why not look bigger and force people to confront their internalized fatphobia?
10. Bright Colors Draw Too Much Attention To Your Body
And perhaps that's exactly what you want to do!
11. Black-On-Black Means You're Trying To Hide
Oh, the paradoxical "rules" of being a fat woman. Wear whatever damn color you want, so long as it makes you happy.
12. Wear Shapewear Underneath Your Dresses
Or never wear shapewear again. It's totes not necessary because your fat is not something that needs to be tucked and squashed to be acceptable.
13. Only Wear Dresses & Skirts With Tights
If you're worried about chafing, why not invest in some Bandelettes? That way, you'll prevent the chub rub but still let your stunning legs roam free.
14. A-Line Silhouettes Are The Only Acceptable Silhouette
Because they make us look smaller, right? Yeah, there are more important things to concern ourselves with. Like awaiting the imminent return of Game Of Thrones (aka the return of Jon Snow).
15. No Crazy Patterns
16. High Rise Will Cut Your Proportions
High-rise pants are actually retro-inspired pieces of of wonderment. Channel your inner vintage vixen and go for it.
17. Button-Down Shirts Will Make Your Fat Pop Out
If that ever happens to me, I just hope the button popping off my shirt hits whoever made up this rule in an eyeball. I'm not promoting violence here, just karma.
18. Don't Follow Trends
Yes, yes. We should all wear basics and only basics. Lies, y'all. Lies. There is no runway or fast fashion trend you cannot pull off.
19. Only Wear Heels
I've heard this so many times: Booties and flats make a fat person's legs look ever shorter and fatter. Kay. I'll take it. Wearing heels is too much hard work, and comfort should be prioritized over BS beauty standards, in my most humble, obesity-glorifying opinion.
20. Rompers Will Cut Up Your Proportions
Rompers are precious. Their only downside is literally the whole having-to-strip-off-naked-every-time-I-wanna-pee thing.
21. Don't Even Bother With Sexy Lingerie
Because no one finds naked or semi-naked fat women sexy? Because the right to lingerie is something you "earn" after losing weight? Let me mesmerize you with my plump tummy wrapped in the most beautiful of laces.
22. Don't Overcompensate By Over-Accessorizing
In fact, over-accessorizing and being a kitschy dream girl is anyone's prerogative.
23. Don't Wear Food Prints
Print Crop Top, $35, chubbycartwheels.com
Food shaming is very real. Stick it to the haters by rocking your unapologetic love for all things delectable on your equally delectable bod.
24. Don't Go For Anything "Too Young"
This is one I've personally heard time and time again thanks to my baby face, because "fat makes your face look younger and you shouldn't appear too weak and fragile." So, basically, "Don't look too young because you won't be taken seriously." But, "Don't look too old because #ageism." Beauty standards make zero sense.
25. Never Wear Slits
Or wear all the slits and show the world the powers of thick thighs.
26. Don't Wear Anything That'll Make You Stand Out
I recommend refusing to hide instead. Take up all the space, and don't let anyone make you feel like you don't have a right to the clothes, life, and acceptance you deserve.
27. Don't Cut Your Hair Short
The narrative goes that short hair makes fat women look fatter. And, of course, looking fat — let alone fatter than you actually are, let alone when you're a woman — is just about the worst thing that can happen to a person, right? Do you see how absurd it sounds when you read it aloud?
28. Don't Wear Anything That Might Make You Appear "Vain"
I know fat women are "supposed" to all be submissive and meager and act like they're a "problem." But I personally believe it's time to let our collective strength redefine the way beauty standards work and embrace a healthy dose of vanity.
29. Wide Leg Pants Will Make You Look Like You Have No Shape
There is nothing in this world that will ever make you look as though you have no shape. Every person has a body. All of those bodies have many shapes to them. And that is the end of this tale.
The basic moral of the story is this: No one has the right to make another person feel like it's their "duty" to hide. No one has the right to make another person feel "less than." You don't have to "fix yourself" or "lose the weight" before you allow yourself to live. You just have to give yourself permission.
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Image: Courtesy Stephanie Yeboah/Nerd About Town