Sometimes when people talk about body positivity, it can begin to feel like a journey that, once decided to embark upon, is relatively simple: You realize that there's no need to resent, distrust, shame, or stigmatize your body, and you proceed to love it unconditionally. You break plus size fashion rules. You wear the styles you're told are "unflattering" on your shape. You tell yourself how gorgeous you are while staring in the mirror naked and complimenting the new cellulite on your rump. You leave the sad fat girl version of yourself behind. In reality, the process is usually more complicated than that — and for some, particularly as it applies to getting dressed.
When you grow up in a culture that vilifies fatness and subsequently fat people, it isn't easy to go outside in a crop top that showcases your rolls. Stepping out in hot pants with cellulite and/or stretch marks on display atop thunderous thighs can come with its own set of anxieties. Wearing a bikini to the beach means you open yourself up to potential gawking. Maybe a bro will even snap your picture while you're not looking and Snapchat it to his buddies.
I wish adopting mantras of body positivity made those experiences easier. But hate can hurt, no matter how how much you genuinely love your body. Sometimes blocking out haters feels simple. Sometimes it doesn't. But being fat typically comes with the awareness that some folks will never accept or tolerate your body type. And that can make sartorial rule-breaking feel quite intimidating.
If you're interested in dipping your toes in the water without going full-on VBO-revealing, here are 13 style baby steps to consider. You'll still be breaking some rules, but hopefully you'll feel a little less on show.
1. Wear A Crop Top With Ultra High-Waisted Bottoms
The stomach is arguably one of the most stigmatized parts of the body, with ads and media telling us to shrink, flatten, and tone our tummies at every corner. This means that for many, showing it off is not as simple as slipping into a midriff-baring T-shirt á la Britney Spears in 2001 and walking out into the sunshine.
If you have reservations about showing off the entirety of your belly in a tiny crop top and jeans, consider pairing the former with some ultra high-waisted bottoms: The kind that go above the belly button. Only a sliver of your tummy will be on display, easing you into the world of the crop at a pace that might feel more comfortable.
2. Opt For A High-Coverage Fatkini
Although I'm a big proponent of plus size women embracing their bodies via low rise bikinis, provided they want to do so, I totally understand how intimidating it can be to have your visibly fat body on show in a public place come swim season. Being in a two-piece as a plus size individual can feel extremely vulnerable at times. After all, it's the antithesis of "hiding." You know, the thing we're so often conditioned to believe we have to do.
If you love the fatkini revolution and want to take part, but don't feel ready to commit to something super belly-baring, a high-coverage, high-rise bikini might be your best bet. You'll still be breaking rules and proving that fat babes are entitled to any style of their choosing. Brands like Monif C. and swimsuitsforall carry a variety of styles that are equal parts on-trend and classic.
3. Try Something Eye-Catching In A Silhouette You're Comfortable In
I know it can sometimes feel like committing to disregarding the so-called rules means going all-out in every department: The color of your outfit, the patterns on it, the cut, the silhouette. Sometimes, however, putting yourself into an ensemble that will undoubtedly turn heads can be intimidating. Especially when you consider that fat individuals, and arguably fat women in particular, are regularly told that their primary sartorial goal should be to remain invisible. "Don't draw attention to yourself! No one wants to look at that!"
But if you're coming around to the idea of being seen and taking up space, a great way of doing so is to choose an eye-catching outfit that's still within your comfort zone when it comes to cut. Traditionally, a lot of plus size clothing is designed in A-line or empire silhouettes. But you can be a little more rule-breaking by choosing such a cut combined with a bold print or color. Personally, I don't think one can ever go wrong with polka dots.
4. Ditch Long Pants In Warm Weather
Come summer, it's usually hot outside, guys. Really, really hot.
As a chubby adolescent, I tried to ignore this fact to the best of my abilities — wearing leggings, tights, or jeans even when in 105-degree Mediterranean weather. I sacrificed comfort so that I could protect those around me from the sight of my ever-so-flawed thighs and their accompanying cellulite. From conversations with plus size friends and acquaintances, I know the same has been true of a lot of folks.
You really don't have to risk heat stroke, though. I understand how scary it can feel to ditch the pants in exchange for a mini or booty shorts. But you can start slowly, with a pair of culottes or capris, and then work your way up to midi skirts or dresses, and eventually the aforementioned minis. I promise you: The liberation is real.
If chafing is your concern, products like Bandelettes or Jockey's Skimmies are great preventative measures that aren't designed to suck you in or "make you look two sizes smaller in one-two-three." They also pair very comfortably with dresses, skirts, or shorts.
5. Try A Chunky Tank Top
Even after embracing body positivism, my arms remained a sensitive point of conversation for me. I would never wear spaghetti straps or strapless anything without pairing the look with a friendly bolero or shrug. In retrospect, said friendly boleros and shrugs were never particularly cute. They also made me feel way too hot and stuffy in warm weather.
My solution was starting with a chunky tank top. Not a spaghetti strap, because that would bear the entirety of my arms and chest — something I wasn't yet comfortable with. But a piece that revealed a bit more without being too mentally overwhelming.
6. Experiment With A New Hair Cut
So-called laws of beauty for plus size women often imply that fat girls can't have short hair. Allegedly, short locks make our faces look even rounder, and our double chins more pronounced. Even if this were true (and I think it totally depends on the person), it shouldn't matter. Our hairstyles, like our clothing, are ultimately ours to decide upon.
If breaking fashion ~rules~ still feels very risky, I think the head can be a great starting point. Hair grows back, after all. By cutting your mane into a bob or pixie or even shaving it off completely, you'll definitely be helping deconstruct antiquated and unnecessary rules of acceptability, as well as femininity. But for some, it might feel a little less radical than stepping outside in a rainbow tutu or bodycon dress.
Want more radical body positivity? Check out the podcast below, and be sure to subscribe to The BodCast for more self-love inspo!
7. Insert A Funky Pattern Into Your Look
Patterns are great. They're fun and eye-catching and will hopefully make you feel just a little extra peppy whenever you catch a glimpse of your ensemble. But as with anything bold (or fun, TBH), it's been historically suggested that plus size women opt for solids and neutrals instead.
As with all fashion "rules," there's no truth or substance to this remark. Spring and summer are the perfect opportunities to play with florals, which means now's likely the easiest time to slip a pattern into your look. You can start with accessories, or a dress in a silhouette that you adore. There's no way to do patterns wrong.
8. Try Something Basic
It's often assumed that plus size women who do not perform overt femininity aren't "trying hard enough." They have given up. They are lazy. They couldn't be bothered to look nice. These things, however, are not often assumed of straight size women who choose basics or athleisure instead of pinup gowns and frilly underpants.
And that's called a double standard. There's nothing wrong with wanting to feel your comfiest in jeans and T-shirt combo, or leggings and a loose workout top. Regardless of your size, you're entitled to keep things simple. Luckily, slipping into your favorite denim and a cute tee should be achievable with little stress or difficulty.
9. Wear A Bold Outfit Around The House
Maybe you live in a small town. Maybe the city you're renting in seems mostly filled with size 2 models. Perhaps you feel in your bones that going out into the world sporting kaleidoscopic leggings or mermaid pants as a fat person will be met with stares and criticism. It very well might, of course. Fat shaming is real, and people can be dicks. So consider wearing the ensemble around your place of residence first.
I used to love doing this: Dressing up in my kookiest of looks just to hang at home, Netflix-ing and chilling. Or writing on the laptop. Or walking around the kitchen. Eventually, you kind of get used to seeing yourself like that. And then it's NBD when you wear the same looks outside.
10. Pair A Tight Garment With A Loose One
Bodycons can take a while to work up to. If you're self-conscious about your back boobs or side rolls or visible belly outline, you probably don't want to bring attention to those wobbly bits. A skintight dress might not be in your immediate future, but it doesn't have to be. Maybe a tight skirt caught your attention. Or a form-fitting, back-fat-baring crop top. If you'd like, you can pair those things with an opposing loose garment. Start breaking the rules, one half of your body at a time.
11. Sport A Fat Positive T-Shirt
One of my favorite ways of breaking so-called rules is to make it very clear that I'm not bothered by my fatness, without having to do very much at all. Cue the fat positive T-shirt.
T-shirts are easy, right? They're the most basic component of all wardrobes — the staple piece almost every human is likely to own. And a fat positive tee? Well, it's a way of demonstrating your politics and easing your way into unapologetic fat expression without having to sport anything too out-there if you're not yet comfy doing so. Ready To Stare and Re/Dress often offer great options.
12. Get Yourself Some Cute New Underwear
I've heard some humans say that confidence starts underneath your clothes, after you begin to actively embrace your natural form precisely as it is. But I'd like to apply this to underwear as well. Few things make me feel as ready to face the day as starting it with a glorious lingerie set as the foundation of my outfit. It's not about anyone else seeing. It's just about doing something that makes you feel good, purely for that reason.
Even if you've been told otherwise, plus size women are just as entitled to lingerie and sexuality and sensuality as anyone else. So treat yourself to something that makes you think, "Man, I'm feeling myself."
13. Take A Picture First
Sometimes we experience a disconnect between the way we conceptualize our bodies and the way our bodies actually look. We see things that aren't there, or don't see things that are. For those reasons, perhaps, it can be easy to disregard an outfit or look as "not being for you." We imagine what something will look like without ever trying it on. A solution to this? Take a picture! Take the opportunity to see how you look outside of how you think you look. Whenever I've done this, I've realized that most of the hang-ups really are just in my head.
The most helpful thing in my own journey to feeling more comfortable breaking so-called plus size fashion rules was to acknowledge a simple fact: Whether I'm wearing a tunic dress, an A-line skirt, or a skintight PVC bodysuit, people will know that I'm fat. It isn't something that I can truly hide, nor is it something I should have to. But nothing I ever wear is likely to convince people that I'm anything other than what I am. And that is F.A.T. So I may as well wear the things that make me happiest.
Image: Re/Dress (1)