It's difficult to pinpoint the first time I was told that wearing revealing clothing was a sign of impropriety. It was an act reserved for loose women who were asking for it: Whose morals were as minuscule as their hemlines. Far away from the restrictions of a conservative upbringing in a conservative town, it wasn't until adulthood that I began experimenting with revealing clothes myself. And it'd be in adulthood that I began to realize how wearing garments that showed off my body could help me love and appreciate that body's fatness.
I remember purchasing a dress for a homecoming dance my freshman year of high school. At 15, I was slowly starting to come out of an eating disorder. I'd gained a lot of weight, and was, surprisingly, not feeling horrible about it while dress shopping with friends. For once, my body wasn't my enemy, and I wanted to adorn it in a tight-fitting, low-cut sequin number that made me feel like a '20s superstar.
Upon showing it to my family, however, my motives were instantly questioned. What message did I want to send out in that dress? What was it, exactly, that I wanted the boys to think? Was I trying to cause my parents pain?
In reality, I didn't have any motives beyond wanting to celebrate myself. In the years since, I've grown fatter and far more independent. Revealing clothes have been a tool to help me build up and preserve a sense of self-love. There are seven ways in particular that they've helped me feel affection for my fat body in times when I've felt doubtful, and have allowed me to show off that affection in the times when it's been strongest.
1. They Are Proof That There's Nothing To Be Ashamed Of
A social construct commonly upheld by many is that fat individuals are not entitled to the same clothing of their slender counterparts. Even if crop tops, booty shorts, or underwear as outerwear are trending, we must stick to our garbage bags, shapeless tarps, and oversized knit cardigans. After all, no one wants to see those rolls, right?
Mind you, I have nothing against knit cardigans, but I do have something against the idea that a person's body should ever serve as reason for denied accessibility to fashion. Personally, I have boobs both on the front and back of my body, my booty and thigh cellulite is comparable to the moon's craters, and my muffin top is grander than any baked good I've ever encountered. And none of that is cause for shame. None of it is cause to hide. My revealing clothing feels like evidence of that.
There is no body type — fat, thin, in-between — that could ever be shameful. The only deplorable thing to question here is a culture that perpetuates the opposite belief, and the people who insist on spreading its toxic messaging.
2. They Allow Me To Recognize The Progression Of My Body Image
With the exception of the aforementioned homecoming dance, there were few times as a teen and young adult when I actually felt confident and self-loving enough to wear revealing garments. Back then, I did feel ashamed of my body. I was not only disgusted by its fatness (something I attribute so social conditioning and upbringing alike), but embarrassed that I had to subject the world to the sight of its heavy wobbling.
Revealing garments felt like a prize of sorts. They were a thing I'd wear upon losing weight, and finding myself in the body that I'd so long been told should be mine. They were certainly not something I deserved beforehand.
It took a lot of time, the help of positive people and role models, an international move, and a lot of immersion into fat positive rhetoric for a new narrative to begin forming in my life. Getting over body image issues, whether they manifest into EDs or not, is never particularly easy. But if and when you start the journey to better self-image, it's definitely worth rewarding yourself.
I find that wearing revealing garments — not in spite of my fatness, but to celebrate my body in its entirety — feels like precisely that: a reward. It's a reward for getting past fatantagonistic sociocultural conditioning, and choosing the route of body love instead.
3. They Remind Me That Fatness Is A Feminist Issue
Much like conversations around the intersections of revealing clothing, modesty/immodesty, and sexuality are a feminist issue, so are conversations about fatness, femininity, and revealing clothing.
Many of us are taught to believe that "good" women cover up, while "bad" women show it all off. We are largely told that dressing in modest garms is a sign that a woman or feminine person is fit for a relationship, whereas dressing in slinky dresses and sequin corsets is a sign that a woman or feminine person is fit to be mistreated and used.
The same is arguably true of fat women. Dressing in revealing or modest garments often comes with the same assumptions and stereotypes. But when you add our bodies into the conversation, things get even more murky.
Fat women aren't regularly told that they are deserving of things like sexuality or fun clothing. We are constantly desexualized, compared to barnyard animals, and asked to hide. It can sometimes feel as though we are being told we are not worthy of womanhood and femininity at all — not until we lose the weight and repair ourselves, that is.
For those reasons, fatness is a feminist issue. Until women, as a whole, can be free to dress as they so choose without the accompanying rules or expectations placed upon them, I believe it's crucial to form alternate realities. The world might largely believe that fat ladies don't deserve to be classed as ladies at all, but when you dress in your revealing garments, in your feminine garments, or in whatever garments make you feel empowered, you are being radical.
4. They Let Me Play With People
There are few things that bring me more pleasure in this world than forcing people to confront their prejudices. As a fat woman, I know from experience that participating in certain sartorial practices is almost guaranteed to piss some humans off. Whether that means wearing a low-rise bikini to the beach or channeling the characters of Game Of Thrones in statement pieces and eye-catching dresses, the sight of my jiggly bits will usually attract many a malicious, judgmental glance.
Of course, I'm not causing any harm to people when I do these things. I'm not breaking any laws or deliberately raining on anyone's parade. Yet my body type in revealing or otherwise loud clothing seems to have the power to make certain folks squirm. Heck, some might even take a picture of me to share and laugh about on a fat shaming Reddit page.
The thing is, I think it's kind of important to make these people feel uncomfortable. Their intolerance is undeniable, and 100 percent unjustifiable. But if they are going to insist on shaming entire groups of people for their body types, then I am going to insist on showing off my body type with pride and love. I can only hope that repeated exposure to certain imagery will help normalize and de-stigmatize it, and that definitely goes for fatness.
5. They Can Be A Sign Of My Reclaimed Sexuality
There is not anything inherently sexual about revealing clothing, IMO. If you ask me, whether or not your clothing is meant to "send a message" is all about your personal interpretation and chosen utilization of it. But for me, revealing styles can sometimes be very related to my sexuality, particularly my reclamation of it.
I used to dread the thought of being exposed in any way. I hated thinking of people seeing me naked for the first time. I loathed the thought of my nude, fat body pressed against someone else's. Like pretty or bold clothes, sex wasn't something I thought was for me. So I avoided anything that felt remotely sexy, revealing garments included.
When you realize that you are worthy of everything anyone smaller than you is, though, you equally realize that the world is full of things with the potential to excite you. The more I've grown in love with my body, the more I've learned to enjoy sex and intimacy. And the more I've grown to love showing off my right to both of these things. Sometimes, rocking a sultry or low-cut or high-hemmed look is just the way to do this.
6. They Help Me Defy Good Fatty Tropes
Nowadays, I have little interest in being a good fatty. I don't feel pressured or required to post fitness selfies on my social media, or snaps of my meals that prove I'm eating "healthy," or BMI report cards. I also don't feel that it's my duty to cover my body in black-on-black outfits or sack-like dresses that hide every evidence of a back boob or love handle.
It's not to say that every fat person wearing black clothing or tarp-y skirts is trying to hide, of course. But I'm personally fond of doing the opposite. I adore bright colors and very often like the feeling of tight garments on my body. Revealing clothes feel, to me, like a giant eff-you to every fashion "rule," social norm, or fat shaming premise that have long dictated that I don't deserve to be seen. I'm not a good fatty. And I don't need to be in order to be worthy of tolerance and respect.
7. They Tell Other Fats That It's OK
I love seeing fat women rocking the boldest, most revealing of styles out there. It feels like a sign of progression. Like a reminder that even though much of the world is still as fat shaming as ever (presidential nominees included), many fat people themselves are refusing to be silenced or shrunken. Exposed thighs that touch, belly outlines that are visible, or bingo wings that wobble are proof that self-love and body autonomy are possible at any size, if only we allow ourselves to experience and embrace these things.
When I wear revealing clothes, I hope that other fat women — some of whom might not be there yet on their own journeys — feel like they might be able to do the same someday. I hope they can think, "Hey, she's got a body like mine, she's in a mini dress, and the world isn't exploding."
Being fat still comes with a hell of a lot of stigma, as does wearing revealing clothes when you're a woman or feminine person. So to combine the two, well, I know it can feel pretty scary. But if doing so fills you with any kind of sense of strength, it's arguably worth doing. Not only will you possibly make other fat people feel freer to express themselves through fashion in any way they so please, but you'll be doing that for yourself. And that's as pure an act of self-love as any.