There’s a specific set of fashion rules that fat women are expected to follow. Most of these rules have been around for decades. Our grandmothers spent the majority of their adult lives squeezing themselves into girdles and pantyhose, and following specific rules about how they should present their bodies.
In my own personal journey of making peace with my body, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the things that fat women are “supposed” to do, especially regarding clothes. Fashion advice for fat women often suggests that we wear clothes that don’t make us more stick out in a crowd more than we already do.
Most importantly, fat women are told to make their bodies appear as thin as possible, which is why these arbitrary fashion rules exist. Feeling great about what you’re wearing can be an important part of self-confidence, which is why it’s time shake up your closet and ignore these five fat girl fashion rules.
1. Black is slimming. Every fat girl on the planet has a closet full of black because they’ve been told their entire lives that it will make them look thinner. Don’t get me wrong — I love black and have a closetful myself, but I spent years avoiding bright colors because I didn’t want them to make me look fat.
I don’t really know what changed, but in the last few years, I have embraced the bright colors that I love. If I wear a black cardigan, I always add a bold camisole and accessories to brighten the outfit. If you are wearing black, a bold lip can also give your look a little oomph.
2. “Fat girls can’t wear bold prints/horizontal stripes because they’ll look fat!” There are a lot of trends and even classic looks that fat women avoid because of this particular rule. In the past, it was difficult to find plus size clothing that was “unflattering,” like horizontal stripes, bold prints, and peplums. Now, it’s relatively easy. ModCloth, Torrid, and Forever21 are all places to find on-trend pieces so you can decide for yourself what is flattering and what isn’t.
It’s important to remember, though, that your clothing doesn’t make you look fat. Being fat makes you look fat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Skipping out on fun prints isn’t going to change things, so you may as well go ahead and buy that gorgeous leopard print top you love.
3. “Just because it’s in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it!” This rule is just plain mean. If you want to wear a damn crop-top or skinny jeans or any of the other thousand things you are told you can’t have because you’re a fat girl, rock on and buy what you like. At Feminspire, Noor Al-Sibai describes her “forays in the world of belly-baring” as liberating.
“When I wear crop tops (or mini-dresses, or short-shorts, or body-con dresses), I feel sexy, powerful, liberated. I feel like I’m embodying my anti-fatphobic revolution. And that feeling is worth so much more than a few disgruntled glances.” Wear what you love, and don’t worry about what a few jerks who can’t handle a glimpse of belly think about it.
4. You need shapewear. The “foundation garment,” or shapewear industry is an extremely profitable enterprise — Spanx founder Sara Blakeley is one of the few female billionaires in the United States. From “power panties” to full body shapers, thousands of women squeeze themselves into Spanx every morning before even brushing their teeth. Unlike the girdles and corsets our foremothers wore, these garments are billed as a comfortable way to smooth out the lumps and bumps.
Let’s be real: Spanx and other shapewear is not comfortable. It is restrictive, sweaty, and feels gross. There may also be some health risks associated with wearing too-tight shapewear, like blood clots, nerve damage, and yeast infections. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a little smoothing when you’re wearing a tight-fitting dress, but shapewear shouldn’t be worn as a daily attempt to look thinner.
Most fashion rules are arbitrary and ridiculous, but these take the cake. Fat women shouldn’t have to limit what they wear because a few fashion “experts” don’t find certain clothing appropriate for their bodies. Wear what you love with confidence, and ignore the haters.