Too Fat for Fashion

Rant warning! My experiences of clothes shopping in Montreal. A city for thin fashionistas.

Here’s the thing. I love dressing up. I love make-up, skirts and skimpy clothes. I love looking sophisticated, punky and kinky. I love red shoes and lipstick. Short skirts and black lace tops. Beautiful French knickers, framed by a thick 1950s garter belt. But today stepping into a clothing store I was made to feel all wrong.

I am seriously depressed right now. Having gone into a four-storey shop with a good plus size section and tried on about 20 items of clothing all I managed to get was this shitty t-shirt. It’s ridiculous. I mean, what’s it going to take?! All I want are some pretty clothes goddammit so I look sexy and feel good in myself. Argh! As one friend said, I’m not even that big! But this seductive hierarchy of fat versus fatter is not even the point. No one – no matter their body shape – deserves to feel too big to be sexy.

This is what the clothes industry does. It tells fat people, sorry, you’re not meant to be in this store. You don’t have the right to wear these clothes. You’re not allowed to feel good about yourself. Please go to the one store in the city that has plus-size items and buy an overpriced flowery dress. For God’s sake, don’t come in here! You make us look bad.

I feel I have said this, like, a million times before, but the choices the fashion industry makes are not benign. They are carefully calculated to promote an ideal female body that is virtually impossible for the majority of women to emulate. Did you know that in the UK the average size of women is 16? This is my size, and today, in Canada (which is meant to be a fatter country forgodssake), I couldn’t find any skirts that fit me. On a good day I think that this collective exclusion of clothes for fat people is mostly unconscious. On a bad day, like today, I know it is deliberate. I know my thin friends find it hard to find clothes that fit them, often spending hours of their time and a lot of money to find outfits that they feel good in. But there is a difference between the shopping experience of fat and thin women. If a shop for doesn’t even stock your size, this absence suggests that young and fat women don’t exist. That you don’t exist. Thin people have a right to complain about the fashion industry too, but their experiences are just not comparable to ours. The fact that most high street (that’s main street for you North Americans) stores don’t even stock my size makes me one seriously pissed off shopper with damaged self-esteem.


The fashion industry has given me this problem and now I have to deal with it. I have two options. One, I say fuck it and carry on my happy fat way, somehow dragging the dregs of my self-esteem with me into a far more expensive online shop. Or I capitulate to the system and lose some weight. I know that if I drop one size that I will just about fit into many stores’ ‘large’ and I will finally be able to find affordable and chic clothing. I’ll be happier because I’ll look prettier. Or will I?

I have always thought this: Just one size smaller, and I’ll be prettier, happier, more productive. I’ve always thought that the answer to my love-life, success and happiness lies in the elusive ‘one size smaller.’ Maybe to some extent it does. It takes a self-confident person to date a fattie and fat people are less likely to be chosen for the job than their thin colleagues. But, having been both a size 12 and a size 18, I know that my inner state of mind has always been the same. I have been a miserable size 12, a suicidal size 14 and happy somewhere else. Does the clue to my happiness lie in the size of my stomach? Despite all my logical arguments to the contrary I believe, that yes, it does. I know this is brainwashing. My acceptance of a self-hating lie. But faced with being fat and broke in bad clothes, or thinner and looking good in more affordable clothes, what am I going to choose? Do I even really have a choice?

It’s all very well for Forbes-listed Lady Gaga to proclaim she loves all her ‘Little Monsters’ fat, anorexic and gay, but how can I, as a fat person, keep my self-esteem intact in the face of a world that routinely makes me pay for it? Did you know that if you Google ‘fat people’ the first suggested search terms are ‘fat people jokes’ and ‘fat people falling’?

I am incapable of thinking I am pretty now. Looking at old photos I used to hate, I can see how beautiful I was. But looking at a photo taken recently, I can only think ‘fat, fat, fat.’

Luckily, I can change this self-hatred into anger into art through my writing here. This makes it useful, but it is pretty hard, and I can always use some help. How do you guys fight self-hatred? How do you teach yourself to be more comfortable in your body? I’ve found a couple of awesome articles about loving your body. But I’d love to hear your ideas.

22 thoughts on “Too Fat for Fashion

  1. great post.. although I fit in the biggest size at a lot of shops, it is hard to find nice clothing and the biggest size often does not quite look as nice as the XS version.. 😦 and there are the others shops, where you grab a shirt and just think: well, this is XL and I feel I’d need two to cover myself.. but in the end that does not matter as much as accepting yourself. I learned that my prettiness (is that a word?) does not depend on my size or weight, but on the way you behave.

    If you look like you feel gorgeous then other people will see you like that as well. I have skinny friends who tell I am one of the most beautiful people they know 😀 that helps loving my body!

    So ultimately: Start telling yourself that you are gorgeous until you believe it yourself and people can see and surround yourself with awesome girls (women) and not chicks that make themselve feel better by looking down on you.. (I’ve had those arond me before, totally sucks..)

    Before this comment becomes a blog post: goddbye for now and cheers, Lisa

    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Hey Lisa, Typos schmypos. They’re not important! Yes to the fact that most clothes are designed small and then just blown up with some kind of big-making machine (Honey I Blew Up the Dress) to make bigger sizes. It doesn’t really work that way, and makes us fatties feel bad. I talked about this shopping experience with some wonderful friends this weekend, who totally GET IT even though they are thin and even have the reverse problem with clothes shopping. They make me feel better, as does wearing clothes that fit comfortably. I try to throw away clothes that are small and just keep the ones I like and feel good and comfy in. I think I’m just going to try to accept that the fashion industry sucks and I will, one day, find that perfect tweed skirt. (Sewing is not an option. I can’t be bothered.)

      And, yes, I think prettiness is a word, by virtue of being awesome 🙂

      1. That’s so true, but on the other hand, when you go to the plus size section everything is desigend to look like tent (with flowers).. that’s not helpful either. Just because some one is bigger than a size ‘L’ doesn’t mean they don’t want pretty and sexy clothes!

        One of my closest friends wears 2-3XL and she loves pencilskirts and she looks gorgeous in them, but she really has a hard time finding affordable ones. Things like that really suck!

  2. Annie_S.

    A friend of mine who is way thinner than me just moved and gave away some of her clothes. There was that fluffy teddybear-jacket that was lovely and not made to fit a body like mine. So I took a pair of scissors, cut of the buttons and attached them to the jacket again in a way that made the jacket fit me. Ha! Tricked them! Not made to fit me? I made it fit me. 😛 I am beautiful and so are you.

    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Ha! Well done Annie and thank you for the compliment 🙂 I’m not crafty, but I totally appreciate crafty cunning in others.

  3. Kathy Derengowski

    Oprah is a Cabbage Rose
    Gwyneth is a lily
    Logic very clearly proves
    That dieting is silly.

    The Bassett’s built for comfort
    The Greyhound’s built for speed.
    They both possess a perfect shape
    On that we are agreed.

    The humming bird is made for flight
    The peacock for display
    Both beautiful, but really not
    The same in any way.

    The pony is a tiny horse
    The Clydesdale is immense
    And jealousy between them
    Would not make any sense.

    Don’t yearn to be a different breed
    There won’t be any prizes
    For Beauty is a fickle lass
    And comes in lots of sizes!
    -Kathy Lundy Derengowski

    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Hey Kathy, thanks for the poem it is funny and awesome. Did you just make it up on the spot or just happen to have it lying around for such a perfect occasion?!

      1. Kathy Derengowski

        I wrote it a while back. I think I picked up your post on Already Pretty, and thought that you might enjoy it. From hospital nurseries to retirement homes, people come in different shapes and sizes, I just think we should accept and enjoy! Glad that you liked the poem. Thanks.

  4. foo


    two things:

    * I get that shopping experience, too, on occasion, even though, based on BMI as well as a look in the mirror, I’m neither under- nor overweight. Those shopping experiences have stopped making me feel bad sometime in my mid-twenties; now I just get pissed off at the fashion industry for not delivering. Why the fuck are they offering me stores full of clothing that look like shit on anyone who isn’t super-skinny? Why do boutique owners wax about my supposed “problem zones” when the dress I just tried on doesn’t fit my body type? I guess the only thing I can maybe recommend here is to consciously re-condition yourself: every time you have a shopping experience like you described, and it makes you feel bad about yourself, stop yourself, and instead say “No, this is bullshit. If I can’t find a single piece of nice clothing that looks good on me, the fashion industry has failed, not me.” In short, stomp out those internalized voices that tell you not being thin is somehow a personal failure. It feels weird at first, but the more you practice this, the more natural this reaction of not accepting the blame & shame for your body will come. It seems like you’ve already started this re-conditioning, so just hang in there 🙂

    * On fashion and culture: A few years ago, I visited Barcelona, and I was amazed to find that the shops and department stores I went to carry beautiful dresses up to very large sizes. Sizes for which you can only find shapeless, Burka-like sacks in hideous colours here in Germany. And not in special areas of the shop dedicated to “XXL sizes” – those large-sized dresses just hung all over the place along with all the other sizes. Intriguing.

    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Hey foo. Thanks for the advice. I totally believe in reconditioning. I have reconditioned myself into being less homophobic, sexist, writing more… I am often quite good at fat love (I find that I am happier in my body when I exercise and do fun things that satisfy my need for adventure, no matter if I happen to be thinner or fatter at the time) but sometimes shopping and stuff just gets me down. I saw a vlogger ( who mentioned the important of sharing the negative as well as the positive stuff so this is what I’m trying to do. And both cool and weird about Barcelona. I assumed that shops there would only have small sizes! I’ve only met thin Spaniards 🙂

  5. Kevin Sinnot

    I am 6 feet and three inches tall which is pretty tall for Ireland where I live. I also have unusually long legs for my height which make it difficult to find trousers to fit. If they fit on the waste then they will almost always be too short on the leg. I don’t think this is the result of some sinister conspiracy on the part of the clothing retailers. I understand that the retailers buy in bulk and tend to stock the lines that sell the most. It’s just business. I accept that I am an unusual size and I have trousers specially made if I want them to fit well. It means my clothes are more expensive but it also means I am better dressed than most of my friends so I suppose every cloud has a silver lining.

    Ten years ago I was also fat; and I mean very fat. I am familiar with all the bouncy-castle / beached whale comments. I could never get a girlfriend. I felt like I was so disgusting that I didn’t even have the right to talk to girls. I always felt desperately unattractive because of course I was unattractive. I even got tired of the politically correct language that is often used around fat people. I was described as “a larger man” or sometimes jokingly as “cuddly”. I was not large. I was not cuddly. I was just fat and that was nobody’s fault but my own.

    I finally had enough and I decided to do something about it. I am now slim healthy and happy. I am also now fit enough to run city marathons. I never blamed anyone else for my size. I understood that it was caused by my own laziness and lack of discipline. I get a little tired of hearing the career victims whining about how the world conspires against fat people. In the vast majority of cases your body weight is entirely up to you. If you are happy being fat then of course nobody has the right to disrespect you for your choice, but you must accept the disadvantages that come with the choices you make.

    Deluding yourself with all this “fat is beautiful” nonsense is never going to help because the reality is that fat, for most people, is unhealthy and unattractive. Why does the fashion industry use skinny models to sell clothing to women? Because slim women are attractive and make the clothes look better. Why are tall handsome men with perfectly sculpted muscles used to sell men’s fashions? Because they look good. I know I am never going to look like one of those guys because I don’t choose to dedicate my life to my looks. As you suggested in your piece, that is an image that would be almost impossible for an ordinary guy like me to emulate.

    I can whine about how the fashion industry gives me unobtainable ideals to live up to or I can choose not to care and have another burger. I choose a middle ground. I am never going to be obsessed by my body but I am going to keep it in reasonably good shape for as long as I can.

    There has always been a lot of criticism of the fashion industry and much of it is valid. The “fat is beautiful” myth is even more dangerous and damaging. This lazy “we should all be happy with our bodies” mentality is a very irresponsible message to be passing on to younger generations. “Hey kids it’s ok to be fat” – No it’s not. It’s unhealthy and dangerous. Far more people die from obesity related diseases than were ever affected by anorexia. Slim and healthy is good. Fat and unhealthy is bad no matter which way the “fat is beautiful” brigade try to slant it.

    As for finding “some pretty clothes to look sexy and feel good.” I think you have got your priorities wrong. Pretty clothes do not make a person look sexy. Pretty clothes can only help a person who is sexy to look even sexier and fat people are not sexy. Most of the women I know are not shallow enough to expect a man to look like Brad Pitt but they reasonably expect a man to keep himself in shape. They understandably won’t be interested in a man who appears lazy and incapable of restraint. I don’t see anything superficial in that. Likewise most of my male friends are not shallow enough to expect a woman to have the figure of a supermodel but they will not be attracted to a fat woman. That’s life. That’s human nature and with all due respect, you really need to get used to it. Best of luck with whatever choice you make.


    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Hi Kevin, You probably won’t be surprised when I say that I respectfully disagree with what you say here. Your argument that men will never fancy a fat women and that fat women aren’t sexy just isn’t my reality. I have had lovely men fancy me and I also find fat women very sexy. In fact, I often fancy fatter people because I love the way they look and feel. I also find the aesthetic of models in the fashion industry very unsexy. They are often underweight and, in real-life, look ill.

      It’s right that the fashion industry is messed up, but wrong that ‘the fat is beautiful brigade’ is more damaging. It’s necessary, in a world that hates fat, to counteract that hatred by celebrating all body types. Whether or not someone’s fat is a choice, every person deserves to be respected and to live their life well. You can be a fat person and be healthy; I often have more stamina than some of my thinner friends, even though I am fatter than them. But even if you are a fat person and unhealthy, you still deserve to be loved, you still deserve to be happy, you still deserve to live. The ‘fat is beautiful movement’ is absolutely necessary to promote good mental health among fat people.

      I hope you have found a way to live well and happily in your body; thats good for you. But don’t project your negative opinions about fat onto all men and women out there. Not everyone thinks like you do.

  6. Rachael

    I can see both sides of the coin. I don’t like the use of the word “fat” about a woman who is a size 16, I don’t think that being a certain size makes you fat. Indeed I very much doubt you look fat at all, but your inability to find something nice to wear is giving you an internal message you must be fat as you can’t find anything nice in the shops. I have been a size 16, I have also lost a lot of weight in the last 18 months and dropped supposedly 2 dress sizes.

    What have I learnt; well clothes shopping is easier but in some shops I still end up in a 16, thats despite 4 stone weight loss. I don’t feel any different, I am fitter because I have refound exercise I love, but I feel just as sexy. As for my husband and his opinion as far as I can tell and what he has said he likes me just as much bigger as he does smaller, so really my love life hasn’t changed one bit and it’s still positive.

    So all in all size doesn’t make you sexy or unsexy it’s how you feel inside. Losing weight can’t make you feel better inside yourself, thats something that you internally have to be anyway. The shops sizing system whichever system is crackers if you can lose as much as I have and still struggle to find nice clothes intermittently then there is something wrong with the sizing system to that brand, or how the clothes are being cut/made!

    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Hey Rachael, the way clothes are made and the sizing system in shops ARE crackers! It is so ridiculously difficult to find clothes; hence my belief that it is a deliberate, if subconscious, attempt to make women feel bad about our bodies and reduce our agency. Clothes shops are silly. We are awesome. End point. 🙂

  7. christina

    this is crappy. coming from a previous size 16, to a recent size 12, id say if u can, try value village or other thrift stores. as both a size 16 and a size 12, ive had tremendously good luck thrift shopping.
    you may have to try multiple stores but there are more fashionable clothes that end up in thrift stores these days than before. and in excellent condition.

    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Thanks Christina! I never find anything in Value Village. The chances of finding something both my taste and my size seem too remote. I have yet to investigate other alternatives for Toronto fatties but I am crossing my fingers the vintage-style stores make clothes my size 😦

  8. Paige Justice

    I happened to find your blog (I think a blog, correct me if I am wrong…) While I was looking for a plus size garter belt pattern to sew since I have been unable to find one in my size….
    I completely understand where you are coming from. It is unfair for fat women to be shamed just because we want to feel and look sexy. In all honesty I have waited until “sexy” Halloween products come out for lingerie (the material is much more flexible and forgiving on my curves) since every other store seems to think fatties don’t want to be hot.
    Every plus size shop I have ever walked in has only had up to a size 16… And well there are much bigger women out in the world.

    Anyway, all I wanted to say is thank you. I really hope some day we can all find our favorite clothes in the perfect size for our bodies.

    1. Lipstick Terrorist

      Aw, thanks for the comment Paige! I’m glad you happened upon my blog 🙂 Yeah, fat women are sexy and deserve sexy outfits. Period. When is the fashion industry gonna catch up?

      1. Paige Justice

        Mainly just exploring my options on that! I don’t have a lot of time on my hands but I think it will be a fun side project, But thanks!

  9. lesMerveilles

    UK16 is a US12, if you’re a US16 then you’re anywhere between a Uk18-22 – so larger than the perceived media average although from what I’ve seen they are catching up.

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