Thank You for Shaming

by hellorousseau

I really liked school dances when I was younger. They allowed my fellow private school females and I to engage with the opposite sex in a controlled, ‘fun’ environment. It gave me an excuse to wash my tangled hair, dress up, polish my braces, and draw thick eyeliner under my eyes. (Literally one line of eyeliner under my eyes. No other makeup. Just eyeliner.)

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I’ll be honest when I say that this picture gives me anxiety.

My first school dance was in grade 6. It was some sort of vacation/tropical theme. When you go to an all girls’ school for 12 years, interaction with boys is rare, so this dance was kind of a big deal. Private schools tend to associate only with other private schools, so all the students, both boys and girls, were from that environment.

By about 9 o’clock, the place was bumpin’. People were drinking soda, some were grinding, others were headed to the bathroom in packs, and no one had asked me to dance yet. I decided to do the bold thing and ask someone myself. A group of boys were standing over by the DJ, so I approached them. I remember licking my braces over and over, thinking that their sparkle would somehow entice the boys to swoon. I also remember speed walking towards them, and breathing heavily- so again, think ‘Beastman’ from Masters of the Universe.

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* Edited to represent pre-teen Cella.

I asked one of the boys to dance. When he turned from his friends, he shifted his weight back on one leg, raised his eyebrow, and looked me up and down. After about 23 seconds of pure judgment, he turned around and kept talking to his friends. He couldn’t even bother to respond to my request.

Was it my hair? Was it my face? Was it the sweating? Was it my clothes? I looked down at myself, and then out at the crowd. Through the mass of puberty, all my teary eyes could see were denim skirts, tank tops, and flip-flops.

That’s why I wasn’t pretty.

I was wearing the wrong clothing.

The popular clothing line at the time was Abercrombie & Fitch. The ultimate, private school haute couture look was a A&F tank top, a denim skirt (not always from A&F), and a pair of flip-flops. I owned none of these things. After the dance, I made it my mission to dress like the other girls in order to transform from Braces-Wearing-No-Name to Hot-Chick-McPretty-Face.

When I sought out the clothing I wanted, the sizing was ‘off’. I could kind of fit the tops and skirts, but I didn’t look the same as my friends. I didn’t feel pretty. I felt like my body was being poured into another person’s clothes.

I had friends that would effortlessly pull off this outfit. They looked great showing off their legs and arms, but I was so uncomfortable in the clothing. I never hated the girls who dressed this way, but I envied them. I envied that they didn’t have to worry about the stretch marks on their legs. I envied that there was no indent in their back where their bra was, but most of all, I envied their effortless appearance. These were girls that could wear anything and look good because they had bodies clothing companies liked and valued. 

In Kim Crow’s article, she talks about sizing in America. “If the average American woman is a size 14, wouldn’t it stand to reason that a size 14 would be the most common size sold in the United States?

Nope.

In fact, size 14 is among the least purchased sizes out there for many manufacturers. So it seems that being a size 14 and buying a size 14 are in fact two very different things.”

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It took me a while, but I realized something: I didn’t fit the clothing properly, and it didn’t look ‘right’ on me, because the cool companies didn’t think about the 12-year-old chubby chick who wanted to fit in with her friends. Some companies just don’t want to make clothes for the girls with big legs and wide torsos; with stretch marks and stomachs.

In May of 2013, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, said that, “He doesn’t want his core customers to see (fat) people who aren’t hot wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool’ kids”, which is why A&F only goes up to a large in women’s clothes, (while selling XL and XXL for men). This explained why I was never comfortable in that clothing.

So I gave up on denim skirts and tank tops. I wasn’t going to try and dress that way if companies pretended my body-type didn’t exist. I didn’t need the approval of the opposite sex either if it meant being awkward in clothes that weren’t made for me. (Side note: That dude at the dance probably didn’t care about my clothing. I might not have been his type, but it doesn’t excuse being a jerk.)

Every time I think back to that group of boys, I picture this.

Now, I dress how I want with confidence. Websites like Domino Dollhouse were created because “owner Tracy Broxterman has always worked towards contributing her energies to adding style and glamour in the plus size fashion world”.

ModCloth offers plus size clothing with unique vintage twists and adorable patterns. Chubby Cartwheels sells leggings, bodysuits, and skirts, all up to a size 32 and 5XL. There are websites like Torrid, Fashion to Figure, Rue107, and my personal favourite, Asos, that allow women to wear stylish, ‘cool’ clothing, from companies that acknowledge that their body-type exists.

Then, this year during Fashion Week, an actual haute couture line decided to acknowledge different body-types:

“Rick Owens, the king of the luxury gothic look, decided to forget the  models that usually walk the runway and opted for an exclusive cast of steppers to perform a full routine on the catwalk (it’s AWESOME). It was probably the biggest celebration of racial and body diversity in any of the Fashion Week show this season. They definitely made fashion history by adding something special to Owens sporty, leather, black, white, and cream collection.”

So, I’d like to thank the clothing companies that ignored my body-type.

Thank you, Abercrombie & Fitch, and companies like you, for making a 12-year-old so uncomfortable with herself, that she was forced to hunt for clothes in stores her friends didn’t shop at. Without this exclusivity, I wouldn’t have been compeled to discover the incredibly unique fashion world outside of denim skirts and tank tops. I would have never had the guts to define my own style, and read into plus size-fashion, or discover the wonderful people who are behind the body-acceptance movement.

From the bottom of my big, fat heart, thank you.

P.S: It’s #fatshamingweek! If you participate in this garbage, please reevaluate your life choices and try and better yourself as a human being! 

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