Dear fatshion retailers

I have a request.  It’s quite simple, straightforward even.  But it’s so important.  Are you listening? Are you ready?  Okay. Here we go.

Please make clothes that people would actually want to wear. Please.

See, I told you it was simple.  At least, I think it’s simple.  But apparently you – all very few of you – don’t seem to think so.

What I want is not so hard.  Clothes that are age-appropriate (for someone in their very early 30s), vaguely stylish, reasonably comfortable, and made from fabrics that don’t disintegrate on the second wash.  Options other than black would be wonderful, but I’m not actually that fussy.  Options other than black that aren’t aggressively loud would also be nice.  I know some people dig them, but they make me look like a clown.  And since I want to be an academic and not a clown, avoiding clownishness seems like a fairly high sartorial priority.

I don’t mind showing a little cleavage, but there are occasions when a neckline that plunges all the way to my belly-button is just not appropriate.  You know, like work days.  Or in a classroom.  Or catching the last tram home on a Friday night.  Sometimes strapless isn’t the best option either.  Come to that, there’s only so many occasions where a girl can wear satin (and fewer where some of us would actually choose to).

Is it too much to ask for natural fabrics? Even natural blends? A nice cotton/lycra jersey would be great.  Even better if it didn’t pill the moment you look at it.  Just a thought.  Chances are I’ll put up with the pilling because I don’t have any choice.  But you know that already.  That’s why all my clothes are sad and pilly.  I refuse to wear polyester, though.  I refuse to pay ninety bucks (on sale!) for a printed polyester sack.  I won’t do it.  I certainly won’t pay a $130 for a more-shapely version.  I did, however, layby this dress today, which has most of what I want – it’s cute, and natural, and scrapes in under $100, which is something of a miracle for a fat girl dress.  It’s not even black. But it’s still a bit…meh. The fabric feels like it should be used for curtains.  Or maybe upholstery.  Something that doesn’t require drape.  That doesn’t matter if it clings.  Something that no one will mind when all the stray bits of cotton in the room stick to it.  But it was the only thing going. The ONLY thing.

I’d also like work-out gear.  And sports bras.  Actually, just any comfortable bra that fits would be great.  Preferably one that doesn’t show under that plunge-to-the-belly-button neckline.  I’d also like some cardis.  Just plain cardis with full-length sleeves.  My wrists get cold in winter, too.  I used to have a magnificent cardi, actually.  It was blue with sparkly gold thread through it.  I don’t even usually like sparkly, but I loved that cardi.  But I loaned it to someone one night, and now it’s gone and I’ll never get it back.  Sometimes this literally makes me so sad I could cry, because magnificent cardis in my size are truly rare and special things.  If I find another in my lifetime, I won’t be so careless.  I won’t lend it to anyone.  I won’t even let anyone touch it, unless it is safely and firmly buttoned around my ample body.

Am I being unreasonable, dear retailers? I’m not even asking for things I really want.  Things in ‘my style’ – or rather, the style I wish I could have.  Things with a little vintage, a little whimsy, a little edge.  I know that’s far too much to expect.

I’d be willing to pay for what I’m describing.  I mean, I can’t really manage what seems to be the going rate, but really, $550 for a shirt dress is a *tad* out of most people’s range, don’t you think?  But surely we can find a middle ground? I know I’m not the only one who wants this.  And yes, I have heard of the internet.  But dear fatshion retailers, is it really so strange to want to try things on before handing over my cash?  Is it really so unreasonable to not want to spend around $50 on round trip shipping when most of the order turns out to be too big or too small or just plain wrong for my shape?

Dear retailers, I have wanted to give you my money for so long now, and you seem totally uninterested.  I’m starting to despair.  I fear you will never let me love you the way I want to love you.  I’m almost at the point of giving up.  I do have a sewing machine, you see, but I have so little time to sew, what with all that time spent at work and in classrooms and actually studying.  Maybe if I spent less time scouring your ultimately barren racks, I could change that.  Maybe it’s time I started to think of myself.

This is not some frivolous complaint, dear retailers, not at all.  It matters.  Access to clothing matters, in a way you can’t possibly imagine until you don’t have it.  Access to clothing can enable or deny access to professional opportunities, to social spaces, to activities, to romantic situations, to certain possibilities of identity, in short, to the whole of life.  It matters.  It matters a lot.

All I really want is some clothes to wear.  Nothing special.  Clothes for work, and for working out.  For going to uni and to brunch and hanging out drinking.  For this work dinner that’s coming up.  For this conference I’m going to.  Just ordinary clothes for living a life.

Is that really so unreasonable?

26 Replies to “Dear fatshion retailers”

  1. Co-signed. So hard. I have money. Shouldn’t they want to relieve me of it in exchange for stuff I want?

  2. Thank you for asking for cardigans with full length sleeves. I thought I was the only one whose wrists and forearms were not self-heating. (And now they have 3/4 sleeve winter coats. Because frostbitten forearms are so attractive?)

    And like you, I buy very, very few clothes online. I know my measurements. Positively. And even when I buy the size that absolutely corresponds to them the garment can be too big or too small or too whatever.

    1. Oh, I forgot to mention the 3/4 coats. If ever there was a garment that needed full sleeves, a winter coat is pretty much it. I mean, seriously. Seriously. Why is it this hard? I simply do not understand.

  3. Oh this, this, this. ‘Things with a little vintage, a little whimsy, a little edge.’
    I think Aus fatshion is actually worse right now than it’s been in the last couple of years. I just tweeted that there are three dedicated fatty shops and four department stores with fat sections (albeit hidden-away fat sections on a different floor to the rest of the clothing behind the manchester MYER) at my new local mall and I browsed them all on the weekend and there was NOTHING I wanted. The once-promising-looking Moda line at Target has turned blah. City Chic is full of strapless and satin (that one cute heart-covered cardigan seems to be sold out in the XL Australia-wide). Autograph has gotten beyond dull.
    I’m thinking about making a mutant Frankenstein-monster cardigan by putting the sleeves from a men’s cardigan onto a frontage-covering fatty cardigan with stupid three quarter sleeves.

    1. Behind the manchester section? WHY DON’T YOU JUST WRAP YOURSELF IN A SHEET, FATTY?!

      I totally agree that this is the worst it’s been in a while. There was a brief period where City Chic was doing some really cute stuff, and lots of natural fabrics. Now they’ve gone back to pure polyester. I know my tastes have changed a little in the last few years, but oh hey, so has mainstream fashion! Imagine that! I wonder if they’re connected in anyway?

  4. Totally, totally agree. It is so frustrating. And when I do finally find something that I like I often buy it in multiple colours, not because I like having “uniforms” but because I know that it will be a long time before I can find something worth buying again.
    Another thing that annoys me is that the “fat” of larger shops is often not as well maintained as the “skinny” sections. Is that because we fatties are less worthy of nice surroundings?

  5. I’m pretty sure it’s because we’re not supposed to exist at all. That’s why we’re hidden away on the top floor right at the back of the shop.


  6. I have sympathy, I really do, ’cause that was exactly the situation when I was growing up. I’ve always lived in the US. I’m about five or six sizes larger than I was as a teen, yet the selection is better now. Is there any way you could charter a plane for yourselves and a bunch of other similarly fashion-deprived people to come to, say, New York, spend the time shopping and sending large shiploads of clothing back to Australia? From your comments about the dismal selection, it almost sounds like the trip would be worth it. And since your seasons are opposite to us Up Over, you’d be getting our end-of-season prices when it’s beginning-of-season time for you.
    And when you get home and start enjoying your new styles, write an article for the local paper saying that you all spent a bazillion dollars overseas which could have gone to local merchants if any of them had actually bothered to provide them for sale.
    See, fat people can actually boost the economy, but the economy has to want to be boosted.

    Oh, and 3/4 length sleeve winter coats? Next up: swimsuits with fur trim.

  7. Just read up about you in the Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne) today and I gotta say, you’re my new hero. There’s so much you said in that small piece that I’ve been trying to convey for years, especially with my own interest in psychology and self esteem with women- you nailed it. Thankyou!

    1. Thank you! This comment made me tear up a little. Ok, a lot, akshully.

      If you found something you liked in that article, I suggest you check out the fatosphere feed (to the left) and see what a bunch of other awesome women (and men!) are talking about too!

  8. I came across your blog from “a fat lot of god”, she posted your article. Now I have one more safe place. Thank you!

    Have you ever tried Shakti? I don’t know how the shipping would work but I love their clothes.

    I totally agree about the work out clothes. I hate that I have to order everything online. I’d like to try on a sports bra before buying it. Some that I’ve purchased don’t do a darn thing. Every time I jump I’m afraid I’m going to lose an eye. I think swimsuits would be next on my list.

    1. I love the eShakti stuff, but they don’t ship to Australia. And even if they did, there’s still the problem of spending all my money on shipping and not having anything that works at the end of it. Nothing I’ve bought online has ever worked for me, with the exception of We Love Colors tights. I’m just not willing (and can’t afford) to throw away all my money on postage for things when experience shows I’ll have to pay even more to return them.

  9. Another one here who agrees! I completed the Autograph survey and asked for more younger clothes. Whilst I am closer to 40 than 30, I still do not want to dress like I am 50+.

    Don’t get me started on maternity wear. Apparently only little girls get pregnant. Maternity sizing seems to be smaller than standard sizing for some unknown reason.

  10. I so get you on the 3/4 length sleeves! What is with that?? Every time I go shopping in winter the “fat” sizes are selling t-shirts, singlets and 3/4 length sleeves in garish prints like orange and purple or some other obscene combination. Do they think all fat people are constantly hot or something?

  11. Firstly – thank you for your awesome blog, this and others on the ‘fatosphere’ – are a wonderful whole new world for me 🙂
    Secondly – as a ‘ fat chick’ who is proud of her curves, I cannot agree more about how difficult it is to find fashion… it is the bane of my existence!
    I agree with other respondents comments about City Chic & Autograph – just blah!
    However, in my opinion, there are 2 rays of hope… Dream Diva (Bridge Rd Melbourne and online) and Sara (part of Ezybuy online and stocked in some David Jones stores) – yay! Both stores offer quality, stylish, really quite affordable clothing – from formal wear to swimmers and everything in between. As for Sports bras… playtex and bendon make up to sizes 20 – 22DD; with a bra extender they go even further. Good luck with the quest!

    1. Dream Diva is actually run by the people who used to own City Chic before it was sold to Specialty Fashion Group (who also own Millers, Autograph, Katies, etc). I’m pretty sure they’re still using the same suppliers they did back then, because the stuff if very similar to old skool City Chic. Some of it is quite nice, but I think the quality is pretty dubious. I’m not personally a fan of Sara, but it’s awesome that it works for other people – I guess that’s the thing about fashion, it’s such a personal thing. Which is why we need MORE CHOICES.

      I have a hard-core loathing of bra extenders, though. I find them seriously uncomfortable, and it means the other bits don’t sit where they’re meant to because I’m bit all round, not just across my back. Seriously, why can’t a just buy a bra that actually fits me?

      Sheesh, I sound grumpy, don’t I? It’s almost like I’m looking for things to be cranky about…

  12. Forgive me if I speak out of turn, but my sister who’s a UK 20 says that Etsy is a good place for fat women’s clothes. Maybe someone on there could make you a new cardigan too? Just a thought, although it may be prohibitively expensive. Also for any UK readers this lady’s blog is rather awesome:

    1. Nope, not out of turn. I have a pathological avoidance of buying online, though, since I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on postage over the years and literally have nothing to show for it. Not a single thing I’ve bought online fits me properly, no matter how many times I measure and compare. It’s partly being short waisted and having a belly three sizes bigger than my boobs, and it’s partly to do with the wildly inconsistent fit even within most brands.

  13. I would support the trips to New York! I was there earlier this year and spent so much time clothes shopping I didn’t even have time to eat. I now own pieces by Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger etc including some sexy dresses all in sizes 20 -22. With the exchange rate back then and the fact I was shopping out of season so took advantage of the great sales I was paying less than $100 for Calvin Klein dresses and about $30 for Levi’s jeans.

    The current exchange rate will make prices look ridiculous !!

    The Cosmopolitans were great too for when you needed to have a refreshing break and rest your arms from carrying enormous shopping bags.

  14. i have had some fabulous luck lately with ts14+.
    the styles are easy to wear, and i think they are beautiful.
    i’ve decked myself out with a whole new wardrobe of pieces in gray/black/white/charcoal and red…they all layer and mix and match and i couldn’t be more thrilled with them.
    i didn’t get any printed stuff, that’s not my gig.

    i took a friend shopping there recently and she managed to buy herself a whole wardrobe too…and not one piece was the same as mine.
    the range is huge and the designer is prolific.
    and it’s all built specifically for round birds.

    i’ve spent my whole life wearing linen and silk and cotton and ironing the whole lot, and i am embracing my new lycra/spandex/elastane/polyester trip.
    i wash it, drip dry it, and stuff it into a bag for travelling.
    everything goes with everything else and i’ve never had so many compliments on my clothes as i have had in the last 6 months.

    it’s not cheap, but it’s versatile, comfortable, easy-care and flattering as hell.
    and they have sales and promotions constantly.
    and the salespeople are really helpful and really into the clothes (and they all wear the clothes themselves), and full of suggestions…it’s a very supportive environment.
    i’ve never had fun shopping for clothes in my life before, and now you have to prise me out of their shops.

    thanks for the sara suggestion….heading there to look for workout gear!

    ps, i do NOT work for ts14+, nor am i affiliated with them in any way, beyond being a very happy customer.

    1. First, my apologies for taking so long to approve your comment – I’m traveling at the moment and my internet access has been … unreliable.

      Second, while it’s great that TS works for you (to the extent that your comment really does sound like an ad), I don’t find their clothes very appealing – layers of synthetics are not what I want, especially in summer, and the aesthetic just isn’t me.

      Going shopping in the US has only reinforced just how far behind Australia is when it come to plus-size fashion – in terms of choices, quality, and price.

  15. Came to your blog through planet veg mel, I really enjoy your blog and you have a great writing style.

    I’ve had similar issues with fitting for clothes from online orders from every site I have tried except for Igigi. I’m looking at wedding dresses at the moment and their site came up in google search. I ordered a couple of dresses out of their sale items to see what they were like before I would even contemplate ordering a wedding dress from them.

    They have measurements for waisted and non waisted, and have a shape style guide that really helps selecting clothes. So far the quality has been good and the sizes have been consistant. I’ve picked up some good items there for work – totally agree with you that going into any of the it’s impossible to get decent office clothes that I actually want to wear! I have had some luck with clothing from Basque at Myer in the past, but they don’t seem to have been as good lately. All the Myer offerings of late have all been horrid stretchy lycra, odd tent sack dresses, or some brand of overly layered oddly draping synthetics in clown colours (which I think was that TS brand from the advertisment above). Might be ok if you’re in your 50s, but not when you’re 29.

    There is a gaping hole in the market for an enterprising person to start importing some of the clothes from the online retailers and set up a shop I reckon.

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