Last month, a reader asked me for some help finding a plus-sized dress to wear to her rehearsal dinner. She had no desire to be festooned in yards of cheap taffeta or shiny satin. She didn’t want to wear a sequined bolero or a shrug. She just wanted a dress that made her feel beautiful. Was that so much to ask?
It took a little time, but I found one within her budget that was modern, sexy and bolero jacket free. At the end of the process, she sent me an email to thank me for not making her “feel like the fat bride.” It was, she said, an emotion that she grappled with every time she tried on a gown or tasted a piece of cake.
“Everyone looks at you like you don’t deserve to get married because you’re fat.”
Reading that made me cry.
I try to keep CHS a judgment free zone when it comes to the size a woman wears or the number on the scale. It’s not my business what you weigh or what size you wear. And frankly, I’m a big believer that the number on the tag of your jeans/trouser/skirts is bullshit.
Can I say that I know exactly how women who are bigger than our vanity-sized, magazine culture says is skinny feel about their weight? Certainly not. But like most women, I have some idea. So I can try to empathize, but I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t always so understanding.
In college, I was 120lbs. I barely worked out. I ate Taco Bell almost daily. Mexican Pizzas were the base level of my food pyramid. And I admit it, I judged women who were bigger than me.
What were they bitching about? Weight loss was so easy. (It never occurred to that 19-year-old idiot that, maybe, weight loss was just easy for her.)
Then, I turned 25 and got a real job. Suddenly, the scale crept upward and the seams stretched beyond their limits. I wore one pair of Spanx, then two, just desperate to keep myself in those magically numbered zeroes and twos. The day I considered wearing three pair of Spanx, I cracked.
I looked in the mirror and cried. I squeezed into my suit and cried. I stepped onto my bright-red, Devil of a scale for the first time in years and it said 147. I called in sick to work.
Here I was, mid-twenties with a master’s degree, a Hill job, good friends and a loving family and the predominant thing that determined my self-worth was a three digit number on a scale birthed from $7 worth of Chinese-made parts. That realization only made me feel more ashamed.
I lived in this death spiral of shame for months. Then one day I just stopped. I wish I could say there was a magic pill or miracle cure that I could recommend, but I’m not sure what it was that triggered my change of heart. I just suddenly realized that I wouldn’t feel guilty about eating a cookie anymore.
I was a grown women and if I wanted to eat a plate of prosciutto covered pasta at 1:45 in the morning, then with God as my witness I was going to enjoy every damn bite. If I had to buy the bigger size, that was fine. As long as the pants didn’t pinch me or cut off the blood supply to my feet, who cares what the number on the tag said? Were the fashion police going to frisk me for a size check?
I don’t know what it’s like to be size (fill in the blank), but I do know what it’s like to hate your body so much that you hate yourself. I will admit, it was definitely easier for me to break out of my self-loathing because the rest of the world wasn’t taking part in my internal inquisition. But talking to Alia about her wedding dress search made me feel like I need to be as easy on everyone else as I am on myself.
I can’t say that CHS will focus more on plus-sized clothing, but I’m going to try to include more plus-sized options where I can. It will probably take some time, and I won’t always get it right, but I’m going to give it a whirl. I’m also going to talk more about dressing for your body type.
This will be a learning experience for me since I only shop for my body type, so I (like anyone in my position would) tend to choose things that I like. But I’m going to make a good faith effort to branch out because I believe a woman can look stylish and beautiful at any size. Call it becoming size neutral.