Welcome back to Let’s Get Weird, a judgement-free place to talk about fashion and feelings!
I have always, for whatever reason, been deeply interested in studying and writing about fashion. I phrase it that way because it’s hard not to have a complex about something so intimately tied into capitalism, and more specifically, to industries built on making people feel incomplete or inferior in their own literal skin. My eyes glaze over about 10 pages into a magazine full of thin, white models; I’ve trashed so many PR emails about waist trainers and vaginal rejuvenation techniques and cleanses that both Kendall and Gigi are doing this pre-bikini season that they barely even register anymore.
It’s through these reckonings that I realized my particular interest in writing is about fashion and the bodies that intersect with it. I’ve generally been a behind the camera guy, since my white, cis, relatively thin, and physically abled body generally passes through the world with little consequence; I’d prefer to hand my megaphone to people who don’t have such privileges. But just because I have an easier time than many, systemically speaking, doesn’t mean I’m without my foibles.
That’s why I thought, today, in a colorful, shape-centric outfit showing parts of myself that don’t meet the fashion industry or fashion media’s narrow standards of beauty, I could talk about living in my particular body — not only my color and size, but more granular attributes like my shape, too. And then, if you were comfortable doing so, you could do the same.
In most modern clothing, I’m a size 12. This means I can fit into clothing at some straight-size stores, but not nearly all. I wear a smaller dress size than übermodel Ashley Graham, but unlike her, not all of my curves are in the “right” places. At a 38DD, my bustiness aligns somewhat closely with conventional standards of desirability — but my round tummy, thick limbs, soft jawline, and mostly nonexistent butt? Not as much. My feet are too wide for most shoes, which isn’t important here, but I figured I’d warn you before my sandal close-up. (JK, my sandals are only too small in length, but that’s the reality of shopping at thrift stores.) My arms are squishy the way my partner likes them; my thighs absorb my shorts constantly; I fucking hate my hands. “Hate” is a strong word. My skin is clear, mostly, and my teeth straight, mostly, and my body hair in acceptable places, mostly. But I’ve definitely seen better. “Better.”
Are any of these attributes a big deal in the scheme of things? No. I fit about as comfortably in an airplane seat as airlines will allow; I am not forced to buy multiple tickets and/or endure open contempt from seatmates. Doctors don’t respond to my every ailment with advice to lose weight. I don’t get fat-called or made into memes. Because of my gender and my physical abilities, I can always find a bathroom to use. When someone is attracted to me, it’s not viewed as a disgrace, or as a fetish. I can walk, drive, and even mouth off to cops if I want to, all with comparatively little concern about them killing me sans repercussion. It’s a hell of a life.
And still, I find myself reflecting not infrequently on This American Life‘s “Tell Me I’m Fat”, which features commentary by Lindy West, Roxane Gay, and NPR producer Elna Baker on society’s treatment of larger people. Once 110 pounds heavier than she was at the time of recording, Baker marvels aloud at the tsunami of romantic attention she received after losing weight, and suggests to her husband that he might never have fallen for her at her former size. He concedes that she’s probably right.
I used to be slightly smaller. Looking back, I can see the power that my size eight body had in the world — romantic and otherwise — that even my current one does not. Sometimes I miss it. Mostly, I’m glad to have more perspective than when I was younger, when I conflated my and others’ physical attributes with our morality (or lack thereof), and might have lapped up the details of Kendall and Gigi’s beloved cleanse without any qualms. But, again, I can pretty easily choose not to play the game; self-righteousness is something a person of my privileges can afford.
Anyway, this is (partly) a fashion column. Let me hit you with some cute lookalike pieces below, and let’s talk more about bods: What’s yours like? What privileges does it afford you, or not? Have your feelings about it changed over time?