How pretty clothes led me to self & body acceptance.

Growing up, I never cared about fashion. Well, that’s not exactly true–I always felt a little envious of girls who had nice, pretty, confident clothes. They always looked good; they were accepted and had social status as well as belonging and had gaggles of boys following in their wake.

Regardless, I still dismissed fashion as being a frivolous pursuit for silly, materialistic girls. Girls who, more often than not, were snobs. At least, the well-dressed, pretty girls always looked and acted like snobs, it seemed.

Besides, it seemed pointless for me to try and look as fancy and as pretty as them. I was deaf, fat, and nerdy, not really all that pretty or popular. I was an outcast (though I wasn’t hated and shunned, I still didn’t belong anywhere) and what need should compel an outcast to adopt the social mores of a group she could never hope to belong to?

So I disdained fashion and trends, and withdrew myself from that world. I clothed myself in jeans, tee-shirts, baggy plaid overshirts, and blocky boots. And I never liked the clothes I wore, even though I felt marginally comfortable in them. Besides, there was the fact of my social anxiety; I didn’t want to be followed around by boys anyway, and didn’t want to call attention to my femininity.

But anyway, for most of my life, I didn’t try to be fashionable. I didn’t really care how clothes made me look, so long as they didn’t clash, weren’t too tight or too baggy, and as long as they covered all my “unacceptable bits” and emphasized the only part of my body I really liked: my waist, the part of me besides my feet and hands that was small.

It took being in a relationship to change that perspective. In the beginning I felt wanted and desired and pretty and acceptable, and I liked that. I started feeling feminine and sought out more feminine details in clothes. At some point, in the middle of our time together, he said, half-jokingly, half-lamentingly, “oh why do I always date girls with bad taste in clothes?” I was crushed. Offended and crushed. So I tried to dress better, with more care and consideration for how I looked. And I found I liked having clothes I liked, whether or not he appreciated what I wore. Some part of me deep inside knew I deserved it–that I wasn’t in high school anymore, and that I had just as much right to wear pretty clothes as anyone else.

When our relationship went south–when he dropped me like a hot potato and yet stayed with me in our home without telling me he wanted nothing to do with me; even though he continued being my boyfriend when I was no longer his girlfriend, cheating, selfish bastard that he was–when our relationship went south, clothes became more important to me. Because I knew that I was pretty, that I was a woman, that I deserved to be respected and appreciated and treated well. Clothes became a cipher and a symbol of that right: to look nice and have nice clothes, and feel good about myself.

Giving myself nice clothes was self-affirming: I am worthy, and I am worthy of my own self-respect, even if I wasn’t getting it from him.

When I finally left him, (or more accurately, I dumped myself for him, since he was too much of an indecisive coward and selfish dick unable to do it himself) nice clothes and nice shoes took on a new role: rediscovering and recreating myself as a single and available woman. Most significantly, I am learning that dressing myself well makes me feel like a PRETTY fat woman, instead of just a Fat Woman with Too Much Baggage.

For example, here is a picture of myself in the clothes I used to wear:

Ah. College. Hamming it up for the camera. Sweater, jeans and Hat.

Ah. College. Hamming it up for the camera. Sweater, jeans and Hat.

Here is an outfit that girl above would never have considered acceptable, but which I now wear gladly:

last week: zebra-striped knit cardigan, white linen pants, red pumps.

last week: zebra-striped knit cardigan, white linen pants, red pumps.

And here, my favorite pair of shoes, which a year ago, I would never have contemplated wearing:

leopard print satin and patent leather peep-toe pumps

leopard print satin and patent leather peep-toe slingbacks

I believe I am developing a sense of style–I like classic clothes, casual, professional, and sleek, with attention to detail and a touch of the creative and the eccentric. My biggest challenge now is feeling comfortable in “loud” clothes–things that fat women “aren’t supposed to wear”– you know what those are: bold prints, bright colors, clingy fabrics, rampant sex appeal. Hell, I’m not “supposed” to wear those white pants that look pretty damn decent on me. After all, fat women mustn’t draw attention to themselves, but instead fade away into the background; be mousy, meek, and unworthy. Well, fuck the rules!

Its been a long process to get where I am today, learning that I have the right to like myself. That I am worthy of nice things. That I am worthy of being treated well, by myself as well as by others.

My goals now in fashion are three-fold:

  • To amass a wardrobe of clothes I love, mixed with well-fitted basics,
  • To feel comfortable enough in those clothes; the bold, the graphic, the sexy, to wear them in public and not feel self-conscious and conspicuous,
  • To present myself as approachable and available, to present who I am through my clothes, instead of hiding within them.

The result, I hope will be, is one that reflects who I am.

Will I ever be a fatshionista? Do I want to be? I don’t know what a fashionista IS, really. I’ve never been one for the latest and greatest of trends. I don’t spend hours thinking about clothes, poring over issues of Vogue. I don’t care about designers and “who I am wearing”. I have nothing against polyester. I do have serious moral objections to the fashion industry; their myopic perspective on beauty, femininity, art, and marketability. But I also like clothes, fabrics, colors, and design. There an element of creativity in compiling an outfit that suits me.

All I know is that I like clothes. I like the way I look in well-fitting, fun, and pretty clothes. I want a closet full of nice clothes and cute shoes. After all, I’m worth it.

And if I can learn to let myself be brave enough to do what I like and wear what I like, then so can anyone else.