Fashion, Fat

I Love Fashion, Except for the Fashion Part

I just ordered my first Igigi wrap dress, because they’re having a 30% off sale through tomorrow (coupon code: JULY), and that was the final push I needed.

Ever since I started hanging out at Fatshionista, I’ve been hearing about the miraculous Igigi wrap dresses.  I mean, everybody’s been making wrap dresses over the last couple of years (hallelujah to that), and there are some great ones out there for much cheaper — I’ve got a couple from Target, and every Fatshionista except me apparently got one from Old Navy last year. But for fat girls, Igigi is the gold standard. Owning an Igigi wrap dress is, so I hear, cause to bust out the champagne and weep softly in disbelief at your good fortune. Diane von Furstenburg may not be interested in catering to us, but Igigi comes through with fantastic quality and cut for a third of the cost.

This is what I have heard. Fingers crossed that it will turn out to be true.

I’ve been stockpiling wrap dresses lately (also recently snagged this one and this one), because by now, this trend has reached critical mass, and one assumes it will soon be disappearing on account of ubiquity. Which means I will soon be woefully out of fashion in my many wrap dresses.

But you know what? I’ll still look hot, so I’m okay with that. There is no cut in existence — except perhaps a fitted boatneck bodice with a full skirt — that does as much for my figure. And there is no cut in existence that looks worse on me than a trapeze dress, so I shall be sitting out that trend, just as I sat out the skinny jeans one. It’s not about being fat — I’ve seen photos on Fatshionista of women looking smokin’ in both those things, as well as many other cuts that would look ridiculous on me. It’s about the way I’m built: short, booby, assy. Any top or dress without a defined waist, any pair of pants that doesn’t balance out my thighs, just looks like hell.

And I am old enough now to know it is better to look good than to be in fashion — and that the two are often mutually exclusive.

The fact that it took me so long to figure that out is a testament to how much women are expected to sublimate awareness of their own bodies to the expectations of observers. For years, I fretted about being judged out of touch, provincial, frumpy, etc., if I didn’t try to keep up with current trends. Yet the inescapable fact is, unless you are built like a model — and there’s a reason why they say models are meant to be “hangers” — you will look like an idiot in at least 50% of current trends. We all know how the pendulum swings in fashion — first curves are emphasized, then straight lines, then back again; first boobs, then legs, then back again; first bright colors, then neutrals, then back again. But since all of us are locked into particular body shapes and skin tones, there’s no way we can wear it all equally well. And “classic” items, we all know, are for our grandmas — except when a “classic” item fits in with a current trend. (The wrap dress! A classic! Until we all get sick of it and put it on ice for another 20 years!) So unless you’re among the very few women who can make most things look pretty much like they do on the hanger, you’re going to be out of style about half the time.

It’s perversely democratic, in a way. Almost everybody gets a turn, and almost everybody gets left out sometimes. The problem is, when it’s your turn to be left out, you’re not supposed to think, “Okay, I’ll just wait a few years for the pendulum to swing back.” You’re supposed to think, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?”

Fuck that, sez me. I am going to rock the wrap dresses until they fall off of me — which is one reason why I shelled out for the Igigi and Sweet Pea ones, because frankly, I don’t expect the Target ones to last until the trend comes back and I can buy more. I’ve also finally started giving myself permission to buy more than one when I find an item I really love, whenever I can afford it — I have 5 of these, 2 of these (both bought very much on sale), and 3 of these, for instance. I used to think buying clothes in bulk like that would just be obscene — not to mention boring — but the fact is, I wear the shit out of all those things, and if I know that realistically, I’m going to reach for a particular skirt 5 times as often as I reach for any other skirt, I might as well have it in 5 different colors.

Being realistic about what I look good in and what I actually wear — as opposed to what I admire every time I open my closet but only put on once a year at most — has completely changed my approach to fashion. Instead of buying anything that looks sort of okay and fits the budget, I now force myself to reject anything that doesn’t look fabulous, and buy as many as possible of anything that does, so I’ll have plenty to wear during the lean (ha! I’m funny!) times, trend-wise. My closet is still in transition, and I still wear a lot of sort-of-okay stuff when nothing else is clean, but the goal is to eventually divest myself of everything that doesn’t make me feel terrific when I put it on.

And that part — the feeling terrific part — can be way too easy to overlook. There is such a difference in how I carry myself and how comfortable I feel all day (physically and emotionally) when I’m wearing something I think I look good in, as opposed to something that merely covers my underwear and keeps me from freezing to death. When I think something makes me look as good as I possibly can, I am just fucking happier. (And accepting that is how I justify spending more money on stuff that’s made well and really flatters my body — it’s cheaper than adding another antidepressant.)

So I’m a clothes horse of the first water, but I’m afraid I will never be a true fashionista; I’m far more interested in wearing clothes that fit properly than in demonstrating my knowledge of what was on the runways 10 minutes ago. On the downside, it means I’ll never get a job at Vogue, but on the plus side (ha! still funny!), it means I’ll look and feel hot all the time.

I can live with that.

22 thoughts on “I Love Fashion, Except for the Fashion Part”

  1. Oooh – Igigi ships to Canada! That is now a dangerous site for me. :)

    Can I also say that I’m happy to see a site that isn’t afraid to have models that would actually wear their clothes? I used to get so mad at Lane Bryant for showing tall models, rather than fat models. They seem to have gotten a little better, but their site still has a lot of tall-not-fat images – especially in the “Intimates” section. Because God forbid we see fat women in lingerie!

  2. I’m totally with you. Style trumps trend. And the real icons are invoked no matter what the current “look” — if you’re going to a cocktail party, no fashion advice columnist on earth will tell you to go with grey and yellow because that’s in right now. They will tell you to think Audrey.

    The Igigi wrap dress didn’t work for me. I probably should have returned it for a size down, but I was too slow and sold it to a fatshionista instead. I do have the Old Navy faux-wrap that everyone loved, and it’s one of my #1 faves. I wish it came in short sleeves.

  3. I’ve been stocking up on wrap dresses as well! My fiance give me a hard time for coming home with a new dress every week, but it’s so great to actually be able to find clothes that look good on me in stores, I’m going to take advantage. And I agree that it’s way better to look hot but out of fashion than wear stylish but unflattering clothes.

    There are like 6 dresses on that site I desperately want, haha. (I love the bra friendly straps, there are so many things I can’t wear because I need a bra, and strapless just doesn’t cut it.) I think I’m a little smaller than a 14/16 though… do you know if they tend to fit big or small?

  4. Emerging from lurk mode to say that yes, I also stockpile styles that flatter me. In my case it’s the boho look, one that I’ve been rocking pretty much my whole adult life and suits my body type. Feeling good about yourself is more important trends. (And also better is creating a unique, true-to-yourself life which clothing symbolizes.)

  5. Jess, I was afraid of that. That’s why I never ordered from there when I actually was a 14/16. Now that I’m a true 16 or 16W just about everywhere, I’m hoping 14/16 will fit.

  6. I went shopping today for the first time in ages, determined to find a wrap dress, and I couldn’t find one! It was all trapezes and babydolls, which look completely ridiculous on me.

    Maybe I’ll order them online and stock up–I never used to stock up, because I got most of my clothes from thrifting, but I’m liking the idea more and more.

  7. I am the queen of constantly underselling myself for like, forty dollars to buy something cheap and crappy and ill-fitting instead of a little more expensive and flattering and awesome. I need to stop that. I hate clothes shopping, but I am trying to make it my mission to only buy and wear things in which I feel distinctly fabulous. It is not easy, but easy can bite me.

    And trapeze dresses, too, can bite my booby assy self.

  8. Three things:

    1. I wouldn’t worry about wrap dresses going out of style. It’s a cut, not really a trend, so it’s pretty timeless. You can make it more updated with accessories and shoes.

    2. I don’t think IGIGI runs big at all, especially since they have size charts for everything. Their dresses do seem to run a size bigger than their tops, but there are size charts to follow for each individual item.

    3. Wearing stuff that flatters your shape IS what makes someone a fatshionista, I think.

    I don’t think of it in the same terms I would as a “fashionista” who’s always on trend with the newest look. Trends don’t make their way to the fat girl stores for a couple of seasons so even if you do wear what’s trendy in your size NOW, it’s probably over for the thin, super trendy set. You will NEVER see my fat ass in skinny jeans, my body would reject them.

    I’m all about creating your own style and just updating it each season with little touches. You don’t have to participate in every last trend to be stylish.

  9. The essence of true style IMO is knowing what suits you regardless of fashion. This is the first time in about 20 years that the UK shops have been bursting with clothes I love that both suit and fits me – so I’ve been abusing my credit card something chronic. Sure I look trendy at the moment but I fully expect to be wearing what I’ve bought until it falls to pieces no matter how anomalous I’ll start to look in a few trends time.

    While I love clothes with a passion, I feel decidely ambivalent about fashion. The industry gives fat girl such short shrift that, as Colleen says, we don’t get to wear what everyone else is wearing till all the skinny folks are pig sick of the sight of it – and that in itself is a vicious cycle. If we’re not permitted to be fashion forward by the manufacturers themselves, no wonder those who enter the fashion industry continue to assume we’re not interested in current trends.

    But here’s the thing, (and I know this probably makes me a bit of a weirdo), for the most part I actually like not looking like everybody else. As a child I used to positively cringe when I saw someone else wearing the same clothes as me. (Which happened all the time as I was religiously kitted out in Marks and Spencer like every other kid I knew – and back in those days they were not in the least bit hip). So, much as I bitch about the lack of choice, to say nothing of the freaky clothes plus-size manufacturers foist on us, there’s actually a part of me that enjoys the challenge of putting my own look together out of disparate elements I know few others are going to be wearing.

  10. Oh, no, Meowser, I wouldn’t say they ran a full size big, just that they’re on the big side of the marked size range. If you’re usually a 20 in dresses, an 18/20 should work; I’m an 18 and the 18/20 I got was definitely on the roomy side. This is in contrast to other higher-end clothes that aren’t dedicated plus sizes, which sometimes run quite small.

  11. I stockpile colors that flatter me. There are whole years when Lane Bryant has nothing but brown and green and orange, and it doesn’t matter how cold I am, I ain’t buying a sweater. So whenever the plums and mauves and corals show up, I stockpile.

  12. ABBBsolutely.
    Only buying things that look fantastic can be frustrating.. but I’m feeling better these days about spending 2 hours in a store and leaving with nothing. If it isn’t amazing… it’s a waste of money.

    And you’re completely right. I’ve got like 4 things I wish I’d bought 6 of… .. I did it right with the Baby Phat and the Pepe Jeans though… my dresser overfloweth

  13. I once read something to the effect that “fashion is fleeting; style is timeless.” I, too, tend to stock up when cuts, colors, or textures that work well for me are in style. I recently completed a pretty ruthless closet purge to get rid of all the stuff that I bought because it was on sale, on trend or on the mannequin but that doesn’t work for me. Right now my favorite trend is 3/4 or bracelet length sleeves. I bought a bunch of cute, 60’s-looking 3/4 sleeve jackets at Forth & Towne before they closed. I’m trying to maintain a “Goldilocks” approach to clothes and accessories these days, and purchase or keep only the few that are “just right.” And “trapeze” or “baby doll”…fuggedaboudit. Those didn’t look good on me in my 20’s, and they look ridiculous now that I’m 50. I’m forever drawn to simple, clean lines and not a lot of fussiness in design.

  14. Oh, and I also tend to buy the majority of my clothes in the late summer/early fall, as those tend to be the colors that flatter me most.

  15. OMG, that link to American Apparel is really disturbing. I’ve heard bad things about that company, but holy god. Those models are one very short step away from being kiddie porn…and the “intimates” page is straight-up pedophile fodder. YUCK.

    Even the 2x-3x pages for women have models that look like sexualized anorexic 12-year olds. VILE.

    Thanks for the link to Igigi, though. I’d love to wear such a wrap dress, if I actually had a waist!

  16. I’ve always been more ass than boobs, although the last 50 pounds seem concentrated on my waist and bust. Anyway, I have always lived in long, full skirts, peasant or otherwise. I get so frustrated when they disappear from stores. I’ve never been much for the wrap dress, but I do have one that makes me look super hot. Basically, I’m trying to say that I totally know what you mean by buying what you like, not what the fashionistas are pushing.

  17. [de-lurking for a moment] Re collarbones: I’m short and a size 8, so I’m not particularly starving-in-Africa-skinny, but I have a fairly prominent collarbone just from genetics. Frankly, a scoop neck does a better job at showing it off than anything else. What on earth is up with all these dresses made to flatter no one?

    And it’ll be a cold day in hell before they make something that truly flatters a short woman with big hips and no chest. I have to go through about 10 dresses to find one that doesn’t make me look too ridiculous. Also, I’m sure you know the wonderful joy of buying jeans that fit your butt and discovering there’s an extra 4-6 inches in the waist . . . [end de-lurking]

  18. Kate, you might also want to think about picking up a pattern for the style you love, so you can have a seamstress make you your very own wrap dress in the colour and fabric of your choice when they’re no longer being sold. Imagine: a red silk wrap dress at Christmas, a black cotton eyelet wrap dress in August …

    Remember to buy patterns by your measurements (there’s a chart on the pattern), not by your off-the-rack size. Also, if you wear larger than a B cup, you should take your chest measurement, and use that as if it’s your bust measurement. Patterns are sized for B cups, so if you’re a C, a D, or, say, a G cup, it will throw all the neck and shoulder measurements off. It’s better to buy by the chest measurement (above the bosom), and have a standard alteration made for a large bust.

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