To say that I have been in a period of extreme financial restriction would be an understatement. I’ve had to put all my resources into other (sometimes maddening) aspects of my life, and as a result, I haven’t been able to keep up with trends in a way that I had become accustomed to. It’s impacted how I feel about myself and my sense of belonging in ways that I haven’t realized before.
When I was younger, makeup used to be the way that I could participate in what was happening from a trend and culture perspective, mostly because it was so difficult for me to find clothing or shoes that I could fit into. I vividly remember flipping through the pages of Delia’s catalog (RIP), desperately combing the product descriptions for something, anything in my size. Being 6’2″, already a size 16/18, and wearing 32 DD bras, I was desperate to belong because I was constantly standing out. Makeup was one of the only ways that I could feel like a part of something, anything.
I’m grateful that the world I live in today has grown to sometimes include bodies like mine. I know that industry changes, size availability, and acceptance for larger bodies came after hard-fought battles in a war that is far from over. I don’t want to become complacent now that the number of stores that cater to my size 28 body has increased from three to eight and I won’t be satisfied until the term plus size fashion encompasses women larger than a size 24 as an industry standard. There is still so much work to do.
It’s no secret that I’ve gained weight over the past year and I’m definitely more upset than I should be admitted in writing. I am finding it difficult to relate to this iteration of my body in large part because my clothes aren’t fitting the same as they were last year. I find so much joy in putting on my favorite pieces and because of this change, I either can no longer fit into those pieces or I can’t wear them in the same way. Normally this is where I’d hop online, buy some new clothes, maybe in a bigger size or a different silhouette, and push forward until I find peace with my body again, but that can’t happen right now. I’ve been so grateful for the service and support of companies like Gwynnie Bee, making it easy for me to try new brands, new styles, and new sizes in a guilt-free environment, but I am also aware that not everyone has that privilege.
It took me a long time to realize that feeling cute, for me, isn’t just about liking the clothing that I own. I spent six months living out of three suitcases that included some of my favorite styles, but my comfort was entirely dependent on how I felt in my environment, and I didn’t feel comfortable in my environment if I wasn’t constantly evolving my look. Perhaps all of this plays into how concerned I am about how other people feel about me, especially in new places, with new people. It seems like I need to be dressed twice as nice as my straight-size counterparts to receive half as much respect, and I know that I’m not alone in that feeling. Perhaps that’s also why I don’t feel like a t-shirt & jeans have quite the same level of effortless polish on my body.
All of these emotions connect back to a feeling of comfort, a feeling of belonging. If I can’t actively participate in fashion or trends, where does my body belong? Rejection overwhelms me when a plus size brand doesn’t include my size, much less a straight size brand making a cash-grabbing size expansion, and that tells me that I still have a deep desire to belong, but perhaps it’s where I’m trying to fit in now that has changed. I didn’t have the same opportunities to explore my personal style when I was younger. The pool of items that fit me was so small that until the last five years, I’ve only ever bought what fit, regardless of how I felt about it.
I’ve always believed that true style doesn’t come from how much money you have or how big your closet is, and I guess it’s time to put that belief into practice in my own life. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, regardless if you agree or disagree with me. One thing I know for sure is that this realization has taken me completely by surprise, but I suspect it was more obvious from the outside looking in.