Friday, March 4, 2016

my work in progress: clothes shopping

Another excerpt from my future masterpiece.  This one is about the wonderful world of clothes shopping as an overweight teen/adult.  It really sucked at times.


Clothes Shopping

Clothes shopping as an overweight girl during the school years wasn’t that bad.  All the way through high school I was still able to wear a Misses size, so I was usually able to buy what I wanted.  Well, assuming my parents could afford it and were willing to buy it.  It sometimes excluded me from the cool clothes, like the nylon parachute pants with the neon zippers (remember those??) and crop tops, but I’m probably better off in the long run for not wearing stuff like that:  there are no pictures with which to black mail me!  (Although, I had Sally Jesse Raphael-like glasses.  They weren’t prescription glasses. Just frames with glass in them.) I did, however, have an issue with finding pants that were long enough—I’m 5’11”—and shoes that were big enough—I was a size 11 in high school.
I once had to go shopping for a formal dress.  I don’t remember if it was for the prom, or if it was for a wedding.  My mom and I went to the local bridal shop.   I happened to be wearing a bulky sweater that day.  We walked in and an older gentleman met us almost immediately.  He looked me up and down and said, without measuring me, that the shop didn’t have anything that would fit me and that their sizes don’t go that high, even if the dress was special ordered.  He hadn’t even measured me yet!  He pulled out his tape measure and measured right in the middle of the store, over my bulky sweater and confirmed that nothing there would fit me.  Talk about humiliating! Luckily, that was the one and only time something that obnoxious happened. If that happened to me now, I would likely tell him off in a voice loud enough for all to hear.

Clothes shopping was always so difficult once I became a teenager.  Starting somewhere around maybe freshman year of high school I began shopping at the plus size clothing stores, which were very limited at that time.  I could sometimes shop in the Women’s department of a department store; however, the sizes typically ran smaller than those in the plus sized stores.  Eventually, though, the department store sizes just weren’t big enough anymore.  I was stuck going to Lane Bryant.  Back then, it was difficult to find plus sized clothing that didn’t look like it was for a 400-pound, 70 year-old woman.  Most of the clothing was fairly plain and baggy, and in drab or loud colors.  There was nothing trendy to speak of.  My choices were looking like I was wearing a springtime bedspread, or a potato sack; the Lane Bryant back then was not the Lane Bryant you see today. And that was tough for a teenager. My mission when shopping for clothes was to find something I hated the least, and that would hide my body as much as possible.  That wasn’t always easy.

As I got older, more plus sized clothing stores opened and there was more of a choice; however, there were often seasons when I found nothing at all that I liked.  It was so depressing to go into a store, go through all the racks one by one, and find nothing I liked.  Not a single thing.  Everything was either clingy, too baggy, had a weird accessory, like an attached necklace or a slit in an awkward place, or it was just plain ugly.

Designers seem to think that fat women like clothing that either looks like something our mother or grandmother would wear, or looks like it is two sizes too small and we should be on street corner.  Sorry, but I don’t want to show off my back fat by wearing something that is fitted and clingy in all the wrong places.  (I’m someone who takes issue with large women wearing tight clothing; it just doesn’t look appealing to me.)  Nor do I want to look like I’m wearing a shapeless, old-fashioned bedspread.  And I don’t want to wear, for lack of a better term, “mom jeans.”  No mom jeans at 20 years old, please. Unfortunately, though, I had to wear them because that’s what fit and was comfortable.

I think the plus size clothing stores are much better nowadays.  It seems like plus size clothing designers finally realize that we want clothing that is comfortable, fits right, and is trendy, or elegant, or just plain put-together looking.  I recently went shopping at The Avenue—I’m still straddling the Misses/Women’s line—and found so many things I actually liked and that looked good on me.  There were some items I didn’t care for, but it was because the material was too thin or the cut just didn’t look good on me.  It wasn’t because they were ugly.  I also went to Catherine’s and found lots of nice things.  I will say one thing, though, plus sized clothing is not cheap.  The average cost of a regular shirt—not a sweater or dressy shirt—seems to be around $50.00.  That probably doesn’t seem like much if you regularly shop in higher end department stores, but that seems like a lot for an average, mid-range store.

There were lots of times when I went to the mall to find some clothing and either one of two things happened:  a store patron asked me for help finding something—they thought I worked there because I looked a lot older, or they asked me if I was pregnant.  It didn’t bother me when someone thought I worked there; I realized I looked much older due to my height.  But it definitely bothered me when someone asked if I was pregnant.  I was devastated the first time someone asked me that.  I was so shocked and hurt that it didn’t even occur to me that I should be angry, or that I should make a rude remark.  I just mumbled that I wasn’t and walked away.  I remember being very upset after that.  It’s such a hurtful thing to say to someone who is overweight, especially at that age. I already felt terrible about myself.  Now I had a stranger confirming what I thought was true:  I was so fat people thought I was pregnant.

As I got older, I was asked more often if I was pregnant, when I was due, etc.  And it was more hurtful every time it happened.  People think that if someone is fat, they must be pregnant. They don’t stop to think that maybe the woman is NOT pregnant, she’s just fat.  I think most of the time people are well-intentioned, though.  They’re looking to make small talk, or they love kids and want to impart some gem of wisdom.  Plus, people seem to go all ooey gooey over babies and when they see what they think is a pregnant woman, they want to be part of that.  They’re not asking if a woman is pregnant because they think she’s fat and they want to embarrass her.  But that’s still no excuse.  I feel it’s very rude to ask a woman if she’s pregnant or infer that she is.  You just don’t know what’s going on in her life.  Maybe she just had a miscarriage and is struggling emotionally, or maybe she’s trying to get pregnant and can’t, or maybe her child just passed away.  Or, of course, she’s just overweight.

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