Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The "Settling" Problem (With a final note on power structures)

So my poor self esteem has led to me having multiple consciousnesses at once. One of them recognizes how awesome I am and that I shouldn't conform to make people like me, that they should like me for who I am, etc. That my body shouldn't matter in making friends or finding a romantic partner, because what's on the inside is probably a bajillion times better than the nearest "hottie." But there's enough doubt in other versions of me that thinks I often  "settle" when it comes to friends (as in I associate with people that treat me like shit far more often than I should put up with), and is afraid I'll end up "settling" for the first asshole that says he loves me. I know I do the former, and I haven't had the opportunity (if you can call it that) to test the latter- fingers crossed, it won't actually need to be tested, right?

Settling in relationships, of course, leads to dissatisfaction in them. I put up with people treating me like shit because I still have that kind of unhealthy desire to be liked- but then when they take advantage of me, take me for granted, knowingly say or do things that'll hurt me, I internalize the accompanying feelings of ickiness and often don't say anything.

There's that saying, "I don't get mad, I get even." Mine is, "I don't get mad, I get hurt."

So I imagine if I did end up in a serious romantic relationship with a total  Grade A, FDA Certified Douchebag, I'd probably take his crap and be miserable. Because who else would love me? I'd be lucky to find that guy, and I should thank him for stooping so low.

Yeah, I know, I'm fucked up.

But again, there's a part of me that knows I shouldn't do that, and I'll do my best to let that part have the last say in the matter, should it ever be necessary.

But there are situations where I'm forced to settle by societal structures and practices. And it pisses me off a lot. 

People, I'm talking about clothing shopping, here.

And let me say now, I recognize most people hate clothing shopping because it's hard for them to find stuff. I'm not trying to marginalize the perspectives of anyone else- I'm just highlighting  my own  experiences here to elucidate some overarching structural inequalities that are inherent in the system of the clothing manufacturing world. 

So okay, disclaimer done.

I know there are a lot of factors in my physique intersecting together leading to this whole "clothing" business being so gorram complicated and resulting in sub-par outcomes. 

1) I'm short. 5"1.5', to be exact. This isn't to say there aren't adorable clothes in the petite sections of most places, but...

2) I'm overweight. I've been so since I was like seven, so yeah. What a lot of people I know currently don't realize is I weighed over 230lbs when I graduated from college. I lost nearly  eighty of that before grad school. Yay! Right? Well, I blame grad school for how I look now (partially- yeah yeah, self responsibility, yadda yadda, I'll get to that soon), because I lost five sizes over those two years between degrees, and I've gained back three since grad school. Sigh.

3) My boobs. I'm not trying to sound, like, pervy or, "BOYS LOOK AT ME!" or anything- it's an objective fact, they're large, and I invest money in good, um, hardware to keep them in control and in the proper area of the ribcage to minimize back pain and such. I still do have back pain, but the one consistent thing I can say about my doctor visits is when they talk to me about that kind of pain, they tell me to keep doing what I'm doing. So I'll keep using the same underwires until I'm told otherwise, thank you very much. I call them The Girls. 

4) I have like no butt or thighs. You'd think that'd be a good thing, but since most of my excess weight is in my upper body, it leads to some pretty ridiculous chicken-leg-esque stuff. 

Assuming things are the right length, I have these problems:

Shirts- Either too tight around The Girls (sometimes ridiculously so), or a huge, billowy, pillowcase-ee thing around the rest of me if The Girls are comfortable (and in shirts that aren't supposed to be billowy, I'll add). And there are also the shirts I can't even get around The Girls, too. Even when I can tell they'd prolly go around the rest of my torso alright.

Pants- If they fit around the waist, they're baggy in the crotch/thigh. Like, to the point sometimes where they resemble MC Hammer pants. Or pants that are good around the thigh and rear are too tight around the waist, and/or often do that disgusting cameltoe thing in the front. 

Skirts- Hug or hang from my rolls in ways that are just not cool. 

But often, there are problems in length. Clothes seem to be made in such a way that as width/size increases, so too does length. So sure, the pants may fit my waist and thighs fine, but they're also a foot too long. Or capris look more like highwaters. Or knee-lengths look like capris. Etc. Shirts? They sometimes look more like dresses (but not in a way I can pass off as if it was meant to be that way). Just way  too long. And this can go for the sleeves,too. Skirts are a major Hellstorm to navigate- skirts meant to fall mid-calf go to my ankles, etc.

Now, while I know I'm also sort of conforming  to the hegemonic societal determinants of attractive and such by wanting to minimize how visible my flab is and such, I still find it ridiculous how hard that compliance is.

Just because I'm fat, doesn't mean I'm eight  feet tall.

But because of all of these weird things, I end up settling for things in a lot of ways. 

-I'm pretty much resolved to the fact that I'll not be able to fully close a button-up shirt and will have to leave some open and have a cami or tank underneath. Whenever I do find a button-up that somehow, miraculously, closes, I freak out and buy it, and I don't care how much it costs. I once spent $45 on a shirt because of that. Which is utterly ridiculous. 

-I often get skirts that are too long and just wear the waistband up really high on my torso in order for them to be the proper length. This tends to result in part of a cute pattern being lost under my shirt. And also in me wearing kind of wonky shirts to cover the fabric of the skirt that's practically reaching my bra.

-I get the cameltoe pants and wear really long shirts that I'd rather not have to wear (much like with the skirts).

-I roll up the bottoms of capris so they're actually capris.

-I'll buy the capris and wear them like regular jeans or leggings. This usually results in a lot of tugging downward, and sometimes massive rolling up by the end of the day to get them at the length/spot they're supposed to be in the first place.

-I get shirts that really are too loose around the rest of me because they don't squeeze The Girls as if they were about to fall off.

-I'll get pants that are both too billowy in the thigh and too long, resulting in more really long shirts as well as really worn, tattered, dirty pant cuffs. I'd sometimes trip over the pieces of denim trailing around under me when I was in high school.

-I usually don't bother trying on dresses- I do better with blouse-skirt combos, but again, I often have to compromise with those, somehow. 

-Blazers and jackets either don't button/zip the whole way because of The Girls, or if they do, the sleeves are ridiculously too long, as is the actual length of the coat. So I get kind of loose jackets, and blazers I just don't bother trying to close- at all. 

-More solid colors than I'd prefer because patterns tend to put huge blotches right over one of The Girls (in a way that is just bloody distracting), or stripes following all the wrong places,  or they're just plain hideous. 

Sure, I go to plus sections of stores, but This Tumblr Says It All. I mean, seriously, plus size manufacturers assume a bunch of crap about fat women, seem to think we're all...

... at least six feet tall. Apparently I'm doing something wrong, here, because I didn't get taller when I gained that weight back. But seriously, all the "average" length pants in plus I've ever tried on were even more ridiculously long than regular sized. And so many times, shirts hang down way too long and just look plain ridiculous.

... desperate to look like couches, curtains, or other upholstered items around the house. I don't  get it, but like WTF Plus is great at pointing out, it's as if manufacturers are trying  to "help" by providing outlandish or scenic patterns, like those are supposed to, what, distract from the fat?

... into wearing burlap sacks, or things shaped like them. Seriously, I am so fucking sick of the Goddamned mumus and wraps and shirts that are shaped like  squares. Honesly, if we're "supposed" to be  hiding our bulk, wouldn't billowing like a fucking sail as we walk past sort of defeat the purpose? Ugh. 

... rolling in dough and have millions of dollars to burn on said clothing. The "specialty" shops for heavy ladies always  cost way  too much- like fifty dollars for a pair of jeans. And come on, seriously, that's fucking stupid. I know there's no point in going into some of the plus sections in some pretty nice stores, too, because a plain black T-shirt is going to cost me twenty dollars (while the same shirt in Misses is fifteen), and the sales rack is filled with the stuff of nightmares. And those sales racks look that way because anything worth leaving the house in has been purchased already. (Yeah, I know this happens everywhere, but it's exacerbated in specialty sizes because the selection already consists of fewer items.) And the sales racks at specialty plus stores do that, too- they're hideous. 

And this isn't just an in-store trend. I'm signed up for a few flash  sale/ here until it's gone-type stores, and the plus  clothing  always has some pretty aesthetically offensive pieces. Here's some I got from the email for one I'm signed up just this morning:

This pattern looks like an accessory stand  vomited onto
a dalmation. And  the cut is  like a sheet. 

The way that top poofs is weird enough,
but being above that pattern,
it just looks like a mistake.

Let's go out of our way to accent
on a woman's body!

While I love the color, again, it looks  like
something was draped. Reminds me of this:
So I guess I'd feel like a princess
wearing it, eh?

So it's either get stuff that's cut in such a way, it's probably not as flattering as I'd like, or get the stuff that's basically cut well enough, but with patterns that could give a person an aneurysm if they stared long enough. In other words, settling.

This isn't to say my entire wardrobe fits incorrectly or looks like an accident  involving a paint truck  and a wild animal- I have enough stuff to get by, at least. It would just be great if I could pay the same price as non-plus-sized women and get clothes that fit me.

And premiums because of fabric amounts or whatever my ass. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious there's a fat tax on clothes, at least some of it.

And same with short or petites. If anything, you'd think those would cost less- but no, it costs more. As if there has to be some specialized machine that makes smaller versions of stuff...? Sure, petite sizes aren't standard, but the thing is


Even within the same fucking store or brand label. A Medium in shirt 1 is twice as large as the Large in shirt 2, but it's pretty fucking obvious that 1 isn't supposed to be billowy and 2 isn't supposed to be skin tight. Size A waistband in one pant is way too big, when it's obviously too small in another, but Size B in yet another pant is too small, so you go all the way up to D and are like, um, excuse me? Seriously, whenever I shop, I look at a whole range of three different sizes in shirts, just to be safe, and I've found myself doing the same in the end with things like jeans or slacks (because I'll take one in the fitting room, it doesn't fit, so I try another, and that doesn't fit, etc.). 

So the arguments for either, a premium on plus or petite clothing, to me, seems bogus. What the fuck are they comparing it to? Can't even be their own  factories, because shit coming from the same factory seems to be randomly assigned size and shape. 

And  while I'm discussing  petite, I think some assumptions  about petite fashion are made, too. All women under 5'6"...

... are old ladies. While sure, there's some decent professional stuff, when I bother to look in petites, way too much of the "casual" stuff looks like the things my grandmother on my dad' side would wear- she's nearly eighty, I believe, and wears a wig every day- yes,  she's one of those little old retire-ees*. We're talking t-shirts with  embroidered flowers and glitter and studs all over the place. I like to think  my grandma on my mom's side would wear better stuff than that, but she passed away a long time ago, so the only outfits I remember her wearing were pretty generic jeans and shirts. But what is it with the audaciously  colored capris with shit embroidered on them, too? And the huge, gaudy applique? Shit like this is ubiquitous:

... are either doctors themselves, or married to one. Again, like with plus, petites cost a fortune, and for no apparent reason other than it's an excuse to charge more, tacking that "petite" label on the clothing. See above rants about standard sizing and the cost of plus clothing and what's left on the sales racks. It's the same thing with petite sections and  stores- too expensive, with  sales racks that make me want to laugh hysterically or vomit (the latter, I sometimes wonder,  may look prettier) because anything actually wearable has been snatched up already.

... are skinny. Not only have I never seen a plus petite, but I know from talking to friends and personal experience that yes, lengths are shrunk in petites, but also circumferences. So a regular medium is more like a small in petites for what goes around the torso. So it's like the reverse of plus clothes getting longer/taller. Petites are expected to be skinnier. 

So I'm going to pull an  Obi Wan and make a generalization to criticize the generalizations being made. 

I think the problems with sizing  and cuts stem from vast misunderstandings of the human body and how it develops on the part of mass-market designers and fancy runway people, too (because  let's not forget that pivotal scene in The  Devil Wears Prada about how bargain buys can be traced back to elite fashion peeps). I think there are misunderstandings and assumptions that bad ideas like harem/parachute pants that look good on the runway will then look good on regular  women, so they get translated into stuff like this and this when mass-produced.  But even those runway designers have to tailor their stuff to the individual models  with which they're working, so why  mass-market people can go after styles that really only work for very specific body types... well... they want money, of course. The thing is, every single body  develops and changes in its own way, due to age, stress, weight-gain and loss, pregnancy, hormone shifts, depression, medical conditions... Every single one. Now, some change in similar ways, but to assume that width and height always increase proportionally, as if the human body was a pixelated image in Microsoft Paint or  Adobe Photoshop- that's fucking ridiculous. To assume that every person of the same height is going to have the same build is willful ignorance. And charging extra money for products that'll be purchased by people that don't fit into those utterly preposterous boundaries is unethical.

But here's one caveat. Like I said in the beginning, my size/body  shouldn't matter. This post could very easily turn  into one about fat-shaming, something I detest almost as much  as ableism. But I'm not going to go there right now. But I'll push again something I alluded to already- it's terribly ironic that there's a hegemonic discourse that places a pejorative connotation on "fat," but so much of the clothes for "fat" people only make them look fatter. As if  to mark them out more than the bodies in which they inhabit by putting costume-like shit on them. I understand  and  agree with concerns about health, but saving the shitty fabric for fat people is cruel and  furthers the Otherization of bodies that aren't conforming  to the arbitrary standards of society. As long as a person's health isn't at risk, they shouldn't be criticized for their  weight. A lot of people simply can't get below a certain size without endangering themselves in another (I'm one of them- when I lost all that weight a few years ago, my doctor told me to stop because even though I was still a double-digit size, my build and other health conditions made getting much smaller risky, too).

And  THIS  relates to how power works in myriad other settings. The group in charge defines the terms of what's acceptable  and  points out every time a member  of another group is doing something  deemed unacceptable under said terms. Yet at the same time, the rules of the game often make compliance for out-groups nigh impossible. The standards are either so high that they're nigh impossible for outsiders, or those outsiders are confronted enough with deliberate barriers to meeting those standards that it just becomes a losing  game for them. And then,  when the  outgroup expresses dissatisfaction, the blame is placed on them.

So the counters to my upset would be stuff about how I should lose weight, and it's my fault for being poor, or some shit like  that.

Fuck you hegemon. Fuck you with a spiked pole in the ass.  I like who I am, and  I like  the things I like. And  if people don't like me  because I'm in clothes that look weird, they  should turn  their  attention to the fashion industry and blame them, not sneer at me because I have a few extra pounds.

Besides, nobody could have boobs  like mine and be a size 0 without having  medical problems.  So kiss my fat, Native American ass, Judgy McJudgerpants. 

*My favorite story to tell about her is our first conversation after she moved to Arizona. "How do you like it out there, Grandma? Handling the heat okay?" Her reply, in her southern Mississippi accent, "Gab, huh-ne, mah wig melted."


  1. I must give you this: perhaps everyone else has as many problems with clothing as you do, but you have provided the most comprehensive list of these problems possible. Hugs!

  2. Also I just had to type the word "Antichrist" to be considered not a bot.