Are We Just Telling Fat Women To Cover Up When We Tell Them To Dress For Their Shape?

I’m insecure about my arms. For me it’s that body part that directly affects my confidence. For most of my life I have had flabby big upper arms and weak shoulders. For the past few years, they’ve been less flabby and much, much less weak but because I lost weight in the area there’s a roll of fat/skin right after my shoulder that’s just, there.
Until two years ago I avoided wearing sleeveless shirts or anything strappy unless I was inside the house because everytime I looked at my arms it felt like I was looking at a leg jutting out of my shoulder socket and I don’t think I need to explain how feeling fat can make a woman (or, a person) feel horrible about themselves. Besides that’s what everyone from my friends, to my mother, to every fashion magazine in the world seemed to suggest: Cover up your arms, it will make them look “slimmer”. I did cover them, not so much because they looked slimmer, but mostly because I didn’t want to see them either. They were ugly.

But two years ago, as part of taking my body back in every conceivable form, I started exercising, eating well, working on thinking well of my own self, doing less damage to my body, taking better care of it etc. I also started wearing clothes that were much more revealing; clothes that fat women aren’t supposed to wear. Like tight pants and cute dresses. Drifit tank tops and strappy, backless shirts. There’s an accepted norm here where it you’re a woman above a certain size you’re supposed to be sexy only in a certain way (and even that is when you are allowed to be sexy instead of always being the “funny one with personality” or the “easy slutty one with no standards”). Fat girl revealing is very different from non-fat girl revealing. My sister just wears a backless dress and that’s revealing, she just wears a body hugging top and that’s a different kind of revealing. I grew up being told that if your body is not, well, thin, then clothes that reveal your shape are vulgar.


I mean, really, let’s think about it. Vulgar is a strong word, especially to use in this lifetime. I can’t even think of an example of something that might actually be vulgar in today’s circumstances but we tell fat women that clothes that reveal their actual size and body shape are vulgar. VULGAR. That’s pathetic. We can stomach the crisis in Syria but not the body shape of a fat woman. That’s disgusting (amazingly in more ways than just the one). Regardless, everytime I wore a shirt that defined any part of me, my mother immediately deemed it too vulgar to wear and so it took many years for me to be okay with revealing my shape in the form of clothes. As a fat girl, revealing to me meant being able to show my legs, a little above my knee, and cleavage (which I’m inadvertently showing even when I’m not really, showing).


Until I decided to wear whatever I wanted. I decided that because my rejection of pretty things was not about being above them or unmaterialistic, it was about thinking I could never do those things because I’d make them ugly too. Like I could not wear lipstick except to be whorish because I was a fat girl. Like I could not wear heels except to be whorish because I would be a fat girl and fall like in all the movies. Like I couldn’t I couldn’t wear anything but a full sleeved wrap dress because otherwise it would be funny that I was trying to be pretty. I mean, why try? Even in a pretty dress, I’d be a fat girl.

With fat arms.

But I did it because it’s my body, and how I look and feel in it matters most. I reveal my arms on purpose now. Almost all the time, I actually hate winter because I can’t do it. It’s not because I love my arms as they are. They are a work in progress, and that’s okay. I like things about them now. I like the muscular bits and I like how strong I am now. I don’t like the flabby bits but it doesn’t stop me from revealing them. They are there. Everyday. The one roll of fat.
It’s interesting because some days when I am feeling good about myself and I’ve focused on my strength as a route to seeing beauty, I don’t even see the roll of fat. I just see the parts I like and I feel extremely confident. On days I haven’t worked out or I feel badly about myself, I see only the roll of fat. All of the good parts of my arm seem to melt away and I can only see the flaw I must fixate on. Those days I don’t feel so confident about my strength or beauty.
That’s how I know, I know that what matters most is what I feel and think about my body. Anyone else uncomfortable with a seeing a fat girl in a leotard can suck a lemon. It’s their eyes that have the problem.
Because good god.
My arms are a little flabby.
I’m a little insecure about it.
But I will not be ashamed and cover it up. If that doesn’t make fashion sense, call me unfashionable. I’m really very okay with that. I mean, I already wear crocs, I don’t care.

Published by thejadedpamphleteer

Women's rights activist. Journalist. Writer. Pamphleteer. Cat obsessed.

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