Walmart’s Fat Girl Costumes

Actual SizeThe internet briefly exploded into a freakout today because the Walmart website had a page for its Halloween Costumes called “Fat Girl Costumes.” People took to social media to discuss their displeasure and Walmart took the page down, tweeting things like “This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize.”

I completely understand why people were upset.  First was the speculation that a web developer had done it as a “funny” joke, or maybe did it as an inside joke among the dev team and then forgot to change it.  Even if they were well intentioned there are many people who fit the physical descriptor of fat who don’t like the word because of the negative connotations other people have heaped upon it and that’s absolutely understandable.

For my part, I would love to live in a world where “fat girl costumes” was a completely neutral descriptor. I, as you might have noticed, like the word fat for a lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is that I consider fat a reclaiming term, my use of it is one of the ways that I tell my bullies that they can’t have my lunch money anymore. I think that I’m fat whether people call me that or not, and I’m not so sure that making fat the Voldemort of adjectives is particularly empowering or helpful to anyone (though of course each person is allowed to choose the words that they prefer to describe themselves.)

I like “Fat Girl Costumes” (since I’m a fat girl looking for a costume) much better than I like “Plus Size Costumes” (as if people who are size 0-12 are one species and those who are above a size 12 are something else that needs a special name for our sizes.)  Note that we could easily solve all of this if clothing was made in a wider variety of sizes and sold together – then you just need a webpage for “Costumes.”

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33 thoughts on “Walmart’s Fat Girl Costumes

  1. I think the problem is that until we have reclaimed fat as a neutral descriptor it is seen as insulting to call someone fat, which leaves the motives of the person who used the descriptor up for speculation.

  2. i agree w/ you 1000%. it is only when the word has been reclaimed &, in its way, neutralized, that the culture will have truly & fully changed.

  3. Makes you wonder, what kind of costumes were shown there … I think therein might have been the insult. If you have the fat girl costume as “Burka” – to hide her away – that would be offensive. Or even worse, as trash-bag …

  4. My automatic response was a loud, outraged, “FAT GIRL COSTUMES?????”

    I mean, I can say I’m a fat girl, though I much prefer chick, bitch, chica, badass, motherfucker, woman, mujer, stone cold lady, or the ever popular, “fat fine piece of intellect.” I took it as a double dismissal, a denial of value to my entire being. After all, if you’ve got a dick, you can grow up and become a MAN. But if you’re smooth down there? You better stay smooth, and you better stay tiny. Oh, you looked at the Haagen-Dazs? Too bad. Worthless piece of shit.

    See what I mean?

    1. Interesting. I didn’t see the ad, but I read this as “costumes that let someone dress up as a fat girl”– for instance, monster costumes or ghost costumes are costumes that you wear to look like a monster or a ghost — not costumes that monsters and ghosts wear. That would be offensive because it would imply that “fat girl” is not just a category of human being, but a horrifying thing you dress as on Hallowe’en to be scary. But I’ll take the word of those of you who saw it that it meant “costumes for fat girls,” which is bad enough!

          1. sorry, i was typing on my idad and not sure why i sad “costume for me.” I am most certainly not dressing up in the horrible costume. Plus ironically at 5’8″ and 410lbs…they don’t make a “fat Pam Anderson costume” in my size.

  5. I love the word fat! I am fat and I’m happy and I’m beautiful. I want the world to change so that everyone else will feel the same way.

    I’m the only fat person in my family and whenever I talk about things I read on your site, and about size diversity activism, everybody tenses up, and makes me feel uncomfortable. I want to live in a world where it’s fine if I go up a dress size or two.

    I want to live in a world where people say,

    “Have you gained weight? You look fantastic! Now there’s so much more of you to love!!”

    I think if more people take pride in their appearances, and in their fatness, the better things will become.

    1. A commenter on my blog recently said: “jesus no wonder you’re morbidly obese, all you do is eat sweets and watch tv.”

      I think that is so rude – that isn’t all I do – and who is she to judge me even if it was all I ever did. Sounds like a pleasant thing to do. People are so freaking judgemental if you choose to eat fattening foods and gain weight. A lot more judgemental than they are of people who drink alcohol or smoke.

  6. This “faux pas” even made it into the German news (, but unfortunately until now all comments to this article (status on 28th Oct, 2pm) take less issue with WALMART then with fat people, who “don’t want to see the truth about being fat”. The general consensus seems to be that if a fat person “decides” to by fat, although there are so many diets and workoutplans around, he/she should accept to be called fat (I won’t translate some of the other comments, they are just outragegeously insulting).
    Thanks a lot for your post, it’s good to see that there are some people with sense in the world!

  7. Based on the two costumes shown in the picture, I don’t find this offensive at all. They are cute costumes, presumably in a larger size that I was not aware Walmart carried at all. When I read the title, like others, my mind ran through the possibilities. Of course I would have found a costume that made someone look like a “fat girl” offensive. I also would have been offended if they were “fat girl costumes” intended to “hide the fat” in some way – i.e. the other girls get short skirts and corsets while fat girls get a big ol’ cape. I’m very pleased with what it turned out to be – especially since I also hate “plus sized.”

  8. I’m fifty-two damn years old. I AM NOT A GIRL, I’M A WOMAN FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!!

    And just as black people among black people can use the n word or gay people can call themselves queer, but it’s not okay to go down the street calling people either of those things if you’re (a) not or (b) in mixed company, I think we can take it as read that if a company that usually doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about dressing us uses ‘fat’ as part of their sales description, it’s intended as an insult.

    I can call myself fat all day long, and I do. My fellow factivists can call me fat to their hearts’ content. Mr. Twistie can call me fat. But until ‘fat’ is a neutral description of a purely physical characteristic, no, Walmart does not get to call me fat. They haven’t earned the right by treating me with respect.

    1. Yeah, I agree – until the word “fat” becomes what it is supposed to be, simply a descriptor like “tall” (and not the horrible insult that most of society uses it as), it’s not really ok for non-fat people to use that word. Until it’s not a word that is a catch all for a whole bunch of nasty and insulting things, thin and average sized people need to stay clear of using it. Let fat people use the word to lovingly describe themselves, once that catches on and it’s common for fat people to publicly call themselves fat in a non-demeaning way, then, and only then, is it cool for thin people to start saying it. THAT is just my opinion though.

      And until that point, it’s a word that is too loaded and too hurtful to so many people -because of how it’s been intentionally used as a weapon against many larger people- that it’s important for thin and averaged size people to be aware of that and not use it, even if it’s mean to just be a descriptor word; because it IS a word that hurts a lot of people due to it’s current meaning in our society.

  9. The thing I really find offensive is that the “fat girl costumes” were *not* shown on fat models. I am tired of seeing clothing that supposedly comes in my size on people who are sized and shaped absolutely nothing like me! If I’m going to have any idea how something is going to look on me, I need the model to have some fat on her body.

  10. I guess my big problem with it is…”Why can’t we just have ONE section for costumes?” Then you narrow down your search by size, etc. My other problem is that not everyone who buys a plus size costume, who wears a size 12, etc., is “fat” — by appearance or by clinical definition. And, as others are saying, some of the models were just…average-sized, thin women.

    But, in a culture like ours, I know that’s probably done to secure sales. Women are probably less likely to buy the costumes modeled in a fat body because of a fear that it doesn’t look good.

    And…would we ever have a section called “Skinny Girl Costumes”? If we wouldn’t have both, then I don’t think “Fat Girl Costumes” is appropriate.

    1. “would we ever have a section called “Skinny Girl Costumes”? If we wouldn’t have both, then I don’t think “Fat Girl Costumes” is appropriate.”

      THIS! So much!

      And you’re right about those models. They don’t look fat, at all. They may be considered fat, for models, but fat for models is size 6. Even size 4 is pushing it, for models.

      Give me a model with whom I can relate, please. I can’t imagine myself wearing those clothes, because they simply would not hang on me the same way. I’m not just fat – I’m big breasted and big-hipped, and I need someone with a similar build, as well as size, to give me an idea how it would hang on me. Something that hangs smoothly on a thin, flat woman would have the crookedest hem in the world on me, with the waist-line directly below my breasts, and riding half-way down my butt.

  11. But, those aren’t fat GIRL costumes. Those are fat WOMEN costumes. What will the poor fat GIRLS wear?

    Really, it is so hard to find good clothes for fat girls, and fat teens have an even harder time, in my experience, as they care more about fashion and trends. Girls can get away with hand-me-downs from three generations ago, and as long as they have flowers and rainbows, it’s all cool, pretty much. But a teenager need to keep up with the times!

    So, if you’re going to do Fat Girl Costumes, get it right, and have Fat Teen Girl Costumes, and Fat Woman Costumes, and you might want to include some Fat Matron Costumes, for those women of the elder generations who do not want to wear the skimpy clothes that pass for costumes for today’s adult women. I call them Matrons, because “Get off my lawn, you young hooligans!” is not only too much of a mouthful, but also stereotypical. I know a great many sweet matrons, who welcome young whippersnappers on their lawn.

    In short – I have no problem with the term Fat. But please, I’m a grown-up woman, not a little girl.

  12. OH! Good news!

    My mother accidentally signed up for Glamour to be delivered. She clicked on something online, and doesn’t know what, when, where, or how to stop it.

    However, I was looking for something, anything, to read today, and there was the brand-new Glamour. I know it makes people feel awful about themselves, but on the cover, it said “Instant Body Confidence,” or something like that, so I turned to the page for that article, supposedly about gaining confidence in your own body and looks.

    The model was a “fat” model, which meant she was probably a size 6 or 8. Throughout the article, there was no one above a size 10, I’m pretty sure, including the not-model models, who were supposed to be some staff at the magazine, but I didn’t even read that far.

    I was much too excited about the picture on the opposite page. It was a Dove soap ad, and it had an ACTUAL FAT MODEL! She was beautiful!

    If I had to guess her size, I’d say 14, maybe? I’m lousy as that sort of guessing. All I knew was that I could relate to those arms, the shoulders, the roundness about the face. It made me feel good. I want to cut that page out, and post it on my wall.

    Also, her skin looked good, but that’s not reliable in photos. But FAAAATTTT! Huzzah!

  13. Great post Ragen…again…as always. Sadly, even though I’m fat, even though I’m biologically gay and asexual by choice…my male privilege allows me to not see things like this targeted at me.

    Some days I think we are close, then other days…we are so far away.

  14. Business Insider combined this with a story from Target. A dress in size 12 is called “Heather Grey.” The SAME DRESS in size 2X was called “Manatee.”

    They corrected the “error.”

    1. That reminds me, I used to buy work pants from Dockers until I noticed the color gray in plus size was called “beluga”. I think they may have changed it eventually, but I’ll never buy anything from them again.

    2. OK, there is no way that isn’t a joke at the expense of fat people – and completely idiotic if you want to sell clothes… but I would love something in “manatee”. 😀

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