Fashion for Good and Evil

Biscuit doesn't care about flatteringAlysse Dalessandro is the designer, entrepreneur, and general badass behind Ready To Starea body positive clothing company that sells clothes from small to 5xl all at the same price, using diverse models.  In short Alysse uses fashion for good – for empowerment and size diversity activism, and encouraging people to find and rock their own personal style, which is awesome.  She posted the following picture to Facebook, highlighting some wide-calf thigh high boots she found that her readers had been requesting.

Alysse 1.png

Because she looks so damn fierce, this post got shared around Facebook.  And that’s when it ran into people who use fashion for evil. When I say evil, I mean people who use fashion to put other people down,  judge other people, and try to enforce body-negative, anti-fat stereotypes of beauty, including and especially using the coded concept of “flattering.”

We tend to see these comments, well, basically anytime a fat person posts a picture of themselves wearing an outfit that isn’t all black and designed to be “slimming.” There are lots of ways that people make this mistake – and it’s a mistake that’s encouraged by a fatphobic culture – so I thought I would take some time today and dissect one of the comments that managed to commit all of the mistakes at once.

I’m a big girl myself and I think those boots are horrible and way too tight, I understand embracing plus size etc but them boots and the whole style makes me feel uncomfortable. It looks so unattractive. But I suppose as long as she’s comfortable and happy that is all that matters.

Let’s break this down:

I’m a big girl myself

Internalized fatphobia is real.  It happens when fat people live in a fatphobic society and accept the opinions and messages of their stigmatizers, bullies, and oppressors as valid. They take this to the next level when they choose to become a stigmatizer, bully, and oppressor by engaging in anti-fat sentiment, like this comment. Often they aren’t even fully aware of what they are doing or how it hurts people because fatphobia is modeled so ubiquitously in our culture as normal.

Consequently,there may be plenty of fat people who are willing to participate in fatphobia, but that doesn’t make fatphobia any more valid, or any less oppressive and wrong.

I think those boots are horrible and way too tight, I understand embracing plus size etc but them boots and the whole style makes me feel uncomfortable.

At this point I want to remind you that Alysse captioned her picture “Since everyone always asks where I got these boots – I found some similar ones!”  and did not caption it “Please take this opportunity to direct your fatphobia (internalized or otherwise) at me.”

Sounds like maybe this person doesn’t “understand embracing plus size etc.” It’s ok to choose to wear clothes based on whatever your reasons might be.  It’s ok to dislike someone’s outfit, but there’s really no need to say (or write) it out loud, unless you feel that it’s important for you to vocally police other fat people who refuse to bow to the strictures of diet culture and/or choose to dress differently than you.

If someone’s outfit makes us feel uncomfortable, that might be a good indicator that it’s time for some self-work, not a Facebook comment. Either way, if someone doesn’t ask for our negative opinion about their outfit, there is literally no good reason in the world for us to give it.

It looks so unattractive.

Again, if we don’t like it, we should feel free not to wear it, but let’s not pretend that we are the arbiters of what is and is not attractive.  And let’s not forget that “attractive” is another coded word that, when used about fat people, all-too-often means  “slimming” or “making one look as tall and thin as possible.”  What is and is not attractive is subjective, so unless there is a ceremony appointing us the judge of attractiveness (and if there is, I would hold out for a glittery gavel) our opinion of what is attractive is a great way for us to decide what to wear, and has nothing to do with what other people wear.

But I suppose as long as she’s comfortable and happy that is all that matters.

Note that the person feels free to criticize the outfit and call it “unattractive” as if that is fact,  but couches this – the only factual statement in the bunch – with “I suppose…”

If the commenter understands this – and I sincerely hope they do –  then they should also understand that there was no point to voicing the rest of the comment, other than to put another fat person down in the service of fatphobia, which is the last thing that we need.

It’s difficult to live in a fatphobic society, and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of fatphobia (including internalized fatphobia.) So here’s one concrete action we can take:  if we see a fat person wearing an outfit we don’t like, it’s perfectly fine to decide that it’s not to our taste, it’s perfectly fine to take a pass on wearing it, but we can also choose to keep our negative thoughts to ourselves, thereby making sure that we don’t add to the epic load of fatphobic BS that we have to deal with already.

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6 thoughts on “Fashion for Good and Evil

  1. This made me think of the movie “Gentleman’s Agreement,” with Gregory Peck as an undercover journalist, who pretends to be Jewish in order to expose the anti-semitism in his area.

    His character met a young Jewish woman, who expressed her own internalized anti-Semitism (basically hating herself and calling herself slurs, and telling herself that she is the awful stereotype). I didn’t get it at the time I first saw it, as a teen. Now, though, I get it. When you’ve been steeped in any sort of hatred long enough, it sinks into your soul, and you start hating yourself, just as much as everyone else hates you.

    This came out in 1947, so even then, they understood the concept of internalized bigotry.

    Can we get a remake for fat people? Hmmm, I suppose the undercover journalist would have to put on a fat suit, and we know how problematic that is. Same old issue – people won’t believe the oppressed person, but will believe a non-oppressed ally, saying the exact same thing.

    As for the outfit, the only time it’s appropriate to say, “That outfit makes me feel uncomfortable” is if it looks downright painful and/or dangerous (You shoe manufacturers know what I mean), and you feel sympathetic shooting pains, just looking at it. I know a woman who broke her ankle, falling off her shoe. Sure, she looked great, but…

    It’s still her own business, though, and if she has good enough balance, and is careful where and how she walks, it’s her own affair. If her feet are shaped properly for the shoe (as opposed to shoe manufacturers making shoes shaped properly for the foot – ARE YOU LISTENING, MANUFACTURERS?!), well, if it doesn’t hurt HER feet, then my feelings looking at it are completely immaterial.

    If it does hurt her feet, but she chooses to wear painful footwear, in the name of looking good, I can be sympathetic, and maybe choose to look elsewhere, so I don’t get those sympathetic shooting pains, but it’s still HER business, so really, there’s just no POINT in saying anything negative about the outfit, to her, anyway. Maybe say something to the person wondering why you are limping and averting your gaze, all of a sudden…

    Note – this outfit does not make me uncomfortable. I can’t see the heels from this angle, but everything actually looks pretty comfy and safe, to me.

  2. Those are some pretty snazzy boots, I can see why folks would ask after them.

    I’m pretty sure the woman wearing them is perfectly capable of deciding if they are too tight for her or not.

    Looking at them, I’m going to hazard a guess that they will not be wide enough for my feet, which makes me jealous of her (unless she’s just putting up with pain or discomfort, in which case, i want to hug her and tell her not to hurt her feet) and I think her outfit looks great.

    But really, she hasn’t asked my opinion on her outfit, so it’s a moot point.

    But yeah, I looked for some pants online yesterday, and most of what I found was black with tummy control. Ick. Or a really bright red. Which won’t go with most of my blouses. What about a nice gray or brown? I like those colors too, and they are good with my blouses.

    And tummy control? What happens to the top half of my fat tummy if the lower half is controlled? Muffin top? Not my personal style choice.

    Any way, yeah, internalized fat phobia, I still fight with it. I have managed to stop judging people though. Except for Trump supporters. I’m judging those people.

  3. Awesome boots! AND beautiful fat thighs! It’s so nice to see girls and women with thighs like mine who aren’t afraid to show them. She looks adorable! 🙂 I’m happy to see photos like hers, of women of different shapes and sizes etc – we don’t get to see body diversity NEARLY enough. I hope it gives more “plus size” women the courage to be out there and posting pics and not being afraid to show their bodies. It really sucks that it takes courage to do that, that we are so beat down by society and bigotry that it takes actual courage to live our lives like thin women do.

  4. I went through a “don’t be a fat shamer, but fat people shouldn’t wear this” period on my journey to finally saying “fuck it” to what people think of my body or what I’m wearing on it. Those damn messages are hard to get rid of.

  5. Only comment I can make is that personally I’d wear tights with those boots (not nylons–I have never met a pair of nylons that lasted longer than a day) because otherwise the boots might stick or chafe. The outfit is awesome and if I had somewhere to wear it I would buy it right now.

  6. The boots look uncomfortable to me, because it looks like they cut into her thighs, but that just means I wouldn’t want to wear them personally (having lipoedema means my thighs are very sensitive to pain, hence “ouch, that looks painful”) – not that SHE shouldn’t wear them. Heck, they might be comfy as anything! You rock them boots, woman! 🙂

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