I am a shapely thing and by shapely I mean I have a shape. Round is a shape. I think at my smallest weight post-puberty I was maybe 180 lbs. I’m also only 5’1’’. But in all of that, I’ve always struggled with finding myself “empowered” by my body. I’ve never felt attractive or pretty in conventional senses and I feel the most “in my skin” when I’m in costume. So with the recent trend of “body positivity” I’ve been caught between a rock in a hard place. How does one stay true to who they are while also embracing positivity and not shaming anyone and not be shamed themselves?
I’m not one for crop tops. I’m not one for super short shorts. I dislike short skirts and dresses. I don’t like showing off my stomach and if I can hide my imperfections, I’m much happier in a one-piece swimsuit than a bikini: hell, I just recently started swimming in just the suit and not in a full t-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit. But with this lovely trend of “being body positive” and “ignore the haters” it’s been encouraged that women of all body shapes should wear whatever they want. And they should. If it makes them comfortable.
I love seeing big girls in crop tops and skinny girls in oversized t-shirts. I love seeing men in skirts and women in suits. Wear whatever the hell you want. But don’t feel like you have to compromise who you are. At the end of the day, I’m a relatively conservative dresser (even in costume be it male or female). As said before, I’m not comfortable showing off my midriff. So even though I think the girl on the boss rocking a crop top is fierce, it just isn’t my style. And I will never condone anyone shaming someone who feels comfortable in what they’re wearing. It’s difficult seeing plus-sized models rocking an outfit and being shamed online with some of the most hateful venom I’ve seen online. It’s disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is mentioning that it isn’t exactly my style to wear something so short and being told that I should just “loosen up” or “be more in tune with myself”. I am in tune with myself. And that means I don’t want to show the world my stretch marks.
Body positivity from what I’ve understood it means accepting who you are and I’m not ready to accept that I have zero torso and wide hips. I’m also getting older. I’m a Southern lady. There’s no excuse outside of a Truman Capote beach party that I as a person pushing 30 to wear a mesh crop top. No shame to the gents and gals at Pride rocking the same look, though. I’m short so that doesn’t mean that I want to wear heels that would make it easier for me to reach the dishes on the top shelf. But it comes from a legitimate place. Women’s bodies are hilariously (and by “hilarious” I mean it’s demeaning, cruel and disgusting that this is still a thing that happens in 2017) policed by mostly men and sometimes other women. Women are told not to wear certain things and they become the targets of criticism if they dress a certain way. And with such a history of being told what and how to wear things I get how bigger girls and guys can bristle at being told simply to lose weight or diet before wearing something. Fun fact, if it was that easy sometimes to lose weight I doubt obesity would be the problem it is in most of the developed world. And there are such a variety of body shapes that occasionally even relatively healthy people can be bigger in clothing sizes then you’d expect. Additionally, telling plus-sized models all the “health problems” that come along with being of size is just tragic at times. I am fully aware that my size puts me at risk for countless things, you know what the number one cause of mortality is? Being alive. If cheesecake shortens my life then viva la cheesecake.
But one thing I keep coming back to is there’s a difference between dressing for your body and dressing as you want. I can’t wear maxi dresses, I’m short, I look like someone threw fabric over me and left me to rot in a cloth coffin. Ill-fitting clothes, shorts that are too short and show me more of your business than you may expect and other moments when fashion fails you are somehow different from “policing bodies” as it is just “fashion knowledge”.
When I was younger, I loved What Not to Wear and I still love Project Runway. Fashion is important to me and knowing how to dress your body is vastly important: and it’s easy to be a feminist and still desire modesty. I don’t consider myself any less a feminist if I’m showing off my neckline than I do if I’m covered up. And what I wear to mass or a sacred place is vastly different than what I’d wear out with friends or even to convention. There are sometimes that certain pieces of clothing just aren’t appropriate and claiming “body positivity” isn’t helpful when it’s used to excuse inappropriate fashion choices. A flower crown may be great for Coachella but less than ideal for a job interview.
I mentioned cosplay earlier and it’s one I wanted to pick back up briefly. I started cosplaying many years ago and quickly felt uncomfortable as insert generic Japanese school girl costumes. So I found crossplay and made a mark cosplaying as male characters. I felt far more empowered bound and in pants then I ever did in a skimpy miko costume. Suddenly, if I was objectified, it was on my terms. Suddenly, I had control over how much skin I was showing. It wasn’t until I was much older that I felt comfortable cosplaying Fem! or female characters again but I did so my way. I don’t show a ton of skin. I keep my dresses and skirts long. I cover up. I wear tights and usually shorts under dresses. I pick alternate character costumes and the times that I do show off skin it’s for small photo shoots. And it’s my history with cosplay that made me so comfortable at times ignoring or augmenting clothing items. When you’re my height and weight it’s very difficult to buy anything off rack to tailoring, hemming and adjusting colors and seams became second nature. The additions or subtractions got to be fun signatures to me while also asserting that somewhere under the confused former punk turned prep aesthetic of my current wardrobe that there was something uniquely me in there somewhere.
The moral of the story is stay confident in what you want to wear. I leave the house plenty of times in a graphic t-shirt and a skirt or skinny jeans and I’m damn near 30. Tall girls, wear heels. Short girls, wear flats. Men, continue to slay the makeup game and contour better than me. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. And respect what others are wearing to make them feel comfortable. For so many people fashion and what you wear is so much more than just fabric. It’s an expression of gender identity. Of pride. Of what you love and what you stand for. And whether you’re out and proud or modest, be kind to each other and what their wearing. Each outfit tells a story and each story deserves to be told.