Today I’m all about the curves. I’ve been putting off wearing this skirt because, well, it’s a little on the tight side. It shows off more of my shape than I would really like. And I’m very aware that if you are blessed with curves, with hips, with a sizeable rear, and you dress them up fitted style, you will always look more glamourous and sexualized than a slinky skinny type in the same get-up. It’s just a fact of life: put Marilyn and Audrey in identical 60s black shift dresses and one will look classic, elegant and demure while the other will look soft, sexy and possibly (as my Mum would say) “a bit common”. Neither can help it, it’s just what their body shape does to the dress in question.
But then I found Musings of a Fatshionista blog, and in particular, the below catwalk shots. And I thought, to hell with it! Because I felt such a lifting of spirit looking at these images, such a connection to the clothes. For the first time I looked at models on a catwalk and thought “Oh – I can look like that!” Followed by “And why shouldn’t I??”
Note: I’ve picked images that depict women whose shape I identify with.
There are more models of varying shapes and sizes over on Fatshionista’s blog.
If they can wear pencil skirts and bias cuts and floaty chiffon and look so good in them then why am I so ashamed of my shape? The experience really threw a spotlight onto my relationship with my body, with other people’s bodies, and with “fat”. Because – and this is a confession I am far from proud of, and aware might lose me a few readers – despite hating myself for it, I do look at random strangers’ lumps and bumps and think “that ruins the line of that” or “she’s too big to be wearing that” or, most painful to admit, “Ugh! She looks horrible!” I constantly compare myself to others, my internal monologue asking “Am I bigger than her?”, wondering “Is that what I look like from behind?” and stating “God, I hope I never get that big.” I am my own harshest critic, but I mentally criticize others as well – which makes me more critical of myself because, well, if I’m doing it, other people must be too!
(That paragraph was so difficult to compose! I had to go back several times and rewrite my thoughts into exactly what I think, rather than the cotton-wool-wrapped alternative I’d like you to believe of me. Honesty can be painful to write.)
I know this says more about my own state of mind, my own relationship with my body, than anything else. And what is hardest to admit is that it’s not a relationship based just on aesthetic. It infiltrates every aspect of my life, from public eating (“What will people think of me eating this chocolate bar? Will they think I’m fat because I’m unhappy and lonely? Will they think I have no self control?”) to work (“Will the interviewer think I’m lazy because I’m overweight? What about the other people at this networking event – what will they think if I have a cake instead of an apple? Will they think I can’t do my job because I’m too hung up on food?”) via the commute (“Oh god, there’s not enough seats on this train… what if people think they can’t sit next to me because I’m too fat? Let me tuck my coat in and my elbows and make sure I fit into my side of the seat… oh god, are they not sitting next to me because they think because I’m overweight I might smell sweaty?). In recent months I’ve considered signing up for online dating, but haven’t, partly for fear that meeting me in the flesh could potentially be so dishearteningly disappointing – for both parties. And as I walk down the street – and I walk FAST by most people’s standards – I will actually alter my breathing as I pass someone, trying to ensure that I don’t sound out of breath because, horror of horrors, they might hear me and think it’s because I’m so unfit. Which, and here’s the thing, I’m not! I could be fitter, yes, but I walk EVERYWHERE (I don’t drive, and as well as being too tight to pay for buses if I can walk, am afraid the bus driver will think I’m fat and lazy!). My relationship with my body affects every aspect of my life.
And I can’t be alone in feeling this way. I can’t be the only one carrying the extra load emotionally that comes with being overweight. I can’t be alone in worrying that my appearance will give people certain preconceived ideas about my health and mental state. I can’t be the only one who has actually started to believe the hype that if I were just a bit slimmer things would be better. Everything would be alright.
(Woah, this has turned into a therapy session!)
Getting back to the point, these images provided more than just a breath of fresh air. They provided hope. They provided inspiration. They gave me something to aspire to, to recreate, and to know I could emulate. Because they don’t look like the token plus size models sent down the runway to demonstrate the wearability of the catwalk collections. These girls look like they’re leading the revolution. They look amazing.