Illustration by Amanda Lockridge

 

I remember the first time I looked in a mirror and felt confidence in my appearance.

It was strange and terrifying for me. I think it was a very intense moment for my fourteen year old self. A lifetime of ill-fitting shirts and shorts suddenly traded in for a skirt. I remember exactly what was going through my mind, standing in front of a mirror, eyes focused intently on the patterned skirt I was wearing.

“I’m fat.”

Of course, the thought wasn’t unusual. It’s a thought that I, a plus-sized person, had been consumed with every waking moment, every day I saw a fashion advertisement and gazed upon women who were in complete juxtaposition of my own appearance. It was demoralizing, to say the least. Growing up fat had always taken a toll on how I dressed, how I ended up presenting myself to people. I spent years and years dressing in a way that hid my stomach and tried to draw attention away from my body. T-shirts, shorts. These clothes were comfortable, basic, hid my body away from any eye that wanted to laugh at my physical appearance. Fashion was my enemy.

Then I put on a skirt for the first time since I was small. It was both thrilling and terrifying for me, to wear something I had cast aside before. I remember thinking to myself, “take it off and just wear shorts.” But I had determination to feel good about what I was wearing. I had determination to look at myself and believe, even just for a moment, that fat girls can wear cute skirts just like thin girls could. I think the phrase “fake it until you make it” comes to mind even now. There’s a lot of truth in that statement. One skirt turned into many. My closet is full of crop tops and dresses and every other piece of clothing that I find stylish. I used to dread shopping, but now it’s something I love to do. I love drawing my OOTDs, going to places dressed the way I want to. It took years of thinking “I could never dress cute,” to realize I could–and realize how much I love it.

Fashion is empowering, and I think when you’re plus-sized you tend to forget that. The number of department stores, magazines, and advertisements that cater to us is depressing, to say the least. It’s a problem we need to examine carefully as a society, and consider the way we’re marketing fashion to all the plus-sized girls out there, who probably look in the mirror every day and believe the same things I did. Being fat was always something difficult to come to terms with, because the word “fat” had always been connotated with the negatives. Never before had I looked at the word “fat” and found the positives. You really, really have to work to find the positives, to stop letting “fat” strip you of your power, to stop letting it be your weakness and instead let it be your strength. It takes a long time do that.

Despite the difficulties of this, I never find myself feeling discouraged by fashion anymore. I’ve learned to stop believing that fashion couldn’t work for me, that I could keep up with the latest trends and feel good in my own skin because the only thing bringing me down was looking everywhere besides myself. I’ve learned to embrace being plus-sized, embrace my own beauty and find confidence in the way I dress because I now refuse to let people tell me I can’t have beauty and fashion as a fat girl. Conventional beauty standards like to look upon fat girls and tells us we can either be fat or be beautiful, but we can’t have both. And it was always terrifying, to be a fat girl and stand in a department store, scouring the racks for anything that was a size 2XL. And it took years, but I’ve finally convinced myself of two things:

I am fat.

I am beautiful.