Erin Marie

If we don’t owe pretty to anyone, why are we fatshionistas?

Recently I was hugely inspired by Erin at A Dress A Day and her amazing post entitled “You Don’t Have to Be Pretty”.

In particular, the following quote has been making the rounds on Tumblr, and it totally revolutionised the way I see dressing myself, and putting on make-up and generally getting all fanced up.

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

Now I don’t know about you, but this was pretty revolutionary for me.  I’ve always been the fat girl, all I have is my ‘pretty face’, which means that since I was old enough to be allowed to own make-up, I’ve been putting on make-up to make my face pretty for every opportunity at which people would be able to comment on my pretty face.  Which let’s face it, is pretty much all of life.

But this makes sense to me.  I’ve known for a long time that the reason I wear make-up is to impress people.  For example, in a work context, women who wear make-up are thought to be less professional than their female colleagues who do wear make-up, and their male colleagues in general.  When I go out it’s to attract men.  When it’s with my friends it’s to get compliments and look nice in photos.  Very rarely was it about me wanting to look nice because that’s what I wanted.  In fact, I can’t count the times that I put on make-up in the sweltering heat even though I really didn’t want to, because that’s what people expected.  Or when I just wanted to duck out to the shops but put on a bit of eyeliner and mascara ‘just in case’.  Hell, for my 25th birthday I wore a full coat of foundation with eyeliner and waterproof mascara to go to Dreamworld for the day.

So I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t owe pretty to anyone. I’ve even come to terms with the other revolutionary idea put forward by a few fatshionistas about rejecting the notion of the flattering outfit, such as in this post by Natalie.  I still instinctively go for the outfits that show off my boobs and narrow waist, but hell – my boobs are amazing and I like my narrow waist!  Importantly though, I’m becoming less attached to sleeves to cover my batwings every day, and on several occasions I have worn skirts, dresses and even shorts that are above my knee!

But if it’s the case that I don’t owe pretty to anyone, and that flattering outfits aren’t important, why is owning fabulous clothes to put on my body so important to me?  To us all?

I’d like to think it’s because I like to look nice.  I really enjoy beautiful clothes.  That blue dress that I wore to my friends wedding – it is the most amazing thing I have ever owned and unless I find something better, I would like to be buried in it.  I’d like to think that the only reason I spend hours online looking for fabulous clothes, measuring myself to make sure I’ll fit into things I’m ordering from overseas and braving malicious sales people in mortar and brick stores is because beautiful clothes help me feel good about myself.

But I know that’s not entirely true.

I know another reason I’m looking for great clothes that make me look great is to give the forks to all the people who think that fat people can’t look fashionable.  I know it’s for the look of surprise when I show up to an event looking even more ravishing than my conventionally beautiful and more sought after friends.

I know it’s because I want to look pretty, because I think that’s what I’m supposed to do.

Maybe everyone else out there has it together already, and is doing it because they like clothes, but deep down I know I’m doing it to fit in with the rest of society.  It’s not just a big “F- You” to the world, on some levels it’s also a very meek and shy “Look at me, I fit in, I look just like you, please don’t make fun of me anymore.’

And you know what?  Neither of those are okay.  I shouldn’t have to give the forks to the world to make a point about finding clothes that fit my body and look good (according to whatever the fashion standards of the minute are).  Nor should I want or need to fit in with everyone else, and fear being ridiculed if I am not.

As a result of the influence of people like Erin and Natalie (and countless others), I now ask myself WHY I’m putting on make-up, and whether it’s really important if that dress doesn’t totally flatter my figure if I feel fabulous in it.  But I still wonder how much of what I do is in order to bend to the dictates of society, and how much is just because I like being pretty.

I’m still just a baby in the world of FA, and I have lots to learn about fashion and fatshion.  Maybe you could tell me – why are YOU into fatshion?  Is it really possible to want to look good for any reason other than to live up to society’s expectations of what people should look like?

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  • http://loveashley.net Ashley

    It’s great that you have come to this realization. I did a while ago, that I am not obligated to look pretty for anyone. Some days I dress up and put on makeup. Some days I don’t. It just depends on how I feel that day.

  • Cgwenn

    I owe pretty/sexy/chic to ME! When I look in the mirror, nothing matters except that I absolutely LOVE the image that looks back. Same reason for going to the hairdresser, whitening my teeth, buying a new dress, etc. It’s GOTTA be for you first; if anyone else likes it, that’s nice, too. If no one else does? Sod ‘em!

  • Anonymous

    I spent many years thinking I was too fat to look good. I dressed to hide my shape. When I let go of that, I got into pretty clothes, because to me dressing well is a big FU to the cultural voices that say fatties can’t look good. I don’t necessary identify with fatshionista, just because I don’t follow fashion or necessarily want to wear what’s in style, but I like to look good and wear clothes that look good on me. To dress well is a liberation for me, because I have the power to choose it.

  • Mulberry

    Is it really possible to want to look good for any reason other than to live up to society’s expectations of what people should look like?

    In my opinion, no. We learn from a very early age that certain types of clothing are meant for certain occasions. We balance personal desires against social penalties. Looking pretty is not an obligation, but we get treated better if we do (even by ourselves, which is why many of us enjoy doing it) The bottom line is how you answer the question, Is it wirth the trouble?

  • Mulberry

    Is it really possible to want to look good for any reason other than to live up to society’s expectations of what people should look like?

    In my opinion, no. We learn from a very early age that certain types of clothing are meant for certain occasions. We balance personal desires against social penalties. Looking pretty is not an obligation, but we get treated better if we do (even by ourselves, which is why many of us enjoy doing it) The bottom line is how you answer the question, Is it wirth the trouble?

  • Anonymous

    As others have commented, when I dress to look good, that “good” is meeing my own standards, not anyone else’s. It’s presenting myself the way I want to present myself, it’s crafting my image to meet the one I envisioned. That image can change from day to day, and may or may not meet what society has deemed currently acceptable.

    Fatshion has helped me in this goal by giving me external images and non-traditional silhouettes to look at and evaluate for myself (note: I’m not telling anyone else what does or doesn’t look good on them – you gotta rock your own world – but I’ve decided I just don’t want to look like how some styles look on me).

    If clothes make you feel fabulous, they’re almost certainly going to look better on you than something that “flatters your figure” but makes you feel like moldy leftovers in the back of the fridge. It’s a body language thing – if you don’t like the outfit, you’re just not going to own it, and it shows.

  • Anonymous

    As others have commented, when I dress to look good, that “good” is meeing my own standards, not anyone else’s. It’s presenting myself the way I want to present myself, it’s crafting my image to meet the one I envisioned. That image can change from day to day, and may or may not meet what society has deemed currently acceptable.

    Fatshion has helped me in this goal by giving me external images and non-traditional silhouettes to look at and evaluate for myself (note: I’m not telling anyone else what does or doesn’t look good on them – you gotta rock your own world – but I’ve decided I just don’t want to look like how some styles look on me).

    If clothes make you feel fabulous, they’re almost certainly going to look better on you than something that “flatters your figure” but makes you feel like moldy leftovers in the back of the fridge. It’s a body language thing – if you don’t like the outfit, you’re just not going to own it, and it shows.

  • JeninCanada

    I’ve never worn makeup on a daily basis; I was a tomboy through much of gradeschool and highschool and even for my graduation, various weddings and funerals, only put on a bit of lipstick, mascara and eyeshadow. I’m lucky to have unblemished skin (if it is a bit shiny). I think, for me, I just decided when I was young that I wasn’t pretty so why bother? Compared to my best friends (a boy younger than me and a conventionally very beautiful blonde who was a year older), what was the point? It does feel good to dress up now and then, to more fully occupy that space known as female, but it always feels like exactly that; playing dress up. I’m more than happy to slip back into jeans and a t-shirt with running shoes after a few hours in a skirt or dress and heels.

  • JeninCanada

    I’ve never worn makeup on a daily basis; I was a tomboy through much of gradeschool and highschool and even for my graduation, various weddings and funerals, only put on a bit of lipstick, mascara and eyeshadow. I’m lucky to have unblemished skin (if it is a bit shiny). I think, for me, I just decided when I was young that I wasn’t pretty so why bother? Compared to my best friends (a boy younger than me and a conventionally very beautiful blonde who was a year older), what was the point? It does feel good to dress up now and then, to more fully occupy that space known as female, but it always feels like exactly that; playing dress up. I’m more than happy to slip back into jeans and a t-shirt with running shoes after a few hours in a skirt or dress and heels.

  • http://andtheycalledmefreak.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-to-look-good-naked-so-long-as-you.html Kristin Craig Lai

    That is why I hate “What Not To Wear.” They tell women how they should look, they tell us that we are required to “look great” no matter where, no matter what and they through out your sweat pants! I love finding clothes that truly express my style (challenging even when I wasn’t fat) but I also enjoy having shlubby days. Sometimes I want to feel like a hot rocker chick, sometimes I want to feel like a shit kicker and sometimes I want to feel like I’m in pajamas all day.

    It can be really hard, if not impossible, to parse out what you’re doing for yourself and what you’re doing because “that’s what women are supposed to do.” Mostly you wind up creating some kind of mash-up of the two. So I shave my legs but not my pits, I wear make-up but only when the mood strikes me, and I catch myself asking “does this top work with these pants?” more than I’d like to admit but all that really matters is that you keep on thinking about why you do what you do. As long as you’re willing to ask yourself the tough questions you can’t help but move forward.

  • Prplvenus48220

    Sometimes for me looking good is a transgressive act. With all the bullshit about how fat people are evil selfish space taking maniacs I want to be just that and in spades. I want my dress to be a statement of who I am and a giant f you to the world who thinks I need to just disappear (literally and figuratively). I also dress to be a shout out to my fat sisters who are afraid to be fun in their clothes, afraid to show off that skin, afraid to be other than a pale lady in waiting to the imaginary thin person they want to be one day. I hope by my clothing and appearance I can make them think that perhaps they too can wear fun clothes, and screw the baggy hide my fat shame sacks.
    Oh and by the way I adore you and your blog!

  • http://twitter.com/Fatheffalump Fat Heffalump

    I found this quote on Tumblr that I really love, about dressing up and performing fashion:

    “I think there’s a misconception that people who dress up all the time do it for the acceptance or attention of others. I, like many others I know are living examples that this misconception is pure bullshit. People like me do not live to please you nor do we need your attention. God forbid we love ourselves enough to please ourselves by grooming and dressing ourselves nicely. God forbid we treat fashion as an art form. Would you like us better if we looked and felt more like you?”
    — V.V (via vintagevandalizm)

    This is my new philosophy on why I dress up – it says it better than I ever could!

  • http://randomette.blogspot.com Erin Marie

    Aww, thanks so much. :)

  • Alexie

    After years of denying myself and avoiding buying clothes because the mirrors in the change rooms upset me, I am now right into clothes – and I wish I’d done it earlier! Clothes are, like it or not, a statement about who we are. That goes for everybody, not just women. When I was refusing to acknowledge that, I was letting myself become wall paper. By not cultivating my image, I was flagging that people shouldn’t take me seriously. Now, when I get dressed up, it feels like a suit of armour is going on. My best clothes make me feel formidable and not to be messed with. I walk taller when my clothes are great. It’s not even about money and expense – it’s about polished shoes and ironed trousers. There’s been a pay off, too. I get taken more seriously at work and have been offered more speaking engagements.

    Clothing isn’t just about sexuality. It’s a type of plumage, that signals a lot about you to other people. That needs to be respected and taken seriously – but it doesn’t mean you have to dress/make up to be pretty and sexy. You can dress up to be a force to be reckoned with.

  • http://twitter.com/NattieNell NattieNell

    I dress up because for many years I didn’t believe I deserved to look pretty. It isn’t about other people, it is about the fact that I finally realise that I am valuable and I deserve to feel pretty if I want to.

  • Julie

    I love looking beautiful. I feel sexy, enjoy makeup, and love adorning myself as the queen that I am. :) Seriously. I work at a job where some people just frump out. I don’t owe pretty to anyone external, but I feel that I owe pretty to myself. Because fatphobia in this culture is strong, and I’m putting myself forward without that concern, with more concern to just love self, just as I am, hot and fat. :)

  • Patti

    i’ve always loved beautiful fabrics and beautiful colours.
    clothing is simply another way to get more of those things into my life.
    beautiful clothes and a bit of lipstick make me happy.
    it isn’t about anyone else.

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