Learning to be Fat

This blog post was written for FatSewing club as a part of Me Made May 2020

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to disguise my fatness from the rest of the world. Of course, now I have realized that not only is it pointless (I am fat – it’s a fact and everyone can tell), I have also come to the point where I just don’t care who knows.

I’d like to share some of the things I used to do, for your reading enjoyment.

I used to shop at the same stores that my thin friends did. That meant Artizia (Canadians will know this is a store that goes to a size XXS but only an L and a small one at that), Mountain Equipment Co-op (outdoors store), and Lululemon. Of course, my size means I can’t fit into most of the things in those stores but there were a few styles that worked (ish) for me and so I would buy them, thinking this would make it seem like I could fit straight sizes. I squeezed into the design ease or took advantage of the fabric’s stretch. I spent money on coveted accessories – Frye boots, nice bags. I tried to hid my fatness behind these symbols of thinness.

I would pretend I didn’t shop at plus sized clothing stores. When I absolutely had to go to Additionelle (plus sized clothing store), I would actually park in front of a different store and furtively scuttle into the shop, making sure no one I knew was around. I wouldn’t accept a store bag, give my address (didn’t want mail from them to appear at my house), or buy anything that was their house brand except underwear (i.e. nothing that might make someone ask where it was from).

When my body would do “embarrassing” things, I would feign surprise or lie about what was happening. For example, once I was running shuttle runs with a friend and as I turned, my belly slapped against my thigh, making a fairly loud noise. She was surprised and asked what it was. Because I was mortified that my belly touched the top of my thigh, I lied and told her my hand hit my leg as I ran. I don’t think she bought it.

And so it continued. For years. Me believing that my body was weirdly shaped and that I was fooling people. And I certainly had reinforcement from people that it was imperative that I keep up this pretense. As my friends complained about not fitting the size 2 or XS properly…that a 4 was just “huge”, I would wonder with shame if they even had a comprehension of what size number I was. My own internalized fatphobia was real.

What was really missing in my life was representation of fat folks’ bodies. Real fat bodies. And especially fat bodies wearing clothes that I liked. I found it on sewing Instagram and the Curvy Sewing Collective. I came to the realization that the way extra flesh was deposited on my body was the same as on other people of size. I learned the term “shelf butt”.

I’d never sewn much for myself. When it was my job, I was typically sewing for runway models, actors, or other thin people. I was nervous. I was scared I’d make things too small and it would be depressing. But I jumped in and made it work. I figured out the shapes my patterns needed to be to fit my fat body.

I’m learning what I love to wear. What feels like me. For so long, I bought what fitted – both my body and my fatphobia. Now I’m able to choose exactly what I’d like to wear. I’ve made some garments that I don’t reach for and that’s ok. I’m behind in this regard because I only just began. And I am learning about my own intersectionality – race, size, sexuality. I have recently learned that I can wear yellow-based browns, having always been told they didn’t suit my Asian skin tone. Mustard is next to try.

The other day, a close friend told me she really liked the clothes I’d been wearing lately. She said that I’d always seemed uncomfortable and would be readjusting and pulling at them and now I seemed so much more comfortable and my clothes fit so much better. So, I suppose the only person I had been fooling was myself.