Fat, fit and fashionable? Not quite

In the last couple of weeks, Sam and Catherine have written about the no-buy project they started July 1. I joined in, because why not? I have been working on being a more aware consumer, looking at limiting my carbon footprint, and reducing waste, recyling more, and repurposing what and where I can.

I have so far stuck to my goal and made only two unplanned purchases. After I rolled my ankle pretty badly in August, I was advised to wear shoes with proper support for my active days. I ended up buying a pair of heavy duty walking shoes and a decent pair of workshop shoes. I was assured this was an acceptable exception.

Truth be told, the no-buy challenge has meant I haven’t bought shoes. Sure I bought two pairs as a result of my rolled ankle, but they were serviceable, not pretty. I really love shoes. It hasn’t escaped me while I am stuck with size limits when it comes to fashionable clothing, footwear doesn’t really discriminate against anyone. There’s no plus-size shoe section with dull colours. No one says you can’t wear a slingback if you are a size 18; no one has pronounced an edict against Lizzo for her fantastic heels.

My other unplanned purchase came on holiday. A friend took my mother and me shopping. I bought a top and my mom bought one for my birthday. I had a pang when I realized I had broken my no-buy pact but the fact is where I live it’s hard to buy nice clothes for the curvy body I have been blessed with and I was really happy to find something lovely that made me feel good when I wore it and didn’t cost me my first-born. I realized that often I buy clothing because it fits, it’s reasonable, and is available not because I feel good in it.

So when Sam shared this article about progress vis-a-vis curvy models and plus-size clothing, I was intrigued and puzzled. Apparently, there’s been a resurgence in fashion houses focusing on very sleek, lithe, very flat bodies with prominent ribs and pronounced abs. While there has been an increase in designer clothes offering plus sizes, they tend to stop at size 20, and the curvy models they have been showing on the catwalk are around size 12 or 14 (think Marilyn Monroe). Some chain stores like Old Navy have stopped carrying plus sizes in-store and online access has been challenging as well.

Haute couture has focused on how the fabric looks on the human body. It certainly can inspire and support innovation. However, we cannot ignore the fact that fashion’s extreme focus on thin, almost anorexic models has been a constant. What’s still most attractive, most acceptable, and most desirable are not rolls, folds, and soft bellies but sleek limbs with tight planes and angles.

We also know that in many spaces, training and fitness activities are not seen as a path to wellness but as the route to thinness. We may be seeing defined abs on the catwalk but with what effect? If only certain bodies can meet the criteria for what is fashionable, what does it mean for those bodies who do not? And by extension whose communities are represented and whose are ignored?

One of the things I really like about the article is that it recognizes the complexity of the issue. We need more conversations on what this means for fitness, body image, consumerism, and representation. We need more choices we can consciously buy into on multiple levels.


MarthaFitat55 is enjoying all the things she’s learning.

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