The challenges facing plus size fashion consumers are divisive and infuriating – sizing variations, lack of attention to detail, youthful pattern selections and most especially gendered imitations on products.
For fat individuals who reject gender norms, where do they begin to find clothes that validate their gender identity and experience as a fat person? Here at The Curvy Fashionista we want to center plus-size, non-binary and transgender voices in this conversation about accessible clothing for all, and that needs to include clothing beyond the binary.
Androgyny is defined as, “The combination of masculine and feminine characteristics into an ambiguous form.” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
While the true interpretation of the androgyny in clothing is ultimately up to the wearer themself, when we look at the fashion industry – specifically the fat fashion industry, androgyny becomes synonymous with boring, boxy, and undefined. It also becomes inseparable from whiteness and thinness, deemed the default of androgyny.
We interviewed three transgender and non-binary people that self-identify as fat and plus size, about their opinions on androgyny in fat fashion, their experience with shopping, and how they express their gender through clothing.
We’re sharing their responses in a two-part series! You can look for part two to go live in a few weeks, and thank you again to our interviewees for your contributions to this piece. Let’s dive in!
(Link to interviewees’ socials, shared with permission, are at the end of the article).
Liz (they/them): How would you describe yourself, in regards to your gender, and the style of clothes you enjoy wearing?
Megan (any pronouns): “I am a genderfluid fattie. I consider myself part of the trans community since I no longer identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. Through my gender discovery process, I have changed up my style expression to better fit my gender. A lot of that is masculine and unisex pieces, mixed with some femme pieces, because, let’s face it, I have boobs, hips, thighs, and ass that “men’s” clothing lacks space for. I will always have a vintage influence because I love that fashion is cyclical and personal; you are able to choose what you like and chances are it will come back into trend sooner or later. Oh, and crop tops are life.”
Ollie (they/them): “I would describe myself as a nonbinary butch lesbian–one of my favorite ways I’ve heard it described is “I am not a woman, I am a lesbian.” The way I’d describe my general fashion sense would be “timeless butch,” my favorite basic outfit is usually cuffed jeans with a belt, buttondown shirts with rolled sleeves, sneakers, and a watch.”
Lori (they/them): “I am nonbinary, and sometimes femme, but typically dress more masculine. For my personal style, I love graphic tees and wearing open button ups. I tend to wear clothes that are more masculine because I am often perceived as feminine. Fatness plays a huge role into being perceived as feminine when in reality I don’t subscribe to femininity very often. I would describe my style as a cleaned up grunge look, no crust pants, not really punk. Mostly “don’t give a fuck” and wearing what’s comfortable, probably soft punk at most.”
Liz: Where do you shop for clothes?
Megan: “Macy’s. I do a lot of shopping at Macy’s. I find great deals on Calvin Klein suit separates there, as well as Levi’s jeans. They also carry Nike and Puma, which are my two favorite sneaker brands. Nike has a great plus size activewear line, too. I also shop at Zelie For She for leisure loungewear.
And Eloquii is quickly becoming another place I get denim, their bell-bottoms are amazing, and their loungewear when it’s on sale. Old Navy is my secret weapon for sweaters, I can wear their straight-size XXL very well. SmartGlamour is always on my radar for all sorts of things because they offer a lot of options in a fantastic size range – everything is XXS-15X and with custom sizing available as well. I may talk trash about unisex boxy tees, but I’m going to be honest and tell you that I still love them and they make great crop tops. I will shop for a unisex tee just about anywhere and I love graphic tees. They never go out of style.”
Ollie: “For new clothes, which I try to buy sparingly, I have had good luck with Old Navy for jeans in particular, and my favorite button-downs are from American Eagle and Target. I know these are pretty basic, and none of them are very ethical companies, but it’s what I can afford. Apart from those, I try to thrift when I can; Goodwill, eBay for specialty clothes and accessories, and I’ve found some serious gems on Poshmark in the past.”
“I think it’s important to keep your mind open to different options in all different gender sections when shopping.”Lori
Lori: “I do a lot of online shopping with Wicked Apparel for their graphic t-shirts and sweatshirts. They also have these great ringer-tees, I love them because they have a super cute collar and the sleeves have a seam on them and I usually size down because they run large. Their standard t-shirts and hoodies generally run true to size. Torrid is another one I shop all the time, for undergarments and they’re the only ones with jeans that fit me really well – specifically the sky high waisted jeans. I also thrift when I can but it’s a pretty limited selection in my area. That’s where I get clothes to layer with and find my button-up tops.
When it comes to shopping in general, clothing that fits well for fat folks in the men’s sections is almost impossible. I shop in the women’s section for items to alter or change, but I mostly shop in the men’s section for everything else. I don’t wear dresses or skirts often, but I sometimes stop to look in the women’s sections. I think it’s important to keep your mind open to different options in all different gender sections when shopping.”
Stay tuned for part II of this series to hear from these folks about their advice on how to shop, and what androgyny in fat fashion means to them!
Follow these folks on social media!
Ollie: Twitter @nouveaubutch!
This article and source material have been edited for clarity and for length.