I read with some amusement the recent press release about a study finding that fat women actually do have sex.
Gasp!!! Who'da thunk it??!!??
They don't come right out and say it directly, but some of the subtext of the press release seems to be amazement that fat women are actually having sex, or perhaps even more amazingly to them, that there are men out there that want to have sex with fat women.
It's that same kind of reasoning that's been behind so many delays in the fashion industry for plus-sized women. They just don't seem to believe that fat chicks actually go on dates, go to the prom, get married, or have babies.
Bottom line, they seem to have difficulty believing that fat women have sex at all. Surprise!
The Plus-Size Fashion Vacuum
Because I'm middle-aged and grew up before the age of the internet, this plus-sized fashion vacuum hit me particularly hard, as I'm sure it did many others in the pre-internet days. [You young whippersnappers, you need to appreciate the wonders of having the internet as a resource!]
When I was in high school, I had a heck of a time finding nice clothes in my size, even though I was closer to "normal" sizes then (size 16 generally, sometimes an 18 or a 14).
My mom had to sew many of my clothes for me because most stores stopped then at size 12 or 14, and of the ones that went to a size 16......well, I just didn't fit their silhouette very well (too much of an hourglass instead of an apple).
I realize now it was a great act of love for her to sew for me like that (and what a blessing for me that she did know how to sew!), but her tastes and mine were not that close so it didn't always feel like a blessing. I really really wanted more fashionable clothes, stuff without polyester and elastic waists, you know?
I remember my shock and total disbelief my junior year when I actually found a prom-suitable gown in my size. I was thrilled. The clothing store employees kept throwing open the dressing room curtain to see if I was shoplifting because I stood there sooooo long, staring at myself in disbelief in the mirror. It was so beautiful, and I looked so good in it! You better believe I bought it!
Then I gained a bunch of weight in college (combination of undiagnosed hypothyroidism and PCOS, in which a strong weight gain in early adulthood is all too common) and it got even harder to find clothes in my size. I often resorted to running around in men's overalls because that's about all I could find in my size and non-existent price range. (They made clothing in larger sizes for MEN, but not for women, of course....but that's a whole 'nuther discussion!)
Yet imagine.....I still somehow managed to find a man anyhow, and we fell in love, overalls and all.
When Mr. WellRounded and I decided to get married, I went out to try and find a wedding gown......but there were none to be found in my size. Not ANYWHERE. Not in small towns, not in big towns, not even in a major metropolitan area.
I could go to a bridal store and hold up a dress against me and guess that it might look good on me and cross my fingers that when they were done it would fit me reasonably well......but I'd have to take a giant flying leap of faith and order it, pay for it, and then pray it actually worked. That seemed rather risky to me.
So I nixed that idea and contemplated getting married in my overalls. He loved me already in them, why not get married in 'em? Sadly, it looked like it might come down to that.
Finally, I decided, what the hell, it's my wedding, it's worth going into debt a bit. I hired my own seamstress, designed my own dress (neo-Victorian, thank you very much), and had it custom-made for me. I was back to having someone sew for me again, but at least this time I was calling the shots.
It worked out well but I was still ticked that I couldn't find anything in the stores, that I couldn't try out any designs ahead of time to see what worked best on my body, and that the fashion industry completely dismissed the needs of women of size at such an important moment of their lives. How dare they!?!
But the hardest part was yet to come.
The Plus-Sized Maternity Clothing Vacuum
Fast forward a few years, and Mr. WellRounded and I decided to have children. Took about a second to get pregnant despite dire predictions to the contrary (that's a whole 'nuther story too!).
So sooner than I began expecting, I went out looking for maternity clothes in my size....only to find that NONE existed. In fact, some clerks were openly hostile about having me in their maternity store at all. I remember going into a couple of them, only to have a clerk precipitously rush over to me and inform me that they didn't carry anything in "that" size in their store. When I asked them where I should go instead, they shrugged their shoulders and suggested buying a size larger in the plus-size stores.
They were really in a rush to get me out of their store; I think they didn't want to scare away the skinny women who might not want to be associated with a store selling "fat" clothes.
There was one clerk in one store that assured me that they had my size. Oh, my hopes were so high! I was beginning to panic about possibly needing to go naked during my pregnancy, and while I was pretty self-accepting, I wasn't too sure how the people at my job would feel about that!
She proudly hauled out one thing in an "XL" size (which generally fits about a 16/18, which I had long since left behind in teenagehood). Of course, it wasn't anywhere near suitable. She just assumed that an XL would fit anyone who was plus-sized. Ummmm, no!! There are different sizes of plus! So once again, I was without choices.
The long and the short of it is that I went through my entire first pregnancy without maternity clothes. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada.
How did I manage? Well, I did the only thing I could do. I went to the plus-sized stores (where I was already at the top of the size range, or close) and found the loosest clothes I could dig up, bought a few empire-waisted jumpers or trapeze tops, and then relied on loose-fitting tops and sweat pants with drawstrings I could loosen. Not the most professional-looking clothes for my job, but what else could I do? I had no other options.
By the end of the month eight, I was down to wearing 2-3 outfits, over and over and over again, each week the same exact clothes in order because I had so few choices. I was just lucky that I didn't have to work my last month (due to moving) because by then almost nothing fit....certainly nothing professional-looking. It was sweats and the biggest men's potbelly-friendly t-shirts I could find. It was really embarrassing.
That at least got me by to some degree for clothing, but I was really panicked about what I was going to do for nursing bras once the baby arrived. I could hardly find a regular bra in my cup size; how would I find one in an even larger cup size? With accessible flaps? OMG, I was really sweating that one.
I was lucky; a midwife at my doctor's practice had recently come across a brand-new business a few hundred miles away that specialized in hard-to-find nursing bra sizes. She had some flyers at the office and gave me one just before I moved. I was able to get some nursing bras in my size...miracle of miracles!.....just before I gave birth. Again it was by faith that the size would be right, because we had to do it all by mail....but at least I finally found something.
However, the humiliation of having to go through my entire pregnancy without maternity clothes really stayed with me. I knew I couldn't have been the only other plus-sized woman to have a baby in the history of the universe. Why wasn't someone, somewhere, addressing this?
I really caught on fire to try and change things and spread the word about the needs of plus-sized pregnant women.
It was shortly after this that the internet really started taking off, and I actually began to find a few companies here and there that did carry maternity clothes in my size. So I put together a FAQ on finding plus-sized maternity and nursing clothing.
I became active on the fat-acceptance bulletin boards, and would forward my FAQ when someone asked about maternity clothing for women of size. Within a short while, that got turned into my website, http://www.plus-size-pregnancy.org/, along with other information about being pregnant at larger sizes, and my particular niche of fat acceptance activism was born.
The plus-size maternity and nursing clothes FAQs are still there on my site, updated periodically (another update is due soon). Google makes it much easier to find such information these days, but it's still a good place to begin for someone just starting their maternity clothes search, or for women of size looking for more unusual maternity-related products like pregnancy support belts, birth balls that support larger sizes, nursing pillows that work for well-endowed women, nursing bras in unusual cup/band sizes, that sort of thing.
[I should probably mention that it's merely a clearinghouse for information on various vendors; I don't sell anything on the site whatsoever and I don't get kickbacks from any of the vendors in order to be listed there. It's a totally non-profit site.]
Still A Long Ways To Go
But while the internet has made a HUGE difference in finding clothing in larger sizes (including specialty stuff like wedding, costumes, and maternity), it still amazes me how many designer lines still don't design for us.
I think it all comes back to this idea that fat women don't have sex. Some folks in the fashion industry really seem to believe that fat women don't date, don't get married, and don't have babies.
Well, newsflash, designers!!! Fat women do date, we do get married, and we DO have babies. Yes, it's true.........fat women DO have sex!!!
Research even confirms this now, so maybe you can finally start believing it.
It's about time you designers and clothing store managers get on the stick and get more plus-sized choices out there.....for "regular" clothing, for fancy dress, for business wear, for weddings, for costumes, for athletic wear, and yes, for MATERNITY too!!!
Yes, fat women have babies too. And fancy that, we'd even like to have the option for maternity clothes for that time as well.
[Invitation to comments: If you have had a baby, how did YOU solve the maternity clothing issue? Was this pre- or post-internet?]
Note: It may take a couple of days for the comments to appear, but I'm very interested in your own experiences. Please do share.