Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fashion Newsflash: Fat Women Actually Have Sex!

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,, 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.


Rebekah Costello said...

I LOVED This post. Really. Heart heart heart!!!

For my first pregnancy I had *one* maternity shirt that a friend bought me that was totally too small by the end. Actually, no, pardon me, I had two, one of them was given to me by a woman that was much larger than me (but it at least fit my boobs!). It was button-down, though, so by the end, the buttons were pulling apart in the front. I just...wore sweat pants and my husband's t-shirts. This was post-internet days, of course. The few companies that make maternity clothes I'm interested in wearing (sorry, fat people also don't necessarily like dressing like they are 80yrs old, and NO WE ARE NOT ALL 7 FEET TALL!!) wanted so much money for a stinking SHIRT it choked me.

I fared a bit better with my second pregnancy, though I'm broke enough that I still re-cycled the same outfits over and over again because, again, I don't spend $50 on regular shirts, I'm certainly not going to do so for a shirt I'll only need for a few months every couple of years, if that. Yeh.

Lisa H. said...

>>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??!!??

This cracks me up since there has been so much talk in the media & in the OB world about how women having babies are HEAVIER. THAN. EVER.

Um, how do they think we are getting pregnant in the first place. Yep, we're having sex. Shhhhhh....

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm wellrounded, too!

During my pregnancy, I was wearing a size 18-20 at the start, but I already had clothes in my own closet that went up to a size 24 (I'm so glad I never took that advice to get rid of my clothes that were too big). I did buy a pair of jeans at Motherhood Maternity. I didn't really buy any other maternity clothes.
If I get pregnant again soon, I'll just have to see how big I get -- to see if I'll need other clothes than what I've got in my own closet. I didn't need too many very professional clothes later in my pregnancy but I had several things that worked well.
I was really cold during most of my pregnancy (this time I would be continuing my thyroid medication, so that might help) but if I were really hot, I don't know what I would do -- most of my larger clothes are for cold weather.

I love your blog, by the way, and it's a relief to know there's a resource for me during a second pregnancy. I would love it if you would blog about managing pre-existing diabetes during pregnancy. I'm very lucky to have a good team this time if/when I get pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

You young whippersnappers, you need to appreciate the wonders of having the internet as a resource!

I do!! Don't worry!

in which a strong weight gain in early adulthood is all too common

Is that for PCOS or hypothyroidism? Or the combination? Because I'm 26 and have pretty much doubled my body weight since high school and I'm starting to think there might be a medical issue.

bellygirl said...

this post hit's so close to home! w/ my 1st i didn't have any maternity clothes either. thankfully i didn't need to look professional, and i was living in some sort of 1st pregnancy bliss and didn't really care. like you, i had a mother who could sew and she made me a few things. everything else was just regular clothes, which were also hard to find. but i look back at those pics and am completely embarassed. i can't believe how silly looked and that it didn't really bother me. ah well, at least i was happy in the moment. i've had 3 pregnancies and i have only ever owned 1 piece of maternity clothes, a shirt. i think i might have had a couple of nursing bras, but that was it.

i also had a hard time w/ a wedding dress. i ordered the biggest size they had and when it came the owner tailored it to me.

in my area they now have plus size shops that sell maternity clothes, good for all the plus size moms who are now having babies:)

About this blog said...

I love the brutal honesty of your post! More big beautiful women need to stand up for their right to have feminine, affordable and fashionable clothes!

Completely understand the whole maternity lingerie thing too! I was already a 36G pre-pregnancy and as my local store obviously thought I was some kind of mutant (guess what they didn't stock anything over a DD - due to 'customer demand) so how in hell was I supposed to find a bra to fit my new curves?

You guessed it - the internet and my trusty measuring tape were what I relied on. Then I talked to other pregnant women and - you guessed it - I'm not a mutant after all - I'm NORMAL. A bunch of us marched down to the local store - full of good old preggie hormones - and suggested that they knew diddly about 'customer demand'.

It was a fun day!

Thanks for making me laugh and cry!

Anonymous said...

I buy maternity clothes online. I'm in 2X things right now, and was excited to see that Old Navy had some maternity clothes that were actually kinda cute in 2x. But of course they're only available online, no trying things on to see how they look. And if they don't fit, you can't return them to the store, you can only return them through the mail as well. So I ordered when things were on sale, and had to wait and hope. I was so excited to have some cute maternity clothes--as soon as I put them on I got tons of compliments on my pregnant belly. When you're just wearing clothes that are too big for you, just to give your belly room, people just think you're gaining more weight. Maternity clothes do make a difference in how you look and feel, how you're perceived by others. This is my 4th pregnancy, and I've been different sizes for each, so the clothing issue has been a problem each time. Oh, but for some reason they think that when you are overweight your collar bones widen. The neck openings on most of these shirts are so wide that the shirts fall off my shoulders. So I'm working on ways to alter them so that I can actually wear them--right now I just have them safety pinned in strategic places.

Well-Rounded Mama said...


Yes, it is common for women with PCOS to have a large weight gain in late teens/early 20s. I don't know that studies have documented this (or even examined the question) but anecdotally I know many women with PCOS talk about it.

Could also have something to do with hypothyroidism, since many women with PCOS also have borderline hypothyroidism...not the obvious kind, where the numbers are clearly abnormal, but the borderline kind where you have significant symptoms but your numbers are normal or close to it.

I had both PCOS and undiagnosed hypothyroidism so I had a double-whammy. Gained about a hundred pounds in the space of 4-5 years. Yo-yo dieting also played a role in potentiating this weight gain. I did everything I could to try and stop it or reverse it and nothing helped.

If you suspect you have something like this going on with you, please research PCOS in more depth and see if any of it seems to fit you, then see a PCOS-friendly doc to get some testing done. Include thyroid tests as well, and know your exact results and the scale that was used to determine "normal."

Some women find a lot of help from exercise and watching their carb intake (not dieting, just watching carb intake), others from taking metformin, others from using herbs and/or acupuncture, etc.

Best wishes to you......

Anonymous said...

i really loved this post! i remember when a well-meaning friend gave me her maternity clothes with my first pregnancy, she was maybe a 4-5 pre pregnancy (i was a 10-12 and growing) too funny. i later discovered the Indian cotton skirts and big shirts for the remaining 2. i still found very little (that i could afford) in 2002-2003 post internet.

Evan and Clover and Co. said...

I don't know if anyone will ever see this comment because it's on an old post, but I just had to talk about my experience with maternity clothes. I've had three kids, but my middle baby was extremely premature-- I didn't wear maternity clothes at all. The other two were horrible. Like someone said, it is NOT a compliment for people to say, "Oh, you don't look pregnant!" I got by with jumpers stretched tight over my belly for the first baby. By the third baby, I was heavy enough I was out of those jumpers. My sister made me some dresses, but even that is a nightmare. Try finding dress patterns that actually fit plus-size woman, let alone pregnant plus-size woman. I muddled through with a few homemade pieces. I did buy one jeanskirt at Motherhood Maternity, but it was too uncomfortable for the last month. I did find one 3X maternity shirt at J.C. Penney's I did love. It was a summer shirt, though, and my baby was due in March, so I got to feel cute and pregnant in it for about a month. My husband kept looking for clothes to buy me, he couldn't believe that NOBODY out there makes plus size maternity clothes. Yeah, some people do have a few outfits up to 3X. And I do mean a few. I agree with the commenter who asked WHY they have such wide necks?? Everything is sleeveless, or low-cut to the point of ridiculousness. I'm fine with showing a tad of cleavage, but I also want to be warm in the winter, and not show off way more skin than I'm comfortable with. Ugh. The whole thing just makes me say "Ugh." If we go for baby number #4, I am going to try to augment my sewing ability (first tried sewing when I was helping my sister make the last maternity outfits!) to just try my own. I cannot believe no one out there even tries to make clothes for 4X or larger people.

Okay, guess you hit a nerve with me!! :-)

Gina said...

I'm pregnant now, and so are a few friends of mine. But they're all looking at the designer stuff at Pea In The Pod and gushing over wearing Tory Burch tunics and DVF maternity stuff.
I'm feeling rather left out; it appears my options are t-shirts and the occasional crewneck sweater. Being fashionable and fat was a challenge before I got knocked up; now it's apparently an impossibility. All the books and sites on maternity wear seem to just stop at size 10.
Or maybe this is the universe's way of telling me that I'm not supposed to be cute anymore; i can't tell.

Anonymous said...

I have had all my children from 2005 and onwards so I have been blessed with the internet. for pregnancy clothing I wore motherhood maternity jeans and khakis a 1x fit me when I was a 16 and a 2x fit me when I was around an 18-20 but they are expensive so I shopped clearance and bought one pair of jeans, khakis, and black pants to last me my whole pregnancy. I just washed clothes a lot. for tops I shopped at lane bryant mostly just sizing up and looking for billowy tops that looked long. I also did things like gaucho pants made of jersey knit.....even at 5'10 and 300lb.s an xl from target had more than enough stretch to accomodate my belly. jersey knits were my best friend in pregnancies.

Brenda said...

In 1977,there weren't any wedding or maternity clothes for me(over 300)I had to make my own. No bras for nursing The ideas that fat women had sex, wanted to be married, have children, nurse their babies , raise children were all not thinkable by society. Fat women are not suppose to live until they are no longer contagious th the thin ones.