When it comes to fashion, vintage is my particular poison and has been ever since I discovered eBay 10 years ago. Nothing compares to the lure of vintage clothing -- the meticulous attention detail, the gorgeous fabrics, their unique beauty that is rarely present in modern day garments.
I love clothes with history, clothes with a past and I don't begrudge the additional level of care that is usually required for their upkeep. I love the varying styles through the decades, I love how I can go from 40s primness to beat chic to mod anytime I wish.
Dressing up has always been a narrative for me and I love creating characters and telling stories with my clothes. I curate my wardrobe to reflect this, not just with vintage pieces but with contemporary clothing too: I guess 'vintage inspired' is probably the best way to describe my style. Which is why it is so irksome to me that the world of vintage (inspired) plus fashion is dominated by one and only one theme - the pinup look.
I get it, I really do. Dressing a fat body is not the easiest thing in the world. The paucity of fashionable clothing aside, the pressure to "flatter our curves" is a constant, all-consuming one. Unlike straight sized fashion, plus fashion always comes with a set of rules in tow -- wear v-necks and wrap styles to minimize your bust, never ever bare anything above your knees at any cost ("No one needs to see that!") and disguise your belly however you can, with shapewear, flared skirts, ruching, anything, anyhow.
About five years ago, when I was learning to dress my newly size 12 body, I swore by those rules. I wanted to hide the bits I deemed hideous while making the most of my "fat girl assets" - my boobs and my somewhat hourglass shape. Pinup styles are ideal for this with their bust-emphasizing, waist-nipping silhouettes and demure lengths.
Pinup is glamorous, it is "womanly" in its celebration of the curves we are constantly told to play up. As a fat woman, I've lived through most of my life being told that I'm less of a woman because of my size, a girl who's not really a girl. Beauty, glamour and sexiness have all been denied me because I'm simply too big for them.
Pinup would be ideal for me: lashings of red lipstick, victory rolls, my waist compressed to its smallest, my legs elongated by heels while suitably covered to disguise my rounded knees and fat thighs -- I could be every bit of the glam, womanly creature I dreamed of being in my teenage years.
And yet, I reject it. I wear flat brogues and oxfords to the exclusion of all else, have developed an obsession with shifts and smock dresses, and the only coat I want to wear this winter is my vintage donkey jacket which I recently unearthed.
I reject the onus on me to "prove" my sexiness as a fat woman, I choose not to tread the narrow avenues of beauty that are traditionally sanctioned to me. I want to take a different path in my exploration of beauty and how I can manipulate it to suit my own needs, my needs which are more concerned with fashion instead of flattering, with innocence and youth and wresting it from the hands of thin white women whose sole domain it seems to have become.
As a fat brown woman, the only mainstream option given me is to endlessly pace the dichotomy between animalistic sexuality and submissiveness, both of which are forced on me, neither of which I care about. For the past several years, dressing up has become a way for me to live the possibilities and the pasts I was wrenched away from. Fat bodies constantly tread the line between hypersexualization and desexualization, as do brown bodies, and I know from past experience how essential it is to prove yourself as a sexual being, how essential claiming beauty for yourself is when you're fat. But is that the end of the journey, or merely the first step to discovering the wonderfully varied world of fashion?
When you restrict yourself to a "curve flattering" aesthetic that caters to all the traditional notions of beauty, you restrict yourself to a very small part of what fashion has to offer. I personally have been guilty of confining my wardrobe to flared skirts for years and I'm just beginning to break out of it.
Fashion is not about beauty or sexiness, it embraces androgyny, innocence, the freakish and the grotesque equally. Fashion as art is not a celebration of social conformity, it's a celebration of expression, and this is something that a large segment of plus fashion routinely loses out on. The world of pinup in fat fashion proliferates further with every passing day as people my size and larger are encouraged to immerse themselves in an aesthetic that prioritizes traditional beauty above all its other forms. It posits itself as empowering, but how empowering is it, really, to confine yourself to a set of rules? Even 50s fashion as a whole has so much to offer than just that - I, for one, find the Teddy Girl and beat aesthetics terribly inspiring.
Fashion, vintage fashion has a million possibilities -- even glam can be translated to 30s old Hollywood and 80s ostentatiousness. The 20th Century has seen some of the widest variance in style in all of fashion history -- there's an overwhelming amount to choose from if only we forsake the idea of flattering. Something about the fact that thin bodies are encouraged to experiment with fashion while fat bodies are given a set of rules strikes me as extremely disingenuous.
I've said it countless times before and I'll say it again: there's no one kind of beauty and in any case, you don't owe it to the world. It's scary to step out of the boundaries those fashion rules have created for you - I experienced that fear keenly when I wore my first pair of hotpants, my first dress without a waistline, but I'm so glad that I did and opened an universe of limitless possibilities in my aesthetic alone which I'm slowly exploring.