Do This Don't: Be a Fatty in Horizontal Stripes

Horizontal stripes and me: reunited and it feels so good.
Publish date:
February 28, 2012
FATshion, stripes, do this don't, asos curve, supermarket modeling

I am not a lady given to a waistline. Even as fat ladies go, I am unusually waist-free.

From my earliest childhood bodily awareness, I longed to erase my midsection and start over, to re-draw lines that sloped inward instead of bulging outward like one of the awful Magic Troll dolls my friend Tina collected nigh-obsessively, standing them in neat rows on the bookshelves over her bed, where they peered down with their beady eyes while we played Super Mario Bros 2 and talked about the girls at school we didn’t like. I tried not to look at them.

This was long before I thought of myself as fat, even, back when I was a chubby 12-year-old, albeit one who had been dieting for several years already.

It was around the same time that I started paying attention to my clothes, and that I began to learn the “rules” of dressing an imperfect (?) body. The one that hit me hardest was the idea that horizontal stripes were bad news for a girl shaped like me; I believe I read this originally in one of the women’s magazines my mom read. They make you look wider, so the story goes, and I was angry and mortified to discover that my wardrobe at the time consisted of no less than three favorite items featuring horizontal stripes.

I stopped wearing them. I also took it upon myself to alert all girls that horizontal stripes are not on, if you don’t want to look “enormous.” Yes, I fashion-policed my peers, but I only did it because I was so frustrated by having to follow these rules myself. If I couldn’t have stripes, no one could, even if I had to fat-shame all the seventh-graders at Pines Middle School to do it.

Obviously, I got over all that. The conventional wisdom that stripes are to be avoided persists today, of course, and while I can’t take credit for this rule's continuing popularity, I certainly did my best to help it along. So let’s call this my penance.

Both of these dresses came from ASOS Curve, easily my favorite destination for plus-size shopping right now. Their sizing can be a little wack, but as a lady who typically wears a US size 26, and who is therefore extremely limited in finding more modern and statement-y things to wear, I am willing to kiss a lot of frogs to find the occasional prince(ss).

(The princess is a cute dress that fits me. I’m not sure if that metaphor held.)

ANYWAY, I put on dress #1 and went to Target, where I demanded my husband take pictures of me. Why Target? Because it’s Boston and it’s freezing out and these pictures wouldn’t have much point if I were wearing a coat. Also, we needed toothpaste.

Are brights a big deal for spring? Eric? I don’t know. I put this together mostly because I love those boots -- I won’t tell you how often I begin an outfit by deciding what boots I want to wear, but trust me, it happens a LOT.

The following day, I wore another horizontal-striped dress -- albeit a more subtle one -- to the comic book store. I have evidence.

But then I forgot to get a full-length picture of myself there. So we took some once we got home. My tights are purple, by the way -- not sure if that comes through in the terrible lighting.

Now, to be clear: I’m not so much interested in suggesting that plus size-wearing folks can rock horizontal stripes in a “flattering” -- i.e., non-widening -- way. These dresses made me look like a rectangle, for sure. But I wasn’t going to add a belt or a cardigan or some other method of artificially enwaisting a non-waisted body. I don’t want to suggest you can counteract some rules by the application of other rules.

I’m rather suggesting that we consider not giving a crap. Who cares if I look wider? Some folks might, but that’s their issue, not mine. The fact remains that this is how I’m shaped; a lack of stripes or a wrap dress or the addition of a belt isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking I’m a model. Regardless of what I’m wearing, my body is shaped a certain way and I am -- surprisingly, to some -- 100% cool with that.

Now that I have these new dresses I’ll be doing this don’t on a regular basis, and if you feel the need to let me know they’re making me look fatter, I’ll probably smile and say thank you. What can I say? I’m just not a lady who sits well with mediocrity.

You can follow Lesley on Twitter and/or preorder her book , which is mostly about being a radical fatass, if you're so inclined. Some may also tell you she's down with self-promotion but those are vicious lies.