The short answer to this question is everyone. Everyone deserves to feel like they’re allowed to dress fashionably and everyone deserves to be able to dress fashionably. Unfortunately society and the fashion industry often make people feel otherwise. I have a complicated relationship with fashion. I’m not very good at clothes. My sister is very good at clothes and it has been a running joke for years that I should not be allowed to dress myself. The only time I was ever consistently fashionable was during my meal girl phase.
Why did I suddenly decide to become fashionable during this phase? I was skinny. I lost a significant amount of weight very quickly and needed to buy all new clothes. Clothes shopping had always been a painful experience. When I went in to all the stores my friends shopped in I rarely found anything that fit. I would sheepishly slink off to the dressing room, try to force clothes on to my body, and then sneak out hoping no one noticed that I was putting everything on the reject rack. When I went back to the same store as a skinny girl I had the exhilarating experience of being able to grab anything off the rack and slide it on with ease. I will always remember the rush of buying my first pair of Abercrombie jeans. It was like a drug. I bought a new wardrobe of all the things I’d ever seen my skinny friends wear that I’d always wanted to wear. I became addicted to the rush of trying on smaller and smaller sizes. I felt like I finally deserved to dress well.
This kicked off a pattern in my relationship with clothes. My weight fluctuated greatly every few years because of my eating disorder, so I had multiple opportunities to buy new wardrobes, whether I wanted to or not. When I gained weight again I would always opt for more casual styles. I bought lots of yoga pants, loose fitting jeans, baggy sweatshirts, and oversized t-shirts. Whenever I lost the weight again I would splurge on designer jeans, expensive dresses, and glam tops. I truly believed that I only deserved to dress well if my body was “the right size”: thin.
The fact that this was my internalized belief is not surprising if you look at the fashion industry. I could point out the obvious things like all the models being super thin or certain designers only making certain sizes, but I want to focus on a more insidious problem with the fashion industry, the concepts of “what not to wear” and “dress for your body type”.
These are common headlines for women’s magazines: “How to dress to hide your hips”, “How to dress to flaunt what you’ve got”, “What to wear to accentuate your pear shaped body”. All of these headlines imply that if you have a certain type of body it’s your responsibility to the world to dress in a certain way. In other words, you must adorn your body in ways that don’t make other people uncomfortable, and what makes people uncomfortable? Seeing a body that doesn’t conform to the fashion industry and media’s rules. If your body doesn’t fit the “norm” then you can’t wear things other women wear.
This summer the Internet exploded with rebellion to these rules of fashion. As crop tops came back in to style, many women’s magazines, including Oprah’s, stated that crop tops were only for those with flat stomachs. They said that crop tops were for thin women only. Brave women all over the country started posting photos of themselves wearing crop tops with the hashtag #RockTheCrop. These women did not fit the standards set forth for crop top wearers. Many plus size fashion bloggers took on the trend to prove that they could rock the crop. High school girls of all shapes and sizes flaunted their ability to rock the crop despite sexist dress code requirements at their schools. Women of the Internet took a stand and boldly proved that no one could tell them what not to wear.
I wish that I could say I was comfortable defying these rules. I have gained a lot of weight in recovery from my eating disorder and have ended up back at the weight I despised in high school before my eating disorder really took off. I have made it through the painful task of clothes shopping a couple of times; just enough to have clothes to wear on a daily basis. My clothes choices have again indicated my internalized belief that I don’t deserve fashion at this body size.
I know I will need to do a lot more shopping as spring and summer approaches and the goal I am setting for myself is to try to break the rules, my own and society’s. I want to shop for the spring/summer believing that I do deserve fashion regardless of my size. I want to buy “cool clothes” in sizes that fit, not sizes that cause me discomfort. I plan to enlist the help of my super fashionable sister and if I’m brave enough I’ll document the shopping trip and let you all see the results. I want so badly to accept that I deserve fashion no matter what my size and soon it’ll be time to put this in to practice.