Monday, September 21, 2009

Minimize your unflattering you!

My roommate has a big stack of fashion magazines in the bathroom, and each one has an article on "dressing for different body shapes." Fair enough, we're all unique flowers. But each section is about how to minimize your different body shape as much as possible. Big breasts need to be strapped down, small ones need to be propped up. If your ass is round draw attention upward, if your ass is flat draw attention downward. Short women need to look taller and tall women need to look shorter. Dammit, ladies, you've got to be average!

Just once I'd like to see something about emphasizing your differences. About how to actually flatter a big ass or flat chest, instead of trying to hide it. About how to be exactly the height and weight you are.

We all know what an empire waist (example) means, right? It means "big belly." Moreso, though, it means "big belly and I'm hiding it."

I went shopping for clothes the other day and I found a top I really liked, but the "large" was tight around the shoulders and they didn't stock an XL. So I decided, hey, see if they have the same thing in the plus-size section. I went to the "women's sizes" area, and... holy muumuus Batman! It was nothing but tents! Not just in the superlarge sizes, but even in an 18 the clothing had gone through some horrible metamorphosis from "fashion" to "modesty drape." Apparently once you get up to that size you're expected to give up on the min-maxing and just try to minimize your whole damn self.

(This isn't just fat-girl's-lament, either; I worked with a woman who was so tall and slender we called her "the giraffe" and she mostly wore men's clothing out of sheer desperation of finding anything to fit her--things that fit her waist didn't cover it, and things that covered her hung like tents. In her case it may have been statistical rarity more than societal expectations, but it's worth noting that InStyle magazine recommends tall women do not wear heels or close-fitted pant legs, that'd make them look tall.)

Men's clothing seems so linear. If you're bigger, wear bigger clothes, duhhh. (Also, they get "big and tall" stores, which is fairly descriptive, rather than having to be "kings" or "gentlemen" or some other batshit euphemism.) Women's clothing gotta play all these games.

I'm me. Big-bellied, small-chest-and-assed, short, broad-shouldered, me. I don't wish to be anyone else and I'll look best showing off what I do have, not putting on vertical stripes and a padded bra and hoping people are fooled into thinking I'm "normal."

And if you hear that description and think "but that body shape just doesn't look good uncorrected," I think we'll just have to agree to disagree.


  1. The "disagree" link is 403 - Forbidden, alas. I love this post, though. Hell yeah, show off your assets instead of trying to look like a clone!


  2. 403'd! I am in a similar position to your giraffe friend, although it's better than it used to be. My waist is a medium, my boobs are an XL, and my arms are so long they don't even have common sizing! If I dress to fit my arms, it takes an 18 or a 20 and fits me like a tent; if I dress to fit my waist, it takes a 10 or 12 and everywhere else spills out. And I'm even doing better than most - I have enough give in my silhouette that I can wear a compression bra and heels and be elegant and long-limbed, or wear a padded bra and a t-shirt and be busty and Amazon-shaped.

    Which is to say, there IS clothing that flatters me, but it's very very hard to find. I'm on the verge of giving up on ready-made clothing entirely!

  3. The biggest problem with dressing to look average is that it just doesn't work. Everyone can tell that you're doing it. Anyway, the problem with trying to make yourself look average is, guess what? You end up looking average. Which is, unsurprisingly, boring.

    I've got really small boobs, and you know what? I think I look best in clothes that actually work the whole flat-chested thing, rather than trying to make my boobs look bigger. B-C cups are so overdone. Anyway, Audrey Hepburn, QED.

  4. But I can still be king, right?

    Women with round asses should shake them. In my direction.
    Women with large breasts should shake them. In my direction.
    Women with small breasts may need to close the distance.

  5. Seventeen's worse, from what I recall of my misspent youth, because it thinks its readers have the memories of goldfish. "Wear short skirts so you look shorter! Wear long sleeves to give you vertical length!"

    ... So am I supposed to hate my height or like it?

    (I also recall the Christmas issue that said candy canes were healthier than cheese and crackers. Good times, good times.)

  6. i really want to submit a letter to a bra company but im not sure how to start. the problem is, i love my small breasts! and i hate bra shopping because not only are pretty bras harder to find, but because the available ones are mostly padded. i dont want to make em look bigger, or to act like a bulletproof vest (have you seen how thick they can get?!)your article has moved me closer to doing it, thanks!

  7. Speaking of bras, I've never understood why bras for people F+ cup have padding in them. At that point, do you really need/want it?

  8. Anon- I'm not F-cup big, but my experience has been that, at that point, bra design is mostly about structural engineering, and the padding is part of that.

  9. Brilliant! Thank you! I'm very short with a petite waist and bust and a big round butt, and I'm actually happy about it. I want to show it off! Not hide it or disguise it. I avoid padded bras like the plague. I think my smallish breasts are pretty! And so does everyone I've ever been involved with. And nobody's ever complained about the size of my butt or my big thighs (or the accompanying stretch marks). Quite the opposite. Why would I want to minimize them?

    I think one of the best things about people is that they come in so many different beautiful, sexy sizes and shapes. Variety is the spice of life!

  10. In case the point hasn't been made loudly or unequivocally enough: Not all men want "average," either. And I suspect that while most have specific preferences, they, like I do, find teh hawt in many different body shapes.

  11. Anon - Bras are sometimes slightly padded for comfort or to reduce nipple poke-through. I'm more talking about things like "gel bras", which are designed specifically to create the illusion of titties out to here.

    Not that it's always a terrible thing to wear those, sometimes it's fun to be out to here, but you shouldn't feel like you have to, yanno?

  12. The obvious solution is to engineer humans so we can push buttons that make our boobs/butts/whatever bigger or smaller on any given day!

  13. I've been reading your blog for about 6 months now and posts like this are one of the reasons why. So validating, such a healthy attitude. Why can't YOU write for Cosmo and the like? Of course, then there would be nothing to mock!

  14. I'm a DD/F cup, and I happen to worked as a bra designer till not long ago, in all the 3+ yrs I worked at the company I tried to make my boss understand that women with non-average-size boobs also want to wear pretty bras. I didn't have as much success as I'd like, but I didn't fail completely either. One thing tho, we have begun making more sensible bras in the sense that AA cup has more padding, but D cup&above are not padded. So there's hope, keep those complaints letter going, ladies!

  15. I refuse to walk through life trying to be an optical illusion.