It’s something that most women take for granted. It was something I took for granted. Being able to walk into a store and having a reasonable expectation that you will a) fit some of the clothes, and b) that something in the store will look good on you.
I have been large for a while now. Even when I was ‘skinny’, I still had large thighs and hips for my size and a bigger bum than most pants my size were able to accommodate. I was one of those annoying teenagers who complained about being fat. Which is funny cos I look back now and think, dang girl! You’ve got a sweet figure! I didn’t know it back then. Back then I felt like a heffalump if I couldn’t fit into size 12 jeans.
Over the years, I just kept putting on weight and putting on more weight. My weight has fluctuated quite a bit over the past three years or so. When my husband and I were working and living in the Caribbean, I lost heaps of weight. Most of which I promptly put back on once we moved to Australia (I blame Max Brenner!). It’s been a long and bumpy road to self love, and to the realisation that my weight doesn’t define my beauty or my worth. And these days, I am still relatively large, and I don’t avoid using the word ‘fat’ to describe myself. It’s only an adjective after all, and it’s not the only one I use to describe myself. I am ok with the word fat and I am ok that I am fat.
And what I have realised is that it is so much harder to find beautiful, well fitted, good quality clothes when you are larger than the biggest size in most clothes stores. We have a wedding of two very dear friends in February, and I have been looking online for some dress inspiration for me. And I got quite despondent. They styles were so boring and samey! I love tight clothes, tight jeans and dresses that hug my curves. I am very proud of my bum and I like clothes that accentuate it, not hide it. But all of the dresses I found online in my size were skater style dresses, with a fullish skirt coming out from the waist. Which just isn’t me and hides my bum that I love so much. I couldn’t seem to find anything that really hugged and flattered, and was specifically made to flatter a girl like me with a jiggly tummy, meat on my hips and a big bum. And I wasn’t exactly looking at cheap dresses. I think the average was about $250, and the most expensive one was $450. I just wanted something that made me feel gorgeous. Seemingly a harder task than I first thought.
Then today, we were walking through Chatswood Westfield mall, having just been to the pet shop to drool over puppies. And I saw this amazing dress in a shop window. A black dress, ruched and tight fitting and low cut, just how I like it! Nick encouraged me to go in and try it on. If I had been by myself, I would have stopped, admired and kept walking. A size 16 was the biggest they had and I took it into the changing room without much hope that it’d actually fit.
It was a black dress, about mid calf length, with a gold zip right down the whole dress length in the front. I undid the zip, stepped into the dress and slowly zipped it up. When I say slowly, it was because I kept expecting the zip to catch and get stuck because the dress was too small. This alway happens at my thighs. But the zip slide past my thighs easily. It slipped up over my hip and tummy too. And then kept going over my boobs. I looked in the mirror. It looked AMAZING! This was the dress I had been looking for. It held me in, in all the right places. The ruching disguised my jiggly tummy area, but the smooth back totally clung to my bum in all the right ways. I was so excited. Here was a dress, straight off the rack of a ‘normal’ sized store and not only did it fit my body, it fit my body GOOD.
Needless to say, we put the dress on layby. Nick liked it too, and the sales ladies were very sweet and friendly. And that dress made my day. Like I said to Nick as I mindlessly babbled on the way to the car, I felt like a human again. Instead of walking into the shop, being looked at like, “YOU shouldn’t be in THIS store”, and feeling like shit trying to squeeze myself into their biggest size without luck.
That dress taught me a few things. 1) I love my husband for encouraging me to go in and try the dress on. He always encourages me to do things I would otherwise be hesitant to do. 2) Sizing is sooooooo not standard. I am usually an Australian/NZ size 20/18, and this dress was a size 16 and fit me like a glove. I tried on another size 16 dress and I swam in it! Just goes to show that defining yourself as a particular size only limits your options. 3) A friendly and non judgemental sales lady makes a HUGE difference to a big girl’s shopping experience. In my case, I got three lovely, sweet sales ladies, non of whom gave me the feeling like I shouldn’t be in their shop because of my size.
Finding this dress is a HUGE weight off my mind. Because there was no way I was going to find a dress for the wedding in China! Firstly, because I am much larger than most Chinese women, and secondly, because my style is much more plain and classic than the kinds of clothes on offer in China. And this dress is going to make me feel like a million bucks, which is a good things since my husband will be wearing a bespoke suit as the best man at the wedding!
A huge big thank you goes to the girls at Sheike, Chatswood. They probably have no idea, but they and that dress just made this girls’ day.