Fashion is freedom. It’s individuality. It’s expression. Don’t believe me? There’s a reason everyone wears the same matching uniform in prison. Granted, logistics play a big factor here, but really it’s about empowerment. When a bunch of people are forced to wear the same thing, when their ability to express their differences are squashed, the result is a “steep invasion in the autonomy of decision,” and “as a consequence, the loss of individuality… can have a detrimental effect to a persons self-perception and self-esteem.*” So, without options and the ability to express oneself through clothing… we feel crappy.
Well, we could have told you that.
Ask any plus size woman who came of age before eCommerce changed the fashion-game. When it came to fashion, the world for fat chicks was a different ballgame. Individuality wasn’t a guarantee, it was a luxury. “Choice” and the ability to craft a physical persona on the outside through clothes, matching who a teenager wants to be on the inside… was a nonexistent privilege for most young women of size.
Look, I’m not here to compare moral justice to fashion. Not at all. There are huge issues going on, and to compare them to clothes would be silly. I draw this exaggerated example to show what it was like for a big chunk of women growing up… and, frankly, what it still feels like for many of the same women as adults. But what thrills me is that right now, at this very moment, plus size teenagers growing up can actually have FUN with fashion and have fun with themselves in way's they never could before.
A year ago I went shopping with a friend. I’m 5’4” and, at the time, wore a size 24/26. She is 5’8” and wears a size 6. I deliriously raced through the store like I was a kid at the Wonka Factory, plucking dresses from racks and flinging them over my arms. In the dressing room I sat eagerly while she tried on style after style, excitement racing through my pores. To my dismay… she kept negating each choice. “Oh, oh, oh!” I would sound off in excitement. She would correct me, pointing out a hemline that wasn’t optimal or a fabric that itched or a spot that was too big or too small or not ideal for her athletic frame. “But we can fix that!” I encouraged. “Just take it to the tailor or do this!” I’d rationalize. But she declined, confident the dress she was looking for was out there.
That’s when I realized, for years, that plus size women have been trained to fix their clothes to make them work and, in turn, we’ve trained ourselves to believe that we ourselves need to be fixed. If we could nip this or tuck that or tailor-make our body into a more commercially accessible package… not only could we WEAR more styles because, let’s be honest, brands STILL haven’t caught on to the idea in a legit way that over 60% of U.S. women wear a size 14 or higher; to give us the styles and colors and designs that our more slender peers get.
No more. We are not here to be fixed. We are here… to live. To express ourselves. To find joy in our closets, our bodies and our lives.
The fashion industry has a long, long way to go. No doubt. But… we’re making progress. Which is wicked awesome that brands like Society+ are here to smash through the antiquated, exclusive-girls club of the women’s fashion industry.
100% no photoshop. Natural models. Women of all sizes, shapes, and colors represented. This is the future of fashion.
Sometimes I wonder, what had my teenage years been like if brands like Society+ would have been available to me? Would I have hidden away in men's jeans and over-sized blazers? Would I have worn baggy babydoll dresses and bike shorts or would I have found more personal ways to get in touch with myself and, at the same time, get in touch with the young woman I was becoming?
I can’t say for sure. But what I can say is, I’m glad as hell that some teenager or college student or young woman setting out on her life… has it way better than I ever did. Thank you to the brands that have made this possible. Thank you to Society +. And thank you to every other badass woman who spent years “making it work” so that we could get to this point.
*Got that quote from Wikipedia. Isn't the internet awesome?