It’s that time of year again when the beach starts beckoning and thinness is worn as a Designer label. But why do we always fall for the myth that size defines our worth? I’ve been talking to the inspirational Sarah Clark about all things voluptuous and authentic. Sarah is Positive Sarah, blogger for FatPhrocks and Wingz, and also in her own right on Gorgeously Full Fat. She is a fat and fabulous, fashion-loving freelance writer with a novel, Viva Voluptuous in the shops NOW, perfect for a summer giggle and banishing those beach babe fears…
Do you think the term ‘plus size’ is offensive…is it the same as ‘she’s beautiful for her age’ – i.e. words that are surplus to requirement?
Actually – not really. It’s mildly irritating but it doesn’t really offend me as at the moment there’s no way of knowing whether something comes in your size without some kind of extra label. If all clothes, or at the very least a wider range, cane in a bigger size range, incorporating the 26 as well as the 6, the ‘plus size’ label would become completely obsolete because you’d just have ‘sizes’. But because bigger women are catered for so abysmally by most high street fashion (and couture of course, which is arguably even worse) at the moment there’s still a need to define a collection as being plus size. I’m more offended by ‘you’d be pretty if you weren’t so fat’ which is a bit similar to the ‘beautiful for her age’ backhanded compliment. If you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful. Weight, age, size, colour don’t come into it.
(Betty from Pamper and Curves)
In your opinion do you think anyone should be able to wear anything regardless of size…or should women just stick to what suits them?
You know, style is so subjective that I think women should wear whatever they feel good in. There used to be so many prescriptive fashion rules for fatties; no horizontal stripes, no bold patterns, and I even read something recently online suggesting that fat women should make sure they have pretty feet because it gives people something attractive that takes the focus away from their (presumably ugly) fat bodies. I mean, WTF is that all about? At the same time, in some body positive circles there’s a lot of pressure on big women to ‘let it all hang out’ and not all of us are happy with that. It’s been so long since I wore a bikini, in fact, I think I was about eight, that even if I had the ‘ideal’ figure, I wouldn’t feel comfortable showing my midriff off. It’s up to the individual; wear whatever makes you feel good, and don’t be pressurised into adjusting your style to suit other people’s ideas of what looks good. People like Betty from Pamper and Curves, or Leah from Just me, Leah play around with their look and always look fabulous, nobody tells them to stick to black or not to wear leggings!
(Leah from Justmeleah)
3. I think shape plays an important part in choosing the right clothes – are there brands out there that understand shape and are still fashion aware?
Generally, it’s the plus size brands that seem to ‘get’ the shape issue. There are exceptions to the rule, but if you buy a dress in an 18 that’s been designed for a size 10, that little extra bit of fabric isn’t necessarily going to make it suit a larger body. I’ve thought for a long time that one of the reasons couture designers don’t design for larger bodies as a rule is that…it’s harder! Designers like Michelle Ellis of FatPhrocks really know what it’s like trying to find fashion that’s a bit different. She designs for tall, plus sized women and are spot on, whereas even with taller versions of average clothes, they sometimes just don’t quite look right. It’s a lot easier to get a dress to hang properly on a body that’s straight up and down, because there’s nothing in the way of the shape of the outfit. But try doing the same with an 18 or a 20 and it’s a different story. For a start, we all have different shapes; some fat women are hourglass, some apple, some pear. Some of us have huge boobs and a big tummy but slimmish legs. No, it’s a lot easier to design for a slim woman, catwalk wise, because they know it will look the same on all the identikit models.
4. Who are your plus size girl (see…falling into the label trap) style icons and why?
I’ve already mentioned Betty Pamper; she is a real style icon to me, I follow her blog avidly because the way she puts her looks together is just phenomenal. She always looks so groomed and so damn gorgeous. Leah from Just me, Leah is another one, she’s a fashion blogger and completely unapologetic for being large. She also blogs on health and body positivity, and a recent post on body confidence was just so spot on I wish that all teenage girls could read it. Two more; Tess Munster is just like a plus size version of Jessica Rabbit. She’s stunning, she’s faced bullying throughout her life but then she thought “You know what, f*** this” and turned it on its head to become a plus size model. The woman is GORGEOUS, and a real inspiration to anyone who thinks being very fat means that you sit around in tatty leggings and a stained tee all day. Lastly, I love Lisa Lister. She was recently featured in Cosmo Body (July) in her full on beehive and tatt-splashed glory, talking about how she gave up diets and found happiness. She’s so positive and full of energy, she inspires me all the time, and I LOVE her style. She also works with Dove as a Body Image Ambassador, and that has to be celebrated.
5. What would you prefer – shops/brands that specifically catered for you – or acceptance across all shops?
That’s actually a really tricky question. What I don’t want to see is just a couple of extra sizes tagged on just to keep the fatties happy, because it would just be an afterthought. I’d love to have more choice on the high street. Bigger women have trouble finding clothes in many towns; in my own they’ve just shut down the local Evans, New Look stopped stocking their Inspire range and the only places you can get clothes over a size 18 are a few concessions in Debenhams, or Marks & Spencer. The other thing that’s annoyed me for a long time is why stores like Next who have clothes in size 20,22 and 24 only usually have up to an 18 on display. Yet, they will have the size 6 out. So in convoluted reply, I would like more targeted plus size options in existing shops, and a few more plus size shops on the high street would be lovely too, I’m fed up with having to order my clothes online just because I’m fat.
6. Why is acceptance across all shops so hard – particularly when you look at the average size of UK women?..
That one I really can’t answer. My opinion is that fat isn’t ‘aspirational’ enough to warrant attention from the fashionistas, nobody WANTS to be fat, so why display clothes on fat mannequins or cater for larger people in designer or even high street stores? It’s as if they want our money, so they’ll cater for us behind the scenes like Next, making us order the larger sizes online so we don’t have to take up room in their shops! Page 2 of 3Page 3 of 3Talking of taking up room, not that I go into Top Shop very often, but younger shops like Top Shop and River Island are so tightly crammed that fat people can’t even squeeze though the racks in some shops! I think it’s probably a ploy to keep the chubbies away from their lovely tiny clothes personally, but they are missing a trick. Get Beth Ditto or someone in and get working on a collection for big, younger women, and they’ll get loyalty from a completely new section of the market. There’s so few young plus sized fashion options in shops that it’s ridiculous. I’d love to see the them –vs- us mentality that seems to be all pervasive at the moment disappear up its own backside and be replaced by a tolerant, inclusive acceptance that bodies come in all sizes and it’s actually OK. aND I’d love to see more designers like Michelle Ellis of FatPhrocks, designers who understand the needs of tall and plus size women and design individual, unusual clothes that cater for the people who actually wear them, rather than being identi-copies of the slim ranges in the shops.
7. Magazines also claim that their content has to be ‘aspirational’ – What do you say to that?
In my dreams I’d love to start an intelligent magazine for women that includes women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and abilities….with everything from fashion to philosophy and food, which didn’t treat women like idiots, airheads or vacuous bimbos who can’t do anything without taking a selfie or actually CARE what Katie Price is doing!
Sarah, I salute you.
Laters, Kate x