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It Ain't Easy Being Rad: The 3 Kinds of Plus-Size Women

11/26/2012 10:25 am ET | Updated Jan 26, 2013

In my 23 years experience of being a fat chick, socializing with fellow fats, discussing and reading their preoccupations, and buying clothes for a plus-size body, I've come to the conclusion we fall into three groups when it comes to clothes. Simplistic as it may sound, it's generally true. And it seems as if only two of those groups are well-served by the plus-size fashion market...

Conservative fats do not enjoy fashion. They're generally not so comfortable with their weight and probably recoil from the word "fat." They don't really believe fats deserve to look or feel good, and are probably shocked and embarrassed when fellow plus-size women are proud of their size. Conservative fats are unlikely to be fatshion bloggers, feel disenfranchised from the fashion world and accept the idea that cool clothes and a defined image are not for them. They follow mainstream fashion rules to the letter: no brights, no stripes, nothing tight and nothing short. Permanently conscious of their fatness, and ashamed by it, they desperately want to blend in. This is generally made easy by shops that cater to a self-loathing fat public. Self-hate is the standard, so clothes are made to fit this.

Then there are the moderate fats: They have an interest in style, but only style made "appropriate" for the fat body. Moderate fats like nice clothes, but aren't so keen on fashion. Seasonal trends are only useful and relevant to them if they take fatness into consideration. They don't mind a scaled-up version of a catwalk look as long as it's tweaked and twisted and watered-down to something "right." This is what almost always happens: Fat girls do get trends, but a very long time after mainstream stores carry them, and even then they're made "flattering." Moderate fats believe in "flattering": the right kind of tones and the right kind of draping are key to dressing their fat body. They're not particularly experimental, but often willing to spend serious money on high-end clothes that are explicitly made for a plus-size figure. To that end, moderate fats are indeed well-represented by the more expensive plus-size brands.

Finally, there are the radicals. They're generally a long way down the road in their self-acceptance adventure, and are noisy with it. Radical fats want to tear up the rulebook and spit on everything they've been told about clothes. Stripes? Hell yeah! Textures? Get in! Clingy fabrics? Sign me up! Flattering doesn't enter their vocabulary: Radical fats laugh in the face of flattery. They long for high-fashion pieces in "size fat," and are often frustrated and disappointed by mainstream brands. Hyper-aware of what's available for their skinny comrades to buy instore, they don't see anything like it marketed at them. They have to wait for brands to do special collaborations with designers or celebrities (like Beth Ditto for Evans), or for a really exciting online shop to start up.

The problem is that there are so many radical fats, and so little provision for us. It seems so much of the plus-size fashion market caters to conservative and moderate fats, not believing there are many, many girls out there dying to rock a VBO (visible belly outline) or expose some chubby thighs in a mini skirt. But there are. Not making garish, outrageous, short, tight, bright clothes in size fat is to say that we shouldn't want or need those clothes, that we're not interesting to brands who only want to promote and perpetuate a half-hearted approach to self-acceptance and personal image. There are so many of us demanding bolder, wishing for tackier, hoping for more avant-garde creations, but so few are really taking these demands into consideration, determined to feed the fats what they think they deserve: the average.

It ain't easy being rad, so drop a comment or a tweet if you know of any useful places for badass fat girls to buy their gear.