I can identify my aesthetic with a few phrases: “sexy party clown”, “precocious uncomfortable baby”, and perhaps “aggressive whimsy machine”.
Fat female-identified people have only a select number of roles people feel comfortable with them filling: “curvy” vamp, matronly mother-type, non-sexual best friend, and whimsical quirky girl.
Christina Hendricks is allowed to be fat on TV because her curves are anachronistically celebrated on “Mad Men”. Melissa McCarthy is allowed to be fat in movies because she often performs a caregiver or best friend role. Adele is allowed to be fat in music because she follows the great tradition of soul singers draped in mourning clothes, for whom we can’t really imagine sex or heartbreak happening, but whose voices we use to channel and embody our own heartbreak. We particularly use the matronly trope for fat women of color in white-dominated media. As far as quirky girls go, do you know how many times I have been told I look like Garcia from Criminal Minds?
The fat quirky girl is different from the Zooey Deschanel or Natalie Portman quirky girl because she is completely removed from the ideals of sexual appeal. A fat girl can never be a girl next door because her fatness is indicative of excess or lack of self-control, which can not coexist with the wholesomeness and invigorating liveliness of a girl next door.
So how does this manifest in fashion? CONSTANTLY AND UBIQUITOUSLY. When we think of the main distributors of clothing for fat wearers of female-marketed clothing, Lane Bryant might be the first to come to mind. Their catalog is aimed at two fat markets: conservative/work-appropriate and conservatively sexy. “Cute” or “interesting” are never facets of design for them, only “appropriate”. Lane Bryant wants to help you let the world know that you are appropriately ashamed of your body and would not dare call attention to it by wearing prints or any cuts other than classic wrap-dresses. This is your store for fat type matronly.
For a younger market, Torrid is the primary retailer, but having tried to shop there when it used to be the only option for me, the only aesthetic it caters to is youth by way of sex appeal. This only works well if you happen to think sex appeal can be carried out by wearing poorly made and designed polyester club wear. This is part of fat type “curvy”.
Of course there is nothing wrong with embracing your sexuality, and any word that you’d like to use to identify yourself or your body, even if euphemistic, is valid. I think, though, there is a constant perpetuation of the idea that if your curves are in the wrong kinds of places, then you are the wrong kind of fat. You are not Joan, you are Peggy Olson when she didn’t know she was pregnant (SPOILERS).
Once, a boy I was dating informed me that I could never be sexy. “Only cute”, he clarified to me. I have very small breasts, no hips, and no ass, and because of that I can’t demonstrate the kind of body . bravery that is celebrated commonly in fat circles. I cannot demonstrate sexiness. I cannot wear a bikini or a crop top because I have a body that does not lend itself to sexualization, even by other fat people. I am frequently asked if I am pregnant because there is no place for a body that is fat but non-sexual, that has an ample belly and arms but no “curves”.
So do I carve out a space for myself in the trope of infantilization, where I feel comfortable but commonly make other people uncomfortable? I think discomfort in many ways is virtuous. I am attracted to disruption but on a very base level I like things that are cute. I do not want to be anyone’s mom, aesthetically or otherwise.
What is the difference between an Alison Brie type and me? What makes her a dewy-eyed Disney bride and myself a weird baby lady? I think that it is that fatness and a childish sense of wonder in combination recall associated stereotypes of fatness like laziness, dependence on others, and stupidity. It takes fatness to an unsettling place for people.
I am 24 now. I have no desire to drastically change my aesthetic, as I will always like cute things, weird things, goth things, and retro things because they appeal to me without the baggage of seeming “childlike”, though that baggage seems to exist for many other people. I am only now beginning to wonder if I always have to be an Adele or a Garcia to everyone, regardless of how carefully I cultivate my own fashion choices.
The octopus dress is a vintage dress upcycled by aorta on etsy and I can recommend them highly. The cardigan is by Design History, size L, bought at work, and the belt is J Crew and also from work.