Dear Virgie: I Went Christmas Dress Shopping with a Thin Person
The other day I went shopping with a friend for a Christmas Eve party. She and I had never gone shopping together. She is a thin person, and I’m plus size. I ended up having a total meltdown over the range of clothing she had access to compared to me. I ended up buying this super cheap-looking shiny red dress for way too much money while she got this really cute dress that looks better than mine and it cost less. I’m having a really hard time dealing with my reaction. I’m embarrassed that I had a breakdown over this.
You don’t need to feel embarrassed! You had a feeling. That feeling was hard for you. Don’t judge yourself for having feelings. I think your reaction was a pretty normal response to what sounds like a hard and hurtful experience.
Shopping can be really hard for plus-size babes because of the ways that most companies cater pretty much exclusively to thin people. Shame on them, not you! You don’t need to feel like you did something wrong. The companies are doing something wrong. You are just trying to go to a shop to buy something you like.
The holidays are really hard for many people! I think Christmas time is especially hard because the holidays are ALL about that hardcore white supremacist, thin-centric, heteronorms narrative. The marketing around Christmas is diabolical and hella gas-lighting! Since fat folks are positioned outside of mainstream culture and Christmas is all about doubling down on mainstream culture, it makes complete sense that this might be a hard time for you for many reasons. It’s entirely possible that the dress was just a breaking point to stress you weren’t even aware you were already experiencing.
It might be helpful for you to do some self-care following this experience. Place a moratorium on feeling embarrassed that you had a meltdown. People have meltdowns! It’s OK. I promise. You are dealing with SO MUCH stigma and bigotry just for having your body every day. Honestly it’s an act of resiliency just walking around living our lives considering we’re living in a goddamn creepy fascistic war zone.
Since it sounds like you don’t like the dress, I wanted to just remind you that you have the right to return it. If you don’t have the energy to return it, that is OK! Be realistic about where you are emotionally. The return can wait until after Christmas if the idea of setting foot in a clothing store again makes you feel queasy. Wear something you love to this party, even if it’s something you already own. You deserve to give yourself that. Add a festive brooch or belt if you want to bring the Xmas spirit to the look (if the outfit is not already serving holiday vibes).
It also sounds like maybe your friend wasn’t clued in to your needs. Sometimes thin people really don’t realize how different shopping is for them, because they have the privilege of not having to navigate fashion exclusion. It might be a good self-care measure to do other activities with this friend that are not clothing-related. I’m not sure if you’re ready to talk to her about it, but if you feel it will be useful and good for you, you can totally just tell her that shopping is hard because of the ways that companies continue not to serve plus-size people. A good friend will listen and not try to push back. Ideally, you are spending a fair amount of time in shops that serve both of you, or shops that offer plus-size clothes exclusively if they don’t have inclusive sizing in the shops where she’s finding cute stuff. Finally, can I recommend going shopping with other plus size babes? It’s kinda the best thing ever.
I hope this helps!
Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, a 4-week online course designed to help those who are ready to break up with diet culture, and started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight.