The whole world makes it seem like playing dress up is a right only reserved for ‘normal’ sized people. I use normal in parenthesis because there has always been this notion that anything above a certain size is somewhat abnormal.
Think going to a store and when the sales girl is frantically walking around all smiles grinning from ear to ear. Then you ask the dreaded question which you know the answer to but you still ask anyway. She corks head to the side and her lips contort, her words slightly hesitant as though still constructing the sentence in her head whilst she attempts speaking. With a slight stutter to the response, she says ‘I’m so sorry, we don’t do that size but we have some nice bags and accessories you might want to look at’.
I once had a Nigerian designer tell me she couldn’t make me a dress because in her words ‘fitting and refitting would be a lot of stress’ which she didn’t have time for. I suppose she didn’t need my money anyway. After all what good is a fat person’s money?
Don’t get it wrong I’m not an advocate for people carrying around extra flesh which in the short to medium to term can cause severe health complications. As most people know I have publicly shared my weight and body image struggles. So the journey to better health, optimal fitness and attaining that realistic body size is an arduous path I still trod daily.
But I do think that whilst we are on that path depending on how long it takes to get there, everyone deserves the right to live, laugh, love, and of course play dress up if and when you want to.
So even though the world in general and the world of fashion aren’t particularly kind to chunky chicks like me, I have always found my own ways to manoeuvre around the system.
Fashion trends are equally as spastic as pop culture itself. I try to stay away from looking like the mannequin at the shop window. So I just take little bits and pieces from different trends and incorporate them into what I wear to add a contemporary feel.
D-I-Y/Find your Look
It’s always amusing when friends walk into my living room, glance through my bookshelf then with a gasp say ‘I never took you for someone who would read fashion magazines’. The comments make me wonder yet again if the right to buy fashion magazines and read fashion blogs, or even fashion itself is solely reserved for a specific group of people.
I’m personally obsessed with the looks and silhouettes of the American 40s and 50s, and I have been stuck in that time warp for quite some time. Magazines, books and websites make for fantastic research and resource tools to re-creating and finding a look that works for you.
I know that a lot of Lagos tailors suffer from what I have come to refer to as ‘spiritual problems’ as there is no logical reasoning to consistently producing ruins and late delivery deadlines. But there are good tailors out there, a tad pricey but they exist. And they will help you bring your look to life because honestly, fabric is actually quite cheap, so why not take advantage of all that’s available at Balogun market. When I found out chiffon cost N300 per yard, trust me I almost went insane. My tailor, Sandra is on my BB and email (My famzing started long ago).
Feel Free to Break the Rules
Don’t wear patterns, don’t wear prints, don’t do strips, don’t do pleats, don’t do fitted, don’t wear flares, don’t wear frills, blah blah blah !!!!
It’s exhausting following all the supposed rules. It seems according to the experts, all I’m left with are empire waist dresses which sometimes leaves you with the pregnant or bloated look, wrap dresses; again the quintessential fat girl wardrobe staple or wearing a tent and using a belt to cinch it in the middle creating the supposed illusion that compensates for a non existent waist.
I’m sorry but I find it all a bit bland and boring. I tell people I have a big everything. Big boobs, big stomach, wide hips, thick calves, thick arms, mammoth feet and sausage fingers. Even finding a cocktail ring is an issue. Point is, I can’t be bothered with all the rules, I can rupture a blood vessel just thinking about it.
As long as the outfit doesn’t make me look or feel like a whale dipped in a pool of multicoloured paint, I’m good to go. My only rule is, if you don’t feel right in it, and it don’t look right in front of the mirror, it most probably aint right anyway.
I personally don’t like to play too much with shapes as I’m pretty simple but I do love to play with textures, colour and patterns of fabric. I don’t like stiff fabric as it makes me feel boxy, restricted and most times uncomfortable. I play with lots of flirty and soft fabrics, some patterns and I absolutely adore colours.
Hair and makeup is another thing to play around with. I must admit, I can be pretty boring with that as I’ve always kept a signature hair style through different portions of my life(I’m always on the go so need low maintenance hair) so when it comes to hair I’m nothing close to inspiring.
Size, Fit and Comfort
It is high time we got rid of the Pashmina security blanket. I’m not a fan and all the trying to cover your tummy, boobs or bum on every outfit just makes you look uncomfortable with yourself. Wear clothes that are your size and the right fit. You don’t need to feel or look like you are choking in your clothes. I wear an 18 from some stores, a 20 in others and on the odd occasion a 22. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have lost or put on weight so there is no need getting depressed over the fact that you go to another store and you are wearing a different size. The discomfort shines through and it’s never a good look.
Clothing and fashion have always had a very extensive and complex history to it. From politics to subculture to identity and expression and everyone reserves the right to be a part of it. So I say fat girls should play dress up too because it is fun.
Wana Udobang is a broadcaster, writer and performance poet. You can check out her other work on www.wanawana.net or www.guerillabasement.com or follow her on twitter @MissWanaWana