What Fat Women Want

Wanting to be thin is only part of the story

Say Yes to the Dress

A Story of Fitness

Later this month I'm leaving to visit my father and help and abet my youngest niece’s wedding. She has asked me to do one of the readings during the service and also, because it’s a huge family get-together, to consider a color palette in green-blue-yellow for photo purposes.

And so started several days of staring at various websites looking for the Right Dress. Pretty soon I was so confused that I started downloading pictures and emailing them to my friend Nan, with whom I sell clothes and other outgrown whims and sizes on eBay and, hence, whose clothing sense is verifiably akin to my own.

This is a big deal for me because I walk dogs and write for a living. I have many sets of the same sweatpants and shorts and a stock of t-shirts that I try to weed the stained ones from, although I keep a couple for taking my ball-mad dog to the dog run. I put on a dress a half a dozen times a year and in the majority of cases, the dress comes home covered in dog hair because my friends all have Labs. Or my Lab’s friends all have humans I like a lot.

But I digress.

I didn’t go to the prom. I never got married. Anytime something like a wedding or big even comes up, I get into a tizzy. This wedding seems to be a low-key event in that my niece is wearing a tea-length dress. I had to work in the perimeters of not too much formality and green-yellow-blue. I emailed Nan pictures of navy chiffon and flowered chiffon, Monet-print key-hole sheaths and royal blue beaded maxi dresses. I spent hours of both our time seeking out chiffon or tuxedo jackets to hide my arms, which we agreed need coverage.

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As I was about to give up on my favorite websites, I remembered eShakti, which allows the buyer to tailor its clothes. One can order a dress made-to-fit or in a regular size, but one can also very often choose the type of sleeve, neckline, length. I downloaded any dress I could add sleeves to that came in my niece’s color scheme and together Nan and I decided on a turquoise number. I posted the picture on Facebook and my niece and her matron of honor, also a niece, both praised the choice. I assured them it had sleeves and their guests would be safe.

I was immensely relieved until I started worrying about shoes.

The dress arrived yesterday. I tried it on and my heart fell to the floor because it was desperately tight. The neckline was so low that my bra showed. I didn’t know if I had the energy to start the search over again so I called Nan and asked if I could run over and show her.

Let me say now that trying on clothes in 95-degree high humidity weather ought to be considered a form of sports. I dropped the dress over my head, smuggled it over my boobs and tugged it into place. Feeling like a wedding shower gift of awkward dimensions wrapped in eye-burning turquoise I walked into Nan’s study for her opinion.

“It’s not too tight, Frances,” she said. “It fits.” She circled around me, rubbing the fabric between her fingers and noting the clever sewing. “It shows off your curves.”

I cocked my head, thinking and sweating. I could move my arms. I could bend over. But I don’t like seeing the exact girth at the empire waist and my breasts. It makes me feel so fat. But what I consider embarrassingly tight is actually form fitting. The clothes I prefer leave me looking shapelessly big. It seems I have a choice between curves and fat or blocky and big.

Curves and fat are the honest choice.  Big and blocky is a clumsy attempt to lie when you're caught red-handed in the act of being fat.

Last summer, I had a dress tailored exactly to my measurements from eShakti. I took it to Nan’s as well, as a back-up for the wedding. I knew it was too big because it’s a dress that zips and I can pull it on over my head. It was comfortable when I put in on for her, but, I said, somehow too big...

“In the boobs,” Nan said. “It’s a fitted empire and the material is all pouchy in the boobs.”

This is classic Fat Dysmorphia. I don’t understand the difference between fitting perfectly and tight. My definition of tight is the buttons gapping but neither dress had buttons so I couldn't tell. I finally had a taste of what Lori and Monte go on about with their plus-sized brides on Say Yes to the Dress. If I were getting married, my instincts would be to be filmed on Say Yes to the Pup Tent.

I had done one thing correctly before going over to Nan’s. I took off my sports bra and put on the lacy underwire bra I’d just gotten for the occasion. I t’sked a little at how I didn’t fill the cups. It seemed at the moment that I couldn’t get anything right. When I got home and took off the prickly lace, I saw that it was a – yes, I’ll put this in print – 46B. Maybe I should reconsider how big I think my boobs are the next time I order a size larger t-shirt than I need.

There is another lesson here, which is that a heavy woman should never make important clothing decisions by herself. Nor, for that matter, should the former overweight woman do so.

I once asked my Psychology Today editor about naming clothing companies as resources and she felt that it was in some readers’ interests to have this information. In addition to recommending eSkakti as a way to really see your body, then, I’m also going to give a shout out to IGIGI, which offers a “Shapestylist” to help you “Learn your shape. Love yourself. Dress accordingly.” Nan and I can also attest to the fact that if you undergrow your IGIGI outfit, it will sell in a nanosecond on eBay.

I’ll find out how eShakti does on eBay if I survive my visit to my hometown. As much as I love the dress that was made to measure, I have less of last year’s body.

Oh, and my OCD search for shoes led me back Ros Hammerson. I have very sensitive, somewhat wide feet. This brand, which is available through Zappo's or Shoebuy, is actually tolerable for the overweight woman who has reason to wear high heels.

There. I’ve pimped and primped enough for one day. Do you think any of these companies will send me a freebie?

Frances Kuffel is the author of Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self.

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