I’m about to say something so disrespectful that you might feel personally hurt by it.
I – LOATHE – SHOPPING.
I know, I know. It’s so offensive *sigh*. But let me explain, I swear I have an excellent reason for hating it.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a big person (see my last blog on that here). I’ve always had breasts, booty, thick thighs and a very small waist. Even when I was a kid I was thick in the thigh/bum area — always have been, always will be. Now let me say this, I love my thighs, because everyone knows that thick thighs save lives. But you know what my thighs hate?
Pants. They hate pants.
To be fair, my pants also have a healthy dislike for my thighs too, so it’s mutual. There has never been a pair of pants in the history of my closet that have survived the dreaded chub rub. You know, the thing that happens when your thighs rub together and eventually blow out the crotch of your pants from wear…
From my earliest shopping memories, I couldn’t fit into kids clothes and my dad would take me to the teen boys section to try and find pants that fit me, which I obviously hated because I was not a teen boy, and I wanted flared low-rise pants like everyone else (it was the 90s). My dream in life was to wear Silver or Buffalo jeans – alas, this dream was never actualized.
Needless to say, shopping was a struggle for me then and has continued to be a struggle as an adult. Here’s the thing, my ass is too big for “straight sized” clothing. But my waist is itty-bitty (in proportion to the rest of my body), so for most of my adult life I’ve stuck to leggings because jeans were just out of the question. The other problem is that my style is pretty basic — I don’t mess with prints, florals or colours. I’m basically Morticia Addams. I fully acknowledge that this is a consequence of having no options for cute clothing for most of my life, but whatever. I like black and I’m not sorry about it.
Somewhere around 2013 there started being some more reasonable online shopping options for curvy women in Canada… and by “options” I mean Forever21+. Around that time I started being able to buy clothing that “fit” me, but the clothing never really fit me properly. My life consisted of buying pants in a size 16 or 18 so I could donkey kick my way into them and squeeze them past my bum. Then, I would have to MacGyver the waist with a belt tied so tight it actually made the leather morph from where it pulled. Let’s keep it 100: a bulky leather belt under all of your tops just isn’t cute.
The issue didn’t stop with just pants. When you have the body shape that some strippers pay for (no shade ladies, get your paper, boo), it’s challenging to find clothes that fit. Even with dresses I have trouble because everything I wear “looks sexy”. I could literally be in a turtleneck dress that goes down to my knees and be told that my outfit is “too sexy” or that I’m trying purposely to be “thirsty” (this has happened many times, by the way). Dresses that other women who are less shapely can wear to work are ones I can’t because they look too sexy. Remember this story about the teacher wearing a completely appropriate dress to work? Or this TV anchor being shamed for her dress? These stories parrot things I have heard my entire life from people who sexualize a shapely body – but that conversation is for another day.
All of this said, I have learned 5 really important things over the years to help anyone (not just curvy women) who struggles with finding clothes that fit.
Tailor your clothing
Find you a dope ass tailor and NEVER EVER leave them. My bestie Jarod, who is the biggest clothing snob I know, was the one who put me on to this after I was complaining about pants never fitting me. I got my first pair of pants tailored in the waist and ankles and I never ever went back. If you’re in Toronto the ones I swear by are Sun Dry Cleaning, Studio Kim and Alian Designs. I have had almost every single item of clothing I own tailored and I’ll never stop.
Don’t get hung up on sizing
Sizing is not a real thing. Please know that I have pants in my closet that range from sizes 14 to 20. Some tops I wear are medium, some are XL, some are 1X – I get my tops tailored too, by the way. They’re just numbers and I promise you they don’t mean anything. At H&M I am a size 22 and at Old Navy I’m a 14.
Know Your Body
Learn what works for your body and be okay with it. This is easier said than done, but once you stop trying to make sh*t work that just doesn’t, you’ll be happier. For example, I can’t wear one of those loose fitting whimsical t-shirt dress things to save my life. I want to so bad, but there is no planet in which those damn things look good on me. I also can’t wear low-rise jeans, blouses that are made of chiffon, slip dresses or boat neck tops (thanks for my short neck, dad). Not because I don’t want to or because the “rules” say I shouldn’t, but rather, they just don’t work for my body. I’ve learned that everything I wear has to be form-fitting to some degree and while that can be a challenge, it’s just what works for my body.
Read the reviews online
I love online shopping because I loathe actual shopping. I get sweaty when I’m trying clothes on and I hate going into a store and having 3 things to choose from. I know so many women who are afraid of online shopping, but I swear, it’s the best ever. My number one piece of advice on this front is to read the reviews for each piece of clothing you purchase – other buyers will tell you how it fit, if it’s true-to-size, what the material is like, etc. Some of my favourite online retailers are Fashion Nova, BooHoo, Forever21+, Old Navy, and ASOS (watch out for duties with ASOS, though).
Be nice to yourself – don’t hide your light
I have noticed that women of all shapes and sizes tend to hide themselves using clothing. Kind of like how tall people wear kitten heels or flats to mask their height. I say EFF that. I know this is so much easier said than done, and being nice to yourself is constant work. But my motto is, if you don’t like the way my clothes look on me, then stop looking at me. Like when people say “big girls shouldn’t wear crop tops or two piece swimsuits”… pfft, if you don’t like my crop top, my bikini or my juicy thighs, that’s a you problem, not a me problem. The first time you tell someone that, you will change your life. Please remember to be nice to yourself, because you are magical.
I hope these tips help make the shopping experience a bit less stressful and act as a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself, because you’re worth it.
Until we meet again my loves,
about cleo ellis, contributor
Cleo is a spicy, curly-haired entrepreneur and proud Harry Potter book junkie. She is co-founder of LUXELIFE SOUND, a boutique booking agency that places female DJ talent at corporate events and she works as a personal publicist and brand manager for a couple of celeb clients. Instagram and Twitter: @EllisComms
Photos by Samantha Clarke