Getting to the Bottom of It

A Fat Woman’s Lament

“Fashion victims, you’ve crashed the wrong party!” — the Tick

Shopping for pants is always a trial. First off, I shop in what the fashion industry so lovingly calls “plus size” stores. This is where the fashion industry lumps all the women above a size 12W and below a size 32W. I’m not fond of the term “plus size.” Though, I suppose it is better than what this particular size range (and the one above it when they were lumped in together) used to be called: “queen size.” Panty hose manufacturers still use this terminology, which absolutely makes me burn. I don’t know why. It’s an illogical, irksome irritant without reason. Though “plus size” is infinitely better than the name of the size range for women wearing 32W and above: “super size.” I kid you not.

The selection of clothes in these plus size stores is always sketchy. One of the largest of the plus size stores is Lane Bryant. In the past few years, Lane Bryant has shown a particular bent towards clothes that are, shall I say, not quite my style. To put it bluntly, I’ve avoided shopping at Lane Bryant in recent years because I haven’t wanted to be tarted up. Other plus size stores seem to have developed the same style as Lane Bryant. It seems that where Lane Bryant goes, so do other plus size stores.

Department stores such as Macy’s, J.C. Penny’s, and Dillards have the opposite problem. These stores each have plus size departments, usually called the Women’s Department or Shop for Women. Never seen them? There’s a reason for that. They’re insultingly located in the back of the store. Macy’s at Town Center Mall in Kennesaw, Georgia has located their plus size department on a completely different floor than all the other clothes departments, behind the kitchen-ware section. [Snerk.] As one spokeswoman for a department store once said, “Who wants to see fat women grazing around in the front of the store? It would hurt business.” Lovely sentiment. (If you want to know which store it was, email me and I’ll tell you. It wasn’t one I mentioned and I don’t shop there. Well, I wouldn’t shop there if they were still in business. But they closed shop a while ago. Ha. My one-woman boycott worked!)

Hello topic: These department store women’s departments sell clothes that look great on my grandmother. Though to be perfectly honest, my grandmother would eschew at the old-fashioned selection at these places. From the styles at these stores, I can only conclude that department store think that all fat women are 1) great-grandmothers, 2) completely unconcerned with their appearance, and/or 3) tasteless slobs.

So once I decide whether I want to dress like a tart or a great-granny, the most difficult part of the shopping experience must commence. I speak, of course, of the Trying on of Clothes. [Cue appropriate Psycho shower scene music here.] For any woman not shaped like a poofy-lipped, stick-figured supermodel, this step is traumatic. For women (such as I) who are peculiarly shaped, this step is one that should be accompanied by chocolate, a good friend who is larger than yourself, and a bottle of muscle relaxers.

So how am I shaped peculiarly? Oh, I don’t have an extra arm or bulging eye or anything like that (despite being vaccinated). I just have peculiar proportions. I am tall for a woman (5′ 9.5″), but my height is not in my legs as I would wish. No, my height is in my torso. So I’m long-waisted and short-legged – not the best configuration for a fat woman. I’m a tall woman with a short woman walk. To make matters worse, as one earnest young bard once said, I have “junk in the trunk.” This does not help to make my legs look longer.

Having a big butt isn’t something you can deny. And it’s not something you can readily camouflage. Take my last trouser-shopping expedition as an example. The earnest young, poofy-lipped, stick-figured salesgirl assured me that her newest, greatest pant was exactly what I needed to help disguise the width and breadth of my overly large butt. I was skeptical. What does a poofy-lipped, stick-figured little slip of a girl know about camouflaging my rather large asset? As it turns out, she knew nothing.

These latest, greatest trousers had tapered legs. Tapered legs! Why she suggested tapered-legged trousers, I don’t know. Tapered-legged trousers look good on no one – even poofy-lipped, stick-figured little wisps of salesgirls. In addition, they were cropped. Oy. Cropped trousers only look good on Twiggy cerca 1960 when she’d starved herself a good week or two. So I wasn’t enthusiastic about the trousers. But I gamely tried them on anyway despite my misgivings, hoping that the fashion industry had perhaps stumbled upon some miraculous cut of tapered-legged, cropped trouser that would magically make my butt disappear.

With my butt towards the mirror in the dressing room, I looked over my shoulder to see what the tapered-legged, cropped pants accomplished. Only I couldn’t see; a barn magically appeared in my dressing room behind me! [Ba-dum.] Okay, it wasn’t a barn. It was my butt, and it looked as big as a barn in those pants.

I suppose I relearned a lesson in this experience: never trust a skinny girl to know what looks best on a fat woman. I mean, I knew this. I just haven’t seriously shopped in a while. Sigh.

I finally found trousers I like… at Lane Bryant of all places.

[Note: I’m exaggerating here. Lane Bryant has a better selection for this season, thank heavens. And Macy’s at Kennesaw’s Town Center Mall usually has a pretty nice selection in their plus size department, even if it is behind the kitchen department on a different floor than all the other clothes departments. Ahem.]