When I was a fat kid, the choices I had for clothing were dismal – especially in my teen years.  Too tall to wear half-sizes (anybody remember half-sizes?), I was stuck with whatever Sears had in its women’s section – size 18 to 20.  Most stores (including K-Mart) didn’t carry anything above a size 16, and the catalogues didn’t go up to my size either – unless you could wear a half size (which would put the waistline somewhere just under my boobs, thank you very much).

So most of my store-bought clothes were plain and dull.  Navy, burgundy, and black A-line skirts with “matching” pale blue, pink and white short sleeve blouses; and navy and burgundy slacks.  Whoo-hoo.  And don’t forget the navy and burgundy v-neck sweaters to go with.  Not quite stylin’ in the mod-60s!  Sigh.

My (maternal) grandmother and my mom helped by adding home-sewn items to my wardrobe and those were always my favorite things to wear.  But sewing patterns in my size were limited and not very stylish either.

In 1971 my mother took me to a clothing store in Detroit.  That store was Lane Bryant and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  The clothes were stylish and pretty, and came in lots of gorgeous colors.  I was only allowed to buy one dress (which was needed for some special occasion, long since forgotten – the occasion, not the dress); but I was thrilled – oh, and they had cute shoes in my size too!

Then in 1972, a local business woman saw the potential of providing stylish clothes to fat women and opened her own store.  I found out about it when they hired me to do a couple of television commercials for them!  And they paid me in clothes – just in time for me to start college!  The owner was expanding her store to include a Tall Shop and she hired me to work in that section of the store – not only did I have a discount, I now had first dibs on the clothes coming in.

Needless to say, my closet was soon full of great clothes.  My closet is still full of great clothes – admittedly, more than I need but having been a fat girl who just wanted to be stylish, it is hard for me to resist when I see something darling in a catalogue or on a hanger.  I’m afraid I have a real scarcity mentality when it comes to clothes that I like.  I can’t quite believe that there will always be nice clothes for me when I need them.

Lane Bryant eventually opened a store in a nearby mall, and the clothing stores of the local business woman have since closed.  Now we have so many options – catalogues, fat lady clothing stores, the internet, and a lot of stylish fat-size sewing patterns for those who have the skill, time and inclination to make their own clothing.

The fat fashion world has changed so much since I was that fat girl who wanted to be stylish.  There is still more to be done (like using appropriately sized models), but I’m so glad that fat kids growing up today can find clothes that say “you are part of this world and you deserve to look stylish – we have not forgotten you.”




  1. Ha! I grew up in the Detroit are in the 1970s and 80s. I always thought the clothing options I had were pretty poor, but as soon as I could wear adult clothes, there was Lane Bryant. Actually, when I was younger there was Sears Pretty Plus, which was pretty horrible. And my parents didn’t seem to like to spend money on nice clothes for me when they were together. Later on – after they split up – we were just poor. I remember being teased about the horrible clothes from Sears outlet that I had to wear in middle school. I would have killed for the clothes they have now in Torrid or even Target. Straight sizes used to be so small and always, always stopped at a 14. And I could never get my hips into a 14.

  2. Fortunately or unfortunately, because I experienced the same issues, I have to be really, really diligent about not becoming a clothes hoarder! LOL! Nice to have that problem, I think! Hugs!

  3. I remember ‘half-sizes.’ I never actually wore them at the time they were in use, but my mother, aunt, & grandmother did. They wore cheap, ugly, flower-printed housedresses.

    I am a jeans & t-shirt girl, but I am still a fat clothes junkie, especially with jeans. I never seem to be able to have enough pairs. Every season I see at least two or three pairs I really want, it seems, especially over the past few years with the ‘skinny’ jeans, since that is the style which best fits my hourglass turned to apple body, with the preponderance of weight in the waist/belly area, & slimmer legs/thighs in comparison. I love jeans with a narrow ankle & the other styles…even most manufacturers ‘straight leg’ jeans…look as if I am wearing a parachute. So I buy a pair of skinny jeans I like whenever I get enough money to spare for a pair/a sale is on, etc., in case, like some years ago, they become unavailable. Making It Big has lovely fat models, but most of their styles don’t really speak to me (I haven’t reached the point, at 62 & on a fixed income, of feeling right about spending $100 for a shirt) & their prices certainly do not. A lot of the time, it seems as if their styles, expensive & well-made as they are, smack of stereotypical ‘fat lady’ clothes…the pull-on pants with a lot of material in them based on the assumption that fat women all have huge butts & thighs, & the big, long, oversized shirts. I can buy myself clothes at places like Torrid, even if I am a bit older than their usual customer. I cannot sew, so I am very glad for the greater availability of decent, attractive clothing & these days I very seldom see something I like which is not available in my size, except when I am too late ordering & it is sold out. Obviously, most of us fat women, when we see something we like which fits us, jump on it as quickly as we can. While I am waiting to get hold of the money, what I like has been snatched up by others.

    I grew up poor, with abusive alcoholic parents & we were very poor when my sons were growing up, so these days, if I can get something I love without taking money needed for bills, I get it, whether or not I can honestly say I really ‘need’ it. Sometimes our emotional & psychological needs are even more important than the basic physical needs.

  4. I too am a fatshion junkie. I spent my whole life believing that I didn’t deserve cute clothes until I was thin. And besides, there was NOTHING available out there in my teens and 20’s. It’s only now that the market is improving. It has a long way to go, a VERY long way to go, to offer fat women anything like we deserve, but it has improved a vast amount.

    Nowdays I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I’m having fun with fatshion and expressing myself through clothes.

  5. I remember that, Patsy. Keep the halfway-decent clothes forever, or at least until they disintegrated into their component molecules, because you never knew when or if you’d ever see something else worth wearing.
    I remember visitng Lane Bryant once as a little girl and it was the FIRST TIME EVER I got a pair of pantyhose that fit and didn’t slide directly to my knees and have to be yanked up all day. I’m sure my mother regretted not wearing a paper bag over her head just to be visiting the store.
    Dismal choices! Who of a certain age doesn’t remember that special bulletproof polyester? The seams on this fabric were probably made of thin spaghetti or some material that had even less holding power. The bust darts were things of wonder, and the wonder is that they ever fell in the right spot for anybody. It was against some kind of law that these items should EVER be made in primary colors.
    I can well understand the compulsion to hoard clothing. Scarcity breeds that mentality. Thank you, fashion designers and stores, for saving me so much money during those years, basically by offering nothing much worth buying.

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