I know we like to punish ourselves when it comes to squeezing into clothes — and I know more than one amazing, accomplished woman who has burst into tears while trying on jeans — but surely it doesn’t have to be this way.
A recent story in The New York Times examined the growing influence of plus-size fashion bloggers. We asked Ragini Nag Rao, of A Curious Fancy, to offer some insights into having fun with fashion even when you have lingering hangups about your body.
Q: Have you always been at peace with your body, or was it (is it?) a struggle?
A: Making peace with my body was a long and arduous journey. In fact, it is a journey I still am on. The fat hating culture we live in makes sure that it is a never-ending journey. It is a daily struggle to wrest some amount of self-confidence from the world that tells me, on a daily basis, that I can never be good enough.
I first started thinking differently about my body in 2007. I still have to take conscious steps to not hate it every single day of my life. I have bad body days, too many of them in fact, but it’s an ongoing battle, even with myself. I have so many moments when I tell myself that I am hideous and disgusting, and then I pick myself up and try to think better things about myself. The world we live in never makes it easy — loving my body is something I can never take for granted, thanks to it.
Q: You told The New York Times that women sometimes don’t bother to dress their bodies well if they perceive them as temporary. Can you explain what you mean?
A: When I was still trying to lose weight, I had a wardrobe full of pretty clothes. None of those clothes, though, were in my size. They were always too small — some of them I could uncomfortably get into, some looked comically small when held in front of me. I dressed only in faded, baggy blacks. ‘What’s the point of dressing this body well?’ I used to think. I felt that being fat was just a temporary stage on my way to slender perfection. I genuinely believed the myth that inside me was a thin girl crying to get out. I never thought that my current body was worthy of dressing well, because I didn’t believe it could look good.
Q: Several observers have noted that plus-size women are having a bit of a cultural moment, and that stick-thin is no longer the only permissible option for women. Do you think things are getting better for women of all shapes and sizes?
A: I really don’t believe that. I think fat hatred is as strong as ever, and what is passing for a ‘cultural moment’ is just scraps being thrown at fat people. You just need to read the comments on any of the articles written in the mainstream media about fat and fat fashion, which constitute this so-called cultural moment, to see how much fat people are hated. As a fat person, I can say with certainty that it is not at all better. What seems to me is that fat people and fat fashion are being seen as a curiosity, with the same kind of interest with which someone would see a circus sideshow. It does not constitute cultural acceptance. It merely sets us apart more.
Q: Do you have any tips for not letting perceived imperfections overtake the fun of fashion?
A: I think the idea is to treat your body like it is as valid as any thin body. Thin bodies are treated as canvases for fashion, so why not fat bodies? Fat bodies are not invalid! Fat bodies don’t need fashion ‘rules’ written all over them in order for them to be dressed. I have said this countless times elsewhere, and I will say it again: there are no rules for dressing fat bodies. The only rule is have fun!
If you want to wear a drop waist, wear that drop waist! If you want to bare your arms, bare those arms! If you want to wear knicker-shorts, wear those knicker-shorts! Don’t let your body stop you.
Q: Have you made any other positive changes to your life that could help anyone accept who they are?
A: I think accepting yourself is a very personal process. What worked for me might not work for anyone else. I think the idea is to do a lot of self-reflection. Think about why you dislike your body. Read as much about fat acceptance as you can. There is no one ‘fat acceptance’, so make sure you hear a lot of voices.
I was personally helped by looking at pictures of myself naked a lot, from different angles, angles at which I don’t see myself but at which other people see me. It helped me become familiar with my body, and helped me accept it more.