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I had the honor of attending a beautiful marriage celebration this past weekend in Minneapolis. My husband and I are deeply driving-averse, and although I am not a big fan of air travel, especially in these modern days of nickel-and-diming, fat-hating, slut-shaming, desperately grasping, unregulated air lines, we decided that one hour in an uncomfortable plane seat would be preferable to eight hours in a car. Since it was only an overnight trip, we packed light, and I wore the bra that I planned to wear under my dress.

It’s this bra, in case you are curious. It’s a GREAT bra for the large-bosomed, particularly if your sweet chariots swing low. This is not the bra for someone who prefers stylish underthings over a utilitarian brassiere, but since I am the sort of person who walks into the bra department of my local department store once a year like clockwork and says, “Do you have this utilitarian brassiere in beige? Great, I will take four. And a twelve-pack of those beige, cotton, granny pants while you’re at it,” it is the perfect bra for me. Wearing it is also similar to wearing scaffolding, and there is enough metal in this thing to make a staid, tight-laced, Victorian matron pale.

So it was no surprise to anyone except me, and only then because I just wasn’t thinking about it, when my bra set off the metal detector at O’Hare. I responded to the TSA officer’s troubleshooting questions about the contents of my pockets or the possibility of implants with a good natured, “I’m pretty sure it’s the underwire in my bra,” hoping that he would wave his wand toward my boobs (oh hush) and let me go on and get some coffee. But instead he herded me into a little glass booth where I was subjected to a desultory yet unpleasantly thorough screening from a “female screener” who paid extra special attention to my underwire area, much to my mental discomfort.*

Eventually, the TSA officer, satisfied that the underwire shaped metal located under my boobs was, in fact, an integral part of the support mechanism of my underwire bra, let me go, and I scampered off, chagrined, to get some coffee.

This being a United flight, I was a little apprehensive about Flying While Fat.** I’m not death fat, and can fit within the confines of one seat belt with room to spare. Lowering the arm rest isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it hurts my elbows more than my hips. Still, I definitely visually register as fat (and often end up sitting solo on buses and trains as a result, which as far as I am concerned is the best side affect of FA since that whole “putting half and half in my coffee” thing) and you know, just knowing that I might get the side eye from other passengers or gate agents had me a little uneasy.

I kind of hate to say it, since being furious at various airlines is one of my favorite parts of air travel, but everything went fine. Nobody pointed and called the Fat Police on me or any of the numerous other fat passengers, and nobody even really looked at me twice. Not only that, but the flight was short enough–an hour and change–that I didn’t even have time to get all squirmy and uncomfortable in the 17-inch wide seat.

The wedding celebration was delightful, with an amazing view and much exuberant dancing, for which I would like to thank the happy couple, who picked the music, The Most Enthusiastic Hotel-employed DJ Ever, and Elomi, for creating a bra that will hold my boobs in check even during “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”***

I woke up the next morning without a hangover**** miraculously enough, but with one nagging thought: How the shit am I going to get through security in this bra without subjecting myself to another public groping? Not wearing a bra at all was out of the question; being 36 years old and having worn a bra since I was ten (aside from a Hippy Year in college when I declared bras to be untenable to my political beliefs), I would no sooner spend a significant amount of time outside without a bra than I would without pants. I hoped for a more lax attitude towards security at this smallish airport in a Midwestern city populated by eerily nice people, but as I waited in the interminable line for an excessively vigilant woman to perform the initial boarding-pass-and-ID-check, while a rogue TSA officer poked some sort of bomb or drug or liquids-in-containers-larger-than-3-ounces sniffer contraption into random bags, I knew that was folly.

Then it hit me.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “You might want to go through a different security line than me.”

“Why?” he asked, a little alarmed.

“Because I’m going to take my bra off before I go through the metal detector.”

And I did. And my husband, bless his heart, went right through the same security line behind me, which was probably for the best because if he hadn’t, I was going to plop my big old 40G right into a bin to send it through the metal detector. Out of deference for his more introverted and nonconfrontational nature, however, I stuck it in my purse instead, and walked through the metal detector metal- and support-free, without a hitch.

And so that I may serve, if not as a good example, as a horrible warning, let me impart the following wisdom:

  • If you are roughly 5’6″, 250-ish pounds, and an average US size 20, you’ll probably be okay on a United flight, even a short commuter flight on a smaller plane with 17″-wide seats.
  • If you are planning on flying any time soon and don’t already own one no-underwire bra, consider picking one up. I reservedly recommend this Cacique cotton no wire bra, which is not going to win any awards for lifting, separating, supporting, or shaping, and is also sold by a company that touts itself as a premier retailer of plus-sized undergarments yet refuses to carry anything above a DDD cup in its stores (while offering “bra fittings,” and if anybody here is over a proper DDD cup, and has been fitted by an LB sales associate who did not then attempt to stuff you into an ill-fitting, too-small bra, please tell me in the comments), but is pretty handy for Saturday mornings when you really want pancakes but are inexplicably out of baking soda and need to run out to the store or when you are planning on going through a hyper-sensitive metal detector. I’m a 40G and I think the one I have is a 42DDD, which works fine for its purposes.

*She did offer, a few times, to let me undergo a private screening, but I mostly just wanted to get it over with so I declined. I would have accepted if she wanted me to actually remove any additional clothing, and I want to remind my modest or religious readers, that you have the right to request a private screening by a TSA officer of the same gender if you are asked to remove a veil, head covering, or any other garment that you do not wish to remove publicly.

**Bought the ticket just before they announced their anti-fat policy.

***Peace to you and your family, MJ.

****Dear Colleen, Ha ha. XO, OTM

My clothes are wearing out. They are pilled, stretched, faded, misshapen. They have lost buttons. Hems are fallen and seams are torn. My t-shirts inexplicably developed pin-holes in weird places. My pants completely explicably developed tears in the inner-thighs. I have babied my clothes, repaired them, dyed them, and patched them but I can only delay the inevitable disintegration for so long.

In other words, it’s time to shop. And that’s where the frustration starts, because Spring 2009 Trends? I am just not that into you. I wasn’t that into your older sibling, Spring 2008 Trends, either. The year before that? That was my Magical Year of Shopping While Fat. Unfortunately, because I’m fat, and because plus-size, high-quality, timeless pieces designed to last more than one season are the Unicorns of the Fashion World, my clothes are wearing slam out, as some of my country relatives would say.

Dear dingy, pilling Target dress, hang in with me for one more year and then I will give you the royal send off you deserve for three years of loyal service, which is two and a half more years than you were created to offer.

Of course, some retailers do make clothes that I love. I have a life-long, tragically unrequited love affair with Anthropologie. Back when I could wear their clothes, I couldn’t afford them. And now that I can afford them? They have decided that I am Too Fat. And don’t even get me started on Ann Taylor, which used to be my never-fail go-to for professional clothes. They are selling clothes that I love, but they are not selling clothes that I can wear. The retailers that are selling clothes in my size are stuck in this whirlpool of Boho-animal print-polyester-bedazzled-South Beach colored horribleness that is to my personal aesthetic what right-wing evangelism is to my political leanings.

And so Twistie’s post here spoke to me, right to my fat, discontented heart. Twistie calls us all to action:

People, it’s time for a revolution. Not a dreary one nor a bloody one. We need a revolution of fabulousness. I want each and every one of you to stand up and do something about this. We are not a tiny minority. We are a mighty community and we are not being served.

I want every person reading this blog – fat or thin, tall or short, male or female, every color of the rainbow and all stops in between – to refuse to be invisible. Write to a retailer or manufacturer and say that you want clothes in your size. Wear something down the street that makes people stop and stare in wonder. Laugh in the face of someone who tries to shame you into ’slimming’ colors or ‘weight appropriate’ cuts.

We. Deserve. Nice. Clothes.

And she’s totally right. And so I wrote to two retailers – Anthropologie and Ann Taylor, natch – and not only told them that I want clothes in my size, I provided them with a sample order of what I would purchase, today, as I sit here on my lunch hour, from each of them. And friends, it’s a significant amount of money. An amount of money that I am extremely privileged to have at my disposal were those stores far-thinking enough to offer anything in a women’s size 20. An amount of money that instead will stay comfortably tucked away in my checking account, patiently awaiting the clothing trends that plus-size retailers are willing to embrace to come back around to my way of thinking.

After the cut, I’ll provide you with the text of the letter I sent to the corporate office of Anthropologie so you can use it as a template for the letter you write to the retailer of your choice.

Read the rest of this entry »

I read somewhere (maybe Fatshionista, or Fatshionista, I can’t remember – ETA: It was in the comments of this great post by my pal the Pretty Pear) that a number of mail-order purveyors of women’s plus size clothing, such as The Catalogs, insist on using straight-size models, despite the fact that doing so often makes their clothes look ridiculous, out of some misinformed notion that fat women won’t buy clothes that other fat women are wearing. And, you know what? Fine. Whatever. Go ahead, pin those 12Ws to hell and back on a size 6 model. These retailers are usually so fashion tone deaf anyway that getting them to jump on the Fat Pride bandwagon by using fat women to model their plus-sized clothes is akin to teaching a puppy to drive a car before you even train it to stop peeing in the house.

So it’s not the fact that Chadwick’s is using a straight-sized model to display its plus-sized dresses that bothers me. It’s the fact that they are manipulating the photos of these straight-sized women to turn them into impossibly spindly, spaghetti-shaped, wire hangers, like so:

No wire hangers! Another example of a manipulated image.

If either of those two models are naturally that shape and size, I will not only buy that dress, I will also eat it.

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