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'Plus Sized' Clothes: Translating the Baffling Euphemisms

I am a big fatty. This is the one area where Internet criticism of me is correct.

Now, I am not exactly morbidly obese, but I am fat enough to worry about things that fat people worry about, like clothes. The world has not wanted to see fat people naked since the Renaissance, so we are pretty much forced by our fascist society to wear something. I can barely call them "clothes," however, as much of what's been available for the full-figured woman could better be defined as tents, or period costumes, or tablecloths with neck holes cut in the middle.


A sample of the hot fashions often available to the overweight.
Note how a muumuu can make even a skinny woman look fat.

You might think, Well, serves you right for being fat, fatty. Lose some weight if you want to wear nice clothes. Sure, Americans in particular should probably take some responsibility for their weight, but does it benefit any of us, fat or thin, to see that sweater or those floral prints coming down the street at us?

Fortunately, this seems to have gotten through to many clothing designers in the last few years, who have started coughing up clothing lines for the specially-sized. Unfortunately, this "victory" actually just opens up stage two of the "finding clothes even though you are overweight" game. Stage two involves navigating the maze of stupid euphemisms to figure out where all these new plus-sized clothes are.

#3.
Finding a Fat Clothing Store

Now, there are two places to get larger-sized clothes. You can go to a store especially for plus-sizes, or you can look for a plus-sized section in a regular clothing store. Shopping in a specialized store has some pluses and minuses. The plus is that you have more selection. The minus is that someone might spot you shopping in a store for fat people and everyone would know you are fat. That is sort of irrational though, unless you normally interact with people from behind a machine like the Wizard of Oz.

Anyway, beyond that, the issue is finding one of these stores. When guys want to find a store for abnormally giant men, they can go to a store called Big and Tall or something. There are no women's stores called Big and Fat or Large Ass Emporium, for obvious reasons.


Some less successful store naming ideas.

Faced with the challenge of coming up with a name that indicates they sell larger sizes, but without actually describing their customers as being overweight or differently-sized in any way, most clothing stores just give up. There seem to be three main strategies:

I. Some Lady's Name

See Lane Bryant or Ashley Stewart. Who are they? Are they famously large women? Do they dress just like large women? You don't know. You just go to the mall and see fucking "Lane Bryant" on the store sign. Sure, all the clothes in the window display are a bit large, but since they're also apparently made for grandmothers, you just assume they're supposed to be shapeless, because that's what everyone seems to think old ladies like. As a teen, I walked in there once looking for an interview suit assuming exactly that; that they make stodgy conservative clothes for old people. And what's better than to look grown up for an interview? It took five minutes of browsing to realize they had nothing smaller than a 14.

II. Some Random Word

See Avenue and Alight. Looking at the number of "random word" stores starting with A, I'm willing to bet they're going through a dictionary and looking for the first words that have nothing to do with being fat or any other negative connotation. Unfortunately, as political pundits have taught us, any word can have a negative connotation if you put your mind to it. If you try to figure out why a plus-sized store would be named Avenue, the only logical conclusion is that they think their customers are as wide as a street. If you look at Alight that way, all you see is cruel, cruel sarcasm.

III. Like The Original Store's Name But Different

Plus-sized version of franchises include Torrid (original store: Hot Topic), Macy's Woman (Macy's), Elisabeth (Liz Claiborne), Faith 21 (Forever 21) and Pure Energy (Target). If you weren't familiar with the names of the original stores, you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between which is the regular brand and which is the plus-size brand. Seriously, Macy's, you think adding "Woman" to your name means "fat"? Either that's misogynistic or they've got a Macy's Man store full of giant Hawaiian shirts.

#2.
There Are Different Kinds of Fat

Once you're in the store, you've got to find the clothes for the exact kind of fat you are, because there are many different shapes of fat. For example:


Also consider looking into football.

#1.
Finding Your Fat Size

So you found the right store somehow, you know what shape of clothes you're looking for and you're ready to shop. Now have fun figuring out what sizes and cuts mean what. Just like they can't call the store, "Clothes for Fat People," they also can't call that jeans cut "Jeans for Big Asses."

Here's a translation of somewhat recent jean styles from GAP (they seem to change monthly), which believe it or not I've historically found the easiest store to buy jeans at.

Boot cut - For skinny people.

Curvy - Fat ass. (For the pear-shaped woman.)

Straight leg (formerly "Classic") - Fat but too weird shaped to fit into Curvy.


Perfectly fitting curvy jeans: the large-assed woman's holy grail.

Curvy is actually for a pretty particular shape of fat ass, so when that season's curvy jeans aren't catering to you, you have to roll with the "classic," or some kind of formless cut, which due to your jutting butt, will just drape over the rest of your legs like a tent and make them look just as thick as your butt.


And you just can't wear these without the abs.

GAP also caters to the penguin-shaped woman by having three leg lengths to choose from in each size:

Long - Means long.

Regular - Means regular.

Ankle - Means short.

I love how they are so sensitive about people with short legs that they make up this fiction that normal sized women are buying "ankle" length jeans because they just feel like changing it up and having some jeans that end somewhere above their ankles.

I'm starting to think maybe the whole capris trend was really an effort to cater to ladies with really, really short legs that was way too subtle, so everyone thought they were really supposed to wear them as actual short pants. This has probably been the fashion industry's little inside joke for the past decade.


Ashton Kutcher has himself been punk'd this whole time.

Outside of GAP-specific terms, other stores also have their own indecipherable names for certain body shapes. For example, "petite" is the code word for "short legs." Technically it's supposed to be for all smaller women, but overall tiny women usually just get size 0's, those jerks. Women buying "petite" sizes are usually just shrunk down vertically and not so much horizontally, created by God to balance a population that contained Manute Bol.

And last but not least, there is "goddess size," found at many fantasy-clothes, Wiccan-clothes and period-costume suppliers, which is so far past the line that I would actually be less embarrassed buying a dress sized "Oink."

For instance, here are some "goddess-sized" clothes for sale.

Where this is what you get if you do an image search for "goddess":

Now, here's where we could wring our hands about how "society" keeps projecting unnatural thinness as an ideal even onto our imagined images of goddesses, but I'm pretty sure a lot of the same people who put on goddess-size dresses are also drawing these hot skinny goddesses and uploading them to deviantart, so there may be a little disconnect in imagining how putting on that dress makes them look.

And it's not limited to heavy girls, as any snapshot of any fan convention or LARP game could probably tell you that most human beings have a hard time noticing discrepancies between what they look like and the fantasy image they think they look like.

So to sum up: If you're overweight and female, you've got to know your shape, hunt through random stores' inventory to figure out if they sell plus-sizes, decipher the code words that store uses for body shapes through trial and error, and repeat that all over again for every store you go to.

If society's goal is to make it so hard that it actually seems easier to just go to the gym, well, we're almost there.

Check out more from Christina, in The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women (Like Me!) Make On The Internet and The 6 Most Insane Crash Diets of All Time.

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