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All the fashion ‘rules’ I break as a plus-size woman 

IMAGE VIA @maryrosem/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY MARY MADIGAN

“For me, outdated ideas about plus-size women covering their arms, hiding their stomachs or not showing off their thighs are firmly ignored.”

The rules of fashion are a bit like the rules of love; there really are none. As a plus-size woman, I think it’s essential to rail against any kind of rules that stop me from embracing and loving both my body and fashion. 

Growing up, I always felt like I shouldn’t wear certain clothes or embrace specific styles because I was constantly worried they weren’t flattering. But what I’ve learned is that my idea of what was flattering was coming from a fatphobic culture – it wasn’t actually accurate or based on reality. The long story short is that you can wear a crop top, have a tummy, and look fabulous. 


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It went beyond what was going on inside my own head, though. I was actually told I shouldn’t wear certain clothes or styles. Adults, strangers, and shop assistants all pushed me towards wearing outfits that concealed my body. They wanted me to wear clothes that hid my figure but as an adult, I’ve repeatedly challenged this. Just because my thighs are full, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be on display. 

Of course, it’s frustrating that a thinner friend could wear the same outfit as me and no one would call them ‘brave’ but it’s also something I’ve learned to take pride in. I’m a walking, talking billboard for body diversity and acceptance and is that sometimes a burden? Yes, but is it also a privilege? Yes! 

I’ve had fellow plus-size women stop me in the street and tell me I’ve inspired them or reminded them they should be able to wear what they want. Now, this isn’t because I’m a fashion icon or incredibly good-looking – sadly, no one is mistaking me for a celebrity. It’s because I’m something other plus-size women need to see; a woman out in the world having fun with fashion without trying to make herself look smaller.

For me, outdated ideas about plus-size women covering their arms, hiding their stomachs or not showing off their thighs are firmly ignored. I base my fashion choices around joy. What makes me happy? What makes me feel good? What makes me smile? If I base my clothing around my feelings, I almost always come up with a look.

But just because I ignore plus-size fashion rules, it doesn’t mean mainstream fashion does. I don’t shop in many brick-and-mortar stores because they think all plus-size women want to wear ugly florals and dresses with sleeves; it’s uninspiring and unfashionable. I aim to look like a cross between Anna Wintour and Dame Edna, and cap sleeves aren’t getting me there! 

I’ve come to a point now where my wardrobe reflects my personality and not what parts of my body I’m trying to hide. It’s felt so empowering to rail against the idea that if you have a tummy, you should hide it or if your arms aren’t slender, you should cover them up. Bodies of all sizes look fabulous in all different types of styles. Surely Lizzo is teaching us all that on a global scale? 

So, where do I shop? Well, primarily online, and while I think more shopping centres should cater to plus-size women, I feel lucky to have discovered some incredible Australian and New Zealand labels online that offer inclusive sizing.

I’ve searched long and hard to find labels that create clothes that throw away these outdated fashion rules and embrace size diversity. My wardrobe now feels as quirky and bright as my personality, and it warms my heart to know my chosen labels are also ethical. Of course, I’m aware finding great clothes shouldn’t involve quite as much hunting, but every time I wear a piece from these designers, it feels worth it.

Labels like Dyspnea, Edgeley, The Variety Hour and Maggie Marilyn are wardrobe staples. They are also labels that don’t conform to these outdated ideas of how plus-size women should dress. Their clothes are fun, exciting and joyful. After all, I don’t want to be in a giant smock – I want to be in a skintight sequin dress. 

Fashion has helped me learn to enjoy my body, but it wasn’t until I threw out the outdated rule book that I really started to have fun and find myself. Every day when I get up and get dressed, I feel fashionable and defiant. I am a woman taking up space through fashion, and I love it.

For more on eschewing fashion ‘rules’, try this.

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