Thread: Fashion Police
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:04 AM   #58
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A 'few' thoughts, somewhat randomly thrown together into one post. In other words: GIANT WALL OF TEXT INCOMING, RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!!!

First, here is my take on the justification for big people being militantly anti-fashion.

Most of the fashion industry conveys the message that if you are at all fat, you’ve already lost the fashion game. Therefore to make it look like you are trying to play that game, if you are fat, can seem foolish; not only can you never win, you can also make yourself look too clueless to know that you can’t win. Like being the uncoordinated kid trying out for the school basketball team. Bad enough to lose, worse to look foolish. So the safest bet then is to avoid the game as much as possible, right? And that means making it clear to all and sundry that you are not playing that game

An extension of that would be that you should never try to get involved with anyone—romantically or even as friends—who expects you to play that game, because on top of all of the above you also end being a disappointment to them, for either not playing or playing and looking the foolish loser. This would argue that you should actually advertise your anti-fashion status all the more strongly in social situations where you might hope to make friends or even a romantic partner. You might miss out on starting something, but in the long run it is safest to only connect with people who can accept you at your most anti-fashion state. Or to put it another way, you aren’t dressing to impress, you are dressing to weed out anyone who would ever expect you to dress to impress.

Second….on the other hand, what Agouderia said about how we present ourselves being a powerful unspoken language is totally true in my experience. This was driven home to me while I was working at my first job, where the dress code was shirt and tie for men, with suits if a customer was visiting. On hot summer days if I was going to walk or bike home, I’d often bring t-shirt and shorts to change into after work. There was a mall somewhat on my way home, that I’d often stop at, to shop for myself, for gifts for my girlfriend, to pick up a cable for my stereo, to grab a sandwich…all sorts of things. The way I was treated varied very much with how I was dressed. It was by far strongest if I was shopping for my girlfriend (had to practically peel saleswomen off if I walked in wearing a suit), but it was even the case at the food court or the electronics store, where the clothes wouldn’t so much signal how much I was apt to spend.

So it feels to me that the anti-fashion stance is a bit of a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Like being the uncoordinated kid who, knowing he can’t make the school basketball team then decides that he won’t do any exercise at all, because he’s not good at it.

Third, micro-cultures vary, a LOT. As I said, in my first job the dress code was shirt and tie. Less than ten years later I worked at a company where, on an average day, if I wore a dress shirt to work I’d get teased, being asked “Got a job interview somewhere else today?” or the like. As another example, in university I was in a co-op program where we alternated work and school every four months, meaning you needed a suit for interviews, shirts and ties and dress slacks for work, all of which were expensive-ish clothes that you didn’t want to wear out at school, so on a student budget we all wore cheap t-shirts and jeans, or the like, during school terms—and this was a point of pride in the engineering faculty. To dress casual-fancy, as you might see more often on other campuses, was to break the unwritten code.

In other words, how you dress communicates a lot, but the language varies by micro-culture. Or to put it another way, “dressing to impress” can make you seem like a pretentious git, if you do it in the wrong way in the wrong place.

Fourth, my personal solution is to dress defensively. That is, to figure out the most unremarkable clothing choices for my environment, that I can find in an appropriate fit and budget. Given that about 90% of the trousers I try on sag in a giant “smiley face” across the front (I have too much bum and belly versus not enough hip for most standard cuts, so they don’t fit right) the ‘appropriate fit’ is often the most limiting factor. However I’m not even all that big, and the problem of appropriate fit and budget just get bigger and bigger as, well, the wearer gets bigger and bigger. I’m pretty sure that at some point trying not to stand out becomes much harder than simply choosing in what way you’ll stand out—and doing so in t-shirt and jeans is probably cheaper and more comfortable than doing so in most other things.

Fifth, there is a somewhat legitimate, in my opinion, reason to care about “your tribe.” Specifically, if you are fat, or like fat people, of course you have a selfish interest in how fat people portray themselves. To use a comparison that I probably lean on too much, tattoos would probably be (and especially would have been) more acceptable in broader society if they were not so heavily associated with marginalized groups like bikers, gangsters, and prisoners. When I was growing up, to have a visible tattoo was taken to say not that you thought it was pretty or that you liked body modification, but that you aspired to associate with those groups.

In a society where being fat has associations with poverty, poorer immigrant groups, and ‘hicks’, it probably benefits every fat person and FA when a fat person portrays themselves as successful, well-off, and cultured. The more people see fat people who look that way, the more apt those other associations are to slowly wither away. The problem is that to be that fat person trying to make those statements at the moment invites cognitive dissonance in the viewer, putting the statement the clothes make in conflict with the pre-judgements about fat people. So by doing so you invite attention, and given how uncomfortable cognitive dissonance seems to be for people there is also a good chance that you are specifically inviting negative attention, because you are the source of their discomfort.

In other words, there is a public good in playing the fashion game in an appropriate, careful, strategic, sort of way, but it may be up in the air on whether it is a personal good or not. Does the status you claim by dressing that way get others to treat you better, or does it make you more of a target for anti-fat feelings (or more the point, if it does both, which is the more powerful effect)?

Sixth, as always, there is a teensy-tiny chance that I may have ever so slightly over-thought this issue
Criticism is so often nothing more than the eye garrulously denouncing the shape of the peephole that gives access to hidden treasure.
-Djuna Barnes, writer and artist
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