January 26, 2014

When Fat Girls Wear Exercise Clothes. ~ Jessamyn Stanley

Maybe it’s just me, but most active wear designed for curvy female athletes leaves much to be desired in the realm of style.

How long will it take major designers of plus-size exercise wear to realize the clothes they produce for curvy bodies tend to be matronly and, to be frank, drab?

Frequently, their designs hide curvy bodies under bulky fabrics and don’t produce nearly the positive reinforcement of designs for slimmer athletes. It seems there are a few reasons for this phenomenon, and none of them present a particularly positive reflection of Western society’s views of voluptuous bodies.

1. Plus size friendly active wear designers don’t know what clothing styles are actually preferred by curvy women.

Trust me, I understand your confusion, given that many curvy girls tend to shroud their bodies in bulky t-shirts and baggy bottoms while exercising.

In my experience, this ‘pajamas as active wear’ trend is usually more immediately relatable to comfort and availability, rather than actual personal style expression. Here’s the thing, designers—we want to wear what everyone else is wearing. That’s it. Literally: the same designs you’d produce for svelte figures, but with additional fabric.

Yes, we want cute shorty-shorts and bra tops. Bra tops which can control our bouncing ladies without making us feel as though we’re participants in a Richard Simmons aerobics class. Spandex leggings in every color of the rainbow that don’t split at the inner thigh seam from the slightest hint of friction.

The simplicity of our needs and the utter lack of supply suggest that another reason plus-size exercise clothes tend to suck is because:

2. Most people don’t want to see curvy bodies in skimpy active wear.

Put lightly, anyone who makes a derogatory comment about witnessing a curvy body in skimpy gym wear should be reminded that it is pathetic to project personal body dissatisfaction onto the lives of others. Basically, if the core of your humanity is completely shaken by your revulsion of visible fat rolls, I would suggest averting your eyes and minding your own business.

Of course we can’t place all blame on the silent judgment of others. This leads me to the third reason for the lack of curve-friendly sexy exercise apparel:

3. Curvy consumers do not believe they deserve the clothing of their slimmer comrades.

Our society encourages fat shaming at every level and personal fat shaming is probably the most ubiquitous of all. And when it comes to curvy bodies, who wouldn’t feel a little embarrassed to wear revealing exercise clothing if your image of voluptuous people exercising involves baggy t-shirts a la The Biggest Loser.

Honestly, I understand why curvy women gravitate toward baggy clothing, but it has the dual role of making us ashamed of our bodies and encourages unflattering clothing designs.

One of the only benefits of corporate size discrimination is that curvy athletes are able to support independent designers who offer custom sizing. For example, Etsy is packed with designers whose size-neutral items can be crafted for bodies both large and small.

However, this is not enough. We need to stop hiding curvy bodies behind sweat suits and baggin’, saggin’ short sets. It is very difficult to love your body while exercising if you’re too embarrassed to even look at it. This self-inflicted embarrassment has got to stop, and I think that if we stop self-fat shaming, retailers will follow in our wake.

Exercise clothing should be created equal, and self-love is the only way to get there.


When Fat People Do Yoga.

Is Yoga Immune from Fat-Shaming?

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s Own

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