Beth Burnett

Storyteller

In my head, I’m dapper. I wear crisp dress shirts with sweater vests and colorful bow ties. I have nicely-fitted dress slacks that I wear with loafers and socks that often match my ties. When it’s cold, I put on a nice thick cardigan, perhaps with patches on the elbow. Sometimes, the me in my head wears crew neck sweaters over a collared shirt with a necktie.

I even have a name for this person, this dapper gender-neutral person in my head. They’re named Finnian, a name I’ve been trying on lately with a select few close friends.

This person dresses the way I want to dress. They dress the way I feel most comfortable. They look on the outside the way I feel on the inside.

But big men’s clothing is not designed for fat female bodies like mine. If I manage to find pants I like, they’re tight in the waist, tighter across the stomach and absolutely huge in the thighs and calves. Dress shirts that fit my breasts and stomach have necks so gigantic it feels as if my own neck is a toothpick in the grand canyon. Altering these clothes is a must, but that’s super expensive.

Being fat, being dapper, and being poor do not go hand in hand.

Of course, well-meaning people (and therapists) offer sound advice. “How you dress doesn’t define you.” I know that. Logically, I know that. But in my heart, I know how I feel comfortable moving through the world and I’m not presenting it.

Others offer fashion advice. “Just get two good pairs of pants, two good dress shirts, 3 vests, and one jacket. You can interchange them all.” That’s amazing advice for people who have a thousand bucks to drop on a wardrobe and another couple hundred for alterations.

And of course, people suggest haunting the thrift stores. As a super-size person, thrift store finds are few and far between. Is it because I’m the biggest person ever? Is it because big men hang on to their clothes because the clothes are so expensive? Is it because there are so few options, they are snatched up the moment they become available?

Clothes do not make the identity. I know that. We all know that. But fat bodies often don’t get the opportunity to dress the way that feels right for them because the options just aren’t available. And when they are available, they are often prohibitively expensive.

Things are changing. Brands are appearing with the intent of clothing all bodies. Tomboy X offers underwear up to size 4X. Internet shopping for big bodies is busting out all over. Fat influencers of every gender and fashion style flood Instagram.

And still, here I am. Sometimes a 4X, sometimes a 5. I have a closet full of clothes from the Kingsize catalog that hang on me like a sack that I could go get altered if I knew someone who could do it in this small rural town without… I don’t know… looking at me funny.

In the long run, I just find it easier most days to put on leggings and a long t-shirt and call it good. And ultimately, it isn’t doing me any harm. But in my head, that dapper person still longs to be free.

Maybe someday.

 

6 thoughts on “Fat Bodies and Gender Presentation

  1. Nice to meet you, Finnian! Can we have coffee and a scone sometime?

  2. Kim says:

    I see you in your snazzy sweaters and perfectly tied neckties. I see Finnian in my head when we talk. I’m so happy to have met them, and I’m proud to stand beside them, regardless of what clothes they are wearing. You’re right that things are changing, but it changes last for bodies of size. I’m proud of you for speaking up, and saying what matters. Because you’re not the first one with this conundrum. And you won’t be the last. But you are speaking out, and that takes guts. And I love you.

  3. dehelen says:

    Beth, if I lived closer, I’d definitely do your alterations at a price you can afford, and I’d look in thrift stores for things to suit. If I get to come to next GCLS, maybe we can meet and talk about how/if I could do this for you long distance? It’s difficult to fit people except in real life, but if we could figure it out in person, we should try. Love, Sandra de Helen

    1. That would be wonderful ❤

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