Clothes Shopping While Fat Is Frustrating AF

by Katie Cloyd
Clothes Shopping While Fat Is Frustrating AF: Woman dressed up posing for camera
Katie Cloyd/Instagram

Can we just talk for a minute about how annoying it can be to try to dress cute when you’re rocking a fat body? Somewhere north of 60% of American women wear a size 12 or larger, and we spend billions of dollars a year on plus-size clothing. You’d think it would be a breeze by now to find the things we need, but it’s really, really not.

A few weeks ago, my friend invited my husband and I to dinner and a little party at a hip local brewery. We have three kids and the newest one is only two months old. I was proud of myself for not literally shouting, “WE WILL BE THERE!” when she asked.

I decided we both needed something nice and new to wear. We loaded up the kids and headed to the mall.

My tall, thin husband found an outfit in about 10 minutes. Men’s clothes are like that. Shirt, jeans, jacket, boom. Done. Everything was on sale. Everything was on trend. He looked great and we spent less than half of what we intended for his clothes. It was a cinch.

My experience was…not that.

I knew that my mall only houses two dedicated plus-size clothing stores and a handful of straight-size stores with small plus-size sections. I still didn’t expect to go home emptyhanded. After two frustrating hours of squeezing into dressing rooms with my family of five and scouring racks for my size, I was unable to find what I was looking for.

I did eventually find an outfit for the party, and I looked fine. It’s not actually impossible to find clothes for fat bodies. But it’s frustrating to go into a plus-size clothing store in a plus-size body and not end up with an outfit. It feels a little ridiculous. There are so few spaces actually created for plus-size people. It’s hard when you leave a space that’s meant for you and you’re still disappointed.

What are all these problems I run into when shopping for clothes?

Glad you asked. Plus size clothing has come a long way since the days of loud prints and polyester tent dresses, but there’s room for improvement.

Plus-size clothing is expensive AF.

Decent plus-size clothing is just expensive to begin with. We don’t have a lot of brick and mortar options, so we have to pay whatever retailers charge. It’s easier to get a deal online, but fat people often need to try clothes on before we commit. It’s just a whole thing.

But it’s also extra expensive sometimes for no fucking reason. A few years ago, I stopped shopping at Old Navy because plus-size women were the only group excluded from the $5 flag tee promotion. When I spoke up, people tried to tell me the price difference was because of the extra fabric involved. I might have bought it except that men’s extended sizes were five bucks—only women’s were several dollars more. A 1X women’s tank top doesn’t take more fabric than an XXL men’s t-shirt. It was a classic case of pink tax, with a heaping side of size bias.

The garments just don’t fit.

I don’t mean they’re too small. I mean they’re cut like the people who designed them have never seen a human being. Why are the shirts so short and wide? I rarely find a tank top without giant gaping arm holes. And don’t get me started on the way so many of the clothes are cut for people much taller than me. I often have to roll my sleeves, and I barely own any jeans because I’m not quite short enough for petites, but I’m not six feet tall either.

Every size person can run into fit issues, but they are so much more frustrating when you can’t just walk to the next store and try again. Fat women have a limited number of plus-size clothing stores available to us to begin with; poorly conceived cuts take all the fun out of shopping.

Plus-size brands limit their lines to include only “small fats.”

Finding clothes over size 18 is hard. Finding clothes over size 24 is harder. Need clothes over a size 28? Hope you didn’t want to try anything on or buy anything last minute because you’re probably shopping online, friend. Fat people who fall into the smaller end of the plus-size range are much more likely to find clothing than those that are 4x or larger.

My experience as a person who is able to shop in stores is already frustrating. Imagine how much more disheartening it is for people who wear sizes that they can’t purchase in a physical retail space.

Common sizes are quite often sold out.

My favorite store carries sizes 10-30, but sizes 18-26 are often hard to find in-store. I went shopping with a thin friend and by the end of the day, she was more annoyed than I was. She didn’t understand why, even in plus-size clothing stores, I couldn’t find my size because it was sold out. Neither do I. The smallest and largest sizes are usually pretty easy to find, but those middle sizes disappear.

Some things, like luxury brands, barely exist for us.

If Jason Momoa invited me to be his date to the Oscars (I’m still waiting, but I haven’t lost hope), I would have to shop in the same places I always shop. I can’t pop into a high-end department store and hit up their designer clothing section. I can shop online, or I can hope my usual stores carry something vaguely sparkly. I’d have to accompany Aquaman down the red carpet in something right off a mall rack.

I could go on and on.

I am truly thankful that the plus-size clothing industry has come as far as it has. I’ve been fat for my entire life, and I remember how much harder it was twenty years ago. It’s definitely easier to find decent stuff now than it was when I was a fat high school student just trying not to look like I borrowed my grandmother’s clothes.

Clothing companies are making progress and I love to see it, but I hope retailers are listening to fat folks. We have more money to spend than there are clothes to buy. If they step it up a little, it could be great for business.