Assembling the Wardrobe

When I was young and slender, it did not matter that I liked clothing styles and colors that do not look quite right on me. As I have aged, and gained, it matters more. Who wants to look like a big muffin? All sorts of problems have emerged with my wardrobe: color, size, fabric texture, fabric design, fit, not to mention, shoes.

An ash blond, now going gray, with green eyes, I look best in the soft summer colors. I know that, having attended a “color” session, where I learned that the oranges, yellows, and reds I wore in my 20’s and 30’s are not my thing. Blues, greens, and violets are my colors. At the moment, red and black are the winter colors that have dominated merchandise offerings in my size—-and beige. I refuse to wear black near my face, though I do wear black slacks and skirts. Beige makes me “disappear,” as if I am not there, while red makes me look, and feel, violent. Whoever designs/selects colors for large sized women ignores the proper color schemes so carefully worked out by color “therapists,” instead providing a endless selection of blacks. I suppose many fat women like black because it makes them feel more slender; it makes me feel ready to attend a funeral.

Cotton is my fabric of choice, followed by linen, silk, and rayon. Polyester makes me uncomfortable–too harsh on the skin–while acrylics cause some breathing problems–all those little loose threads which are inhaled. Cotton knit is my favorite garb. Of course, it is neither elegant nor formal. It is not particularly easy to care for, either, as it must be steam pressed to look decent, though one only looks decent as far as the car before the wrinkling starts. Same problem with linen. Generally, even with my grumbling efforts to press my clothing, I look like I slept in whatever I have on in about five minutes, at best.

Texture is important. I have some polyester slacks that slide all over me and make me slide all over chairs. I hate them. I like the feel of cotton knit; it gives and one does not slide all over furniture. My skin is very tender, part of the Fibromyalgia problem, so soft clothing is a must. My favorite daily clothing is worn out t-shirts and cotton pants, which I wear until they are literally rags. The more ragged, the more comfortable. My family is used to my ragged clothing, which I only wear around my home, but it occasionally shocks visitors. I make an effort, well, a slight effort, to be more presentable in public.

Not much choice in fabric design is available for large ladies. I’ve learned not to wear large prints, which make me look startling. While I like small flowered prints, they are not flattering. What looks best and what I like to wear are slacks and tops in contrasting or blending colors. What is available for fat ladies are tacky printed tops which are not long enough to cover all the offending parts, like hips and pot bellies. 

In an effort to placate large women, merchandisers such as Talbot’s or Land’s End or even Lane Bryant present clothing in the same styles as those for slender women. Of course, slender women are not desperately trying to cover hips, fat arms, and pot bellies with yards of tent-like fabric. Clothing designed for the slender types often looks dreadful on large women. If one has a pot belly, a neat little sweater that boxes off at the waist is NOT just-the-thing. Often, style advisers tell large women to use long lines to “fool the eye.” And, where are these long line garments to be found? Beats me. I have not found many, though Lands End and Junonia sell cotton tunic tops for large ladies, which I purchase by the dozens. 

Shoes present a different problem. Comfortable shoes, like men wear, are not fashionable for women. They are hardly available for women, though I have resorted to purchasing some men’s Rockport’s, which are so-so in comfort level. The trouble with men’s shoes is that they are heavy. High heels, pointed toes, slick soles are the lot of women. When I was slender, I loved wearing fashionable shoes; they did not hurt my feet back then. But, even then, I wondered why modern, well-educated women persist in wearing uncomfortable shoes in which they can neither run nor even walk well. Now, having also given up the hated panty hose, I like to wear open-heel, slip-on shoes, with socks; the kind of shoe that has a running shoe bottom. This style requires slacks, as it looks unbelievably awful with dresses. It does not look “correct” with dress clothing either, but I have discovered that I can walk in these shoes and that they provide a broad, flat base on which to stand—very nice when one is rather unsteady. 

Anyone reading this far, realizes, of course, that my style is called “frumpy.” The problem is that I no longer care. I admire my friends who look elegant and sleek, who can wear exotic clothing with panache, who unerringly select styles that flatter them and look chic at the same time. I am hanging on to “frumpy” because I think “fishwife” is the next step on my way down to the bottom of the fashion cellar.

Women’s dress clothing is a trap. We pride ourselves on being emancipated and we look with horror on past restrictions such as ancient Chinese foot-binding. Fashion dictates that women wear bras, girdles, pointed toe shoes, high heels, panty hose, tight jackets which restrict the arms, clunky jewelry, not to mention hairstyles and make-up that require a lot of fuss. We have not come a long way….baby.