The struggle of being ‘plus-sized’

In My Size

Going shopping for new clothes would be any teenager’s dream, but it was never mine. I felt ashamed of the possibility that I would not fit in any garment I tried on. In the clothing industry, I am a “plus-size” size 18, so finding clothing that fits me well and is also fashionable is very challenging.

At 17, I went shopping at a clothing store called Sunny’s Fashion Plus with my mom. As we walked into the store, there were signs hung from the ceiling that read, “Slim sizes to your left, Plus sizes to your right.”

On the brown tile floor, there was a white duct tape line running down the middle that divided the store into these two sections. I felt discouraged by seeing the physical divisions between clothing for “slender” and “plus-size” bodies.

While browsing the plus-size side of the store, a cute skirt caught my attention from the other side of the store, but I was afraid I would be judged for my body size for shopping in the slim section.

When I finally built up the courage to walk over, I picked up a tight pink pencil skirt, gently feeling the fabric with admiration. I imagined myself wearing this skirt at my next family party. But this image was shattered when I saw that the largest size would never fit my body.

Eager to sell, a sales associate walked up to me, and in a condescending tone, she asked me, “We have a similar skirt in the plus section — would you like to try it on?”

I followed her with eagerness to the plus-size side, and she handed a new skirt to me, exclaiming, “This skirt is definitely for you.”

Looking down at the plus-size skirt in my hands, I quickly noticed that it looked nothing like the skirt I was admiring. This skirt was baggy and would’ve covered my entire legs, unlike the tight pink skirt that would’ve shown off my body. The fabric had an awful flower pattern that looked like it came from a ‘70s couch. I didn’t understand why the associate would advise me to wear this skirt — did they think I should be ashamed of my body?

Overcome with defeat, I immediately left the store empty-handed. I realized that curvy girls like me were being kept from tight-fitting, fashionable clothing in attempts to help us hide our bodies. My curvy shape was being devalued by the clothing industry, which stops making “regular” clothing at size 12.

As the next weekend came and I returned to the mall with my mom, I held on to the hope that I would find a form-fitting pink skirt in my size. As I walked inside one of the stores, I saw that it was divided by gender — boys to the left, girls to the right.

Walking to the girls’ side, I was immediately drawn to a cute pink skirt. I walked up to it to check the size, but the sizes were categorized by letters: XS, S, M, L, XL. Comparing the “biggest” size offered, the XL, to the size of my body, I knew it was not representative of plus-size at all. Too embarrassed to keep shopping, I hurried out of the store with my eyes downcast so no one would see my cheeks burning with frustration and shame.

As time went by throughout my senior year of high school, my shopping experiences were always disappointing, as I could never find fashionable clothing in plus sizes. Each store I shopped at had a clear division in quality and style between plus-sized clothing and slim, modern clothing. The “normal”-sized clothing was always designed with greater detail than the plus-size clothing. The items were made of nicer fabrics, had a greater variety of styles and adhered to current fashion trends. The plus-size clothing was usually made of thin polyester material, with massive floral patterns taking over the entire fabric.

After many fruitless hours of searching for a store designed for curvy bodies, I finally found a store named Torrid. The first time I stepped into the store, I saw that there were no divides among sizes. Before browsing further, I walked up to the first piece of clothing I could reach. I gasped, and my eyes filled with tears of joy when I saw that the sizing ranged from 12-30.

Making my way to the middle of the store, I took note of the variety of fashionable clothing choices. There were leather jackets for winter and short dresses for the summer. I excitedly started picking outfits because for once, everything was in my size!

When I was in the dressing room, the sales associate knocked on my door to say, “I think this skirt is definitely for you — would you like to try it on?”

Without hesitation, I opened the door to see them holding a beautiful pink skirt. I slipped on the skirt and, twirling in the mirror, I saw how it accentuated my curves

“Yes, this skirt is for me!” I whispered, my eyes never leaving the mirror.

It was a dream come true to have so many clothing options that fit me and that were fashionable. Modern attire that accentuates my curvy body gives me the power to have confidence. For the fashion industry, plus-size fashion should be equally as modern as any other average size.

I can fearlessly say that in my size, my curves will not limit me from expressing my sense of fashion any longer.

Shirley Ojeda writes the Thursday column on body positivity. Contact her at [email protected].