More thinking about the commercialization of fatshion

(Earlier posts here, here, here, and here.)

I read another interesting response to Natalie’s piece, from Kath of Fat Heffalump. She argues that:

Fatshion is so much  more than mainstream fashion up-sized to fit a size 16 or 18.  Fatshion belongs to us, not to the fashion industry.  Fatshion will always be outside the margins, and will always be radical.  Fatshion belongs to here and now, not the past.  Fatshion is about finding your own style and rocking the hell out of it, flying in the face of a world that tells us we should never be seen.

I don’t agree with the premise that fatshion is always radical–I think that it, like almost anything else, can be co-opted. When fatshion becomes all about following trends, having the latest popular pieces, stoking an endless cycle of consumerist desires…then yeah. Not so radical. It’s a fine line, but I’ve seen a lot of fatshion going on that direction, and I’ve experienced that consumerist pull myself. It’s really tricky, and I don’t think that fatshion should be inherently immune from criticism.

But I do agree that there’s an amazing diversity of fatshion blogs, beyond the big names and the more commercially-oriented smaller names (some of who do have awesome style). And I agree that those bloggers shouldn’t be conflated with the small elite world of professional fatshionistas.

I really like Kath’s description of the fatshion blogs she reads:

When I look through my Fatshion folder in Google Reader, I see so much more than just a few high profile plus-size women in the fashion industry.  I see canny thrift shoppers, skillful re-stylers, talented crafters, and most practice a make-it-work philosophy.  I see a smattering small-time designers creating amazing things for women with bodies like their own.  I see photographs taken on smart phones, budget digital cameras, webcams and borrowed cameras.  I see single Mums, carers, women who work from home.  I see bloggers who work long hours in regular jobs, some who have several jobs.  I see some who have continued through illness, injury, unemployment and tragedy.  I see etsy hunters and eBay stalkers. I see swappers, sharers and sellers.  I see those who take fatshion to an artform, living their lives as works of art.  I see women of colour, women with disability, a rainbow of gender variations and sexualities.  I see women of all ages, from those fresh out of high school through to those with “advanced style”.  I see every size from 16 through to beyond what is available commercially in plus-sizes.  I see high fashion, high art and popular culture interspersed with alternative style, radical looks and vintage kitsch.  I seldom see high end designer pieces, but I see vintage, budget mass produced and hand-made all used with personal flair and creativity.

That said, there is absolutely privilege involved in who can become a professional fatshionista, and who has access to free clothing and sponsorships–and it echoes a lot of the shittiness of the outside world. It’s worth talking about, even though it doesn’t represent the entirety of fatshion.

On one hand, a lot of the fatshion bloggers who have recently become popular are women of color, and that’s awesome. That’s absolutely a form of progress.

But “mainstream” fatshion is still dominated by middle-class, ablebodied, cisgender, smaller fat/in-betweenie women.

I think Shannon at Nudemuse puts her finger on a lot of these issues in her post about why she has never become a famous fatshion blogger:

Most Fatshion is not accessible to me. I’m poor. I am in the make it work category of smaller sized fat folks.

When I do fashion blog I try really hard to be more inclusive because I’m here for my fellow broke fat folks regardless of size.

For me, when I talk about make it work fatshion I’m talking about learning how to make it work when you have to at whatever size you are.

Thus, I am not a famous fatshion blogger.

Also sometimes too much fatshion focuses on shit I don’t care about. I don’t care about trends, I care about my own aesthetic which as I might remind you I am calling Nazgul Realness.

Thus I am not a famous Fatshion Blogger.

Under a capitalist system, the most famous fatshion bloggers will always be the ones who can attract the attention of corporations, rather than the ones with the most interesting style. That doesn’t take away the radical potential of fatshion, but….it’s worth keeping in mind.

3 thoughts on “More thinking about the commercialization of fatshion

  1. Just to clarify, my piece is NOT in response to Natalie’s at all. My piece is furthering the discussions I have had on various platforms about fatshion and while this discussion was generally stirred by the piece in xoJane, my piece is not a response to it at all.

    Also, I don’t believe there is such thing as a “professional fatshionista”. That’s like suggesting that there is such thing as a professional fat person. Fatshion does not belong to the fashion industry, and one cannot be employed to engage in fatshion. You can however be employed as a plus-size fashion blogger/writer/etc (and yes, these professional plus-size fashion bloggers tend to be selected from those with a whole lot of privileges, which sucks) – but this is not fatshion, though sometimes it may attempt to co-opt fatshion or maybe even intersect with fatshion. I think it is very important that that distinction is not lost.

    Fatshion’s role is to constantly push at the fashion industry to broaden their product range and accessibility. It is intrinsically a separate entity to the plus-size fashion industry.

    Anyway, when you quote me directly it is important that I make my position clear so that my words are not given meaning that I haven’t put there.

    • Thanks for clarifying! That’s a really interesting idea about the distinction between fatshion and the plus size fashion industry. I’m not sure what I think about it yet–I’ll have to do some thinking on it.

  2. Pingback: On fa(t)shion blogging, dead conversations, and the potential for transformation | Tutus And Tiny Hats

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