Where’s the line between making fun of clothes and making fun of the people who like them?

I may be weird but I love the hell out of this dress. It reminds me of both the late ’90s and a LeSportSac purse, in a good way.

Last week, I posted a link to a Fatshionista post about a company that makes organic plus size clothing. Most of the commenters there were…not so positive about the clothes. My friend Cheshirekit pointed out:

The organic clothing retailer is waaay out of my price range, but very much my style, and it makes me sad to see the commenters of fatshionista tearing it apart. I can’t be the only fatshionista who’d rather wear layers of muumuus with lovebeads than skinny jeans with a graphic tee and scarf or somelike, but it sure does often feel like it. :(

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, with the rise of WTF, Plus Size Manufacturers? and the general popularity of snarking on items that the author finds ugly or unfashionable.

I’m all for criticizing the limited options we have in plus sizes, and how they’re often overpriced compared to their straight size equivalents. But I’m not sure it’s possible to make fun of individual items without implicitly insulting the taste of people who like and would wear them.

It just hurts to read people saying things like this about items of clothing that I think are cute and would totally wear:

For all those times you’ve wanted to wrestle lions for the amusement of Ceasar [sic], but you just didn’t have a thing to wear! 

perfect for lazy “nightmare before christmas” cosplay, outfits to wear when you ‘catfish’ someone, and basically nothing else.

If I wore these I would frighten the children.

this is basically what the joker’s plus size wife would wear to their daughter’s wedding reception. this garment is reversible. spoiler: the thing it reverses into also sucks.

As a fat woman, I get enough negative messages about my body. I don’t want to hear more negative messages about how I dress it–even if they’re cloaked in the plausible deniability of “I’m just insulting the clothing itself, not the people who wear it! Diff’rent strokes!

The problem is, clothing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Clothes aren’t just items on websites–they’re a social and artistic language. They’re a form of self-expression.

I may not be my clothing, but my clothing (and the clothing that I find attractive) does represent my taste, my style, my own creative way of being in the world.

So when I see a piece of clothing that I think is butt-ugly, I keep it to myself. Because my ugly may be another person’s awesome, and who am I to tear down their style?

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12 thoughts on “Where’s the line between making fun of clothes and making fun of the people who like them?

  1. I’m constantly banging on about this. It’s OK not to like something. It’s OK to laugh at the ridiculousness of what plus-size retailers try to sell us. But it’s not OK to label a style with moral language or ridicule the people who might wear it. I mean how hard is it to say “Look at that collar, it looks like it could flap it’s wings and fly away!” as opposed to “OMG that collar looks like something some tragic 70’s loser would wear!” Or “Too mature for me” rather than “OMG fat mother of the bride!”

    My pet hate are the terms trashy/cheap/tacky/trampy etc. Class and sexuality shaming all over the place!

    • Agreed completely about the class and sexuality shaming!

      I’m not even sure that it’s possible to make fun of the clothes directly without insulting people who like them. If you like a certain style (especially a less popular style), it still hurts to read lots of people saying “this type of clothing is ugly,” even without moral language or ridiculing people who might wear it.

      • I’m not even sure that it’s possible to make fun of the clothes directly without insulting people who like them.

        The one caveat to this is that I’ve seen a lot of clothing with quality of design and construction issues. For example, I was at Target the other week, trying on a shirt in what could have been my size. Only, the sleeves were absolutely no wider in an XXL than they were in an M. I double checked the rack: The designer had thought to size down the sleeves for S and XS, but not size up for L, XL, or XXL.

        While I’m sure there are folks who’d need a larger size in the torso but a smaller size in the arms themselves, I do not for a minute think the designer was considering them as they produced. Rather, I think the designer could not be arsed to consider larger people (and starting at a straight-size L is not even that large) as people — and I think it’s totally fine to make fun of that. 😉

        • Agreed, definitely! I all all for criticizing poor construction and quality. I guess what I meant is, I don’t think it’s possible to make fun of the style/aesthetics of clothes without insulting people who like those styles/aesthetics.

  2. This is a really great point. It’s also ridiculous how these items only get made fun of in plus sizes- any of those items in a xxs would get the wearer a high five for being a “risktaker” and she’d get her picture taken by street style photographers as an eclectic visionary.

    • And now I really want to start a project where people anonymously rate the style of pictures of plus size women and pictures of very slim girls wearing the exact same outfit. I bet you $100 the skinny girls would be deemed “more fashionable.”

      • So true! I mean, I understand that within the fatshion world, this complaining is coming from a place of “we don’t have enough options, and I don’t like a lot of what’s offered.”

        But that double standard definitely exists in the broader world, and it sucks.

  3. Interesting thoughts. A couple of thoughts of my own in reply:

    Some people are aware of low quality, and choose to buy it anyway because that’s what they can afford. I’m guessing you would agree that it’s not right to say people shouldn’t participate in fashion without a certain threshhold of money.

    Also, I am not a fat person, but I don’t mind if people “creatively” describe my outfit, as long as they don’t directly insult it. “That looks like a tablecloth!” Why yes, it actually was a tablecloth when I bought it, before I sewed it into a long vest. “Looks like something a circus barker would wear!” Cool, I like the image of myself as circus performer. But I am willing to imagine that I might be more sensitive if I had a history of living through body-shaming.

    • “Some people are aware of low quality, and choose to buy it anyway because that’s what they can afford. I’m guessing you would agree that it’s not right to say people shouldn’t participate in fashion without a certain threshhold of money.”

      I agree with this, and I’m not sure where you think I implied otherwise. I’m talking about blogs where people make fun of items they’ve seen on clothing stores’ websites. For the most part, they’re making fun of the aesthetics, not the quality.

      Also, I don’t mind creative descriptions either. I’m definitely in favor of making clothes from tablecloths or dressing like a circus barker, and I wouldn’t mind people pointing out those things. But most of what I’ve read, both on WTF, Plus Size Clothing Manufacturers and on other fatshion blogs, has been directly insulting the clothes, not just describing them creatively.

      • Here’s specifically what I was responding to:

        When you said “[I’m] all for criticizing poor construction and quality.” I assumed you meant you thought there was a difference between saying “that outfit is so poorly made!” and “that outfit is so unappealing to my tastes!”, and that the first one would always be okay. Perhaps that’s not really what you meant.

        On the second point, you said “I’m not even sure that it’s possible to make fun of the clothes directly without insulting people who like them.” in response to sleepydumpling’s example “Look at that collar, it looks like it could flap it’s wings and fly away!” Perhaps you feel that making fun of and insulting are nearly synonymous (?), but in my mind they are quite different. The flying collar is an example of what I would class as a creative description, that I wouldn’t mind hearing. If it was said by friends, I would feel confident that they liked me anyway, even if they didn’t like my outfit that day. And if it was said by people I didn’t like so much, even if it was said with a hint of malice, I’d like to think I really wouldn’t mind, because variety in the world necessarily means that some people won’t like it, and I’m not trying to impress them specifically. Now if it was said by someone at a company I was interviewing with, yes, that would probably shake me up.

        But, hmm, that’s me thinking in terms of real life, whereas when I re-read, I see you were thinking in terms of blogging. If I saw a picture of my outfit (on the store’s website) on a blog, being described creatively in a way that made it clear the author disliked it, I don’t think I’d care. See: variety. But perhaps that’s my privilege speaking, since I grew up relatively un-harrassed. Now, if I saw a snapshot of me being used in that way on a blog, no, I would not like it at all.

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