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I'm Too Fat For Shopping

Updated on January 29, 2018
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After a decade as a journalist, Jennifer Branton is on the path to finding a balance between career and writing.

Always A Tomboy

Even when I was a young skinny teenager, I always had hated shopping. I was a tomboy and could care less able my appearance. I wore things that were practical for my lifestyle: jeans and concert tee-shirts to school, and sweats and workout clothes to whatever sport was in season at the time. When other girls were learning how to put on makeup and do fancy up do hairstyles for weekend dates, I was happily donning a a long ponytail and little makeup.

Buying clothes as a teen size four, I was always unhappy at the styles not being flattering to my tastes or the having large breasts despite being athlete. Buying clothes ending in dressing room crying and settling for whatever I could get on my misshaped body. I felt like a mutant. My top half too girlish for the boxy boy body and wide hips and muscular legs from softball and basketball.

By college when my activities slowed and I ate more McDonald's on campus without adult supervision, I had put on about twenty pounds by the end of freshman year.

My weight has gone back and forth since college days and it troubles me when I have to find clothes that fall outside my comfort zone of jeans and graphic tee-shirts that are a staple of my wardrobe.

As I begin a new job next week, I need to somehow stuff myself into business attire and the old nightmares of trying on clothes as a teenager began to haunt me again.


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My closet is filled with comfort items, jeans and graphic tees. I couldn't do business attire and make it look natural.

Patterns, Materials, and Cuts

Going into a department store is enough for me to have a panic attack. The lighting is unforgiving, making dark shapes of clothing on the spinner racks look like looming body bags. The mannequins are dull ashen colored and eyeless jammed in impossible poses and they hang wired and boneless on their stands. Everything in my body is telling me this is a mistake.

I know nothing about what constitutes a great outfit for the office and I walk towards some of those pre-put together outfits hanging on a display with clashing plaids over a tweed looking pants. On some skinny woman that lives on just salad this odd clashing of patterns and materials might not look like something someone's blind grandmother gathered up in haste at Goodwill on half price day. To me, it looked like if someone of human proportions jammed their selves into those pants it would look like the scaling of a reptile.

I never know what size I am at stores and this starts up the insecurity machine in my brain. When I had a size four bottom back in the day, never meant that I could also get the corresponding size in a top and be a well proportioned human being. Instead having my giant double D sized breasts that I tried to downplay in the baggy graphic tee's I found in the men's department because images of Batman distracted from my ugly chest, I could never wear a women's shirt or a dress without it being stretched to the seams in the bust area where the rest dangled off me. I was too small to be considered a plus size but a woman's XL often was too tight.

I started looking for light sweaters and managed to find one that in its baggiest form looked like I intended for it to run in that way. So I grabbed another in a different color.

I found a rack of cardigans thinking I could pull my Mr Rogers game with a little bit of flair and layer a dorky screen print tee underneath making it look "ironic" if that was even possible.

A few times I found a silky blouse that felt wonderful under my fingers tips but was less that forgiving under the harsh fitting room lights and mirror that seemed borrowed from a fun house. I looked yellow and sallow and ever blemish and jiggle of fat roll seemed on display.

I dumped the silky blouse on the no rack to be returned to the sales floor.

So far all I could get that would fit me were some frumpy sweaters that might distract from the things I hated most about my body.

All I could get to fit me were some frumpy sweaters that distracted from what I hated most about my body.

The Pants Game

I do actually know a bit about pants.

Living my life in blue jeans, I know what fit looks nice when I have shoes with a heel- the only girly attribute that found its way into my genetics. I rather enjoy wearing chunky boots or a shoe with a little wedge or spiky heel with my jeans.

I really don't know why I enjoy shoes. At once point I actually had about twenty something pairs although I downsized when my husband and I got our first apartment together. I think wearing a girly shoe with my uniform of boyish clothing added something to my otherwise boring personal dress code.

Because I knew about shoes and how the looked with various style of pant legs from my ever growing collection of jeans, I had somewhat of an idea when it came to trying on dress pants.

What I wasn't prepared for just as the shirts was the unforgiving nature of sizing.

Men's clothing is so easy- a waist size and a length and then a description of a type of cut. Women's pants on the other end of the spectrum was a confusing list of things like ultra skinny, skinny with magic waist (whatever that meant, I peered inside to see elastic in the waistline.) Boot-cut came in three lengths of petite, medium and long. I was too tall to ever wear petite but without a shoe with a heel I was perpetually standing on the back of any jeans over medium length and often walked off the extra length in long ragged strings that broke free from the end of my jeans in true tomboy fashion.

I couldn't wear anything clingy to the hips and but although I hadn't gained much weight from having a child, I still felt like I had too much muffin top busting over the waist band. I didn't like the style of just having button hooks with a zipper instead of a button and turned away pants in the style including a confusing pair of pants with a side seam zipper.

I didn't like material that was too heavy and resembled a men's Dockers style pants but when I tried fun colors that were in the women's work-wear section I felt ridiculous with a green trouser paired with a black sweater.

I felt self conscious. I would walk into work on Monday like a child on the first day at a new school and instantly be known as the Fat Girl That Didn't Know How To Dress Correctly.

Things were so easy at my old job that allowed me to wear hoodies and jeans as long as I got my work done.

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I would walk into my new job like a child on the first day of school and be the Fat Girl that didn't know how to dress properly.

The Fat Girl

I sometimes miss my teen size even though it isn't realistic for a woman of my age. My anywhere between about a 14-16 size of the moment is average according to all the studies out there but I still feel like a beached whale when I walk though department stores and start at the large rack. When I find anything of interest either its way too small as I can't cram my boobs into the medium or large top, or my fat rolls that pool around my stomach can't be smoothed out enough for the sheer material.

They don't make clothes for the average sized woman.

Things that fit me the seams cut in weird or the pattern is weirdly warped for another over a small or extra small size.

On my shopping trip I manged to find about ten items that I could actually cram on my body. The pants actually took three different cuts as one of the skinny styles was very complimentary somehow to my athletic thighs that came from my daily runs but another skinny pant in another brand horribly but into my calves being too big for the leg openings.

One pair of pants had that magic waist of elastic that somehow gave support along the waist line and claimed to smooth out rolls and problem areas. They were a bit of a high waist and didn't seem as dorky on as I imagined from the description. Maybe there was something to this magic after all. If they didn't want nearly forty dollars for the pair I would have found another in another color as the charcoal grey actually made me look like a presentable adult.

I also managed a green khaki type pair that didn't seem as mannish and I wasn't lost in the leg though they didn't cling as tightly as the boot-cut and weren't as slim in the thigh.

As for shirts, I managed to find a good amount of sweaters and rock my cardigan game but I surprised even myself with a sunshine yellow blouse that I never would have imagined myself in except it looked great again a grey cardigan I had in my hand.

I don't own any pieces of jewelry except for my wedding ring, so I don't expect to dress up the necklines with any necklaces or adorn my wrists with assortments of bangles that I don't understand the purpose of other than making a rattling noise to detect your location.

The fat girl actually seemed to do OK on a few outfits but I will fly into a panic again next paycheck when I am expected to have a few more choices of outfits and not be wearing the same recycled styles each week after laundry day.

I am actually at a loss to wear I can even go shopping next week after I'm paid. If I had such a hard time finding something on the racks, and I'm not skinny enough for department stores and too small for plus sized specialty stores where are my options exactly?

Maybe I will keep getting lucky on clearance racks and find things that run big or be able to sneak things from my husband's side of the closet that appear quirky and unisex if I wear a shoe with a heel?

I don't know if it is just me that shopping incites so much panic.


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