What to wear

So I am moving to Spain in August, to start business school. Those of you who have googled me will have seen that I am what they politely call a plus sized lady, and, having never worked really corporate ever, all my clothes are… hippie. I mean publishing is the worst industry if you want to collect nice work clothes because [a] you can’t afford anything nice and [b] everyone looks at you in shock when you turn up formally dressed. Heavens I often went to work in clothes I literally wear on the beach. So basically, when I was summoned to my first interview for Bschool, I kinda panicked. Because it said very clearly, dress code: business formal. Normally I’d just put on a sari, but these weren’t Indians so I was worried it would look…well…hippie. So I ran off in a mad scramble to find some clothes.

Only, I’d forgotten, I can’t buy clothes in shops in India!

There are a lot of things I have found hard about being a fat woman in India, but the most insidious and painful of them is the simple fact that I can’t buy clothes in regular shops. Nobody keeps XL, and anyway XL today is basically a loose M. The idea is, I guess, all the fat girls are aunty-types who can just live in salwar kameez and horrible shapeless floppy things they pay double for in plus size stores, if they’re lucky enough to live in a city with one in the first place. It’s a total mindfuck you guys. Because clothes are a pretty basic thing, and nobody ever having your size is basically the whole industry telling you to fuck off, you’re not good enough to wear anything stylish.

All this meant that, when I first moved to the US, I was so thrilled that I could buy clothes in stores! Like just walk in, try on all the styles and fits and colours and buy some clothes! It became a mini ritual: my sister would send me stuff whenever someone visited; I’d have a nearly annual pilgrimage to my beloved Old Navy flagship store and the local Target and return with clothes that fit my body and my sense of self. (And everywhere I go, I’m stared at in India, not in lust or anger (well not at first), but in bewilderment. People just cannot able to process fat girl in stylish clothes.)

When I was desperately trying to find a pair of pants and a jacket in October, I ended up at the only place large women I know can buy bras and pants: Marks and Spencer. Which, as we all know, is the lamest, dowdiest firangi clothes store in India. Shapeless, floppy and boring are the three words that pop in my head the most when I’m there, and even they had only one pair of pants that fit me, and they were tapered, which is a cut I hate. Still, I bought the clothes and had the interview and now they languish in my cupboard.

A friend of mine was excited about a dress she got–she’s chubby–and I felt so bad when I saw it because it was a classic fat girl dress: floor length, long sleeves, solid colour. And, instead of highlighting her several assets, it just screamed like a neon sign: there’s a fat girl in this dress. But if someone were to suggest a different style, she probably wouldn’t want to try it because she’s been told something about thighs or tummy or knees or something.

I guess this rant is about how we tell women how to dress all the time. This is not an Indian thing or a new thing. (We also tell men how to dress, but of course for men it’s about showing their value as manly men or having money etc, while for women it’s about being attractive.) We might not even do it explicitly as in wear this or don’t wear that; it can be as ninja as there just not being clothes you can wear. And it makes me angry. Because whoever you are, whatever you are, you should wear what you want, (even if I, or your mother, or some person on the street thinks its ugly/too much/too little/whatever) and you should be able to access all kinds of options and play around till you find clothes that make you happy about yourself. Because it’s true: when you dress nicely it gives you quite a kick of happiness. And we can all use all the extra happies we can get!


7 thoughts on “What to wear

  1. Ah, word. On the annual pilgrimage of finding holy stores in the US that actually have clothes that look good on you, on trying to find value in your own body when you choose to live in an industry that doesn’t want you to, on really wishing there were affordable options for plus sized (who am I kidding, beyond size 11) clothing and for Target. I’ve made it somewhat of a project is start enjoying what I’m wearing and to say fuck off to the world including the voice in my own head. (I don’t always win, but the war is ongoing). So more power to you Ameya, as always :)

    And if you want a friend to go shopping for B school clothes with you, I’m happy to volunteer :)


    Liked by 2 people

    • HAH yes tell me about it. I went into Ann Taylor and they had nothing above size 14!!! I realised it’s a race/class thing. Poorer people tend to be black and latino, they tend to be larger and have hips, and so old navy and target have clothes for larger people because they’re cheaper. the Gap? not so much.
      yes fuck you to them all i say
      i just want more people to say it!
      and thankee for offer! but i’m not in delhi anymore na. and also i’ve got some stuff; rest i’ll buy in spain


  2. Okay, The problem exists even if you are a small sized girl who has boobs.
    But, I loveeee Target! Can’t believe that it’s a department store but I always find adorable tops and dresses! Went to one at lunch time and almost annoyed my buddy by asking him needless questions about color and fit.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Its unfortunate that such options for plus sized people are not available in India, maybe that’ll change soon. Glad to hear about your Spain vala news…congratulations! M sure your writing would continue to get more awesome as you travel more and gain more diverse experiences!

    Liked by 2 people

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