Dress: Hell Bunny
"No single word reminds me of being a self-loathing fatty as much as 'bolero' does."
- Margitte Leah.
When I read this on Riots Not Diets, it was this total "moment" for me. My eyes widened, my breath quickened. I reread it over and over. Something changed in me. Seriously.
For me, (and I know for a lot of other fat girls) there is no other body part that causes more stress than my upper arms.
About three years ago, I was teaching out at Willunga and it was a really hot day. I was wearing a sleeveless City Chic tie dyed top with a black bolero. Everyone was outside by the canteen for a parent/teacher/student sausage sizzle. I was talking to another teacher about how hot I was, and she tugged at my bolero and said, with total logic, "Why don't you take this off?" I shook my head and replied, "No, I don't like to show my arms."
So I sweated my way through it.
Recently, the City Chic Facebook page had a Q&A with the designer, Lucy. The idea was that CC customers could suggest styles they wanted to see in the future, and ask any questions. What unfolded was a tribe of women crying out for "more sleeves!". These comments consistently attracted the most 'likes'.
800 comments were made during this Q&A, so I've gone through and copied and pasted only some (there was a lot!) of the comments regarding sleeves in an attempt to get a better understanding of the issue. You can skim through the dot pointed comments through to my summary at the end if you can't be bothered reading them all.
- The clothes need to be more fitted and with sleeves for bingo wings.
- More sleeved tops. I have fat arms which I hate showing off!
- Seriously, design summer clothes with some sort of sleeve.
- More tops with sleeves please for the ladies who want to keep their arms covered but not have to wear several layers in the summer heat.
- Sleeved dresses please, to hide most plus size women's arms
- I need to cover my arms (down to elbow, not capped) and find it almost impossible to find tops that are cool, but with arms.
- Sexy tops WITH sleeves.
- Sleeves, sleeves, sleeves. Oh and sleeves. Creating shrugs or boleros with a capped sleeve? NO.
- Sleeves. Sleeves sleeves sleeves. Sleeves. Sleeves sleeves.
- More half sleeves. Some fat chicks don't like to show their arms.
Dress: City Chic
At this point, the designer (Lucy) finally decided to address the issue:
Hi guys, there are a lot of comments about sleeves, this is feedback that I get all the time! I hear that you want sleeves, but I would really encourage you to try sleeveless styles. I find that once I've embraced fake tan, I feel cooler and more comfortable in sleeveless styles. Let me assure you, the only person worried about your arms is you!
This did not stop these women from requesting sleeves, and in many others induced a collective cry of frustration:
- That makes no sense to just tell us to go sleeveless when we have been asked what we want & a lot are saying elbow sleeves. Why ask if you don't care?
- Are you seriously recommending that we embrace fat armed styles? That's the worst response to the barrage of customer requests I've ever heard. What on earth is the point of this QandA if you're just going to try to steer us in the opposite direction of what we want? Look at the amount of likes that every sleeve request has gotten!
- Lucy the problem isn't pale arms, the problem is bingo arms. No amount of fake tan will make that look any better at all! PLEASE GIVE US DECENT SLEEVES!
- More sleeved/wider strapped dresses. Nobody over a size 14 should be wearing strapless, and it's not in fashion anyway.
- Hi Lucy, I am aware of what you're saying about embracing sleeveless styles, but more often than not, it's not about us being paranoid about our arms, but you also have to consider that some of us DO have bigger arms that we flat out do not want to show - the sleeveless styles do not suit us, do not flatter us and we don't want to look bigger than we are!
- Longer, wispy-type sleeves would be good. Just something to hide my white, flappy bits but that won't have me overheating in the summer sun. Thanks.
- I like the sleeveless styles! Ladies, go work out more or wear another top underneath if you don't like showing off your arms.
- We don't WANT sleeveless, we want sleeves, because we then have to buy another top/bolero, to cover our arms, so we have to buy 2 pieces instead of one. I get that you need more sales, but are you really stooping to that? If your customers want sleeves, why not give it to them? I don't like my arms and I want to feel comfortable in my clothes. I have stopped buying tops at your store for that exact reason.
- Please listen to our requests for sleeves!! A fake tan won't help sagging skin under my arms. You want feedback - then open your ears and listen!!!
- Can CC please think about doing more dresses with sleeves! There are very few 14+ girls out there that feel comfortable and confident wearing strapless dresses.
- Hi Lucy, I love your clothes, but what turns me off is the price and that most of your clothes don't have sleeves. I think 90% of us girls are self conscious of our arms.
- I am sorry but I have massive arms, and I WANT to hide them... aren't we allowed that option?
- I would like to know why lots of things are sleeveless. The majority of larger ladies don't like showing arms.
- Are we even being listened too??? Sleeves.
- Very little responses yet, and as yet you aren't able to embrace the customers comments, you are more defending YOUR choices...LISTEN to your customers or you will lose them. Give them sleeves!
Dress: City Chic // Shoes: Doc Martens
Then Lucy addressed the issue again:
It's not about me trying to steer you in the right direction. Styles with sleeves look older, or wearing a cardigan over top looks older in my opinion. What I'm saying is, why not embrace who you are, tan up so you feel confident. I've been a plus sized girl all my life and battled with wanting to cover my arms until I reached my 30s. I've now found a way to embrace and love my body.
- Seriously who wants to wear sleeves on a 30 degree day? I love City Chic.
- Apparently we should all just embrace fake tan? Excellent. Enjoy my orange tree trunks popping out of my maxi dress everyone!
- That's great for you Lucy if you are comfortable with your arms but clearly many of us aren't.
- City Chic, we should not have to feel comfy wearing sleeveless tops and dresses. I never wear sleeveless cause to say the truth it looks disgusting. I always wear a cardi over it. If someone does feel fine then good for them, doesn't mean everyone else should.
Then Lucy said:
Ok guys, I'm reading your comments on covering arms, and I hear you. I will keep this in mind, as you're making it loud and clear.
- I agree with the sleeves, tan or no tan, my arms are big and I feel self conscience about them and like to cover them up a bit without wearing layers in the heat.
- Well, it would appear that in spite of the clear majority of people wanting sleeves, it will not be happening and so I will no longer be shopping at City Chic. Thank you anyway.
- Sleeveless stuff sucks! Yes it would be great if we all had the confidence to rock out our flabby arms that we hate but we dont! (not all!) . I've recently lost 30 and I'm really happy but I still don't want my arms out! When we browse things we think, "Oh damn if I buy that I'm going to néed a new jacket too!" A beautifully fitted dress with at least a little sleeve is perfect! I may buy a sleeveless dress but I'm going to ruin it by putting something over it! Nothing feels sexier than a perfectly fitted outfit that embraces everything as it is! No need to hide under extra clothes.
- So in other words, you don't want to hear the opinions of all the people who want sleeves (including me) you would rather they conform to fit what your company would prefer to stock? Even if you just put some straps on some of the dresses I'm sure you'd appease many of your customers. Most of us do not like our arms and never want to embrace them.
- SLEEVES!!!!! And I totally disagree with the comment about wearing sleeves and cardigans make the outfit look older. I am one of MANY women out there who don't like to show off their upper arms. I refuse to buy sleeveless tops/dresses on their own. In fact I'm wearing a cardi right now over a floral floaty top and it looks awesome! Not old or dated.....
- I am very self conscious of my arms and there is no way I'm going to 'embrace' who I apparently am and I agree NO amount of fake tan could ever disguise my flabby arms or stop me from being bullied! Sleeves are a must for me and I would never tell people that in 'my opinion' sleeves make you look old!!! You're a designer- act like one! You exist to meet needs and to listen and not be some pretentious diva who designs crap that everyone will automatically like or else. Your opinion does not matter- it is the opinion of your end user that matters- where did you get your degree? TAFE??? Do you even have one? Oh and in case you haven't figured it out yet- I'm a designer too. Start listening to what your end user wants and stop making excuses.
- I too feel that sleeves are important irrespective of age. For a girl with curves, 3/4 sleeves are a must.
- Lucy I couldn't disagree more about your going sleeveless point - '...the only one worried about your arms is you.' I dress for me, not others. And I'm enormously uncomfortable going sleeveless. I think you're missing your market's point quite a lot!
- Lucy, I love that you are taking the time to talk to us! I have a lot of your designs in my wardrobe and I always feel amazing in my City Chic clothing, especially when i get compliments on how great i look! I am completely with you on embracing our curves including my Bingo Wings!! BURN THE CARDIGANS I SAY.
- I think a lot of girls don't like wearing shoe string straps or strapless tops as our arms are quite fat. I can only assume that as the designer you are not overweight so really should not be telling us to get over our insecurities.
- I was too late for the chat with Lucy but was hugely disappointed...The VAST majority of your customers asked for more sleeves!! This tells me that the upcoming collections do not contain many dresses with sleeves and that you are NOT listening to you customers. Fake tan is not the solution to improving the design of dresses WE want. For those of us with bigger arms, I simply do not buy many of your dresses for the simple reason that I will never feel confident showing my arms. WE are not asking for every dress/top to have sleeves but just a hell of a lot more of them to have SLEEVES. Was the chat not to gain feedback?
- If you look at most of the comments "Lucy" doesn't bother to address any of the things that people actually wanted, sleeves are a huge thing and again none of this was addressed. It's sad to see that a multimillion dollar company such as specialty fashion group can't take the word of there customers who are asking in huge numbers for these simple things.
- Great clothes, hate it when sleeves aren't even sleeves and don't cover my fat arms!
- I love your clothes but I would like to see more of a range with some sort of sleeve. I hate having to always cover up with a bolero jacket. Sometimes it just doesn't compliment the dress/outfit the way it should.
- SLEEVES! I'm over having to buy boleros. I'm big, I deal with it. But I don't want my bits hanging out. Especially when paying top dollar.
- Fake tan is a ridiculous solution! I can't believe this was even suggested. I don't like my arms and do not want to wear sleeveless tops so I then wear a bolero which can often be too hot.
I don't know how you feel after reading these comments, but I am truly saddened by these comments, because in them is reflected a deep hatred and shame. The comments that bothered me the most were:
"There are very few 14+ girls out there that feel comfortable and confident wearing strapless dresses."
"Most of us do not like our arms and never want to embrace them."
"There is no way I'm going to 'embrace' who I apparently am."
"I will never feel confident showing my arms"
The rest of this post isn't going to be a nasty rant on these women, because I totally understand where they are coming from. But I'm on a body acceptance journey, so I want to reflect on it.
At first, the designer Lucy recommends fake tan as a method of feeling confident about showing your arms. This pissed off a lot of girls, but I don't really have any right to address this because in all three photos on this post where I am going sleeveless, I have a fake tan (I've hardly been without one for the last three years since my sister is a beautician) and I would very much struggle going sleeveless if I didn't have bronzed arms.
Then Lucy backtracks a little bit and says, "What I'm saying is, why not embrace who you are, tan up so you feel confident. I've been a plus sized girl all my life and battled with wanting to cover my arms until I reached my 30s. I've now found a way to embrace and love my body."
At this point, she probably should have dropped the "fake tan" suggestion and just argued for embracing your body. In saying this, she came under even more attack, which led her to her final say on the issue, "Ok guys, I'm reading your comments on covering arms, and I hear you. I will keep this in mind, as you're making it loud and clear."
Then, it was this comment by a customer that made my heart sing: "I am completely with you on embracing our curves including my Bingo Wings!! BURN THE CARDIGANS I SAY."
I love this comment so much, because it reflects the anger I've had lately about having to cover my arms.
BURN THE CARDIGANS I SAY. What an astounding, wonderful, FIERCE thing to say!
Golda Poretsky of Body Love Wellness wrote a post about this called "Exercise Your Right To Bare Arms!" - bloody fantastic title! She begins by writing,
"I think nearly everyone knows that feeling, that feeling of being uncomfortable in your body and wearing too much clothing to cover it up. How many of you have worn a sweater over a sleeveless dress in sweltering heat to cover up areas of your body that you wanted to hide? How many of you have worn a t-shirt in the pool for the same reason? How many of you have worn all black on a hot summer’s day?"
I just nodded my head as I read this.
When I was in primary school, there was an excursion to the Adelaide Aquatic Centre. As a chubby youngster who was keenly ashamed of my weight, I wore a white t-shirt in the water to cover up. At one point in the day, two other kids swam by me. One of them looked me up and down, puffed up his cheeks at me to imitate my fatness, looked at his friend and they proceeded to laugh at me before swimming off. I was mortified and just sat there in the baby pool, red faced. My ploy to cover up and hide my body had not worked.
Newsflash: people know that under your sleeves, your arms are fat.
Throughout highschool, I sweltered my way through summer by wearing my school jumper over my dress uniform to cover the lumps and bumps.
Newsflash: wearing that jumper through summer did not disprove that I was fat. It just made me look like an idiot.
Golda finishes up her blog post by writing:
"Why does this matter? Because hiding your body sends a message to others and to yourself. It sends a message that you are uncomfortable with how you look and that your body is unacceptable. It sends the message that making yourself acceptable to other people is more important than your own needs. And I can tell you that the more you try to be acceptable to other people by ignoring what you need, the more you will feel unfulfilled, angry, self-hateful, uncomfortable, and, at least in the summer, sweaty."
My need to be cool in summer is more important than being acceptable to others. I'm sorry I may not be someone else's walking porn, but too bad.
In the comments on the CC Facebook page, women wrote "I don't like my arms; I hate showing my arms; I want to hide my arms; I'm self-conscious of my arms; It looks disgusting."
Do you know what?
FAT WOMEN NEED TO RECLAIM THEIR ARMS.
Plus size women seem to think that their upper arms are too fat for public viewing. But the truth is that you are probably more concerned about it than anyone else!
A personal story in FAT!SO? (Marilyn Wann) read like this,
"I asked my acquaintance whether my arms looked too awful, whether I shouldn't have covered them up. She was simply surprised at my question, and said, 'No, of course not. They're lovely and round.' That was all it took - a flat statement from a disinterested party. It was all I needed to reclaim a body part that I'd been hiding in shame for decades. And you know what? My arms are lovely and round. In fact, all of me is. What's more, it feels good to wear sleeveless things and feel the air on your skin."
That teacher (who was in her 60s and had an amazing figure) who asked me why I couldn't just take off my bolero, was so matter-of-fact - as though it was pure logic to take it off, and I could tell by the look on her face that she was baffled by my response of "I don't like showing my arms." And it makes sense - my arms were going to be fat whether I had a bolero on or not. The difference was, I would be cool and comfortable on a hot, Australian summers day. Isn't that my right, just as it's the right of every other Australian? Why was I torturing myself?
I think more importantly, I am learning to love my upper arms. The skin there, where it's flabbiest, is so soft and supple and perfectly lovely to touch and squeeze! I often joke about this roll of fat that is just above my inner elbow, but only on my right arm! It's this weird little pocket of fat that isn't mirror imaged on the other arm! But my boyfriend, sister and close friends love it! They think it's adorable. I've learned to love that little roll!
Fat women need to shed shame, not pounds, and stop apologising for their bodies. We spend too much time trying to keep people from figuring out we are fat. Somewhere along the line, we have gotten the message that there is a wrong way to have a body.
Boleros, to me, are starting to become a reminder of why I must fight against the shame and resist the urge to hide. I want to try, from now on, to go sleeveless more often.
I'm going to wrap this up with a quote by Christa Trueman (Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion, edited by Virgie Tovar). She begins this story by writing of a memory from her childhood, when her mother couldn't turn over on her beach towel to play a game with her because her "belly fat rolls" would show.
"I love the beach now. I love running into the water, my entire body jiggling, all that fat showing, no way to hide it. I love shrieking and laughing and having splash fights and lifting and tossing my girl into the waves as she shrieks and laughs right back at me. I love sitting up on my towel, my hair dripping, my belly resting on my lap, as we share our picnic basket and futilely try to wipe sand off our potato chips. I love that my daughter sees me this way: fat and happy, fat and swimming, fat and lying on my side on my towel next to her, reading her a passage out of my book or flipping over a card in a game of Crazy Eights. I can't guarantee that she is going to get through her teen years unscathed by our body-shaming society, but I can guarantee that she's going to have me in her life as the counterpoint to all of that. And any time I get those twinges of shame - because they do linger, and they do still inhibit me - I recount that day on the beach as a small girl with my mother. Only now it's not a reminder of how my belly fat rolls are not okay. It is a reminder that my belly fat rolls are a battle cry."
Your fat upper arms are a battle cry, too.