Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Aren't Plus Size Actresses Allowed to Show Their Arms?

I love this movie poster. It's currently posted in every single subway station I frequent, and I find it just plain delightful. They look like a girl bridesmaid gang pulling off a bank heist or something. (I'm pretty sure this doesn't actually happen in the movie, FYI.) Other women in the train station seem just as intrigued by it, and we all seem to spend lots of commuting time studying it with fascination.

But there's one thing about the poster that's off to me. Why, why, WHY does the plus-size actress always have to wear sleeves? Even at the risk of ruining the perfect group ensemble thing they've got going on? It just screams LOOK THIS ACTRESS ISN'T AS THIN AS THE OTHERS OMG.

For the larger actress (Melissa McCarthy), it even looks like they sewed a different skirt and sleeves to the same dress bodice the other women are wearing, and the fabric is more matte. But why? Melissa McCarthy (aka Sookie from The Gilmore Girls) is a good-looking woman and I doubt anyone's retinas would be permanently seared from seeing her bare arms.

Glee pulls this stunt quite a bit too, having Ashley Fink wear long-sleeved versions of the Glee club's costumes. Once they even had her wear a black cardigan over the ombre Betsey Johnson dresses they wore while the rest of the girls went bare-armed, including Amber Riley, who is plus-sized but thinner than Ashley. It's almost as though this whole phenomenon requires that only one woman be isolated as too big to wear sleeveless dresses.

Now, I get that there are a lot of reasons this could be happening.

First, I know some plus size women (and frankly, even non-plus size women) are uncomfortable showing their arms. But if this is so, isn't that probably because we've created the very media environment that makes them uncomfortable? Furthermore, I would really question whether this is about the actresses' comfort and not about catering to a fat-phobic viewership. I've read the terrible comments people have posted on articles about Ashely Fink. Also, who can forget the whole Marie Claire debacle in which blogger Maura Kelly took issue with the Melissa McCarthy's sitcom Mike and Molly, saying  she didn't want to "watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other." So, obviously, we're dealing with a culture that tells overweight women that they don't deserve to be seen, that their bodies should be hidden for fear of offending people.

Next possible reason for all the arm-covering: As seamstresses--heck, as women--we know how wonky ready-to-wear sizes are. Even sewing patterns usually don't extend beyond a size 20, the equivalent of a 14 in retail sizes. So yes, perhaps it is difficult to find a wide range of sizes in the same dress, especially if a costume designer is sourcing from designer shops. And yet I'm still not buying it.

Ashley Fink wore a Betsey Johnson dress in the sectionals episode, so we know she can fit into them.

And for the last regionals competition (pictured above), the costume designer said in an interview that the dresses are bridesmaids dresses.
This year, the show needed a designer who’s used to making dresses of varying sizes on a tight turnaround, so who better than a bridal designer? Eyrich’s team ordered aqua bridesmaids dresses from Los Angeles-based Jenny Yoo (who also did the girls’ dresses for Kurt and Finn’s parents’ wedding) on a Wednesday; Yoo made them on a Thursday, and on Friday, Eyrich and her team fit the dresses on the girls — who require a wide range of sizes — and added sashes around the waists and applied jewels from deconstructed BCBG necklaces to the fronts. [emphasis mine]
My favorite comment on that article goes to Pamela, who said, "Could you clarify whether the cast require a variety/wide range of sizes? I’m not quite sure you’ve quite made your point about how there are fat people on this show." Nicely played, Pamela, nicely played.

Since the dresses were custom made, they easily could have been coordinated so they're all in the same style, sleeveless or not. Which brings us full-circle back to Bridesmaids. If the Glee costume designer had to go to bridesmaid dresses to be able to get dresses in a variety of sizes, shouldn't a movie called BRIDESMAIDS (!!!) be able to do the same?

I think what bothers me most about it is that it seems deliberately exclusive: just look at the way Melissa McCarthy is set off from the group in that Bridesmaids poster. Both of these shows depend on a group dynamic, about the bond that exists between the characters, whether it's a bunch of misfit glee clubbers or a motley bridal party. It's about the humanity that connects them all. And this whole "one of these things isn't like the others" crap is really messing with that bond. So please, Hollywood: could we accept the possibility that you don't have to be tiny to wear a sleeveless dress and look awesome doing it?


  1. In my opinion, dressing according to your body type is essential to looking put together and classy. But if Hollywood were to actually play by this rule, half the skinny girls in that poster would be wearing differently cut dresses.

    Curvy women can look hot in sleeveless tops, just like smaller women can, DEPENDING on how their weight gets distributed. If they have a smaller bum and chunkier arms, no, it's not gonna look too flattering to wear a sleeveless gown. But the same goes for skinny women to. And we do need to create a society that appreciate their bodies the way they are instead of covering them up like some ill-kept secret. Big women are hot! Look up Natalie Alvarado.

    She's just amazing with her 2x body, and she wears sleeveless things all the time. Yum yum!

  2. Also, that plus size girl's ensemble is way hotter than the others. A fitted hot pink jacket with a giant bow, vs a skimpy dress? Yes please!

  3. Perhaps she is the maid of honor? They often wear different dresses. I don't watch Glee but it does seem odd that one plus sized girl would be forced to cover and not another.

  4. Thank you for posting this, Gertie! I've often wondered whether the actresses requested sleeves due to their personal taste, or whether the sleeves were forced upon them. If the latter is correct, it must be very disheartening for the girls to be singled out. Especially in Glee, a show that prides itself on acceptance...

  5. I was wondering if in the first photo, the dress is part of the story (like bridezilla made her wear sleeves). That girl is honestly normal-sized, to me.

    On the larger issue though, I'm not going to pretend that an obese woman looks good or should show off her body, even though I do want to support the woman inside the body. I feel the same towards my haggard friend that smokes 4 packs per day and looks terrible - I'm not going to tell him otherwise.

    I don't care for the attitude that body size is something out of your control. It often signals things going on inside that are not healthy. Of course I'm not demanding everyone be stick-thin. I really am happy to see plus-size models (fully aware that at my currently pretty fit weight I'd have to loose a few to be one!) and larger women and think it is ridiculous to dress them differently as in the first picture.

    But why support this attitude that size is some fixed thing beyond your control and demanding of acceptance? Weight is largely the result of your choices, and after a certain point gaining too much weight is really both unhealthy and unattractive. I don't see the benefit of pretending otherwise.

  6. Hmm, maybe Amber likes her arms and Asnley doesn't? I agree with lovelypinup. The short tight dresses aren't particularly flattering on the thin girls. Also, it strikes me that in the poster, all the girls are very thin with one very heavy girl. Where are all the in-betweeners?

  7. I've seen this poster plastered all over the walls, too, and at first I just assumed the one with sleeves was the maid of honor -- at least, in weddings I've attended, the bridesmaid dresses were all the same while the main maid had a slightly different version.
    But of course, if that were the case, she'd probably be standing next to the bride on the poster, not all the way to the edge.
    Granted, I think the strapless dresses are hideous anyway, but too bad Melissa McCarthy's character looks excluded from the scene.

  8. Because I did so much physical work growing up, such as cleaning chicken coops, chopping wood, and so on and so forth I have ALWAYS had huge biceps*. It wasn't until I had my back injury and unable to exercise as I was accustomed I began to get beyond a healthy weight and I became embarrassed by my arms.

    I'm working on it though and I have decided that I don't care what other people think, I'll wear that halter dress if I want to. If you don't like it, take a long walk off a short pier. <-- my re-affirmation that I can show off my arms.

    *I have always been between a 12-18 (rtw size) even when I was at 19% body fat (at 5'8" and 165 pounds).

  9. All I know is when it gets hot, I will show my arms no matter if they look like milky white hams.

    I will agree that although I always notice when a plus-sized girl covers her arms, I didn't think anything of it on the Bridesmaids poster because I totally love the jacket feel of Melissa McCarthy's dress.

    My big issue is that all the girls I know have issues with showing their arms unless they are toned. Which I think is silly. I'd rather show my arms and be cool that be sweaty anyday.

  10. The movie poster tells a very distinct story. I'd be willing to be my inheritance (which ain't much, folks) that the story line involves a Bridezilla who is forced to have Melissa McCarthy's character in her wedding because she's a family member or her fiance's sister or something but she really doesn't WANT her in the wedding so she forces her to wear the "different" dress. Of course, during the course of the film, the Bridezilla learns a life lesson because [fill in the blank] and Melissa McCarthy's character is the redeeming one.

    As to the use of plus-sized actresses... I'm hopeful that the trend will start to shift towards more "normal" looking people on TV rather than the extremely thin, looks like they've never eaten a good meal, weren't they a poster child for Unicef back in the 80s actresses.

    Life isn't one size fits all.

  11. This is stupid, because you know they did some photoshopping on the other girls in the poster so why couldn't they just do the same to the larger girl. She wouldn't have look bad at all and then she wouldn't have stood out so much

  12. First of all, I want to say that I hate strapless dresses and tops. Always wondered why someone would want to wear something in public that a well-placed yank would pull down letting the wearer in for indecent exposure charges.

    And Evaline, I find your comments offensive. Being overweight is not necessarily a choice. I am, but it has a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that I'm handicapped than anything else. When you physically unable exercise like you should, certain things start to get beyond your control. I've always been a little overweight, but it wasn't a problem until I injured both knees (destroyed one dancing and the surgery from it was what screwed me up) and ended up with an incurable disease which complications from it will probably lead to my death. And some people do look better with a little more weight than a little less. It's a cultural thing, really.

    Gertie, it's funny, but in our society, it's more acceptable for men to be fat than women. Heck, it's even easier to find large mens' clothes than large women's. And have you looked at the Roamans and the Lane Bryant catalogues? Most of the clothes are ugly, and none of them are modeled by true plus-sized women. All the models are thin! I call their offerings, "I'm fat, let's make me ugly, too," clothes. Heck, a few hundred years ago, having a fat bride was preferable to skinny because it meant that 1)she could cook 2)came from a well-off family 3)was considered a sign of fertility. As for the sleeve thing, well, I've noticed the same thing. But, well, plus sized women in Hollywood are rare to start with. Usually, they're skinny bordering on anorexic.

  13. It's interesting to me how posts like these always bring out the fat-hatred in the commenterati, you know? Unlike evaline, who isn't going to pretend that obese women look good, I'm not going to pretend that there's a such thing as a single "good." Unlike lovelypinup, I'm not going to issue an edict about "chunky" arms being forbidden. And frankly, I don't think it matters a whit whether there's a justification in the plot for Melissa McCarthy's sleeves -- Gertie's point is that it's part of a larger pattern of hiding fat women's bodies. And she's right. And it is just that insidious. If the only time you ever saw your body reflected in culture it was being hated on or hidden, you'd get that.

    Sewing is an amazing craft that lets us understand the shape of our own bodies, break other people's ideas of what we should be wearing (especially if we bag the commercial pattern thing and just design our own), and make it clearer and clearer how arbitrary designations like "plus", "fat", "curvy", and "flattering" are.

    For me, I say what looks good. My opinion matters.

  14. This is WRONG! Telling people that they need to dress for their body type is WRONG! People should dress for how they feel, and what makes them feel fabulous may not be what YOU find pleasing. But hey, guess what? That's YOUR problem! I am a fat girl who makes her own clothes, I don't follow the rules for "fat people dressing!" And I get way more support than you think! When are people going to get over the fact that fat people are still PEOPLE and they deserve to be treated equal.I noticed what they did to the girls on Glee also. It was actually distracting for me. Because they are beautiful girls, and why should they be ashamed. If you don't find fat people in sleeveless and low cut dresses attractive, well I would tell you that your mama never taught you that the world is not made for you and what your tastes are! If you are in group, then the whole group should wear the same dress, that's it! Size is not an issue when getting custom dresses done, no excuse.

  15. Its funny I'm always a bit torn on this topic bc we don't know how the actresses involved feel. I was the largest bridesmaid in 3 weddings and in two had we all wore the same dress. It looked great on the size 2 and not good at all on my size 20 at the time frame. The third she let us pick and they were all the same color. Mine was still sleeveless but an empire waist (good since I got pregnant after ordering) I was much more comfortable in this dress. I think the young women from Glee has looked nice in both pics and really hadn't noticed that her dress was different. I would also feel awful if she was forced to wear something she was uncomfortable in though that is true for all the girls not just her.

  16. Preach it, Gertie! I couldn't agree more, and am really getting tired of this malining of women who are not a sample size. Just because someone is overweight does not mean they're lazy, or have made bad health choices (I could name quite a few women I've known who struggle with weight gain due to life-saving medications they're on!), or whatnot. Some of the most stunningly beautiful women I've ever know have been what would be considered "plus size". When I used to work at a restaurant there was a lady who'd come in from time to time who was definitely in the size 16 to 18 range. I had a hard time not staring at her whenever she was around because she was that gorgeous and had that air about her that projected a confident sexiness. The irony was at the time I was struggling with anorexia and used to wish desperately I could be her.

    I have to admit that even though I'm at the other end of the spectrum, even I have problems showing my arms on certain days. Combined with my flat chest and sometimes I feel like I look like I have toothpicks hanging from my shoulders around my barrel-like ribcage. ;) lol. So wearing something over top on certain days makes me feel better about how I look. Perhaps that is the case with some women, but one has to give credit to the body-shaming that has become so acceptable in our culture. Sadly it seems that if you don't fit a very narrow definition of beauty, you're not allowed to enjoy showing your body off or feeling confident. And why, I must ask, does the "fat girl" in a movie always end up the funny/outcast friend? I mean really? Ugh. This is why I don't go to the movies often. ;) lol.

    Alright, now I'm ranting. ;) Thanks for posting this though. I'm really heartened by the uptick in dialoge on the topic of body-discrimination and self image that I've seen lately. If nothing else, I dearly hope that it helps other women out there who feel like they're struggling alone.

    - Casey

  17. That's a very good point about photoshopping mollymolly! You know those other girls didn't really look that perfect in the original versions of that poster photo. And I agree with all of you who like Melissa McCarthy's outfit better anyway. She does look much cuter. At the risk of starting another flurry of controversial comments, I've never watched Glee, but I think that frequently the racial/ethnic views of weight affect things like that. It seems to me that in the media and society at large it is generally more acceptable for non-caucasian women (whether they're African America, Hispanic, Polynesian or whatever) to be heavy (or at least heavier than mainstream media tells us we should be). When you look at people like Queen Latifah, Oprah, Monique, America Ferrera (who's a totally normal size by the way), Jennifer Hudson (who felt like she needed to lose weight but still looks healthy) or any number of other heavier celebrities, it's much harder to think of any overweight caucasians. If you can, they generally got quasi-famous for always playing the fat friend, not for having incredible voices or being talented actresses otherwise (or for having a lot of money, Oprah). It's a shame that this is such an issue in the media. I especially think that Sarah's point about Glee being a show that prides itself on acceptance is telling here. Why is it still not okay to be the fat friend??

    On another note, I've really become enamored of Adele recently, the slightly plump and adorable brit with the killer voice. I really hope she is able to make it as far in the music industry as she deserves to without running into too much negativity. It would be a crime to silence that voice.

  18. You go, Gertie. Love your blog, love this post.

  19. This is a great observation. I would love to get Carolyn's opinion on this. Perhaps it is the model's comfort level. I think cap sleeves or sleeveless would have been better than the sleeve they chose. I'm also puzzled by the skirt. It just looks odd.

  20. I'm sorry you were offended Bratling and the others. I think you chose to be, however, since I clearly stated that I LIKE plus-sized models and larger women on TV and don't like to see them covered up. Of course there is a huge range of beauty, but not EVERY weight is beautiful (I also abhor the starving anorexic look). Perhaps I shouldn't have got into my opinion that obesity is unhealthy and not really something to celebrate (I'm pretty sure the AMA, etc. would agree there so I'm not sure why that is controversial), but I am in fact AGREEING with Gertie here.

  21. (Standing, and clapping) "Amen, sister"

  22. I have been more self-conscious of my arms lately, especially since I have been gaining weight with my pregnancy. Weight seems to be going to other places, not just the baby bump. When I look at my arms with disappointment, I start to think about the arms of the some famous women who have very toned and well-defined arms and wish mine were like theirs. So I do believe you have point that our thoughts about our arms have a lot to do with society.

  23. Like another commenter said, I'm torn on this issue. Maybe the actresses (McCarthy and Fink) ASKED to have sleeves. Maybe they didn't. We don't and can't know, until someone asks in an interview. And that's the hard thing about this issue. We never truly know how much Hollywood or society is "forcing" actresses to cover their arms, but we can do our part to support every lady's right to bare (or not bare) her arms as she sees fit.

  24. Hmm...

    I agree with you 100% on the Hollywood thing.
    But I don't see anything wrong with someone wanting to cover their own arms for being insicure. Especially if by covering their insicurity-area, they feel more confident and secure. Isn't that what fashion is all about, being able to hide the bad and flaunt the good.
    I do think it's bad when others inflict the 'right and wrong' onto someone. But what we fail to grasp here is the individual's choice in the matter. We can never know if in glee the actress wants to cover her arms or not...

  25. My two cents:
    I understand the reason for this debate and I totally agree with Gertie. However, we do need to remember that these actresses might actually have requested the addition of sleeves or in one Glee case, a sweater shrug? Especially, when there is the fact that Amber DOES wear the exact same thing as the other girls, it makes me think that just might be Ashley's choice. And of course we are all about choice here when it comes to what a woman chooses to wear, right?. Even Helen Mirren insists on covering her arms most of the time and I've seen hers and they are awesome!

    It would be interesting to get their opinions, and I think Gertie is the ideal person to ask them. Perhaps, she can contact them, ask thier opinions, and have them contribute to the blog?

  26. I know why I don't wear off the rack sleeveless clothes. The arm hole on the front gaps in a very unattractive manner due to it being drafted for a B cup and not the D that I am. It almost always requires an arm hole dart to fix it which sometimes looks wrong and tends to make the hole wider and exposes more of the undergarment. A lot of times it is just easier to wear a jacket/sweater/over shirt to hide it or attach a sleeve so there is no gap.

  27. On the topic of Fat Shaming:

    This has come out in a couple of comments, about how as a society there is an undercurrent of "fat shaming". In other words, people who are OBVIOUSLY obese are shunned and treated differently.

    I'd like to point out a maybe not so obvious side effect because it happened first hand to a friend of mine. She was diagnosed with PCOS and a thyroid issue and her weight kept going up and up. She tried dieting and going to the gym but I kept getting calls from her crying because they were making fun of the "fat girl at the gym".

    I'm serious. And I get this too (or did, but I managed to work through it with some help and ignore these people). Its something I've noticed with my large friends. They stop doing all the activities that could help them stay in the healthy range because they are so afraid of what people my say or do to them in public. Its more insidious that one might think.

    As for my friend, she resorted to getting a gastric bypass, so now she's thin, but has a host of other health problems because of it(that could kill her).

  28. Great subject Gertie, interesting comments. I feel that everyone has their own insecurities and dresses to expose or cover accordingly. That's fine and why many of us prefer to sew many of our garments. That said, we each have our opinions of what we see be it in movies, on television or on subway walls. One cannot ignore the bias leveled against women beyond size two. I have been all sizes from anorexic and underweight to overweight, due to illness imposed physical limitation, not choice. The issue is the message. We have a long way to go to understand and accept our differences. As a side note, you will rarely hear an overweight woman bad mouth other ladies weight or dress. Something to think about. I have many theories, better left for another discussion.

  29. Thank you so much for posting this!

    It is certainly possible that these actresses requested to have their arms covered, but that really isn't the point of the larger issue. The issue is that since you are a child it is implied that if you are fat, you are not good enough, you should feel ashamed of your body and it should remain covered.

    It took me a very long time, but as a fat lady myself, I will no longer apologize or feel shamed for the space I take up in this world. This is *my* life and I'll be damned if I go through it wishing and wanting because I was afraid to do something based on my weight.

    I remember when I was having my wedding dress made, everyone really pushed me to put sleeves on my dress. It was a combination of them maybe wanting me to cover my tattoo and also just covering my less than perfect arms. I kiboshed the idea pretty early on and the dress came out perfectly. It's all about confidence and attitude.

  30. Well, I have to disagree. Larger girls are put in sleeves because it makes a nicer silhouette. I was overweight with big arms, and if you have your arm skin out it makes a wider shape than if you color block it with a cardigan. It's less about covering up the fat girl and more make everyone look good for their figure. If you like to wear sleeveless than rock it and be happy. But stylists have a job for a reason, there is a way to dress each shape to look as good as they can, and we are talking about TV. Of course they need to look as good as they can! Yes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if it's a %1 market that wants to see something, who do you think the station will listen to? The masses or %1? As much as people say they want to see "real" women modeling and acting, sales go down when some places listen and hire the "fat" model. That is a marketing FACT. And it all comes down to the dollar.

  31. I also wondered if it might be the actresses preference. I'm a RTW size 10 right now (have been smaller, have been bigger) and have found my upper arms tend to be thicker. A nice, smooth fitting sleeve or cardigan sleeve has always been my preference.

  32. It is a shame. Melissa is even sectioned off onto the left like it was hoped that maybe the picture would be cut off and she would be cut out. I really don't understand why we have this perfect body image when only one woman that we deem with the perfect body can be put into that mold. Everyone is different, which includes different size and just because you are bigger than someone else does not make you fat. It's just so sad that as a culture we can't accept that and we keep turning to magazines and such to help make our bodies the perfect shape.

    Be healthy and more importantly be happy! That's what needs to be infused in our culture. Right. Now!


  33. go gertie with a hot-button topic post!

    This is, of course, a minefield topic and it brings out strident opinions, haters, resentment and everything else in the book.

    Part of my mission/goal with my blog is to post a LOT of pics of me (i'm a RTW size 20, more or less) in good stuff and bad. I've always been larger than the average bear and since the media/film/tv/magazines shy away from featuring women my size, there was a long time where I had no idea what options there even were for women my size - other than the muumuus and tunics sold at major chains. Sewing changes that and I love seeing what other women my size are doing, so I play along too! Sometimes it's easier to evaluate a style on someone else rather than looking in the mirror!

    As far as arm covering - some arms and outfits look better with coverings, some don't. And you (um, I mean me!) have to contend with providing coverage for proper boobage support systems. I think you should go with whatever works. It IS hard to get a nice line in a strapless if you're top-heavy, so I totally get adding at least a sleeveless support type thing for that bridesmaid dress, full arms weren't really necessary, though. The real travesty is that skirt. Good god, will someone give her a few safety pins so she can add a little shape to that thing! That skirt is what I hate about the RTW plus size market!

    And as far as the sweater-over-the RTW top/dress goes, that's a pretty common thing for me - not because I'm hiding my arms, but because a lot of summer dresses are made for a smaller chest, so they have a serious gaping issue and they have spaghetti straps. They just are a bit too revealing without a little coverup if you've got a DD situation going on!!

    It's hard to determine what's going on with looking at what the wardrobe choices are for plus sized actresses, because that's so tied in with the storylines. I'm more curious about what heavier actresses wear on the red carpet and in casting decisions. Not all us fat chicks are the funny sidekick, the sad spinster, the wise fortune teller or the hyper sexualized wanton woman. At least, not every day.

  34. I want to see this movie, but I really REALLY hope they don't have the plus size actress as the punchline, self-inflicted or not, of a bunch of fat jokes. One thing I liked about her character on Gilmore Girls is that she did not make fat jokes about herself, she was just loveable Sookie, and her weight wasn't a topical episode issue (ever, as far as I recall).

  35. Maybe they didn't want their arms bare. I know PLENTY of women, a lot in the online sewing community that are way smaller than them that REFUSE to show their arms. *shrugs*

  36. "Also, it strikes me that in the poster, all the girls are very thin with one very heavy girl. Where are all the in-betweeners?"

    I actually have a bigger problem with that than what they're wearing. For all we know, the dress difference is a plot point that makes dress manufacturers look ridiculous.

  37. I'm not going to say much, because most of my thoughts have already been expressed here. But I will say that viewing the trailer definitely reinforces what Gertie is saying here. Melissa McCarthy's character definitely seems to be the horrible stereotype of the "gross fat person" - it surprised me enough at first viewing that I couldn't quite understand why she accepted the role.

  38. The skirt looks like a really bad Photoshop job to me. It must have had some unflattering reflections in the shiny fabric or something.

    Notice she's the only one whose skirt covers her knees, too. Heaven forbid we see plus-sized knees.

    I can't say much without knowing if these women requested sleeves and longer skirts or not, but I suspect that either they had to wear them, or the media makes such an uproar about the smallest bit of pudge that it's not worth attracting that kind of attention by being the bigger girl in the strapless dress.

    Which is a shame.

    Those are some righteously ugly bridesmaids dresses, though. Wow. They look like pink cabbages, but not in a good way. I had a Barbie circa 1980 that wore something very similar.

  39. Wow, alrighty then. At first I was going to suggest maybe she's the maid of honor in that brides movie but then as you showed more and more expamples it seems clear that TV doesn't like fat girls. Or at least their arms. It's a shame really that you can't be bigger than a size 4 without ridicule. This is definitely not a new thing but still sad

  40. I've seen the film and there is no reason for Melissa McCarthy to be in a different dress. No, I don't know if she asked to wear sleeves, but there are plenty of shenanigans going on in that poster.

    In addition to the dress issue, Maya Rudolf is obviously browner than the other women in the film, yet she is miraculously the same color as the other women in the poster.

    Just another edition of the marketing department trying to get you in the door without telling you what the film is really about. It's sad, because the movie is actually lewd and hilarious. (And surprisingly free of fat jokes.)

  41. It's a sad thing if the actress in question feels comfortable with her arms and she is forced to cover them up. On the other hand, I personally prefer the Melissa McCarthy dress with sleeves to the other girls' dresses. I do think that whatever wardrobe decision they made must be the same in the film and on the poster, so airbrushing isn't the solution.

    I don't know whether she or Ashely Fink requested sleeves, and to my mind it would make a difference. I know that arms are one location that can be prone to stretch marks, and that can make the difference between someone who is comfortable showing their arms and someone who is not, even more than arm size.

    I am not caught up on Glee, but I distinctly remember them making a point of how inappropriate it is to focus on Ashely Fink's character's weight, even when Puck is trying to celebrate it. I think they really did a good job of pointing out that weight should not be the focus of interpersonal interaction. A person cannot be reduced to just a dress size.

    I believe we should all dress in a way that flatters our individual body type, and makes each of us feel confident. This definitely does not mean that larger women should hide in a tent -- far from it. It simple means that I need to be at peace with the fact that I look better in clothes with defined waists, and I can't pull off the dropped waist flapper look. Everyone should dress in a way that emphasizes their best features. That's why sewing is so great -- it allows us to customize.

    That being said, there are some good points from many angles mentioned above. I do believe that in American culture in general we need to do a better job of accepting larger women's bodies and making it clear that they can be beautiful and dress well. I think Patty the Snug Bug does a great job with her efforts, and she is definitely one of my style icons, even though I am considerably smaller than her. On the other hand, there is definitely a line between beautiful, large, fat or even obese women and true bariatric patients. There is a point at which excess fat is extremely unhealthy and interferes with every aspect of life, and it is dangerous to have a cavalier attitude about it. We do need to be supportive, not derisive, but sometimes the feelings of shame are hard to overcome. Personally, if I was at a gym and saw a really fat person come in to try and get in better shape, I would be rooting for their success. I think a lot of other people would be too, but how can one be supportive to that person? Even positive comments make them feel singled out for being fat. How can I encourage my frighteningly out of shape parent to exercise without seeming condescending, nagging, or shaming? All I really want is for him to be healthy and live a long time, and have all the energy he deserves, but if I try to encourage him, he feels criticized. I don't know what to do, and I'm sure a lot of other people are in the same boat - stuck in a society that assumes we're being critical.

  42. @Gaidid - you make a good point about how encouragement could also be shown as a sign of singling someone out.

    From my own experience I offer a solution. If its someone you see at the gym/workout place regularly and you notice progress, tell them you can really tell a difference and they are looking great. THAT is encouraging. Those of us that work hard to be as fit as we can do appreciate people noticing.

  43. Some commenters have already hinted at it, but I'd like to say it out loud: Those poor thin women in the poster are forced to undress rather than dress. Only the stout one gets to stay warm and does not have to fear imminent wardrobe malfunction.
    I myself like to keep covered and I belong to those "normal" sized sewists who hanker after the "plus" size patterns in burda magazine, because I think they often look more ladylike (as opposed to glamgirl pseudo-celeb-style).

    I think there is some kind of sexism involved in undressing actresses and singers by default.
    There is also the dream factor. Most people live in their everyday clothes and occasions for bare shoulders and glamorous satin are rare. For a wonder that movie poster shows one representative of this more normal state of affairs...

  44. Thanks for this post Gertie - I think you make a really good point.

    I want to chime in on the comments because I notice a lot of the responses (particularly to evaline's post) have focussed on the fact that we shouldn't judge someone for their weight because it may be a result of hormones or medication. This seems to me to just be looking at it entirely the wrong way. The fact is that, yes, it's horrible to put on weight for medical reasons, but most people who are bigger are so because of lifestyle. The problem isn't admitting that they're bigger because of their choices; it's when people fail to recognise that those choices don't make someone a bad person, they are not immoral choices and they most certainly do not give anybody the right to be judgemental or insulting. If we don't admit that, then we may as well say it's OK to discriminate against someone for being fat, so long as they're fat because they 'can't stop eating' or are 'lazy' or whatever other labels people use.

    And while we're on the point, I'm sorry if sound like I'm being the 'overly PC one' but, evaline, I really don't think you're helping your case by saying you "abhor the starving anorexic look". If we want to promote healthy body image at all, the worst way to do that is to simply insult and belittle a different kind of body than the one that's currently insulted and belittled. Surely it would be much better not to say "fat women look bad" or "skinny women look bad" but to simply say "a woman can look beautiful regardless of her size".

  45. Just popping back in to say that I loved Trixie's comment about a woman of any size looking beautiful! Beautifully put!

  46. I have got to say to that last comment: I am "large" (size 16-18)because those are my genes. I am healthy, and I am not "overweight," nor do I have some sort of lifestyle problem that needs changing. My vital signs (blood pressure, etc.) are right in the middle of normal. No doctor has ever told me to lose weight. I'm just not a tiny thing, and no amount of dieting or working out will make me into one. I've been about the same weight my entire adult life (I'm now 53). I also have to say that I spent my teen years afraid to wear sleeveless tops because I thought arms were supposed to be fleshless, and mine weren't (and aren't), but I later made peace with all of it. I now think my arms look pretty darn good, and I wear sleeveless clothes when I choose, without shame, or even giving it much thought.

  47. I think the bigger (pun intended) question is why did they Photoshop Melissa McCarthy down 4 sizes? She's smaller than me in that photo! I totally didn't know that was her. I just watched the trailer for the movie and the blonde next to the bride is the maid of honor.

    As far as the sleeve thing, I dont like going sleeveless. I carry more weight in my arms than I want to show bare. Plus I have really big boobs, and I just cant wear a strapless bra with much success (longline or otherwise).

    So while I get the tiff about why she is in sleeves (and the other gal as well in the other pic), I think the larger question is why is Melissa McCarthy THAT size in THAT photo?

  48. Well I'm plus-size (a RTW size 26) and I NEVER where sleeveless or strapless. I don't think it is flattering in the least. In fact, I get really frustrated when I try to shop at Lane Bryant for a dress to wear to a wedding or event and all they sell is sleeveless. I usually pair a dress with a shrug the way that Ashley Fink did in the pic you posted. The last wedding I was in the bride picked a bridesmaid dress that was strapless. It looked great on the two size 2 bridesmaid but looked horrible on me. I had a panic attack in the week leading up to the wedding and wanted to cry all day. I would have given anything to have the option for a dress like the one in the poster.
    I wish I were not as overweight as I am, but I am not ashamed of myself. You put me in a well proportioned and well tailored suit and I have all the confidence in the world because I know my clothing choices are flattering.

  49. Hi Gertie,

    This is an excellent post, as always. I'm short and reasonably petite and sometimes I feel self conscious about my arms - but I have a lot of sleeveless dresses because I like them. I think that irrespective of size, there is so much shaming of body parts out there! I agree that the plus size actress was probably forced into wearing a sleeved version of that dress because someone felt it was unseemly and unattractive to display her arms, and it makes me so sad that this is something that is even an issue. Arm fat? Really? She should be ashamed of her arms, now? It's so ridiculous! Recently a cosmetics company brought out a deoderant that is meant to beautify your armpits. ARMPITS! Who the heck needs to be told that their armpits are ugly and need to be beautified?! It's all part of the same culture - shaming women for their bodies and the space they take up in the world, and this is why I am a feminist

    Gertie, you're awesome :)

  50. As an average-sized person who prefers to cover her arms, I am constantly surprised by how difficult it is to find cute dresses that do have sleeves. Even now that I'm pregnant and bigger all over (including my arms), cute maternity dresses with sleeves can be difficult to come by. Sewing your own clothes is great for just this reason, but I can't sew fast enough (or afford) to wear handmade clothes for every occasion. Put my vote down for more sleeves for people of all sizes!

  51. This is a great post and I totally agree with you. Thank you for broaching this subject.

  52. Harriet - I really hope you didn't think I was denying that some people are larger because of genes, or medical reasons, or anything else. I really would never say that and that's not what I intended to imply in my comment. I just meant that it seems a shame that some people feel the need to say "I'm fat/I know a fat person but it's medical or genetic so it's not my/their fault". The point is that it's never anybody's fault because it isn't a fault. It's just a size - it shouldn't matter regardless of the reasons for it.

  53. I just wanted to note, as a photographer, I don't think there's any obvious photoshop done on Melissa's skirt. It appears that she's furthest from the light, and hers is the only skirt that is both perfectly smooth and hanging perfectly vertically. The other skirts are textured with wrinkles (being so tight) and at different angles toward the light (as they're in more dynamic poses), not to mention closer to the light source itself.

    And yes, what Trixie said in her last comment = spot on.

  54. a fat girl with big arms chiming in: it seems the definition of dressing to flatter your figure is really dressing to look as small as possible. Unless you are flat chested, in which case you should dress to make it look like you have big boobs. Its absurd.

    It is possible that the actress requested sleeves. Arms are a source of embarrassment for lots of fat girls. But then, if the media had fat girls without sleeves maybe the normal fatties wouldn't feel so bad about it.

    Though, the dress with sleeves looks about a thousand times better than the ones the skinny girl get.

    And for the love of whatever god or gods you worship can you (some of the commentators not you Gertie) stop saying things like, “but these women look normal.” they are normal. I have normal body. Fat bodies are normal. Argh, just had to get that off my chest.


    I guess Im not reading into it that much, because compositionally, as a creative professional, they offset Miss Melissa because of her size to even out the contrast of the white bridal gown so the viewer's eye is level over the entire picture.

    I genuinely don't think there is a conspiracy or that this is about hiding fat people, or that this is some subconscious way to ostracize fat women. We get that all the time. If this is their new line of attack, I consider it mild.

  56. I agree, plus size women can look hot in sleeveless outfits. And it's high time that Hollywood, stylists and designers acknowledge this fact.
    However, can it be that maybe, just maybe, plus sized women need to change attitudes too? Most women I know have a real aversion of showing their arm flab, whether or not they are actually plus-sized.
    Obviously, we are reacting to the images that are being projected on us, but nothing will change if we don't change.

  57. I love this post so much! I am plus sized and I love my body. I show my arms and think I look lovely. I wish more people felt the same about plus size women. I don't always enjoy mainstream styles nor do I agree with mainstream marketing of one type of body being attractive. I don't think we should spread hate in our blogs the people who like to blog about rolls of lovliness..what can we say...haters gonna hate! :) I love this post...and I love your blog. Hearts, Janna Lynn

  58. I am not plus sized. I am medium, yet I notice with a lot of dress patterns (I'm thinking Burda here) I am pushing what they call "plus size" - how is that meant to make the more volumuous feel if me at 63kg/168cm (it's all coming out now...) is plus size? - this is a problem I feel.

    I live in Aust so haven't see poster or any info re film as yet. But looking at the pic that Gertie posted - I must say I would prefer to look at, and to wear, the ensemble that the so called "plus size" Melissa McCarthy has on. It is much cuter & has more character! The rest just look like Barbie dolls - plastic (not so fantastic).

    No matter what your size I really do believe that "less is more". Too much flesh no matter what your size can be truly, truly awful.

  59. Here you all go with your false concern over these people's health. You're masking your hatred for fatness and fat people with concern! Why should their health or body be of ANY concern to you? Health is not a virtue. WHO CARES HOW SOMEONE GOT TO BE FAT.


    This post is about Hollywood choosing to shame fat women and their bodies. They play stereotypical characters as all fat people do. No one is just a person, they are their fat first. Thank you Gertie for a great post examining these issues.

    Fat people are people too. ALL BODIES ARE GOOD BODIES. They deserve to be celebrated. Stop body policing.

  60. thanks for posting this, I completely agree, if you look at older episodes of Glee they did the same thing to amber ... its a debate whether every woman should dress to flatter her body type, or whether in ensemble situations, a style should be picked, and stuck to. ...

    ... but I tend to agree with you

  61. My body is average-to-large, but I have a large bust. I have always preferred the look and feel of sleeves over straps or the sleeveless look, and have only worn a strapless dress once, as a bridesmaid. Despite the excellent construction of the dress, I was uncomfortable the entire time I wore it, certain that I was going to pop out or not have enough support for my large chest. And all I had to do was walk! Imagine how uncomfortable I would feel if I had to do choreography like the Glee kids, waving my hands in the air? I was so happy for the reception when I put on a shrug. I don't think it's the media that has influenced me, it's simply my style, and what I tend to think looks better even on other people of all body types.

    I was just scrolling through photos of the royal wedding, and I have to say I love that both Kate and her maid of honor/sister Pippa are sporting sleeves. I hope we see more dresses with sleeves. As far as the actresses go... what if it was their choice to cover up? Or what if some of the thin actresses wanted to wear a sleeve, but they were the ones forced to go strapless?

  62. Thank you for writing about this. It's always frustrating to see curvier women treated as second class citizens in the media.

    evaline, I did not choose to have my thyroid go berzerk. I know for a fact that there are many other conditions such as depression that cause weight gain and there are many medications (such as birth control pills and some other kinds of hormonal medications) that cause involuntary weight gain for some people. Should I choose to die rather than take my thyroid medicine? I would be a lot thinner then.

    And frankly telling others that they've "choosen" to be offended? I call BS on that. You're both telling us that we are at fault for everything that happens to us related to our weight and by your tone and some of your implications that you think there is something wrong and ugly about being plus sized. You're entitled to your opinion, but I don't think it's a "choice" for me to be offended that you're implying I'm ugly.

  63. This is so true. Actually, when I first started reading the article, my thoughts immediately flashed back to the Sectionals episode of "Glee", so I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the added cardigan during the performance.

  64. This comment has been removed by the author.

  65. I was disappointed to see comments like those from lovelypinup and evangeline. Evaline's comment is problematic for obvious reasons, and since other commenters have responded to that, I don't have anything to add.

    But although lovelypinup's comment was less offensive and seems well meaning, I still don't like the "dressing for your body type" thing. What that actually means is "dressing to look thinner." I do try to wear things that I think are flattering on me, but I recognize that my idea of what is flattering is arbitrary. There's no reason why fat women shouldn't wear horizontal stripes, big prints, short sleeves, and all the other things they're told not to.

    I'm glad you wrote this, Gertie! I saw this poster recently at the movies and I was really disappointed. But even though we have a long way to go, I think we are moving closer to a day when we see fat bodies represented along side thin ones.

  66. I noticed that too! I was a little less outraged but very angry. Girls who are larger can show their arms if they damn well please an our society and culture needs to shut up about fat being a bad thing.
    This reminds me of the girls at my high school who whine and moan about how "[they're] soooo fat!". It's very irritating to have to tell them every single time that they're not fat. But really, what's wrong with being fat? Does being fat make you unattractive? People will still like you for your personality, especially if you're a great person, and *wait for it* people will be attracted to you. But this has been so imbedded into people's minds that they just accept the fact that "fat is bad".
    Another example here (sorry to ramble), is one of my closest friends. She's quite curvy (which she mistakes for being fat/obese) and we were hanging out at her house. We got onto the topic of the swimming unit that was going to be started in PE, which inevitably lead to her complaining about her body. I had mentioned that I wasn't that comfortable in those really unflattering Speedo one pieces. Mainly because they never fit me correctly and I get a wedgie (which is irritating!), nevertheless, she took it upon herself to correct me.
    "Bina, you're, like, the skinniest person I know."
    Being skinny does not mean that I look amazing in everything. But to her, it means being confident and looking great.
    Ha, that got really off topic but awesome post!

  67. Well, where Glee is concerned, there seem to be two "plus-size" actresses involved. One wears the same as all the other girls in sleeveless dresses, while the other wears sleeves, so I'm guessing that's an indication of the actress's preferences. Where the Bridesmaids comes into question in the fact that only one bridesmaid has sleeves, only one bridesmaid hides her knees, and only one bridesmaid looks to be in a comfortable pose without stretching her skirt.

    I know I couldn't wear the clothes those bridesmaids are wearing, they really don't suit my figure. And I would much prefer to wear the "plus-size" skirt - I prefer to be able to move my legs without encountering resistance because I'm wearing a too short, too tight skirt.

    I must say, the dress with sleeves looks well-fitted, the other actresses look like they were told to wear the dresses, discomfort be damned.

  68. I haven't paid much attention to this topic, or read the comments. But I just wanted to add the thought that there might be a religious aspect too. Some women don't bare their shoulders/upper arms for religious reasons.

  69. I think what stands out the most is that Melissa McCarthy is posed so far to the side of the group that she's obviously not part of the group. And while that may be part of the story line, it still sends the message that girls who aren't skinny aren't part of the group/are 'other' or outsiders. And that's shunning a certain section of the audience this film is intended for, so I think it's not the best idea on a marketing level, as well as being a commentary on body size/shape.

    I'd also like to point out that "fat" isn't always fat. I have a terrible, pouchy-looking stomach, which makes it difficult to find skirts and pants that fit me, since additionally my waist is several sizes smaller than my hips. Why do I have this pouchy stomach? It's not fat - it's skin that has stretched excessive amounts due to pregnancies. Some of us go back to our old bodies but not everyone does, and my stretch marks are so bad that my skin will never regain its former elasticity and I will never be rid of this excess "fat" unless I have plastic surgery, for which I don't have the money. Even spanx or a girdle doesn't help, since it merely flattens the skin and causes rolls of skin in other places.

    The same is true with some people's arms after losing weight. That doesn't mean that they're fat - it just means that they no longer have the elasticity in their skin. But shaming them because they have saggy skin is ridiculous.

    Lastly, the comments about people's size really bother me, particularly those from evaline. Quite honestly, one may start out by making bad choices but without support or the means to change those choices, people who suffer from weight issues (both over and under weight) actually don't have that much control over their weight. I live in the metro DC area and in DC itself there are some areas that have no grocery stores - they're called food deserts. People who live in these areas are poor, really poor. They often don't have their own transportation. This means that they have to take 2 different buses to go to a grocery store, which may or may not have decent fresh produce. Then they have to spend $20 or more to get a taxi home once they've done their shopping. It frequently costs them far more to do their grocery shopping just to get healthy items than it does to buy pre-packaged foods at the convenience store. Is this their fault? It's very easy to lay the blame for someone's body size/weight at their feet when one has no idea what the circumstances are. Additionally, studies were published recently which showed that obesity has a direct genetic link. If you take a baby whose biological parents are obese and place him/her in a home with parents who are not obese and who have healthy eating styles and exercise, the child will still grow up to be obese. Further study is being made to determine exactly how this genetic link works, but if it is, in fact, genetic, your theory that it's all about choices goes right out the window.

  70. Also - group shots or crowds almost always put the fat girl on one of the edges, not in the middle of the fun. Why is that?

  71. Also - all this supposed focus on "health" is hokum. I am a size 18, but I see plenty of out of shape sticks out there. I can run faster and longer and lift more weight than a lot of them. Yet no one is posting on blogs about how these poor unhealthy (yet at a normal BMI) women just NEED to get to the gym. I'm shocked!

    Fat does not necessarily mean out of shape. Skinny does not necessarily mean in shape. Also, you could be a healthy weight for your height, go to the gym every day, and be unhealthy for other reasons. Health is personal and multi-dimensional, and I am tired of seeing it as an excuse for fat shaming.

  72. I am also adoring watching Melissa in Mike and Molly. It is inspiring for a larger girl to see a larger figure women playing a main character in a show and the lovely wardrobe they give her. I have picked up the finishing detail touches like a scarf can make all the difference to the outfit.

  73. I am formerly plus size (16) and currently an 8-10. I would prefer to cover my arms on camera if I were to be on TV (hah) for one simple reason: they wobble! There is a little loose skin from when my upper arms were 3" bigger and it creates what I affectionately call a "bat wing" effect. It's super obvious if I wave my arm around. Like a jello mold below my arm. It's just weird! It was just as bad when I was bigger too, but I suppose more jiggly instead of wobbly.

  74. I'd like to also note that perhaps there are some character elements being taken into account here. I can't be sure with the "bridesmaids" movie as I haven't seen it, but at least in Glee, Amber's character is sassy, she's proud of her body, she's unapologetic about who she is. it makes sense that she'd wear the strapless dress. The other plus size actress' character is on the wrestling team (right? I can't remember.) Perhaps they interpreted her character's tomboyishness as something that may prevent her from showing skin.

    Just a thought, but I think its worth considering.

  75. Gertie - did you see the Bridesmaid feature in this months Bazaar? All the actresses are posed 'sexy' except for the plus-sized one, who is clutching shopping bags to her self and effectively hidden behind them. Interesting.

  76. Gertie, thank you not only for this post, but for allowing your readers to talk about their opinions so openly.

    Trixie Rocket brought up a good point by saying "a woman can look beautiful regardless of her size." While I agree 100% that fat shaming is horrible, I don't think it helps to make thin women a target of discrimination and hate either. Not all thin girls are "sticks" or "anorexic."

    I'm a "thin" woman (size 0-2 but I'm short so that's a factor in my size). I can't say that my experience with discrimination is the same as those experienced by heavier folks. But I will say that it's still hurtful to be the object of someone's distaste and hatred--because of something like dress size. There have been a countless number of times when I've been teased or made fun of for being thin--by "curvy" women! Not just people I know, but from total strangers which I find really odd. For example, I would (and have) never gotten into an elevator with a plus-sized woman and said to her "Oh my god, you're so fat!"

    Like many women I have struggled with my weight and self image to the point of making myself ill. I still have issues although today I'm more focused on being healthy than trying to fit into society's ideal image of womanly beauty.

  77. This is such an interesting post! I'm a size 8, but I carry a lot of weight in my chest and upper arms, so I'm self-conscious about that area. I also have a couple patches of upper arm cellulite and extremely pale skin. I just hate the way my arms look and working out doesn't help much. I think it's a thing that runs in my family, because my aunts, Mom and cousins all feel the same way about their arms (even though some of them are quite skinny). It's a bummer during the summer when I'd feel a lot more comfy in a sleeveless top, but don't bother because I just don't want to show my arms.
    But I've seen lots of plus size women with really nice arms with none of the problems I have. They've got nice skin, no cellulite, good proportions. They shouldn't feel self-conscious... nor should their studios or customers force them to cover their arms.
    I think all women are allowed to have a few body quirks they'd rather keep under wrap. When I was shopping for wedding gowns, I was upset at how everything I saw was sleeveless (hopefully that'll change after the royal wedding). But it's already hard enough dealing with body issues without the media confirming that, yes, if you are above a certain size, you need to be as covered up as possible!
    shu flies

  78. The sleeved girl on the left appears to be the EXACT same distance away from the girl to her right as that slimmer girl is from the very next girl on her right. I think maybe there is a hypersensitivity to sleeves and size discrimination than really is called for in this poster's instance. She does not appear to be an outcast from my vantage point. She seems like she fits in nicely and perhaps she likes the sleeves. Perhaps she's Mormon. Perhaps it WAS the costumers choice.

  79. For me, this isn't an issue of weight but rather modesty. Why can't she still be hot with her arms covered? I am a size 4 and very petite but I choose to keep my shoulders covered for religious reasons. Now, I won't deny that there are many a times I wish I could wear that cute strapeless dress without something over it but that's because the media has taught me that you aren't as cute if you aren't showing your arms. Look at all of the "cute" girls in Glee with their sleeveless dresses and the "not so cute tomboy" with her arms covered. Everyone should be able to wear what they want (sleeves or not) and still be cute and comfortable.

  80. Just thought this might be interesting for you!

  81. This entire conversation is ironic.

    Yes, I agree, the heavier girl(s) should wear what she likes and not be told "You must wear sleeves or you're outta here!"

    But, I also hold that she (AND her skinny comrades) should have the social grace to dress for the figure they've got (not merely the size, but the shape).

    People are not arguing here for true acceptance of weight differences. They're arguing for the right to dress poorly and be proud of it, regardless of weight. They want to be 'comfortable,' they want people to 'accept them for who they are.' But since when has that been the case? Think about it.

    Only now, in these self-esteem obsessed times, would anyone argue that people shouldn't present their best self in public by dressing in a manner appropriate to their shape (not size, shape -- as well as age, but that's another conversation).

    We have become so darned concerned with our own egos, our own comfort, our own wants (which we now call "needs"), that we actually walk around in broad daylight for all the world to see wearing shorts, Crocs, and boxy t-shirts. Who looks good in THAT? But we're certainly very comfortable...


  82. ...

    Gertie, you are at a slight disadvantage here, as the sidewalks of NY are STILL more fashion-forward than your typical American public venue. But for the rest of us outside NY or LA, just glance around and see for yourself what all this "I'm perfect just the way I am" hath wrought! We're a bunch of slobs. No, probably not the fine ladies of this forum, regardless of size, who clearly care about fashion. But glance around the next time you pop into the grocery store. Glance down the line at the movies. It's a horror show, for sure.

    What's ironic is that the dresses we (and that most certainly includes me) swoon and daydream over are, more often than not, vintage. And as we know (or have we forgotten?), yesteryear's fashions were cut specifically and purposefully to CHANGE a woman's natural shape.

    And of course, this molding of the female form to suit the current style goes back as far as any fashion history book can take you. Clothes, until very recently, were SO demanding of a woman's body, in fact, that she had to wear all manner of (often painful) undergarments to force herself into the desired "look." It wasn't a little pair of Spanx under those wiggle dresses. No ma'am. Just read about the women on Madmen. They are all wearing girdles and waist-cinchers and other flesh-squeezing and molding undergarments that most of us today wouldn't be caught dead in. My goodness, no, I couldn't possibly be UNCOMFORTABLE for more than 30 seconds. But that attitude is a very recent one.

    My own mother told me from the time I was 3 or 4 years old, if I complained about an itchy skirt or a too-tight waistband: "Darling, if you're too comfortable, you don't look good." She wasn't trying to squash my self-esteem. She was speaking the truth. As she said, "Nobody looks good in sweats."

    Can you imagine a 1950s woman saying, "I'm fine just the way I am. I don't need a girdle and you won't tell me I do!" Of course she needed one -- because she wanted to wear the current styles (who wouldn't?) and normal people -- of ANY size -- can't wear them without some minor "body modification." It's not an insult or a personal attack... it's a means to a fashion end! And a heck of a better end than mom jeans.

    Not many of us (OK, maybe Elle McPherson and Heidi Klum) are BUILT with padded shoulders. Not many of us (OK, maybe January Jones) are BUILT with a 22" waist on a size 4 frame. But, until recently, we'd suck it up and mold ourselves (regardless of weight -- ALL women wore girdles) into the currently fashionable silhouette. Whether forcing the S curve of the 00's, binding our boobs to be a fashionable flapper, or cinching our waist to fit the New Look.

    And in each era, there were those 2 or 3 freaks of nature -- movie stars and models -- who were just "born that way." And they were on the magazine covers and the red carpets. And everyone realized they were exceptions to the genetic rules, and didn't get upset by it.

    Movie stars and models represent, and always have represented the "ideal" for their era. We just try to do what we can, with what we have. But simply saying, "I'm fine as I am... I don't need any help or to change a thing. And you need to approve of me." Well, as my mom also told me (and again was correct): "There's not one of us who doesn't look better with a touch of lip stick."

  83. Gertie, I'm chiming in late on this topic, but I actually read all 83 comments!I haven't worn sleeveless in years, but have recently sewn a cap-sleeve dress, and plan to make a couple of the lovely blouses you show on your blog. I am a size 12/14, but I have "beefy" arms, according to my mirror, and have hidden them for years. No more! They are toned and actually match the rest of me! But the point I wanted to make was prompted by LizaJane3 who said the street wear of NY is more fashion forward than the rest of the country - so true! I live in Detroit, and was shocked when I went to Chicago to see that people DRESSED in REAL Clothes on the street! Thank God I didn't listen to mr husband and pack only jeans! My friends and I always wonder why there are pretty clothes in shop windows, and yet you never see anyone wearing them...maybe it is a regional thing, but sweats don't look good on anyone, and I own my share of girdles and garters, since I want to have the right "line" with my clothing. Thanks for this, for helping me change my attitude, I love your blog!

  84. "My own mother told me from the time I was 3 or 4 years old, if I complained about an itchy skirt or a too-tight waistband: "Darling, if you're too comfortable, you don't look good.""

    That's just so sad. I'm really surprised no one commented on it in all this time.

    "Looking good" is something a culture shapes and creates, an infinitely malleable concept. We CAN choose a meaning for "looking good" that does not require small children to be distractingly uncomfortable. We CAN choose a meaning for "looking good" that does not require everyone to camouflage themselves as an arbitrarily-decided "perfect" shape. We CAN choose a meaning for "looking good" that does not privilege some and shame others.

  85. Like many women I have struggled with my weight and self image to the point of making myself ill. I still have issues although today I'm more focused on being healthy than trying to fit into society's ideal image of womanly

  86. I haven't made it through all the comments here - and I know I'm commenting on an OLD post, but... what I don't see mentioned is bras... The reason I don't wear strapless and/or tiny strapped dresses is I have to wear a bra. So I will wear 'the same dress as everyone else' but will throw a jacket or sweater over it because I'm not going to go braless - and strapless bras are useless. I could see this in both the cases you've pointed out above.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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