Fat Thrift Tips with stitchtowhere: Tip the Second

By | June 7, 2008

Welcome to another installment of Fat Thrift Tips! If I’m doing my job, then last week’s preamble & inaugural post inspired all of you take up (or at least think about thinking about taking up) the fat thrift gauntlet! I hope that you’ve managed to clock some time out in the secondhand stores & thrift chains in your area & that your pilgrimages have been successful, yielding many sassy & sumptuous spoils! If your thrift-fu has been off (or, dare I say it, non-existant!) I hope that you’re at least pumped & primed to talk more shop & that this week’s tip will inspire you to get (back) out there!

Tip the Second: Find a Fat Thrift Buddy/Form a Dynamic Duo

This week’s tip is somewhat of a collaboration between Lesley (aka Lover of Dresses and site admin) and myself, in that I coughed out the raw goods and she styled it into something useful and inspired. You might just say she is the ingenious Leela & Amy to my hapless Dr. Zoidberg.* In the course of putting together this week’s tip I asked Lesley if she thought buddying-up was “too obvious” and she, ever-articulate and always in possession of the bon mot juste (if you can’t find yours, it’s cause she has it!) replied:

“I think a lot of nonactivist fat-friendships are based on collaboratively dieting and/or “supporting” one another in the apparent misery of fatness – I think the suggestion of taking a fat friend and forming a positive Dynamic Duo out to conquer the Fat Thrift Challenge is wonderfully inspirational in a non-body-hating way.”

And how. Ever the shameless consumer, I was really only focused on the time-saving-stuff-acquiring strategic aspect of a shopping companion: dividing and conquering at the thrift store is a much more efficient & effective way to tackle & cover ground. Your friend can hit up cardigans while you scour dresses, you can scope out skirts while they plough through the pants. If you’re close in size, it’s a bonus because it means you’d be searching that size range for yourself anyway. Also if something you pulled for yourself doesn’t work on you, you can toss it over for them to try on!** If you’re different sizes, it’s really not such a big deal. I’ve thrifted with my smaller friends and it doesn’t bother me to search through a rack of smalls anymore than it bothers them to checkout the xls for me. The friend doesn’t have to be fat, really. They just have to be an actual friend (aka not negative or mocking of your body/size).

I have a fat friend who I thrift with on a regular basis, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our styles & sizes aren’t exactly the same, but we know each other’s tastes & body-types so well that we can grab stuff for each other. There’s a few thrift stores in my area that border on warehouse size, and I really couldn’t imagine tackling them solo. And I know I don’t need to tell you that trying on velvet sequined jumpsuits with gigantic shoulder pads when you’re by yourself is vaguely amusing if recounted. Trying on a velvet-sequined jumpsuit with gigantic shoulder pads in front of your friend (who may or may not have a camera phone) becomes a legend for the ages!

But back to Lesley’s more substantial political point: many of us have had friendships where we enabled body-hatred and negativity*** and no more was this hatred more actively played-out then during clothes shopping. Your mileage may very, but much of my mall (maul)-trolling days were spent with girls much smaller than I, though we all hated and resented our bodies with equal degrees of intensity. When things fit, we still found a way to put a negative spin on it “this is cute but would be better if I had more/less…” “I guess it’s nice but it looks better on you.” And I don’t think a day went by when we didn’t talk about how much weight we felt we should lose. Even if you haven’t all been a part of the Mean Girls**** type conversation I’m describing, we’ve at least given audience to them in fitting rooms, clothing stores, public washrooms etc.

And there’s probably a bunch of us who have forged relationships with other fatties through diet group meetings. I don’t doubt that people who also happen to diet can be just as lovely as those of us actively advocating body acceptance. It’s just that the context in which those kinds of relationships are established—one of a shared body hate & shame—is far from empowering.

Finding a fat friend to thrift with is, on the other hand, a really awesome premise to build on and probably kind of revolutionary for a lot of us. Just imagine how much more navigable clothes-hunting is/can be when you’re going at it with someone who you can bitch with about the lack of options (as opposed to lamenting your body proper) and celebrate with when you find something incredible. (Another fattie will TOTALLY get the exhilaration of finding a mint condition 50s house dress in your size and will probably squee audibly right along with you). Of course, thrifting with a fellow fattie doesn’t necessarily mean every day will be a good body day. But, if you’re blessed with (fat) friends like mine, you’ll find they are really awesome at acknowledging that loving and appreciating your body in this fat-hating culture can be really tough, while simultaneously refusing to let you perpetrate active self-hate.

I hope you’re enjoying this ongoing feature on thrifting/fatshion. If you have any tips you’d like me to share/write about feel free to hit the “contact us” button (put “thrift tips” in the subject line) and drop me a line. I’ve got more tips a brewin’ but I’d love to hear from you & will (of course!) credit you if I write about your tip!

*ever see that episode of Futurama where Bender ends up on tour with Beck? Remember how Dr Zoidberg keeps coughing up those blue pearls that Leela & Amy fashion into necklaces, which turn an incredible profit? Then Zoidberg is like “Apparently I’ve been making fine jewelry for years.” It’s exactly like that except that I’m not a lobster-like lifeform and I don’t so much eat dirt and the pearls I bring up are metaphorical not literal and Lesley isn’t two people or a cyclops and doesn’t own a pink velour tracksuit (that I know of)… But other than that, it’s TOTALLY the same.

**remember to make sure your friend is in the fitting room beside/across from you. One time I thought my friend was beside me, but she’d wandered off to scope out a record and I merrily chucked a shirt into some unsuspecting thrifter’s fitting room. Luckily said unsuspecting thrifter was a sportin’ sort & found the whole debacle rather entertaining. I’m sure not everyone would be so understanding.

***aka every friend I had in highschool.

**** I’m thinking specifically of the scene where the four girls stand around a mirror lamenting all the things that are “wrong” with their bodies. Lindsay Lohan’s character, Cady, having grown up in a remote area of Africa with her professor parents, is unfamiliar with the ritual and actually feels pressured into saying something nasty about herself to fit in. (though it’s worth nothing that the best she comes up with on the spot “in the morning I have really bad breath.”)

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