I was around 13 years old when I realized how hard it was to dress up if you’re a size large and up. My mom took me to Robinsons Galleria to look for an outfit for a school event. I don’t remember what specific event it was, but I recall that we had to wear a blouse and skirt. (Catholic all-girls school, ya know.) She brought me there because she knew they had a wide selection of clothes that could fit me. So there I was, going stall to stall, looking for a cute skirt. “Ate, ano po biggest size niyo?” I asked each sales associate. After what seemed like an hour of just going around and looking for big sizes, I remember that I picked three cute skirts that were all tagged large and went to the dressing room to fit them.
I took off my jeans and shimmied my way into the first skirt. Hindi kasya. I tried the second one, hindi pa rin. Then I grabbed the third option and sucked in my stomach and prayed that it would fit. Hindi kasya. So I took it off and changed back into my jeans. Then, the tears came. Hindi naman ako iyakin. But the tears just wouldn’t stop.
Choice wasn’t exactly available if you’re bigger than a size large in the Philippines.
So I stayed in that little dressing room and cried for a few minutes because walang magkasya sa akin, bakit ganoon? Did my other classmates have this problem? Probably not. It was because I was fat and the clothes readily available couldn’t fit me, even if my mom was more than willing to pay. To a 13-year-old, the situation was confusing and frustrating.
Fast forward to when I was around 16. I found myself cutting the seams of a jacket that I had to wear as a costume for a dance competition in the hopes that I could stretch it just a little bit so that it would fit me better. It was still masikip, pero, puwede na. Wala naman akong choice. Choice wasn’t exactly available if you’re bigger than a size large in the Philippines.
In my early 20s, I landed a job that required me to dress up for events and look ~*stylish*~ even on regular days. It was a struggle. Sure, more brands were available to cater to my size, but I wasn’t exactly confident about dressing up my body. Plus, plus size clothes were usually more expensive—not exactly budget-friendly to a first jobber.
All my life I was told to abide by certain fashion rules if you weren’t “regular sized.” You can’t wear horizontal stripes, they’ll make you look wider. Stay away from white, you’ll look ginormous. Stick to navy blues and blacks because they’re slimming. Spaghetti straps? With those arms? Lakas ng loob, ah.
This isn’t a story of how I got over my insecurities (trust me, I still have a lot and that’s perfectly fine because we are all human and walang perfect!). This is a shortlist of a few things I wish I knew about dressing up for my plus-sized self when I was younger.
The first step to learning how to dress up your body is accepting your body as it is. This doesn’t happen overnight. It could take years. Years of doing little pep talks with yourself whenever you face the mirror. Years of being kind to yourself even when it’s tough. Find one part of your body that you love and appreciate it. Your curves are special. Your boxy shoulders make you look badass. Once you really get to know your body, you’ll find yourself looking for many ways you can put together outfits and feel hella cute.
Second is that you don’t have to be on-trend to ~*fit in*~. I remember when bandage dresses and skirts (RIP FOREVER!) were huge and I sort of felt bad that I couldn’t be as cool as most of the girls in college who wore them to parties, because they didn’t make one in my size. But then I realized that looking like everyone else is so boring. Being creative with your own style is still the best way to go. You get to know yourself better, you figure out the looks you like for yourself, and not because you saw it on a couple of strangers on Instagram. We’re lucky that these days, more people support individuality more than ever. This is the best time to experiment with your style.
But one day I put together an all-white outfit. Because fuck it, right? I looked at myself in the mirror and I felt like a better version of myself.
Apart from trends, you should also ignore archaic ~*fashion rules*~. To be completely honest, I’ve stayed away from anything white until earlier this year because I’ve always been told that I’m not allowed to wear white outfits because I’ll look even bigger. Like that’s the only thing that matters. But one day I put together an all-white outfit. Because fuck it, right? I looked at myself in the mirror and I felt like a better version of myself. Was that how ~regular-sized~ girls felt when they talk about their “power outfits?” I guess so. So I just rolled with it. And I haven’t stopped since. Find cuts and fits that you'll love on yourself and stick to them—this makes such a huge difference.
I guess the message I want to send is that whatever size you are, you should remind yourself that you are worthy to look and feel good in outfits that you put together. You are allowed to let yourself feel the transformative power of putting the right pieces together. Take those past experiences and use them to motivate yourself to become better; to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.
I'm not saying I've got this whole plus size fashion/style thing down pat, but I'm proud to say that I've come a long way from having anxiety attacks from "having nothing to wear" to events because of my size. It's been a long journey and every day, I'm still learning how I can improve. And my hope is that someone reads this and learns something, too.
If I could talk to my 13-year-old self who was crying in the dressing room of Robinsons Galleria, I’d tell her that it’s going to be okay; That, at 26, you’ll have more than three cute skirts to wear to events; And that you shouldn’t hate yourself, because nobody deserves to feel that way.
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