Hi. I’m Lily, I’m from Bristol and I’m fat.
You’ll be shocked to discover that I wear clothes. I love wearing clothes, and I especially love clothes shopping, however clothes shopping in Bristol is something of a miserable affair.
Despite the fact that Bristol is home to two fantastic shopping hubs, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway and Broadmead in the city centre, there is a distinct lack of plus size representation in our retail stores. Of all of the 72 clothing retail stores in Bristol, there are just three shops that sell clothing above a size 20.
These ‘trailblazers’ are Yours Clothing and Bonprix in The Galleries and New Look in Cabot Circus. That means that in The Mall there is not one single shop that sells clothes above a size 20.
I was genuinely shocked to find this out. It makes me feel unwelcome in their passageways of shiny shops, as they clearly don’t want fatties like me wandering around and ruining the aesthetic they’ve cultivated by catering to people below a certain waist measurement.
If you pay attention to the news, you’ll be aware that Britain is a country that is rapidly gaining weight. In 2016, Jeremy Hunt called obesity “national emergency”, and it was also in 2016 that Public Health England announced the fact that 61 percent of the population was now overweight.
I don’t know about you, but do you not see a sizeable gap in the market for somebody to fill the empty shops in The Galleries with retail stores for plus size people? There is a growing (no pun intended) market for clothing that doesn’t fit into the narrow world view of beauty.
I’m fully aware that I could buy clothing online, but if you’re somebody who’s clothing size fluctuates from size to size in various shops and is really rather fussy about the way fabrics feel, I can’t afford to be constantly ordering and then returning clothing.
There is no worse feeling than walking into a shop, seeing something you like, but having no choice but to walk away empty handed. Did you know that Mango, River Island, H&M, Dorothy Perkins and Marks & Spencer are all clothing retailers that have both a physical store in Bristol (more than one in most cases) and also create plus size clothes.
However, you wouldn’t be able to find any of their clothing in store. When a shop creates these clothes, but is clearly too ashamed to stock them it gives off the distinct message that they don’t want you to be seen in their stores.
How about the age old question: “Won’t selling plus size clothes make children think that being fat is okay?”
You know what, while being overweight isn’t ideal, it is okay. I’m not ashamed of my weight, and we shouldn’t be teaching children and young people to be ashamed either. The message that the world currently transmits to young people is “your body will never be enough”.
We are constantly told that we are too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too hairy, not polished enough. These unhealthy messages are creating a culture of toxic body image, and in turn that is leading to further damage to people’s mental and psychical health.
So no, I don’t believe that selling plus size clothes promotes obesity, nor does it normalise it. It simply means that people don’t have to be ashamed of the way that they are. Overweight people, horror of all horrors, are people too and we deserve to be treated the same way as everybody else.
Lily is a content creator for Rife magazine. In her spare time, she is a burlesque and drag artist, a budding stand-up comedian and crafty queen. You can follow her on Instagram @marianatrenchdrag and at @queerpumpkins.
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