If you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love fashion and beauty. Even in quarantine, I get dressed up and do my makeup almost every day. For me, fashion is a near-essential part of living my best life, and expressing myself through my clothing and makeup has fundamentally revolutionized my relationship with my body, and myself.
When first reading those words, it’s possible that you think I sound a bit shallow or vapid, but for me, fashion is not about impressing other people, but crafting an image that reflects to the world how I see myself, and how I want to be seen and understood as a person.
This is particularly important to me as a physically disabled, fat woman who often has false assumptions made about her wants, needs, desires, and quality of life. In a world where I am both hyper visible, and invisible all at once, fashion gives me the tools to express to society who I am, and in many ways allows me to reclaim my femininity and womanhood that is often stripped from me.
Nothing I’m saying here is new, but that doesn’t make it any less important. I’ve written about the importance of fashion and representation many times before, but it’s a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, because learning to express myself, and craft an image that reflected how I wanted to be seen and perceived changed how I viewed my body and my place in the world.
A few years ago in an article, I said something along the lines of, “We often think of fashion as a very surface-level thing, but it gets to the core of who you are and how you present yourself to the world. Just because I’m fat and physically disabled doesn’t mean I don’t have my own style, and fashion can’t be something that I care about,” and that statement still holds true for me today.
I care about fashion not just on the surface level of trying to fit in to other people’s trends, but on a deeper level of having the ability to create an identity and express aspects of my personality through what I wear. This is why inclusive fashion is so important. Whether you like it or not, fashion is something we all interact with in one way or another, and regardless of our body type we deserve to have choices about what we wear, and how we present ourselves to the world. I may be fat and use a wheelchair, but I deserve to have access to clothes that represent my identity and personality, just like anybody else.
I care about fashion because it gives me a voice crafting my own identity. Fashion allows me to create and explore on my own body, as does makeup. It allows me to interact with my body in a positive way, and focus on what makes me feel beautiful, instead of always focusing on the flaws.
Fashion gives me agency over the way I present and show up in the world. My fashion choices are deliberate, almost political statements, that in my case take back the narrative of femininity, and say that it is possible to be feminine, pretty, or beautiful in a body like mine.
Reclaiming and redefining what it means to be beautiful in a body that falls outside of society’s standards of beauty is powerful and it is political. Beauty does not have to be about vanity or any of the negative things often associated with somebody who owns their appearance. Beauty and fashion can be about confidence, self-worth, and self-expression. They are important elements in expressing the person you are, however that may be.
Your style choices, and the choices you make with beauty and makeup send a message to the world, and no matter what body you live in, you should have the opportunity to craft the message that you are sending, and not have it be decided for you simply because of your body type or any other factor about you.
Fashion matters. It allows us to tell the world who we are without ever saying a word. It allows us to represent the people and the way we know ourselves to be. Fashion is much deeper than we often give it credit for. It is about self-definition, self-expression, and most importantly claiming your identity, whatever that may be.
For me, fashion allows me to express my feminine side to a world that so often tells me I’m anything but a woman. For me, fashion and beauty give me a way to show that my body is not a bad thing anyway, and that I embrace who I am. Fashion can be a tool for resisting stereotypes and the status quo, or simply trying to blend in and go unnoticed. Either way it is incredibly powerful and an important part of our daily lives, which is why everyone in every body type deserves to have options and choices rather than being forced into one style simply because of what their body looks like.
Like I said earlier, we all have to interact with fashion in one way or another, but you should have a choice about what that interaction looks like for you. Fashion and beauty should always first and foremost be about how you feel about yourself, not how you think others expect you to look or dress. You don’t owe it to anyone to be pretty, or fit into a specific standard of beauty. You owe it to yourself to express who you are and be true to your own identity.