‘In An Ideal World I’d Be Able To Walk Into Any Shop And Find Something That Fits’ – These Girls Will Solve Your Plus-Size Shopping Woes

Kirsty Fife is fighting for the fat acceptance movement - we spoke to her about why the high street needs to work harder for plus size girls

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by Zoe Whitfield |

Size acceptance, fat liberation, fat activisim, fativism or fat power movement, how many of the terms Wikipedia throws up for the fat acceptance movement are you familiar with? Embarrassing as it is to admit, it wasn’t until I watched Kirsty Fife give a talk about the subculture – perhaps ironically (perhaps not?) on the closing day of London Fashion Week – that I could say with any certainty, me, I am. Still, it’s a hard concept to sum up, even to Kirsty. 'I guess fat activism/positivity is broadly about people doing stuff to challenge fatphobia, which broadly is layers of oppression people experience because of their size.'

What evolved from ideas surrounding identity politics in the 1960’s today boasts Tumblr pages, hashtags (naturally), and Facebook communities. Hey, IRL ones exist too! And while it’s widely recognised that diversity in fashion is boldest in its thinkpieces, less so in its actions, the movement also offers a platform for those who are sartorial of mind, but sans the sample sized figure the industry would have you believe is a requirement.

Kirsty discovered the scene when she was 20, via LiveJournal. 'There was a community called Fatshionista which was broadly about fat positive fashion. I followed quite a lot of regular fashion communities but always found them very fatphobic and so I never got involved,' she tells me. 'On Fatshionista, people mainly shared outfits, but they also talked about politics, shared experiences and provided support and solidarity for each other – so it was primarily about clothes but also built community, which has always stuck with me.' Eight years and two blogs later, the concept of community has led to Kirsty organising swishing events, first in Leeds and one this week in London.

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'A friend and I started running plus size specific swaps because we’d attended a lot of local clothes swaps and really struggled to find anything near our size,' she offers. 'We decided to host one in a local pub and invite our friends and people I knew through blogging to come; it proved popular so we started organising them regularly and they grew into a community collective, the Yorkshire Rad Fat Collective.'

Gender neutral and open to anyone over a size 16 – with the added bonus of being ridiculously cheap: entrance is by donation – the next London event takes place in Islington on 15th March (full details can be found

), so what exactly are they like to attend? 'An utter joy!' Tasha, a Marketing Assistant at Universal reckons. 'At face value it’s a great opportunity for fat fashion to thrive and to pick up some great garments, but beyond that it’s fun and a safe space for all. There’s a sense of camaraderie, even between strangers.'

READ MORE: The Realities Of Shopping On The High Street When You're A Size 24

Rebecca, an Account Manager for Global Telecoms – who like Tasha, found out about the swaps through Twitter – agrees: 'I would encourage people to attend, not only to potentially pick up a few treasures, but to also meet new people. We are all looking to improve body confidence and show that you can have style no matter your size.'

Like most twentysomethings the contents of Kirsty’s wardrobe originates from not just one place. On the high street she opts for brands that meet her budget, name-checking ASOS, Forever 21, Simply Be and New Look, while if she were feeling flash she’d delve into indie labels like Lindy Bop, Chubby Cartwheels and Domino Dollhouse. But there are others she’d add to the mix, if only they’d accommodate her size 24 frame.

 

'Tonnes, possibly too many to mention,' she asserts. 'At the minute it’s virtually impossible to shop in real life (most high street shops only have their plus size lines online, or hidden in the darkest corner of a shop), so I’d settle for being able to do that; I’d like to have options though.'

The feeling resonates with Tasha and Rebecca, both whom likewise back ASOS and New Look. 'Unfortunately most plus size offerings in other stores suggest we want to hide our bodies in baggy T-shirts, so don’t stock clothes that can shape and accentuate our forms,' reasons Tasha, as Rebecca, noting that plus size patterns and colours are due an overhaul, enthuses, 'Just because there’s more to cover doesn’t mean we can’t have the same high quality materials.'

Ultimately it comes down to the brand’s extending their ranges, something that most retailers sidestep with arguments surrounding demographics (pathetically, that ‘fat’ isn’t theirs). 'I guess in an ideal world everyone would cater to all sizes, and I'd be able to walk into any shop and find something that fits me,' Kirsty deduces, 'but realistically I'd settle for people considering doing so.'

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Follow Zoe on Twitter @zoemaywhitfield

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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