fat fashion, Slice of Life

For the Love of Phuc Tran and All Things Punk Rock

I mentioned in a previous book review that Sigh, Gone hit me hard, but let me reiterate: Phuc Tran’s a hero and his memoir genuinely lit a fire in me. I’m gonna run with this new energy.

In the spirit of punk rock, I did something I never thought I’d do (and yes, I then added it to the 2021 lists of firsts)… I… downloaded Instagram (I’m so ashamed and feel icky because I’ve belittled the platform since it began, but I exhausted blogs and there wasn’t that many options).

Unknown to the majority (if not all) the people in my life, I’ve always been enamored with 80s-90s Punk/Goth fashion. I love how loud and grunge and raw it is. I find fashion/style/taste to be an awesome non-verbal statement, one I’ve been sorely lacking for… my whole life? I’ve definitely gotten better over the past few years (being single means disposable income and first dates means getting creative and dolled up, idgaf it’s true), but I’m not where I want to be just yet. I want someone who knows me to be able to say, “Oh, Mal would love this,” or “this is totally you.” I want a style that’s narrowly defined and speaks for itself.

I downloaded Instagram because I figured there would be tons of fashionistas from which to draw inspiration and confidence. And it’s way too true. There are so many people worldwide constantly updating OOTDs and GRWMs. It’s awesome to see so many people rocking their styles and creating a badass community centered on fashion. I’m wading in, ladies and gentlemen. Trying to figure it all out, and y’know me – step 1: research.

I’m committing to be more involved in myself. I tried to do this last year when I moved back to Nashville, but COVID cut me (us all) down at the ankles. Since the shutdown, I’ve been collecting pieces but then have nowhere to go! Even work is too casual, dirty, and manual-labory to wear nice outfits. Day in and day out, I see these cute little things in my closet with the tags still on them!

Anyways, we’re doubling-down on being and looking and feeling awesome.

But so then my overactive brain kicked in for a moment.

It’s awkward, being a feminist in the modern world because I’m always second guessing myself and opinions. Whereas, yes, I want to be pushed and challenged to think beyond what I’m capable of thinking, it’s difficult balancing on such a sharp fence. For instance, in one stroke, talking about how cool fashion is, or how nifty “statement pieces” are, or simply using the word “fashionista” seriously, it’s like reverting a woman’s worth just to how she looks and what she wears. I know this is absolutely not true and not what I stand for, but what will others surmise? But why should I care about what they think? But how can I not if fashion is 80% what one puts out and 20% what another receives? But is it?

Woah, woah… slow down, girl. This is very un-punk rock of you.

As the fat kid growing up in public schools – yeah, I’m about to go on a 500 word diet-tribe (see what I did there?) – my number one goal was blending into the background. Period. Make good grades so I couldn’t get called out by anyone, have low-key hobbies that no one knew about so I couldn’t feed the teasing, be the funny one with the quickest with and the loudest laugh to distract the masses. Oh, humor is 100% a defense mechanism, just as much as self-harm or panic attacks. Tons of research exists on the comedy phenomenon and I wonder if we’ll start treating humor in small children as a sign of possible mental illness. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Speaking of crazy: I wore 3XL hoodies from sixth grade through the eighth grade; a twelve/thirteen year old girl who wore XL shirts in a 3XL hoodie rain, sleet, or shine. Imagine how it looked: a literal blob. I was Billie Eilish-ing before she was walking. Better to be a mystery blob, though. No one could tell where my body ended and where the hoodies began (at least this is my assumption, if you know me from back then, please don’t correct me. This is the only thing I hold onto from my middle school years).

My mom forced me to get them in a variety of colors (though I would have stuck with black, grey, navy) just so I “wouldn’t look like [I was] wearing the same thing every day.” She was doing the right thing as a mom, but I ultimately did wear the same thing every day as my options were whittled away by my peers.

Kids are as mean as they are self-conscious and insecure. All that bottled up self-awkwardness has to go somewhere, and I can be more understanding nowadays. But I also knew my peers and worked to get ahead of them. One day, hanging in the yard waiting for our rides afterschool, a friend was making fun of a chubby girl in green. He called her “Godzilla,” “Jolly Green,” that sort of thing. I mean, this was 5th grade, so those insults were topnotch at the time. Smiling to not be the butt of the joke, I silently wondered what Cody said about me behind my back. I mean, I was significantly bigger than that girl.

When I got home that afternoon, I took out all the green clothes from my drawers and closet. At first I would stuff them all under the bed or at the back of the closet floor. But on Sundays, I’d get yelled at about the mess. In order to avoid suspicion and the weekly noisemaking, I slowly started throwing the green clothing in the trash. Not all at once, of course. The heavier items I’d put in the bin outside, or I’d cut pieces up. No one would question a random scrap of cloth, but someone would definitely ask about a whole, basically brand new shirt in the trash.

Then red. “Chef Boyardee”

Then yellow. “Big Bird”

Almost blue. “Violet Beauregarde”

Bring this conversation back to my 29-year-old self, fresh off instagram:

The only real place I go during quarantine is my parents’ house for family dinner. But I can’t wear heels or a dress without my dad saying something subliminally or overtly negative. For some reason, last Christmas I apologized to him for wearing heels as I was “making too much noise” while looking super cute!? WTF. Look, It’s my dad, it’s the male gaze, it’s my own insecurities. As a 5’6’ woman in 3” heels, it’s a big difference. Maybe not on the sidewalks of major cities, but in a household that’s seen you in relax-fit boho tops and converses for nine years, it is.

No more.

I avoided the style of clothes I want to wear because they’re flashy and bold. In my mind, what could possibly be worse than having a large body and drawing attention to it? Wearing neat outfits that not only attracts the eye, but invites people to linger over my body? So they can metaphorically tear me to shreds? No, thank you!

I still think like this, in truth. But honestly not about other people. If I see a cute someone, my eyes do tend to linger longer, but I very quickly refocus back on me and how my stupid body looks. I have a feeling this is most people. We’re all so self-involved that others don’t register unless they’re remarkable. We don’t remember strangers. Ever.

No more.

The fashionistas on Instagram provide amazing aesthetics, but ultimately, I can’t use them as a source of inspiration. Their body is not my body (and for some reason, Goth equates to overly, overly sexualized somehow? I mean, counterculture, sure, but… maybe another post for another time). I cannot hope to aspire to look like them, or wear what they wear, or have those tight silhouettes. I need to focus on the real and draw inspiration and confidence from women that mirror myself. Happily enough, there are plenty of fat-goth and fat-punk hashtags worth looking into!

It’s an entirely different world from the 80s and 90s. Skinny bodies are still all the rage, but fat folks have carved out a place for themselves. Even though we’re not accepted unconditionally, fat-shaming is a real debate, anti-bullying efforts are banding together, and our culture is changing (however begrudgingly). It’s something worth drinking to!

So here we go, pushing the envelope. Ultimately, I’ve got to accept myself and work on what I don’t like about myself. Simple enough, eh? Once again, in the spirit of punk rock, I’ve got to let go of cyclical thinking and simply enjoy what I enjoy. What’s more punk rock than acceptance and strong personal values?

This is me trynna say I’m gonna blog about fashion stuff now, too. So, yeah.

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