Hot and Heavy
Being a fationista is no easy task, especially when you fall in this weird in-between of being able to squeeze into "normal" clothing and rocking plus sizes. I've resisted rolling (ha!) into fatty fashion stores because well, like everyone, I've long believed that the chub is bad and scary. But I’ve come to realize that some people are just fat. Kinda like how some people are tall. Or gay. Or all three (if you’re extra awesome). However, the one thing I will never get is, with the billions of dollars funneled into weight loss products that don't work, why is none of that channeled into making cute-ass clothes for the chunky lady? Listen, fat people aren't going away and your judgment, scorn, and withholding of fly threads aren't changing a damn thing. So with that PSA out of the way, I am setting out to find the most fabulous fashion finds for fatties in San Francisco. Don't make me turn to a sewing machine, friends, because the last time I did that I ended up in the ER with my finger attached to my cheek – use your imagination!
The first stop for all fatties on a frock-finding mission is IGIGI, recently voted #1 Plus Size Fashion Retailer during Full Figure Fashion Week . (It exists! Believe it! Fatties are coming up in the fashion world.) IGIGI does most of its business online but they are headquartered in San Francisco and take appointments. I called ahead to say I needed a purple dress for an upcoming wedding. The lady on the phone asked me a few questions, including my size (I'm anywhere from a 10 to a 52, depending on fit), and I was set. The following week, I arrived at the showroom on Mission and was greeted by Maria, the tiniest wisp of a sales associate I've ever seen. I wasn't sure how I'd feel with a relative of Barbie helping me but it turned out she was absolutely lovely. Maria already had a variety of wedding-appropriate purple dresses pulled aside and I got to work trying them on.
The fit on IGIGI's clothes is pretty unbelievable; the dresses curve in and out in the right places and hang beautifully. With each dress, Maria offered expert advice and opinions that made me never want to leave. I combed the racks for even more great stuff to try on, stopping to pause at the sexiest black lace dress I'd ever seen. Seriously, if this dress were a woman, it would be a blend of Monica Bellucci and Penelope Cruz doing it in a tub of whipped cream, you feel me? Although not my personal style (I prefer toddler meets bird lady), I love the fact that this dress design would be making its way on to chubby bodies worldwide. I was awakened from my daydreams when I glanced at the price tag of the dresses before me – cha-ching! – and decided to relegate my relationship with IGIGI to Fantasy Island . For now. The clothes are not cheap, but they are well made and perfect for special occasions. While some of the styles weren’t of my taste, I'll definitely be back when I'm invited to the Oscars or can trick someone into marrying me (pregnancy scare, perhaps?).
I try to stay away from chain stores but sometimes it's unavoidable. Such is not the case for rich people and skinnies, who can shop wherever their shrunken hearts (joke!) desire, but when it comes to working the plus-size fits, you gotta head to Torrid in Stonestown Galleria. Torrid is what happens when Hot Topic meets Hello Kitty and they have a fat baby. Actually, Torrid is owned by the same people who run Hot Topic, so Fat Topic might be more appropriate. Let's put it this way, if the chicks from Twilight were fat, this is where they would shop. Upon entering, I know this is a store that I can work with. Racks and racks of on-trend pieces from maxi dresses to miniskirts. That's right, I said MINISKIRTS. Ain't nothing wrong with a hot ass fat girl working what her momma gave her. If I have to look at another skinny chick's camel toe, then you gotta embrace my cellulite. Deal? Okay!
One of the most impressive Torrid finds is that it sells boots that fit fat calves. I know some ladies that decidedly do NOT fit in the plus-size category who have trouble finding boots to fit around their calves – and that is fucked.
The saleswomen were on their game, and one even helped me shimmy into an insane crop top that was suitable for NO body. She tried to convince me that I needed to let the world see my tootsie roll, and I had to remind her of the fact that people have eyes. I almost bought it because it was on crazy clearance (its sale section is ridic: I'm talking entire outfits for pennies on the dollar), and I thought I might be able to work it into a Flashdance -inspired routine to perform solely for my dog. Knowing that my dog has no appreciation for the arts, I passed and went home with a cute purple maxi dress.
I headed over to the Outer Sunset for my next stop – Freddie's Nifty Thrifties. Lynn, the owner, has another job so Freddie's keeps odd hours. I arrived at the small Judah Street shop on a Friday evening and was the only person in the store. Awkward! However, Lynn was very friendly without being in your face, and allowed me to browse the inventory.
Freddie's sells gently used clothing with an emphasis on plus-size fashions. Browsing the aisles of chartreuse caftans and lilac skirt suits, I didn't find much that I cared for, but there are definitely some finds if you come to dig, or if you are rocking the Bea Arthur these days (work that pants suit, girl!). In one aisle, I found a dress that looked straight out of the most recent Anthropologie catalog. (Good or bad? That's your call! I'm into looking like a homeless witch on vacay.) I also found some jewelry that made me swoon, including a brooch that would make a terrific barrette if sewing machines didn't land me in the hospital.
Lynn is an absolute doll and provided fair opinions on how an outfit looks on my body. I'm definitely more into fitted clothing – not the stuff that makes you look like Homer Simpson in a muumuu – and Lynn got that right away. She didn't recommend one tent dress, praise be! The next time I come, I'll be in more of the "serious thrifting" mindset, and I'm sure I'll find some gems to show off my glorious bounty. OMG I JUST TYPED THAT! This is what being surrounded by caftans will do to you!
After Freddie’s, I made my way to the Mission and stopped into Painted Bird, a hip boutique on Valencia Street that also sells used, mostly vintage fashion. This isn't the most obvious choice for fat fashion, and that's what makes it the best. The buyers here are obviously looking out for their fatty brethren because this store has got some great plus-size finds. The selection is not vast, but it is mighty.
A quick appraisal of the well-curated racks and I was in the dressing room with about 10 things to try on. Of particular interest was a candy-colored striped wrap dress that made my boobs look straight a-mazing. Not that that's hard, I have a great rack, but nevertheless, I'll take it! I also took an awesome sweatshirt emblazoned with Jazzercising bunnies, a sweet pair of Michael Kors sunglasses from the ’80s, a pair of hammer pants (You can't touch this!), and a braided belt that looks like it came straight outta your parents key party. I walked out of there wearing all these awesome looks TOGETHER – I like to get down to business – and let me tell you, traffic was stopped. No really, there was a totally minor fender bender that I'm taking complete credit for.
San Francisco definitely has options for the fabulous fat girl, but there's room to evolve. This whole process had me wishing for the ability to design. I'd make the cutest line ever: Phillip Lim meets French Connection meets Marc Jacobs. The result would be like ModCloth but more fabulous and insane. Actually, if you have any design talents whatsoever, please, please, PLEASE start a funky fresh line of clothing for the larger and more in-charger lady. And then hit me up, because I'll totally model for free. And by free, I mean for sample dresses. You don't want to turn this offer down – I have an ass that just won't quit. No, seriously. I've tried to fire it and it ain't going nowhere so I'm embracing the bulge and moving forward into the fashion future, thunder thighs and all.
The next time you find yourself in a fatty fashion emergency in SF, give IGIGI a call to set up an appointment. If you don't find what you're looking for there, head to Freddie's Nifty Thrifties in the Outer Sunset. It’s open Thursday and Friday evenings and most weekdays, but you might want to call first to make sure. If you're still searching, check out Torrid at Stonestown Galleria, or Painted Bird in the Mission. Let them know the hot redhead (they might also recognize me by "psycho neurotic chick") sent you. Go forth and get stylish, you adorable fatties!