Costuming While Fat and Uncrafty

I recently had to put together a costume for an event, and I thought the process would be relatively simple. I’m still adjusting to the fact that, for a variety of reasons, my body is much larger than it used to be, so I am still thrown by the fact that I don’t really fit in straight sizes, that getting clothes that fit my body and are comfortable and look good is difficult — and that getting costume supplies is even more complicated, given the very specific needs of a costume paired with the fact that people seem to think costumes are only for people of lesser sizes.

So at first I hit up the thrift store, thinking I could find a funky bridesmaid’s dress, or some worn vintage clothing, or something along those lines to use as the base of my costume (I was going as a drowning victim, so I specifically wanted clothing that was kind of trashed to begin with). And I found lots of great candidates, but all of them were way too small — including the ones I took into the dressing room because they looked like they should fit (and they would have fit my older body — but that’s not the body I have now). Nothing fit.

So I tried buying new, although I was loathe to do so because I didn’t want to spend a great deal of money on the costume, and because I was planning to completely destroy the clothes. The thought of buying new clothes and then staining, ripping, and tearing them seemed rather counterproductive and wasteful.

Nothing new fit me, though — or if it did, it cost an absurd amount of money. Or it wasn’t quite the look I wanted. I couldn’t buy anything in straight sizes that would work and fat-specific stores and sites were expensive, and many of the things they carried were made out of fabrics like polyester, which I can’t wear. My skin reacts, and I get hot and uncomfortable and hivey. And again, I didn’t want to spend, say, $140 on a dress I was going to render unwearable. After all, I couldn’t keep trotting the same costume out over and over again.

I was at rather an impasse. Which is when people started suggesting I make my own costume. And this pissed me off for two reasons.

1) Making your own stuff is actually quite expensive, depending on what you are making and whether you have access to materials and supplies. Let’s charitably assume that I had sewing equipment, along with all the basics I’d need — not just a machine but needles, thread, buttons, zippers, ribbons, and other notions. I’d still need to buy fabric (remember, as a fat person, I can’t take an existing garment and break it down to use the fabric, because there’s usually not enough). I might need to buy other specialty things. I would be investing time and energy in designing the costume, cutting it out, possibly making muslin mockups and then the real thing.

This could result in a costume that’s actually more expensive than just buying something off the rack. It might be exactly what I want and perfect and wonderful, but I’d have spent an obscene amount of money on something that I am, once again, going to trash — and it’s especially painful to think of wrecking something that I made myself, dedicated hours of my personal time to.

So this is kind of a wide issue with craftiness, and the assumption that everyone has the space and materials and funds to do it, that irritates me, because crafting can get quite expensive especially when people are just getting started and don’t have much in the way of supplies. When people don’t acknowledge this as they encourage people to ‘just make something,’ it irritates me.

2) Making your own stuff is also actually a skill. It takes considerable skill to design costumes, let alone sew them. Not everyone has these skills, which need to be developed through years of experience, training, and trial and error. Some people are not crafty — and that is okay, because not everyone needs to be. There is no shame in not having a lot of craft skills, but there is shame in making people feel like they should have those skills.

Sure, it’s fantastic when people have the ability to learn to craft, and for some people, it can be a wonderfully useful tool. Some save money by making their own clothes, for example, or find crafting to be a therapeutic process. Others love making works of art in textiles and other materials. I love seeing what my friends are doing, their beautiful quilts and knits and other projects. But insisting that everyone can and should be crafty, like it’s easy, irritates me — and offends me, because it undermines the legitimate skills of people who have worked really hard to hone their crafting abilities.

Both reasons compounded to fill me with fiery rage, because I feel like that’s what people say to fat people so often. Well, if you’re going to insist on being fat, you’re going to have to pay the piper. Spend more money than everyone else on clothing (and costumes) and if you can’t find what you want, just make it yourself. Because no one in society or the culture around you should accommodate you, and it’s ridiculous to think that there might be other fat people out there with the same problem who might appreciate, for example, fat-friendly tutus being made commercially available. (But tu-tus are so easy, people tell me. Just make your own!)

How about instead of telling fat people to ‘just make their own,’ you ask yourself why it’s so important to you to make the lives of other people Not Your Problem?

Image: Tour de Fat Trumpeter, Mr.TinDC, Flickr