Viral Thread About Fat Phobia in Fashion Sparks Conversation About Who Gets to Be Stylish

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Jul. 16 2020, Updated 4:56 p.m. ET

featured fat phobia fashion
Source: iStock Photo / Twitter

Fat phobia in fashion is real and insidious, as pointed out in a recent viral thread from writer and Twitter user Rayne Fisher Quann. She shared a picture that depicts two women and explains that there is a tweet going around that mocks them and the clothes they are wearing.

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Rayne points out that their outfits would be considered fashionable nowadays if they were worn by smaller women. "Fashion is judged exclusively by the bodies that wear it," she writes. 

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Rayne's thread has hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets, and for good reason. She's right. These outfits are clearly part of a retro '80s and '90s trend that is experiencing a resurgence. But because these women don't physically fit the description of most "fitspo" Instagram influencers, they aren't considered fashionable. 

Rayne continues, "I've seen the first fit literally all over TikTok and Pinterest but it's only rewarded on rich, skinny women. Let's talk about who you're really making fun of when you're mocking 'Walmart fashion' !! You hate poor people !! 

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"This ties into the point I make often about the aesthetics of class — as beauty and thinness are increasingly only available to the rich, we've begun to code the aesthetic side effects of poverty as indicating evil, ignorance, sloth, poor taste, etc."

The lack of options in fashion for plus-size women has been addressed over and over, but the fact that plus-size women are mocked and ridiculed for wearing outfits that would be celebrated if they were on skinnier bodies isn't something we acknowledge often.

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Rayne's thread resonated with so many. "As a fat guy, I see skinny folks all over the internet wearing the same stuff I do and getting praised for being fashionable or 'quirky' while I'm made fun of and get dirty looks," one person wrote. "It's fat phobia and capitalism, plain and simple."

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Another wrote, "As a fat girl, I've been taught to dress in a way that hides my body and what everyone considers flaws. This summer I invested in jumpsuits and short shorts despite my anxiety that it shows the outline of my belly and leg cellulite. F--k it, my comfort is more important!!!"

Although Rayne's message brings up a very important point in the conversation about fashion and fat phobia, not everyone was on board with the way she presented her argument. Comedian Guy Branum took issue with the fact that she reposted the picture and cut off their faces. 

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He's right that the media has a habit of posting pictures like this to anonymize and dehumanize fat people. Even when it's done ostensibly to protect their identities and make a valid point about fat phobia, it's still problematic to depict people in this manner. 

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Rayne clarified that she removed their faces because she "didn't want to share identifying features without consent." She asks if it would have been better to keep their faces in, and someone else responded that it would have been better if she made her point without sharing the photo at all. 

While Rayne makes an important point, it is definitely important to investigate the ways in which we may be unconsciously playing into harmful practices that have been used to prop up fat phobia for years when we have these conversations.

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