Photo Credit: A. Marlin/Getty Images Entertainment/getty images
Sarah Robles is an Olympic Athlete and one of the strongest women in the world, but when it comes to finding clothes that fit her well and that she likes -- she is a relative weakling. That’s because Sarah is fat and for some reason, despite the constant drumbeat that over 60 percent of Americans are fat, there is a dearth of attractive, affordable clothes made for women of size.
Julie Wyman, a filmmaker who just finished the film “Strong!” about super heavyweight Olympic medalist Cheryl Haworth, shared with me how painful it was to stand in a plus-sized clothing store while Cheryl realized that she was the largest size that they carry and that even some of those were too small.
But then Jill Alexander, a plus-size fashion designer, swooped in with some clothes that Sarah loves. Awesome. When asked about it, she told PEOPLE Magazine "She’s the perfect role model…She’s one of the top athletes in the world. She’s not unhealthy, she’s not lazy, but she has trouble finding clothes that fit well. She’s empowering women to speak out and say, 'I deserve better from the fashion industry.'"
To be clear, all fat women deserve better from the fashion industry. Hurdles are fine in the Olympics but you shouldn’t have to jump them to get nice clothes. All women deserve to have clothes that they love and that make them feel great -- lazy, unhealthy thin women included. But societal prejudice against fat people lends to an environment where people are so busy stigmatizing us that they forget to respect us as human beings. And that spills over to that most thin-centric facet of our society -- the fashion world.
WATCH: Sarah Robles on Being Beautiful at Any Size
I am told by those in fashion that one of the problems with plus-size designing is that fat women are always expecting to lose weight any minute and so they don’t want to invest in pieces that fit the bodies they have (but don't want). I don’t know if it’s true, but if so I think it’s truly unfortunate. No matter what we want to do with our bodies, we’re probably better off starting from a platform of loving and appreciating them for all they do (breathing, blinking and beating) It would be great if that appreciation included wearing clothes that make us feel good and comfortable. But first, those clothes need to be available.
As a fat athlete, never am I more bitter about the bigoted stereotype that fat people don’t exercise than when I am shopping for athletic wear, which is almost non-existent in my size; or when I’m at the gym in my blocky basic black yoga pants that I had shorten myself, black uniboob-creating sports bra, and t-shirt that I had to alter to fit. Meanwhile, straight-sized women are rocking colors, shapes and designs right off the rack.
I believe that there is a market for fatshion. I was just at a national conference for a size-acceptance group and women were so desperate to get clothes from the plus-size designers there that you would have thought they were selling water in the desert. Fat women are making major strides in society, it’s time for fashion to come join the revolution.