Mar 192013

One of the many things that makes Tumblr a very notable space is the way the microblogging site fosters communities. Through the use of tags and reblogs, communities are built usually upon a similar mindset, manifesting themselves into very secluded and secure spaces for users. Through this, subversion of cultural paradigms can be nurtured on such an open format as the Internet.

Some of these communities verge on social unacceptability, like pro-eating disorder Tumblrs (often referred to as pro-anna or pro-mia), that post photos of thinspiration – motivating pictures of very thin people that they would like to emulate. As toxic and unhealthy as the thinspo sites are, there are other Tumblrs that flirt with unacceptability in a very different way, notably the fat fashion blogs.

The level of accessibility with Tumblr (or other blogs) affords more flexibility with the content. In the case of fat fashion blogs, they are run by those that are excluded from mainstream fashion because of their size (not just because of the standards, but also because of the dearth of options for plus-sized women). As a subset of the body positivity movement (a movement that’s message is essentially “there is nothing wrong with your body”), fat fashion blogs are radical in their insistence of normalcy – a photograph of a thin girl dressed to the nines is a dime a dozen, but the same outfit on a fat girl becomes political. Being seen and photographed is a documentation of a small rebellion, a refusal to hide or be ashamed by the size of their bodies. With very few designers catering to larger sizes, fat fashion bloggers typically display vintage items, self-made garments, or articles of clothing from plus-size friendly areas such as (some) Forever 21 stores and Torrid. Lane Bryant-style “flattering” clothes are a lot more rare, and typical rules about creating a slim figure (including: emphasize waistline, no big patterns, no horizontal stripes) are discarded.

The fat fashion Tumblrs do a lot to increase visibility of fat bodies, but only for a very specific type. The tradeoff for sending the message that fat can be beautiful is often that other conventional beauty standards are upheld, with the added twist that it is fat women upholding them. Largely the fat fashion focuses on a style called femme, which is more traditionally feminine garments and cuts. Skirts, dresses, and form-fitted clothing are prevalent, along with the use of makeup and jewelry that is typical among femme blogs. Class plays a role in the ability to participate in fat fashion blogs, especially since obtaining fashionable clothing at a larger size is more of an endeavor (monetarily and time-wise) than it is for the smaller sizes.

The women who do participate in fat fashion blogging, — either through submission to aggregate Tumblrs like Fuck Yeah Chubby Fashion, or through their own blogs – are overwhelmingly young and white. So while deconstructing one beauty myth (you have to be thin to be beautiful), the fat fashion blogs often uphold a variety of others. The level of whiteness in these spaces mirror that of more mainstream fashion publications, and do little to subvert the paradigm. Because of this, the level of subversion is greatly watered down, and fat fashion spaces become a continuation of a different kind of beauty ideal that is still largely rooted in the public conscious of what qualifies as beautiful. While this doesn’t discount the progressive nature of fat fashion blogs in terms of body acceptance, it is worth noting that not all bodies are represented, and challenging the (primarily European) beauty standards in some aspects is only beneficial for a select group of women.

  One Response to “Tumblr, Fat Fashion, and Accessibility”

  1. Good critical analysis here but the post could use some light editing (read it aloud: there are some tangled sentences) and of course, images and links.

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