Now it will probably come as no big surprise to you, that as a plus size shopper, a trip to the high street often ends in disappointment. But as a mainly online shopper, it was almost like I'd forgot quite how heartbreaking this experience is.
Over the weekend myself, Alex and Poppy headed to Hull to celebrate Poppy's seventh birthday. We had booked a hotel, cinema tickets and arranged to meet up with my gorgeous pal Em. All of which was highly enjoyable. Poppy whipped up a storm in build-a-bear and made a considerable dent in poor Em's bank account, we ate Krispy Kreme and cried at Beauty and the Beast.
On Sunday morning I found myself a spare 30 minutes to do a bit of shopping in Hull's St Stephens shopping centre. I headed first to Dorothy Perkins, a store I spend a fair amount of money with online. Now, I don't why I thought things might have changed in store, that they had miraculously started carrying a 22 again, because they sure haven't and it frustrates the hell out of me. Every time I go into a DP's I'm met with rack upon rack all up to a 20, never a 22 in sight though. I remember asking an assistant once, who sneered at me and replied "a 22?! Oh no we don't carry 22's, try online". God yeah imagine all those gross fatties you'd have in store and visible if you carried a 22.
So, defeated I hit New Look, ready to spend some dollar on the Curves range as I have a lot recently... Nope, not today.
The Curves range has disappeared from that branch. Bummer.
Onto H&M, now we know the plus range is a big fat disappointment, but I often pick up XL stuff online from their main range... NOPE not in store. Not a fat chance in hell. I did however pick up a couple of relatively nice t-shirts from their plus range, basic but nice.
Then finally, as I was about to poke my eyes out with a cheap looking shoe from New Look, I saw the shiny beacon of Next, with it's expensive, rich lady workwear and soccer mum hoodies. BUT they do go up to a 22, and they carry it in store and right now they have some gorgeous prints, boxy shapes, cute dresses with pom poms and stripes abundant (my fave).
I was able to pick up a couple of tee's, which quenched my shopping urge and made me feel less like a freak. But you know what? As I walked around those stores, met with disappointment after disappointment, I did feel like a freak and an outcast. I felt like the shop assistant's eyes were burning into my back fat.
Now, imagine being over a size 22 and multiply how I felt by a million. Because that's what it feels like, there is literally nothing out there for anyone over a size 22. *IF* you can find an Evans, you might be able to find something that isn't adorned with a butterfly print and a hanky hem and *if* you're lucky and Yours Clothing isn't much better - the polyester palace where employees live in fear of naked flames.
As a former size 32, I know how difficult it is to dress a fat body, I completely get my privilege as a size 22 and I am begging plus size stores to do better. Please.
Not having access to plus size clothes on the high street doesn't make me want to lose weight, it makes me want to fight harder. I don't want other women to feel the way I felt and feel. I can't believe 21 years after I left school, and only had Evans to go in to buy a flowery maxi dress for my school leaver night out, there are young women today who will ultimately be feeling the same way I did; excluded, unimportant and invisible. People say fashion is frivolous and vacuous, but trust me, when it comes to identity, empowerment and pride, fashion is VITAL and access to it even more so.