Why I Fell Out & Back In Love With Plus Size Pants

by Marie Southard Ospina
Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

Shortly before starting college, I stopped wearing pants. This isn't to say that I publicly started rocking my birthday suit from the hips down, although that would've definitely been more memorable. Instead, I eschewed jeans, capris, gauchos, and tapered trousers in exchange for dresses and skirts. Wearing pants as a plus size woman had proven too difficult.

In truth, the options available to me circa 2009 were usually ill-fitting or otherwise boring. The overarching message from the fashion industry at large seemed to be that fat women just didn't look good in pants, so why even wear them? Pants were for people whose rumps and legs deserved to be outlined. Dresses and skirts were for those of us who needed all the help we could get in "flattering" (aka hiding) our figures.

The logic was deeply flawed, but filled with self-condemnation and insecurity, I bought into it nonetheless. For years, I couldn't bear to see my large body in anything that wasn't A-line or flowing. I convinced myself that presenting in a hyper-feminine way — that is, adopting a traditionally "ladylike" aesthetic filled with red lipstick, kitten heels, and tutus — was the only way I could be stylish and cute. In pants, I'd be just another "sloppy" fat chick (a problematic stereotype in and of itself). In dresses and Ruby Woo, I could feel beautiful and worthy of the basic human decency I so craved.

The thing is, I genuinely enjoyed rocking a hyper-feminine look. Heck, I still do. Wearing dresses, skirts, and lipstick didn't always feel like a means to making recompense for my body. Oftentimes, they felt like a means to reclaiming the femininity and womanhood that bodies like mine were so often stripped of. Fat kids, teens, and young adults aren't typically told that they're pretty, or sexy, or interesting. In hyper-feminine clothing, however, I often felt like all of those things and more.

From 2009 until very recently, it was easy to ignore pants. As mentioned, the ones that were around in sizes 16 and above weren't usually all that great. The low-rise denim trend never hit the husky section of my local department store. Plus size gauchos were usually poop-colored. Nothing was tailored. Everything felt like a satirical take on mom jeans. Pants were, for the most part, wholly uncomfortable. They weren't made with bodies like mine in mind.

Lately, however, there's been a shift. The plus size sector of the fashion industry still has lightyears to go in order to match the inclusivity and variety of its straight size counterpart. Still, it's shown more progress than ever before as of late.

Plus size indie brands such as Premme are staying on top of the trends, giving babes tailored, wide-legged, and velvet pants in sizes 12 through 30. Plus size influencers like Bethany Rutter are teaming up with brands to create high-waisted, tapered, and paper bag options in bold colors and striking silhouettes. Denim brands catering exclusively to plus customers are surfacing, such as RWN by Rawan. There, one can find skinny jeans, girlfriend jeans, and boot-cut jeans designed specifically for plus size proportions.

As more options have hit the market, it's become a lot more difficult to ignore pants — and more specifically, to avoid unpacking the disdain I cultivated for them. And the more I have begun seeing plus size bloggers and influencers rocking lavender trousers, well-fitting skinnies, rainbow denim, and pearl-embellished jeans, the more I have wondered why I cannot do the same.

What I have come to understand is that pants don't actually have to be uncomfortable. When made with bodies like my own in mind, they can be quite the opposite. They can even be kind of freeing.

In pants, I can walk on the moors and in the forests outside my home without scratching my thighs or calves. In pants, I can sit open-legged without flashing my business at anyone. In pants, I can move without thought, never worrying that my hemline is caught in my underpants. In a pant, blazer, and tee combo, I can even feel like a complete boss: a millennial professional ready to take on the world.

For a long time, pants weren't really designed to look good on plus size bodies. Sometimes, it felt like we were being spoon-fed the idea that our fatness was more palatable if masked by traditionally ladylike wears. Other times, it felt like the industry just didn't think plus size women would be interested in bold, trendy styles (a fight that we're still having in 2018).

Now that more options exist, however, I frequently find myself eyeing the sparkly, green, and wide-legged trousers, or the embroidered skinny jeans, or the high-waisted, checkered suit pants. I find myself wanting to uncover ways of incorporating these looks into the rest of my wardrobe. I find myself craving the unique sensation that is slipping into a garment you know was made for you — whether it's a dress, a pair of jeans, or some short-shorts. I find myself wanting to experiment with all of it. Because I, like all fat babes, deserve that freedom.