On my first day of history of costume I joined a class of about 50 students most of which all appeared as if their next class was a cover shoot for Vogue and all eager to join an industry in which requires skinny to be taken seriously. It was an intimidating to say the least.
My teacher who looked like a rather average white 40 something woman, asked each of us to introduce ourselves and tell us why we were present. Unfortunately she started on the other side of the room and I had about 30 minutes to stew over what the hell I was going to say. I went back and forth in my head. “I’m from Seattle and I’m here so I can learn fashion design,” or something closer to the truth “I’m Liesl Binx and I’m here so I can learn to make clothes for other fat girls like myself.” FAT? Fat? How can I say the F word with these group of people? Admitting that I was the very thing that everyone is so afraid of being? I went back and forth until I started introducing myself and it was a surreal moment. I came so far to live this moment and if I couldn’t tell the truth I might as well pack my bags and move back to Seattle. I projected to make sure everyone in the room could hear me and I said,”I’m Liesl Binx I’m from Seattle and I’m here to learn how to clothes for fat girls like myself.”
What I didn’t anticipate was my teachers response. She quickly responded almost embarrassingly (she is plus size) and informed me that most women prefer the term “rubenesque,” It was almost as if she was scolding me for saying the FAT word. I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders at her. She was supposed to be elated that a proud fat girl like me had made it to the pearly gates of fashion school in a city that actually has a fashion district, but instead she seemed confused. By the end of my day I imagined that her confusion spawned from my letting the room in on the secret that she and I were fat. Like I had let the cat out of the bag and admitted defeat. I remember feeling this very same way. In sophomore year of high school we had to fill out this sheet of questions in which one of the questions was ‘what is your worst fear?’ Mine : Being Fat
If it had been a few years earlier I would have had the same response as Ms. Rubenesque did. I had challenged her idea of what her self-image stood upon by rejecting that being fat is a flaw. This is when I realized the full power of the word fat and why I continue to use it and challenge people’s ideas of what fat means.