Let me tell you, shopping is not easy when you are a fat person. Ask anyone who’s a little over a size larger and the answer will be pretty much the same: I can’t find clothes that fit me perfectly and look cute at the same time. Fat people have long been excluded from the shopping and fashion experience, and although we do have some plus size options on the market, they are mostly US and UK based and not available everywhere. If finding high-quality, locally made plus-size clothing is a difficult task in the US, don’t get me started on how complicated it is to do the same in Mexico (where I’m from) and Latin America. General. While Latinx women are stereotypically known for being “curvy,” the plus-size market is still relatively small, if not non-existent.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few brands here and there trying to change that, but since they all operate online only, the situation is mostly the same: if you’re a fat person, your chances of being included in the normal shopping experience are still slim. We can’t walk through a clothing rack without worrying if the store even carries our size. We can’t try on many clothes and ask our friends for their opinion before we buy something. If we’re looking for a Latin American plus size design, we have a dozen or more options from four or five smaller brands.
A few weeks ago, among my many (many, many) procrastination scrolls, I came across Laura Agudelon’s Instagram profile. I immediately liked her style; It’s not often that I see other fat Latinas being so playful and bold in their outfits. Not only is she a blogger (a La Pesada de Moda type who updates her blog even after 12 years and doesn’t just post cute pictures on Instagram – a dying breed, really!) and teacher, but she’s also been a plus-size activist for Colombian women for the past 17 years. I knew I needed to know more about her, so I DMd her. I can say that the “never meet your heroes” deal doesn’t apply to Agudelo.
Don’t dress like a fat person! Very funny Hal!
Her fat movement started in the early 2000s, like many fat people’s fashion projects, because we couldn’t find clothes that looked good and fit our bodies at the same time. In the year In 2005, she teamed up with a close friend who worked in a newspaper. Although she’s not a fan of attention, Laura finds that the only way to start a conversation is by doing something conversational. She agreed that the best way to get people talking about fat people was to put her face in the Sunday paper. Slowly one article turned into two. Two became three, three became four, etc.
Two years later, her love affair with blogging began. She started following fashion blogs, taking inspiration from them and applying that to her daily wardrobe. She soon started getting comments about her amazing style, saying, “You don’t dress like a fat person! She’s so cute Hal!”. She soon realized that what they meant was that she was wearing formals instead of black to hide her figure (as fat people are generally expected to do). She wore bold prints, loud colors, and played around with textures and cuts; she had fun with her styling and appeared.
“There were no attractive options for me at the time, and I couldn’t find the clothes I wanted to wear, so I decided to write what I knew. I just replicated the same “outfit post” model I saw on other bloggers, Agudelo says. She’s started posting her looks every day, which she admits is something she’s not entirely comfortable doing, but she knows her photos have a clear purpose: “I wanted other fat women to understand that it’s possible to dress in a different way.” Instead of what we ‘expected’; In a way that makes us feel good.
“I want to show that fat women can be photographed full-body, even if they’re crazy and bold,” Agudelo said. “When I’m on the road, when I’m living my life, it’s important to me to show what it’s like. Not because I think I’m the most stylish woman in Colombia, but because I feel it’s important to normalize fat women’s body and style.
Ultimately, being a fat fashion blogger wasn’t enough to make the kind of change Laura wanted in the Colombian fashion industry. After a particularly stressful time in her life, she came up with the idea of creating GORDA Salon de Moda Plus Size, a pop-up shop exclusively for plus sizes, featuring entirely locally made Colombian fashion brands. In the year Started in 2019 with 5 different brands, it is now a bi-annual weekend pop-up event featuring more than 18 Colombian, high-profile fashion brands, workshops and conferences. It’s a place for women who enjoy participating in fashion as much as non-fat women do. Agudelo said about the event in one of her TikToks: “GORDA can be a shopping place, but it can be therapy if people allow it.”
To be part of GORDA, brands must be 100 percent Colombian. “We are open to opening brands in other parts of Latin America, but our main focus is to cater to the needs of the Colombian population,” said Agudelo. “We don’t want fast fashion, we want brands that are local, create local jobs and have fair practices. Brands that want to be featured in GORDA must have at least four years in the market. “This is non-negotiable,” Agudelo says, “because it gives brands enough time to get to know the industry and the fat woman as a consumer: their mistrust, their buying patterns.” Four years is enough time for these brands to develop the awareness that plus-size consumers need.
She was not wrong; The fashion industry as a whole is extremely fat, even though size inclusion and the fat movement are such hot topics. As a fat woman, I’m used to getting dirty or funny looks from sales associates wherever I shop—even when I’m not shopping for myself. I was made to feel like I didn’t belong there. Fat people are people who are used to being bullied and bullied into thinking that our bodies and existence are wrong and that we don’t deserve to be part of the fashion industry.
More brands need to understand that plus-size fashion isn’t simply about adding a few inches to a pattern. We need clothes that fit us, not just big clothes. Making plus-size fashion means understanding how fat bodies live in clothes and knowing how to make clothes for bodies with bellies, fat arms and small backs. We are not all the “ideal” curvy image shown in the media.
For this reason, Agudelo is collaborating with Arturo Tejada Cano University, a fashion and marketing university in Bogotá, Colombia. She is creating the first plus-size design master class at Columbia, which will begin this fall semester. For the first time, Columbia fashion students (or anyone who wants to join, since the class is literally available) will learn how to incorporate bold elements into the clothes they design. One small step for Columbia fashion students, one giant step for the fashion industry as a whole.
When I graduated from fashion school in Mexico almost ten years ago, I was the only fat graduate; I had high hopes and dreams according to my measurements. But I was thrown into an industry that looked down on and served people like me and they did little to help us as customers. I hope that because of people like Laura Agudelo, new Latinx designers will have the passion and tools to make the change that the Latinx plus-size fashion industry so desperately needs.