The Life-Changing Power of a Fat, Confident Woman’s Legs

This is part of Thank You Notes, a series of letters offering gratitude to the people and things that inspire us most. Like many others, Allure has spent this summer looking inward — the place from where, as the saying goes, beauty springs. What we found was pain, love, humor, and powerful gratitude, for the people we know and the world we live in. Then we wrote.

To big legs,

I’ll never forget the first time I saw you peeking out from in between the gauzy slit of a beautiful dress. I was slumped over my laptop in the middle of the night, scrolling through fashion blogs. You belonged to a very large, very beautiful woman. The photo looked like it belonged in a magazine; the subject was standing at the top of an outdoor staircase, posing triumphantly as the dress billowed around her. The slit showed off her legs, fat as ever, and the look on her face implied that she was happy about it.

At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at. I’d never seen a plus-size woman dressed the way she was dressed, inhabiting her body so confidently, and posing in such an assertive way. I stared at the picture for what felt like hours, only to realize that it was an image I’d been searching for my entire life.

I’ve always felt the urge to get attention for what I wear, to participate in fashion trends, to dress in the kind of clothing that doesn’t have the primary function of concealing my body. But for most of my life, I wasn’t able to find clothing I actually wanted to wear — and if I did, it never came in my size. I was the biggest girl in my class, and the lack of clothing options combined with the relentless bullying I experienced over the years left me feeling isolated from other people, and completely disconnected from myself. I scoured movies, books, magazines, music videos, and advertisements for images of women who not only looked like me, but looked like the aspirational version of myself I wanted to be: not thin, but stylish; confident and happy. Back then, the fat people presented by popular culture were the opposite of those things; they were depicted as slobs, hot messes, the before pictures, funny sidekicks who got to sit by the sidelines and put on a brave face, while cheering for skinny friends trying on prom dresses.

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