Fashion's fat discrimination: the secret world of thin privilege

Nakkiah Lui and Hayley Hughes
Actress Nakkiah Lui and blogger Hayley Hughes agreed that the fashion world excludes fat women and there is 'thin privilege' when it comes to personal style. Source: Supplied

It can be difficult to find fashionable clothing when you’re fat, as blogger Fashion Hayley and actress Nakkiah Lui found out, since many people think the only way to be stylish is to be thin.

Fashion can be fickle, and many young women strive to stay on-trend and to look well put together.

But as women whose weight has changed can attest, a lot of people consider the most essential element of any fashionable outfit a thin body.

This bias makes up part of what is referred to in the blogging community as 'thin privilege', the natural perks such as a vast choice of clothing options that thinner people receive yet are oblivous to.

Australian fashion blogger Hayley Hughes, better known as Fashion Hayley, said a recent 20 kilogram weight loss, which took her from plus size clothing to a straight size 12 or 14, has opened her eyes to thin privilege.

Hughes’ style hasn’t changed, but the way she is seen by the fashion community has.

“I noticed when I was recently in Tokyo I was getting snapped by street style photographers in every outfit I wore out,” she said.

“I used to dress the same, but no one took photos of me when I was larger.”

Hughes said certain trends just are not seen as “acceptable” for larger women to wear, and it can be a lot harder to find trendy clothing when you are fat.

“I think certain trends, like casual fashion, like norm-core, fat girls aren't able to wear that because society tells you that you have to look really well presented, and try really hard to be attractive,” she said.

“Stuff like casual clothes, messy hair, they’re seen as things that thin girls can get away with but people give you a look like you’re messy and gross if you dress that way when you’re fat.

“I used to buy anything I fit into in stores, now I’m thinner I have so much more freedom to dress the way I want to.”

Actress Nakkiah Lui said she is seen as a lot more fashionable now she is thinner, in part due to the lack of choices in plus size fashion.

“There is absolutely thin privilege, when you’re bigger people in stores won’t even look at you, they don’t want to talk to you or serve you,” she said.

“It goes from a place of being conscious of people looking at you in public for bad reasons, it takes a long time being a smaller size to realise they’re looking at you because they might like your outfit or want to flirt with you or just think you look nice."

Hughes said the fashion world needs to shift its bias, instead of forcing women to shift their waistlines.

“It’s really messed up, the way the fashion world is, it’s a club they didn’t want me to belong in,” she said.

“Fat girls can be fashionable, the world just needs to look at them accept that.

“Fat girls are wearing great outfits and have great style, people need to open their eyes to that.”

Source: SBS