Updated: May 18, 2020
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.”
For as long as I can remember I have loved stuff. Whether it was the free toy in a magazine or the plastic spoon found in an ice cream tub at the theatre. In my mind each item came with a history, a story and therefore, I must keep it. But my relationship with fashion, however, is a tortuous one. As a (now proud) curvy lass, clothes shopping as a teenager was traumatic. Trawling the aisles in a typical high street shop, I was forced continually to buy what would fit instead of what I loved. Even now as I walk through Cardiff city centre I can still hear my younger self sobbing in the Marks and Spencers changing rooms trying desperately to find a swimsuit before a holiday. Going shopping with my friends as a teen was equally stressful as I tried to hide my embarrassment and shame. My usual tactic was the old 'oh I like my clothes baggy, that's why I'm getting a bigger size’. I couldn't bring myself to verbally admit that it was my true size. If I was lucky enough to find an item of clothing in my size it was usually a plain top in the style of a casual bin bag. But more often than not, I found myself in the shoe and handbag departments gleefully floating through the only aisles that didn't require me to be a certain shape or size. I think this is where my obsession with shopping started.
For the first time in my life, I could buy an item that wouldn’t reject me or make me feel inferior. My shoe size was a 7 and in each shop, I finally had something that would fit me every time. Likewise, in the handbag section, I could look at myself in the mirror and see a new item that made me feel special every time. As my shoe and bag collection grew, it soon became clear that I had a problem. Whenever I saw an advert I believed that if I bought said item, I would feel the same (fake) happiness. Kudos to all marketing peeps because I fell under their spells time and time again, trying to fill a hole that would never be filled by 'things'.
But then I discovered ASOS Curve. My oh my. For the first time in my life, I could actually buy clothes in my size that I liked. Freedom at last. And boy did I make the most of it. However, at no point during those early days did I ever think about where my clothes came from. If anything, I felt justified in my many (many many) purchases after having been denied and humiliated for so many years. However, what started as a chance to finally dress how I wanted, soon became an obsession that took over. Before I knew it I was trawling through the website each spare minute I had and lusting after each newly added item. Thanks to the very cheap next day delivery, I had post to look forward to every morning.
Like any other addiction, I longed for the buzz of the purchase and the excitement of the delivery. After a long day or a sad day or a stressful day or a happy day or a friend doing well, I would turn to my trusty online friend. On many occasions, I would look out for the postman and try to hide the goods from the rest of my family. I would run to the front door, scribble on the machine and hide the stuff in my wardrobe till I could wear it subtly and inconspicuously. I didn't want them to know how addicted I had become. After only a few years my once newly found freedom had become a trap in which I could not get out of.
This was the extent of my obsession. Actual gifts from dpd... for being a loyal customer. It makes me feel ill looking at this today. But I am not saying that I will never shop at Asos again. Lets face it, I probably will. Us larger lasses will never have the same options as others, so if I need some clothes and I can't find them secondhand, I will buy (responsibly and thoughtfully) online. I'm human.
But what I am learning now is to be kinder to myself about my past mistakes and behaviour. There is nothing to be gained from by berating myself and dwelling on past Emily. Past Emily was a little sad and overwhelmed to be in a world that didn’t cater to her size or shape. The world she grew up in celebrated ‘skinny’ and just didn’t know what to do with a chubby apple-shaped gal. I am not angry at that girl, I am grateful that she stuck it out and waited for the good times. Luckily for me, I am now happy and able to wear the clothes I want in a size that fits me and I am NEVER looking back.