From Our Readers
December 16, 2015 7:35 am

It’s cold out, so I’ve been going through my wardrobe trying to figure out what to put in storage, what to give to Goodwill, and what to trash. Even I, master of the stapler and duct tape, can’t salvage some of my worn out clothes. It’s impractical in the frigid Portland rain, but there is one garment I am reluctant to put away even though it won’t keep me cozy in the chilly days to come: my beloved crop top.

A few months ago I was perusing the racks at Goodwill, and was struck by the sweet and simple beauty of a black cotton button front crop top. I looked at it and sighed. A plus sized lady like myself could never pull if off, I thought initially. However, from many years of watching What Not To Wear and shopping with my stylish mom, I’ve learned you should try things on before you dismiss them.

I picked out a high­waisted skirt to pair it with, and trudged to the fitting room. I took off my clothes and looked at myself in the mirror. “All right Andee, you can do this.” I put on my skirt, then put on that waist exposing shirt. I looked myself up and down in awe. I looked awesome! I felt tasteful and happy and strong, and wasn’t afraid of the space my body took up.

My whole life, I’ve been told two things about my body. First, I’ve been told my body is a sinful and dirty thing that will distract boys from God and school. Cover up or you’ll be sent home because you don’t want to distract people from learning. The second thing I’ve been told about my body my whole life is that it is sub-par because it’s big. I should wear clothes that camouflage my tummy and make my legs look longer and thinner.

These messages are instilled in us from a young age, but one of the first instances I remember clearly was in sixth grade when I reluctantly signed up for volleyball. I was terrified of other girls and was not a coordinated person. But I bit the bullet and pushed myself to do something that scared me. Volleyball practice did help me be a stronger person, socially and physically, and in the process, I lost a lot of weight. One day, my well­-intentioned volleyball coach looked at me and said, “Wow, you sure have lost a lot of weight. You should be really proud of yourself.” I had pushed myself to grow as a person and an athlete, but all that my coach said I should be proud of was the fact that I was taking up less physical space.

After that comment, I was made keenly aware of the size of my body and the space it occupied. I was obsessed with the scale. I started eating less and less. I would push my food around the plate to make it look like I had eaten more than I did. Twelve-year-old me viewed hunger as success. If I was light headed, I was being strong. If I heard my stomach growling, I was doing a good job. I spent sixth grade hungry and tired.

It’s been a long journey from 12-year-old me to the 22-year-old woman I am now. I still have days where I feel gross and struggle to love who I am. But that crop top is a symbol of my self­-love. It’s an act of resistance towards the voices that have said my body is less and my body is dirty. It’s solidarity with girls who get kicked out of class based on a dress ­code violation because their learning is seen as less important than their outfit. It’s an outward expression of strength and love and growth. It’s also really dang cute.

Angelica Brown is an English Student and Portland State University who loves staying home and eating veggie pizza, snuggling, and the occasional punk show. She works as an after school program instructor for Campfire USA. You can follow her thoughts here or here

[Image via Tess Holliday on Twitter]

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