How I Got Over My Holiday Outfit Anxiety as a Plus-Size Person

I used to agonize over going to holiday events for fear that people would see I'd gained weight.

Approximately 68% of women in America are considered plus size, but there’s a clear lack of industry representation and shopping options for this majority. In Plus-Size Diaries, columnist Olivia Muenter dives into all things plus-size, from sharing her personal experiences to speaking out about plus-size culture at large.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed the process of planning outfits. Even when I wore a uniform in high school, I loved putting together the small details that I could choose, like my book bag, earrings, and even my underwear. Something about piecing together all these individual parts, mapping it all out, and having a plan always helped me feel more confident, more in control. It wasn’t until I gained some weight and started wearing a size 14/16 after college, though, that this process started to feel more stressful than fun. 

Before I was plus-size, I’d look forward to the time of year when I’d plan what I’d wear to a family Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve party, or New Year’s Eve event. It was an opportunity to wear something a little more festive or exciting than usual, and it was often the first time I’d see my family or friends in a while. When I started wearing bigger sizes, though, I started to dread this time of year.

I’d worry about looking bigger to loved ones who hadn’t seen me in a while and would agonize over choosing the right outfit to distract from my weight gain. I no longer cared about choosing an outfit that made me feel happy as much as I cared about choosing one that made me feel smaller—invisible, even. Instead of being exciting, planning a holiday outfit was suddenly anxiety-inducing, even though the only thing that had changed about me was my clothing size. 

As the years went on and I fluctuated between every size from a 12 to a 20, I learned to dread these types of events, always spending the weeks before deciding between two or three outfits (all of which were usually head-to-toe black because “it’s slimming.”) Then, once at the events, I’d feel self-conscious—like I shouldn’t have tried at all and like everyone knew I had gained weight and was desperately trying to hide it. Unsurprisingly, all these events that once held so much joy for me started to be not so fun at all. Some years, I found reasons to avoid them altogether. 

It wasn’t until a couple years ago, when I tried to think back to outfits of holidays past, that I realized I couldn’t remember those outfits that had stressed me out at all. The only thing I could remember about those holiday events was how I felt. The anxiety, stress, and the memory of wanting to hide myself was what had stuck with me. I should have been thinking back to memories of laughing with my cousins, toasting with my parents, or having a New Year’s Eve kiss, and instead I was thinking about how self-conscious I felt. This is what believing that your body is flawed will do to you. The insecurity takes over everything—even life’s biggest, brightest events. 

I made a vow to myself then and there that next time the holidays rolled around, I would prioritize how I felt over everything else. I quickly found out that this meant wearing things that made me happy—sequins and velvet and shades of bright red and green, if I wanted. Form-fitting black jumpsuits! Heels! Statement jewelry! Galore! I’d wear the outfits that made me feel most like myself.

When I found myself at a holiday party where those old feelings would arise (they often do), I just reminded myself of how I wanted to remember this event. Do I want to remember having fun? Hugging family? Eating good food? Spending quality time with loved ones? Or did I want to remember how self-conscious I felt about my arms, even though, in reality, I was the only one thinking about them? The answer has always been clear. 

When you exist in a slightly larger body than what society has deemed beautiful, it’s easy to look at big events as a time to prove your worth to others. To prove that you’re attractive, or healthy, or stylish. For years, I felt this way about holiday outfits without even realizing it. It wasn’t until I finally believed I was worthy of feeling good, and that that was enough, that I began making memories that felt good, too. 

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