Shopping when you are a fat person is not easy, let me tell you. Ask anyone who is slightly larger than a size L and the answer will be pretty much identical: I can never find clothes that fit me properly and look good at the same time. Fats of ours have been left out of buying and trending expertise for a very long time and while we do have a few plus size selections available they are mostly US and UK focused and not widely available. If discovering high quality, locally made plus size clothing is a daunting task in the US, don't even get me started on how complicated it is to typically do the same thing in Mexico (where I'm from) and Latin America. Although Latinx women are stereotypically identified as "curvy," the plus-size market is still relatively small, if not non-existent.
Don't get me wrong, there are a few brands here and there that try to vary that, but since they all operate on an online-only basis, the scenario remains mostly the same: if you're a fat person, the possibilities However, the chances of being included in the regular shopping experience are low to zero. We can't go through clothes racks without worrying about whether the store even carries our dimension. We don't have to try on tons of clothes and ask our friends what they think before we buy something. If we want a plus-size Latin American design, we now have about a dozen options from four or five small brands.
I stumbled across Laura Agudelo's Instagram profile here, which was considered one of my many (many, many) procrastinating scrolling binges a few weeks ago. Her fashion immediately captivated me; It's not often that I see other fat Latinas who are so playful and daring with their clothes. I realized that she was not only a blogger (the kind that still updates her blog La Pesada de Moda after 12 years and not only posts pretty photos on Instagram - really a dying breed!) and a trainer, she has also been for 17 years a full fledged plus size activist for colombian ladies. I knew I needed to know more about her so I DMed her. All I can say is that the full never meet your heroes deal doesn't apply to Agudelo.
You don't dress like a fat person! You look great!
Her fat activism began in the early 2000s, like many of Fat People's fashion-related initiatives: because we can't find clothes that are beautiful and at the same time fit our bodies. In 2005 she hooked up with a close friend who worked at a newspaper. While not a fan of the eye, Laura realized the only way to start a dialogue was to do something talkative. She agreed that the best way to get people talking about fat people and fat fashion is to plaster their face in the Sunday paper. One article slowly became two. Two became three, three became four, and so on.
Two years later her love for blogs began. She started following trend blogs, getting inspiration from them and applying that to her everyday wardrobe. It didn't take long for her to receive comments alluding to her amazing style: "You don't dress like a fat person! You look amazing!". She quickly realized that she was dressing normally rather than dressing in all black to cover her body (as is commonly expected of fat people). She wore bold prints, bright colors and rounded Textures and cuts off; she had fun with her styling and it paid off.
"Back then there wasn't a choice that appealed to me, so I decided to write down what I knew, which was not being able to find the clothes I needed to wear. I replicated the exact same "outfit post" mannequin that I've seen on other bloggers and went from there," says Agudelo. She started posting her pics every day, which she admits isn't that keen on doing, but she's aware that her photos serve a clear purpose: "I wish other fat women would realize that one in one can decorate a different method than what we 'expected'; in a way that makes us feel good.”
"I want to show that fat women have the potential to take full body photos of their appearance despite being crazy and brave," says Agudelo. “I have to show off how I look when I'm out and about living my life; not because I think I'm basically the trendiest fat woman in Colombia, but because I think it's important to normalize fat women who flaunt their bodies and ways."
After all, being a fat trend blogger wasn't enough to make the kind of change Laura needed in Colombian trend trading. After a very difficult period in her life, she came up with the concept of creating the very first exclusive plus size pop-up store, GORDA Salón de Moda Plus Size, composed entirely of locally made Colombian trend manufacturers. What also started in 2019 with just 5 disparate brands is now a biannual weekend pop-up event featuring over 18 plus size Colombian fashion brands, workshops and conferences. It's an area where fat women can enjoy the joys of working together in the fashion industry like fat people don't. "GORDA could be a place to shop, positively, but it could also be therapeutic if people let it," Agudelo mentions in one of her TikToks about the event.
To be half of GORDA, the producers have to be 100% Colombian. "We are open to brands in different parts of Latin America, but our main focus is to respond to the needs of the Colombian public," says Agudelo. "We don't need a fast trend, we want manufacturers that are homegrown, create local jobs and have fair practices." Manufacturers who want to be represented in GORDA must have been on the market for at least four years. “It's non-negotiable,” says Agudelo, “as brands have enough time to get to know the industry and the fat girl customer: her insecurities, her buying behavior. Four years is ample time for these brands to develop the sensibilities that plus-size shoppers want.”
She's not wrong; The fashion industry as a whole is hugely fatphobic, even when size inclusion and fat activism are such burning issues. As a fat woman, I'm used to getting dirty or humorous looks from rude salespeople wherever I shop — even if I'm not looking for myself. I really feel like I don't belong. Fat people are individuals who are used to being abused and bullied into believing that our bodies and existence are fake and that we are unfit to be in the fashion business.
Many brands need to understand that crafting plus-size styles isn't just about adding a ton of inches to a pattern; we not only need bigger clothes, we want clothes that fit us. Making plus size fashion means understanding how fat our bodies are in clothes and understanding tips on how to make clothes for our bodies with chubby bellies, big arms and small backs. We're not all the "ideal" curvy image portrayed to us in the media.
For this reason, Agudelo collaborates with the Arturo Tejada Cano University, a style and marketing school in Bogotá, Colombia. She is creating the first-ever plus size design masterclass in Colombia, ready to start this fall semester. For the first time ever, trending Colombian students (or anyone who wants to join in, as classes may be available virtually) will learn how fat bodies appear in the clothes they design. One small step for Colombian fashion students, one giant leap for the fashion industry at large.
When I graduated from trend faculty in Mexico nearly a decade ago, I was the only fat graduate; I had hopes and desires as big as my measurements. But I was thrown into an industry that despised and excluded people like me, and did little to attract us as potential clients. Because of figures like Laura Agudelo, I'm confident that new Latinx designers have the sensibilities and tools needed to create the change that the Latinx plus-size style industry desperately desires.