My Uphill Battle to Interrupt Fatphobia with Tee Shirts

A few weeks ago I was at a three day seminar about building up businesses. I won a tee shirt from her merch table and I went to go pick it up. The business guru had about a dozen shirt designs and several styles to choose from. However, when I went to select my shirt there was no choice available for me because there wasn’t even a unisex shirt that came in a size that fit me.

This is not an unusual experience for me, or for many fat folks. It sucks to feel left out of the inventory of 95% of stores. I don’t like this feeling and I totally don’t want this experience for my customers for Fat Kid Dance Party. I’m interrupting fatphobia and it’s an experience where fat people are centered!

PDX tour stop day two!

I started Fat Kid Dance Party by thinking about who was left behind in dance aerobics. I started my tee shirt journey from the same mustard seed. Who is left behind with traditional tee shirts?

In justice circles, the general call is for shirts that go up to size 6X. This is difficult to find but I basically made it my mission to do it. I feel especially hurt by so-called intersectional feminist stores that don’t carry plus sizes, or barely make it to a 2X. I wanted to create a different experience for my customers.

It is really hard to find a size inclusive line of tee shirt blanks. Different size bodies need different fit configurations and a unisex shirt isn’t particularly comfortable for me as a person with boobs. Even a unisex size 2X basically only fits up to a size 24W. It’s not enough. If you’re in justice movements and you want to validate intersectionality, you need to offer a size range that includes fat people.

Me and Jake in Seattle!

“Women’s” cut shirts are almost never truly size inclusive, a 2X in that cut tends to fit someone who is more like a size 14 not a size 24. Plus size bodies require a different fit and most shirt manufacturers are lazy about it. Often people printing shirts for their merch aren’t focused on inclusion and aren’t accommodating actual human diversity. (I would say a full 15% of attendees at that business seminar wouldn’t have been able to fit a single shirt at the merch mall.)

I hunted around last August for my sized to 6X tee shirt blank solution and luckily Rachel Kacenjar was already creating that.

Rachel has been designing and curating plus size clothes for well over a decade. She was on the hunt for a really good plus size tee shirt blank and knew she needed to design one. A bigger neckhole, a better shape. She found a manufacturer whose minimum order was $50,000 and by cobbling together orders (mine was $1,000, I’m sure other folks had more) and doing the labor of fulfilling all of those sub-orders, she managed to get it done.

With Julia who won my MVP for “traveled the longest to get to class” award in Minneapolis!

It was no small feat, Rachel had lengthy back and forth with the manufacturer to get the fit right and we didn’t get our shirts until the beginning of February. However, the shirts are incredible and so worth the wait!!

I worked on tee shirt designs with Genuine Valentine, a tee shirt company that primarily serves non-binary and queer folks and their allies. GV is a print on demand tee shirt service so as orders come in they are printed and fulfilled by a behind-the-scenes third party. That third party only allows you to buy their blanks and they only go up to 4X in unisex.

Minneapolis!

Fat folks have likely experienced a vendor charging more for a 2X or above tee shirt! True, it costs more to produce because of slightly more fabric and I have experienced the customer annoyance of having to pay $3-$10 more than a thin person. Not surprisingly, the slow as molasses manufacturer charged $2 additionally between the 1X shirts and the 5/6X shirts.

Since my primary goal is to interrupt fatphobia for my customers as much as I can, I just calculated what my cost for all the shirts was and divided it by the number of shirts to determine my cost. I also extended the same price to the print on demand shirts so the cost of all shirts is evenly absorbed.

The nice thing about Genuine Valentine as the home for my online print on demand tee shirt sales is that I can easily do kids shirts and non plus size. (It’s referred to as “straight size” isn’t that funny?) I included some wording in the description letting customers know extended plus sizes are available through my website.

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The shirts are made in the USA in ethical factory, screen printed by queers of color, graphic designed by a non-binary person and in every way as diverse as I could make them. The shirt material is really soft and I love mine. Best tee shirt I’ve ever owned, actually. I LOVE that the printing takes up a lot of space on the tee shirt because the best part of having a larger body is more landscape for art! Tattoos! Clothing! More landscape looks great decorated! #moreismore

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Yay tee shirts helping me interrupt fatphobia—YET—having two sources for shirts is so confusing! I’m still working on the customer experience buying them online. Anyone anywhere can buy the print on demand shirts through Genuine Valentine, but how to get the internet the limited edition fat 4 fat designed babe adorned version?

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Since I got the shirts printed by Stuzo clothing I have been selling them in person at Fat Kid Dance Party classes and on my tour! It is validating and exciting to see my shirts out in the wild! I love the shirts so much I bought all the stock that Rachel the designer had left of them and am printing a fresh run.

My dream is to have people go up to people they see in a Fat Kid Dance Party shirt or with an enamel pin, water bottle or whatever and high five for self care! (Jazz hands are the no touch high five if you don’t like high fiving!)

Jenny, Dara (in the non crop top version from Genuine Valentine), Kristen and I didn’t plan to all wear the Self Loving AF crop tops at the same time.

The beautiful Fat Kid Dance Party website is still under construction. Once that’s done I’ll have a merch section. In the meantime I’ve struggled figuring out how to sell my on hand special plus size shirts in a temporary capacity without confusing things too much with the side piece that is the print on demand option. But nevertheless I persist and I’ve heard that if you’re not embarrassed by your first iteration you waited too long to launch.

I really know how to do a Facebook live sale like a QVC show! I’m excited to sell some of my cute fat vintage hoard and all the tee shirts I have on hand! I’ve been going live weekly with the Plus Bus for several months selling plus size clothing and love doing it!

So if you want a tee shirt, tune in live on my Facebook at 6PM PDT on Monday, April 9, 2018! Turn on notifications so you get reminded when I go live every day to talk about loving yourself more!

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