the body positive utopia of 1574: fashion, fantasy & inclusion at the renaissance faire

I have this fantasy.

It isn’t a complicated fantasy…at least, I don’t think so. In this fantasy, I can go shopping with my friends without any awkwardness or resentment. I don’t have to trudge after them through stores feeling ike an interloper, trying to pretend I think I might be able to find something that fits me there. I don’t have to deal with the sense of shame and selfishness that comes with asking them to follow me to stores where I know they’ll have the same experience that I just did.

I didn’t realize my fantasy had come true until later. When you’re used to being left out, it can be easy to miss the change. You know that something feels different, feels lighter somehow, but you can’t quite place it. For me, it wasn’t until I was in the shower (where I do all my best thinking), that it came to me.

At the renaissance faire, I don’t remember going into a single store that didn’t have a full range of sizes in stock.

I could write a whole, very pretentious essay about the constructed fantasy of the renfaire and how that interacts with this achieved fantasy of inclusion. But instead, I’ll stick to the facts. I went to my local renfaire (the Bristol Renaissance Faire) with some friends and the idle thought of shopping for a bodice. Another (petite) lady in the group was on a bodice hunt as well. As we combed through shops, there was always a solid selection of pieces for both of us to try on. There were women of all sizes working in the shops, and I never felt shy or uncomfortable letting one of them measure me. I never felt like I was getting the sloppy seconds of the straight-sized main course.

I found my bodice, and I felt like, well, a princess. I got to live out my fantasy of Elizabethan-era life, cheering on my knight in the joust, but I lived out a much more tangible fantasy too. One of acceptance and, honestly, normalcy. As briefly as I lived in the year 1574, I lived in a world where my body was apolitical and didn’t need to be commented on, apologized for, lifted up, or excused.

In past posts (like my plus size retro shopping guide), I’ve talked about the political importance of supporting size inclusive brands, but the social importance is so real too. Before you think about womankind, why not think about the woman beside you? I think sometimes we all just want to live an unremarked upon life without mere existence having to be some kind of statement. Women who like to shop (hi) just want to go to shopping with their friends. I think we can all give a hearty huzzah for that.

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