Unless you've been living in a cave for the past two years, it would have been impossible not to notice the dramatic changes that have taken place in the world of fashion where us plus-size girls are concerned.
With the likes of Tess Holliday, Candice Huffine and Ashley Graham hitting the headlines on a regular basis, I decided that now would be as good a time as any for me to finally ditch the obligatory fat girl uniform of baggy, saggy and black clothes; and slide into something less like a sack with arm holes.
Clothes shopping as bigger girl, has never been a pleasurable experience. Thing's rarely fit as hoped and venturing into the changing rooms for a try-on is the stuff of nightmares, however, I remained hopeful.
Purchasing online (and trying on in the safety of the bedroom with blackout curtains drawn and children banished on pain of death) accounts for a massive percentage of spending these days.
Before I commenced my spending spree, I decided it would be a good idea to seek guidance and inspiration from these luscious women that are leading the way, and as luck would have it a video of Ashley Graham strutting her stuff on the catwalk, popped up on my Facebook news feed.
The woman is a goddess!!!
I was in awe. Bum, hips and boobs and yes some extra curvy bits in between. Beautiful. And so much confidence! I was blown away.
It was the first time I'd ever found myself thinking "Wow! Maybe I don't need to hide in the shadows for fear of people being repulsed by my size!" A thought, that I've heartbreakingly found since beginning my research into the plus-size world, is a silent mantra for many women who don't tick the required boxes for today's definition of beauty.
And then I made the mistake of clicking open the comments on the original post.
I was shocked and saddened by what I read.
The odd (deserved) positive comments were utterly drowned out by a sea of venom. Don't get me wrong, I believe in the freedom of speech (of course); and I understand that we all have different tastes, different perceptions. And the debate over what is healthy or not, is expected when photos appear of individuals with a higher BMI than the medical professionals suggest is good for us. But when the hell did that disintegrate into people going out of their way to literally rip other human beings to shreds. Many of the comments were unrepeatable. 'Disgusting, ugly fat bitch, revolting', were some of the milder responses. To make things even worse, the biggest chunk of these came from other women and very few of them would have ticked all those boxes either.
Why do women find it so hard to be supportive and encouraging of other women? Are we threatened or just nasty?
It's no wonder there are so many people out there, walking around, with low self-esteem. As if we don't all have enough pressure on us with photoshopped images flooding the media, both male and female. We now have to cope with an almost (at times) feral public arena. Too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, no one appears to be excluded from being a potential target for attack.
The majority of us know what the health risks are, and with the weight loss industry as bountiful as ever, many are at least attempting to address the issue. This shift is not about glorifying being overweight. They are not even saying that it's 'okay' to be overweight as some have translated it to be.
They are simply about feeling beautiful. Feeling good. Feeling confident. No matter what you look like. And that is okay.
No one has the right to tell you otherwise but so many of us have allowed ourselves to be 'put in our place (in the shadows)' for a very long time. It's a difficult state of mind to change but it needs to happen. En masse. A society in a general state of damaged esteem is never going to produce anything other than more of the same. No one was ever 'fixed' by continually being told how crap they were; by having insults hurled at them.
Perhaps I'm being naive in wanting people to see the best in others. To offer compliments instead of those insults. I don't get a kick out of making someone else's day miserable. Words are powerful. We can choose whether we use them for good or destruction, and it certainly makes me feel better about myself knowing I've made someone else smile.
Thank goodness, these changes look set to continue. High street names are slowly adapting their ranges. Smaller independent producers are responding even better and will often showcase online, a variety of plus sized models wearing their outfits, but there is a long way to go before the average woman is able to shop with the same freedom and enjoyment as those who are blessed with a UK size 6 - 14 figure.
The world would be a very grey place if we were all the same. We should embrace its colour.
Vive la difference!