Culture

How A Strawberry Dress On TikTok Sparked Debate About Thin Privilege And Fatphobia

The strawberry dress became a trend six months after Tess Holliday originally wore it.

strawberry dress fatphobic

On Monday, plus-size model Tess Holliday tweeted that “society hates fat people”.

The claim came after she shared a video of herself in a strawberry dress from the Grammys earlier this year, with the caption: “I like how this dress had me on worst dressed lists when I wore it in January, but now because a bunch of skinny people wore it on TikTok everyone cares”.

What Is The Strawberry Dress Everyone’s Suddenly Obsessed With?

The dress in question is the $490 USD Lirika Matoshi ‘Strawberry Midi Dress’, which goes from a size XS to XXXL — sizing that’s quite rare for a small brand to offer.

Simply put, the dress is popular because it’s universally pretty. It speaks to the current romantic and nature-filled “cottagecore” aesthetic sweeping over TikTok, with its soft pink tulle, glittery strawberries and frilly puffed sleeves. It’s the type of dress that you’d imagine a Disney princess frolicking around a secluded garden in as woodland creatures follow in tow.

Yet, the dress is still something that you could imagine a celebrity wearing on the red carpet — the exact thing that Tess Holliday did at the 2020 Grammy awards earlier this year. Plus, given that it’s also currently Summer in the US right now, there’s no surprise that demand for the strawberry dress increased by 738 percent from July to August, according to New York Post

Like with most trends on TikTok, people fell hard and fast for the strawberry frock when it entered their feeds as people paired it with cottagecore tune, ‘Strawberry Blonde’ by Mitski.

But unlike cloud bread or Dalgona coffee, which is cheap to make and readily accessible for most, the strawberry dress isn’t. At $490 USD a pop, getting your hands on one is a tough task — and even if you manage to, where do you wear such a fancy gown during a pandemic?

So instead, the desire to one day own the strawberry dress became a little inside joke for fashion fans on the app, which only made interest around garment skyrocket further over July and August. With sketches and memes of the dress making its way across to other social media platforms, the strawberry dress managed to become a phenomenon of its own if a few short weeks.

And for those who could afford the dress themselves, watching the excitement of others receiving it was a much needed serotonin injection for the pandemic blues.

But as the dress got increasingly more popular and people begun to edit the frock onto male celebrities and sketched gender neutral characters in it, the strawberry dress soon became a symbol of defying gender norms. This tied into the inclusive sizing offered by Lirika Matoshi meant that the gown quickly became more than just a dress — it was an unlikely symbol of inclusivity.

How Does The Strawberry Dress Highlight Thin Privilege?

Despite the strawberry dress being praised for its inclusivity, Tess Holliday feels that the dress reinforces the idea that those with bigger bodies are treated as “invisible” by society.

After Holliday voiced her thoughts about “society hating fat people” as Matoshi’s dress landed her on worst dressed lists, people noted that a quick Google search of the strawberry dress alongside Tess Holliday’s name actually saw the plus-size model place on a number of best dressed lists, not worst. In fact, the only search result found that critiqued Holliday’s look was by Wonderwall, who simply noted that the dress was “too playful” for a show like the Grammys.

Clarifying her point further, Holliday again tweeted that while she’s “aware some people said [she] looked nice in [her] Grammys dress” she never said that she “didn’t make best dressed lists as well as worst dressed”.

“Y’all are purposely ignoring the important part of my post: Society treats fat people like we are invisible,” she continued. “The minute someone who is in a smaller frame that’s deemed acceptable by societies standards does/wears the same thing, [people say] ‘omg this is revolutionary!'”

In that sense, Tess Holliday is correct. While she did receive praise for her dress back in January, it wasn’t until July that the dress really took off.

Despite being one of the first to wear the infamous strawberry dress over six months ago, Tess Holliday’s photos were ultimately ignored by the wider community. Instead of the dress becoming a trend when Holliday wore it, it only became popular after skinnier women started posting about it.

The strawberry dress discourse only adds to the growing criticism around fatphobia in society and the fashion industry.

Designers offering sizing beyond a large shouldn’t be impressive in 2020 — but it is.

People shouldn’t publicly shame those who use fast fashion to fill their wardrobes, while ignoring that ethical brands rarely think of plus-size women when selling clothing, but they do. Fat people shouldn’t be ignored when they start fashion trends, but they are.

The problem is, most of the time people aren’t fashionable, they’re just skinny. But when fat people are fashionable, it’s ignored because they aren’t skinny. When fat people wear high-waisted shorts and a t-shirt, it’s often deemed sloppy and unflattering, but when skinny celebrities do the same their looks are labelled “effortless chic”.

This is what Tess Holliday is trying to highlight when she says “society hates fat people” — especially when she started 2020’s most popular dress trend at the start of the year without any credit.