‘Shrill’ Review: I Waited Decades to See a Stylish Fat Woman on TV—and Now I Have It

Unfortunately, most of the things Bryant wore on Shrill were custom, because costume designer Amanda Needham couldn’t find as many tailored, smart, well-made pieces that would fit Annie’s style (and body) as she needed. “I wanted to normalize a woman of that size being fashionable. You never really see super-stylish, put-together girls in that size on camera,” says Needham. “I just could not believe that we hadn’t seen anything like this before and that there wasn’t anything off the rack that represented these characters that we wanted to see. Why can’t people over a size 8 or even 14 feel confident in their body and have options to wear?”

Annie and her best friend Fran on Shrill

Allyson Riggs/Hulu

And talk about options. For a night out, Annie puts on a sequined party dress. It's everything I was always told—or told myself—I “couldn’t” wear: short, sparkly, form-fitting, and bold. Needham custom-made this dress to put a “middle finger to all of that,” she says, and show that plus-size women can wear whatever the hell they want.

“You don’t have to wear a caftan. You don’t have to disappear. Who is in charge of body confidence? Why can’t we each be in control of that for ourselves? So we went shorter. We went higher with the heel. We went loud. We went sparkly because she deserves that,” Needham explains.

Annie’s sequined dress was a highlight of her wardrobe on Shrill. It’s everything I was told I “couldn’t” wear.

Allyson Riggs/Hulu

If that dress was the opening act, the headliner was the pool party, which flashes back and forth between Annie as a kid and her life now as an adult. It's by far the most body-positive, thrilling moment of the series. It's also the moment that made me cry the most. I can't count the number of times that I’ve been in a bathing suit around other people, worried about what they’ll say or think about me. Since she was wearing a button-down and jeans, it seemed as if she wasn’t going to embrace her body. But by the end, she found herself letting go and dancing to Ariana Grande amongst beautiful, proudly jiggling bodies of other plus-size women. And Needham says Annie's revealing her bathing suit underneath was representative of a “real emotional breakthrough.”

Annie dances at the Fat Babe Pool Party in a button-down and jeans.

Allyson Riggs/Hulu

The scene, says my friend Leah, “is a reminder that you’re your own harshest critic—I didn’t feel like I was picking apart all those women’s bodies, so why do I feel the need to do that to myself?”

Another friend, Maggie, agreed, recognizing this moment from her own life: “It’s when you decide that you're going to stop hating yourself and you don't care what other people think. It's so powerful when that finally clicks in your brain, and it was moving to see it play out on screen. I kept thinking about how much this show would've affected me if I had seen it when I was a teenager. I'm sorry that she never got to see anything like it.”

Later, Annie reveals her swimsuit underneath.


Behind the scenes, filming the pool party was an emotional experience too, according to Needham. “Going in, a lot of women probably assumed there would be nothing for them to wear. But we went all out to present a world of options and cater to every single woman,” she says. “By the end, everyone was crying. We had this moment of just being human and being seen together in a way that was just nice. Everybody just accepted each other, and everybody felt so beautiful, and it just really came through on camera.” I'd argue that the clothes—having options, and plenty of stylish ones—were a big part of that.

I may still be learning to love myself and only scratching the surface of dressing for myself, not for the prying eyes of others. (Next up, the Savage x Fenty bra that Annie absolutely slays in.) I hope that there’s more Shrill to help me through the hard times of self-doubt and to remind insecure teenagers like I once was that they're worth more than the number on the scale. I’d love to get to the point where I can say, like Annie, “I’m the one with the fat ass and big titties, so I get to decide what we do” if a man treats me wrong. But for now, I’m starting with taking some more stylistic risks, inspired by Shrill. And if fashion companies start to deliver more fashion that size-20 bodies like mine can actually buy, it might just spark a revolution.

Alyse Whitney is a proudly plus-size Korean-American woman who is the senior food editor at Rachael Ray Every Day and a longtime contributor at Glamour. Follow her: @alysewhitney.

Published at Mon, 25 Mar 2019 19:30:00 +0000