I Have Big Thighs

Surfing Flickr, I ran across a photo taken surreptitiously of a woman sitting in a subway. Her above-the-knee skirt is slightly parted to reveal her large thighs. It was posted with the following commentary:

Just wanted to point out that mini dresses really aren’t flattering – especially on…larger women. The buttons were straining, and if it weren’t for the size of her thighs, I could have seen her crotch! That’s just WRONG. Cover your privates, people! Or at least cross your legs.

I have big thighs. I do. Big thighs, big hips and big legs, too. And it doesn’t really matter what size I am. My bottom half is big when I am a size 8. It is big when I am a size 22. It is big when I run every day and the same when I am in winter couch potato mode. This is how I am made–big on bottom. I have always felt self-conscious about wearing some dresses, because my juicy thighs prevent me from pressing my knees together as is “ladylike.” And I had an “A-ha!” moment today about the bigitude of my below when I read this jerk’s comment: I need to get over it.

Flashback: It’s June 1987 and I’m graduating from high school. I’m graduating third in my class, in fact–an accomplishment that earns me a spot on the dais, where I try really hard to press my legs together tightly, uncomfortably crossing and uncrossing. After the ceremony, my mother shares that a woman (who, in hindsight must have been a horrible human being) said to her, “You must be so embarrassed.”

I didn’t flash anyone. My drawers were well covered by dress, hosiery and gown. The dress was not a mini, but even knee-length dresses ride up when you’re juicy. My sin was that my knees parted, despite all my effort, and that, apparently, at least to one woman, was of more note than a 4.0+ GPA. This has been my memory of my high school graduation day for more than 20 years.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was rocking a cute spring dress and blazer. Got lots of compliments. And then, in the afternoon, I had to attend a meeting not at the typical conference table, but “in the round” with seats in a circle facing each other and no tables. Predictably, my dress, which was a perfectly appropriate length for the workplace, rode up over my knees, accentuating my thighs. Cue tugging and twisting and standing and then sitting for two awful hours. (Thank God no one was sitting across from me with a camera and a Flickr account.)

I stewed on this meeting for the rest of the afternoon, not because of the content of the gathering, but because I realized that I have been living with this insecurity for decades. Because thighs like mine have always garnered negative attention. They are either sexualized by strange old men on the street (Oooh, girl, you got some big pretty legs!). Or, they are thought gross, as in the Flickr caption above. Or sometimes both things at once. (A long time ago, a senior executive at an agency where I was working sniffed a comment about upcoming “new rules” about skirt length and appropriate dress, a look of disgust on her face. I was wearing a conservative black suit with a knee-length skirt–an outfit far more conservative than what some of my thin-thighed colleagues wore on the daily.)

For the first time, yesterday, I felt angry that I have been made to feel bad about something over which I have no control. My body is made the way it is made and it does certain things when confined by clothing. My skirts are guaranteed to slowly rotate backwards when I walk, because of the difference between my waist and hips. And when I sit down, even the longest skirt or dress is going to ease up. And this is not indecent.

The image of the woman in the subway reads as “indecent,” because our culture views fat as indecent and largeness in women as indecent. The woman who snapped the photo was in no danger of seeing her fellow passenger’s “crotch.” She could see knee and thigh. And I submit, if the thighs had been thinner, there would have been no outrage. I see women showing far more leg on public transportation all the time. Her beef isn’t with “mini-dresses.” (The dress in question is not a mini, anyway.) Her beef is that some fat woman dared to allow her fat legs to be seen in public. And fatty Fattersons should stay covered up.

This isn’t a post where I tell you that I have cast off my thigh insecurity and that this year I will wear my summer skirts fearlessly. We all know it’s not that easy. But I have realized that my shame is sickness. And that it is undeserved. And that I feel a certain power just saying: I have big thighs.

Adapted from a post originally published on What Tami Said on March 17, 2011.

Photo from the 2010 Love Your Body campaign. 


  1. Thank you for writing this.

    • insecure ” little”guys are always down on big women, because they are “small” and insecure or they like the skinny gals because they look like little boys!!!
      i and a lot of guys love big women; and i am confident i can satisfy them every day of the week! i always come ready for everything she can do and come back for more!!!!
      so ignore those “small” insecure guys

  2. Great article and good for you! That tugging and twisting you refer to is miserable and unfairly experienced (and unvoiced for the most part!). What a horrible memory to have to carry from your high school graduation – and you were third in your class?!?! That's so badass!

  3. anonymous says:

    Thank you! I have been insure about my thighs since I was a kid. I was a gymnast so, 20 years later, it's not possible to reduce their size! I avoid skirts and dresses like the plague. I don't anticipate that changing soon, but it is nice to hear another woman's struggle & thoughts on the subject. Most trousers I buy are the right size in the waist but too tight on the thighs, or perfect on the thighs but too large in the waist. It is hard to work on this biggotry or feel secure in our thighs when it's hard to buy clothes that account for our body type.

  4. I love love love this article! I understand feeling angry. A while back I lost around 20 lbs and yet I still wear the same pants size, how ridiculous is that?! My thighs just wouldn't budge an inch. And don't get me started on skirts. It's incredibly frustrating, but nice to hear from someone else who deals with the same problem.

  5. thank you for writing this soo true__same reason they banned those"racy" lane bryant ads__too much power in curves!!

  6. Thank you for writing this. My mom called my thighs "thunder thighs" from the time I was a little girl. I think she didn't see the impact really because she said everyone in our family had them, but even after I lost weight, I still have pretty big thighs. I don't like wearing skirts or shorts even when it's extremely hot outside! So messed up. I don't know what else to say other than I just really appreciate you writing this.

    • I think women too often are valued on appearance, even by other women. Saying to someone, "oh you look so thin!" seems to make us feel better than, "congrats on graduating in the top 5% of your class!" it's weird.

    • Apple Pie Crust says:

      I have fat thighs too (and my mum always teased me for them as well — she also has skinny legs; my fat thighs and hips are from my dad's side) and I've always hated them.
      Unlike most of the women commenting here, I've actually always preferred to wear skirts and dresses, because then my thighs are covered by fabric. Trousers and jeans actually show their girth. I can never never never wear shorts — I've tried, but then looking in the mirror makes me cringe.

    • Katie you must realize that alot of men like girls with big thighs,me ,I love them.


  7. Great article. I'm 5'10" and have a naturally athletic build, so even at my absolute leanest my thighs aren't in the least bit small, but they carry me through every single day and every run with no problems. I've had snarky comments from shopkeepers, gross comments from men everywhere and dealt with my ex-ballerina 5'3" mother constantly telling me to lose weight off my legs, lest I look like a "dyke". One of the worst feelings in the world to is be criticized by complete strangers who will never live a SINGLE DAY in YOUR body. Your self-confidence plummets and it's often difficult to regain it.

    It's nobody's business to put you down for the size of your legs, or the size of any of you, for that matter.

    • I have large legs since i am a swimmer and i am afraid to wear dresses but what i learned is that it doesn’t matter because people will only see u for a few seconds then your gone. If you just have fat legs and they aren’t muscle then try to wear longer dresses.

  8. Thank you for this <3

  9. I like the points you make. They're true. Women are told in so many ways that they're only valuable if they're thin. Since fat is unacceptable, it must be covered up. It's something to be ashamed of, something "indecent." If a full-figured woman and a rail-thin woman both wear the same low-cut top, which one is more likely to be considered "indecent" ?
    I did want to point out that thin women are not exempt from constant scrutiny of their bodies and how they dress them. I'm quite small — size 4, kinda boyish in the hips/waist, average-sized chest — and I still relate 100% to what Tami wrote about sitting in work meetings, constantly tugging down my skirt and adjusting so no one would think I was "slutty" or "distracting."
    Nothing at all was wrong with my attire, but we've all had this "be a LADY" notion drilled into our heads all our lives. "Be impossibly attractive, at all times – but not too sexy. Don't distract men, because if you do, it's your fault, not theirs."
    It's just hard being a woman in general, no matter your size.

  10. Wonderful! Love that you call this for what it is–not a problem with mini-dresses at all. Thanks for this!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I only pay attention to fashion when I’m watching Project Runway; my clothes are all chosen for comfort. But I wear skirts and dresses in the summer–long, flowing, full-skirted ones that don’t bind and don’t ride up. I also have had that speech about keeping my knees together–from a college roommate that was supposedly telling me for my own good. With friends like that . . .

  12. Excellent column!

  13. Thank you for naming this particular evil! This is how I feel wearing shorts – although I wear them anyway. I tell myself that if anyone doesn’t like how they ride when I walk, it’s their problem, but that’s a difficult thing to believe. I think you have helped immensely.

  14. Betty Forde says:

    What was the origination of Ms. Magazine:, to support women in their views, bodies, etc. Did Gloria Steinen not go undercover at the "Playboy Club" to bring attention to exploitation of women?. Wow, now Ms, is publishing commentary on dress codes?. Personally, I would not be caught dead in a mini skirt, slim or fat. My comfort level has always been on the long side. With saying that, I simply smile when I see mini skirts being yanked down because they ride up; however, if that is your comfort level, so be it. Some people wear burkas, some wear minis. It is your choice, or not. If your self-respect dictates mini skirts or long skirts or dresses or even burkas, criticism comes along with all, so expect it, it won't go away. Slim and not slim people live in this world, get use to it. What I am happy about is that fashion is now recognizing that we are all "not the same size" and it is being recognized by people other than makers of mumu dressing. Thanks.

  15. Much thanks for sharing these experiences with us. I've always had big legs, big thighs and could never ever cross my legs "properly". For some time I thought something was physically wrong with me and wondered why I had such massive thighs that could never stack up like the girls in the magazines or on TV. Memories of horrid gym shorts in JHS come to mind. Later I rocked minis to no end and learned to love my shapely legs. I still do. Go on with your juicy self!!

  16. FABULOUS. Thank you. I'm a firm believer that beautiful thighs come in every size. 🙂

    Your post made me think of my days as a middle school teacher where I was asked to enforce a dress code. I was always a rebel on the issue, because I saw that time and time again, the bigger girls were getting unfairly targeted. Shorts that were more than three inches above the knee would go unnoticed on the gals with tiny legs, but if the voluptuous 8th graders came anywhere close to the three-inch limit, it was noticed right away. The same was true with cleavage exposure. Low cut tops were totally acceptable for the waif-like girls, but the large-chested girls? It was pretty much turtle necks or else.

    • Chelsea Stevens says:

      I suffered the same problem at a Cosmetology trade school. Im not a big girl by any means, but am large breasted (DD). The school had no air conditioning and during the summer was well up into the 90's. I wore a V necked tank top one day, in a feeble attempt to not feel like i was in egypt. I was cornered by two teachers and told that I needed to change, as at least 6 other flatter chested, bony girls walked past. My sin was not the lower neckline, is was that I had something to fill it out. These girls shirts came to just as low a point on their chests, but had no cleavage to speak of.
      I was forced to wear a long sleeve cardigan over top, or go home to change and lose all the hours for that day, pushing my graduation date back and costing me overage charges.
      It was something I had no control over.

  17. THANK YOU. so well-articulated.

  18. equalityforwomen says:

    thank you so much for writing this article. I felt like the only woman with big thighs, who would cringe while trying on clothes hoping that the pants go over my thighs….shorts, swimsuits, forget it. I love the summer, hate the clothing. Although lately, even though I am "older" I have been embracing cute dresses with leggings…fashion sense be damned! It means a lot to read this article and and the comments. So nice to have a place to feel normal.

  19. THANK YOU!
    It sounds like I have a very similar body type to you. Big ass, big thighs, big hips. And I experience the same things you've described- from degrading, sexualizing comments from complete strangers, including creepy men telling me that I have a "ghetto booty" (which makes me angry on sooo many levels!) or hollering "nice ass" when I walk down the street in a pretty modest, knee length summer dress. It doesn't matter what you're wearing if you have some fat on you- you're doomed to being sexualized or scrutinized. Often both at once. It's taken me ages, but, on most (not all) days, I like my big ass. I like my fat thighs. I like my impossible-to-clothe hips. I know that when I stand in front of a mirror, I find what I see pleasing. I am trying to teach myself not to let these outside voices in. I know I like what I see and that should be enough! I still have bad days where I tug at my clothing and feel embarrassed or ashamed of my body, especially when I am trying to dress for work or job interviews or I am shopping for clothes, but I am getting better.

    I agree with Megan though- I think all women experience constant scrutiny and we are also taught to scrutinize ourselves. It doesn't matter if you are a size 0 or a size 16, you probably experience a certain level of body shame. A sense of "not measuring up". How many girls do you know who don't have a part of their body that they "hate"? And we're not even allowed to love our bodies because, if we do, we're "vain". We're expected not only to look attractive (but not too sexy) at all times, but to do it entirely for other people, because if looking attractive makes us feel good- it's vanity.

  20. Thank you! have been worried SICK all easter about whether or not to wear shorts in the summer for pe, or a school skirt 🙁 with my chunky legs and wobbley thighs i thought no way am i brave enough to grin and get on with all the comments that will surely be lobbed my way, but hey ima give it a go! if any body says a thing to me, My response will simply be, yep i got me a good pair o' fat thighs 😉

  21. Rachel says:

    This is coming to therapy with me. Thank you!

  22. Jillian says:


    Thank you for articulating what I’ve been living with for FIFTY (yes, 50!) years.

    I am 50 years old and I am a really good person. However, I am ashamed of my body, despite the fact that I am IMMENSELY grateful for my health. It’s my legs. I haven’t worn shorts, a short skirt, or a bathing suit in many many years. I have a young child who begs for me to swim with him. I will, only if no one else is around because I know that he is the only person not astounded by the size of my legs.

    The rest of my body is “normal”. My legs (even when I was an anorexic 99 pounds!) are just big. ANKLES included, so I can’t even wear capris.

    I swelter to the point of feeling sick all summer long. Because of all of this I HATE SUMMER and I dread that it is upon us once again.

    If anyone can email me thoughts of how to dress without covering every inch of my body all summer, I will accept advice for sure.

    Thank you again to the author of this article and to all who wrote comments in response.


    • H. Gardner says:

      I know it has been awhile but lands end has beautiful bathing suits that cover in all the right places. Also wearing Bermuda shorts and their Eddie bauer boyfriend cropped jeans were great for me. I have to have them altered I the back waist though. Also Sahalie and lands end have leggings with a little mini skirt I’ve the top. I feel very cute and covered in those. I turned 46 this year and has always had skier thighs and struggle with jiggly thighs. So the longer shorts and leggings with skirt are great.
      Bless you we women with womens’ bodies need to lift each other up.
      Holly g.

  23. Cassandra says:

    we only have one life to live. It doesnt matter what other people say. Make yourself happy. I have big legs. i mean really big. it was my first time wearing shorts when went to the beach (in my whole life). i look at everybody and see who will look at my legs and laugh but apparently, nobody was looking so i was thinking maybe its just my insecurities.

    but yes im going out this weekend and well rock those big favolous beyonce legs =)

  24. slurp812 says:

    My woman has large thighs,and I praise then every chance I get. Cant keep my hands off of them. She is medium build, but bottom heavy. I love it. I cant stand the pencil girls with large breasts. BTW, I am a white guy, so don’t even start with the stereotypes.

    • Iliana Echo says:

      No stereotypes, but frankly I find your comment offensive. I naturally have a 27 inch waist and wear a DD cup. I hate being treated like an unnatural freak as much as any larger woman does. I eat normally (if anything I’m a little heavy on the chocolate and carbs) and I never had implants, so quit treating me like I deserve less respect for happening to align with a magazine ideal.

    • We’d all appreciate it if you would leave the negative comments to yourself.
      I am a bigger girl. I do struggle with my self confidence day to day because of my size. I am a healthy active person. I have thick thighs, calves and waist. I also have large breasts. Usually I wear a DDD or G cup. I have very good friends who are naturally thin and have large breasts. Just because men oggle over boobs does not mean women don’t feel self conscious about them too.
      The only thing that anyone should not be able to stand is negativity about others appearances.
      Everyone, men and women alike need encouragement in their self worth. So we ask that before posting a comment take a moment to think about who you affect when posting.

  25. I agree with the picture;

    “Love your body” which is quite ironic since larger ladies obviously abuse their bodies. STOP CHUGGING THE CREAM CAKES!

    P.S my legs are larger than my waist too, it’s a pain and the chafe is a nuisance, so I guess I’ll need to lose more weight and exercise more and see if it helps though it hasn’t so far

    • I feel that your ‘STOP CHUGGING THE CREAM CAKES” comment was undue and insulting to many women, including those who1) eat healthily and still, because of their natural body type, are larger or curvier (same thing, in my opinion) than what many consider to be the ideal or to women who 2) think it’s their business what they eat, and that it’s not anyone else’s place to judge. I know I sound a bit like I’m on a soapbox, and I’m sorry if it’s not the time or place, but your comment struck me as very rude and negative.

      Side note: Sylvia, if you find yourself losing weight but your thighs are still the way they were before, it may simply be your body’s natural tendency to be larger on the bottom– don’t push yourself too hard and be safe! Best wishes.

  26. I’m a guy 5’7″, 180, my thighs are 24″,and I’ve benn working them two times a week for a year now . I want to grow them to at least 28″maybe 30″, I already like the feeling of them rubbing together a bit, I can wait until there’s major rub. I’ll let you know when i’m there.

  27. I have big thighs and I think they are sexy. I take care of myself, that’s just the way the are.

  28. galacticexplorer says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I have a girlfriend who has always been self-conscious of her hips and thighs, but I find her curves incredibly beautiful. She’s always shy to show them off. I wish there wasn’t such a stigma against these wonderful bodies. These women deserve better!

  29. Although I think women are beautiful at all sizes, I have to express my personal preference for plus-sizes. If you are a larger woman, or just have larger thighs, your self-esteem should be self-contained and not dependent on what some stranger (me)says about his taste. But lots of men (and women, too) really prefer a partner with a larger figure, contrary to what the media and the diet industry would have you believe!

  30. Hi. I stumbled upon your blog because of well, my big thighs. How I wish I could write something as fearless as this. Bravo to you. Keep rocking those skirts!

  31. I have large thighs myself, as a plus-size young woman with an hourglass-esque figure. I’ve always been very self-concious about my large legs, and I absolutely hate to wear bathing suits, shorts, or any leg-bearing garment, actually. I always keep a wrap on at the beach — even in the water! I refuse to wear anything above knee length when it comes to skirts or dresses, and no matter what, I always wear self-tailored mid-thigh-length leggings under skirts or dresses to get rid of the uncomfortable rub. I love this article, your unapolagetic attitude towards your natural shape is honestly wonderful!

  32. I am a teenager. I have enormous thighs and shoulders, people would think “hourglass”, but Im also knock-Kneed. This combination isn’t flattering to most anything and I am beyond familiar with the twisting and pulling on skirts. Pants are always tight on my thighs and loose around my calves and ankles, but those are better than the skirts that most of the girls at my school wear on uniform day. I am usually stuck with khakis and a dress shirt. I used to hate my body, but after reading this, I think I’m closer to accepting it. Thank you for writing. It makes a difference.

  33. To everyone whose thighs are larger than normal for your body size, and losing weight even to skinny doesn’t help; if your waist takes one size pants and your legs another, you might be suffering from a condition called “Lipedema.” Do yourself a favor and look up the research on it. It’s *not* normal, and the Mayo Clinic recognized it in the 1940’s.

  34. Ladies, a beautiful pair of shapely big thighs is extremely alluring. Forget those jerks of both sexes who prize the size zeroes. Real men like real women and zero ain’t real!

  35. This is an amazing post. Powerful but slightly sad too. I’m sorry that lady’s comments blighted the memory of you getting your diploma. I hope you do go out and rock those skirts and blazers. If it helps, I think most people (myself included) don’t notice the size only the style.

    You are awesome. You are beautiful. You are strong.

    x Elena

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