25 April 2016

Time, As A Symptom

I've been finding it difficult to "dress up" as of late. Not even dress up, per se. Just getting dressed in anything that isn't leggings, a striped tee, and my go-to Dr. Marten boots can feel like a challenge. This isn't particularly unusual for me. If ever I'm stressed out or anxious or not feeling the ~life situation~ I'm in at any given moment, my style takes a big hit.
Unfortunately, this is something of a vicious cycle. As someone who loves fashion and beauty, the clothes I'm wearing and the makeup I put on all have the potential of affecting my mood. I think the same is true for a lot of folks. My partner, for example, can't get on with much if he stays in his PJs all day. Relaxed clothing, for him, isn't conducive to much productivity. For me, it's more about a sense of playfulness. My base state is reveling in the kitschiest of prints and loudest of colors — wearing Peter Pan-printed dresses and cupcake bodysuits like there was no tomorrow. And whenever I don't, I miss it.
It's natural to go through ebbs and flows when it comes to getting dressed. This is likely because it's natural to go through ebbs and flows regarding mental health or your career or your relationships or just about anything in this life. But I know that, psychologically and for whatever reason, putting in some kind of effort to feel cute and quirky can make a huge difference in my day-to-day.

Mustering up the initial effort is difficult at times. But 90 percent of the time, it's worth it.
The last few months, I've opted for basic upon basic: T-shirt and jeans combos, leggings and tunics, '90s mom jeans, solid-hued dresses, or loose-flowing silhouettes.

I gravitated toward this Maggy London Times Curve Bib Front Tunic at a time when dresses with any kind of embellishments, zippers, fastenings, or detailing seemed a more daunting concept than losing Jon Snow for good. But what I loved about it from the very get-go was the versatility. The beauty of "basics" is that they can be styled in a myriad of ways: Be it on their own, for an easy breezy look, or with neon-scrunchied baby buns and an old checkered shirt for more of that aforementioned quirky vibe.
I've been trying to take sartorial baby steps in the last few weeks: I put on something simple, like this dress — something that slips on and falls loosely so I don't feel constricted or imprisoned in any way. Then I pair it with some wacky accessories or a statement lip color or a funky hairdo to elevate my mood. And the thing is, it almost always works.

I love this dress because I know it’ll serve me well. I’ll wear it as a cover-up at the beach. I’ll wear it on days when I just DGAF about much and want the quickest, cutest option I can find. I’ll wear it when I need a foundation for something a little bolder — á la this baby buns look. I’ll wear it with a cardigan and knit tights in winter. It’s multi-purpose in the truest sense of the word (at least, the truest sense of the word in my book), meaning it’ll have my back regardless of my mental or emotional state. 

01 March 2016

Standing In The Way Of Control

Musician and designer Beth Ditto was one of the first fat women I ever saw naked besides myself. Her now-legendary covers for NME and LOVE Magazine presented me, and who knows how many others, with images of an unapologetic fat babe who wasn’t ashamed of her rolls or wobbles or cellulite. In 2007 and 2009, respectively, this was a rarity. There were few mainstream voices, if any, telling us that it was OK to be fat. There certainly weren’t many telling us that fat could be beautiful, powerful, desirable, bold, or successful, and doing it all while being visibly and proudly fat and wearing some of the tightest, most metallic lycra jumpsuits you’ve ever seen. Before “body positivity” went mainstream in 2015, before game-changing bloggers like Gabi Gregg or Nicolette Mason or Callie Thorpe, there was Ditto. 

In late 2015, Ditto announced that she’d be launching an independent collection the following year. But in the interim, she released this T-shirt dress in collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier (a design house that is actually one of the most inclusive on its runways). The image is clearly striking: That of an hourglass, feminine, corseted chest and abdomen.
On the opposite side, we can see the back of the corset, with actual laces that can change the fit of the garment depending on how tight or loose you want it to fall. The boobs are pointed, and the whole thing feels like an image of a femme robot living in fearlessness of its sexuality. But more than all that, I think this plus size piece is a metaphor.

A lot of fat babes are taught that inside them lives a skinny woman waiting to come out: She is happy, she is “healthy," she is confident, she is sexy. So many of us live our lives striving to ~help~ her come out. We diet, we binge, we purge, we buckle, we tuck. But we don’t have to. And that’s what I feel this image represents.
Thinking back to my childhood self, my teenage self, my early adult self, I mourn for all the time I lost striving to be different, not to mention the harm I put my body through, all in the effort of helping Skinny Marie crack the surface. The thing is, there isn’t a “thin woman within us all.” Yes, you can lose the weight; you can shed the “excess,” but at the end of the day, unhappy people tend to stay unhappy. And the number on the scale very rarely changes how we actually feel about ourselves.
That’s one of the infinite things diet culture — and our culture at large — doesn’t tell you, though. Everything is promised to us if only we make those “lifestyle” changes. “When I’m thin, I will travel. When I’m thin, I will lose my virginity. When I’m thin, I will be beautiful. When I’m thin, I will love myself. When I’m thin, everything will be better.” That was the running dialogue in my head for years, and I know it’s the same for a lot of fat humans. 
The truth? You don’t need to shed any pounds to start feeling good about yourself. You don’t have to shed any pounds to find romance, have brilliant sex, build a great platform or career, or to deserve acceptance. You just have to make a conscious effort to disregard beauty standards and societal sizeism. You have to look at all the mainstream visuals you’re being presented with — all the entertainment, magazines, movies, television shows, advertisements — that only celebrate one primary body type, and confront the absurdity of that. You have to look around you IRL, acknowledge the reality we live in (one where bodies come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, styles, races), and question why the hell we only see the white, the thin, the cis, the able. There is no justifiable reason for this exclusion, of course. So there’s no reason to cater to it or mold your life around it.
To me, this dress is a direct confrontation to all the so-called rules and social guidelines that tell me and other fat women that we have to transform. I am fat, I love my fat, and that’s the narrative I want to live in. The petite individual's frame depicted on this T-shirt dress symbolizes the fact that I don’t have to look like her. She might be close to the status quo in terms of mainstream aspirational beauty tropes. But she is not me. Me is fat. And me doesn’t have to be anything otherwise. 

27 February 2016

There You Stood On The Edge Of Your Feather, Expecting To Fly

As someone who loves glitter, sequins, trippy prints, and a good slogan T-shirt, "basics" have always translated to "boring" in my mind. I mean, why would you wear a plain denim dress when you could wear an all-over sequin jumpsuit? But since working full time, my style has admittedly made room for the simpler things in life.

Before moving back to New York for work in late 2014, I hadn't worn jeans in years (at least more than, like, twice a month), and certainly not plain tees. I'd tossed any dress aside that reminded me a little too much of the department store options in my hometown mall in Jersey. Basically, anything that didn't make me feel glam and queenly and overtly fatshionable was off the table.
But then I started my job, which involves a 90-minute commute one way. And all those grown-up, real-world worries I'd had previously about less time spent with my partner and friends, less time to focus on personal projects, less time to get ready in the morning proved more or less true. It's not that the contemporary work schedule leaves no time for anything outside of your employment. It's more that in the time I do have (which is more limited than when I was a student and freelancer), my priorities have shifted.

Much like "Netflix and chill" has become priceless in the evenings, 30 extra minutes of sleep in the morning are now invaluable. Most days, I'd rather wear something comfortable, cute, and easy that doesn't require a lot of time to put together or think about.
That's kind of why I like a lot of the London Times Curve collection at Maggy London. Many of the dresses remind me of those you might find in plus sections of the aforementioned hometown mall department stores, but I mean that in a genuinely kind way. 

There's a city brunch vibe to the pieces that, when combined with bolder accessories, is pretty perfect for a Millennial's day at the office. They're the kind of outfits I can dress up to look more or less bold, depending on the occasion or how visible I want to be on any given day. And most have just enough detailing to avoid blending in and going sartorially unnoticed. I definitely think that's true of this Denim Lace T-Shirt Dress.
The sleeves are my favorite part. They remind me of a lot of things I used to wear in high school, so I can't help but feeling kind of young and carefree in it. 

Granted, plus size fashion options were so painfully limited back then that I cringe to think of half the shit I used to wear. But I do know that a staple in my life from ages 15 to 18 was the T-shirt dress. The ones of my youth were always pretty doldrum, though: The kind of things you'd buy for $5 at Costco or BJs because the grocery store was apparently where fat women had been relegated to shop. This T-shirt dress doesn't feel like that. It just feels like the solution to all those mornings when I want to feel like a cutie but can't be bothered with zips or strings or tightness or buttons or any kind of unnecessary constriction.
I paired the look with the Lucy Layered Chainbelt in Gold from Ready To Stare. Designer and writer Alysse Dalessandro fights for the visibility of fat women in everything she does, and her chain belts are the perfect example. They're the kind of accessory that demands attention. They're not the sort of thing you'd wear to "hide" your body or pretend to be "slimmer" in. In this case, the Lucy Chainbelt was just the thing to elevate a more classic closet staple into levels of subtle edginess. I always love to feel like I'm breaking a so-called plus size fashion rule when I get dressed in the morning. And this belt helped me do just that while staying perfectly comfy in the denim dress.

Maybe a month ago, Ariel (Kiddotrue), one of the most poignant, real voices on social media, wrote a status about how it's not uncommon for straight size bloggers to post outfits that are more or less simple — think jeans and striped tees, or the most basic dress. But that it's a lot rarer to see plus bloggers do the same.

For me, posting "simpler" ensembles has always felt challenging. Maybe as a fat woman, I feel like I always have to be "interesting" in order to be more accepted in Cyberspace. Or maybe it's the age-old adage of not wanting to feel like I'm not ~trying at life.~ But the truth is that I don't always want to dress in the OTT looks, and I don't. My real life isn't always tutus and polka dots and platform sweater shoes. Sometimes it's all about a simple dress. And I'm digging this one and the nostalgia feels its happening to evoke.

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