31 December 2013

The Brands That Made My 2013

A year ago, I was in the early days of blogging. Though I loved fashion, I didn't really know fashion. I had always assumed it was an industry working against me, not for me. I always felt oppressed and stifled by the lack of options available to someone of my size AND in my taste. It could be that plus fashion has drastically evolved in one year; it could be that through blogging I have simply become aware of the options that do exist for curvaceous women. Most likely, it's a bit of both.

This year has brought me so much more confidence when it comes to fashion. I have branched out of my comfort zones; I have mixed patterns; I have worn bodycons; I have embraced my rolls and not really given a damn if they've been visible through a sheer top; I've bought things in smaller sizes than I have in YEARS (not because I have lost weight but because I have experimented with sizing like never before). And it's been a fu*cking blast. I have met some of the most inspirational men and women I could ever hope to meet. I have gone to events I only could have dreamed of short while ago. And so I cannot help but love the brands that have made both just a little more possible. So on this, the last day of the year that gave so much, I wanted to give back just a little, and make note of the 10 brands that truly made my 2013: the brands that made clothes in my style that could also fit my substantially large ass -- the brands that gave me a glimmer of hope that things are looking up for 12+ gals like me.
  1. ASOS: I don't know why it took me so long to discover ASOS, but it has changed my life. It is a magical place for anyone hoping to mix grunge, vintage and street wear into one perfect fashion hybrid.
  2. Domino Dollhouse: DD is one of those brands you know is just going to change things. It's one of those places defying stereotypes and rebelling against the norm and fighting for individuality fiercely and stylishly.
  3. Bow&Drape: I was never into DYO anything until encountering Bow&Drape. Their customizable fashion is not only stunning and high-quality, but it is also made up to a size-18. #FTW. 
  4. Topshop: I avoided Topshop like the bloody plague for years. I presumed that because they don't carry over a size U.S. 12, U.K. 16 that there would be no way in the universe I could fit into anything they had to offer. But 2013 brought size experimentation, and with it, a new favorite store.
  5. Swimsuits4All: Swimsuits4All gave us the Gabifresh collection this beach season, and that was mind-blowing. For the first time LAST year, I wore a two-piece swimsuit. For the first time THIS year, I wore a two-piece swimsuit and felt beautiful. This brand made it happen.
  6. Taffy Activewear: Taffy Activewear brought me back into the spirit of working out for the health and emotional benefits, as opposed to the weight loss requirement it had always been in the past. Over a month later, I cannot believe I was able to model some of their collection for Plus Model Magazine. Still swooning.
  7. Mynt1792: Mynt 1792 embraced the design talent of bloggers like Nicolette Mason and Nadia Aboulhosn this year and created one of the most beautiful jacket collections I have ever seen. I cannot wait to save enough to purchase that rose pink moto jacket. Or maybe the clear jacket. Or maybe both.
  8. Urban Outfitters: I don't know how I managed to live in NYC for four years and NOT become addicted to Urban. Probably the same fear of small sizes I experienced with Topshop. Now, the hipster chic designs make my heart melt.
  9. ModCloth: ModCloth has been a huge part of my life for five years, but their plus expansion has been a godsend. Landing a modeling gig with them this year was just surreal.
  10. Hips & Curves: Last but never least, Hips and Curves. H&C was one of the first brands I was lucky enough to collaborate with, and modeling their lingerie was the biggest "out of comfort zone" thing I have done probably ever. I will always be grateful that they gave me a chance in such early days. AND that they sell epic plus lingerie. But, duh.
So thank you brands. Thank you designers. Thank you bloggers and photographers and magazines. You guys made this year one of the most (literally!) unbelievable ones to date.


As It Was In The Beginning, So Shall It Be In The End

Well, this is it, I guess: the last day of the year that changed so much. 2013. It was a big one. It was good. It was bad. It was one of the bests, and one of the worsts. 


This is the first year in a long time that isn't ending on a sour note. Normally, New Year's Eve is a hideous affair. We (I) put so much effort into it being the most memorable day of the year, that in turn it becomes one of the most horrid. It's a common predicament for most humans, I feel. 

This year I'm not going out. I'm not going to try to find the perfect party. I'm not going to pub crawl through the freezing Mancunian streets in a mini skirt and attempt to drown the chill in my bones with an obscene amount of booze. I'm just going to stay home, with the person I love, and think about all the good things that await us in 2014 (albeit, probably getting intoxicated whilst doing it).

I had a feeling (briefly) last NYE that 2013 was going to be a good one. And in so many ways, it really was. But I have an even stronger feeling that the one to come is going to bring about all the things I've been thinking about and dreaming about and thinking about some more. I have promised myself to do all the things I know I have to do, but also the ones I want to do. 

I felt the urge to dress up a bit more than usual today, because though I am staying home, it is still a special occasion. Instead of writing my essay (as I should be doing, I know), I'm just going to relax in this AX Paris snakeskin number while sipping mulled wine and listening to Bob Marley and cuddling Paddy. And I'm pretty pleased about this plan.

Get the look:
AX Paris Snakeskin Dress, SimplyBe£30
Leather Loafers, ASOS£33

30 December 2013

Plus-Size Barbie = Friend Or Foe?

I have received so many Google alerts regarding plus-size Barbie that I thought it was finally time to sit down and write about the hypothetical piece of plastic that has cyberspace in an uproar.

As I'm sure most of you know by now, Worth1000, a company dedicated to creative contests, is the initial source of the image that has so many people in a frenzy. When the Facebook group Plus Size Modeling shared the photo (created by artist bakalia) with the tagline, "Should there be a plus-size Barbie?" it generated instant global controversy, as could have only been expected. Comments were pretty bland, though. Those who were anti-plus-Barbie predictably spouted what we've all heard about the dangers of promoting obesity and encouraging unhealthy eating habits. Those who were pro-plus-Barbie applauded having a more fuller-figured doll to aid in size acceptance and body confidence among young girls. And many fell in-between, requesting Barbie have the dimensions of an "average" woman.

To be honest, this has racked my brain for days. Normally, I would be quick to say that a more realistically proportioned Barbie is what we need. I think that bakalia was hoping to create just that. But it kind of backfired. Though I would argue that plus-Barbie is not particularly obese in the body department (in fact, she's pretty standardly shaped, with fuller but not exaggerated features from the chest down), it's the face -- the chins -- that I cannot get over. Never in my life have I seen a human being possess three chins, no matter how large the number on the scale. It just doesn't happen. You can have a double chin, and your double chin can be rather noticeable, but you cannot have three chins as well as a neck. In a way, plus-Barbie's three chins make her look more unrealistic than regular Barbie, and that is a difficult feat considering we know the stats for current Barbie.

As we found out from reports two years ago, if Barbie were an actual woman, she would:

  • Be 5'9" tall, with a 39" bust, an 18" waist and 33" hips.
  • Have a size-3 foot.
  • Weigh 100 pounds.
  • Have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the medical weight criteria for anorexia.
  • Be forced to walk on all fours because her proportions are so demented.

It does not take Sheldon Cooper to realize that this is not a healthy image, and certainly not one we want to contaminate the minds of susceptible young girls who bring Barbie home and secretly wish that they could look just like her as well as have her Malibu mansion and endless wardrobe of size negative-12 ball gowns. Current Barbie is not the way forward, that much is clear. If people hate plus-Barbie for promoting obesity, then they must also realize that current Barbie promotes an eating disorder. I have said before, the glamorization of eating disorders is so prevalent in our culture that we truly do not need any more of it, let alone manifested as a doll manufactured primarily for pre-teen children.

Considering accepting people of all shapes and sizes is still not actually a thing, the better judgment call for Mattel may be more along the lines of artist Nicoklay Lamm's vision -- a Barbie created using CDC measurements of an average 19-year-old woman. She has curves. She has an actual derriere and bust and thighs that touch (because let's face it, most women don't have a thigh gap unless they are emaciated). And she is actually pretty beautiful.

Because I firmly believe that the term "obesity" has been transformed from something used primarily by the medical community simply as a measurement of BMI and NOT actual health into something vulgar and insulting and linked to poor health (for no reason at all other than that the masses assume all fat people are unhealthy), I do not think the world is ready for a bakalia-esque Barbie. What I can only imagine would be an immeasurably large amount of parents would refuse to buy the doll altogether for fear that their children would grow up wanting to be fat. But keeping Barbie as she is is no better. In this case, not enough parents don't purchase the doll that is promoting ridiculously implausible and deadly body standards.

Perhaps for now, until (someday?) the world is ready for an actual plus-size Barbie, Mattell needs to normalize her. It's good to be average. Average means you cannot be called out for being too big or too small. Average means you probably won't have people on either side of spectrum bitching at you for promoting obesity or anorexia. Average means normal. And maybe a dose of normality -- of reality -- is what children actually need when it comes to this sort of stuff. Maybe someone -- or something, like a doll -- needs to show that it's ok to be normal.

Oh Blue Angel, Have No Fear; Brush Away Lonely Teardrops

We are often told during the winter months to steer clear of flowers and bright colors. I think that's ridiculous. It's grim enough out there without eradicating any sense of liveliness in our wardrobes. This week I have been feeling incredibly down. I am nothing if not a cliche. As all writers in probably the history of the universe, I am moody. My highs are very high. My lows are very low. There is not often an in-between. I sat down to read the last book in my collection of dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature today, and found I simply couldn't. I was too fragile and too vulnerable and too attention-deficit-y from the previous six I devoured in a matter of days. And the perpetual English clouds outside were not helping matters. So I decided to put on a daisy dress.

I am not so naive as to think a flowery dress will make anyone's woes disappear, as most woes run deeper than that. But because on this occasion mine principally stemmed from my own head, I thought it would help to at least look happier. And funnily enough, it did. The process of getting dolled up for photos and taking my mind away from the discordant worlds of my books filled me a sense of ease. Not entirely. But it was something like Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. My down-ness was not gone per say, it was masked -- to be come back to at a later time. For now, at least there's some color. At least there's some light. 

This dress from Dorothy Perkins' fall collection was the way to go. It is light and flowy and the sort of thing you can spin around in when you just want to play outside and hop fences like you did when you were a little kid. Of course, it's December in Yorkshire, so I had to add this I.N.C. vest, which was a gift to myself last time I was in New York. The main reason I go to Macy's these days is for I.N.C and I.N.C. alone. Their clothes are high-quality without being your standard high-quality price. And since I'm always on a budget these days, that's pretty perfect for me. It also prevented the outfit from being TOO happy, as I thought I would feel like a phony if I came outside wearing only a vibrant dress.

Get the look:
Daisy Dress, Dorothy Perkins, $25
International Concepts (INC) Moto Vest, Similar at Torrid, $69
Dr. Marten Classics, Dr. Martens, $140


29 December 2013

Borrowed Time And Borrowed World And Borrowed Eyes With Which To Sorrow It

This has been an intense week, so pardon my brief absence. The end of the year always has that effect. Ironically, it wasn't Christmas that consumed my life for the past few days. It was grad school.

For my end of term essay, I will be writing about dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature, which means I have spent a week breathing and consuming said genres of novels nonstop -- and still have a long way to go before I feel comfortable enough writing a remotely philosophical essay. As is to be expected, reading different variations about either the horridness of the human condition in the present state, or the horridness of the human condition that will arise in the event of an apocalypse, has been taking its toll on my psyche. I've been feeling progressively more broody and introspective and cynical. I suppose I wanted that to transcend in this particular outfit choice. I guess I was inspired by the books I have been reading as well as British punk of the '80s, which has been my choice genre of music during the week of the end of the world.

Get the look:
Denim Boyfriend Top, ASOS, $22
Tartan Leggings, ASOS, $33
Marble Flats, Steve Madden, $84


22 December 2013

Hazy Shade Of Winter

Seasons change with the scenery, weaving time in a tapestry. Won't you stop and remember me, at any convenient time. Funny how my memory slips while looking over manuscripts of unpublished rhyme. Drinking my vodka and lime.
Everything is beginning to decay and die. Trees shed their leaves and transform into the remnants of seasons passed. The fallen leaves evolve into brittle and brown heaps of sticky mess, sticking to your shoes as you walk through the streets. The grass loses some of its shimmer, even up here, where it rains almost every day. There's something tragic about it all. Something not quite right. And yet, it is beautiful.
I was inspired by the color schemes of early winter. Deep reds, dark greens. Nothing is quite as bright as it was only a few, mere weeks ago. Nothing is quite as vivid. The colors, the air, the weather -- all make you feel pensive and warm on the inside despite the chill of the outside. And warmth breeds happiness. No matter what form that warmth manifests itself in.
    Look around.
        Leaves are brown,
                 And the sky,
                       Is a hazy shade of winter.

Get the look:
Wine and Pearl Tee, Dorothy Perkins£15
Felt Boater Hat, ASOS£11
Oxblood Bow Heel, Dorothy Perkins£25
Check Pencil Skirt (Available in Blue), Dorothy Perkins£22
Crazy Faux Fur Bag, ASOS£25

18 December 2013

Our Hearts Were Singing, It Felt Like Christmas Time

I may not be the biggest fan of the cold, but I am certainly a fan of Christmas time and the holiday atmosphere. There’s something about this time of year that makes you excitable — restless with anticipation of the year to come and all the plans in progress. We’re thinking about all the things we want to accomplish. About all the things we want to do, and the places we want to go. My to-do list for 2014 includes things like really kicking the book writing into full-gear, making it back to Spain, saving money to visit my dear friend in Brazil, hopefully finding a full time UK job, completing my graduate dissertation without having the biggest panic attack of my life. Any other time of year, I would be anxious at the slow progression of all these hopes and dreams. I would grow frustrated and riddled with self-deprecation — emotions that plague my usually nervous disposition. But not at Christmas.
It’s funny, but as a kid I found Christmas to be a far more depressing holiday. I don’t know why that was. Maybe because I always felt guilty for not having enough quality time with whichever parent I wasn’t spending the holidays with. Perhaps because the actual events on Christmas day seemed over-the-top and far too kitsch for my mild-mannered and shy temperament. But as I’ve grown up and left the turtle shell I inhabited for the better part of my childhood and adolescence, I’ve started to enjoy everything about the holiday season. The food. The shopping. The tree decorating. The togetherness.
This is going to be my first Christmas with my boyfriend. It’s going to be different than any Christmas before. We’ve always spent the holidays apart — me with my family in New Jersey, he with his parents in England. And though this means I won’t be able to see my family until the new year (something I feel weird and sad and odd about), it means the whole holiday season is filled with new experiences. Today, for instance, Paddy and I bought a mini tree for our bedroom, and will be decorating it together (something I am far too jolly about, or maybe that’s perfectly acceptable?). The shop we bought it at went all out. Twinkly lights, polar bear displays, life-like reindeer, a seemingly infinite array of candy canes. As Paddy had been before, he suggested we take some Christmas-y photos inside this legit winter wonderland. We couldn’t get the lighting quite right, or take pictures in each backdrop they created because of the amount of people inside the store, but we tried. I took the opportunity to wear this metallic, red dress, which is so comfortable and so Christmas-appropriate, that it feels like perfection. I love tartan, and I love sparkly things, so this was just the dress for me.

Get the look:
Metallic Check Shift Dress, ASOS, $100
Brushed Longline Jacket, ASOS, $163
Handbag, Vintage

17 December 2013

Love Was Just A Glance Away, A Warm Embracing Dance Away

I love when clothes transport you to another time. When I saw this coat on ASOS, I knew it would make me feel likeRita Hayworth in the 1940′s. I could imagine her wearing it on a night out with Orson Welles. Despite the fleetingness of that relationship, it remains one of my favorite Hollywood romances of the 20th century. His felt suits and slicked back hair. Her ringlet curls and big, inquisitive eyes. I know the warm wool of the coat will keep me warm while radiating that old glamour feel I always crave.

In terms of this dress, it was something a little out of my comfort zone. Though I adore velvet, I’ve never been much of a stud-embellishment kind of gal. But the tie dye texture and high neck make it so that instead of looking like club-wear (as I think most studded pieces often do) it looks retro and an ideal match for the cotton candy pink vintage coat. I had to pair it with a wide-rim hat. It just seemed right.

Get the look:
Vintage Cocoon Coat, ASOS, $200
Tie Dye Studded Mini Dress in Velvet, ASOS, $63
Wider Roll Brim Felt Boater, ASOS, $36
Shellys London Pilikova Platform Lace Up Ankle Boots, ASOS, $154

14 December 2013

Your Heart Is As Black As Night

Since watching An Education in 2009, I have probably listened to the soundtrack a few hundred times. I love the incredible jazz selections, from pianist Floyd Cramer’s “On the Rebound” to Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s.” For whatever reason, though, I always tended to skip over Melody Gardot’s “Your Heart is as Black as Night.” I think, perhaps, because it is the only song not actually from the ’50s/’60s era. This morning I gave it a chance. Gardot is obviously heavily influenced by jazz and blues, and her voice had a profound depth in texture and emotion that stuck with me through the day, and inspired this black-on-black, vintage-based ensemble. I love music with every bit of my heart, and when I find a song that really makes me feel something, it affects everything — from my outfit to my mood to my makeup to my daily activities.

This jacket, which is sort of the center of today’s ensemble, has become something of an obsession. It was my mother’s in the mid ’80s and is designed by the once upon a time, high-end brand Direct Action New York (D.A.N.Y). I remember her wearing it when I was a kid, but in recent years I’d forgotten it existed. Last time I was home, however, it resurfaced after a mega-closet-clean-out, and I knew I had to give it another life. Though D.A.N.Y. is no more, this exact same coat is available in a 2XL on Ebay, along with several other designs in varying sizes. In combination with living in English countryside, this coat makes me feel like I authentically belong in times passed. And I always appreciate that in any clothing.
I chose to pair the fur-on-leather coat with a black cut-out dress by Cache from their spring collection this year. I love cut-outs in the neckline of dresses (though some may say it’s a bit of an S&M-inspired design), and I remember finding this dress while shopping in New York before moving overseas, and knowing I just had to have it. As cliche as it sounds, every woman does need a little black dress, and this is mine. I kept my makeup minimal, placing emphasis on the vamp lip. With a song like “Your Heart is as Black as Night” stuck in my head all day, I was feeling broodiness. Ironically, it was broodiness that led to the turquoise hair dye earlier in the week. It’s quirky, I think?

Of course, this is what happens when you wear heels in Yorkshire.
Get the look:
Vintage D.A.N.Y. Coat, Ebay, $100
Dress, Cache, $188
BCBG Shoes (similar), Zappos, $193
Handbag, Vintage
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