28 January 2013

Is My POM Bottle Actually A Woman?

POM bottles
We all know that a long time ago, in a world far different than that in which we live, ideals of beauty were the polar opposite of what they are (for the most part) today.  As it pertained to women, more emphasis was placed on the thicker, fuller figure and less on the slim, boyish look.  This can easily be seen by taking a look at Renoir’s paintings of voluptuous goddesses, sitting carelessly and glamorously next to ridiculously enticing baths, or even in the latter half of the 20th century, with Marilyn Monroe as the universal icon of beauty and sex appeal – who can deny she had an incredible body?  We often wonder, where have those ideals gone?  But I think they may still be around, albeit a bit subliminally.

This occurred to me because of a POM bottle.  I’ve always loved pomegranate juice, especially POM.  And yet I never noticed the actual bottle shape.  I knew it was easy to grip.  I knew it was a rare occasion when my self-aware butter fingers would drop the bottle.  But I never realized that this was because POM comes in the shape of a larger lady – one whose breasts go out, waist goes in, hips go out and then back in again – ultimately creating an epic hourglass figure.

Concept Car 1960s

Obviously POM isn’t the only case of marketers placing a subliminal sexual appeal on their products, and some are far more obvious.  This 1960s concept car is undoubtedly rocking some very feminine curves – I imagine whoever crafted it must’ve been enamored with a woman who was “more to love.” Even though the car may’ve been designed in decades passed, people still obsessively, often even moronically, drool over it and others like it.  And so, I am led to believe that a lot of people, even if they don’t realize it, still truly appreciate curves.  Even now, in the days of size 0-4 empires, there are still many men and women who gravitate toward the second half of the double digit sizes.

I don’t think my POM bottle is quite the same story as the obvious, sexed-up ads that sell whatever they’re selling by flaunting some pretentiously and stereotypically attractive woman on their flyers or infomercials.  It’s far more obscure than that – and perhaps this is because it’s still seen as peculiar to enjoy being on the heavy side – or to prefer the company (wink wink) of a heavyset woman.  Thus, designers and marketers don’t blatantly come out and say, “This POM bottle was inspired by my love of wobbly bits,” but rather it’s left to the buyer to decide whether to pick up or buy into potential subliminal messages.  Personally, I buy into them.

To say you enjoy being fat – to say you are attracted to fat men or women, still isn’t “ok.”  Plus-size activism and weight acceptance just haven’t gotten that far yet.  So perhaps, people search for subtle means of expressing their misunderstood or rejected viewpoints…like POM.  And perhaps (given any of my ramblings and possibly misguided thoughts are remotely correct) eventually those who do seek alternate means of expressing their preferences can someday tell us honestly if their bottles or cars or pencil holders are meant to personify a type of beauty that so many people still don’t acknowledge.

Experimenting With Sizes: There's No Reason To Be Strict On Where YouShop!

Dorothy Perkins
I’m a firm believer in fuller-figured women experimenting with different sizes of clothing.  A common issue we thicker gals have is checking out the labels of items in stores and dejectedly placing them back on their hangers after seeing the largest piece is a 12.  If I were strict about these things, I’d technically be a size 16, both in bottoms and tops.  But I’m not strict, so if you were to take a peek at my wardrobe you’d see everything from an 8 to a 20.  This can be quite fun – certainly more fun than running for the hills at stores that don’t carry technical “plus-sizes.”  Even if something doesn’t fit quite right, you’re at least left with the knowledge that you tried.  You didn’t just back down at the first sign of a lack of range.  And hey, if something is a little snug it doesn’t automatically mean it looks bad.  All this nonsense that any belly roll or extra pudge noticeable through clothing should be quickly concealed truly and immensely irritates me!

Today is my first day at Marie Claire, and as most first days go, I’ve had a lot of free time.  The problem with me – and I loathe admitting I am this much of a female – is that when left with a lot of time and few responsibilities, I turn to online shopping.  I don’t always buy something, of course.  I’m an intern for God’s sake.  But it gives me a decent idea of what’s out there – of what sizes are catering to my extra large bottom and busty top half.  As I was going through Nicolette Mason’s “Europe Chic” slideshow from last winter (and can I just say I really hope I actually meet Nicolette Mason while I work here), I came across the “A La Mode” skirt by Dorothy Perkins.  I’d never actually heard of Dorothy Perkins, but the skirt was cute, so I clicked on the link… what else was I going to do, really?

It turns out that Dorothy Perkins is not only an AMAZING collection of vintage meet nerd chic meet prep items, but it’s also really affordable for my intern/student budget, with most items in the $20 to $60 range.  Though not a plus-size store, DP does sell up to size 18, something most non-curve-friendly shops don’t come close to doing.  I also observed that many of their items are elastic as opposed to zipper-based, so this is probably the perfect opportunity to do that experimenting thing I was talking about (see paragraph one).

As thrilled as I am that plus-size departments are opening up throughout youth-based stores and by some of the top designers out there, this doesn’t by any spectrum of the imagination mean I am giving up my love of places like H&M, American Apparel or Urban Outfitters, and I can’t help but get a little glum when I hear plus-size ladies say, “I can’t possibly shop ______!  They only carry ‘skinny’ sizes!”  We can make smaller sizes work sometimes – more often than you’d probably assume.  But this is why I’m glad that I’ve found Dorothy Perkins.  With a decent range of sizes, and lots of stretchy apparel, I feel like it’s a great example of making varied sizes work for you.  I made a makeshift shopping cart based on the items I would love to get, and the smallest is a 12 while the largest is an 18.  I’m not totally naïve; I know there’s no way in hell I’d ever get something like size 10 jeans to go anywhere higher up than the bottom of my thighs!  But when it comes to dresses, tops, skirts or anything that looks comfy and stretchable, it’s not that difficult to find something just right – and even if for whatever reason you find yourself in an impossible jean situation, you can always take the route of amusement rather than depression.
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27 January 2013

From 0 To 12 In 70 Pounds: Crystal Renn And The Concept Of "Too Big"Versus "Too Small"



It’s no secret that people take issue with size 10/12 5’10” models being labeled as plus-size.  How could these women who are statuesque and slim possibly be placed into a group that revolves around possessing the “more to love” body type?  I don’t take issue with it, however, because saying someone isn’t big enough is no different than saying someone is too big.  It’s all the same judgment.  It’s all the same perceptions that beauty is this and that – that straight models can only be skinny and plus-size ones can only be fat.  To me, models should simply be models.  They are people, much like the rest of us, and I guarantee being poked and prodded and told what weight they should be is close to nightmarish.

A few months ago I was a bit more undecided on the matter – I looked at photos of Robyn Lawley for Ralph Lauren and wondered how she could be considered plus-size.  Though gorgeous, Lawley is hardly “big.”  But in the world of fashion, I suppose she is.  She is much larger than her size 0 counterparts, and some years ago she never would have landed a contract for such an established brand at her size.  So instead of complaining that plus-size models aren’t big enough, I took the route of realization that it just doesn’t matter.  At least women above a size 10 are reaching high places in fashion.

I for one love plus-size models, and not just BBW models who are perhaps what many people would like to see in the plus divisions of agencies, but women like Tara Lynn, and most of all, Crystal Renn.  I feel no shame for my unrequited love story with Renn, one in which she is the glamorous, high-fashion personification of beauty and intelligence, and I the simple groupie trying to catch a quick glimpse of her porcelain face.  Renn is essentially what Penelope Cruz and Audrey Hepburn’s baby would look like; she has this way about her that makes you think she’s come from the 1920’s – like she must’ve been close friends with Katharine Hepburn and must have a million stories about Fitzgerald.  Essentially, she’s beauty in a nutshell.

I look at photographs of Renn today – her curvaceousness a thing of envy.  Her ups and downs of weight are ever-changing -- as not so long ago she wore a size 0, and starved herself to the point of near death to fit some baffling standard of beauty that was thrust upon to achieve “success.”

Renn was “discovered” at only 13 years old, and though I’m not sure how long after her discovery, she was soon ordered to lose nearly half of her body weight in order to be taken on as new talent.  Barely past puberty and after being abandoned by her mother, with most likely no guidance on the matter, she lost the weight and took the opportunity for escapism.  For three years she exercised for eight hours a day, took diuretics and ate the bare minimum in order to keep herself alive, but at 95 pounds, she could have easily lost everything.  Renn was one of the lucky ones, however, because she realized that she was going to die, and turned everything around.  “Each pound was a discovery.  I liked it.  I felt myself becoming more who I am.  I had cleavage suddenly,” she said regarding her 70-pound weight gain.  “I started wearing heels, short dresses, color.  I was becoming the weight I naturally am.  It felt like I was a woman finally.”

Her transformation is epic.  You look at photos from then and now and can hardly believe you are looking at the same woman.  Even though embracing the fuller figure was short lived and she has now lost weight once again, a quick look at her autobiography, Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, details her life in the fashion industry and the ups and downs of her weight and relationship with food.  The end is joyful, however, as we all know she once reached a size 12 and became, perhaps, the most renowned plus-size model in the world.

It’s funny though…no, it’s not funny actually, it’s quite sad: Renn was forced into weight loss because though she had a beautiful face, her agency thought she was too big.  Now that she works with Ford, her agency adores her body (whether at a 12 or 8) but it’s the public who criticizes her for not being big enough.  No one is ever happy with her body – everyone picks her apart as though it were their place to do so.  No one can just back off and admire her for her talent.  And it’s a shame, because discrimination against someone for being "too thin" is no different than discrimination against someone for being "too fat."

This isn’t all to say I wouldn’t love seeing someone like Sailor Rose or Big Cutie’s Beccabae receive more widespread recognition or make it as renowned models instead of being limited to online BBW work.  I think larger women, those who actually look to be in the double digit sizes, need a place in the industry as well.  But I’m somewhat optimistic that in some years, women who look more like Nicolette Mason or Ragini Nag Rao or Beth Ditto will be featured in ads and high-profile magazines – will make it to the place that 10 years ago, those who looked more like Crystal Renn never would have dreamed of.

Mikel Ruffinelli: World's Largest Hips

Worlds Largest Hips

On a lighter note than today's previous post, WOW! Ms. Mikel Ruffinelli of Los Angeles, California has been getting quite the media attention this past week, but something tells me she has been a target of attention for much longer.  The 39-year-old mother of four and plus-size model has been receiving much acclaim for possessing the world's largest hips.  At 5'4" Mikel's hips extend eight feet the whole way around, or 96 inches.  Yet her waist is small and proportioned at 40 inches, creating quite an interesting shape -- possibly a shape I haven't quite seen before but can't help being really artistically attracted to.

Mikel isn't admirable for her hips alone, however.  Her entire mentality about being plus-size makes her yet another emblem of a big&beautiful&bold woman.  Though she struggled with body image at a younger age, and still receives snickers and stares, and even the occasional iPhone photographer capturing her on the street, she is now confident and proud of her curves, and insists that "big is beautiful."  In a way this gets me thinking of all the plus-size women out there who shy away from being photographed and conceal their bodies by means of hoodies and waist belts, and can't help but feel a pang of sadness.  But little by little, women like Mikel are freely speaking out about adoring their curves, and openly telling the world they love the fat on their bodies and wouldn't change a thing.  I think with people like Mikel, BBW models, plus-size celebrities and weight acceptance spokespeople, we're hopefully seeing  a few more bits of pavement added to the fat pride road.

A World Without Obesity -- Wait, What?

Courtesy of Redefining Body Image

Dear everyone,

I want to extend my sincerest apologies for being absent from the blogosphere for the past week.  Things have been hectic.  I've only recently gotten back from England, and have just moved into a brand new apartment in Brooklyn with two wonderful friends who, luckily, share my love of food and Star Trek.  Though my move to Brooklyn is making me overjoyed (an emotion I don't often feel unless presented with stuffed French toast), I do feel a bit like the cliche established in HBO's Girls. Girl moves to New York for school or work, can't afford Manhattan, finds place in Brooklyn, commutes and wishes she was in Manhattan...etc. etc.  Except I don't really wish I was in Manhattan because this apartment is three times the size and three times less rent!

I mention my holiday and my new house mates not because I enjoy ranting and rambling about my life 24/7...though that is somewhat paradoxical, I know, considering I run a personal blog.  But because two of the recent events of my life, being in the U.K. and having roommates who actually appreciate food (we had an AMAZING Italian meal last night -- lobster ravioli for me...mmm mmm mmm) have gotten me thinking about the new law that the English Labour party (the main left-wing party in the U.K.) wants to pass.  The gist of it is as follows: the party's health secretary, Andy Burnham, wants to call for a ban on sugary cereal and high fat foods, particularly those marketed toward children.  He'd like to limit the legal amount of sugar, salt and fat allowed into foods.  The primary reason for this action, he says, is to carry on waging the "war on child obesity."  Obviously the U.K. isn't the only place trying to combat child obesity.  Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" organization has been trying to "raise a healthier generation of kids" for years now.  But when I think of these campaigns, these battles against "obesity" or "food" or "sugar," I can't help but feel it's all the first step toward something else -- something bad.

There are so many aspects to this I find absolutely terrifying.  You look at it logically, and at a quick glance, and at first you may think, "This isn't so bad, it's great that these nations want kids to be healthy."  But then you remember being a kid, and if you were the heavy kid in school, you remember how horrible your peers made you feel for it.  And then you remember wishing someone would just tell you that it was ok -- that there was nothing wrong with your body, that there was nothing wrong with enjoying snack food, that there was nothing wrong with you.  I for one am thankful these wars on child obesity weren't really around when I was a kid.  Life and school were difficult enough without having the government shove all these ideologies down my throat.  I would've probably wet the bed if I had the image of some large, intimidating politician looking down at me and saying there was something very wrong with what I looked like -- no doubt, this would have been everlastingly traumatic.  I'm not saying it should be encouraged for kids to eat whatever they want when they want.  Obviously children are growing, and need a balance of everything on the food pyramid to enable that growth.  But changing the foods children love -- and to be honest, that most people in general love, seems to be just another method of imposed control upon our lives -- of taking away the basic right we have of eating what we choose.

As that train of thought carries, one can only wonder, where does this end?  First we get legal limitations on the sugar, fat and salt in our foods -- cutbacks meant to make people lose weight.  This concept of creating laws intended at making people slimmer feels wrong in and of itself.  It's as though all the hype about "thin is good, fat is bad," is now going to have big, governmental spokespeople on it, which will only encourage the huge chunk of society already thinking it to stick to their discriminating attitudes.  Reducing the sugar, salt and fat seems to me to be the first step in either cutting back so much that the majority of what we are eating is bland and tasteless and simply unpleasant, or ultimately getting rid of these ingredients down the line.  Burnham kept referring to children's cereals, as though they were the primary culprit of child obesity.  (Side note: why is it referred to as kid's cereal in the first place?  I don't know a single adult who doesn't enjoy a bowl of Coco Pops every once in a while.)  But taking the sugar out of Coco Krispies or Lucky Charms will lead to more Bran Flakes -- what child would possibly look forward to that on route to a long day of school?  Honestly, I wouldn't be able to start my day with any kind of positive mentality if not for my "let's pep-up-and-wake-up breakfast cereal."

The main issue I take heed with in regards to these laws Labour wants to see in motion are that with the growth of technology -- things like CCTV and our addictions to social media and our constant connectivity to everyone we know and probably a ton of people we don't know and will never know, our privacy and our right to choice are slowly being torn away.  The U.S. may not have CCTV yet, but it's only a matter of time really, and personally, I find that having cameras follow you around at all times of the day is about the same as just putting us into a fish bowl for people to gawk at and analyze.  But we've almost accepted these things as an inevitability of a changing world.  They're justifiable because we are the ones who choose to put our lives onto the internet.  And as for CCTV, you can sort of almost see the benefits, to an extent.  But when it comes to food...one of the primary causes of joy for so many people...it's hard to justify legal alterations to our meals.

Just thinking about what a world without obesity actually means should be enough to make you realize that it isn't the type of world most people would want to live in.  It'd be a type of world where individuality is sacrificed, shoved under a status quo boulder never to see the light of day again.  It'd be a world where little by little everyone ended up looking just about the same -- no diversity, no sense of uniqueness, no cause for inspiration or even amusement.  Food wouldn't be the same.  That snack in your cupboard that you look forward to all day wouldn't taste the same.  That guilty pleasure you can't help but gravitate toward when looking for an upper would be bland.  Excitement as it pertains to food would see its demise.  Eating would be something we have to do to stay alive, and nothing more.  And children...well, children would have yet another thing forced upon them by grown ups saying they know what's best.  Children wouldn't have Coco Pops or Lucky Charms.  They'd become Bran Flakes people.

This all comes back to that six letter H-word: HEALTH.  Who defines it?  Who is almighty and powerful enough to say, "this is what you need to do to be healthy.  This is what you need to do to live longer,"?  No one.  No one knows how long someone will live.  But we've all known that person who spent their life eating anything they wanted, never exercised, never cared about sugar or fat or salt content -- but who simply lived, and lived long.  And we all know that young person who did everything they were "supposed" to do but didn't get to see middle age.  The problem goes so far beyond children's cereal.  It lies in perceptions -- perceptions that people have without any kind of fact or evidence or scientific proof to back them up.  Perceptions that are only hightened and solidified when someone in a high position says these perceptions are justifiable, even if they mean lumping anyone who is overweight into this special needs category -- dehumanizing them, making them examples of unhealthiness, trying to make laws that'll force them to change physically.  And those three things -- the dehumanization, the "unhealthy" brand, the pressure imposed to create aesthetic change in larger people-- those things are the war we should be fighting.  And it isn't a war that'll be won by limiting sugar, salt or fat -- it's far more difficult.

21 January 2013

Maria In Wonderland

The winter wonderland photo shoot continues with a set of myself in the same magical woods as the previous post.  This time, however, we've classed it up a bit and added a delicious cherry bakewell tart.

Now, I know one of the "what not to wear" rules for plus-size women involves not mixing different patterns.  I believe this is a rule because supposedly combining textures or patterns makes you look bigger.  But I've never much enjoyed following these rules, and I don't at all mind if something makes me look chunkier than I am.  Quite frankly, my goal when I get dressed isn't to find things that make me look thinner, but things that I like and think look good.  So as you can see, the top, skirt and tights are each their own pattern, and I must admit I love this outfit.  Perhaps it makes me look even more voluptuous, and perhaps this is actually why I like it to begin with.  I think emphasizing one's curves and plus-size body is a beauty thing -- perhaps this is also why I've included photos of myself eating a sugary tart.
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For Something Similar:

Top: Next
Skirt and Knee-High Socks: Urban Outfitters
Tights, Gloves and Necklace: H&M
Fur Coat: Vintage/Thrift/Antique Shop
Boots: Macy's
Lipstick and Eyeliner: MAC Cosmetics

A Woman And Her Seal Take A Stroll Through The Snow

The woman is me.  The seal is Mr. Seal of Approval.  And we are taking a stroll through some lovely woods in Cragg Vale in West Yorkshire, England -- a site that at the moment is the closest thing to a winter wonderland I've ever seen.

The outfit I'm wearing is a combination of items from my wardrobe that at first glance don't seem to go together at all -- but somehow they actually work, or at least I think they do.  The mish-mash is meant to be emblematic of my personality I suppose.  If you think of each item as an ingredient, and then you think of mixing all the ingredients, you'd think the final product would be absolutely awful.  But in fact, each is quite essential to the overall recipe.

It was my boyfriend/photographer who came up with the outfit -- and at the start I thought he was mildly insane.  But it goes to show that sometimes mixing and matching and experimenting with different things can create something quite unique.  It goes to show that putting a silly looking woman and her stuffed seal in the snow to take a stroll can lead to something really fun and quirky.

Marie Southard

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For Something Similar:

Dress: Urban Outfitters
Fur Coat: Vintage/Thrift/Antique Shop
Burgundy Hoodie: Try BJs for a cheap and warm one
Leggings: Forever21 Plus
Shoes: Forest Green Wellington/Hunter Boots
Accessories: Leopard Hat, Stuffed Seal, Pocket Watch, Gloves
Lipstick and Eyeliner: MAC Cosmetics
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