30 June 2014

Taffy Activewear: Take Two

Some of you may recall that last December I collaborated with Taffy Activewear, the work-out brand that meshes comfort with style for plus-size women. Taffy has been a brand I have proudly supported since day one, because like me, they believe in health at every size. They know physical size and weight aren't always indicators of health and fitness. And they definitely know that there are loads of fuller-figured women out there who adore exercising (contrary to the unfortunate popular belief).
I've never claimed to be a gym rat, but this year I've been making more of a conscious effort to work-out. Not because I want to lose weight or change how I look (because I actually happen to be happy with how I look!) but because I suffer from anxiety and long walks or an elliptical session really help.
So when Taffy asked me to be an ambassador for them this year, I didn't think twice. I've written a lot about the movement toward size inclusivity that brands like ModCloth and SimplyBe are really aiming for, and Taffy/Katie K. (they're sister companies, if you will) are further examples that inclusivity is possible.
One of the perks of living in the countryside is that there are dozens of hills to climb and you can basically go on a different walk every day. Today, I ventured out with my mama-in-law, and we actually ran into a neighbor's donkey (which was an added bonus to the excursion). His name is Jake and he kind of makes these pictures loads cuter, if you ask me.

Get the Look:
Taffy Essential Jacket, $64, Taffy
Taffy Essential Pant, $48, Taffy

If you're interested in buying from Taffy, you can use code Marie15 at checkout for 15% off!

Nerdsville Book Club Part 2: Ghana Must Go By Taiye Selasi

Our second Nerdsville book was chosen by Cynthia.

In my life, I have surrounded myself with books. From before I could even read, I was drawn to the smell of the pages, the look of hundreds of words gathered together to form something beautiful. And as I've gotten older, I've applied this romance to my choices in education, choosing to delve into a double major of Journalism and Literature, and then an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture. But the thing is, when you constantly surround yourself with something, you become desensitized to it. I read constantly, and so sometimes... when a truly magical book falls into my lap... it takes me a while to realize it. So was the case with Taiye Selasi's Ghana Must Go.

Selasi -- who was born in England but raised in America and of Nigerian and Ghanian descent -- is a gift to modern literature. Seriously, she is every lit student's dream -- so much so that I want to contact every professor I have ever had and force them to incorporate this novel into the curriculum along with lessons on metaphor and sentence construction and the art of making every word count. I cannot even fathom how this is a debut novel, by a woman who earned her degrees in American Studies and International Relations, no less. And yet it is.

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) says it best: "Taiye Selasi is a young writer of staggering gifts and extraordinary sensitivity. Ghana Must Go seems to contain the entire world, and I shall never forget it." In its 300 pages, it does contain the whole world -- the realities of this world. To quote the book, this is "a token of the absurdity of the world in which [we] are." To those living white-picket-fenced-lives, oblivious to those realities because they've been lucky enough to remain sheltered and strangers to raw pain, Ghana Must Go is a slap in the face. An uncomfortable reminder of the divide between the First World and the Third. An unapologetic account of the lives of an Afro-American family, torn apart (at the core of things) by the white privilege penetrating their every-day lives in Boston -- white privilege that results in the patriarch's (Kweku Sai) systematic firing and subsequent abandonment of his family, unable to confront his shame: leaving behind his wife (Folasade), his eldest son (Olu), his twin son and daughter (Kehinde and Taiwo) and his baby girl (Sadie).

As someone who grew up stretched between Third and First Worlds, in a broken family with seven siblings scattered across the globe (each facing their own demons), there was a lot in this book that resonated with me on an intrinsic level -- things difficult for anyone to read, because of the unfiltered, unedited truth behind them. There were few characters I couldn't relate to, either from my own perspective or that of my family. There was Olu, unable to truly trust in love and be honest with his emotions. Kehinde, scarred by perceived past mistakes, immersing himself into creative outlets as escapism. Taiwo, cold, hardened -- a victim of the worst kind of hardship. Strolling through Washington Square Park on the N.Y.U. campus (where I got my BA) falling into the trap of false comfort, false security, false hope in another person. Sadie, ten years their junior -- the unexpected baby -- and the black sheep, not unlike myself. I saw a piece of me in them all, and perhaps that's presumptuous (or even self-centered), but it's true. I saw my mother in Fola -- an immigrant to the First World: a woman who had to sacrifice so much of herself to make sure her kids succeeded... and my subsequent fear of failure.
He had held up his end of the bargain: his success for her sacrifice, two words that they never said aloud. Never success because what were it's units of measurement (U.S. dollars? Framed diplomas?) and what quantity was enough? And never sacrifice, for it always sounded hostile when she said it and absurd when he attempted, like he didn't know the half.
In Kweku, too, whose life and death frames the novel, I saw my own dad. Proud. Intelligent. But prone to running away.

The feeling of wanting to appease, and yet wanting with all your might not to want to appease is also extremely prevalent in this text. It's described as the "African Filial Piety act":
Lowered eyes, lowered voices, feigned shyness, bent shoulders, the curse of their culture, exaltation of deference, that beaten-in-impulse to show oneself obediently and worthy of praise for one's reverence of Order (never mind that Order is crumbling, corrupted, departed, dysfunctional; respect must be shown it).
Although described as a familial African trait, I'd argue this is a theme of Hispanic culture just as much, and one I've fought with time and time again. Wanting to appease because you must; not because you want to. Because no matter the corruption or dysfunction amongst those around you (be it your parents, grandparents or other such elder), you cannot help but want their respect; their admiration; and dare I say, their love.

Selasi has this uncanny ability of analyzing the world -- making bold claims about it along the way -- but not sounding pretentious or phony whilst doing it. There's this line, describing the female doctor who ultimately fires Kweku from his role as a surgeon. She had the "four-piece Harvard Box Set (B.A., M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.)" -- and that one line alone reminded me of this ivy-league BS so prevalent in our culture: one where having so many degrees from an elite school excuses you from firing a black man for fake reasons in an epic demonstration of white privilege and sheer human shitty-ness, with no regard for how it will destroy his family.

And then there's this thing Sadie says: "The bathroom of a mother. A chamber of concealment. A chamber of secrets, insecurities, scents, crystal bottles with spray pumps and baby blue bottles, an undue proportion of labels in French." My mom is still a mystery to me -- someone I'll never really figure out. And though I had never thought of it in this way, her bathroom (her bedroom, too) are clearly symbolic of that sentiment.

Ghana Must Go isn't an easy read. Nor is it the equivalent of a feel-good-flick. Yet I would recommend it to anyone, and mostly to those in need of lessons in different cultures and different ways of life to their own. The first part of the book will keep you on edge -- its non-linear format confusing, rambled and chaotic (like the confused, rambling chaos of the real world). But as the novel proceeds it becomes easier to follow. Selasi begins and ends with a death, but the life in her words is incomparable to anything I have read in a good, long while.

Interested? Be sure to check out everyone else's thoughts as well:

Isha
Charlotte
Cynthia

28 June 2014

Spider Pig! Spider Pig! Does Whatever A Spider Pig Does! Can He Swing From A Web? No He Can't, He's A Pig

I won't pretend to be the biggest Simpsons fan in the world. But that being said, the show has been present in some capacity or another for most of my life (not surprising being that it's 25-years-old and I am only 23). When I was a kid, and dying to seem cool to my older brother, The Simpsons was a massive bonding ritual. We'd watch for hours on end -- me feeling kindred with Lisa; him with Bart -- and have something to talk about amidst all the boring grown-ups.
Later on, I got really into the Simpson's Road Rage for GameCube video game, and found myself playing it with my best friend Mara through countless sleepovers. We loved racing through Springfield and getting into all sorts of misadventures.
As I got older still, the show became another thing to tick off on the "things we have in common" list with my boyfriend when we first met, and he, his dad and I spent a lot of meals in early days watching re-runs and feeling some epic 90's nostalgia (because let's face it, those were the good Simpsons days).
Though it's never been my favorite show per say, it's nice to have a constant to turn to. I've found that no matter where I am, or where I travel, the show provides common ground amongst crowds and always facilitates good conversation. Five-hundred episodes later, it's still standing strong. So whether you enjoy the program or not, that fact alone deserves some serious kudos.

Thus my motivation for purchasing this top from the indie boutique Joyrich. Their specialty is quirky street-wear, which is one of the greatest things I've seen in some time. Another of my favorite designs by them is their Cuddly Currency skirt. I've paired it with an ASOS mini-skirt in strawberry milkshake-pink. Normally I'm not largely into minis, just because I love the silhouette created by the longer pencil skirt, as well as the vintage feel of a full skirt. But the color and acid wash look of this one caught my eye immediately. Both skirt and top and incredibly comfortable and soft, too. And a soft texture is something that makes me very happy.
Get the Look:
ASOS A-Line Denim Miniskirt in Milkshake Pink, $42, ASOS
The tee-shirt is by Joyrich, who designed an amazing Simpsons collection. The exact top is no longer available (though a similar one is still for sale in black), but there are loads of other beauties to choose from here.
Shoes, Vintage ModCloth
Hat, Paddy's Closet

This ensemble can also be seen in my "7 'Fat Girls Can't Wear That' Rules Debunked" piece on Bustle.


26 June 2014

SimplyBe Has Brought Together 5 Bloggers For A New Writing Page, And I'm So Honored To Be One Of Them

The SimplyBe writers (not pictured: Georgina)
About a week ago, I announced that I would be writing for SimplyBe's new Blogger Page and shared my first article for them via social media: "Because Rules Often Hold Back Progress". In the week since, I've been reflecting on how honored and proud I feel to be able to work with the brand and the four inspirational bloggers who will be contributing their work as well: Georgina, Naomi, Laura and Cheryl


SimplyBe has, from the start of my blogging days almost two years ago, been a source of major glee and hope. It is no secret that the world of plus-retail needs to see a lot of improvements, and far more variety. And in an ideal world, of course, plus and straight-size shopping could mesh together and the labels would slowly fade away. I tend to rank ModCloth, eShakti and SimplyBe together as the brands that have come closest to achieving inclusivity. They both have a far more extended size range than most shops, and do their best to cater to all women. Though SimplyBe, of course, is geared at the plus-size woman, they stock sizes starting at around a U.S. 8/10 (U.K. 12) in the effort of giving more women the chance to shop with them. And this is something I really appreciate and respect.
Naomi And Me
The new writer's corner on SimplyBe is going to be an amazing destination for women's lifestyle writing. Though a fashion company, us writers will be covering health, beauty, news and even entertainment. Once more, this is such a beautiful demonstration of the brand's varied interests and goals at creating a place for all.
Me on the day of the writer's meet-up.
On the day of the writer's meet-up in London, I had the chance to meet three of the other women in person, and it was just so lovely to feel the excitement amidst the group. When I first moved to England, I worried that I wouldn't really find a place in the blogging scene, but SimplyBe made sure I did. Their generosity, their views on beauty and acceptance and body positivity, make them a magical brand to work with, and all the people involved emblems of hope for change.

Stay tuned for my second article next week, and in the meantime you can read all current articles here!

25 June 2014

Was Fresh And Bright And Early; I went Towards The River; But Nothing Still Has Altered; Just The Seasons Ring A Change

For some time now, I have followed eShakti, an e-retail site where you can shop vintage-inspired dresses, beautiful skirts and other delightfully modest yet quirky clothes for women. This brand has garnered a lot of love for their basic cottons and humbly embellished pieces, but also for their incredible size range: 0-36W and custom! Personal customization allows you to have garments designed for your height, size and style, which is ideal for women in between sizes, or those just wanting to ensure a perfect fit.
The brand was kind enough to send me their Embroidered Peasant Voile Dress, part of their Boho collection, which is filled with dozens of festival-type gems for the summer. I was drawn to this dress for its sort of Greece-meets-the-Netherlands feel. It reminded me of the summer I visited Mykonos -- the Greek isle. Everything there was white, and not in that bland, hospital-y way, but in an almost storybook way. The old stone buildings, the windmills, the sand. I can imagine going back there and wearing this dress. It would be its ideal setting.
I chose to order a ready-made size in this case, sizing up to a U.S. 18 (U.K. 22) as opposed to my usual 16 (U.K. 20) based on eShakti's sizing chart, and I think that was probably a wise decision. I love that the dress flows, and doesn't constrict. The light cotton is so perfect for warm days, that anything tighter would have ruined the breeziness. I was, however, surprised at just how see-through the dress actually is. While the description does say its a "sheer little dress" I didn't realize just how sheer it would be. Wearing it out without much underneath proved a bit hazardous, especially when under bright lights. But that's nothing a gentle, white slip wouldn't fix. And luckily, I have one -- so I will be prepared for next time.
All in all, the fit of this dress couldn't be more lovely. Though I adore a body-con and always encourage women to play around with showing off their curves rather than hiding them, sometimes it's so wonderful (especially in summer) to have something light and flowy that you can spin around in and wear on walks up green hills without feeling like you will succumb to heat stroke.
Get the Look:
eshakti, spring, plus size, plus clothing, dresses, tops, blouses, skirts, jackets, ponte knit, plaid, tweed, boucle, silk, crepe, shirtdress, shiftdress, sheathdress, pencil skirt, fit and flare dress, a-line skirt, dresses with pockets, colorblock dress

24 June 2014

Come Gather 'Round People Wherever You Roam; And Admit That The Waters Around You Have Grown

If you've followed this blog for a while, you probably know by now that sunflowers are my favorite. I received this set from ASOS's main range, and was so pleased that their straight-size UK 18 (US 14) actually fit. Because ASOS's sizing is sometimes inconsistent, it's difficult to know when something will fit nicely/be way too tight/fall off entirely. Because I am so in love with the pattern, a mix of sunflowers and polka dots (two very me things), the fact that some good, old size experimentation paid off makes me very happy. I have so many plus-size friends who refuse to try different sizes, but it just goes to show that even within the same brand, size inconsistencies exist. Thus why I always encourage trying everything.
This morning, I woke up to a comment from a public health professional, on a photo of myself and some fellow bloggers. It read: "I think society pushes size acceptance over health and wellness. Every size is beautiful, but every size is not healthy. Obesity puts people at a greater risk for preventable diseases." She left this comment on a photo that was just of some plus-size bloggers together, having a laugh -- it wasn't even a body pos, or "fat pride" post. It was just four women together, who happen to be plus-size, smiling together.
What I said: "I believe it's unfair to judge people's health based on a photo. I know plenty of men and women who are categorized as obese by a medical textbook, but are infinitely more active than some of the thin people I know. Health and size aren't always correlated, and making that assumption when you know nothing of a person's diet, health or exercise habits isn't justifiable. I understand you work in public health, so I am sure you know there are plenty of things that put people at a greater risk for preventable diseases: smoking, drinking, tanning. But that doesn't mean everyone who smokes, drinks or tans is unhealthy or destined for disease."
And I also had to say this: "Society isn't as a whole a size accepting place. The whole reason plus-size women began blogging was to try to bring some body positivity to an otherwise predominantly judgmental, bullying society. If society were accepting, people who are different in any way from the pre-approved norm, be it people who are fat, people who wear glasses, people are are Goth, wouldn't be judged and made to feel inferior everywhere they go. Individuals need to stand up for size acceptance, because 'society' surely won't stand up for them."
A side note to conclude my rant: I'd like to point out that Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, the 25-year-old Icelandic strongman who plays The Mountain in Game of Thrones weighs over 400 pounds, and I guarentee he is fitter, and probably far more "healthy" by medical terms than anyone I know in real life, fat or thin. I leave you with this:
 Get the Look (Mine, of course, not Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson's):
ASOS Sunflower Hair Garland, $8, ASOS
ASOS Double Layer Crop Cami in Patchwork Sunflower Print, $34, ASOS
ASOS Shorts in Sunflower Print, $60, ASOS


22 June 2014

The World's Not Easy, The Blind Man Said; Turns On Nothing But Money And Dread

I received an email this week from a young woman who'd stumbled upon my writing on Bustle. Her worst body hangup has always been her legs, and she was surprised to see me -- someone plus-size -- wearing short-shorts in the "7 'Fat Girls Can't Wear That' Rules Debunked" piece. She spends the summer months dreaming of wearing anything but jeans, but year after year doesn't find the confidence needed to remove the tights and strip down a bit.
I think women's fear of their thighs is pretty universal. It's one of those body parts prone to "imperfections" like cellulite and stretch marks, regardless of what size you are. I've had friends as small as a size-4 confess their discomfort at wearing anything above-knee, which goes to show that body issues extend through all sizes and shapes. My hope is that this summer, more ladies find it in themselves to choose comfort, and maybe even subsequent happiness, over discomfort and fear.
 
This week, I published a slideshow of thirteen stunning and empowering women, of all shapes and sizes, proving that #EveryBodyIsABeachBody. I asked all the women to think about why they feel sexy in a swimsuit, or why they believe all women deserve to feel sexy in a swimsuit. One of my favorite quotes was from Rachele of Rad Fat Vegan:
Wearing a bikini as a fat woman is an act of rebellion. I felt glorious and glamorous all at the same time. I wore my stretch marks as ribbons of honor and let the sun kiss my lumpy thighs and arms without a care in the world.
Wearing a bikini, short-shorts, a mini-skirt -- they're all signs of rebellion. They all show self-love amidst a world that will try its best to tear you down for what you look like. And rebellion against bullying -- against hatred -- is always worthwhile.
Get the Look:
Pink Belt, Thrifted 


20 June 2014

It Feels So Scary, Getting Old

I was chatting with my oldest friend today. Her name is Katie, and we've known each other for just about twelve years. Funnily enough, we rarely see each other, as is the case with most of my friends. The Atlantic Ocean interferes far more than I'd like it to. But every time we talk, we pick up right where we left off -- and I think, ultimately, that's a crucial sign of a good friendship. 
Katie and I were musing over how we both have the tendency to idolize people, and how when we meet someone we actually like -- whether romantically or otherwise -- we become excitable little girls again. I think this is one of the many "child-self" traits I haven't gotten over as I've gotten older. And even though it often leads to disappointment, I don't think I would exchange it for anything more mature. I think to hold on to your child-self -- to some of the innocence and wonder -- makes for far more interesting adulthood (see my article on The Little Prince for more on the subject). I hope as I grow up I never stop enjoying swing-sets and Winnie the Pooh and Disney movies.
Onto the fashion, though, this outfit was also part of my "7 'Fat Girls Can't Wear That' Rules Debunked" article for Bustle. Both jeans and top are from City Chic (the same place I got the purple/blue polka dot dress recently). Whilst I'm really not a jeans person, I was intrigued when I read that they were designed for an hourglass figure. The trouble I often have with jeans is the stiffness of them, and the discomfort that causes in the hip region. This pair was the perfect fix to that. The material is close-fitting, stretchy and designed to hug your curves perfectly. As for the top, I was a little skeptical as to whether I would hit it off with the predominantly pink color scheme, but I just love the flamingo print and baby-doll top (my younger self would have certainly approved). Nothing says summer like a couple of long-legged pink wading birds, after all.
Get the Look:
Hourglass Skinny Jeans, $78, Courtesy of City Chic
Floral Flamingo Peplum Top, $58, Courtesy of City Chic


09 June 2014

#LoveAtEverySize x Hips & Curves

When I was growing up, I was told many times that I should only go for a certain kind of partner. Forget loyal or caring. He had to be tall, and he had to be bigger than me. Otherwise, I would look fat and disproportional in comparison, and -- well -- I was already big enough for that. Plus, at the end of the day, "only a fat, tall man will love a fat, tall woman" so why bother wasting time trying to date anything but.
It's funny how we can believe things like that. We can become, through the words of others, so convinced that we who are different from the norm in some way are either unworthy of love, or only worthy of it if it comes in the form of someone who is equally, if not more, different to you. Even if that means choosing someone completely wrong, and is some cases, completely bad, just for the sake of ticking off some imaginary box of "aesthetic acceptability." The people who didn't want me to date a slender man (or thought a slender man would never be interested in me) firmly believed that there was something wrong with couples of different sizes. It was somehow unattractive, unappealing and ultimately, unacceptable.
It is one thing to have a type. We are only human. We each perceive beauty and attractiveness differently. But it is another thing entirely to rule out perfectly kind, decent people because they do not fit into some kind of skewed aesthetic mold, and another thing still to tell others they are only worthy of one type of look. Even if it means sacrificing traits that are far more important.
Love is not a size-exclusive thing. Love shouldn't be about weight or height or ethnicity or color. Love it far more profound and complicated and messy than all that. When you fall in love with someone, attraction will always be an important factor. But more than attraction should be core personality/soul/mind. This post isn't about, "Look at me. I'm a fat woman and I am loved by a skinny man." It is about the fact that love can and does exist at every size, at every height, at every ethnicity, at every color. And while these things can influence our initial attraction to someone, they should not be fundamental. At the end of the day, my partner does love hips and curves, and I do love a lankier man. And we may look silly and weird. And I may look, and be, much bigger. But that's ok. It's more than ok. It's pretty great.
I want to thank Hips and Curves for being so willing and happy to collaborate on this photo series, and for believing in the message. And Lucy Cartwright, U.K. photographer who not only believed in the message, but managed to capture it despite having the task of shooting two intrinsically awkward human beings.
Shop the Looks:
Aubrey Embroidered Babydoll - $49.95
from: HipsAndCurves.com
Soft & Comfy Tank Dress with Lace Back - $32.95
from: HipsAndCurves.com
Backseam Plus Size Stockings - $14.95
from: HipsAndCurves.com
High Waisted Panty with Lace Up Back - $39.95
from: HipsAndCurves.com
Men's Hips & Curves T-Shirt - $19.95
from: HipsAndCurves.com
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