30 September 2014

Is There Something I Can Send You From Across The Sea

Spain holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons. It was sort of the country I found myself in -- as much as anyone can "find" themselves, I suppose. I've written about my experiences in Madrid many times, from finding love to finding friends to coming out of my shell -- as much as any introvert can come out of his/her shell. I've been back a few times since I studied there, and every time I go I just feel right. It's the only country I have ever encountered that properly feels like home. As much as I love England, and feel at ease in the beautiful 500-year old West Yorkshire home I am lucky to live in, something about Spain -- something undefinable and incomprehensible -- grips me and fills me with this sense of serenity that is usually absent and far away.
When the opportunity arose to hear over to Mayorca for a week, I wasn't about to pass it up. So Paddy, his parents and I went over to a beautiful villa in old Pollenca. It rained constantly. We only had a single day of sun. And for the most part, we complained about the weather and the fact that it was keeping us house-ridden. But now that I'm back home, I just want to go back (the irony does not escape me). Even if all it does is rain perpetually. Even if we can't leave the villa. As something of an anxious person, I've never found a medication or cocktail or workout routine that helps calm me down when panic starts boiling for whatever reason. Except for Spain. Even though I was annoyed at the weather whilst there, I was at peace, with Mayorca as my anecdote for all woes.
Maybe it's something about being on holiday. Maybe this is how everyone feels when they don't have to keep their eye on the clock. When they don't have to work, or do anything at all for that matter, other than read for pleasure or sunbathe or lie in bed with the person they love. But I don't know. I've been on countless holidays all around the world, and never found a place quite so magical.
Even on the days, like this one, when we were constrained to the villa, I was pretty happy. I still swam in the pool, and got dolled up just because. I wore this dress constantly, because it was the perfect thing to have on during warm rain showers. It's light and fluttery and has that arid-ness to it that so permeates Mayorca. The beige-ness and delicate flowers meshed in with the island so wonderfully that it quickly became the holiday's staple ensemble.
I love clothes that don't require a lot of styling or work, because most of the time I am too tired (or too lazy) to spend more than a few minutes getting ready. And that's definitely something I love about this dress. It doesn't need anything, because it just works so well on its own. Sometimes I do love getting really theatrical and whimsy and playful with my wardrobe, of course, but sometimes (like when I am enjoying the nothingness of a holiday in Spain) I just need something easy and lovely. And this was definitely it.
Get the Look:
Claire Richards Print Tea Dress with Free Metallic Skinny Belt/courtesy of Fashion World

Bob Dylan's original version is, of course, better. But alas, it is not on YouTube so The Lumineers shall have to suffice. They aren't so bad, either.

29 September 2014

Caught In The Crowds, It Never Ends

You know how sometimes you see something and it just captivates you? You can't stop thinking about it. You dream about it. You just know you need it in your life.
Ok, I realize I'm starting to sound all love-at-first-sight-y, but the thing I speak of is not another human being (no offense to my lovely Paddy). Rather, it is this beautiful blue PVC skirt. If you are worried that I might be becoming a massive shopaholic, fear not. It is a rare occasion that I truly fall in love -- this profound, wonderfully fluttery love -- with an item of clothing. But when I first laid eyes on this skirt back at the SimplyBe stand at Plus North, I just knew I needed it in my life.
I don't know what it is. Perhaps it is that the skirt reminds me of a mermaid, and like my dear friends Sarah Martindale and Freyia Lillian, I am very obsessed with mermaids. But maybe it's that despite being mermaid-y, feminine and elegant, it is also quirky and different to anything in my wardrobe. Who knows?
Polyvinyl chloride is often used in goth, punk or "alternative" fashion because of its leather-like look and sex appeal when designed into something skin-tight. Part of me has kind of always wanted to own a PVC bodysuit, in fact. But I love that a material so traditionally used for quite sexy and dominatrix-y looks has been turned into something so femme. I used to think PVC was one of those big no-nos if you're fat. And I certainly never would have touched it back in the days of self-loathing and me-on-me body snark. But now, I kind of love it. I love being able to wear something SO associated with a certain slender, flat-tummied-body-type, and re-vamp it for my definitely-not-flat-tummied-but-still-lovely-body-type ;)
Photos by Lucy Cartwright.

Get the Look:
Alice and You Blue PVC Umbrella Skirt/SimplyBe
Michael Kors Boerum Platform Sneaker/eBay or similar here

I leave you with some girl power, courtesy of the lovely Gwen who (once in a while) I am really in the mood to listen to.

23 September 2014

I Am Going Where Streams Of Whisky Are Flowing

When I attended Plus North last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Nicky Rockets, t-shirt designer extraordinaire. He's the husband of plus-size bombshell Betty Pamper, and as a team they run an amazing body-pos business. I'm not usually someone who gravitates toward t-shirts, opting instead for dresses and other such girly things. But I adore the curve-spiration of these designs. Slogans like "Do you want curves with that," and "Invasion of the killer curves," caught my eye the second I saw them.
What is most special about this brand, to me, is that the designer is male. The size acceptance movement is primarily run by women, for women, and it's not often you see men joining in and taking notice of sizeism within our society. Nicky Rockets is different. He embraces size inclusivity and caters to women sizes Small to XXXL, all the while promoting positive body image and a love of curves. I was lucky enough to be able to interview Nicky, and feature him and his brand on Bustle. So I won't rant too much on here. I'll just show you some photos of myself wearing his "Mutiny" top, which I paired with this wonderful pencil skirt from Fashion to Figure. The whole look is a bit sexy pirate, and I definitely love that.
Photos taken by Lucy Cartwright.

Get the Look:
Mutiny (Lady Fit) T-Shirt/Nicky Rockets
Leather-Look Pencil Skirt (Similar)/Fashion to Figure

22 September 2014

I Wish That I Could Swim And Sleep Like A Shark Does

Most of you know that I love experimenting with fashion. I enjoy going for weird and unique styles and trying things that are a bit outside the box. When you happen to be plus-size, however, such experimentation is often difficult because of the scarcity of quirky fashion in sizes 16 and up. Chubby Cartwheels, Domino Dollhouse and Nicky Rockets are all wonderful, independent venues for inspiring and fun apparel. But most mainstream brands play it safe when it comes to plus fashion, opting for solid prints and colors, A-line skirts and simple, pudge-concealing silhouettes.
I like to have more fun than that.
Though I had heard of Boohoo a few times in the past, it was seeing the magical Nadia Aboulhosn's Manchester incredible shoot as Boohoo's plus ambassador that made me want to try them out for myself. Bloggers have always told me that Boohoo is one of the only high street brands that makes funky fashion in plus-sizes, but I wanted to wait until I found something that was indisputably me within their collection. And something that wasn't super on-trend, because I'm not usually one for mainstream trends.
A friend of mine, the beautiful Freyia of Flimsymoon, described this ensemble as something "out of a Geisha's wardrobe," and I must admit that I am pretty smitten with that description. I used to avoid playsuits because my height and width tend to create really bad camel toe (sorry -- but not really that sorry -- for the unpleasant imagery!) but this one doesn't do that at all. It's comfortable and loud and makes me happy. The kimono was something totally new to me. I've never had such a long piece before, and certainly not in such an obnoxious orange. When I first put it on, I will admit I was a bit confused and unsure as to whether it was wonderful or horrific. But the more I look at it and play around, the more I vote for the former.
The combination is a little funky, but like I said, I love playing around. Going for bold, "look at me" options can be super fun -- especially if you're a quiet wallflower like me. I may not be loud, but I like my clothes to be ;) (sometimes, anyway).

All photos taken by Lucy Cartwright. If anyone needs fashion, wedding, event or pet photography in the U.K., do check her out!

  Get the Look:
Natalia Long Sleeve Wrap Over Playsuit/Boohoo Plus
Mallory Longline Kimono in Orange/Boohoo Plus
Jenny Clip Buckle Block Heel Ankle Boot in Burgundy/Boohoo

16 September 2014

I'm Ready To Go Anywhere, I'm Ready For To Fade

This summer has been a bit of a whirlwind. Between finishing my MA dissertation, searching for a full-time job in journalism/editing and dealing with numerous health problems (the details of which I shan't bore you with), it's been difficult to get excited about things. Other than watching The L Word or marathoning Law and Order SVU with my partner, there have been few things I've been up for these past few months. But when Plus North happened back on August 30th, I wanted to take the opportunity to break my recluse state and lend myself to some fashion-spiration. And it definitely worked (to a degree anyway).
I wrote up a piece on Bustle about the highlights of the event, and one of the brands I named was Yours Clothing. I'd seen some of their apparel via the blogosphere, but never tried them personally. When I saw Georgina Grogan of She Might Be Loved modeling this sequin wrap dress at Plus North, though, I was basically sold. She looked divine, and after checking out what she and her fellow models were wearing, I realized that Yours Clothing has come out with some remarkable, Daisy Buchanan-esque items for the A/W season.
Because the summer has been so temperamental, I thought I'd try to find a transitional ensemble into autumn that was both comforting and cutesy. So I turned to a classic but spruced up look (by spruced I just mean with the addition of wonderfully warm thigh-highs).
Back when I was a teenager, I lived in dresses like these. I adored plaid in combination with the skater silhouette. These days, my style fluctuates so much that it was kind of nice to return to the basics. The excessive and stupendous softness of this dress makes it so I'd feel happy to wear it to a full day of university (not that I'm ever going back to the education system after this Masters!) or whilst hanging out at home. But the cardigan is really the proverbial cherry on the sundae. For all those mornings where glumness pervades or the afternoons when you just need to cuddle something soft, this is definitely the item to turn to. I firmly believe that clothing can be a wonderful comfort if chosen properly, and this cozy, furry cardi proves said point. Now all I need is the aforementioned sundae.
Get the Look:
Black and Pink Check Skirt Jersey Skater Dress with Patent Belt/courtesy of YoursClothing
Nude Pink Eyelash Knitted Cardigan with Pockets/courtesy of Yours Clothing

09 September 2014

With Your Feet On The Air And Your Head On The Ground

I am an 80's video game.
Ok, maybe not. But I definitely feel like it.

Tetris was probably the first video game I ever played, back on my brother's original Nintendo Game Boy. It looked something like this:
I'm a sucker for nostalgia, so when this dress appeared on Re/Dress earlier this year, I made sure to snatch it before it could sell-out. Re/Dress never ceases to amaze me. They provide a platform for independent designers who are truly something unique. Specializing in plus-size fashion for women and men, every single item on the site makes you feel like you're in a parallel universe -- one filled with mermaids and pixies and vampires, and one in which it would be perfectly ok to look utterly and perfectly glam at all hours of the day and night. When so much of the world of plus-size fashion is still bland and safe, Re/Dress stands out.
I had the pleasure of collaborating with owner Rachel Kacenjar and illustrator and nail decal queen Sara M. Lyons in August for a Bustle article on their Fattitude Nail Decals. Think celebration of thunder thighs and cankles paired with adorable and swoon-worthy designs of a Miss Piggy and Mr. Hippo. And I was so, so happy to find out how passionately these gals (and everyone involved in Re/Dress) care about size acceptance. They're into fat pride, through and through, and showing off the beauty in the chunky bits. They're into embracing all the words and phrases branded as insults and turning them into something epic and beautiful. They're into owning your body -- no matter what type of body it is.
Suffice it to say, I'm a fan. This dress is tight-fitted and it doesn't hide a single jiggly bit. And I love it.

Get the Look:
Dress/no longer available (sorry, folks)
Shoes/ASOS

This is the second photo set in my series with the wonderful Lucy Cartwright.

08 September 2014

Things That Feel Super Personal Actually Feel Really Universal

There are two things I love. Well, more than two if we're speaking in terms of everything (at least I hope so). But there are two things I really enjoy spending my time doing:

  1. Watching Lena Dunham.
  2. Reading books.
When I first started watching Girls, I didn't really know what to think. Was Lena Dunham the voice the millennial generation needed? Or did she just think she was? As season three wrapped up, I was confident in my belief that the former is true.
Dunham is witty. She's clever. She taps into the things most of us Gen-Y-ers are tackling on a daily basis -- everything from hookup culture to post-grad unemployment to helicopter parenting. And she's a slightly fuller-figured woman willing to show her body on television rather than hide it in shame. Girls has been criticized repeatedly for its raunchiness and crude sex scenes, but the thing is... it's actually realistic. Because in the real world we all can't be Kate Winslet and Leo in that turn of the century automobile 100 percent of the time. And that Dunham, as a woman over a size-2 is willing to be naked on a hugely successful television show viewed by millions -- even if some of those nude scenes are "raunchy" or "crude" -- only adds to her magic.
Suffice it to say, when I saw this Clashist tee, I needed it in my life. There is Hannah Horvath eating cake (*soulmates*). Over there are Hannah and Adam in bed. In the corner is her backside. Oh, and over there are some boobies. Her hot body plastered on this tee-shirt seriously makes me so happy. Dunham is closer to the realistic, average body type of women on a universal scale than your run of the mill celeb, and she has been able to demonstrate her confidence, sexiness, intelligence and incredible talent to the world. Celebration is well-deserved if you ask me.
And, of course, you guys know I love to read. I actually found this classic book covers skirt in an Etsy shop called Nerd Alert Creations (brilliant name, isn't it?) about two years ago, but have struggled endlessly to style it. Once my Lena-tee came in, though, I kind of felt they were a match made in heaven. Pattern mixing. Hobby mixing. A blast of color here. Boohoo boots there. Bliss.

Get the Look:
Lena Dunham Birthday Suit Tee/Clashist
Classic Book Covers Skirt/NerdAlertCreations
Jenny Clip Buckle Block Heel Ankle Boot/Boohoo
Scarlet Red Tights/We Love Colors

As you can probably see, these photos were taken in a studio. I had the pleasure of working with Hebden Bridge-based photography Lucy Cartwright once more for a 10-ensemble shoot (meaning you'll be seeing a lot more of her pictures on here in the next few weeks). If you're a regular reader, you might remember her work from the Hips&Curves collab we shot in June. It's funny, because despite having a blog that's so photo-heavy, I actually consider myself super camera shy. I'm awkward and I've accepted it. But whenever I see Lucy she always says things like, "What are you talking about?! You know how to pose!" I don't really... but that just goes to show that she makes you super comfortable from start to finish. I definitely recommend her to anyone based in the UK who is looking for a fashion/blog photographer (or even a wedding/pet photographer, too!). 

And today I leave you with this:
Girls Art Print/ArtyTimeyWimey

07 September 2014

Just To Sprinkle Stardust And To Whisper "Go To Sleep. Everything Is All Right"

I've been thinking a lot about underwear as of late. Lingerie can often be a sore spot for plus-size women. Maybe even for women of any size. But then again, so can most revealing genres of fashion, be they swimwear or tank tops or mini skirts -- because they flaunt the imperfections we're so often told to hide. You know the ones: jiggly bits and cellulite and all that jazz.
Around age 17 when all my friends were hitting shops like Victoria's Secret, I realized I didn't own any type of risqué sleepwear. No babydolls or satin chemises. No lace bras. I was scared of anything that could classify as sexy, because I felt so not sexy myself. And because I wasn't big into dating, I didn't see the point of owning something that seemed so intertwined with relationships. Not to mention that I was the largest of my friends -- the one with the most fat on her body -- and presumed that wearing anything that showed off my tummy or legs would result in horrified gazes and Mean Girls-style mockery.
It was a friend in college who pointed out to me that lingerie doesn't just have to be for a partner or an otherwise naughty sleepover. Nor does feeling sexy or beautiful. It can be fun to prance around the house doing chores or working on a class assignment or writing up an article whilst wearing a gorgeous lace nightie. It can be something you do for you. Just because you want to. Or just because you can.
I first heard about Nine X Lingerie via the beautiful Nancy Whittington's blog, Sugar, Darling? Back in July, she reviewed a purple, preciously vintage-inspired, babydoll, and I made a mental note to check out the site. Immediately, I was impressed by their range, which extends from a UK 8 to a 24, or S through 6XL. The collection is far more size inclusive than most brands and e-retail sites, even those that are plus-specific.
When asked whether I would review a Nine X item, I didn't hesitate. Size inclusivity is something I care very much about, and the idea that someday I'll walk into an actual store (you know, IRL) and see everything from an 8 to a 32 is one I hope for deeply. So brands like this really resonate with me.

I chose to feature the Black Lace Panel Babydoll because it was something a bit out of my comfort zone. For this fire-lit shoot, I had to style it with a black bra and knickers -- otherwise you'd be seeing a bit too much for comfort! -- but the babydoll is actually really beautifully designed. The see-through lace is classic, and has something of a naughty/nice boudoir nature to it that I love. Double-straps also added to my partiality. But when I received it, I was most shocked by the sheer softness. It feels like perfect silk, and is definitely something I'd be happy to wear just for the sake of it.
Nancy Whittington of Sugar, Darling?
The best part of the babydoll, though, is that it breaks one major plus-size rule: the tummy should always be hidden. I have bad days, just like any other person, of feeling less than pretty. And for most of my life, before blogging and messages of size acceptance and body positivity entered the equation, my belly was my biggest hangup. Just as a visible belly outline is probably the biggest hangup for a lot of women. So I don't know, maybe a huge part of self-love starts there. Right at the core.

It's not easy when you have a world telling you that a six pack and abs of steel are the ultimate and truest forms of beauty. But I know for me, finding clothing that I think is beautiful -- that I feel beautiful in -- is a huge confidence booster. There will always be people out there who look at photos like these and think, "What is she doing showing off her stomach like that?!" But there will also be those who encourage and support it. And the latter sort of humans definitely make self-love a whole lot easier. And worth dealing with any haters that come your way in the interim.

Some other Nine X favs include:
Sleek Blue Satin Babydoll
Satin Cami Set in Ivory

01 September 2014

Nerdsville Book Club, August Edition: The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

For my MA dissertation, I'm writing about American "drug fiction" in the 20th century, and its relationship to changing notions of the American Dream. By drug fiction, I mean narratives of addiction and/or drug use and experimentation. I'm basically analyzing how these works developed in parallel -- perhaps metaphorically so -- to the death and destruction of that grand, impossible dream as defined by numerous Caucasian, middle-aged men from 1931 and onwards (though, let's face it, it's always been a thing).

In my research, I came across The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan -- an author whom I've come to know and love since reading Look at Me, and then her 2011 Pulitzer-winning novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. The thing about Egan is that she has this incredible ability that totally sneaks up on you time after time. She takes a seemingly obvious idea -- like a supermodel losing her beauty and learning to live without it -- and ends up creating something that isn't obvious at all. Look at Me isn't some kind of feel-good story about a pretty girl who has to learn to not be pretty. It is about human reinvention and human deceit and the fact that we all do both the former and the latter. Every single day.

Invisible Circus is also about a lot of seemingly obvious things: like family; the loss of a loved one; betrayal; counterculture and its many youthful proponents. But it's also about (and this is just my opinion) the loss of that American Dream. Or maybe the punching admittance that we never achieved the dream in the first place. And that the people who fought for the "pure" (if you will) version of it -- meaning that loaded word, freedom -- are the ones who lost the most. Basically, Egan is like the female Hunter S. Thompson, who made a career out of writing about the death of the American Dream. Only she's a girl, and her writing is much more vulnerable. Not to be all gender-role-y, but in this case, it's true.

The novel follows Phoebe, a teenage girl in 1976 who travels to Europe with the hope of finding out the story of her sister's death. There are a lot of reasons I love this book, one of the simplest being that Faith (Phoebe's sister) reminds me so much of my own sister. Sometimes the similarities are a little too close for comfort, but that their lives and fates are so similar makes this one of those novels that is always going to matter to me. It's rare you meet someone like Faith or Christin: someone who possesses this almost supernatural lightness and humility and purity of soul. But if you can't have someone like that in your real life, you can at least have one in your literary life within this book.

Faith was very much of a product of the 1960's. You could call her a "hippie," although I really hate using that word because of all the negative, right-wing associations it's been branded with in the past five decades. But I guess she was. She fought for the end to war. She fought for freedom, as she understood it. She was one of the many student activists who believed things could be better -- who believed the American Dream could happen, if only all the horrid corruption and seediness and two-facedness would dissolve. And, of course, she took drugs as an outlet for experimentation and creative expression. To feel things more strongly and see things more passionately.

Egan isn't a "feel-good" writer, and The Invisible Circus isn't a "feel-good" book. But it's an important one. Sometimes we idealize the 1960's as being the closest we ever came to achieving the dream. At least, I know I do. Maybe it's because there's never been a time when what seemed like an entire generation banded together for one cause. Maybe it's because my favorite authors and musicians were creating so much beauty around that time. But it wasn't this perfect little snippet of history. There was corruption within the movement, just as much as there was corruption outside the movement. There was pain and there was destruction. The difference, as I see it, is that at the heart of things, counterculture dreaming was pure American Dreaming. At least, what American Dreaming was supposed to be before human beings got in the way.

The Invisible Circus shows how wrong it is to put the 1960's on a historical pedestal, yes. But it also shows how if you're going to idealize a decade, it may as well be that one. It's filled with a lot of moral conundrums. It's filled with a lot of grey, as opposed to black or white. But I guess that's also why I love it: because life isn't usually as simple or black or white. People tend to fall somewhere in between. Moments tend to fall somewhere in between. Just as these characters -- both the dead and the living -- are bubbles of deep grey.

I don't mean to make the entirety of this novel sound like one big metaphor. It is, to me. But that doesn't mean it will be to everyone. Like any good story, there's a lot to take away here. You can view it as a book about family -- one about love, loss, lust, longing. You can read it as a romantic tale. You can read it as a story about sisters, like In Her Shoes, only loads better. I read it as the story of a country that went wrong, despite good intent and wishful thinking, and the many causalities of said wrong-ness. But, hey, maybe it is just a screwed up little love story. And even if the latter is true, it's still a damn good read.

And as always, please check out reviews by my fellow nerds and readers:
Isha
Charlotte
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