28 August 2015

My Poetry Was Lousy You Said

I remember browsing the "husky" section as a kid, and the "women's" (rather than "ladies" — make what assumptions you will about that choice in labeling) section as a teen, and always being met by absolute drab. Everywhere I turned there were baggy, bootcut jeans and monochromatic tops in a vast assortment of blacks, grays, and dark blues. There was no spark — and if there was an attempt at spark, it was usually in the form of a tragically embellished tunic decked out in more rhinestones and paint splatters than I personally cared to sport on my body.
On the rare occasion there was something printed or bright in a plus size section, it was often a floral: Floral dresses, floral tops, floral trousers, floral skirts, floral wide fit shoes. This was back in the early and mid '00s, though, when any plus size-related content in the fashion industry consisted of headlines like, "TK Ways To Flatter Your Figure," "TK Plus Size Fashion Rules To Swear By," "TK Ways To Slim Yourself Down When You're Plus Size," etc., etc. It was also pre-body-positivity-on-the-Internet explosion, when the thought of actually loving your fat was arguably more taboo than confessing you didn't actually have a crush on Lizzie McGuire's David "Gordo" Gordon.
All this is to say that "avoiding bold prints" or anything that could possibly "call attention to your fatness" was a pretty engrained "rule" for a lot of us chunkier folks. I remember finding a dress not unlike this one (sans the open shoulders, perhaps) in high school. It was one of the first fashion items to ever really cause any kind of sartorial inclination within me since I'd been a kid. I might've been out shopping with a friend or a relative — in all honesty, I can't remember. But I do remember feeling afraid to buy it: A repertoire of negative self talk lines swimming through my mind. What if I looked ugly? What if people stared? What if the flowers were so big that I'd just look infinitely bigger right along with them?
Whoever I was with that day confirmed the monologue I'd been having in my brain before I could really make a solid decision: "Big patterns like that will make you look bigger. Since you're already a little bigger than average, you should probably just go for a solid." This probably isn't quoted verbatim, but you get the idea.
Suffice it to say, I was pretty discouraged from the purchase — opting instead for whatever dress would minimize my body, my personality, and the general amount of space I took up in the world. Which is precisely why — 12 or so years later — I was so drawn to this Haute Cold Shoulder Dress by Kiyonna (F.Y.I. there's a 25 percent off sale going on right now — no minimum!). The print is unapologetically loud and a certainly kitsch and absolutely meant to be seen. The massive flowers do in fact call attention to my body, and in some respects probably make me look a little fatter than I would in a standard LBD with a fitted waist and flowing silhouette. Which means that on days when I'm really feeling myself and loving the way the wrap detailing accentuates my myriad of chunky bits, it's just the ticket.
None of this is to say that there's anything wrong with the aforementioned baggy boot cut jeans or rhinestone-embellished tunic. If they're your jam, that's totally OK. Everyone should be able to express themselves through clothing exactly as they so choose. Back in the day, though, the options for plus size girls and women were so drastically limited that those two things were really the only choices you got. They were choices I was personally forced into and that years later, I realize weren't very me at all.
What I love about wearing this kind of dress as a fat woman is that it doesn't do anything to pretend I'm not fat. It hugs my body and molds to the shape of my roll-y bits and chubs. And along the way, it makes me feel pretty empowered. Plus, the open-shoulder detailing is insanely cute.

Get The Look:
Haute Cold Shoulder Dress, $98, kiyonna.com
(Similar) Plus Size Button-Up Chambray Top, $29, charlotterusse.com


06 July 2015

Rows And Flows Of Angel Hair And Ice Cream Castles In The Air

As a lot of you probably know by now, I've been a huge supporter of Unique Vintage's #IAmUnique Campaign since the brand first started working on it. The simple message that uniqueness is cause for celebration rather than scorn is one I try to live by in my day to day life, and is a core focus of my work. #IAmUnique is about embracing everything about ourselves, but especially those characteristics (be they physical or otherwise) that have ever made us feel different or marginalized.
For me, that's always been my body. It was my fat that got me bullied through elementary school, my fat that made me stand out in Colombia when visiting relatives, and my fat that made me feel obligated to shun dating throughout adolescent. But these days, it's my fat that makes me feel beautiful.
I don't know exactly how that happened. I've tried to explain it before — to express what it was like to spend huge chunks of time outside of the U.S., surrounding by different notions and not-as-narrow-minded visions of beauty. What it was like to discover a community — a world — of body positive activists, bloggers, campaigners, and designers. What it was like to meet people who got it, and helped me get it, too. But I can't pinpoint my appreciation for my body to anything specific. For those reasons and many more, I decided to start loving myself. And not "in spite" of anything.
A few months ago, I was honored to join Unique Vintage's Style Society — a group of bloggers whose views and stances echo that of #IAmUnique. The other bloggers include: Sammi from Soubrette Brunette, Amber from Forever Amber, Rebecca from The Clothes Horse, and Busola from The Fashion Stir Fry. Ever three months, UV chooses a new group of humans who equally care about spreading body positivism, and who delve into the intersection of body positivism and fashion, all in their own, well, unique ways.
As an interesting little experiment, Unique Vintage asked us all to style the same article of clothing, in a way that made us feel most comfortable and most ourselves. The dress — quite similar to the Nude & White Swiss Dot Garden State Mesh Cocktail Dress — is a strapless little number with polka dotted detailing that makes me smile. I realize you can't see the entirety of the piece, but that's mostly because the moment I saw it, I envisioned accessorizing the look with a tied denim blouse. I don't know when it began, but I've really had a thing for denim tops tied into crops as of late.
Something about pairing the traditionally "girly" color, shape, and cut of this dress made me want to go casual in all the other outfit details. Thus, the Nike trainers. I used to associate the Nike brand with high school bros and suburban mamas, but I have to admit... these are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn in my life. After putting my feet through the pain of heels and pointed toes and wedges all for the sake of sartorial experimentation (for several years on end), my feet were in dire need of a break. I caved and bought this pair of sneaks after putting them on as a joke. Seriously, heavenly.
I suppose the reason I love mixing genres of clothing so much is down to perceiving it as a way of showcasing that people aren't just one thing. I love pinup and vintage-inspired garms, but I also love loud and kitsch patterns and prints and colors. I'm obsessed with midi skirts and unisex tees, but I also enjoy dressing like a princess sometimes. The great thing about UV items is that they allow for that kind of creative expression. Nothing is SO retro that pairing it with Nike sneakers would feel like blasphemy. And that modern touch makes for a far more relatable experience.

So... we're all unique in our own ways, obviously. But once in a while, it's pretty ideal to have a brand recognize our differences as cause for celebration. Not oppression.


04 June 2015

Monif C. Beach Chic Blogger Giveaway

If there's a rare find in the world of plus-size swimwear, it's a bathing suit that's mean to support your curves without hiding them. By that I mean, something that isn't designed with the idea of "slimming down fat girls," but rather, giving their bodies the utmost comfort while letting the beauty of those fuller bodies shine through. With the ever-popular "fatkini" trend, the options have definitely been improving steadily over the course of the last couple of years. But if there's one designer really delivering luxury and structure for a cost that's not going to completely throw you into financial devastation, it's Monif Clarke of Monif C.
As a confident, goddess-esque plus-size woman herself, Monif knows what larger bodies need to feel truly comfy. She knows a swimsuit needs to be built with extra support in areas like the tummy so everything can be kept into place while you're prancing around the beach (or, you know, a Brooklyn rooftop, if you're me). But she also knows that in order to do this, you shouldn't have to force a garment to "slim" or "tuck" or "minimize" the body. With qualities like reinforced elastic, control lining, removable bra cups, and removable halter straps, her swim line is all about stability without compromising. You don't have to compromise the shape of your body. You don't have to compromise your most beloved chunky bits. You don't have to compromise style.
The "Fiji" Sweetheart Ruched Swimsuit I'm wearing here feels to me like a profession of love. When I'm in it, I'm reminded that I adore my body. While it makes me reflect upon all the wasted time I spent not feeling this way, it makes me grateful that I managed to arrive at all. With these strategic belly cutouts, I can show the world that I'm not ashamed of my stomach. I'm not afraid of being seen or wearing something that puts what so many think of as a "problem area" in the spotlight. Because it's not a problem area at all. And we seriously need to stop thinking as much.
So… with swim season basically here (unless you're on the East Coast and dealing with these temperamental weather changes), Monif C. has teamed up with six plus-size bloggers and body pos proponents for the Beach Chic Giveaway. Monif's newest swim line is filled with the stuff bathing suit dreams are made of. Everything from sexy cutouts to experimental necklines to pastel hues to bold prints is there. And I'd absolutely love to introduce as many plus women to the wonders that is wearing a bathing suit that isn't designed to "fix" or "slim" or "hide" your beautiful bod.
So! If you're interested in being gifted a free swimsuit, please enter the raffle below between now and June 18th! All you have to do is:

  1. Comment on this blog post with your swimsuit preference (including size) and contact info.
  2. Follow @monifcplussizes on Instagram.
  3. Spread the word using the #monifcbeachchic hashtag.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I know swim season has traditionally been this weird source of anxiety for so many women (and men, let's be fair) of all sizes and shapes. It's been a harbinger of body hate and negative self-talk. But it doesn't have to be. Every body is beach-ready. Every body is a bikini body. Every body deserves to feel sexy and beautiful and confident and all-around phenomenal. And that includes when wearing a swimsuit. Heck, maybe especially then.

Images by Paddy McClave — who shot these on an old Polaroid because this bathing suit totes deserves the magic that is analog photography.

19 May 2015

If I Fall In Love To The Sound Of Birds On The Wing

Everyone has different ways of dealing with things, and subsequently, everyone's "journey" (for lack of a less cheesy word) when it comes to body positivity will be different. It's never easy, but it's also never the same.

Since Unique Vintage launched its #IAmUnique campaign, I've been thinking heavily on not only the things that make me unique, but also the things I've yet to accept and love for their own uniqueness. Because here is my confession: Although I consider myself a confident, proud, body positive fat woman, I still have my off days. You know the ones — when something just doesn't feel quite right. It's not so much about hating or disliking parts of yourself; it's more about just not feeling like you fit well into your body.
I, like all humans, have those days. There's no shame in them. And they don't make you any less body positive overall. But I'd be lying if I said such off days are never related to past insecurities or weird body hangups. Although I can appreciate the softness of my tummy and the ferocity with which my thighs touch and the squishiness of my double chin, I've always felt a little weird about, well, my arms.
It seems silly written about. And when it comes to deep woes and things that keep me up at night, I can assure you that my arms aren't one of them. But that being said, I've always had this nagging little notion that my arms are disproportional — not "too big," but not quite coordinated with my shape elsewhere. I still remember being a teenager and young adult, and refusing to wear spaghetti straps or strapless dresses unless I could pair them with a bolero or shrug. Back then, I'd think, "Thanks for the buff arms, dad," only to hide them away in "shame." 
Fast forwarding the clock to now, well, any notion of "having to hide my body" is long gone. Except when it comes to my arms. No longer do I feel like society is going to personally come after me if I don't (because, you know, in my head, "society" used to be this a metaphysical being with the ability to come after me). But I sometimes do catch myself thinking, "These babies just aren't in line with the rest of my body." Or, "They're just not as cute as the rest of my body." And that's just no way to live, guys!
So in an effort to do away with some of these personal hangups, I thought I'd try on Unique Vintage's Satin & Tulle Swing Dress. Not only is it evocative of Grease's Pink Ladies or Betty Draper circa Mad Men Season 1 (which is obviously a swell combination), but it's also outside my comfort zone. I'm obviously a fan of anything princess-y and ethereal, but strapless? Not often.
And you know what? You know how I felt wearing it? I felt pretty splendid. Like I could take on the world, kitsch baby pink dress in tow. I found that the universe didn't crumble. It didn't suddenly metamorphose into some post-apocalyptic sci-fi nightmare. Everything was fine. I was fine. I felt amazing, and in turn, I was reminded that although no one is ever going to be 100 percent happy and confident and at ease in their skin (because we're not robots, and social conditioning runs too deep), we can do plenty of things to feel better. In taking risks and pushing myself to show off a body part I've never fully embraced, I saw that body part's individuality. No, I don't think my arms have souls or minds of their own (not really, anyway). But I do think they have a presence. It's one I'd never allowed myself the joy of embracing. But now I think I might start.
P.S. If you're wondering who's responsible for the incredible leather collar I'm wearing — something straight out of a mermaid daydream — that would, of course, be the lovely Freyia of Flimsymoon. She's currently in London working on designing her collection, and this gem is sure to feature.


19 April 2015

#IAmUnique Campaign By Unique Vintage = All The Feels

ICYMI, body positivity seems to be "trending." And whilst every single part of me wants to jump for joy at the fact that mainstream media and the fashion industry are both acknowledging the need for visibility of all bodies, there's a nagging little voice inside my head that poses the question, "Will this, like all trends, begin to fade?" As someone who spends a lot of her time writing, researching, and contemplating the intersection between body positivity and fashion, I'm aware of the myriad of campaigns and advertisements and models and brands trying to "join the effort," and I'm also aware that many of them don't really seem to care about the activism, but the image — the "being hip" thing. Thus why it's even more special when amongst the sea of body pos "revolutions" happening right now, something stands out as, well, unique.
I was pretty delighted when I was approached by Unique Vintage to be a part of their Style Society. I was even more delighted when they introduced me to their "#IAmUnique" campaign — a movement, in and of itself, whose core echoes mine.
Just take a look at this segment from the campaign's description:

You come in all shapes and sizes, from all backgrounds and beliefs, and from all orientations and affiliations. You are published pin ups, military wives welcoming husband’s home, and high school seniors putting your own unique spin on your formal wear. You are mothers enjoying a vamped up night out, grandmothers with a flair for era fashion, dramatic drag queens making the world their stage, and cancer survivors finding hope and flaunting confidence in the perfect dress. You are all of this, that, and everything in between. 
It's my personal belief that if we're ever to see size acceptance and body positivity happen, the "unique" must be celebrated. All the things we've been told are "flaws" or "idiosyncrasies" need to metamorphose into beloved aspects of ourselves. The things that make us different need to also be perceived as the things that make us most beautiful. The freckles, the fat tummy, the chafing thighs, the big ears, the thin lips... all these things are stunning. And it's about time we begin to live and breathe these words rather than post them flippantly online as inspo for our later selves.
The #IAmUnique campaign isn't about pitting one type of woman against another. It's not about fat vs. skinny, Victoria's Secret Angel vs. "Average Woman," right way vs. wrong way. Where so many brands are focusing on creating an even more prominent divide (albeit often with the intention of instilling confidence in a previously under-served customer), this one is about every body, every style, every age, every human.
Everyone's encouraged to hop on board this movement by sharing a photo of themselves on social media with the accompanying #IAmUnique hash tag. I think at a time when "vanity" is still considered a deadly sin, taking a moment to appreciate and recognize your uniqueness becomes even more important. Reflecting on the things that make you you is an invaluable experience — it's part of growing up and accepting all those things you'd previously struggled with. It's part of evolving into someone truly body positive.
There is an infinite quantity of characteristics that makes each individual unique. So honestly, it can be difficult to put into words the feelings and thoughts you come across when contemplating yourself and the type of person you are. I guess I could say the things that make me unique are my social awkwardness or my penchant for sci-fi or my encyclopedic (okay, I'm exaggerating) knowledge of "where drug fiction meets the American Dream (or lack thereof)" — thank you MA degree. But, really, I think the more noteworthy things are usually harder to explain.
Perhaps I am unique because of my sensitivity. Perhaps it's the fact that I cry as easily as I breathe, with no notice and oftentimes to no tactile cause. Perhaps it's the love I feel for my body — even if so many people think I must be lying. When I write or vocalize the fact that I actually enjoy my fatness — that the softness its come with has made me feel so much more feminine (not that femininity should be a "goal," but it is a trait I am drawn to in my own style), and, more importantly, more myself — people are more often than not in disbelief. Humans aren't taught to love their bodies, after all. But I know that what I'm saying is true, and if that does make me unique, then I am irrevocably thrilled.

But I suppose I'm also unique because I, more often than not, evoke a chunky cartoon character. And that honestly makes me smile:

Get the Look:
Unique Vintage Mint Cocktail Dress, $128, unique-vintage.com

08 April 2015

Oh I Have Been Wondering Where I Have Been Pondering

There's something incredibly rewarding about doing things you've been told you couldn't (or shouldn't) do. I have no doubt that this is why reaching some kind of seemingly impossible career goal or learning to hit that high note your singing instructor swore was out of your range feels so good. Because the reality is that when we're told we can't do something, we often want to do it even more (shout out to underage drinking). 
As I've gotten older, this is how I've started to feel about clothes. I know what I'm expected to wear as a plus-size woman, so I usually finding myself wanting to wear the exact opposite. You're telling me I can't show off my VBO? I'm going to show off my VBO in a red bodycon dress. You're telling me I can't wear stripes? I'm going to wear those stripes.
It's not so much about "seeking attention," (not that that's an inherently bad thing), but I do think there's an aspect of wanting to shock people. Because if certain humans are so absorbed in thinking an entire group of people can't do this or can't wear that, they kind of deserve (IMHO) to feel uncomfortable — to realize that those narrow minded ideologies of theirs won't make you lessen yourself. Won't make you feel small.

I have this weird relationship with the "comfort zone." On the one hand, I love stepping outside it. I enjoy going places totally unlike those I've been to. I like wearing fatkinis that I never would have tried as a kid or teen. But it can also be difficult. Knowing you're doing something that's going to put you on display in some way can be terrifying. But maybe that's all the more reason to do it. We can't grow or learn or experience when we stay inside our little bubbles (no matter how wonderful those bubbles might be).
And that's why it's equally important to do things despite knowing that you might be putting others outside their comfort zones. When it comes to matters surrounding any kind of hatred or discrimination, especially, perhaps the only way to move forward is to make perpetuators of these notions feel a bit weird. I know that a lot of people out there would cringe at the sight of my bottom, but if they're going to live their lives making groups of people feel bad for being somehow "different," then I have no qualms with wearing my chunkini to the beach, where they'll have to see basically every roll.
It's been a while since I've blogged, and I think that's because I've been feeling so "comfortable." In total contrast to January, much of the year has been easy. I love my job. I'm with my partner. I'm in a city I [mostly] love. But I'm going to actively try to remember that discomfort can be beautiful — and things that make us uncomfortable are usually important.

Outfit: Zelie For She


15 January 2015

It's Hard To Lose A Chosen One

If I'm being honest, January has been an absolute nightmare. I tend to use the first month of a New Year as foreshadowing material — but I am seriously hoping that 2015's is a fluke. Perhaps all of the really terrible things are getting themselves out of the way to make way for softer, kinder months, especially considering that by the end of 2014, I was actually looking forward to the coming 12 months. But I guess that's what you get for having good expectations. (Moral of the story: Never have expectations other than bad ones.)
I know it's hard to tell how bad January has been based on these photographs — but I can't take any credit for that. The ethereal prettiness is mostly down to Rachel Crittenden's beautiful photography (and, you know, how she is as a human), and also the fact that it's hard not to feel happy when wearing a dress like this. I've been obsessed with red lately, and I think this dress is definitely that obsession's climax. It's a little number by Chi Chi Clothing for ASOS and is basically everything I need from an almost-gown. It flows and swirls. It has intricate lace detailing. And it has that nifty little ability of transporting you to age-5 before the world interfered in your never-ending happy dance.
Nothing about this dress is particularly "flattering," in the way that you hear that word so often thrown around. It doesn't show off my curves so that I look like a bombshell-classic-beauty-with-an-hourglass-figure. Nor does it hide them in a way that would make me pass as anything less than a chunky lady. But I think that's why I love it. It's not trying to be a fashion rule. It's just existing timelessly, as though the rules of dressing for your size never even crossed its mind.

Get the Look:
Chi Chi Plus Longsleeved Lace Bardot Midi Dress/ASOS

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