08 September 2016

Ready To Stare x Migg Mag: The Importance Of Fat Friendship

My first best friend was fat. We met in the fourth grade, and I still wonder whether we would've clicked as much had our body types not given us something to relate to one another with straight off the bat.

Two young women who'd later become some of my closest friends, and whom I met the year after, were living in similar, round-bellied bodies. In our small, conservative town — where "ideal beauty" was akin to the standard thinness and whiteness typical of Western dogma at large, but with the addition of fake tans and surfer brands — we all stood out. But none of us felt particularly good about that fact. So if we couldn't physically shrink, we could do our best to do so in speech, in personality, in voice, in presence.
These women were all incredible people: They remain some of the kindest, strongest, most brilliant individuals one can hope to meet. But I often wonder how our formative years would've played out if we'd come across some confident, like-bodied women a lot sooner: Fat women who didn't believe that it was inherently wrong to be fat; fat women who wore the clothes they wanted to wear; who knew that they were no less desirable because of their VBOs; who realized that the problem lies not with fat people themselves, simply for existing, but with the folks and institutions that insist on shaming them, simply for existing.
These days, much of my time is spent online: Soaking up imagery of fat, empowered humans who wear the bright colors, who laugh and live loudly, who take up space with no apology, who fight sizeism in both their day-to-day lives and in grander politics. Alysse Dalessandro of Ready To Stare is one of the fat women whose online presence has deeply touched my life.
We first came into contact with each other through Bustle, after she joined my team and produced some of the most fearless, thought-provoking stories I had the pleasure of editing. Although our relationship began under the umbrella of professionalism, I had the utmost pleasure of meeting her IRL earlier this summer when she visited New York for The Curvy Con. Her work had long inspired me — her writing and her designs alike — and we literally ran into each other's arms at first glance.

That afternoon was spent taking photos with my partner, Patrick, walking through Midtown, and eating some pretty scrumptious tater-tots. But most importantly, it was spent talking. The online fat acceptance community is immeasurably important. But having encounters with fat positive people, in the flesh, is of utmost value as well: To spend time with someone in a body similar to your own, who realizes so acutely that fat bodies are subject to deeply ingrained intolerance, and who makes a conscious decision each day to fight that intolerance, is beyond empowering.

When you spend so much of your life being told that living in your body type makes you inferior, meeting someone who so boldly reminds you that nothing could be further from the truth is motivation to keep striving for better. Not just for yourself, but for all those people who still haven't realized that they've been lied to.
Being fat still comes with its fair share of socially-constructed issues. We are frequently denied health care based on BMI alone. We remain the punchline of many a film or TV show. We are told that love does not exist at our size: That sex is not for us. That clothes are not for us. That we cannot start living until ~the thin person within~ is revealed after rigorous, even life-threatening lifestyle changes.

As we await, and fight, for this social narrative to change, re-framing our own narratives through fat positive friendships — both in person and on the Web — can do wonders. Taking pictures that show off your double chin, with someone who has one, too, can do wonders. Eating unapologetically with someone who knows that your meal plan does not equate to your moral compass or "goodness" versus "badness" can do much the same. And putting on those clothes — those bright, flowery, tight, or quirky clothes — can help, too.

And when much of the world insists on proclaiming otherwise, your fat positive friends can hopefully put things back into perspective.
What We're Wearing
Alysse: Plus Size Tropical Floral Plunge Dress, Deb Shops
Marie: Denim Overalls, ELOQUII

For more fat pos friendship, you can read Alysse's post here <3

25 April 2016

Time, As A Symptom

I've been finding it difficult to "dress up" as of late. Not even dress up, per se. Just getting dressed in anything that isn't leggings, a striped tee, and my go-to Dr. Marten boots can feel like a challenge. This isn't particularly unusual for me. If ever I'm stressed out or anxious or not feeling the ~life situation~ I'm in at any given moment, my style takes a big hit.
Unfortunately, this is something of a vicious cycle. As someone who loves fashion and beauty, the clothes I'm wearing and the makeup I put on all have the potential of affecting my mood. I think the same is true for a lot of folks. My partner, for example, can't get on with much if he stays in his PJs all day. Relaxed clothing, for him, isn't conducive to much productivity. For me, it's more about a sense of playfulness. My base state is reveling in the kitschiest of prints and loudest of colors — wearing Peter Pan-printed dresses and cupcake bodysuits like there was no tomorrow. And whenever I don't, I miss it.
It's natural to go through ebbs and flows when it comes to getting dressed. This is likely because it's natural to go through ebbs and flows regarding mental health or your career or your relationships or just about anything in this life. But I know that, psychologically and for whatever reason, putting in some kind of effort to feel cute and quirky can make a huge difference in my day-to-day.

Mustering up the initial effort is difficult at times. But 90 percent of the time, it's worth it.
The last few months, I've opted for basic upon basic: T-shirt and jeans combos, leggings and tunics, '90s mom jeans, solid-hued dresses, or loose-flowing silhouettes.

I gravitated toward this Maggy London Times Curve Bib Front Tunic at a time when dresses with any kind of embellishments, zippers, fastenings, or detailing seemed a more daunting concept than losing Jon Snow for good. But what I loved about it from the very get-go was the versatility. The beauty of "basics" is that they can be styled in a myriad of ways: Be it on their own, for an easy breezy look, or with neon-scrunchied baby buns and an old checkered shirt for more of that aforementioned quirky vibe.
I've been trying to take sartorial baby steps in the last few weeks: I put on something simple, like this dress — something that slips on and falls loosely so I don't feel constricted or imprisoned in any way. Then I pair it with some wacky accessories or a statement lip color or a funky hairdo to elevate my mood. And the thing is, it almost always works.

I love this dress because I know it’ll serve me well. I’ll wear it as a cover-up at the beach. I’ll wear it on days when I just DGAF about much and want the quickest, cutest option I can find. I’ll wear it when I need a foundation for something a little bolder — á la this baby buns look. I’ll wear it with a cardigan and knit tights in winter. It’s multi-purpose in the truest sense of the word (at least, the truest sense of the word in my book), meaning it’ll have my back regardless of my mental or emotional state. 


01 March 2016

Standing In The Way Of Control

Musician and designer Beth Ditto was one of the first fat women I ever saw naked besides myself. Her now-legendary covers for NME and LOVE Magazine presented me, and who knows how many others, with images of an unapologetic fat babe who wasn’t ashamed of her rolls or wobbles or cellulite. In 2007 and 2009, respectively, this was a rarity. There were few mainstream voices, if any, telling us that it was OK to be fat. There certainly weren’t many telling us that fat could be beautiful, powerful, desirable, bold, or successful, and doing it all while being visibly and proudly fat and wearing some of the tightest, most metallic lycra jumpsuits you’ve ever seen. Before “body positivity” went mainstream in 2015, before game-changing bloggers like Gabi Gregg or Nicolette Mason or Callie Thorpe, there was Ditto. 

In late 2015, Ditto announced that she’d be launching an independent collection the following year. But in the interim, she released this T-shirt dress in collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier (a design house that is actually one of the most inclusive on its runways). The image is clearly striking: That of an hourglass, feminine, corseted chest and abdomen.
On the opposite side, we can see the back of the corset, with actual laces that can change the fit of the garment depending on how tight or loose you want it to fall. The boobs are pointed, and the whole thing feels like an image of a femme robot living in fearlessness of its sexuality. But more than all that, I think this plus size piece is a metaphor.

A lot of fat babes are taught that inside them lives a skinny woman waiting to come out: She is happy, she is “healthy," she is confident, she is sexy. So many of us live our lives striving to ~help~ her come out. We diet, we binge, we purge, we buckle, we tuck. But we don’t have to. And that’s what I feel this image represents.
Thinking back to my childhood self, my teenage self, my early adult self, I mourn for all the time I lost striving to be different, not to mention the harm I put my body through, all in the effort of helping Skinny Marie crack the surface. The thing is, there isn’t a “thin woman within us all.” Yes, you can lose the weight; you can shed the “excess,” but at the end of the day, unhappy people tend to stay unhappy. And the number on the scale very rarely changes how we actually feel about ourselves.
That’s one of the infinite things diet culture — and our culture at large — doesn’t tell you, though. Everything is promised to us if only we make those “lifestyle” changes. “When I’m thin, I will travel. When I’m thin, I will lose my virginity. When I’m thin, I will be beautiful. When I’m thin, I will love myself. When I’m thin, everything will be better.” That was the running dialogue in my head for years, and I know it’s the same for a lot of fat humans. 
The truth? You don’t need to shed any pounds to start feeling good about yourself. You don’t have to shed any pounds to find romance, have brilliant sex, build a great platform or career, or to deserve acceptance. You just have to make a conscious effort to disregard beauty standards and societal sizeism. You have to look at all the mainstream visuals you’re being presented with — all the entertainment, magazines, movies, television shows, advertisements — that only celebrate one primary body type, and confront the absurdity of that. You have to look around you IRL, acknowledge the reality we live in (one where bodies come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, styles, races), and question why the hell we only see the white, the thin, the cis, the able. There is no justifiable reason for this exclusion, of course. So there’s no reason to cater to it or mold your life around it.
To me, this dress is a direct confrontation to all the so-called rules and social guidelines that tell me and other fat women that we have to transform. I am fat, I love my fat, and that’s the narrative I want to live in. The petite individual's frame depicted on this T-shirt dress symbolizes the fact that I don’t have to look like her. She might be close to the status quo in terms of mainstream aspirational beauty tropes. But she is not me. Me is fat. And me doesn’t have to be anything otherwise. 


27 February 2016

There You Stood On The Edge Of Your Feather, Expecting To Fly

As someone who loves glitter, sequins, trippy prints, and a good slogan T-shirt, "basics" have always translated to "boring" in my mind. I mean, why would you wear a plain denim dress when you could wear an all-over sequin jumpsuit? But since working full time, my style has admittedly made room for the simpler things in life.

Before moving back to New York for work in late 2014, I hadn't worn jeans in years (at least more than, like, twice a month), and certainly not plain tees. I'd tossed any dress aside that reminded me a little too much of the department store options in my hometown mall in Jersey. Basically, anything that didn't make me feel glam and queenly and overtly fatshionable was off the table.
But then I started my job, which involves a 90-minute commute one way. And all those grown-up, real-world worries I'd had previously about less time spent with my partner and friends, less time to focus on personal projects, less time to get ready in the morning proved more or less true. It's not that the contemporary work schedule leaves no time for anything outside of your employment. It's more that in the time I do have (which is more limited than when I was a student and freelancer), my priorities have shifted.

Much like "Netflix and chill" has become priceless in the evenings, 30 extra minutes of sleep in the morning are now invaluable. Most days, I'd rather wear something comfortable, cute, and easy that doesn't require a lot of time to put together or think about.
That's kind of why I like a lot of the London Times Curve collection at Maggy London. Many of the dresses remind me of those you might find in plus sections of the aforementioned hometown mall department stores, but I mean that in a genuinely kind way. 

There's a city brunch vibe to the pieces that, when combined with bolder accessories, is pretty perfect for a Millennial's day at the office. They're the kind of outfits I can dress up to look more or less bold, depending on the occasion or how visible I want to be on any given day. And most have just enough detailing to avoid blending in and going sartorially unnoticed. I definitely think that's true of this Denim Lace T-Shirt Dress.
The sleeves are my favorite part. They remind me of a lot of things I used to wear in high school, so I can't help but feeling kind of young and carefree in it. 

Granted, plus size fashion options were so painfully limited back then that I cringe to think of half the shit I used to wear. But I do know that a staple in my life from ages 15 to 18 was the T-shirt dress. The ones of my youth were always pretty doldrum, though: The kind of things you'd buy for $5 at Costco or BJs because the grocery store was apparently where fat women had been relegated to shop. This T-shirt dress doesn't feel like that. It just feels like the solution to all those mornings when I want to feel like a cutie but can't be bothered with zips or strings or tightness or buttons or any kind of unnecessary constriction.
I paired the look with the Lucy Layered Chainbelt in Gold from Ready To Stare. Designer and writer Alysse Dalessandro fights for the visibility of fat women in everything she does, and her chain belts are the perfect example. They're the kind of accessory that demands attention. They're not the sort of thing you'd wear to "hide" your body or pretend to be "slimmer" in. In this case, the Lucy Chainbelt was just the thing to elevate a more classic closet staple into levels of subtle edginess. I always love to feel like I'm breaking a so-called plus size fashion rule when I get dressed in the morning. And this belt helped me do just that while staying perfectly comfy in the denim dress.

Maybe a month ago, Ariel (Kiddotrue), one of the most poignant, real voices on social media, wrote a status about how it's not uncommon for straight size bloggers to post outfits that are more or less simple — think jeans and striped tees, or the most basic dress. But that it's a lot rarer to see plus bloggers do the same.

For me, posting "simpler" ensembles has always felt challenging. Maybe as a fat woman, I feel like I always have to be "interesting" in order to be more accepted in Cyberspace. Or maybe it's the age-old adage of not wanting to feel like I'm not ~trying at life.~ But the truth is that I don't always want to dress in the OTT looks, and I don't. My real life isn't always tutus and polka dots and platform sweater shoes. Sometimes it's all about a simple dress. And I'm digging this one and the nostalgia feels its happening to evoke.


25 February 2016

I Don't Know What We're Afraid Of Now

For most of 2015, I neglected this blog; my little corner of the Internet, but I'm hoping to jump back in, if that's cool.

Late in 2015, I sat in a body positive panel with Ushshi of Dress Carcass. There, she urged the audience to remember that their dollars matter. I know it's incredibly easy to swipe your credit card at all those fast fashion brands selling five items for the price of one, but only using size 12/14 models in their supposedly inclusive photo shoots, but it's perhaps far more helpful to issues of body positivism to support the independent brands doing things right. The brands that care about listening and giving visibility to plus size women. The brands that aren't just co-opting "body positivity" because it's a buzzword, but that live and breathe all the industry changes we're supposedly fighting for.

I see small brands like Smart Glamour (a one woman show founded and run by Mallorie Dunn), that manage to make sizes XXS through 6XL (not to mention custom sizing), and it baffles me that multi million dollar corporations claim it's just too expensive to extend their ranges. So I made a decision this year when it came to fashion, which was to only purchase from the brands that give a shit about me, and my fellow fat fashion lovers of all sizes, shapes, and styles. When my budget allows, this might mean buying one rad skirt instead of three striped tees and a knit cardigan at H&M. But if I'm supporting folks who believe in equal representation — without exceptions, disclaimers, or subjective plus inclusion — then I'm all for it. I wanted to start with Ready To Stare.

I've had the pleasure of working with writer and designer Alysse Dalessandro at Bustle for about a year now, and she's a constant source of inspiration to me. She wears whatever the hell she wants, she designs whatever the hell she wants, and her fat activism never feels feigned or altered to fit into any mainstream, cookie cutter idea of body positivity. And in November 2015, she broke the Plus Size Internet.

It wasn't a nude selfie or fatkini photo that did it. It was a dress — the Convertible Cupcake Dress/Maxi Skirt. If you want to read a fascinating account about the polarizing reactions this dress caused online, I highly recommend reading her blog post on the subject.  My take is sorta this. 

For decades, plus size women had very little in the way of available, stylish fat fashion. What we did have usually consisted of baggy, boring silhouettes designed to hide our every curve — but possibly decked out in some oversized flowers or rhinestones seemingly meant to distract from the fact that we had no real options. See below.

The principal sartorial "rule" for plus size women was simply to hide their bodies at all costs, because who in their right mind would want to see those rolls or know there was a fat human in their presence?

But there's always been this other "guideline" of sorts that proves just how contradictory beauty standards are. Fat women should do their damnedest to "flatter" their figures. They must cinch in at the waist, push up the boobs, show off the booties, and look as hourglass-perfect as possible. If we're going to insist on being fat, then we must at least all be fat versions of Marilyn Monroe. 

I love that so many fat women, myself included sometimes, show our bodies love through form-fitting, rule-breaking outfits. I love that we rock two-piece bikinis, bodycon dresses, mini skirts, and crop tops in constant acts of subversion. I'm thankful for that, and the bravery I see in so many women who show off their fat despite the fact that we're still living in a time when fat people face biases in the medical community, increased likelihood of conviction, minimal representation in any media, impacted earning potential, and ongoing trolling simply because they don't exist in a body deemed conventionally acceptable and attractive. But sometimes I wonder whether our desire to present unapologetically has meant we've forgotten the importance of variety and choice.

To me, the liberation of plus size fashion has always been about options. In the world of "straight size" style, women between sizes 0 and 12 have what feels like almost unlimited access to clothes. If you want an oversized, minimalist, athleisure-esque silhouette, you can probably find it. If you want a form-fitting mini in a bold print, you can likely find that, too. The same isn't unfortunately true for plus size women.

When Alysse released this dress/skirt hybrid, some people were pretty mad. They accused her of "setting plus size fashion back." And of designing something highly "unflattering." Little did they know that designing an eff you to "flattering" was precisely her intention.

This dress was a symbol. If it had been worn on any runway or red carpet by a thin woman, it likely wouldn't have received the deluge of criticism Alysse got (á la Rihanna's cupcake dress). She created an option — an option for any fat woman who loves baggy silhouettes but doesn't feel like she's entitled to them because they won't shrink or hourglass-ify her body. This was an option for those who love unconventional cuts, but who have never had those kind of runway-weird selections available in their size. She created an option that bridged the gap between straight and plus just a little bit more.

I'll admit that I sometimes have an internal struggle with garments that aren't body-hugging in some way. Maybe it's partially because I'm Colombian, and was taught that highlighting one's curves is life-important. But also, I genuinely care about breaking all those other supposed rules that say fat women should hide their bodies. Subsequently, I feel kind of weird when I wear things that could be associated with the "dark days of plus size fashion" (like, pre-2011) and the very crummy selection we once had — mainly, really baggy cuts. But today's baggy cuts can also be some of the comfiest cuts, and very cute in their own right. It's a weird cycle.

Even after delving into the worlds of body positivism and political fat fashion, I sometimes forget that we're allowed to wear whatever the hell we want, no matter our size. 

This dress/maxi skirt (which I'm first wearing as a skirt, obviously, but plan on styling in dress form soon) helped me confront any lingering plus size fashion "rules" I was harboring, and it felt lovely to wear (also, it had pockets!). I've always been someone who loves to experiment with playing dress up in different ways, and it was just the piece to remind me of that.

I paired it with Alysse's "I'm Morbidly Obsessed With Myself" tee. Clinically, I fall somewhere in the middle of regular old obesity and morbid obesity, leaning more towards morbid obesity on a good day, so I know it's not 100 percent factually accurate (not that it would mean anything if it was. BMI isn't the "thing" we're so often taught it is). But the message is one so bold and close to home that I couldn't help but fall in love (plus, it was designed as a direct confrontation to health trolling on the Internet, which I can obviously get behind).

I love the image of the selfie-taking fatshionista who's totally feeling herself. I think women are often scolded for being "vain," but that's always translated to "loving yourself too much" in my mind. We're not often taught to love ourselves. We just aren't. And I think that's even truer for people who are further marginalized for things like size, race, abilities, or identity. To me, being publicly "vain" when you're plus size and showing love for your body isn't about trying to convince the whole world that you're attractive. It's about lifting yourself and other plus size women up. It's about elevating the levels of self-respect that social norms condition us to believe we deserve (because, you know, we're conditioned to believe we deserve none).

Fat women aren't really supposed to love themselves. Not until we lose weight. Not until we're prettier. Not until we're "healthier" and just... "better." In actuality, we're allowed to love ourselves at any weight. We're allowed to love ourselves regardless of beauty standards. We're allowed to define our own standards. 

Openly showing yourself some self-love in whatever way feels right seems important to me. Women and girls should know that the "norm" shouldn't be to hate our bodies. The norm should be to love ourselves so much that we decorate those bodies however we want, take as many selfies as we see fit, and treat ourselves to whatever "indulgences" bring us the most joy. There's no shame in being "vain." It doesn't mean you're arrogant, or secretly look down upon those around you. It just means that you've decided to live in peace with your body.

Finally, I paired this look with the Lucy Layered Chain Belt in Gold. I've never worn a chain belt before, but I'm smitten. It's the definition of a statement accessory.

The statements are what I love about all of these pieces by Alysse, and her entire collection TBH. Maybe this cupcake dress isn't "flattering" if we're talking about conventional-beauty-standards-flattering. But why should plus fashion be only that? 

I love that this dress wasn't designed to "help" make the wearer look smaller. It doesn't care about "slimming" properties. It doesn't pretend not to have a kitschy, gaudy side. It just wants to break some rules. 

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