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 (รก 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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