17 July 2019

Weird T-Shirts Are My Comfortable Style Staple

These days, there are few things I love putting on my body quite as much as plus-size T-shirts. The seemingly simple wardrobe "basic" was one I avoided for a long time. It wasn't a conscious decision, per se. I just liked to feel done-up. Or maybe, as a fat woman, I thought I had to be done-up. I'm still not totally sure which it was; possibly some combination of the two.

In any case, the older I've gotten, the less concerned I've become with always wearing dresses and skirts and pearls and kitten heels. Don't get me wrong: I still enjoy all of these things very much. I've also just happened to learn to feel equally cute, professional, or ready for the day ahead in more low-key garments — my favourite of which is the ever-easy-to-wear tee.
I was extremely excited when LA-based designer Heather Lipner re-launched the formerly-named Clashist into Clashish in late 2018 (you can check out her Instagram here). These T-shirts are a most whimsical source of pop culture references, trippy prints, and otherwise bold designs (just look at the Private Parts Tee currently for sale). The brand has even launched kidswear! If ever you've dreamed of dressing your toddler in a shirt covered in fanny packs, look no further. 

The adult Two-Headed Teddy Tee I'm wearing here is definitely my current fave on the site. I absolutely love that, from afar, one might think I'm simply rocking some run-of-the-mill plush bears on my bosom. Upon closer inspection, however, it will quickly become clear that this is not the case. No, no. These bears have two heads!

They are grotesque and adorable all at once, which is right up this former emo kid's alley. In addition to being a big fan of T-shirts, I am forever a lover of wearing indisputably weird things. I probably feel most myself when doing so, actually. If I were to dig deep into why this might be the case, I'm sure it has something to do with reclaiming the term "weird" after years of childhood and adolescent bullying on the basis on my perceived oddness.
I paired the look with some punky check trousers that I picked up at M&S last winter (similar ones are still available at M&S or Boohoo) and wide-fit, chunky yellow trainers from ASOS. The outfit pleased my '90s-bred sensibilities, and is just incredibly comfortable to wear through the day. 

Comfort has become pretty important to me since having children. I know I'm going to be chasing after them all day, cleaning up their myriad messes, and wrangling them in and out of the car multiple times. I need to be able to move easily, and that's where the classic tee and trouser look usually has my back. 

Comfort doesn't have to be boring, though. By rocking a T-shirt featuring a quirky AH design, I can achieve the feeling without sacrificing my more peculiar sartorial preferences.

Size Note: Although Clashish doesn't yet have a specific plus-size line, I have found that the unisex XL and XXL sizes are very stretchy and can accommodate a decent range. For reference, I am wearing the XXL (I wear a size UK 24/26; US 20/22) and I'm certain it would still fit at one or two sizes larger.

12 July 2019

5 Must Have Baby Items That Have Gotten Me Through The Wildest Times

If there's one question I consistently get asked about raising kids, it's what my absolute must-have baby items are — that is, the things I really couldn't have survived the last two and a half years without. Or, more accurately, that I wouldn't have wanted to survive the last two and a half years without.

There are endless listicles and hot-takes on the subject out there, all of which are wholly subjective. I believe we each have to learn what our preferred methods of parenting are, and what items might suit those methods (not to mention our financial situations) best. It's not something that can necessarily happen until our babies are here, nor is it something that becomes crystal clear overnight once they are.

There are arguably very few things a brand new baby, or even a toddler, needs outside of love (cheesy as it may sound), care, and basic necessities (milk, food, clothes, diapers). A changing table isn't anywhere near as "essential" as setting aside some uninterrupted time to play with your kid. The latest designer buggy won't scream "I love you" more than shutting off your phone for some legit quality time. And as great as she may be, Sophie La Girafe is simply no substitute for a parent or guardian's embrace.

That in mind, there are material goods that may make things easier for all parties involved. There's no shame in buying shit (if and when you can) that's going to help get you through the day, nor in prioritizing self-care even when you have other human beings to look after.

The below items are the things that have genuinely helped me out along the way, and that I hope will be useful to other carers as well. This isn't a sponsored post — just a bit of a glimpse into the things that make my day-to-day walk in motherhood a little calmer and, inevitably, a lot more fun.

1. Zipper Onesies

You might think you know what to expect in terms of your infant's bowel movements — but, if you're anything like me, there's nothing that can quite prepare you for that first explosive poonami. We're talking an overflowing nappy of liquid poo, usually in a too-bright yellow hue. It drips out of every possible Pampers corner, seeps through countless layers of clothes, and forever permeates your environment with the distinct smell of pre-solid-eating baby crap. 

Hopefully, your child won't choose to erupt in the middle of Camden Market, with no bathroom in sight, on a cold March day (we put quite a show on for passerby as we dealt with the disaster on a patch of fake grass near the late-great Amy Winehouse's statue). If and when it happens, however (and it will, especially before your baby is on solids), you probably won't want to be messing about with tights, or buttons, or over-the-head ensembles that'll smear all the poo up the baby's back and into their hair. Zipper onesies, my friends, are where it's at.

With just a quick zip down, you can extract your child from the soiled clothes without making even more of a mess. They won't cry as much. You won't cry as much. It's a win-win for all. My favorite places to shop zipper onesies are Carter's in the U.S. and Bonds Wondersuits (which you can find via Brighter Babes) in the U.K. For some reason that I cannot for the life of me fathom, there aren't a ton of U.K.-based brands making these (I usually stock up when I visit family in the States). My greatest sartorial wish for the world of children's clothing is that this soon changes.

2. A Hand-Held Vac

Children are messy. And dirty. And will very likely tear your house apart mere minutes after you've just finished the rare three-hour deep clean.

They are equally nasty eaters, keen on crumbling every bit of solid food you give them into a million little pieces that will soon decorate your floor. They may throw their Ella's Kitchen packets onto the tiles with such force that the contents squirt across the room, coating everything in squishy fruit and veg compote. Think muffins are a good, quick breakfast solution? Think again — never have you seen such an abundance of crumbs on your baby, on the high chair, across the dining table, and all over the ground you walk on.

If you don't want to be faffing about with a standard vacuum cleaner several times a day, I highly recommend investing in a heavy duty hand-held vac. Our very cheap pre-baby handheld Hoover was ultimately no match for the quantities of food my partner and I found ourselves cleaning up on the daily, but this Holife Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner has been everything we could ever want and more. It's suitable for wet and dry cleaning, comes with a handy-dandy charging station, and gets even the messiest jobs done in a matter of a minute or two. Just don't forget to empty the vac regularly, for the contents can get rank fast.

3. An All Terrain Double Buggy

When you're navigating the transportation of two children of two different ages, the struggle to find the perfect double stroller can be all too real — especially if you want a product that's going to be suitable for any kind of terrain. My family and I live in the countryside and love taking long walks into the hills, forests, and verdant abyss. Because my toddler only has a certain amount of walking in her per day, and my baby can't yet traverse rocky, cobbled, sandy, or muddy ground without face-planting, I needed a buggy that would survive even the roughest of roads.

Buggies are, unfortunately, absurdly expensive. On occasion, you may strike luck and find a good deal on a second-hand one within driving distance of wherever you are, but we did not strike such luck. Not the first time, anyway.

Initially, I opted for the Joie Evalite Duo Tandem Stroller — one of the most budget-friendly options on the market. I actually opted for it twice. The first time, it simply stopped folding up (thus making it completely impractical and impossible to fit into my car). I figured it was a fault with my particular stroller, so I chose to purchase the same product again. This time, I found one on eBay. 

And this time, it literally exploded. I wanted to take the girls to a nearby park, so I strapped them into the stroller and made my way down a cobbled road. The stroller struck one particularly raised cobble, and bam. Screws burst out from every direction, my toddler's front seat fell completely off the base, and one of the wheels sprung off and away before I knew what the hell was going on. 

Suffice it to say, I decided right then and there (as I was forced to ditch the buggy components next to a nearby bin, only to make the walk back up the hill toward my car while carrying a toddler in one arm and my baby — plus her carseat — in the other) that I needed to invest in something that would last.
Mountain Buggy
Cue the Mountain Buggy Duet Pram. This thing is indescribably magnificent. So far, we've taken it into stony forests, onto fields of tall grass, across deep mud, onto the beach, and literally everywhere and anywhere else. It is not cheap (and is in fact the most expensive thing I have ever bought, which required a while of saving up), but it is still significantly cheaper than many of the other "all terrain" options out there, which can soar well beyond £1000.

Because of this buggy, I feel safe navigating any weather and any environment on my own with the girls. It's also one of the narrowest side-by-side double buggies you can buy, meaning you should be able to fit into any standard-sized door without having to leave your children on the street (a must for us, as we live in a small town with equally small doors and only sometimes want to leave our children on the street).

4. A Comfortable Nursing Pillow (If You Can & Want To Nurse)

I knew throughout both of my pregnancies that I wanted to try to nurse. I work from home, so it wouldn't mean a ton of pumping, and — I don't know — I just liked the idea. I liked thinking of holding my babes close, literally nourishing them with my body. 

Nursing is not a prerequisite to being a good parent, and it definitely isn't right for everyone. If, however, you can and want to breastfeed, the Chicco Boppy Pillows might be a godsend. 

In the early days of breastfeeding, little ones are often more attached to your breast than not. This could mean hours, upon hours of nursing (with, if you're lucky, enough of an intermission in between feeds to pee or brush your teeth).

Finding a comfortable position to nurse in when I first had Luna was hard, but it became much, much easier when I tried a specifically-designed breastfeeding pillow. It meant she was comfortable, and I was comfortable. Heck, I could even sit on the couch and watch some TV while she dozed into a milk coma.

5. Lulla Doll

The Kid Collective
If I had to choose the hardest thing about raising children, so far, it would hands down be the lack of sleep. The exhaustion caused by days, then months, then potentially years of not getting a good night's rest is something you cannot ever plan for. It penetrates body and mind alike — it impacts your memory, your mood, your ability to find joy in things, or to complete even the most basic of tasks. It's just terrible.

My eldest barely slept for the first 18 months of her life. Whether we bed shared, or tried a near-me cot, or put her in her own room, nothing worked. Well, almost nothing. 

I won't say the Lulla Doll will guarantee a restful night, or solve all your sleep-deprived crises. However, it certainly helped Luna sleep for longer stretches at a time. For 12 hours, Lulla will play breathing and heartbeat sounds meant to imitate a carer's natural noises. As we bed shared for a long time, and Luna was pretty used to our noises, she took to Lulla right away.

I purchased Lulla as a gift for Luna on her first birthday, and the calm that struck her little face upon hearing Lulla's soft noises was instant. I only wish we'd found the little blue-haired baby sooner.

Again, these products are things that have worked well for my family and me, but they are by no means "essential" or "required." Above all, you absolutely must "do you" when you're raising little ones. If you find what works for your unique needs and wants, nothing else should really matter.


09 July 2019

When Plus-Size Nursing Clothes Let You Down

Since having my eldest daughter two and a half years ago (Luna), only to welcome another little girl into the world 19 months later (Elia), much of my life has revolved around breastfeeding. This means I've consistently been looking for plus-size maternity clothes that might facilitate popping a boob out at any given moment, while ideally not straying too far from the styles that feel most, well, me.

The thing is, neither of these options really exist. There are almost no maternity or nursing styles specifically designed for plus-size parents. In fact, aside from independent brand Leche Libre, which offers five looks in a 1X to 3X size range, I haven't actually come across any retailer making garments to accommodate my size UK 24/26 (US 20/22) body or bodies larger than my own.

This applies to nursing bras as well — the dearth in extended band sizes feels like an irrevocable personification of the notions that fat babes don't (or can't) have romantic relationships, or babies, or the desire to look and feel cute, whether they are sustaining life or otherwise. As of this season, Viva Voluptuous is thankfully offering the first pretty options in any band and cup size, but these remain a rare gem in a sea of ill-fitting, hospital-beige garments.
While I know there are plenty of things to worry about when babies come into our lives — things that are arguably far more urgent and important than the clothes we put on our bodies — fashion really does mean something to me. Parenthood, so far, has been an ongoing process of determining the things about "pre-baby-me" that I wish to carry into this new chapter, and letting go of the ones that no longer fit.

I've learned that fashion lives in the former category; that clothing, for me, isn't just about practicality, but about a sense of security. Like armor, an outfit that makes me feel powerful, or put-together, or quirky, or interesting, or professional, or glamorous (depending on the mood I wish to evoke on any given day) helps get me through even the most trying of situations. Through the unthinkable, the wonderful, and everything in between.
Feeling like I was losing my sense of style to motherhood was unnerving for this reason. I couldn't utilize my pre-existing armor because most of it did not allow me to nourish my children with ease. You can't exactly raise a form-fitting, high-neck dress over your chest every time your baby wants to nurse, particularly when out in public. Nor can you navigate holding up the weight of a maxi in one hand while holding your child to your boobs with the other. You can't maneuver a bodysuit when your kid is screaming in hanger. Nor can you wiggle out of a wiggle dress when an infant is pulling at your top in frustration and despair. 

Luckily, plus-size babes have long been using ingenuity to create sartorial options that no one else is making for us. When it became clear that nursing-wear wasn't going to suddenly energize into my wardrobe, I was forced to examine everyday styles that could potentially be adapted.
Button-down tops and dresses were the most obvious, but I still wasn't comfortable with the thought of being funneled toward one look alone. Tank tops, spaghettis, and camis were my next idea — anything with straps that I could pull down on one side without completely having to undress. The true revelation, however, was the wrap dress: a silhouette offered in a diverse range of aesthetics across various plus-size brands, often featuring unique details in terms of hemline, sleeve, pattern, or material.

This ELOQUII dress was the first thing I purchased for myself in the lead-up to Elia's arrival. It was loud but kind of timeless; comfortable but kind of glamorous. I could wear it with sneakers while running around town with a double stroller, or dress it up with a kitten heel on a date night (should ever I have the energy for a date night). It even had a handy snap button detail at the chest, which I assume was put there so that a wearer might choose how plunging a neckline they desire. It was the outfit I wore on my first trip out of the house with Elia to a post-birth midwife appointment — and nearly a year later, it's still one of my favorite things to pull out of the closet when I want to conjure up those "you got this" vibes.
I don't know if it's the look-at-me boldness of the print, which demands attention in a world that would rather keep fat girls hidden away, or the malleability of the neckline, which means my baby never has to wait long for lunch, but I always feel on top of things in this outfit. The fact that I'm very likely not on top of anything ceases to matter, even if only for a short time, and the ensuing calm is a most magnificent feeling.
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