Too Much ‘Plus Size’ Not Enough ‘Fashion’

I always have mixed feelings about plus sized fashion. I find that there’s still way to much ‘plus size’ and just not enough fashion. Not that I’m any kind of fashionista by any means, but I am trying to keep up appearances.

With two kids, a mortgage in Toronto, and being a stay-at-home mum, I really need to look for deals where I can find them. I will fully acknowledge that I am one of those lucky women who can ‘walk the fence’ between so-called standard and plus sizes, so I can find clothing in stores like Old Navy which carry a size 16/18 while my slightly curvier friends can’t even walk in the door unless they’re shopping for scarves or earrings. But when it comes to nicer quality clothes, business, formal or (gasp) swimsuits, I am at as much of a loss as any gal who wears over a size 12/14.

I know that the plus sized clothing market is opening up, but I am finding that in Canada, we still have such a long way to go and while there are many fantastic online retailers which I promise to talk about in later posts, I am hesitant about ordering my clothes online. It’s not that I don’t embrace cyber-shopping. (Online booksellers can vouch for me there),  it’s just that when I think about how many pieces of clothing I have to try on before I can find one that fits, the idea of having to ship clothing to my house for the privilege of trying them on seems daunting. I want to spend an hour in a store and try on a dozen possibilities just like my less curvy friends.

So I want to use this blog to feature some of those great plus sized finds which make me hopeful that someday a size 6 and a size 26 woman will have the same access to great clothing. But, because I am also a born critic, I am going to call out some plus sized fashion crimes. Let’s go…

Kudos to MXM at Addition Elle for these two fantastic outfits for spring 2011

I mean, how awesome is this? Can’t you just imagine going out dancing or for a night out on the town? The shirt is long enough to hide any problem areas around the waist and it balances nicely the skinny leg of the pants. Of course, Iwould probably kill myself if I tried to go out in those shoes, but maybe some slightly less death-defying wedges?

And best of all, this is a silhouette that you see everywhere this season.  It’s just adapted for us curvier gals. Bravo.

Now this one I love because it’s sexy without being clingy. For a figure like mine which is thicker at the waist, but with long legs, this is a great look. I also like the fact that I don’t need to have an undergarment dilemma to wear this top. You can wear a bra with straps and you’re good to go. And those skinny jeans or leggings cling like a second skin while still look incredibly comfy and moveable. Very very nice.


Angry Skinny Chick

Wow, that sounds so weird, doesn’t it? I mean, try typing ‘Angry Skinny Chick’ into a Google image search engine and what you see is pretty innocuous. A lot of pictures of Amy Winehouse, some sadly anorexic looking models, but for the most part just a diverse grouping of photos with no real overarching theme.

Now type in ‘Angry Fat Chick’ and see what you get. I’ll wait… you go ahead…

 So, what did you see?  I came up with a shocking number of women, many considered morbidly obese by traditional medical standards, many naked or nearly naked, in various unflattering and degrading poses. One woman sits on a bed eating a whole cake, another is giving the middle finger salute with a scowl on her face. Two queen sized women sit on a bed in sexy lingerie feeding each other French fries. And of course there’s the obligatory unflattering photo of Kirstie Alley.

And then there’s this photo


Which, for some reason, linked back to a blog that seems to not only register football statistics, but also serves as a racist and sexist forum disparaging candid bikini photos of celebrities such as Penelope Cruz, with such gem-like comments as “She doesn’t appear to have a huge vagina like most latin women.” WTF??? I wasn’t able to find out where or why the lovely, smiley plus sized lingerie model ended up on this site or what was said about her (and really, maybe it’s better I never know) but considering the rest of the site, I’m assuming that’s for the best.

Now let me tell you the story that got me on this rant to begin with…

I have to confess that with two young kids, I’m as guilty as the next mum of schlumping around in my ‘mommy wear.’ Jeans, comfortable sweaters and tops, clunky shoes, shapeless coats  – you know the uniform. But with the promise of a new job in plus size fashion (more on that in another post), I made a promise to myself that I would try to step up my fashion game, even when I was in mommy mode.

So, off I go to the local office supplies store to get some photocopies done. It’s a beautiful fall day, cool but sunny, and I’m wearing my hot new brown biker boots (thank you Payless), some skinny jeans and this awesome coat that comes to just above my knees and fits me to a T. It’s grey and black, with just enough fitting at the waist to give it shape and best of all, it was $30 at Walmart. I had put a cute scarf around my neck, some sunglasses, earrings and off I went. I was looking pretty hot and feeling pretty confident, if I do say so myself.

On the way home, I’m walking down a major Toronto street, shopping bag in one hand, trusty large Timmies in the other, and I notice this girl who is walking towards me has her flip phone open and extended in my direction. I’m not paying too much attention to what she’s up to other than to notice that she’s pretty young and dressed in that early twenties uniform of the year, with a demin skirt over footless leggings and little flat shoes. Then the strangest thing happens. She starts to yell at me. Honestly it took me a second to realize that it was directed at me at all, except that I also suddenly realized that she had taken my picture. I can’t remember everything she said because I was so shocked and I frankly didn’t stop to lend her an ear but the parts I really remember were…

“Oh my god, you are so derivative. Everything about you is so derivative.”

“You are just an angry fat chick”

This went on for about 30 seconds tops, basically the time it took for her to pass me and for me to keep walking out of her shouting range, although she did continue shouting at me once I had passed her by. I almost felt sorry for the poor guy just behind her who looked horrified and stunned. Being me, and always wanting to make everything okay, I gave him a little smile and said something to the effect of ‘Wow, that girl is crazy.’

Still, what she did to me stayed with me for ages. I was so upset that day. I think only twice before in my life have I had somebody make a negative comment to me about my weight. But then I got thinking and I started Googling (Well to be honest, the Googling came the next day because I was curious to see if my photo was going to turn up  in some rant piece by this poor disturbed young woman). And what I started thinking was that her tirade had nothing to do with me seeming angry (because who could be angry in a brand new outfit, carrying a large coffee?). It had to do with me being visible and proud and put-together, and fashionable, and confident. I wasn’t trying to fade into the scenery. I think that more than anything else is what the whole ‘Angry Fat Chick’ thing is about.

In our diet obsessed culture, those of us who do not conform to the ridiculous standards set forth by high fashion and the media are supposed to be ashamed. We are supposed to remain invisible, skulk around on the periphery of life. And that made me kind of sad for that young woman who was so obviously taken in by everything the media had fed her that she felt she needed to take out her rage on a complete stranger. It made me realize that she was the one who was so sadly derivative. How many other women out there are just like her? So taken in by all of the convoluted messages that they have received since childhood that they feel the worst, most horrible thing you could ever be is ‘fat.’ Don’t get me wrong, the fact that she felt she could take out her delusional rage on a complete stranger still pisses me off. The fact that she could put such a dent in my day and affect me enough that I still feel, months later, that I need to comment on it makes me a pretty angry fat chick. But then I take a deep breath because I simply refuse to give her the satisfaction and in fact, I think I’ll  wear the very same outfit today in her honour. Timmies here I come.

The Perils of Canadian Winters

Okay, I admit that it was totally lame to start a blog and then disappear for two weeks or whatever it was. I fell victim to one of the perils of Canadian winters – the never-ending, undefinable, not quite nasty enough for antibiotics cold, sinus infection, cough, flu, stomach bug. I almost envy those of you out there who get one big whopper of a bug which flattens you for a few days then lets you get back into the swing of things.

I have a theory that since I’m a stay at home mum and everything in the house revolves around me, that my body will fight off a bug enough to keep me basically functional but yet feeling like crap for extended periods of time. Thus any writing time I may have had lately has been taken up by catnaps and the overarching guilt of making my almost 9 year old walk himself home from school only to find me lounging (read: exhausted and comatose) on the couch in the living room.

But, I’m back in the saddle this week after a four day weekend courtesy of the Toronto School Board who declared Friday a PA day and the Ontario government which came up with the rather silly but much appreciated statutory holiday called Family Day on Monday. I’m feeling mostly human and I promise to get posting!

I love Joy Nash

I found this video completely by accident and have since been watching everything that she does. Don’t be deterred from watching even if you’re in the average/skinny camp. It’s not just about being fat. It’s about living our lives in the bodies that we have rather than the body that we have idealized in our minds. Enjoy.

Trying to remember who I was…

I recently found some of my old high school creative writing assignments and remembered that I loved to write. I spent hours in my bedroom holed up with lined three hole paper and a bic pen, listening to ‘80s new wave bands and lamenting the future of man and woman kind. ‘Dancing With Tears in Their Eyes’ still gives me a creepy feeling down my spine. I joined Amnesty International and wrote protest letters to governments around the globe, much to my mother’s paranoid chagrin. I had penpals from all around the globe and we exchanged pictures and comparisons of our respective homes.

Now, I’m a stay at home mother and as my kids are getting older, I want to try and recapture some of that passion I had when I was younger. Not easy when you’ve spent the last few years writing nothing more thrilling than a grocery list.

I had a career before and after my first child. I worked for a high profile book publisher and got to meet all kinds of glamorous people (well, glamorous by literary standards anyway), attend parties, swan off to television and radio studios, escort some of our country’s top literati. But after my second, I didn’t go back (a whole other post entirely) and promised that I would be true to myself and what I really wanted.

Being a mum is distracting and all-consuming though, and as much as I and my other stay-at-home mummy friends joke about sitting on the couch eating bon bons, it’s damned hard work raising human beings to be productive members of society.

Still, its been almost 3 years since I’ve changed a diaper on one of my own kids and I find myself emerging from mummy mode and wondering what to do with myself. Any of you out there sympathize? Then let’s get going…