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Fa(t)shion February

Published February 11, 2012 by sleepydumpling

It’s February, and you know what that means?  The second annual Fa(t)shion February!  For those of you who haven’t encountered Fa(t)shion February, it started on Tumblr, simply fat people posting their clothing choices for the month of February.  Pretty straight forward huh?

Though it doesn’t necessarily have to be an outfit one gets dressed up in – it can also be the things you wear every day to do the stuff you do.  Your PJ’s.  Your exercise gear.  The stuff you wear while doing chores.  Doesn’t matter – it’s all just to share the clothes we fatties wear with each other.  It’s really up to you to show whatever you like to of what you wear.

Now if you’re not someone who is interested in fatshion, who prefers to dress totally for practicality, that’s ok.  Not everyone does, it’s a personal choice.  You can come back next post if you’re not interested, I won’t mind you skipping this one, really!

I didn’t really get into Fa(t)shion February last year, other than to enjoy watching other people’s posts, to see what other fab fatties were wearing and to see bodies like mine.  But through the year last year I got more into posting my outfits of the day (OOTD’s) to the Fatshionista Flickr group, and sharing them with friends on Facebook.  Plus for the first time in my life, I’m enjoying partaking in fashion.  Thanks to the generosity of Autograph Fashion, who gifted me a lot of clothes over the past year in return for a whole lot of work around giving them constructive feedback, I’ve been able to play with my style and fashion far more in the past year than I had the whole of my life.  Not only did I get to build my wardrobe up, but it also has taught me to look at the clothes I already had, and the way that I wear them, with a whole lot more confidence and personal flair.

When it comes to fashion, I personally believe it’s about far more than what the fashion industry presents to us as “fashion”.  Fashion is about self expression, fun, style, self love and care, and community.  There is nothing quite like the connection that sharing our personal style and tastes can create between people.  I know myself I’ve met loads of people through my own personal fashion.  From the woman in the line at the movies with the Lego minifig earrings that I got chatting to, to Brisbane’s own Marilyn Monroe who I always trade compliments with on our outfits/accessories when we encounter each other around town, to the fatshion blogs I follow online, all of those have brought me fantastic new relationships in my life.  It’s a great ice-breaker and a great way to connect with someone you already know.

Recently, s.e. smith wrote an excellent piece on fat positive shopping that really spoke to me.  In it, ou says:

Fat-positive shopping isn’t just about having a rack of clothes that fit, or even a whole store of clothes that fit. It’s also about creating an environment that is positive for the customers, that embraces the full range of expressions and styles. Just as people of other sizes don’t dress uniformly, fat folks don’t have a single fashion sense, nor do they want to march around in lockstep wearing the same kinds of garments. Some people want to wear torn leggings, sparkle sweaters, and rainbow skirts. Others want sharp business suits. Some people want fabulous wrap maxidresses, others want tunics to layer over jeans.

That’s what I love about fatshion – it allows people to express themselves far more than mainstream fashion does.  I find that really powerful and certainly far more fun than being restricted to what the fashion industry tells us we should be wearing.  I love how creative we are with fatshion and our own personal style.  It sucks that we have had to be that way because we have had such limited resources available to us, but it really is one of our strengths – we’ve evolved so much more creativity and personal style, and a solid sense of community around that creativity and style.

The other thing I think that fatshion has over mainstream fashion is that we’re far more embracing towards diversity.  We are usually (not always, but usually) far more open minded to how other people dress and express themselves.  We’re far more open in trying new things ourselves.  And we’re generally a whole lot less critical about other people’s bodies and style choice, and we’re not focused on youth, thinness and whiteness like mainstream fashion.  I think this piece by Fatty Unbound really illustrates that.

To me, fashion is about following an industry, but fatshion is about us collectively leading an expressive community.  Whether  you’re hitting up the thrift stores and big box retailers, or making designer stuff work for you, or anywhere in between, fatshion is about finding your personal style and rocking the hell out of it.

So, have I been contributing to Fa(t)shion February?  Yes I have, and I’ll share the first few outfits with you here.  I’ve not been documenting every day, but I have had a few to share already.  I hope to do more as the month progresses.  Let’s see:

Paper bag dress. 1/2/12

I found this “paper bag” dress at Big W of all places.  It’s not something I would normally wear being a real neutral, but I loved the almost silk feel of the fabric, and it’s SUPER cool.  We’ve had some stinking hot weather, so cool is important.  Of course, at work I cover up my tattoo (partially, just the naked lady’s boobs really), so I have to have a shrug over a sleeveless top like this one.  The shrug is actually a coppery, sparkly knit from Autograph Fashion that I picked up on sale.  And I’ve got that old staple of leggings (Big W) and ballet flats (Rubi Shoes) underneath.

Leopard Print and Lycra. 3/2/12

I was being photographed that day for an article that I believe is due to be in tomorrow’s Sun Herald (Sydney – I’ll share it if I can find it online!) and I wanted something funky and fun.  So I decided to go with leopard print and Lycra.  The leopard print shirt is from Autograph Fashion (one they gave me), the cami is from Evans Clothing, skirt is from Target, tights are from We Love Colors (gold) and the leopard print Converse are ones my friend Kylie found for me in Scotland.

Snakeskin With Sparkles 7/2/12

I got this dress on sale for $20 from Autograph.  It is currently my absolute favourite dress, and I am encouraging them to make more in different prints and colours!  Here it is without the sparkly shrug (also picked up on sale at Autograph).  The pink sparkly ballet flats are from Diana Ferrari, I got those on sale out at DFO a while back.

Autumn Tones - 9/2/12

Another top picked up on sale at Autograph – I love the scalloped lace around the neckline and that apricot/terracotta colour is everywhere at the moment.  I’m standing kind of weird and one of my shoes is hidden, but the khaki wide-legged pants are from Target – I got those for TEN BUCKS!  Damn I love a bargain!  And the shoes are from Rivers.

So there you have my first four Fatshion February outfits.  I’m looking forward to doing more as the month progresses, and I’ll definitely share them here when I do.

Are you doing Fa(t)shion February this year?  Do you think you’re a creative person when it comes to fatshion?  What makes you feel good about fatshion?

YOU Have the Power to Drive Change

Published January 16, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Reading everyone’s responses to my last post about my meeting with the folks from Target Australia, I get one very clear message from so many of you – that you hope that these changes happen in your country/state/store of choice.  That’s a very good hope, and I hope they do too.  But I think we all need to step it up a bit – just hoping is not good enough.  I think more of us need to speak up, and more often.  After all, you know the old adage – the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I do appreciate all of your thanks, and I do this for all of us, but collectively we have to put some more cohesive effort into this.  We are customers, we have money to spend, we know what we want, and it’s time we collectively drove the market where we, as the consumers, want it to go.

People often ask me how I’ve managed to get audience with major retailers on the subject of plus-size clothing.  How?  I ask them.  It really is just that – no magic trick, no major talent, no major effort.  We need to ask more often.  We need to ask together.  We need to ask in a clearer manner.

I have worked in some form of customer service for most of the past 25 years.  And the sad truth of it is that most unhappy customers have no idea how to complain constructively.  To be honest, for every decent constructive criticism, there are 20 illegible, unreasonable, hostile, often bullying complaints.  So it’s REALLY hard for many businesses to weed out the genuine constructive feedback to be able to take any action.

This isn’t to say that a lot of businesses really do ignore their customers, particularly we fat customers.  We do get written off in so many instances with either formula responses or just “You’re being too sensitive/asking too much.”  We’ve seen evidence of it right here on the blog where a prominent online store told us we should just “learn to sew” when I raised that I’d like to see their collection go to larger sizes.  Another major Australian plus-size fashion chain patently ignores complaints as if they’ll go away… and sadly they often do.

However, one of the things that drives me absolutely up the wall about plus-size fashion pages on Facebook (or those who have blogs/Twitter) is the amount of whining that happens.  I know how frustrating it is when these companies don’t listen.  But I can’t tell you the number of times I see people complaining about things that if they actually set foot in the store (or checked the website properly), they’d find weren’t even an issue.  My pet hate is people whinging they want sleeves and if they just went into a store, they’d find that at least half the stock is sleeved!  What they really want is NO sleeveless at all, and that’s unfair to those of us who do want sleeveless. (That goes for a whole lot of other things too.)  Or those who complain about something going on sale that they paid full price for last week.  HELLO – that’s the nature of retail, that’s got nothing to do with plus-size stores.  That is just how retail works – you either pick the thing up when it’s full price because you want it, or you take your chances and try to get it on sale.

But those things can also work in our favour.  In a sea of whinging, a reasoned, respectful and clear criticism can stand out amongst the noise.  For example, when 20 comments are “You suck, I want sleeves!!”, a comment saying “I was in your store yesterday, and I noticed that you don’t have any plus-sized corporate wear.  Are you expecting any in the near future?  It’s really hard to dress professionally when no stores offer corporate wear for plus-sizes.” stands RIGHT out.  You give them a clear message as to what you’re looking for and you give them an actual question to answer, and most importantly, you let them know you actually shop in their stores and have looked at what they already offer.

I was asked on the last post how my meeting with Target Australia came about.  It came about because I was in my local Target and was dismayed to see they had considerably reduced their plus-size section, and moved it to an awful location.  I left them a note on their Facebook (you can see it here) and mentioned it around my social networks because I knew other people had the same thoughts.  A few of them commented on it.  A whole lot of other people that I didn’t know also commented on it.  A conversation ensued on the thread, and I was very conscious of trying to keep the feedback constructive.  After a few days, once Target clearly had some time to discuss it with their team, they responded with a contact email for anyone who was interested in talking to them about their wants and needs in plus-size clothing.  I emailed the address and expressed my eagerness to help them get it right, while also reiterating the issues I had and gave them my contact details.  From there, it all happened.

And looking back over my work with Autograph Fashion – almost the same thing happened – it started with their Facebook page and went from there.

You can do this too.  In fact, you need to do it too.  We all do.

Ok I’ll admit, I do have the gift of the gab.  I can write/talk and I’m a quick thinker.  That does work in my favour.  But guess what?  I’m happy to share that, I’m happy to let my fellow fatties use the stuff I do with businesses to build their own constructive feedback.  In fact, I’m even happy to help you with proof reading and stuff if you really want me to.  But here is the basic method that works for me.  Of course, you have to be genuine in your feedback, but you can do that with a method.  Let’s see:

  1. Tell them when and where you encountered the problem.
  2. Tell them exactly what the problem is.
  3. Tell them why it is a problem.
  4. Ask them if they already have any plans in place that will rectify the problem.
  5. Tell them what you need to solve the problem.
  6. If they get anything right, tell them that.
  7. Tell them that you want to continue to be their customer.
  8. Thank them for their time.

Want an example?  Here, I’ll make a potted one up:

Dear Store.  I was in your [location] store on Friday and I was disappointed to see that you have no plus-sized swimwear this season.  I have been looking for a swimsuit and in the past have bought them from your store, but unfortunately could not this time.  Are you planning to get any swimwear in stock in the near future?  I’m really looking for a plus-sized swimsuit in size 26, that has good bust support.  I know I can usually find good quality garments from you, that are reasonably priced, and I was hoping to do so again.   I hope you can help me with this matter, thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Ok that one is more of a request than a complaint, but here, let’s try a complaint:

Dear Store.  I was in your [location] store last week and found that the quality of your plus-sized stock has really dropped since last season.  I have noticed the fabrics are all synthetics, and are very thin and don’t hold their shape.  This means that your garments are now expensive for the quality received, and no longer last or keep their shape.  Will you be continuing to use the manufacturer that you are currently using, or do you have plans to find a better quality one?  I’m really looking for garments in natural fibres that will hold their shape and are constructed well.  Particularly around the neckline and bust.  Last season you had some beautiful dresses that were of a lovely soft cotton blend knit, I bought several of those and wore them a lot.  I would love to see you have more stock like that, and would really bulk up  my wardrobe if you had these kinds of garments.  Particularly as it’s really difficult to find decent plus-size clothing anywhere, it would be fantastic to see good quality clothes in your store.  I hope to see the quality of your stock improve in the near future, and look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.  Thank you for your time.

I know, it’s wordy.  But when you’re getting complaints like “I hate your clothes!” and “The fabric your clothes are made of sucks!”, a paragraph like the above stands out, and shows that you’re reasonable and are willing to continue being their customer if they solve the problem.  I’ve found that those people who whine the most are usually not giving the business any custom anyway.

That’s the important thing too – when they do make positive changes, and do get it right, spend your money there.  Reward them for getting it right.

But look, the most important thing is that they hear from all of us.  Individually, it’s bloody hard work to make a difference.  But collectively, we CAN and DO change things.  I’m not doing this on my own – it’s a combined effort of every cohesive, constructive criticism that these businesses get and the voting we do with our money.  You have a head start over a lot of people – you are here so you have an internet connection, and you can read.  Those are the first two tools you need!

I urge all of you to take the time to contact and talk to the businesses you want to see change in.  Ask them for what you want.  For those that ignore you, walk away from them completely and give someone else your money, someone who values you as a customer.  Don’t forget to tell everyone who gets it right and who gets it wrong too – word of mouth is valuable marketing currency for businesses too.

We WILL change things.  We already have, we just have more work to do.  Who’s in with me?

Talking to Target Australia

Published January 15, 2012 by sleepydumpling

As I mentioned in my last post, I met with a couple of fabulous folks from Target Australia on Thursday to talk plus-size clothing.  Trudy and Lynn flew up from their Geelong head office and met me at the Myer Centre store and gave me quite a few hours of their time, which to me, is a win right there.  Instead of writing off customer feedback with the cut and paste “Thank you for your feedback, we’re listening and will endeavor to make changes in our stores.” and calling it done, they listened, took it away and thought about it, and decided to take some action.  That will always get my attention as a business that is interested in making their customers genuinely happy.

So we spent some considerable time talking over a coffee about plus-size clothing – from all aspects – from my own personal taste and style, through to the politics of fashion and style, the diversity of needs of plus-size customers, garment construction, fabric quality, price, fitting plus-size bodies, store layout, customer experience, marketing… the list goes on.  We then went down into the store and went through the very small plus-size section, had a look at about half of the straight-size selection (and talked about how no matter your taste, everyone in straight-sizes is catered to, yet plus-sizes have pretty much one or two basic themes) and went through the exercise wear, because I brought up the ridiculous double standards of “Exercise fatty!!” but there being no suitable exercise clothes for anyone over a size 18!

In fact, while we were in the exercise wear, a woman came up to us and asked Trudy and Lynn if they were taking customer feedback, and quite passionately expressed her frustration at not being able to find suitable and practical shorts for exercising in.  She echoed pretty much the same thing I was telling them!

And finally they showed me a bunch of samples and drawings to get an idea of the kind of things that appeal to me and how I felt about the ones they had there.

I also talked to them about the politics and psychology of fashion for fat women, the way that fat women are othered by the media and general culture, and how marketing that suggests we need to hide our bodies or blend into the surroundings at all do not inspire us to spend money – quite the opposite.

All in all, it was over 3 hours and I talked their ears off – but they were both interested and engaged, enthusiastic about making customers happy, asked plenty of intelligent questions and were willing to rethink some of their perspectives about plus-size clothing.  They took copious notes (I’ll be kind and send them some links and dot points – it was a LOT of information!) and assured me that Target Australia will be rethinking their approach to plus-size clothing.

Bear in mind that a company like this plans for up to a year in advance with clothing lines, so it will take time to see any changes come through.

So, I went through all of the responses I got back from you here and on the #targetplus thread on Twitter, and broke them down into 10  key things we want to see (pretty much everything listed fits into these 10 categories in some way):

  1. The same clothes as straight-sizes with comparable prices.
  2. FASHION – on trend styles, colours and prints.
  3. “Young” clothes. Clothes that are aimed at women under 50, and under 30 that aren’t “party wear”.
  4. More bra/underwear/sleepwear options – particularly over size 20 and in large cup sizes, and in pretty/sexy/fashionable styles.
  5. Scaling of garments – an understanding that not all plus-size bodies are shaped the same or the same height and that larger does not mean longer/bigger arm & neck holes.
  6. Plus-sized clothing for all aspects of life – professional, maternity, social, exercise, swimwear and so on.
  7. Natural fabrics.
  8. Structure of garments – eg, underwire in swimwear, straps/necklines to cover plus-sized bras, crotch levels in the appropriate place, necklines that are between choking-mega cleavage and so on.
  9. Plus-sized accessories – tights, boots, belts that are fashionable and fit to the upper sizes.
  10. Basics/classics in plain colours other than black and white – cami’s, cardigans, tank tops, t-shirts, jeans and so on.

For an extra couple of points – many would like to see plus-size cater to size 32AU and let’s not forget all of the above for plus-sized men as well.

On top of that, a few marketing things:

  1. Location in store – not at the back, not behind the shoes, not next to Maternity.  Somewhere that says the store is as proud and welcoming to plus-sized customers as they are everyone else.
  2. Positive marketing – no hide your body messages.
  3. Actually bothering with marketing to plus-sized customers.  Not just a page jammed in the catalogue.
  4. Designer/celebrity ranges.

I will be sending an email to Trudy and Lynn with this information and a bunch of links to show them lots of fatshion and what other businesses are doing right.

One important message I have for you all though, particularly those of you here in Australia since I’ve spoken to Target Australia – if you see positive changes to Target’s plus-size merchandise, buy it.  Put your money where your mouth is.  There is no use complaining if you’re not going to spend your money if they make positive changes.  And be sure to tell other people about them when they get it right.  It’s really important to reward those who make the effort and get it right.

Hopefully this is the beginning of some really positive steps towards improving the plus-size options from Target Australia, and I’ll keep you all posted with anything I hear in the future.

Quick Hit: Requests!

Published January 12, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Just a quickie this morning my dears.

I am meeting with some folk from Target Australia head office this afternoon to talk about plus-sized clothing and specifically their Moda range.

I have asked this question on Twitter and started the #Targetplus hashtag so that I can aggregate the responses into a useful list for the folk at Target.  I thought I would pop it up here for those of you non-tweeps and for anyone that needs a little more than 140 characters.

What would you like to see in plus-sized clothing from a major retailer like Target?

Now, I do ask that you keep your responses short and sweet as I don’t want to overwhelm these folks just yet.  A few dot points would be the best format.

For example, mine are:

  • A range of basics including maternity, underwear, swimwear and exercise wear to at least size 26.
  • The same fashion trends as offered in straight sizes.
  • A prominent, proud, well-presented location in store.
  • More bra options for larger plus-sizes.

Leave your answers in the comments, I’ll compile them up and share them with the folk at Target Australia.

Cut the Snarky Fashion Judgement Crap

Published December 11, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Sigh… I am working on a rather epic piece about awesome women with tattoos and candy hair, which I was going to post for you today, but something else has caught my attention and really got my dander up, so I need to talk about that first.

This article went around my tweet stream this morning when I first woke up.  It’s title is “Leggings Are Not Pants and Other Values for Your Kids” – and that’s like waving a red flag at a bull to me.

Ok, yep, there are some great values in the piece to pass on to your kids, on the issues of same sex marriage (even if it is called “gay marriage” in this piece, which is problematic in itself), refugees, drink driving, environmental issues and sun smarts.  Sure, those are fantastic things to teach your kids.  But claiming you’re a feminist and sitting your 5 year old down for “the talk” about how leggings are not pants?

For fuck’s sake, are we still doing this?

Look, I know, I should have learned by now not to expect better from Mia Freedman, but I keep hoping that she’s listening, that people around her are helping her open her mind.  I know it’s supposed to be a joke, ha ha, leggings are not pants is as important as the other issues, how funny.

Only it’s not funny.  It’s body policing.  It’s classist, ableist, judgemental bullshit wrapped up in a fluff piece for a highly visible online women’s magazine.

I’ve talked before about how what other people wear is nobody’s business but their own.  Yeah I know, sometimes we have to work around that a bit, when it’s in the workplace, someone else’s home or event, or for safety reasons.  That’s part of negotiating being a decent human being.  But when it comes to getting all snarky about what other random people are wearing as they go about their lives, it’s none of our damn business.

So what if someone is wearing pajama pants at the grocery store, or has leggings on with a short top, or wears thongs to the office.  That’s their choice and their business.  How does it affect us as people around them?  If it offends ones eyes, don’t look.  Look at someone else.  Nobody says you have to wear the same things as them, and do you know what?  They’re not wearing those pj’s or leggings for YOU.  They’re wearing them because they want to or need to.

However, that’s not the really offensive part.

What is ignored that people wear leggings (or a lot of other things really) for a whole lot more reasons than how they look.  Let’s think about it.

Classism:

Leggings are cheap.  You can pick them up from Best & Less for $10, less if they’re on sale.  If you have a very limited clothing budget, then leggings are going to be good value for money.

Leggings are often seen as “tarty” or “cheap”.  This is about slut shaming, policing women’s sexuality and how they clothe their own bodies.

Sizeism:

Leggings are one of the few items of clothing that can ALWAYS be found to fit all sized bodies.  If you have a limited range of clothing options because of your size, leggings may be the only option you have.

Leggings are stretchy and have lots of give to fit any body shape.  Short or long legs, high or low waisted, thick or thin legs, no matter what the shape or size of your legs, thighs, knees, feet, ankles etc – most people can get leggings to fit them.

Leggings are far more accommodating to weight changes.  Leggings are forgiving when someone has lost or gained weight and can be worn easier if they’re not quite the correct size.

Ableism:

Leggings are soft, stretchy fabric.  They’re gentle against skin (particularly if it is tender or sore) and generally breathe pretty well.

Leggings have no buttons, zippers, hooks, clasps, ties or any other fiddly bits.  They can be pulled on by someone with reduced mobility, arthritis, reduced motor skills or low energy, and don’t have to be fastened or adjusted once on.  Pull ‘em up, pull ‘em down.

Leggings also allow other people to dress someone with relative ease.  If someone needs assistance dressing, leggings can be a good no-fuss option.

Leggings are flexible to bodies.  If someone is in a wheelchair, on crutches or a scooter, or has a body shape outside the norm, or perhaps wears incontinence pants or other medical aids, leggings may fit those things better than pants made of heavier, more structured fabrics and designs.

~~@~~

These are just a few reasons that we cannot just put down blanket rules on other people’s clothing choices without thinking about the implications of this kind of judgement. When we see someone in our day who is wearing something that we don’t approve of, we have no idea why they are wearing them, and it’s not any of our business anyway.  And to call oneself a feminist while engaging in this kind of judgemental wardrobe snark is just bullshit.

Look, I will admit, there was a time that I used to buy into this sort of stuff too.  Mostly because I hated my own body and it was a twisted form of self policing, but we’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time and I get it now.  Ages ago I was challenged by some awesome people about my thinking about the whole leggings as pants (and a lot of other things about judging the clothes other people wear) and I came to realise that it was so pointless and kind of douchey of me to be doing it.  Not only did I cut the people around me some slack about what they wear, but I became a whole lot more adventurous and bold in what I wear.

So now I am a proud leggings as pants wearing radical fat feminist.

Leggings as Pants Ahoy!

All I Want For Christmas…

Published November 29, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I’ve been working on a massive audit in my day job that is frying my brain (all those numbers!!) so let’s have a little fun tonight and look at some fabulous and fat friendly things that we might like for Christmas.  Who knows, we might get some gift ideas for other fab fatties in our lives too.

Let’s start with something that I’ve already ordered for myself, but I think EVERY fab fatty needs one of these in preparation for the new year.

Yes, it’s Marilyn Wann’s 2012 Fat!So? Dayplanner!

It’s a mere $14 (plus shipping) and all proceeds will go to building the Weight Diversity Action Lounge, a community center for fun, food, fitness, and fabulousness somewhere in Oakland, California.  I mean… it’s Marilyn Wann!  Plus it’s chock full of other contributors, inspiration, tips and art… including yours truly!

How about this adorable Lovedrobe Teal Heart Print Dress from Evans?

I love anything in chocolatey browns with teal, and a heart motif is one of my favourites.

Then there’s this pretty butterfly print top also from Evans.

And this GORGEOUS floral top, again from Evans.

How about a fat positive colouring book?  I want at least three copies of Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace: a body-positive coloring book!

How awesome is that?  Colouring in fat ladies.  IN SPACE!

Then of course, what fab fatty wouldn’t want a copy of Hanne Blank‘s “Big Big Love”?

(Can you guess that my Amazon wish list is pretty long?)

How about Substantia Jones’ 2012 Adipositivity Calendar?

The Adipositivity Project has been pivotal in my journey to fat positivity and strong self esteem.

More clothes!  I long for beautiful dresses from eShakti, these are my favourites (click on the images to go to the page on eShakti):

The Artist's Wife Dress

Singing In The Rain Dress

Dzilla Brass Rings Dress

The Birds Who Gossip Dress

Aren’t they all gorgeous??  I would LIVE in dresses like these if I could.

How about some amazing shoes?  I dream of Fluevog shoes.  They are the absolute pinnacle of shoe heaven for me, and they’re very fat friendly, with their wider fittings and excellent craftsmanship.  How about this selection (again, click the images to go to the website):

Splendid in Stripes

Caspian in Black and Off-White

Zaza in Red, Pink and Grey

I think we need to wind up with some accessories.  Let me see:

How about an ice-cream charm, from Georgina at Cupcake’s Clothes, and her cute label DollyMixx:

I love the radical defiance of wearing food accessories as a fat woman.  Fat women are policed about food all the time, so let’s chant Fuck Tha Police by wearing food as accessories!

What about a cupcake ring?  This one is from Etsy store Dolly-Tastic:

And while we’re on Dolly-Tastic, I absolutely adore this Hello Kitty charm bracelet:

Another one of my favourite sources for accessories is Sick for Cute (who have a plus-size range too), and I think I really, really need these whale socks:

Whale socks on a fat woman!  I love it!

And finally, I just spotted this bag and completely fell in love.

How’s that for a Christmas List?  Of course, there are loads of other wonderful goodies out there that would also be a delight to find under my Christmas tree, but these are some of the things I’m drooling over currently.

What about you?  What fat-friendly goodies would you love to find in your Christmas stocking?  Dream big in the comments Heffalumpies!

An Afternoon at Autograph

Published November 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Sometimes being a bolshy fat activist blogger means I get to do some pretty awesome things.  For anyone who has been reading Fat Heffalump for awhile, you know I’ve had quite a regular blog review relationship with Australian plus-size clothing retailer, Autograph Fashion.  Being the only brick and mortar dedicated plus-size store that actually have clothes that fit me (most only go to 22 or 24 AU) and that I can afford (MySize – $90 for a t-shirt, fuck that!), I am pretty vocal about how they’re doing with serving the mega fatty like myself as far as price, quality and style are concerned.  In the 12 months or so since they first contacted me and asked me to review some of their clothes, I’ve watched a vast improvement in the quality and style of their stock and the look of their stores.  They’ve gone from this to the outfits I’m going to show you below.

I’ve been really, really lucky that they’ve sent me so many pieces for free to review, and I really appreciate that they are working to get it right – and of course, I’m the kind of bolshy fat activist blogger who is going to be honest with them if they don’t.

Earlier this week they contacted me and let me know that some of the marketing folk were going to be here in Brisbane today, and asked me if I would like to come in and meet with them, have a look at the new stock and give them some feedback and discuss how they’re doing with their product and service these days.  HELL YES!

Being on holidays at the moment (back to work Monday, sob!) meant that I had plenty of time to spare and could relax and just enjoy talking with the ladies and trying on clothes and letting them see how they work on someone at the upper end of their range.  I’m a size 26AU in most garments (though often lower sizes in pants/skirts) and therefore definitely at the upper end of their 14-26 range.  I also have a body that is not a traditional shape – no hourglass or pear here… I’ve said before I’m more of a barrel with legs.  We know as fatties ourselves that our bodies are diverse in shape even though we might take the same size garment, so it’s important for the folks from a plus-size clothing company to understand the mechanics of our fitting garments to our diverse bodies.

I did make sure I was wearing a mostly Autograph Fashion outfit today, because I also want them to know that I certainly do buy their clothes – boy do I buy a lot of their clothes!  So this is what I wore:

This dress originally came with a belt, but because I’m round in the middle, it looks better on me unbelted.  The sandals are from Payless Shoes and earrings from Ritual.  I also had an Autograph Fashion bracelet on, but my hand is behind my back so you can’t see it here.

So I met the Autograph ladies and we started out by having a discussion about what I liked about the store and the current stock.  The Myer Centre store looks great at the moment, inviting and as if they’re proud of their stock and their customers.  Compared to a lot of plus-size clothing retailers, who either shove the plus-sizes in the back, or they fill the windows with something other than their clothes on plus-size mannequins (why put something other than your stock in the window??), I like how their stock is highly visible from the front of store, and they have plus-size mannequins right there in the middle of the front of the store, highlighting the plus-sized clothes they sell.  It looks like any other clothing store, just with bigger clothes.  Their stock has some great colours that are bang on trend at the moment, and some really fab on-trend prints and styles too.

We also talked about the stuff that I’m not so fond of.  Shark-bite hemlines anyone?  I HATE those things, though I’m stuck with several in my wardrobe because options are so limited for my size.  They actually don’t have much that makes me go “yuck” at the moment.   I also told them about some horrible things other companies are doing, like cutting off at size 20 or 22, offering only casual clothes, charging exorbitant prices for t-shirts and capri pants ($90 for a t-shirt!!), or the worst practice – having lower quality fabrics for the upper sizes, ie 22 and 24, than those that are 14-20 in the exact same garment.

We also talked about how clothes fit on “everyday” fat bodies, as opposed to their current “face” of Autograph Fashion, plus-size model Fiona Faulkner – who is gorgeous but is a bit of an Amazon – very tall and hourglass with long legs.  That’s not the average Australian plus-size woman’s build, and so we talked about the practicalities of fitting clothes to women with bodies like mine that aren’t shaped like the current cultural beauty ideal.

They also asked me if I could buy clothes from any other plus-size retailer, if they had my size, shipped to Australia and were affordable, who I would buy from.  Dorothy Perkins got my main vote – I love the styles they have but they simply don’t cater to my size and I mentioned that I like Asos Curve but they also cut off before my size as well.

Then we got to the fun stuff.  They let me loose to just try on a whole bunch of stuff and see how it fits, which ones I like and which ones  didn’t work.  I selected a HUGE pile of clothes, I really wanted to get in and put stuff on my mega fatty body and show them how it looks.

And yes, I have photos for you all.

The first one is this print maxi dress that they actually posted on their FaceBook page today and I liked the look of.

I like the super long length and that it has little cap sleeves, which cover my tattoo enough for work.  It’s lovely and cool and the neckline is really pretty.  This one got a total thumbs up from me.

The next one was this glittery lurex stripe maxi.

I liked the look of this one, especially as the fabric was all glittery and sparkly, and the cut and length were great for me, but unfortunately the lurex was kind of itchy and prickly.  I’m sure it would drive me nuts here in the Queensland heat.  It does look cute though.

Another dress next, this time a shorter length one in blue (not available online):

I love this dress.  The intense blue colour, the just-on-the-knee length, the slits down the sleeves and the soft fabric.  Total winner, one of my favourites of the day.

I did try on a few other dresses next, but they didn’t work on me or there wasn’t one in the right size.  This one clung in all the wrong places despite being a gorgeous colour and print, a pretty frilled one (available in red or black, not on the website) that just wasn’t suited to my shape, and a sleeveless one in a gorgeous pewter satiny fabric that gaped all weird around my armpits.

On to a few tops next, and the first I tried on was this black and white sleeveless tunic (not available online):

I absolutely love the starry print on this one, and it was a delicious cool cotton fabric, but there was that damn shark-bite hemline!  However it was softened by the little frill around the bottom (I do love a frill) and there are slits up the sides that make it fall nicely.  I may even go back and buy this one, I love that print so much.

Then there was this one in a taupe with frill neckline and pockets:

I liked it much more on the hanger than on my body.  I think the blue would have been a nicer colour on me too, but they didn’t have one in my size.  It was soft and comfortable, and I LOVE the pockets, but yeah, it just didn’t work for me.  It gaped a bit weird around the armpits, which seems to be a bit of a common theme for some of the garments there.

Those of you who know me know that I love leopard print like only a fat lady can, so it will come as no surprise that I had to try on the sheer leopard print shirt.

This one was my other firm favourite of the day.  I was in love the minute I put it on.  It has a dipped hemline (very on-trend this season) and tiny gold buttons, and cutouts in the sleeves.   It’s quite sheer so I just put it over a plain black tank top.  Gorgeous and floaty and perfect.

I did try a bunch of others that I didn’t take photos of in the tops too.  A cute one with a lace frill in apricot that was really lovely (I may go back and buy it), a watermelon peasant blouse that was lovely but didn’t fit me right, and a ruffly one in the most gorgeous bird print in black birds on midnight blue (not available online) that wasn’t available in my size.  Oh and I also tried on this striped maxi skirt, which is beautiful and soft and cool – yep, might go back and get that one too!

Finally the Autograph ladies brought me a bunch of other things they wanted me to try on just to get a look at how they were on my body.  There was this top which was really quite cute, I may go back and get that one too!  Their new sandals which are a wide foot fitting and super comfortable, and a little denim vest that I absolutely fell in love with but didn’t get a photo of!

But there were also these two dresses, which demonstrate the power of trying things on before you buy, and to get out of your comfort zone.  First there was this black one with cutout detail (not available online) that I totally would have picked out for myself but left on the shelf only because I already have a zillion black dresses.  But looking at it on shelf, it would have been one that I would have bought without trying on because it’s a style that usually suits me.  But when I put it on:

It just didn’t work on me.  It clung, it rode up in the back, and just wasn’t right.  Which is a real shame because I love that cutout detail and it’s a great length too, just below the knee.  It would have been a dress that I’d bought and never wore.

Then they brought me this floral one (not yet available online) that I had looked at and thought was pretty, but totally not me.  I never would have even tried it on, had they not asked me to.

I am so glad I did!  I love it to bits!  It’s so femme and retro (it feels like a vintage piece) and is such a cute length on me.  It was also really useful to show the Autograph folk the dress on a super fat body.

By that time I was quite over trying things on and I was getting hot and sweaty!  But it was lots of fun and we had some really useful conversation about fit, fabric, construction, the politics of fatshion, marketing to fat women and body positivity.  It was interesting to talk about the diverse types of customers they have, from those who are looking for “flattering” clothes that they can feel comfortable wearing, and those of us who are more fat positive and are looking for fashion, fun, colour, and visibility.  It’s hard to make such a diverse group of people happy when there is currently so little available on the market – but women who want to cover their bodies and dress in a “flattering” manner have as much right to choose that and have product available to them, as those of us who want something more fashion forward and visible do.

We also had a good talk about the practicalities of garments for plus-size bodies.  Things like garments needing to cover plus-size bras (which are by default, big and ugly), of lengths of dresses not getting longer as the sizes get bigger (they sadly often do, which means larger sized women who are not taller end up swamped), how necklines work differently with large breasts and chins, the fit over different shaped breasts, hips, arms, bellies and thighs, and the different climates Australia has and what is practical in Melbourne may not be here in Queensland.

Once we’d finished up there, they very kindly gave me the first print maxi dress, the blue shorter dress, the sheer animal print shirt, the floral dress and the denim vest (not pictured) as a thank you for my time and feedback, which has me very chuffed.  I can’t wait to style them myself with my existing wardrobe and do outfit of the day photos with them when I wear them later.

All in all, all of the women from Autograph that I met this afternoon (and the effervescent Michelle and lovely Sue who are my local Autograph ladies) were friendly, genuinely interested in conversation with me about their product, the industry and the politics of fat fashion and were a lot of fun.  Other plus-size fashion retailers could learn a lot from them.

Miss Piggy and Plus-Sized Fashion

Published November 8, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I’m pissed off and it’s because of Miss Piggy.

Well, not Miss Piggy herself.  Miss Piggy is fabulous and a perfect example of strong self esteem and a rocking attitude.  I mean seriously, what’s not to love about Miss Piggy right?

Look at her - fabulous!

No, what has me pissed off is the number of fashion designers clamouring to dress her.  From Prada to Marc Jacobs to Jason Wu, from Prabal Gurung to Brian Attwood, Suno and Opening Ceremony, a whole host of designers have got together to design Piggy a wardrobe for InStyle magazine’s November issue.

So Piggy looks awesome right, in all her high fashion.  Here, check out a few:

Miss Piggy in Prada

 

In Jason Wu

 

In Prabal Gurung

She looks fab right?

But aren’t designers always saying that they can’t design for fat bodies?  Aren’t they always saying that scaling things for bodies outside of a sample size is too difficult, that when you change the proportions of bodies, the clothes don’t translate?

Oh Marc Jacobs talked about it for awhile, around August last year (2010) there was a lot of press about how he was going to design for plus-sizes (his range currently goes to 16) but I’ve not seen any evidence of it yet.  But his clothing certainly does translate well in different proportions, check it out:

Marc Jacobs on Piggy and on the Runway.

Yep, I’m pissed off because designers (both high fashion and down through the chain) keep saying that their clothes don’t translate outside of sample sizing, but then they clamour to design for a puppet… that is a pig.  So they’ll fit Miss Piggy’s fat body, but not a human woman.

What the fuck?

You can’t tell me any of those outfits worn by Miss Piggy above would not translate to a plus-sized body.  After all, Miss Piggy IS a scaled down plus-size body.  Surely it’s harder to translate an outfit for a fat pig puppet of a couple of feet tall, than it is for a human woman of a similar height to the original sizes?

Of course, then there are those who say that making fabulous clothes for fat women is “promoting obesity”.  As if you can promote this shit.  As if you can promote being publicly vilified by the media, discriminated against by health care professionals, the workplace and airlines, being labelled as lazy, dirty, smelly, greedy, just because of the size of your body.  As if anyone who is not fat sees a fat woman in a fabulous outfit and goes “Wow!  I want to put on a whole heap of weight so I can wear her outfit!”  After all, I love the clothes Miss Piggy is wearing in the photos above, but I’m not going to go out and have a snout grafted onto my nose to look like her, am I?

I think the real reason that many designers don’t design for fat women is simply because they are repulsed by us and don’t want their brand name associated with people that repulses them.  I wish they’d have the guts to just say that, instead of couching it in concern for our health (yeah right, as if they’re concerned for the health of the scores of young women starving themselves to fit into their tiny sizes), or pretending that it’s not possible at all to design clothes for fat bodies, or by suggesting that if they do, their thin customers are all going to rush out and gain weight so that they can wear a larger size.

The next time a designer says they can’t design for a plus-size body, I want someone out there to ask them to design for Miss Piggy and see if they take it up.  Because to me, it’s a fairly clear indicator of their attitude towards fat women if they’ll design for a fat pig puppet but not a fat human being.

Time to Dream Big

Published October 13, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I have a question for you all.

If you could have any garment or outfit made in your size, what would it be?  In other words, what is that dream item/s of clothing that you would love to have, but cannot find in plus-sizes.  If you can find pictures of them in straight sizes, please share the link too!

Since it is my blog, I’m going to list a several of mine.  Let’s just take it as a given that I want all of these items available in sizes 14AU to at least size 32AU

1) Diane Von Furstenburg style wrap dresses.  I want wrap dresses, PROPER wrap dresses, not ones with shark bite hems or surplice necklines that have a bit of overlap to be made look like a wrap dress, or weird sleeves.  A proper wrap dress, with sleeves, which is an absolute classic style that can be tweaked each season to be on trend (slightly changing the sleeves, or the length, or other small details).  I want it in on trend colours and prints.  Here is an example of one that I really love.

 

2) Pencil skirts.   The lengths can vary by season, but I want pencil skirts.  In something other than black, grey or navy.  I want them in block colours, I want them in prints, I want them in textures.  Again, pencil skirts are a classic style that can be tweaked each season to make them on trend.  Here, look:


3) Print tights.  Flowers, spots, stripes, herringbone, animal prints, whatever is fashionable for the season.  In decent Lycra blend fabric, and sized up to 5X.  How about some examples.


4) Swimsuits with underwire.  My rack of doom will not be held in place by a couple of moulded foam cups, it needs some serious scaffolding.  I long for a tankini with halter neck with underwire (I’ve seen them in straight sizes and small cups – why the hell do they make underwire in a small cup size but not large cup sizes??) and boyshort bottoms.

5) Bras that don’t look like they’re made by a surgical device company.  Bras in pretty prints and colours and patterns, but have bust support for my rack of doom, particularly underwires and bands/cups that go over 22D.



Those are just the tip of the iceberg for me.  I want basically everything that is available to straight sizes, but made to fit plus-sized bodies!

So over to you my heffalumpies – tell me (and show me) your dream garments!  And dream big!  Don’t just say “Pants that fit me.”  DREAM BIG LOVELIES!!

Shame from Within

Published September 14, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I need me a good vent!  And you, dear Heffalumpies, you’re gonna hear it.

There’s something that really pisses me off.  It’s the amount of body shaming and general snark that goes on wherever plus-size clothing retailers share their product.  Be that on blogs, Twitter, their Facebook page or anywhere else their supposed customers can comment on their stock and catalogues.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe very strongly in giving businesses feedback, and if they treat their customers like shit, I’m going to say so.  What I’m talking about is the body shaming and snark that goes on between the customers, about other fat bodies.

Now I completely understand wanting to be able to find clothing of certain cuts, and not being able to wear some styles.  For example, I can’t wear anything that buttons through the front.  Simply because I feel uncomfortable in it and they pull and gape over my magnificent giant boobs.  I also don’t wear anything with high or crew necklines, because I feel like they are choking me.  So if a company posts a picture of something with one of those features for their customers to view and give feedback, I’m going to ask if they have something that has a scoop or v-neckline perhaps, or simply leave feedback that I’m unable to wear button through garments myself.

What I am NOT going to do is suggest that they should not produce any garments with high necklines or button through fronts.  Because that defeats the whole purpose of trying to get plus-size companies to listen to us.  We need MORE options, not less.  Besides, it would be pretty bloody arrogant of me to assume because I don’t want something, nobody does.

The other thing that REALLY shits me, is the way people comment with body shame.  Instead of saying “I prefer not to go sleeveless.” or asking if there are any options with sleeves because they’re not comfortable going sleevless, we see “DON’T YOU KNOW FAT WOMEN CAN’T GO SLEEVELESS???!!!”  Or “That’s just not flattering!”  Sometimes they even say things like “You clearly don’t know how to dress fat women.”  They assume that because they want to hide their bodies away, and that because they loathe their own fat bodies, that everyone should.

To my mind, plus-size clothing threads should be the ONE place we can escape from body snark and bitchiness.  It should be the place we go to talk about fabulous clothes, to share the things we need and want while making sure these companies know what works and what doesn’t.  After all, we’re all in the same boat – we’re all fat, we all need plus-sized clothing and we all have a vast lack of options (some of us less than others), so we should be working together.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, just that we work together to get plus-size clothing companies to produce a variety of things in a suitable quality, price and sizing.

It’s so frustrating to have so much shaming coming from my fellow fatties.  I know that’s because society tells fat women that they should hide themselves away, and be ashamed of themselves, but surely we have enough experiences with being shamed by non-fat people that we’d avoid shaming our fellow fatties.

All I want is to be able to talk about plus-size clothing options without seeing body shame!  Is it that hard?

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