In Defense of Leopard Print – a Piece by Sonya Krzywoszyja

Published August 19, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I’m not one to listen to much style advice, whether it is for clothing, makeup or accessories. I’m a relatively conservative dresser, although I can’t resist a sequin from time to time and have a deep, unchanging love of leopard print. I consider it a neutral.

I’ve often heard that people consider leopard print too “old” (which I don’t even get) or too “tacky” to be worn. Frankly, I aim to embrace the tacky and the tacky fab, and have even converted my younger sister to “cheetah girl” prints.

I wonder where this idea of leopard print being tacky, trashy and cheap came about. Characters on tv shows that are often seen wearing leopard print are usually represented as brash, over the top and loud women. Think Peggy Bundy, Fran Fine, Dolly Parton – huge hair, heaps of makeup and stiletto heels … But I don’t see a problem with having any of those character traits or looking anything like any of those three women. I kind of aspire to be like that. It’s vastly different from the anxiety-ridden, shy person I am.

Why is this look seen as “cheap” when another look isn’t? When in reality, as the divine Ms Parton has said:

It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.

Hello, awesome.

I don’t think that when women turn a certain age, they should immediately only wear dark colours, slimming outfits and cut their hair short. Sensible shoes, a string of pearls? Hey, if that’s the look you like, then go for it. But I don’t believe that once you hit some magic number, every previous style of clothing you loved has to be thrown out or given to Lifeline and you have to go out and buy an entirely different, “suitable” wardrobe.

“Mutton dressed as lamb” is a horrible, sexist statement. It invokes a desperate older woman trying frantically to hold onto her youth. Is there even a male equivalent? Maybe the old Lothario in the sports car with the chest hair and fake tan. But these men are seen with a least a degree of affection, the women are viewed with scorn and pity.

Why do we have to tone it down? Who says? Growing up is not the same as growing old. Some of my favourite style icons are/were older, louder women. Anna Piaggi. Isabella Blow. Every person on Advanced Style. I wish I could be that don’t-give-a-fuck right now. I hope by the time I’m the age of most of these women, I will be.

Rules are Made to be Broken – A Piece by Sonya Krzywoszyja

Published August 19, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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My friend recently wore a cropped top out. IN PUBLIC. And she didn’t get stared at. She didn’t get ridiculed. I was recently in Sydney and wore leggings as pants. IN PUBLIC. And I didn’t get stared at, I didn’t get ridiculed.

Ok, granted, my leggings as pants had a longish top over them and I only wore them to grab some stuff from the shop, but it felt, as silly as it sounds, like a radical moment.

Women are taught to follow the “rules” of fashion. No white on the bottom half,, no horizontal stripes, heels with longer skirts, show one piece of skin, not all of your skin, bright lipstick should be a night time thing, etc etc etc. Fat women have to follow these rules as well, but they are also told they cannot wear the same type of clothing as slimmer women can – no crop tops, no leggings, nothing tight, no short hair (you must hide that double chin after all), etc etc etc.

When women break the fashion “rules” it can be seen as revolutionary. It is seen as a “screw you” to the dominant thinking of the fashion industry and the society influenced by that industry. Yeah, it might not change the world, but I think challenging people’s perceptions and preconceived notions of a woman’s body and the way it is clothed is no mean feat.

So, whenever I see a woman or someone who identifies as a woman flouting these rules and openly challenging the status quo, I give a little internal high five. Or a real life high five if I know them in person!

Feminist, Fat and Fabulous: Dare – A Piece by Sonya Krzywoszyja

Published August 19, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

This fat woman has always tried to take up as little space as she could. She has tried not to draw attention to herself, good, bad or indifferent. She dressed in dark colours, she hunched her shoulders, she sucked in her stomach. This might have gone on indefinitely if it wasn’t for this fat woman making fat friends. Who taught her that she had a right to take up the space she inhabited, she had a right to wear whatever the hell she wanted, she had a right to walk tall and straight. She had a right to breathe.

Women in general try and take up as little space as possible. We’re taught we have to be good and meek and ladylike. We have to phrase everything we say as a question, just in case we’re wrong or if people disagree with us. We’re expected to cry if things don’t go our own way, or because the sky is blue. We’re looked at with disdain, but no surprise if we do happen to cry for some reason. If a woman draws attention to herself in some way, people shake their heads, they judge, they stare, they snicker.

I feel like this is doubled when the woman is a fat woman. How dare they be happy? How dare they eat? How dare they exercise? How dare they wear those leggings?

I dare.

Melbourne Fashion Week Plus – News and a Competition

Published August 10, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I am so excited to be able to announce that I will be attending Melbourne Fashion Week Plus (aka MFW+) in just over a week!

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Let me tell you about MFW+.  This week long fashion festival is both for fat women, and by fat women.  From the MFW+ website:

The Directors of MFWPlus come from a variety of backgrounds and are united by the prospect of delivering a first class fashion festival like nothing the Australian plus size fashion industry has seen before. Inspired by the wealth of plus size fashion available and their participation in previous plus size events, they are committed to creating an event in line with other Spring Fashion Festivals that not only broadens the content to include International designers but provides plus size women with their own festival and puts Melbourne on the map as one of the hubs of plus size fashion and body positivity in Australia.

I believe that fashion, style and clothing are a vital aspect of fat liberation.  Fat people have been denied access to fashion and suitable clothing for so long that for us to participate in the fashion world is radical and revolutionary.  We have been told for so long that we’re not allowed to be fashionable and stylish until we’ve literally reduced ourselves, so the fact that a group of passionate women are building an event such as this is a real “fuck you” to all of those who have policed our bodies through denying us clothing and style.

The thing I love about fatshion is that WE create our own paths.  You don’t have to follow one particular aesthetic, you don’t even have to be into traditional “fashion” so to speak.  Fatshion is about finding your own style, your own voice through the way you dress and present yourself.  Fatshion is about being innovative, about sharing and encouraging each other, and about pushing and shifting the boundaries of clothing options for fat women.

Fatshion is also about being unapologetic about living in a fat body.  It’s about building self esteem and confidence, and representation in a world that has long tried to hide us away.

Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of plus-size fashion (as opposed to fatshion, which I think is a subset of plus-size fashion) that is still exclusionary to a lot of fat women.  But it’s our job to critique those aspects, and push for change, not opt out of something that has been long denied us.

If you’re in Melbourne, or can be in Melbourne from 22-28th of August, I highly recommend attending some (or all) of the events.  You can buy tickets here.

I’m really proud to have been asked to attend and participate in MFW+.  I’ll be attending all of the runways, and participating in the panel on Tuesday 23rd August – Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies with Meagan Kerr and Sarah Harry.

And I’m also really thrilled that I can offer two tickets to the event as a competition here on Fat Heffalump!  So… if you’d like to win a double pass to the MFW+ Panel, Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies, which will be held at the Duke of Wellington Hotel in Melbourne, 7pm Tuesday 23rd of August for you and a friend, comment below and tell me what fatshion means to you.

Competition closes this Sunday night at 7pm Brisbane time. Winners will be drawn randomly from valid entries and notified on Sunday night. Please only enter if you can definitely attend the event (or on behalf of someone who can), as I don’t want to see the tickets wasted by someone not showing up on the night!  These tickets are limited and hot property!

And if you’re at any of the MFW+ events, keep an eye out for me and say hello!  Don’t be shy, I don’t bite, I promise.  I’ll be in Melbourne for the whole week and am looking forward to meeting a whole host of new people.  For those of you who can’t be in Melbourne for the event, I’ll be blogging and sharing updates on my social media – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr.  You can also follow MFW+ on Facebook, Instagram and the #MFWPlus hashtag on Twitter.

Now I just have to decide what I’m going to wear all week!!

Update!

We have a winner.  I used a random number picker on random.org to chose the winner, and the winner is…

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Commenter number 4 – RYOU!  Congratulations, I will send you an email in just a moment.

Thank you all for entering and I do urge the other entrants to grab a ticket or two and go along – it’s going to be a fantastic event and I’d love to meet you all.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

You Can’t Ask That!

Published August 7, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello.  What a week it has been.  A TV show I recorded a segment/interview/session – whatever you want to call it – for back in November went to air and what a whirlwind it has been.  I mean, this show was originally meant to go straight to the web and now it’s running on the ABC straight after one of their most highly rated TV shows, so it’s getting a lot more attention than originally thought.  Which is fantastic!

What I really didn’t expect was to open iView, the ABC’s streaming website, to see myself as a header for the programme!

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Damn I’m cute.

So the series is called You Can’t Ask That! and the concept is that a bunch of marginalised people, for various reasons, answer questions submitted anonymously online.  My episode of course is about fat people, but there are also eps about sex workers, Indigenous people, Muslims, terminally ill, wheelchair users, and several other themes.  When the producer/directors originally contacted me with the idea, it was based on a UK segment done with transgender people, which featured Paris Lees, who I have a lot of admiration for.  I loved the idea and was on board really quickly.  I believe they had a little trouble finding other fat people willing to participate, but that’s likely because we’ve been stitched up before by the media.  However Kirk and Aaron were always considerate and open minded and I felt respected by and comfortable with them from the get go.

So far, I’ve watched about half of the series, and it has been fantastic.  I found the one with terminally ill people particularly moving to watch, but have really appreciated watching people who otherwise aren’t represented (or are only represented negatively) speak about their own experiences and highlight just how ridiculous some of the questions we get asked are.  I personally found it so cathartic to answer those bloody annoying questions in a way where I had the floor – I wasn’t being expected to give rebuttal to someone who believes I don’t have a right to exist.

Unfortunately at this stage, the show is only available to stream within Australia (now the rest of the world knows our pain of being geoblocked!), and you can find it here on ABC iView, but I have asked the producers if it is going to be opened up at all to the rest of the world, be it either on iView or via YouTube.  But you can see a little teaser:

I highly recommend you watch the whole series, not just the episode I’m featured in!

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

There’s No Comfort Like Community

Published August 1, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Tonight I want to talk about the the very complicated feelings that attending and participating in the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment (FSNZ16) conference last month.  As a fat activist and fat woman, there is no clinical distance for me for this topic, it’s not an abstract concept that I can divorce from my lived experience.  So attending and participating in a conference like this is never going to be just another part of my job, or an academic learning experience for  me.  Talking about fat bodies and fat people’s lives is talking about me, and people like me.

Which is why I appreciated that the theme of the conference was “Identity, Agency and Embodiment”.  Because no matter how much people attempt to be theoretical about fat bodies, it doesn’t work that way.  Fat bodies belong to fat people, and this is our lives that are being discussed.   So I expected this to be an emotional experience for me – previous fat studies conferences that I have attended have been, and my feelings about living in a fat body have only got more complex over the years.

It is amazing to be able to listen to people who have spent as much time thinking about and exploring the topic of fatness that I have, if not considerably more.  It’s a sad reality of fat activism that the dominant voices one hears are self proclaimed “experts” who have absolutely not one iota of qualification to speak on the topic.  Everybody is a bloody expert on fat bodies. So many random nobodies you encounter feels the need to expound at length on your body and what it is like to live in a fat body, when the vast majority of them have never experienced life in a fat body.  You can’t avoid it – everyone has an opinion on your body when you are fat – your family, colleagues, friends, random strangers.   Plus how many “obesity” conferences happen around the world every week that do not invite a single fat person to speak on their own experiences?

That’s not to say that I agree with all of the perspectives put forth at FSNZ16.  I did feel some presentations missed some important points, and others challenged me to think differently about certain topics around fatness.  Of course, there can be valid points amongst something I fundamentally disagree with, and when a group of academics and activists are looking at a topic through the lens of fat identity, agency and embodiment, there are always going to be lessons to take away from every presentation, even if generally one disagrees with them.

But most of all, what I valued the most was the community.  This was a room full of people whom I did not have to educate from scratch.  This is almost unheard of for me – I spend the majority of my time engaging in Fat Activism 101, where I constantly have to justify the right of fat people to have a life of dignity and respect – something I have been doing for almost 8 long, long years.   I did not have to explain to any of the attendees the basic tenets of fat activism.  We spoke a common language, and are approaching the topic from a similar direction.  Not to mention, generally speaking, people engaging in fat studies are not looking to eradicate, cure or prevent fatness.  They’re looking at what it means to live in a fat body, how society treats fat people and how we can maintain fat people’s rights.

It’s not just within the actual conference either – the events around it, even the meals shared with the other participants are a refreshing change from every day life.  Topics of conversation were not about dieting, or how virtuous or sinful anyone was for their bodies, health, fitness or eating habits.  Do you know how often that happens to me in daily life, to be in a space where I’m not bombarded by those narrow topics?  NEVER!  I literally have to isolate myself from almost  person I know to be in a space where we aren’t discussing a diet, or a fitness regime, or how “naughty” someone is for having a piece of cake.  To be able to have a meal and talk about ANYTHING other than those topics is so refreshingly interesting.   Fat studies scholars are fascinating people, because they don’t talk about diet, weight and exercise all the time!  To be able to eat lunch and have general conversation about travel, or the different plants that grow in our home towns, or funny stories about what we did on the weekend, or our pets or a million other topics was so interesting!  Not to mention that I could relax and eat a meal without feeling judged for every morsel that passed my lips.  And we could talk about food without judgement, discuss things we had tasted and what the food was like in comparison to that in our hometowns.   I don’t think I’ve ever been to dinners as interesting and relaxing as the two nights I went out to dinner with my fellow fat studies scholars.  We laughed, we discussed politics, we talked about people we knew in common, we laughed, we talked about and made inside jokes about fatness that weren’t tutted over or turned into awkward silences.

I wish I could be around these fascinating people all the time.

There is nothing quite so comforting as a community that you feel you belong to.  As a fat woman, I’ve been excluded from so much of society by people who judge me as inferior to them simply because of the size and shape of my body.  To be at an event where I felt both challenged/stimulated and included was incredibly powerful for me.  I only wish that we all lived closer to one another so that we could do it more often.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

Plus 40 Fabulous – July – Holiday Memories

Published July 27, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well how fortuitous is this?  It’s time for the Plus 40 Fabulous post, and the theme is Holiday Memories, and I’m just back from a mega holiday!  I’ve missed a few months of Plus 40 Fabulous, both because I was away and also because I was sick and in the middle of big work projects before I went on holidays.  It’s good to get back into the swing of things now that I’m home.

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The theme for this month is “holiday memories”.  I don’t really have any good holiday memories from my childhood, so I decided I’m going to write about the clothes I wore on my recent holiday to New Zealand, and share some of the tips and tricks I learned about packing and travelling as a very fat woman.

When I was packing for New Zealand, I really didn’t know what to take, for a few reasons.  Firstly, it’s cold in New Zealand, a lot colder than I experience here in Brisbane, so I had to think about clothes that were going to keep me warm, which I don’t have many of!  Then I found that packing up warm clothes for almost a month in a cold climate is no easy feat.  Plus-size clothes, particularly winter plus-size clothes, are big and bulky and take up a lot of room.  But after asking around some fellow fat travellers, I was able to put together a travel wardrobe that was both going to keep me warm and comfortable, and be convenient to carry around for weeks on end in a suitcase.  It helped a lot that my friend Kerri and I were travelling around by hire car so we didn’t have to lug stuff on and off buses, trains and planes any more than to and from the country.

When we first got to Wellington, we found it was quite a bit warmer there than we expected – fairly comparable to Brisbane.  Our first morning, all I did was added a warm cardigan to an outfit I would wear at home.  Bright coloured leggings, a block coloured tunic top, my much loved (and comfortable) Mary-Janes and a cuddly cardigan did it for me.

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These are the only trolls I like.

I lived in leggings while I was over there.  They roll up small in a suitcase, and can be mixed and matched with various tops and dresses.  They’re also good and warm.

I did have a couple of days where I got to get into some fatshion, which was of course at the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment conference.  I wanted to wear something that was both cute and expressed my style, but also that said “Unapologetic Fat Woman Here!”

Day One I went with my Candy Strike bug dress:

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I thought I was going to need to get really warm, and had a black fuzzy bolero and black scarf to wear with it, but the venue turned out to be REALLY warm, so I was able to pare down to just a mesh top underneath the dress and some black leggings, and those trusty Mary-Janes again.

I was presenting on the second day, and I had been saving a new dress for AGES for it to be finally cold enough to wear, so I thought that this might be the day to wear it.

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Now you see why I describe my style as “obnoxious toddler”.  I love this outfit, Little Orphan Annie dress, white tights, saddle shoes and my red and white striped McDonald’s socks (yes, I did get them from McDonald’s!)  I was also wearing Divine earrings.  Literally, my earrings were Divine.  They’re cutouts of this photo…

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My paper was called “Hey, Fat Bitch!” so I figured what better occasion to wear the patron saint of fat bitches hanging from my ears.  Divine should always be present at powerful moments in fat history.

Unfortunately, that evening as we were leaving to go to the launch of Substantia Jones’ exhibition at Te Manawa, I slipped on the path at the front of the house we were staying, and rather spectacularly sprained my ankle.  So I missed the launch, and missed saying goodbye to all of the people from the conference.  Luckily the lovely Gabrielle, our host while we were in Palmerston North, plied me with hot water bottles, and naughty cats (she has the naughtiest cats) that night, so I could get some healing in before we left for Rotorua the next day.

Having a sprained ankle certainly slowed me down, but it didn’t stop me.  We went up to Rotorua and the first thing on our list was a trip to Hobbiton to do the movie set tour (it’s out at Matamata, which is about an hour and a bit out of Rotorua).  Luckily I could get my hiking boots over my swollen ankle, and was able to slowly walk the hilly but stunning landscape that is the Hobbiton movie set.

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It was much colder that day, so I had several layers on.  Layers are the key for travelling in colder climes I find.  Leggings, dress, long sleeve t-shirt, light cardigan, hoodie, scarf and beanie!  You can shed bits if you need to, but otherwise it keeps you toasty warm.

If you are going to New Zealand, take your swimsuit.  Especially if you are going to Rotorua.  Recommended by several fab fats who had already been travelling in New Zealand before the conference, and the lovely Cat Pausé who is now a local, we went to the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, and I credit my relatively speedy ankle recovery to the Priest Pool – a hot thermal pool that is full of minerals.  All of the thermal pools were amazing and felt fantastic on my poor ankle, not to mention all the other aches and pains from the fall, but the Priest Pool, I have no words for how healing that was.  The very second I got into it I felt fantastic and did not want to get out.

But I found there were hot spas all over the country – we also went to one in Franz Josef that was heated glacier water, and I’m so glad I took a swimsuit with me – not something I can easily source while travelling.

A couple of days later, while we were on the road travelling down the west coast of the North Island, we stopped off at a diner in New Plymouth that the owner of the motel we had stayed at recommended, called Deluxe Diner.  Now this diner was awesome.  Fabulous US retro in style, with the most adorable waitresses in 50’s style uniforms, and food to die for, we loved it on sight.  But the morning we were there, we were lucky enough to encounter some Nuns Having Fun – the cast of Sister Act for the New Plymouth Operatic Society.

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My choice of outfit for days where we were on the road a lot was soft pants (with pockets!), comfortable top and trusty cardigan.  Chuck a big ass flower on the head and those infernal hiking boots on, and we’re off.

On our way down the west coast of the South Island, we stopped off at a little town called Hokitika, also recommended by fab fats who went before me.  What a gorgeous little town!  I found this sculpture down by the sea, and had to have my photo taken chilling in it.

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Still in my trusty cardigan, and the hiking boots that I grew to loathe (my other shoes wouldn’t fit on my bung ankle!) with a long tunic and Lumpy Space Princess leggings.

When we were in Dunedin, I called up a local bus tour company to book a half day tour out to Larnach Castle.  The lovely woman who answered the phone said “I can’t get you on a bus, but for the same price I can send you a limo for a private tour.”  Ummm… HELL YES!!  So Kerri and I had a half day private tour of Dunedin and Larnach Castle, with our fabulous tour guide and driver Ron, in a 7.2m white stretch limousine!!

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It was a bit nippy out, so I went for soft pants and a tunic top, and my trusty hoodie.  My grey cardigan and red hoodie sure got a workout on this trip!

On our way up to Christchurch from Dunedin, we were invited by an international YouTube celebrity, Scooterman, to stop in Timaru and have cameo roles in his next video.  Meeting John was an absolute delight, and I enjoyed spending a couple of hours with him.

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Again, you can’t go wrong with leggings and a tunic top, and chuck a cardie over the top.  And look, finally I could fit back into my Mary-Janes, the swelling had gone down!

We only had one night in Christchurch, so the next morning I booked us a 3 hour tour of the city and surrounds on a London double decker bus.  Christchurch is an amazing city, so resilient after the devastation of the Feb 2011 earthquake.  I urge you to go there and do some touring, either on your own or with an organised tour.

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Back in purple again – tunic top, leggings and my trusty hoodie.  But I added some rainbow socks to my Mary-Janes and an infinity scarf.

Finally, a couple of people asked me before I left if I was going to shop while in New Zealand for clothes.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the budget, and size 26-28AU clothes are scarce in New Zealand, so there was no shopping for me.  But one thing I did pick up was an amazing infinity scarf from Global Culture, a company based in Christchurch that make all of their products locally, which I was SO happy to support.  I wore the HELL out of that thing!

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This was on the ferry from Picton to Wellington, where it was super windy and cold.  I just wrapped it around my head, looped it around my neck a couple of times and Bob’s your uncle!  Warm ears, head and neck.  I loved this scarf so much I went to a Global Culture shop in Wellington the next day and bought another one, and one of their neck socks too, which can be worn as a head band or hair wrap or scarf or anything else your imagination comes up with.

So there you have it.  My holiday fatshion memories of my trip to New Zealand.

If you’re interested in reading any other of the Plus 40 Fabulous posts, you can follow the Facebook group here or on Twitter here.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.
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