I am thrilled to participate in the Plus 40 Fabulous project created by the lovely Leah and Mookie. Leah and Mookie wanted to claim a space in fatshion/plus-size blogging for people over 40, which considering the way women are relegated to the sidelines as they get older, is a fantastic idea. There are plenty of perky young lovelies blogging in the fatosphere, and good on them, but there is no reason that women have to stop enjoying dressing and feeling good about themselves as they get older. I believe strongly in visibility and representation, and if my participating in Plus 40 Fabulous gets one 40+ fatty putting on a fab outfit and feeling good about herself, then it’s more than worth it.
So I know a lot of you already follow my blog and other online presence, but as this is an introduction post for the project and will be linked through the #plus40fabulous tag, there may be new people who have not read my work before. To those, I say a hearty welcome! To the rest of you champs who have been around a while, it’s good to see you again!
Well, my name is Kath and I recently turned 43 years old. In my day job I’m an IT librarian in Brisbane, but by night (well, it’s not restricted to just night any more!) I love to put on my rainbow tights and sparkly dress and have been a fat activist for about six years now. Mostly I concentrate on the rights of fat women, because I am royally fed up with being treated like a second-class citizen because of my size, but I do believe that every day things like the access to attractive clothing and being represented in a positive light as a fat woman are actually radical acts of fat activism. Not apologising for who I am is one of the most powerful things I have learned to do.
There is a running joke amongst my friends and I that I’m trying to bring in “toddler style” as a thing. I’ve been walking through a shopping centre and said to my friend Kerri “Why can’t I have HER outfit?” and she has replied “Kath, she’s four.” But why should little kids get all the fun stuff? If I could, I would be all about the rainbow tights, sparkly dresses, ladybug shoes and fairy wings. I’m on a quest to smash the idea that women have to get dull as they mature and that a wardrobe has to be conservative to be professional. What I wear has no bearing on my intellect and my ability to do my job, but it does show how creative and passionate I am.
I have been fat for most of my life (I prefer the term fat to any other euphemisms, it is in no way derogatory, simply a descriptor like tall or brown-eyed) but only really started developing my own style in my late 30’s. Prior to that, I really felt that I didn’t deserve nice things, and besides, they were much, much harder to find back then! But after I found fat activism, built my confidence and self esteem, I realised that I loved playing with style to express who I am. Where once I tried very hard to be either a brown sparrow who disappeared into the background, or did the whole grungy-goth anti-fashion thing, I realised that the one thing that defines my taste most is my love of colour. Brown, grey and black have their place in my wardrobe, but mostly I am bored by them when it comes to clothes. I love colour in all aspects of my life and will always gravitate to either the brights, the bolds or the pretties. I love quirky prints and fun accessories.
I’m in no way beholden to fashion as an industry – mostly because it has never cared a jot about me or my money – but I do love clothes and style, and I wear what makes me happy.
How I Feel About Being Over 40
Personally, I’m loving being over 40. I hear a lot of people dreading turning 40, or hiding their age, saying they’re 29 again etc. But life just keeps getting better. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, and things change physically a bit as you get older, but I’m far more content and definitely more confident now than I have ever been. I think a lot of people see high school or their 20’s as their peak in life – but to me that’s sad. If you peak that early, what are you doing with the rest of your life? The only thing that really bothers me is that my hearing and eyesight are deteriorating a bit more (they’ve never been great anyway), which is frustrating. But I haven’t had my natural hair colour for over 20 years, preferring to change it to something more fun, so greys don’t bother me and fat doesn’t wrinkle much anyway! I’m proud of my age, and wish more women would embrace the years they have lived.
Oh, and I wish menopause would hurry up, I’m not using my uterus, it can just retire!!
How Society Treats Older Women
This however, is a different matter. I’ll start by saying I don’t buy into the “We just get invisible.” thing, because fat women are mostly invisible at any age. As are other marginalised people – we don’t exist unless it’s to be ridiculed or vilified. However, there is a courtesy paid to young women, even marginalised young women, that older women don’t get. Once you pass a certain age, you’re seen as either an inconvenience or a drudge. Even the most talented and passionate woman stops being referred to as “dynamic” the minute she turns about 35. Add to that the fact that older women are just not visible in the media and entertainment in the same way that older men are. Look at Maggie Gyllenhaal, being told she’s “too old” at 37 to play the love interest of a man in his 50’s! With a few notable exceptions, older women are mostly relegated to being mothers or grandmothers or crones. Which is so unlike the reality of all the older women I know – who are vibrant, funny, gifted, intelligent, compassionate, talented and just downright interesting, if you bother to take the time to know them.
I’ve always been someone with friends of all ages, right from when I was a teenager myself. I still have friends who range from a 21 through to their 60’s who are all different and interesting in their own way, and they find me interesting. If we only surround ourselves with people at our own small age group, then we’re missing out on all the different perspectives in life. I am eternally grateful to the older friends who have imparted wisdom on me over the years, and now I hope I can do the same for my younger friends, in my own way. My wisdom usually consists of “Fuck it, you only live once!”
Which brings me to…
Fashion Advice and Inspiration
Fuck it, you only live once!
It’s true though. You can spend your life worrying about what other people think, or you can just wear stuff that makes you feel happy and confident. It might not be the same for you as it is for me, but whatever it is for you, just wear it. As I said before, I don’t care a damn about the fashion industry, and I’m not interested in following trends to the letter. I pick and choose the bits I like and ignore the rest.
As for inspiration, mostly toddlers. I’m only half kidding there – I mean I do love other sources, like Advanced Style, Arched Eyebrow, Cupcake’s Clothes and The Curvy and Curly Closet – but for anyone who has been around toddlers for any length of time, you’ll know that they demand to wear what they want to wear, even if it doesn’t match, isn’t considered “appropriate” for the occasion, or isn’t practical. They don’t care if it’s their Auntie’s wedding, they’ll wear purple gumboots, shorts with frogs on them and a stripey turtleneck if that’s what pleases them. We all have that innate desire to just say “Bugger it.” and wear what we like, but it’s wheedled, teased and bullied out of us most from a very young age and perpetuates throughout most of our lives. Sometimes you just have to put on that sparkly dress and rainbow tights with your shoes with the flowers on them and rock your own sweet style.
If you’d like to see more of Plus 40 Fabulous, you can find the posts and info on the social media accounts:
And if you’re posting about the project, be sure to use the hashtag #plus40fabulous