flattering

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Sell Us the Clothes – Don’t Judge Us On Them

Published April 22, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Ugh, when are these plus-size retailers going to get it?  Check out these screen shots I took from a post Autograph Fashion made today:

photo 1

photo 2

Now I *LOVE* Autograph.  I really do.  They’re one of the few brands that actually cater to my size (26AU) and I love that they’re presenting a lot of great colours, prints and styles that aren’t your usual black and boring boxy fare.  They’ve come so far in the past few years, from when they used to be full of peasant tops and capri pants and nothing else, to a range that is bold, colourful and full of variety.  In fact I’d pretty much wear that outfit above as is (maybe not the black tank, too many layers for Brisbane!)  I’m currently wearing an outfit entirely made up of Autograph pieces, including a pair of their leggings, which I am wearing as pants, and rocking the sh!t out of!

But when I saw this post today, I saw RED.

My objections?  Two things.  Firstly, the statement that “leggings are not pants”.  I’ve spoken about this before.  Leggings are pants if that’s what you wear them as, and none of us need anyone else, particularly not a retailer who is supposed to be marketing to us, lecturing us on how to wear clothes.  We’re fat, we’re not babies.  We’re able to determine what we want to wear and how we wish to wear it.

Secondly, a constant bugbear of mine in plus-size fashion – all the rhetoric about how to “hide” or “flatter” our “problem areas”.  I’ve actually been in store, browsing the products at Autograph, when a staff member remarked on a top I had picked up “Oh that’s lovely, it will hide all your bad bits.”  I responded very firmly “Excuse me?  I do not have any “bad bits”, thank you very much!”  It’s so entrenched in plus-size women’s wear, that it’s seen as acceptable for a sales person to actually say something like that to their customer and not think for a second that it would be offensive.

The assumption that every customer of a plus-size retailer must by default wanting to hide, disguise or minimise any parts of their bodies simply because they are fat women, has to stop.  The assumption that we even HAVE any “bad bits” or “problem areas” has to stop.  We don’t pay these retailers for body shaming and lectures about how we should dress to “flatter” our bodies.  We pay these companies for clothes, not body shaming.

For too long, this kind of marketing has been used to try to get us to purchase their products, and they wonder why it doesn’t work.  Women who feel bad about themselves are not going to spend money on themselves.  All it does is create more arbitrary policing of how fat women dress.

Now I’m not saying that they can’t give style advice.  Definitely tell us what pieces look great together, how to layer for changing weather and what colours and prints are hot this season.  This is helpful information, and all part of good marketing.  I love to hear new ways of wearing things, and it helps me think of outfit ideas that I may not have thought of before.  The thing is, it’s not difficult to keep body shaming and judgement out of marketing copy.  Look, I’ll have a go:

“The Printed Legging

A  hot trend this season is the Printed Legging, no matter what size or shape there’s a style for you.  The trick to wearing leggings is to ensure you have the right fit, so that they hug your body.  The right fit will ensure your leggings are comfortable,  not see through or do not roll or bunch at the knees or ankles.

Printed leggings look fantastic with block colours, and we have a range of fabulous tunic tops that work perfectly.  Pair this seasons animal prints in black and white with bold purple, and add some silver jewellery for extra punch.  This asymmetrical tunic in royal purple looks great and is floaty and feminine.  If you want to add layers for cooler weather, a black tank can be worn underneath, or add a long line cardi or jacket for those chillier days.

Give them  a try today!”

But time and time again we see the same old loaded copy, full of body shaming and judgement.  Is it any wonder the comments threads are full of “But big women shouldn’t….!”  In fact, right after my comment a woman declared apropos of nothing that women with big thighs “shouldn’t wear stripes” – as though what other people wear on their bodies is anyone’s business but their own.  This is the kind of attitude that the negative marketing creates.

If you make women feel good about themselves, empowered and positive, they are very likely to spend money on nice clothes for themselves.  I know that’s when I spend the most money – when I’m feeling fantastic.  I want more nice stuff when I feel good.  When I feel crap, there’s no way I’m going to spend money on clothes.  It is not that fat women don’t want to buy clothes, it’s that we are so often made feel bad in the marketing, that it puts us off buying them.  So many plus-size clothing companies shoot themselves in the foot by using such negative marketing.

What I’d like to see from a plus-size clothing company is positive marketing that shows off their product with pride, and says “We love our product and you’d look great in it!”

Your job is to provide us with great clothes, it’s not to tell us that we should be hiding, minimising or disguising our bodies as though there is something wrong with them.

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An Afternoon at Autograph

Published November 19, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

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.

Shame from Within

Published September 14, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

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?

Fatshion: Posing a Threat

Published August 22, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Clothing is one of the most visible ways we get to express ourselves.  Through the things we wear, and how we wear them, we tell the world something about ourselves.  Everything from our beliefs and personal standards, our taste in music, film and television, our sense of humour, our favourite colours, how confident we are (or aren’t) with our bodies, what kind of work we do, how we spend our leisure time, and indeed our personalities can be shown through the way we present ourselves with clothing.

For fat people, taking pride in dressing, developing style and dabbling in fashion are all radical acts.  We are constantly told we’re not allowed to enjoy dressing, fashion, style, shopping and expressing ourselves.  By being visible, we’re giving ourselves a presence and a voice in the world.  This is why fat people are regularly ridiculed for the way we dress, because we pose a threat to the status quo.

Which makes me think of this  hilarious video from Flight of the Conchords:

For fat people, our clothing options are severely limited.  We don’t have the vast choices that are available in straight sizes, nor do we have as many affordable options.  Thanks to the availability of online shopping and a lot of campaigning on behalf of fatshionistas in the US, UK and Australia (and many other places too), those options are starting to open up a little more, but they are nowhere near the level that are around for straight sizes.  You only have to look in department stores and compare the floor space given to straight sizes as opposed to those given to plus-sizes to see evidence of that.

Not to mention that fat people are expected to “flatter” their bodies in the way they dress.  These limits are placed upon us by people who are offended by seeing fat bodies, so we’re expected to minimise, disguise and cover our bodies with dark, shapeless clothing.  Baring skin, wearing bold or busy prints or bright or light colours and choosing form-fitting or “body-con” clothing is seen as “innapropriate” on a fat person when it’s found perfectly acceptable on a not-fat person.  Even our own clothing brands and providers constantly sell us ways to “flatter your figure” or “dress for your body type” – which I feel is shaming their own customers.  When are plus-size clothing companies going to realise that WE are their customers and WE don’t need to be shamed by them to buy their products?

So, how do we get around these factors to be able to dress ourselves in the way we want and need to?

The first way I think is to let go of what other people think of the way we look.  We are under no obligation to make our appearance pleasing to others.  Besides, we all know, you can’t make everyone happy all of the time.  Instead, we need to be focusing on making ourselves happy and wearing the things that make us feel good.  If you are happiest in the kind of clothes you can just throw on and ignore for the rest of the day, then go for it.  If you prefer to dress in high fashion style, then go for it, no matter what anyone says you should or shouldn’t be wearing.  I’m personally somewhere in between – I don’t feel the need to be a slave to fashion, but I love developing my own personal style and love taking time to dress and present myself to the world.  I like being able to express myself through my clothing.

Because we have so few options, the next thing I think we get really good at doing is “making it work”.  I know myself, I love clothes that have colour and vibrancy, but so much of plus-sized clothing is black and plain.  I’ve had to build a collection of colour and work out ways to accessorise to bring colour and vibrancy into my wardrobe.  And you know what they say, nobody accessorises like a fat gal!

Part of making things work is being able to doctor your wardrobe as well.  Adding embellishments, shaping things to fit your body, letting them out, a little tweak here, and a little tweak there.

But finally, the most important thing is to work on loving your body.  When you start to love your body, you begin to look at dressing differently.  You don’t see that red stop sign of “shouldn’t” when you go shopping and look at garments.  When you start to be unapologetic about your body, the range of clothing you can wear greatly expands.  You give up the whole list of “I can’t…” clothes.  No more “I can’t wear sleeveless.” or “I can’t wear skirts/dresses.” or “I can’t wear form fitted clothing.” and that opens up your options so much wider than when you had those restrictions.  Of course, it doesn’t happen overnight.  Maybe you start with a dress when you’ve always worn pants.  Or you whip that shrug or cardie off when you get too warm.  But slowly, when you immerse yourself in body positivity and work on learning to love your body, you find yourself taking more and more risks… and things that seemed risky once, no longer seem so.

I think I will hand over to the amazing Virgie Tovar, with her video on how to FatDazzle your wardrobe:

So, tell me how you work your own personal style?  What kind of clothes and accessories do you love?  How do you “make things work”?  And what about your changing view of your body – have you seen your clothing style change with it?  And how?  Let’s have a discussion!

On Flattering and Fat

Published July 25, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

It seems I have a rather large influx of new people viewing Fat Heffalump again all of a sudden.  Welcome!  Anyone want to tell me where you’re all being referred from?

Firstly, a little bit of housekeeping, just for the new folks (long termers, bear with me for a minute loves!)

There are rules for commenting on this blog – they can be found here.  This blog is not a democracy, it’s a dictatorship, and I am the (sometimes) benevolent dictator.  It’s my blog, so I make the rules and do whatever I like with it.  That’s the thing with blogging – your blog is your space and you get to do with it as you wish, and you set the boundaries.  If you want things to be different then they are here, I’m always open to suggestion, but when I put the foot down and say no, then the answer is no.

The other important thing to know about this blog is that it is about being fat.  Fat is not an insult in this space, it is a description.  It’s not self-denigrating of me to call myself fat.  I am a size 26 and somewhere around the 300lb mark (not sure where, I don’t weigh) and have a big belly, big boobs, multiple chins, thick thighs, big hips, wobbly arms… I am FAT.  I’m not chunky, fluffy, curvy, voluptuous, zaftig, big, large, plus-sized, chubby, hefty or any other euphemism that implies that fat is a dirty word.  I am FAT.  And I’m proud of who I am.

Here we refer to ourselves as fat without shame, without apology and without fear.  Fat is where it’s at baby!

Fat Positive Manatee (Click on the image for the Tumblr)

But now we’ve got that out of the way, mostly we’re here to talk about being fat and all the issues that go around it.

Which leads me on to the topic that I want to talk about again today, and that’s the topic of “flattering” and in particular, commenting on other people’s clothing/appearance.

There is a thing I notice a lot on blogs, and even more so on comment threads on plus-size clothing sites (this includes Facebook sites for brands), and that is body shaming by using the term “flattering”.  Whether the commenter is shaming their own body, by saying things like “I can’t wear that top, it doesn’t flatter my arms/belly/insert other feature here.” or worse, when they’re shaming other people’s bodies, either directly “Can’t you find something that is more flattering to your shape?” or indirectly “Don’t you know fat women shouldn’t wear bold prints, they don’t flatter!” – it’s all still body shaming.

I have a very strict rule here on Fat Heffalump that I won’t stand for body shaming – not even when someone says they “Don’t intend it that way.”  Intent is not quite enough to excuse the behaviour – when someone says not to do something in their space (as Fat Heffalump is my space), then don’t do it.  Don’t say that you didn’t intend it a certain way, or that you were only trying to make a suggestion.  Either apologise, or just walk away.  It’s not your territory, so you don’t get to make the rules.

That’s really bolshy of me, I know.  But I’m a bolshy woman, and this is my space.  It doesn’t mean you can’t call me out if I’ve said something problematic, but when it comes to the rules I’ve set about body shaming and appearance based judgment, I’m just not negotiable.  I want every one of you to be able to come here knowing that you will not be shamed for your bodies, no matter what shape, size, colour, physical ability or appearance you might have.

But back to the topic of flattering.  I vehemently reject the concept of dressing to “flatter” myself and I believe nobody has the right to suggest/demand that people change how they dress to “flatter” their bodies.  That doesn’t mean you can’t choose to highlight certain features yourself – because it’s your body and you know how you like to look.  It’s when other people come along and say “That’s not very flattering” – it’s the height of rudeness and a prime example of being judgmental about other people’s appearances.  Not even should they sell it as “suggesting you highlight your good points” – because by default, it’s also suggesting you should “lowlight” other parts of yourself because they are less/not acceptable.

I get very angry at those who crop up on plus-size clothing blogs and company pages etc and start talking about how “larger/big” women should dress.  We should all dress in a way that makes us happy ourselves.  It’s different for you than it is for me, than it is for the next person, but to cast our standards onto other people is simply rude.  However time and time again, I see people rudely leaving comments that say “Big women shouldn’t go sleeveless!”  or “Larger ladies need dark clothes, not bright colours!”  It’s just unbelievably rude to cast your own body hang-ups and judgement on other people.

That doesn’t mean you have to wear sleeveless tops and hot pink yourself.  Or even LIKE those things.  What it means is that instead of announcing what other people “should” do, you say “I’m not comfortable wearing sleeveless tops.” or perhaps “Bright colours aren’t really my thing.”  Then the statement is about you, not other people’s bodies/appearance.

Even saying that something is “flattering” on someone else is body shaming.  It implies that the outfit they are wearing that shows their shape a certain way, or changes their shape is better than something that shows them as they are.

Just don’t use the word flattering.  Instead, compliment someone straight up.  A simple “I like your outfit.” is far less loaded with body judgement than “That outfit really flatters you.”  If you don’t like a garment because you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it then say so.  Don’t ascribe shame to it by implying that other people shouldn’t wear it because you don’t.

There is enough body shame in the world today.  We get bombarded with it in magazines, newspapers, television, movies, fashion, advertising and a whole lot of other blogs.  Don’t contribute to it yourself, make a small change to your thinking and your language, and you contribute to making a big change to the world.

Going Bare

Published April 3, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I decided to hold a little bit of a personal experiment over March.  As you might know, I had a month’s leave from work across January and February, and as I spent most of the time just relaxing, I didn’t wear make-up for most of the month.  My skin seemed to really, really like it, and when I went back to work and started wearing make-up each day again, my skin really wasn’t happy.  I broke out lots, the moisture levels changed and I had a flare up of psoriasis across my nose.

Now, I have been wearing a full face of make-up to work now for easily 25 years.  I started in my first job just before my 13th birthday, and as it was in a hairdresser’s salon, it was kind of the thing to wear make-up.  For many years, probably until I was in my early 30’s, I never left the house without at least some make-up on.  I felt that I couldn’t be seen au naturel.  For many years, it was a kind of armour, a mask I wore to present to the world.  Even once I started to work through the self esteem issues I had in my life, make-up was still, to me, required for work to be “presentable”.

So it’s a pretty big step for me to decide to go without make-up at all for a whole month.

And I did it.  The world didn’t end.  Nobody screamed “Look at your hideous face!  Hide the children!”  My skin was far more happy than it normally is.  Nobody pulled me aside at work and told me that my appearance was “inappropriate”.  I saved a bunch of money (I normally go through a bottle of foundation per month).  But most of all, I accepted my face as it is, bare and natural, without feeling the need to hide or disguise it.   I even left it uncovered a week ago when I had a terrible allergic reaction to something.  In fact, I’m even going to share this rather unflattering photograph here:

I look kind of pissed, don’t I?   My poor blotchy nose, cheeks and forehead!  My skin was so fragile and tender, and I still haven’t worked out for sure what I was reacting to.  I think it might be a tree in flower at the back of my house.

I went out that day, to a social event, with a bunch of people I don’t know also attending, and do you know what?  Nobody made fun of my blotchy face.  Nobody asked what was wrong with me.  And the salty ocean air on my bare skin was a wonderful treatment for the tender, itchy, blotchy skin.

It has been really liberating to just let go of that feeling of needing to cover my face and disguise my skin somehow.  I think I’ll even enjoy playing with make-up more now that I know I don’t HAVE to wear it to be seen in public.  I’m actually quite looking forward to playing around with the new MAC make-up I bought a couple of weeks ago, and having fun with colour.

But also, I’ve been able to look at the positive things about myself without spending time using make-up to hide the negative things.  I am 38 years old and I barely have a wrinkle on me.  My skin (when not being all allergic angry or the occasional hormonal zit) is usually good and smooth.  Even though my eyes/eyebrows are lopsided, I have long, dark eyelashes that really don’t need mascara.  I have some hormonal pigmentation, but I usually have good colour and when I smile, my cheeks are rosy apples.  Without make-up, my skin evens out and is not oily or dry.

But even if somebody had carried on about my bare face, and made some negative comment, I’d have been ok.  Because I know people’s value is more than just their physical appearance.  I know what is important is intellect, humour, kindness, honesty, respect, talent etc.

Do you wear make-up?  Do you feel comfortable appearing in public bare-faced?  Or do you feel the need to have your “face on” before leaving the house?  What does wearing make-up mean to you?

More Barrel than Apple

Published February 5, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I’m being plagued by the black dog.  To be honest, I think it’s the heat, I never cope well with hot weather.  I’m happiest when I’m sitting steaming in two feet of snow.  Yeah I know, I’m on the wrong side of the planet.

One of my strategies when it comes to dealing with bouts of depression is to immerse myself in the Fatosphere, reading and viewing as many positive posts and images about fat people that I can.  It is just something that I know works to lift me out of that dark place, and get me back on to the road to my regular moods and ways of thinking.

I have been watching Fatshion February unfold on Tumblr, and the topic of representation of “death fatties” came up.  Now for any of you who are unaware, “death fatties” is a term coined for those of us who are classified as “morbidly obese” on the BMI scale, which is an arbitrary measurement of someone’s height to weight ratio, but is used by the medical field (and insurance industry)  to classify the fatness, and therefore health-by-their-measurement.  In reality, BMI does not at all give an accurate representation of someone’s health, only their height to weight ratio.

There was a mention of the scarcity of deathfatz posting Fatshion February photographs, and then a whole big discussion of whether or not “fat is fat” fired up, whether there should be any blogs or spaces that are dedicated just to deathfatz (there are) and whether this is excluding “smaller fats”.  I won’t get into that whole topic, and besides, Marianne Kirby has said it all beautifully on her Tumblr repeatedly, so it’s no use me rehashing it here.

But what I have got thinking about, is why I haven’t submitted any Fatshion February photographs.  What I’m struggling with is the fact that not only am I considerably bigger than most of the posters (it’s true, the deathfatz are under-represented), but regardless of the size of the posters, I see a whole lot of traditionally “beautiful” shaped women there.  All those hourglass figures, with breasts and hips that are bigger than their bellies.  Which in no way represents me.

There is a whole lot of celebration of “curvy” women.  Well I’m simply not curvy.  I am more… lumpy.  I do have big breasts, but my belly is clearly the largest part of my body.  I get it from my Grandma, she’s the same shape.  I look like I am heavily pregnant with triplets.  According to most plus-size fashion retailers, I don’t exist.  They’re all about the curves.  When they do actually use plus-size models, they’re flat bellied ones with small waists.  They’re women whose bodies stay the same shape when they sit down.  When I sit down, my belly shifts and becomes even bigger, resting on my lap.  Some plus size fashion even cut off before my size, despite my size being the usual top size of plus-size fashion.  City Chic?  Asos Curve?  I’m looking at you two in particular.  Not to mention all of the other lesser known brands that top out at Size 20, or 22.

Then there’s all this talk of apples, pears and hourglasses.  What about those women like me, who are shaped more like barrels?

Where are the true diversity of body types?

It becomes a spiral.  We don’t see bodies like ours represented anywhere, so we become too ashamed to share our own pictures.  Therefore, there are no bodies like ours being posted.

Just because my body shape isn’t considered “beautiful” or “fashionable”, doesn’t mean I don’t want to dress fashionably and enjoy dressing and styling myself.  Nor do I want to spend time finding things that “flatter” me and give an illusion of the shapes that are considered beautiful/fashionable.  My body is shaped like a barrel, and no amount of styling is going to change that.  I want to dress and adorn my body as it is, not disguise it as something else.

I’m thankful that there are those who put themselves out there.  I’m thankful that there are deathfatz like me who post their pictures and talk about their experiences.  Those of you who are at the top or beyond a standard plus-size range for your region.  Those of you who have big bellies, or any other body shape that doesn’t fit the predominant “curvy”.  Those of you who are extremely limited as to where you can get clothes to fit your bodies.  There aren’t many of you, but to those that are out there,  I admire you so much, and you make a difference to how I see myself, and what I am able to do with the limited fashion choices available to me.