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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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Plus 40 Fabulous – What Makes Me Happy

Published February 20, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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Another month has rolled around and it’s time for my latest Plus 40 Fabulous post!  This month’s theme is “What Makes Me Happy”.  One of the things about fat activism work is that you’re dealing with SO much bullshit – from the media and government pushing out anti-fat propaganda, general arsehole behaviour from strangers, dealing with the frustration of not being able to find suitable clothes to outfit you for life, medical professionals that treat you like a child and refuse to give you fair health care, and a myriad of other things, that it can be extremely wearing on a fat activist.  And because you’re almost always responding to that bullshit, it can also seem like we are all just one dimensional angry fat ladies!

There’s nothing wrong with being angry at injustice, but it’s not the only aspect of me or any other fat activist as a person.  Quite the opposite, generally speaking I’m known for my sense of humour, my laugh and for, as a colleague puts it, the look of mischief in my eye.

When you’re dealing with social activism of any kind, you have to be able to find the joy in life easily, or you’re going to burn out very quickly.  There has to be someone, and some things, that make you happy, and you have to be able to access them when the activism starts to get you down.  It’s all part of self care, which is VITAL for all of us, let alone those of us engaging in activism.

So what makes me happy?  Well, it’s a number of things.  But first and foremost, for me it’s my friends.  I have THE most amazing friends – the local ones, the not so local ones and the ones around the world that I’ve been brought to by my activism and other interests.  I’ve never been one for huge groups of friends, preferring the company of one or two people at a time, but the ones I have are so amazing.   Whether it’s the very pragmatic duo of future fellow Golden Girls (apparently I’m Sophia) that I have locally who share my love of superhero movies, brunch and conversation over coffee; the quiet but razor sharp friend who I only get to see a few times per year but she always knows when to send me Adventure Time gifs and pictures of her ridiculously spoiled cat, those that I only get to catch up with occasionally who I feel like I’ve only been away from for five minutes, or the multitudes of friends I have made online (some of whom I’ve met in person and others I’ve not met yet) who have always got a kind word, an internet hug or a naked picture of Tom Hiddleston for me, my friends are the real source of joy for me.

A favourite photo of me taken years ago by my friend Kylie.

A favourite photo of me taken years ago by my friend Kylie.

Next on the list would have to be my day job.  I’m not in a job that brings fame or money, I’m in one that means something to me, I work in public libraries, specifically library technology.   I find it constantly challenging and thought provoking, and there is nothing more rewarding than setting foot in a library that is full of happy, excited, engaged customers.  Especially children.  When I was growing up, the library was sanctuary to me, and I love the thought of being able to give that back to subsequent generations.

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Another thing that makes me happy is Lego.  I can spend hours on it, just calmly sorting and then building.  It is one of those activities that immediately renders me calm.  I really love big kits, that I can spend weeks coming back to for an hour or so at a time, watching the build grow and take shape.

Here I am VERY excited about the Simpsons House which I saved up FOREVER for.

Here I am VERY excited about the Simpsons House which I saved up FOREVER for.

And finally, something that always makes me feel so much better and brings me such joy, is the ocean.  I am so lucky to live within spitting distance of the ocean (literally, it’s seven houses down) and can head down to the waterfront any time I like.  There is nothing like sitting by the ocean with a good book and a coffee, just enjoying the sea breeze as it lowers my blood pressure!

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Whatever it is that makes you happy, I hope you take the time to find it and recharge your batteries.  Self care is important!

Plus 40 Fabulous – The Biggest Influence From My Youth

Published January 14, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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Happy New Year!  Can you even believe it’s 2016?  It feels like yesterday that it was 1986.  It seems that the older I get, the faster time goes.  I remember spending what felt like forever daydreaming about what it would be like to be a grown up, and now I am one, I barely ever get time to stop and think.

This post isn’t going to have any photos of me, because even though it’s about my fashion taste, it’s about my influences and I want to devote the post to someone who has been the most important style influence in my life.

The latest Plus 40 Fabulous theme is to talk about how our childhood and teen years influenced our fashion style.  For me, this is very timely, with the passing of David Bowie on Monday (Australian time), which frankly has left me bereft.  All week since I heard the news, I’ve just felt the deepest sense of loss.

Even though Bowie had been around my whole life, I didn’t really “discover” him until I was 12.   I had of course heard of him before, how could you not in those years, but I was probably too young yet to connect.  I remember very clearly seeing the video for Let’s Dance for the first time (it was shot in Australia) and just being blown away.  I then began scouring all the pop magazines for more info on him and remember this was pre-internet, so if you didn’t have money to buy albums, you had to wait until songs came on the radio!  He had a new album out by this time and I remember hearing Blue Jean and seeing the music video on TV.  I found his back catalogue and was absolutely in love with the whole idea of him.

For Christmas I begged for cassettes of his music and I desperately wanted a poster for my bedroom wall.  I was given Heroes and Let’s Dance, and a cousin gave me a massive poster of him in a grey suit from his Serious Moonlight tour.  I had that poster on my bedroom wall for nearly a decade until it fell to bits.  I’ve always wanted to replace it with a framed one.

You see, I was a weird kid.  Described often as “off with the fairies”, I was always daydreaming and making up stories in my head, imagining far away places, magical creatures, interesting people and great deeds of bravery and kindness.  I was chubby and loved anything that was colourful and had a fantasy feel to it.  I had already discovered the New Romantic movement a couple of years earlier and loved Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, and so many others, all of which was considered “weird” in the conservative small town I grew up in.  I didn’t have a good family life so music was my escape – all those beautiful people in their amazing exotic looking clothes, dancing and expressing all the things I felt.  I wanted to dress like them, in pirate boots and frilly shirts and with bright makeup and floppy hair, but I just wasn’t allowed to.  My parents and brother regularly ridiculed me for all the things I liked, and when I went to school I was called a freak and a weirdo too.  I never felt I fit in anywhere.

And then I found Bowie.  In finding his back catalogue, I found a chameleon of a man who was willing to try anything in the name of his art.  He changed his look and music style and influences as often as he put out an album.  His lyrics spoke to all the freaks and weirdos and told them they had a place in the world.  Remember, he wasn’t conventionally attractive for the time either.  He was unfashionably (for the time) super thin, often coloured his hair in obnoxious gingers and brassy blondes, had strange mis-matched eyes and crooked teeth.  He was deliciously weird, and I felt like had found a kindred spirit in the world.  Someone who was weird like me.

And then there was Labyrinth.  I can remember being at a relatives house and begging to be allowed to turn the television on so that I could watch a special documentary programme, Inside The Labyrinth (you can watch it here) because I knew that Bowie was going to be in the movie.  I was allowed to watch it, probably to shut me up, and I was transfixed.  I loved Jim Hensen’s work, had been a big fan of The Dark Crystal and The Muppet Show, and to know that Bowie was going to be working with Muppets, it was everything I ever dreamed of.   It was when I first discovered Ron Mueck’s art (still my favourite artist) and was the first instance of CGI I can remember seeing – the owl from the opening credits was revolutionary technology for it’s time.  I remember going to see the movie and loving every second of it.  I could identify with Sarah’s dreaminess, I loved all of the heroic characters, and of course then there was Jareth, the Goblin King, in those tight, tight, tight pants.

It is still to this day one of my favourite films of all time.  I’m listening to that song above and sobbing my eyes out as I write this.  I miss him so much already, and I never met him.  There’s only one other who affected me this way, and it is Freddie Mercury.  I hope they’re together, wherever they are.

As to how it has influenced my style today, who isn’t influenced by David Bowie at some point in his career in modern culture?  Everything after him has been touched by him.  But there are certain style elements that I love now that are still ever so influenced Bowie and his career.  Bold patterned tights and leggings.  Chunky and bold coloured/patterned shoes.  Blue eyeshadow.  Metallics and glitter.  Big hair with flowers and ribbons a la Sarah in the ballroom scene in Labyrinth. Pastel jackets. Bold prints.  Space themed prints.  Colour.  Colour.  Colour.  But most of all, the quirky, the new, the different, the brave, and most of all the strange.

In the words of my favourite Bowie song:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes
Where’s your shame
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time

Plus 40 Fabulous – An Introduction

Published November 14, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

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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!

Introduction

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.

It me!

It me!

My Style

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.

She's got cooties!

She’s got cooties!

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!!

Inked Up and Fabulous!

Inked Up and Fabulous!

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.

Always subtle.

Always subtle.

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

Clash those prints!

Clash those prints!

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.

Style is all attitude.

Style is all attitude.

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