I’m a big fan of the homemade Halloween costume; I’ve never been sure whether that’s because my mom always made my brothers’ and my costumes when we were kids, or out of some twisted drive to be The Craftiest Mom On The Block — or out of refusal to pay $30 for the privilege of dressing my child as the same licensed character as all the other trick-or-treaters. All three, I guess. At any rate, this year once I finished the boys’ costumes (Pac-Man, Inky, and Blinky) I decided to actually make one of my own, inspired by an adorable (and completely age-inappropriate) costume picture I found on pinterest.
Sometime last night after I’d finally finished tying all the tulle strips onto my skirt (which isn’t a skirt at all, really, but “tutu” sounds somehow frivolous, as if that makes any difference at all) I realized just how very much tulle is required to cover an ass this ample. And somehow I had envisioned the tulle strips drifting softly down, like on the little girl in the picture; I hadn’t thought about how much more dimension my own well-curved shape would add to the tutu (yes, okay, tutu).
For a moment, I worried that it would make my butt look big.
Then I spun around like a ballerina, and HECK YES. My butt didn’t look any bigger; it was big to begin with. What happened instead was, my butt made the tutu look big. I was wrapped in a poof-cloud of tulle that swooshed and floofed around me with my every movement. I felt like a giant floaty gravity-defying ball of fluff. I was a human tulle-nado. Tutus, I decided, are pretty much perfect for fat ladies. And fat ladies are perfect for tutus.
And then, I wore it out in public. In daylight. To my kids’ elementary school Halloween parade. Fortunately, they’re not yet old enough to feel embarrassment that their mother exists, much less goes around swathed in tulle-fluff, and to them it was awesome, not mortifying, that I was the only parent in costume.
Actually, the students marching by in the parade gave me quite a few sincere high-fives and compliments, which was pretty fabulous. And I have a little bit of hope that I helped normalize, and maybe awesome-ize, body diversity for them. (Because appearing in public as a fat lady in a tutu just isn’t ever not activism. My body size, and my enjoyment of same, was definitely noticeable.)
So here you go, a fat lady in a tutu:
And here are my boys in their homemade costumes:
Yep. Happy Halloween.
By the way, you’ve probably noticed that it’s been approximately six million years since I’ve written much here. This has turned out to be a really difficult, time-consuming semester for me. My brain is stuffed full of all kinds of blog content that I just haven’t been able to publish. I’m really hoping that in a few months I’ll be able to get back to a more regular writing schedule. Thanks for sticking around in the meantime.
Last weekend during Lady Gaga’s appearance on SNL, someone posted on my twitter timeline, something to the effect of, “It’s too bad Gaga dresses like an alien — she’s pretty hot when she dresses normal.” And even though I don’t have much interest in Lady Gaga, and I’m unfamiliar with most of her music — and even though I’ve made similar criticisms about her and any number of other women in the past — this time something different clicked into place with me, and I thought:
Lady Gaga can wear whatever she wants. She doesn’t owe it to you to look hot.
Seriously, I realize this is basic Feminist Theory 101. But to me, it’s just now starting to make sense, and it feels revolutionary: No woman is required to look a certain way that society deems acceptable. No person, for that matter. Lady Gaga isn’t. I’m not.
“Despite the fact that I’ve got cellulite and a poochy belly and fairly big hips for my frame, I don’t diet. Despite the fact that I spent my entire adolescence and young adult life actively hating my body and attempting to hide inside my clothing, I don’t diet. Because for one thing, few diets work permanently, with lost weight often regained within a year. And for another, I don’t believe that there is one acceptably beautiful body shape or figure. And finally, I’ve found a far better way to help myself look and feel good than attempting to diet my body into submission: I dress to my figure.”
I was reading along and thinking, Yes yes yes! People are finally starting to get it: dieting is futile, and it’s okay to not be thin! Until I got to the last sentence, and it hit me again: I don’t have to “look good” if I don’t want to. I don’t have to “dress to my figure,” especially since “dressing to your figure” is usually fashion-magazine code for “deemphasizing your fat parts and focusing attention on your non-fat parts.” As the article went on to say, “I sought out garments and accessories that drew the eye to my lovely waist, my shapely shoulders, my delicate ankles. I slowly began accumulating flattering, interesting pieces while simultaneously ditching the dull, curve-disguising ones. … I learned that I felt beautiful when I looked beautiful, and that I could look beautiful by wearing clothing that focused the observing eye on my glorious natural assets.”
“Dressing to my figure” still means conforming myself to an external standard for what is “flattering” and what is “unflattering,” for making my clothing choices based on the opinion of the observer* instead of on what I want to wear. It means replacing one set of rules (Be thin!) with for another set (If you can’t be thin, at least draw attention away from your fat parts!). And I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to conform to someone else’s notion of what makes my body look good. I can wear what I like, as an extension of my own personality.
(*We can say “the male gaze” here if you’d rather, but that’s a whole other topic I’m not capable of doing justice to.)
Choosing to style my body as an extension of myself is a celebration of my own uniqueness, my own created-ness. I’m celebrating the body and the personality God made me with. Wearing what I want to wear regardless of whether it’s in accordance with how fashion magazines think I should look or whether it makes me look “attractive,” and encouraging others to do the same, is a celebration of the beautiful diversity of human beings that God has created.
It may be that the choices I make end up being in line with what’s socially acceptable, but now I’m choosing to wear those items because they’re what I like, and society’s rules happen to line up with the things I like – not because I’m trying to conform.
My son dressed himself for preschool a few days ago in a yellow and tan striped shirt and red shorts. It wasn’t a color combination I would’ve chosen, and I gently offered to help him find an outfit that matched, but he said: “No thanks, I like wearing this.” And I realized: It really is that simple.
If “dressing to your figure” and following “fashion rules” is important to you, great. It’s your choice how you decorate your body. But don’t think it’s the only option for how to decorate your body, and don’t fool yourself into believing that the rules are anything more than reflections of our culture’s arbitrary standard for beauty. There are no “fashion police,” and how I present my body isn’t up to anyone else.
You don’t have to like my outfit. You might think that wearing horizontal stripes draws attention to my fat curves, and you might have a problem with that. You can think I shouldn’t wear a sleeveless top because my upper arms are wobbly, but I’m going to wear it anyway. You might think that what I’m wearing is too young for me or too old for me, you might think it clashes, you might think I wear too much eyeliner or that my purple hair is absurd. But I’m ignoring your opinion of how I look, society, because how I look isn’t about you at all.
Well, hello there. I hit a slump for a few weeks, and I’m still trying to climb back out of it and work up the motivation to write (or get out of bed or shower), but in the meantime, I have at least been wearing clothes:
Black fake-velvet dress – Wal-Mart (a size 16 [I wear a 24] that I found on after-Christmas clearance for $5 a few years ago – it pays to try things on!); pink cable tights and silver bangle bracelet – Avenue; necklace – Lane Bryant; shoes – Target clearance (they were way on sale, so I bought pairs in black, white, turquoise, and mustard. I have problems).
Peter, who will be 3 in a few weeks, decided to join me for my photo shoot. He was feeling a bit under the weather, so he’s wearing cozy pajamas and one sock.
By far the most exciting $4 I spent this week was on a bottle of Wet ‘n’ Wild turquoise liquid eyeliner. It’s a bit smeary (especially since it’s been hot and muggy here lately), but the color is vivid and holds up well. I plan to wear it everywhere, including dental appointments and PTA meetings.
I’m hoping to write more in the future about depression and malaise, but that requires mustering up the mental energy to write about anything, so. We’ll see.
You guys, I am about to show you something that has never before been seen on this blog: an outfit made of pieces that AREN’T FROM LANE BRYANT. Shocking, I know! I’ve never shopped at Avenue before (and actually, I didn’t really know they exist), but this post on A Well-Rounded Venture was so enthusiastic about their sundresses that I had to go try them on. (Plus, ever since I broke up with Lane Bryant, I’m in need of another brick-and-mortar store I can shop in.) Anyway, Nicole was totally right about the sundresses – I bought one, and I’m thinking I’ll probably be back for more by summertime.
So, here’s what I wore to church for Easter:
We had to take these pictures in the living room because it was raining out — it’s been raining ALL WEEK and my kids have been on Spring Break and I’ve been stuck in the house with three antsy boys. Save me. (They’re back to school tomorrow, hurrah!)
(Insert obligatory pun about my right to bare arms. Ho-ho.)
Also — Saturday night when I was pulling out clothes for the boys to wear to church, I came across a VERY disco-era, sea-green, polyester, three-piece suit that was Aaron’s as a little boy. I held it up just to say, Ha ha, look what your Daddy used to wear; but Noah was instantly smitten with the suit and decided to wear it to church. I gently urged him that maybe the suit was a little, ahem, old-fashioned, not to mention hot and itchy, and would he like something else, maybe a nice argyle sweater? But he was determined, and my policy on clothes for the kids has been that as long as it’s reasonable they can choose what they wear (although this is the first time my resolve to let them decide has been tested)….so, here’s what Noah wore to church on Easter Sunday:
A five-year-old in a sea-green leisure suit. That, Internet, is my gift to you. You’re welcome.
Joss Whedon is one of my favorite directors, and one of my very favorite Joss Whedon projects — besides Buffy, of course — is the internet musical miniseries Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I love it so much that sometimes I pull up the lyrics and make Aaron sing the Billy and Penny duet “My Eyes” with me, over and over, and he does, which just shows how much he loves me, and that he is a very, very tolerant man.
Anyway. For Christmas this year, I made my brother – who introduced me to Dr. Horrible – a Captain Hammer shirt. (Captain Hammer is Dr. Horrible’s nemesis.) Then I made Captain Hammer shirts for me and Aaron, just for good measure. They look like this:
Blue shirt is Croft&Barrow from Kohl’s. Black shirt is a Lane Bryant tee with my own felt applique. Jeans are Lane Bryant. Red shoes are from Wal-Mart.
I’ve worn this outfit to class a handful of times in hopes that it would draw out some other nerds, but no luck so far. Disappointing.
Why did I feel the need to pose like Artie, the Strongest Man in the World, for this picture? I have no idea.
All I know is, These are not the hammer.
Aaron and I went out on a date to see the Cleveland Orchestra perform this weekend (Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto, you guys, and it was AMAZING – seriously, the pianist was this dorky little man with poor posture and a bolero tie, but my stars could he PLAY – teaching me once again not to judge people based on appearances), and, as one might expect, we wore clothes:
The outfit I wore wasn’t terribly inspired, but my lands, did my husband look sharp. I cannot resist a man in a sweater vest, y’all.
I revisited the victory rolls and was only halfway successful – the left side turned out perfect; the right side ended up being more bobby pin than hair – BUT!, please note that they are New And Improved – Now with 100% Less Brown and Gray Roots!
Sweater and pants – Lane Bryant. Shoes – Target. Purse – Old Navy, circa 1996 (I carried it to homecoming my junior year of high school). Aaron’s shirt and vest are from Old Navy. Dead grass is courtesy of dreary northeast Ohio, where it is always winter and never Christmas.
I had to give a major (60% of my grade, eesh!) presentation yesterday for my Arthurian Lit class, and I was pretty nervous. So I compensated by wearing fabulous clothes and too much liquid eyeliner, as one does.
I also wore my confidence panties. In case you were wondering. Because nothing helps soothe performance anxiety quite like knowing you’re wearing fabulous underwear. (Surely I’m not the only one who does this…right? Back me up here…)
Please forgive the focus – it was starting to rain and we were trying to get the pictures done as quickly as possible.
Houndstooth shirt, sweater, trouser jeans, and shoes: Lane Bryant. Necklace: Old Navy. Hair by Goody bobby pins and Dove Extra Hold hair spray. Not pictured: confidence panties.
These jeans look much better with heels, which is how I started, but the ground is still too soggy and I was sinking. So flats (and damp cuffs) it is.
(Also: my lawn is still very dead. Dear spring, please come soon.)
Ever since I’ve jumped on the Health At Every Size bandwagon and my body-confidence has been improving, I’ve been more interested in wearing clothes I love, so I’m playing around with trying to find a personal style. I’m gravitating toward a ’50s Bettie Page pin-up look, only with, you know, less nudity.
This is the first time I’ve successfully done victory rolls in my hair, which is super exciting. Also, had no idea how outrageous my roots are. Holy Moses, I will be recoloring my hair ASAP.
I don’t have my grade back yet, but I think the presentation went really well. I attribute it the liquid eyeliner, victory rolls, and confidence panties.
I love looking at Outfit of the Day posts on other “fatshion” blogs, but I’ve shied away from posting any of my own. It isn’t the format I’d intended for this space – I’m more of a wordsmith than a clothessmith, and I didn’t imagine I’d have anything meaningful to contribute to the fatosphere*, so for me to post pictures of myself seemed somehow narcissistic.
(*Yes, apparently this is becoming the kind of blog that uses that sort of language. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum…)
But then I read this post: Why the pictures matter. Lesley makes a good case for having more pictures of bodies in all shapes and sizes available on the internet: fat bodies are marginalized by the media, rarely shown, “or if we [are shown] we are without heads or identities, without agency, without ownership—a strangely shaped approximation of a person, a pile of vaguely anthropomorphic flesh.” Instead we’re constantly bombarded with a stream of images of homogenous, thin, abled, culturally-normative bodies; by continually posting photos of our own non-mainstream, othered bodies, we can work towards normalizing bodies of all types. So, as Lesley says:
My outfit pictures are not about looking pretty or stylish or enviable or impressive—they are a challenge to the monotony of normative bodies in normative contexts that slide over our minds even against our will, every day, every day, every day we live. Look around, instead of trusting that what culture tells you about what is normal must be true: look around. Diversity is normal. It is just not culturally valued. We can change that.
My own experience has been that seeing pictures of other fat women — wearing clothes, looking happy with themselves, having bodies and not being ashamed of them – has been extremely valuable to me. In fact, my own journey into fat- and body-acceptance began when I stumbled onto a fatshion* blog, Pretty In Plus, and was blown away by how openly joyful Beth is about her body and the clothes she wears. It’s one of my favorite sites to read – she’s writes so cheerfully, and her posts are always day-brighteners for me.
(*Full disclosure: I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the portmanteau “fatshion.” I’m not sure if I like it, although I can’t really say why.)
So, having said all that: Here are pictures of what I wore to church this morning. I’m still feeling a bit awkward about having my husband photograph me, so for today, these are pictures I took of myself in the mirror of the church bathroom.
Skirt, boots, glass necklace, and bright pink shirt: Lane Bryant. Purple leggings: Wal-Mart
(I very nearly didn’t post this last photo, as I’m self-conscious about my double chin, but if the idea here is to be honest about my body in an effort to help normalize bodies of all sizes and shapes, then I can’t really omit the double-chin photo, can I? So here’s the honest truth: sometimes when I look down, my chin mashes into my neck.)
So here I am, in all my corporeal glory. I’d love your feedback on this post – is this the sort of thing you want to see more of? What do you get out of outfit-of-the-day–type posts?
Here are some other blogs whose clothing posts have been inspiring to me:
If you have links to other good fatshion (there’s that word again) blogs, please post links in the comments!