Monday, October 1st, 2012
Who here has heard of Velvet D’Amour? If you follow fatshion models she’s a pretty big name, mostly because of her catwalk work with Gaultier and Galliano (thanks Wikipedia!).
Anyway, she’s a photographer as well as a model, and has some great philosophies about creating a more accessible and diverse ideal of beauty. To that end she’s created her own high fashion magazine named “Volup2″ (all issues of which you can read online for free here)
I used to be a magazine hound when I was a teenager before I became more critical about the media I was consuming (and realised how it was affecting me). But I really enjoy this magazine because I’m obsessed with issues of representation for people who don’t fit the mainstream. I’ve read all three issues and thus far I’ve seen fat women, women of different shapes, men, many different ethnicities, different abilities, the tattooed and pierced, older women, trans people etc etc etc. I LOVE seeing high fashion like this. It’s so different from what is currently out there. And once I have proper disposable income I’d love to order print copies of these mags to have on my coffee table (note to self: buy coffee table).
Anyway, for me to be able to continue to enjoy this fine magazine I’d like to offer a signal boost for her Kickstarter campaign. Currently a lot of work is being done by volunteers, and I’d love to see what they’re capable of when they’re actually being paid to focus exclusively on what’s being produced. Also if you have over five grand to spare you can model in the magazine. Or buy me a coffee table. Whatever you like.
Check out the Kickstarter here.
Saturday, September 17th, 2011
Owning my own clothing shop was a real eye-opener.
Pre-shop (and pre-Fatosphere) I hated clothes shopping. Loved clothes, just hated having to find them. You know, going into every shop in the mall and not finding ONE single nicely fitting garment, berating myself for not fitting into the clothes, believing the fault was somehow in my body rather than some randomly-sized piece of fabric. Finishing the day purchase-less, depressed and full of self-hatred.
Oh, I used to come out with some pearlers. ‘It will all be fine when I’ve lost the weight!’, I’d moan, trying unsuccessfully to zip up something that said it was a size ‘curvaceous’ but actually looked like a cylinder stretched over a large pear. ‘If only my stomach wasn’t so fat!’ ‘I’m so vile!’ ‘I’m so gross!’ Blah blah blah – none of it was true and it didn’t achieve anything except to leave me miserable.
Then I discovered body acceptance, located a few good plus-size designers who made clothing that I liked and fitted me well, and concluded that actually I LOVED clothes shopping. I loved trying on clothing that was made for a body like mine. I had no problems when things didn’t fit because clearly it wasn’t anything wrong with my fantastic bod, but just the cut, style, size or fabric of an inanimate object made by somebody far away who had never met me. Oh, but when I found something I loved that did fit? It was heaven. It was magic happy-land, full of fantastic wardrobe selections, being appropriately dressed for any occasion and people saying agreeable things like ‘I love your outfit! I really like your style.’
Somehow from there I fell into clothes shop ownership.
And had a revelation.
Back in those sad shop-hating days, I was not the only person in the world who had loathed finding clothes! I wasn’t the only human in Australia who would make unkind, hate-filled comments about my own body! In public!
Working in the shop some days is like watching a bizarre reality show called ‘When Social Convention Attacks’. It’s a stream of fabulous people from all walks of life, all shapes, all sizes, all abilities, all backgrounds … all coming into the shop looking AWESOME and then just uttering hate all over their amazing selves.
From my body-acceptance viewpoint I find it really hard to hear, even though I once came from the same dark place. The thing I find most amazing is that there is no real similarity in the people who utter such things, except that they are all human people. Fat, thin, short, tall, all the gender permutations, all the cultural backgrounds, all the abilities. All doing the socially-acceptable thing of hating on themselves. Yes, even the women who happen to perfectly fit the social beauty ideal, still come into the shop and say dreadful things about their poor bodies.
Initially I was prepared to be offended. I now admit that no amount of self-acceptance will ever entirely reconcile me to a thin person asking me ‘Do I look fat in this?’ I tell the truth: no. (One day a very thin woman looked my fat body up and down, her gaze lingering on my hips. ‘Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?’ she sneered. That was a tough moment for keeping my professional calm but I managed. I told her the truth again: ’That dress does fit you well.’)
It’s hard to know what to say when somebody asks me if they look fat in the dress and they do, because they are, and they also happen to look great. I am happy to describe myself as fat, but I know many people don’t take it so well. I usually prefer to focus on the fit of a garment, as above. I tell the customer ‘the dress fits you well’ or ‘I think I can find something to fit your shoulders more comfortably’. Oh, I long for the day I can say ‘Yes it makes you look fat: you look GORGEOUS in it!’ and the customer won’t be offended.
I have worked out that there is no point in me showing offence just because somebody has made one of those two-edged insults (my dear, if you think YOU’RE too fat to be allowed out, what do you think of ME?) Sometimes the comments are clearly aimed to offend, in which case it’s their problem, not mine; and just as sensible for me to ignore the jibe and get on with the job. More often, it’s not meant to offend at all. It’s just one of those things that we have been taught to do to ourselves, to punish ourselves to not living up to the impossible ideals of a Photoshop society. Any anger I feel needs to be directed against society as a whole and not individual people.
Most often it’s just dispiriting. When customers blame themselves if a frock doesn’t fit I remind them about the Shop Rule: ‘It Isn’t You; It’s The Clothes’. If a dress doesn’t fit, either the size or the cut is wrong. We simply turn our efforts to finding something that does fit. Why should a wonderful, complex, living body be blamed if a piece of sewn-together, randomly sized fabric doesn’t fit it?
Most people joyfully embrace the Shop Rule and get into the vibe. Some people simply don’t get it.
We understand that everybody is at a different stage in their journey of self-acceptance. It is up to us as the shopkeepers to encourage an accepting and positive environment, and that means finding nice ways to remind people to join in. We tell people about the Shop Rule; we stock different sizes as much as we are able; we use body-positive language; we ask friends and customers to model clothing for us so that the garments can be viewed on lots of different bodies.
We do get people who want to buy a garment that is too small for them because they are ‘losing weight, and it will be inspiration’. While that makes us really uncomfortable, we can’t make customers’ decisions for them, but we usually recommend that people buy in their current size so they can enjoy the garments right now. Our dresses are like puppies – they want to be loved now, not put aside to feel lonely!
We don’t buy into customers’ negative comments about themselves. If somebody says ‘I can’t wear that style until I’ve lost weight’ we tell them up-front to go ahead and try it on, since they’ll look just as lovely at any size. If somebody loves a dress and it makes them happy but they are scared to wear something sleeveless, we will always point out that there are no laws against bare arms in Australia, and tell the customer the truth when they just look really comfortable and good in a garment. And we always come down to Shop Rule no. 2 – You Must Feel Comfortable – by which we mean if you want to wear the garment then you jolly well should!
Having said all this, there is one thing I just can’t bear to hear: negative comments about other people. It’s bad enough hearing perfectly good people trash themselves, but it’s frightening when that negativity is directed outwards.
Some people are just toxic. Two women once looked at our shop sign which mentions sizes 6 to 34, and said very loudly ‘We didn’t even know there was such a THING as size 34!’ (I was scandalized but my business partner calmly replied ‘Of course there is,’ and left it at that, which actually did the trick.) One fantastic customer who we adore, often comes in with her mother, who tells her that she looks ugly in everything, and criticises individual parts of her body non-stop. It’s horrible to hear. And every now and then somebody will come in with a toxic friend or partner who will attempt to vet everything they choose, and try to stop them selecting clothes they love: in the words of one toxic husband ‘You can’t have that, it makes you look porky’ (Grrr, that comment nearly did make me lose my cool). Sometimes a group of friends are dominated by one cruel person who will hog all the time and energy of others while making oh-so-funny comments that undermine their friends’ confidence.
You know, it is amazing how often people creep back later, without their toxic friends, to try things on again in peace and tranquility. Toxic friends don’t win anything in the end …
Trying to keep our little business positive can feel like a losing battle when gorgeous customer after gorgeous customer plays the ‘I’m so …’ game. A game that we are taught to play from a very early age, and which some unscrupulous people use as a weapon to hurt others. It is so prevalent, even people who desperately want to be body-confident sometimes find themselves doing it subconsciously.
Interestingly though, knowing how prevalent it is can actually be helpful. Understanding that nearly everybody does it – seeing it played out again and again and again and again – this helps it to become more visible, more recognisable. Seeing that all kinds of people succumb to self-hatred, that there is no connection whatsoever to what they say about themselves and very evident reality: this has turned out to be valuable in my own struggles not to give in to it.
Next time you’re in the dressing room struggling with a zipper on some garment that just wasn’t cut out for you, try to remember that you’re not alone. All over Australia, people of every conceivable shape and size are doing the same thing, and blaming themselves, and feeling awful about it. Remember that, then take some soothing deep breaths, get dressed again, leave the dressing room, go find your shop assistant and explain that the garment didn’t fit. Ask for something that fits your perfectly good body. And repeat after me: ‘It Isn’t Me: It’s The Clothes’.
And don’t bring a toxic friend shopping!
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
So, last blog I discussed a bit about the challenges and benefits of running a clothing shop that stocks a bigger size range – not ‘plus size’ or ‘non-plus size’ but PEOPLE size.
As well as having a shop where the majority of customers could reasonably expect to find their size, we dream of a shop where the entire experience is positive and inclusive.
We can already tell that this is something that it’s going to take time and effort to achieve. To begin with, as a tiny startup business our not-too-pricey premises are just too small to achieve what we’d like in terms of a physical experience. There isn’t as much room as we’d like for customers with wheelchairs or prams, and we only have one dressing room.
But the dressing room is where we decided to start in creating a nicer, more body-positive environment. So that is the topic of this blog post.
We were lucky that the premises we could afford to rent included a separate space that was originally used as an office. It’s spacious and private – the perfect start for a dressing room.
We are not fans of dressing rooms that are too small, rickety or exposed. It can be so confronting, society being what it is, to try on clothing in a public environment, that anything that increases a sense of personal security helps.
We have set the room up as a vintage ladies’ boudoir, with an antique dressing table and boudoir chair, cosy rug, 2 mirrors, pretty prints on the walls and plenty of room to hang up clothing. We’re currently on the lookout for the perfect dressing room robe, so that customers can fling on something modest, generously sized and attractive if they want to pop out into the shop without having to get fully dressed again. There is plenty of room there for several people to share the space, so friends and partners can pile in together and have giggly fun trying things on.
We’ve also set up a separate space outside the change room, for somebody to wait while the room is occupied. Again we aimed to make it as comfy as possible with an antique chair and lamp, a coffee table and heaps of books and magazines to leaf through. If somebody ends up spending serious time there we will offer them a cuppa while they wait.
We love our dressing room setup, and wish we had room for more. But in our eventual plans, that will come. In the meantime it means a lot to us when a customer goes in for the first time and makes the happy noise!
Customers have reported to us that a pleasant, comfortable environment for trying clothes on helps with self confidence and positive body image.
This might seem crazy, but I hadn’t made the connection between a comfortable environment and positive body image before! I certainly have had awful experiences trying on clothes in tiny curtained-off spaces where privacy is not exactly guaranteed. Worse still when there is no mirror, so you have to come out into the public space to see whether the dress clings nastily to the tummy or doesn’t quite zip up the back. I certainly had noticed that an uncomfortable dressing room can bring body issues to the fore.
What I hadn’t realized before is to what extent an environment encouraging a relaxed, leisurely approach to trying on clothes, and which showcases the customer’s body in an attractive setting, has the opposite effect.
I suppose it makes sense. It is true that we decorated the dressing room nicely to encourage customers to relax and be kind to themselves. The pretty environment showcases a body positively and – hopefully – reminds customers that they deserve a bit of luxury and a bit of something special.
We’ve found, interestingly, that only having the one room isn’t that much of a problem. In fact, quite the contrary. The shop is so small that customers tend to interact with each other. It is common for a customer to dance delightedly out of the dressing room to show off a nicely fitting dress to the entire shop, and it’s also common for customers to share the dressing room, offering it to another customer while they look for more to try on. We’ve had some very pleasant experiences seeing customers make friends with complete strangers in the shop! Something about that cosy little room makes people slow down and calm down and start to experience the shopping expedition as a treat rather than a chore.
It is also common for friends to share the dressing room together. Only the other week I was lucky enough to be in the shop when three young women came in, clearly good friends out on a girly shopping trip. All being completely different sizes and shapes, I was thrilled that they could all enjoy the shop together, since there is no way they would usually all be able to find something to try in the same shop.
They all piled into the dressing room together and had a ball, laughing, popping out to select garments for each other to try on, and generally having a whale of a time. It was brilliant fun, for me as much as for them. It was one of those moments that all the effort and cost and hard work of opening the shop was completely worthwhile: the type of reward that is worth more than money.
The dressing room experience has convinced me that I should look at my own home environment and how it impacts on my body consciousness. It may only help a little to have nice surroundings, but if it is possible to make that happen, every little bit helps.
I would love to know more about your own thoughts and experiences: what makes you feel more positive about your lovely body? What do you wish more shops would do?
Friday, July 8th, 2011
I received an email request through the contact form that Nick forwarded to me today, and it made me realise that while I haven’t abandoned my beliefs in body acceptance, I’ve found that there’s so much more I want to talk about than just FA. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Tumblr would probably know that I’ve started my own blog, Cutselvage.com recently. I’m really enjoying the freedom to talk more generally about my life and how that interacts with my body acceptance.
Axis of Fat was a great platform for me, but I’ve grown and changed since it was created, so it’s only fair to myself to let it go, and utilise my new blogging space. I’ll be leaving all my old posts up, and I’ll probably cross-post a few of them over at the new blog progressively.
It’s been a pleasure interacting with all the commenters here, and I hope I’ll see lots of you at Cutselvage.com
Monday, June 13th, 2011
So it’s been fairly quiet over here at the Axis. I know that a large number of us have had our own life issues, and frankly blogging has to take a back seat to that kind of stuff.
I honestly don’t know how people are able blog on a regular basis. When I didn’t have a job it was a whole lot easier, but now that I’m working it is a whole new kettle of fish. Really I should be asleep already, but once again fat politics races through my head at all hours. Luckily, we have a blog to discuss these items, hrm?
I’m getting married. And thankfully, I’m not a traditional bride. The idea of wearing a white dress and having a big party honestly scares the crap out of me. I realise, however, that I am a minority. If I were going to go down the route of traditional bridalwear, I do believe I’d be a bit disappointed with my options.
Take for example, J. Crew. My style at the moment is very J. Crew. I feel the aesthetic is simple, comfortable and stylish. Unfortunately, J. Crew do not stock my size. I am a size 24 (on average) but their clothing seems to only go to a size 16 (and even then only in certain styles.) If I were going to do the whole “walk down the aisle” thing in a traditional way, I’d love to wear something like this dress. Which is a real pity, since it only goes up to size 6.
I think it’s great that people from sizes 0 to 6 have so many options, but given the supposedly alarming rising obesity rates, shouldn’t fat people have just as many (if not more) options?
As I am prone to doing, I wrote all these points in an email to the company. It’s laziness and possible prejudice on their parts, but I feel as if we’re not going to see any change in the current system unless we all stand up and demand more choice. Have you ever written to a company asking for their fashion to be more size inclusive?
Food for thought.
Friday, October 29th, 2010
A couple of weeks ago I purchased a truly ridiculous number of bras and underwear from Evans. Now, this may or may not have been because I’ve never seen cute bras in my size before, but OMG. Evans sell them. And they’re CUTE, and it’s AMAZING. I even bought a padded balcony bra. Seriously, it’s like they took what I was raging about here and actually listened.
Now, I may or may not ever get around to doing a full review, but if you’re fat and you’ve got small boobage, I can recommend these bras. They’re fairly well made, reasonably priced (by comparison anyway – i don’t want to be spending $80 on one fucking bra, people) and they have a nice combination of styles. And they actually fit!
YAY SPENDING FAT DOLLARS!
Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
Since I know there are some readers of Axis of Fat who have missed out on these before, I thought I’d post a quick reminder that Natalie’s fat necklaces are back on sale. This time she is taking pre-orders so that no one needs to miss out or take whatever colour is left rather than the one you want.
Orders close on Monday 18th October and this could well be the last run of these necklaces. So don’t miss out on what could be your last chance to get one of these necklaces by visiting her store.
Monday, October 11th, 2010
I had a very exciting day yesterday. Not only was I the MC at the wedding of an old high school friend, but I took my first tentative steps into the world of fatshion!
Back in July I bought an amazing blue pleated dress from City Chic with the intent of wearing it to the wedding, but back then I kind of just planned to do my usual thing of wearing the dress with whatever black accessories I could scrounge from my wardrobe. Over the past few months though I’ve been inspired by so many amazing fatshionistas that I decided to go all out and really rock it! This was the result! (Sorry about the dodgy photos but I was home alone armed with nothing but my laptop and iPhone, and being quite busy on the day with MC duties, didn’t get any other good full length shots.)
Blue poppy: Tempest Ahoy at Etsy - $10.00 (attached to my own black headband).
Earrings & Necklace: Diva – $15.00. Extender chain for necklace, $3.00.
Dress: City Chic – $149.00.
Bolero Jacket: Crossroads. I’ve had this for so long I can’t remember how much it was.
Purse: Birthday gift from a friend.
The purse was the inspiration for contrasting colours for the outfit. As soon as I opened the wrapping paper on my birthday I was like ‘this will be perfect with the dress!’ After that, it was a matter of sourcing the right shoes and accessories!
Do you know what I loved most about this outfit? The fact that, despite all the hours I put into planning and shopping and thinking about how I was going to make a statement for the fatties of the world – how we can all look beautiful and fashionable – on the day of the wedding, I didn’t think once about the fact that I was fat. Not once when I was complimented on the dress did I think to myself ‘Not bad for a fatty, right?’. I didn’t once worry about double chins or my flabby arms or my butt that sticks out to high heaven. The whole day I felt amazing.
Clothes can be magical, not because they can transform you into someone else, but because they can vibrate harmoniously with who you really are, enhancing and amplifying your you-ness. And although we can’t realistically live our whole lives in perfect fabulousness of dress, we all deserve a regular dose of allowing our outsides to look as we are inside: comfortably and effortlessly beautiful.
That’s how I felt in my blue dress yesterday, and how I aspire to feel all the time. Or at least most of the time.
Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
Yesterday I caught up with a good friend to tour some of the buildings that were opened to the public for the inaugural Brisbane Open House. Since we would be doing quite a bit of walking, I built my outfit from the shoes (purple Converse hi-tops) up.
Flicking through my tops, I pulled out my “I’M FAT LET’S PARTY” t-shirt.
I looked at it thoughtfully. Bright, fire engine red, with huge white block letters emblazoned across my chest. Since I bought it about six months ago, I’ve only been brave enough to wear it down to the shops, and to the movies under a buttoned cardigan. I’ve been afraid that people might heckle me, might yell nasty things at me, or just give me that look, that “What is she thinking?” look. I’m still on my fat acceptance journey, and wearing something that might invite such comments seemed to me to be tempting fate a little bit.
That was six months ago, though. I’ve come a long way since then!
Wearing a t-shirt like this when you’re thin (and it is available in sizes from an S) is no doubt amusing for the wearer – “Haha, oh I’m SOOO FUNNY, this is IRONY YOU GUYS”. Wearing it when you’re actually fat, I think, becomes almost a little activism. T-shirt activism.
So I put it on, with a flippy grey skirt and my purple Converse, and an open grey cardigan. It felt really good. Yes, I’m fat, what are you gonna do about it? I felt almost like I was subversively calling people out as they slowed to read what that fat girl was wearing written across her chest.
I met my friend, who grinned at me, and told me that she loved my shirt. The barista who took our coffee order squinted at my chest, and asked what it said; she smiled broadly and told me “That’s awesome!”. When I went to pick up the maxi dress I’d left at the alteration shop to be hemmed, the woman serving me said my shirt was great too.
I’m sure there were plenty of people who read my shirt and thought to themselves that I was revelling in my gluttony, or giggled to their friends about the shameless fat girl, or gave me the side-eye. But that doesn’t matter to me. Because I’m sure that there were people who smiled, or thought to themselves that their fat friends were wonderful no matter their size, or that maybe not all fat people were lazy, stinky and stupid. I count that as a win for fat acceptance.
Would you wear something proclaiming your size acceptance beliefs in public? Tell me what you think!
Friday, September 24th, 2010
You know, when a plus-size brand makes copies of runway fashion, or designers that only go up to a size 14, I’m pretty sanguine about it. It’s not the best situation, but if regular retailers aren’t going to make clothes in a wide variety of sizes, then more power to the plus-size stores for making fashion available to fat people.
What I don’t condone is a plus size chain store ripping off a smaller, independent plus size designer.
Kiki of Why, Kiki, Why? broke the story here, but I felt I had to chime in.
Here is City Chic’s Bumba top, a part of their current Spanish Rose Collection:
And here is Jibri’s Plus Size Ruffle Front Halter:
Eerily similar, don’t you think?
I contacted City Chic via their contact form to complain – I know that technically designers can’t copyright their products, but I was (and am) so angry that I wasn’t thinking super-clearly:
I am frankly appalled to discover that City Chic has blatantly lifted a design from a small, independent plus-size manufacturer. Your Button Bumba top is an obvious rip off of Jibri’s plus size ruffle front halter (http://www.etsy.com/listing/50369223/jibri-plus-size-ruffle-front-halter). I will not shop at stores that participate in the theft of small designers’ intellectual property.
Kind regards, Zoe (www.axisoffat.com)
I didn’t hold high hopes of getting a particularly interested response, and I was right:
Thank you for contacting City Chic customer care. Your concerns have been sent through to our buying and supply team and they will look into this further.
While I’m heartened that they might actually forward this on to their buying and design team, the official response from City Chic’s facebook page doesn’t fill me with hope:
City Chic Hi Jen,
Yeah, as Sarah said, all designs are copied… Our buying team set out to different locations around the world, and check out what’s happening in the fashion world with trends, and upcoming must-have-items… It’s not about stealing… credit from other designers, it’s here for you to have, not only for plus sized ladies to wear, but at a fraction of the price!!!!
Hope this answered your question!
♥ CC, x
It’s this comment that makes me want to facepalm so badly. Because here’s the deal: Jibri charges $90.00 for a custom-made garment. City Chic? $79.95. For mass-produced garment. Which, if you were buying internationally (and City Chic does seem to be trying to crack the international market), would actually be more than Jibri’s price, thanks to the cost of international shipping and the strong Australian dollar.
The comment about “credit from other designers” leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, given that there was no credit whatsoever given to Jasmine, the designer of Jibri.
City Chic might think it’s appropriate to copy from small, independent, plus-size designers, but I don’t. And that’s why I won’t be shopping there from now on. If you value supporting small businesses, up-and-coming designers and high-quality, well-priced fashion, I highly encourage you to vote with your wallet and take your business elsewhere.
As Kiki and Derryn would say: Shame, City Chic, shame.