A couple of answers to The Curvy Fashionista’s Post

Recently, the ever beautiful and super fashionable Marie of The Curvy Fashionista posed 15 questions for the plus-size fashion industry. I thought some of them were really interesting, and decided to turn what would no doubt be a huge wordy answer into a blog post!

  • Do we really need another shopping app?

Well, I have to be honest, I don’t even use one, and until I saw this question it hadn’t even occurred to me to use one! So I guess the answer here is, unless it’s really revolutionary? Probably not!

  • Why are people still saying there is nothing in plus size fashion? We have more options than ever… Proof, herehere, and here.

There has always been something in plus-size fashion – it’s just that it used to be ugly as fuck and hard to find. Now it’s marginally easier to find and some of it is really lovely. On the other hand, once you get past a certain size barrier, you still encounter the same old problems – finding UK28+ can be hellish difficult, especially if you want a variety in something vaguely fashion forward and affordable. Price can also be a huge barrier – I have a job and I’m a pretty frivolous spender, but I can rarely justify spending over ~£25 on a single piece. If I were a smaller size, I wouldn’t have this same problem, I would be able to find cute pieces in abundance that had a chance of fitting me.

So there is not nothing anymore, but outside of certain caveats, attractive, well-made, affordable and findable plus-size fashion can still be a challenge.

  • Is free shipping still a promotion?

Well I don’t buy a great deal from New Look’s site because they have a minimum price to get free-shipping, so it may not be a promotion as such, but I do get turned off if it’s not on offer.

  • Why add that random applique or detail?

Because well thought out and logical accessorising isn’t necessary when you’re clothing someone the rough size of a manatee, duh. Ok, no, I don’t get this either. It seems so lazy and unnecessary and it also ruins many otherwise cute pieces.

  • WHY do some sites that sell plus size NOT use plus size models? I am not talking like a size 12, I am talking about those who use straight size stock images, a mannequin just for plus, OR a size 4 or 6?

Because the plus-size shopper should be grateful they deign to sell to us at all! Us whiny elephants should be glad we get even a scrap of their attention, because it’s not like we’re giving them our money and deserve the same high-level of customer service and shopping experience as those worthwhile smaller size people! If it’s good enough for a skinnier person, then that picture should be just as good for us fatties! Why waste any money on shooting a couple of extra photographs?

  • Why, Why, Why, if you DO sell plus sizes do you NOT talk, promote, and feature them on your own sites? I don’t get it.

It’s their shameful secret! This good, wholesome, normal brand sells to fatties??? Won’t someone think of the delicate sensibilities of the poor smaller size people, who may baulk at the fact a fattie might shop at the same place!! (Note: I’m being pretty sarcastic here, I am sure that literally no one but corporate managers thinks that plus-size customers will deter everyone else!) I think, seriously, they don’t see the plus-size market as profitable enough to require the extra time, money or space that good promotion requires, which is pretty damn sad.

  • I still don’t get all this mesh see though dresses. How you supposed to hold up the girls [or boys, or however you refer to your frontal acreage, unless Marie literally means how do we keep small children secure in our clothing]?

Magic and will-power! Endless rolls of tit-tape! Maybe there’s a massive conspiracy going on – they force dresses and tops on us that require strapless bras, whilst not selling strapless bras (or at least, not very many) and when we reach breaking point (where we’re all asking acquaintances and passer-by to hold our guzungas up for us), they’re going to flood the market with multi-way bras! Soon, soon, we’re gonna have the underpinnings required for the dresses that are out now…

We’re just too damn hot to handle and I think legally, fashionable shoots of plus-size persons are classed as pornography in the good ol’ USA. Mags don’t want to lose trade by having to slap their products in paper bags!

  • Why don’t I see a range of hues in plus size models? The only site that is the most diverse is Ashley Stewart. I love me some plus size models, but can we get more diversity?

It’s radical enough, selling plus-size clothes to nice, acceptable (hopefully middle-class!) white people. Let’s not go too far and start selling to…. oh gosh, what’s the PC term??? (I reeally hope your sarcasm alerts are going off here.)

In seriousness, we all know why. The fashion industry is racist as fuck. If you don’t have a conventionally attractive, feminine white body, you have got very little chance of seeing yourself reflected in advertising or marketing.

  • Why don’t you offer free returns if you do not offer my size in store?

Money, money, money.

  • Why haven’t you offered your sick ass designs in plus yet? YOU COULD TOTALLY do it. I am talking about DKNY (NOT the DKNYC range), BCBG, and DVF, you could totally partner with Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, or Saks Fifth to make this twerk.

All that extra money on extra fabric? On adjusting designs to fit a fat person? Golly no, that’d be too much effort and expense! Back in your poorly shaped polyester sack, fattie! Plus, there is real hostility to fat bodies – why encourage them (as if clothes and not cake are the reason I’m a big fattie!) with nice clothes?

  • If you make up to a size 18, why can’t you continue the full range? I am so confused.

See above! Plus, why make things in larger sizes when you get enough money from 18-?

  • Why haven’t we seen a plus size model kick ass in a mainstream accessory or beauty ad? Asides from Crystal Renn, I am sure that Denise, Fluvia, Ashley Graham, and a few others can hold it down. I do hear that Robyn is on the cusp of this… so who knows…

I suppose because mainstream accessories and beauty still rely on selling an ‘ideal’ image – and as we know from the amount of vitriol and hate that fat people get, being plus-size is not the ideal. The luxe aspirations fit in with a ‘thin, healthy, successful’ (sarcasm alert!) lifestyle.

  • Why are we still having to shop predominantly online? I do love it, but damn a girl wants to go out and have a little fun.

Why give floor space to fat people? No one wants a plus-size shopper taking up space on the shopfloor! Ew! Plus, it seems a lot of companies still doubt the profitability of the plus-size market, and are unwilling to cede space from the known-profits of slimmer shoppers.

  • Why can I not find a plus size full midi length leather skirt? Not Fitted. Full.

IDK, you can get a midi-pencil skirt, or a knee-length full skirt, but not a full midi. The fashion industry hates you, clearly you have to destroy it and rebuild it to your own exact standards!

 

Stephanie from Daily Venus Diva posted some answers herself, here.

I think these are some really interesting questions, and I’m sure everyone who sees them will come up with different answers!

What I might wear…

…if I were a Hufflepuff!

We all know what’s coming next, right?

It’s a montage of clothes I might wear if I were a member of Hufflepuff. Surprising, I know!

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Firstly – OMG this was so hard! Yellow is rarely a colour that’s used in tops, or so it seems. I would have much preferred a more subdued shade of yellow for the top, but when I saw it on Asos, I couldn’t resist adding it in here. I was really torn on this outfit idea – part of me wanted to play up house colours and badgers. Part of me wanted to go for black jeans, black batwing/dolman sleeve chunky jumper, black boots and then yellow accessories – essentially some kind of low-key hipster Hufflepuff.

As you can see, I decided to play up house colours and badgers. I also tried to go for a comfortable and fairly flowing look with this – hence the waterfall cardigan and the loose fit of the top.

Belted wrap top – Asos Curve

Black stud shoulder waterfall cardigan – Yours Clothing

Mustard coloured belt I used in lieu of leather cuff – look I’ll be honest, it’s just a belt I saw on Asos. There is a surprising dearth of attractive chunky, yellow cuffs. Who knew?

Vintage Badger Earrings – Sour Cherry

Ankle Boots – who cares, the site I found them on says they cost £168 and who the hell would pay that much for a pair of ankle boots????

Jacquard tapered trouser – Simply Be

I’ve been thinking about this outfit for a while, but unfortunately it just didn’t come together like I wanted it to. You know when you have a picture in your head, but you cannot find anything like it online? Yeah, that.

 

Of course, the ultimate Hufflepuff look is being sported by the beauty on the far right in this photo. Click the link, then take a few minutes to recover yourself. Don’t worry, perfection affects us all that way.

A critical gaze

This post is gonna be about body politics – how self-love interacts with the critical gaze we can turn on other people, or even ourselves. Some discussion of body hate and unattainable beauty ideals.

On my journey (ooh, cliché phrase alert!) I have learnt many things about loving myself and loving others. I don’t mean in any particular romantic sense – rather, I mean that I have learnt to accept others without immediately and always rushing to pick apart how they look and what they could have done better. It used to be quite a vicious habit, I think, because I may have prefaced what I was saying with “Well, if they’re happy… but still…” but I never really meant it. I was just measuring another person by the beauty standards pressed upon us by (the patriarchy and commodification of our appearance by industry!) our society, which we have all internalised to some degree or another.

I didn’t really care if they was happy or not, I simply wanted to pick apart what someone else had done wrong and right by some arbitrary standard.

Part of this is just a learned habit – you see this discussion of people’s appearance – and especially a woman’s appearance – pretty much anywhere you go (in magazines, on tvs, between friends/family) and you think it’s normal. Part of it is performance – “Yes, I do know the way I should look, act and present myself! See, I can demonstrate how they deviate from the standard! I know that deviation is negative and must be shamed! Gosh, just look at that belly overhang!”. Part is defence – by pointing out someone else’s flaws, maybe no one would notice how ugly and badly dressed I was.

None of that is healthy.

By learning that actually, there is nothing inherently wrong with my body or anyone else’s, whether they are fat, thin, healthy, unhealthy, etc. etc. I’ve also learnt that tearing people down for how they look is almost always rooted in sexist/classist/racist/transphobic/ableist/sizeist beliefs which I’ve internalised, for whatever reason. I’ve learnt to (mostly) stop opening my mouth the second I see something “wrong” with someone’s appearance – because now I know to examine why I think it’s wrong and fix whatever hateful thought is within me.

There is another damaging aspect to constantly critiquing your own or another person’s appearance – and that’s the fact that we tend to forget a person’s apperance is very rarely a good indicator of their true identity. When you judge a person on whether they’re beautiful or not, you so often reduce them to one aspect of them and fail to take in the whole of a person. By placing beauty as the ultimate ideal, it’s easy to overlook kindness, generosity, intelligence, acceptance, etc. etc. – all of which I think are far more important than the way you look.

 

 

And finally, to me, it cheapens my own self-love. What is the point of loving myself, working hard to accept myself, breaking away from beauty ideals that I could never reach, if I turn around and still hold others to them? What a selfish person I would be if I only wanted myself to know the happiness of body positivity and self-love.

This isn’t to say I don’t look at photos or outfits and think about what a person is wearing – in fact I pay quite a lot of attention to clothes, but I don’t look to tear people down anymore. I don’t care if someone has a belly overhang or VPL. Are they happy? Do they look like they’re enjoying their clothes? Have they chosen something interesting – some shoes, an accessory, a dress or anything else that stands out?

Don’t get me wrong – there are fashion choices people make that baffle me and of course I have personal preferences when it comes to clothes – for example I just don’t get khaki slacks, I think people often choose weird hem lengths on dresses and skirts. But instead of jumping to tear someone down, I might suggest something that I, if I were to wear the outfit, would do differently – an extra bangle here, or a certain colour of accessory to tie a look together. Discussing clothes and outfits is something I enjoy doing – the difference between me now and me before is that I try to be positive, because negativity may lead to a few funny sarcastic comments but I think for the sake of breaking out of a mindset imposed on me by our society and avoiding the kind of poisonous loop of criticising others which leads to criticising myself, I will always try to make the effort to show love and acceptance towards the fashion choices made by others.

To some of you, this may seem ridiculous. Who cares this much about clothes and appearances? Well, the kind of person who for years hated herself, who hid herself, who didn’t think she was worthy of love, who could not (no matter what) meet up to beauty ideals, who would never be worth anything because she was too fat, too ugly, too hairy, too disgusting, might take a different view. To take pleasure in my appearance and in the appearance of others – especially those who smash through standards and ideals – is a way of reaffirming my love for myself and spreading positivity to those who may not yet be at the stage of self-love that I am. Remembering the pain I have been in because I do not match up to any beauty ideal means that I really know what those vicious comments can do to a person (even if you aren’t being discussed, there will no doubt be some issue that you have being torn apart).

No one deserves to hate themself because they can’t attain an ideal, and I no longer want to be part of a discussion that promotes a society of self-hate and insecurity by tearing someone else down.

World Fantasy Con 2013

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a little while since I’ve posted here, but I’ve been on holiday! It was very much a holiday of two halves – the first was spent at World Fantasy Con in Brighton, the latter spent parading around the South East of England visiting friends and relations.

Today I’m going to post my thoughts and experiences of WFC – partly this is intended for me personally, but I will be making some points that I hope everyone finds interesting! Normally when I do a con report, I go through each panel I attended and add some thoughts, or at least pick out highlights from each day. Not this time! I’m simply going to go through the good and the bad.

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Firstly – what is WFC? It’s a convention for writers and professionals in the field of written fantasy and horror to meet up, participate in panels (a group of 4 – 6 people talk about an issue), give readings and socialise. It is not meant for fans (which I didn’t know when our memberships were bought, it may come as no surprise that I’m neither a writer or professional anything), but supposedly we either pant around after our favourite authors and tremble in their presence or enjoy what programming our feeble, non-pro minds can handle. (Am I bitter about the “We’re so PRO!” attitude of WFC communications? Nooooo, of course not!) It also has a (juried) art show and a dealers room.

The con was held in the Brighton Hilton Metropole website and went from 2pm on Thursday 31st October to 1pm on Sunday 3rd November (unless you include the awards banquet, in which case it ended at 5pm on Sunday). The website is here.

Spoilers: The people were lovely, the con was a disappointment.

Good things:

  • There were plenty of people in attendance, from a variety of different industry professionals, to authors, to fans. This meant that if you wanted to meet people you only know from Twitter, it was likely you’d find them in the crowd. This would have been wonderful for me (a chance to meet Rochita Loenen-Ruiz! Emma Newman! Anne Lyle! and I only managed to pluck up the courage to say hi to Rochita! And that was after I made sure to attend a panel she was on) except I lost ALL CONTROL of my social skills and was ENTIRELY AWKWARD to everyone except my family members. STILL, the con had lots of wonderful people there and I got to see some old friends.
  • The con had a few problems with GOH dying or being unable to attend – so they went ahead and got Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett to come along! The quality of the guests was very high, and even though I know too many authors to be impressed just because someone is an author, I still ended up pinching myself because Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Holly Black and Joanne Harris were within touching distance. Not to mention seeing people like Joe Abercrombie (the king of grimdark fiction!) or Scott Lynch (the most luscious hair I’ve seen in a while!) or Joe Hill (astoundingly funny!) on panels and hanging around.
  • I imagine if you were the kind of person looking to network with industry types, this was exactly the kind of con to go to – although I don’t know how easy it would be.
  • Most of the programming was pretty bad, but the panel on comics and how they’re doing, where they’re going was really good! I mean, come on, it had Maura McHugh, Mike Carey, Mike Chinn, Christopher Golden, Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman on it – how bad could it have been? It was certainly a good panel – a good spread of involvement within the industry and different perspectives from each panellist meant that the discussion rolled along well and the points we heard were relevant.
  • The dealers’ room was large and had a fairly wide variety of books available. It also included one t-shirt table, one jewellery table, one memorabilia table and I think a LARPing table? It was a great place to find books by authors you’d just heard speak on panels or in readings, so that was neat! I bought rather a lot of books (expect some reviews to come!), oops?
  • Tessa Farmer’s art installation in the art show was just incredible. It was so creepy, detailed and otherworldly – the kind of quality you expect to find in a gallery, not a convention! Her website is here – although do note that if you don’t like bugs, bones, decomposed animal bodies or parasitic creaturses , her art may not be for you, and when I say scary I really mean it!
  • The readings track (there were two rooms, each author had half an hour to read an excerpt of their work) was good and was a great way to sample authors and find new ones! I wish I’d gone to more than I had – but I had a chance to see Mary Robinette Kowal‘s reading with bonus puppet show, and it was fantastic! There was also a one hour slot where I think 8 or so authors read smaller pieces from their children’s fiction, all of them were great!
  • The amount of books given away when you registered was very generous! I didn’t pick up any (gasp! I didn’t even pick up a programme!), because I figured with three other members of my family also attending, it would be pointless lugging around too many books – especially if we ended up doubling up some titles! Two book bags were provided for each person by Jo Fletcher Books.
  • I have to end on the volunteers for the convention – those people who organised WFC, and especially the redcoats – the people standing around directing people, helping them, taking the flack (I saw one woman quite angrily point out to one volunteer that her colleague had been completely wrong and there WAS a way for her to get somewhere, harrumph. Er, lady, these people volunteer? Don’t speak to them like that! However the volunteer acted with far more aplomb than I’d have managed!). They were all of them pleasant, friendly and eager to help. Nothing but high praise for them!

Bad things:

  • Firstly and most importantly – if you MUST have your convention in a hotel that is not entirely accessible for those with mobility issues, then don’t have registration in an area which is not wheelchair accessible??? Like, is that not obvious?? It’s incredibly ill thought out, and incredibly insulting! People pay a lot of money to attend WFC and are then casually informed that they can’t register with everyone else and if they need to use an elevator, they have to use the staff one (due to the layout of the hotel). I am still flabbergasted that in this day and age, people choose to hold cons in places they KNOW to be problematic, access-wise. Ugh.
  • The con did not have a panel parity policy (basically, that there should be roughly an equal representation of genders on panels, e.g. 3 men, 3 women, or 2 men, 3 women, 1 woman and 2 men, etc. or if that’s not possible, a broadly equal representation over the whole of the programming). This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that it ended up with around only 30% of panellists being women, the rest men. And POC representation was even worse – WFC is a really white con, but still, only 11 POC on programme? Yikes. Tom Pollock did a great pre-con post on this issue here. Personally, I felt that having mostly male voices didn’t really help the quality of the panels!
  • Speaking of the quality of the panels – well. I am absolutely not trying to suggest that the people on the panels don’t have interesting, exciting, relevant or novel thoughts to share. In fact, as I am familiar with many of them through their work or from seeing them at places like Eastercon, I am very well aware that many of the people on the panels can engage in and create fascinating talks that are insightful, exciting and up-to-date. But no one managed much of that at WFC. I really don’t want to come off as too harsh (I may have already failed!), because I’m aware that no one intends to go on a panel and not give their best, but the level of discussion was pretty basic and rarely managed to produce anything I hadn’t heard before (it was often as if the con had travelled back in time by at least five years). In many cases, the programming felt sluggish and uninspired, like the people on the panels weren’t sure what to say, how far to go or what the panel was aiming to achieve. A real shame for a con which had so proudly declared it was sourcing the best panellists, all of whom are professionals!!!!!one!.
  • It turns out WFC didn’t have a green room (an area where panellists can meet up before their panel to have a bit of a chat and not have to start a panel with no idea where everyone else is coming from). I suspect had there been a chance for most panellists to have met and had a discussion PRIOR to the panel, the quality would have improved – a little thought about what people want to discuss, what initial views people hold, which way the moderator wants to take the topic and I’m sure the panels would have turned out better.
  • Again an issue with the programming – I don’t know who wrote or titled the panels and descriptions, but oh my god, could you be any more condescending?? Paranormal romance, young adult fiction, blogging, eBooks – you could practically see the twisted, unimpressed expression of whoever was tasked with writing the programme. I will not belabour this point, but to me it seemed as if the things which caught the most flack were the places you are most likely to come across views other than cis-het-white-dude – not a comment on the attitude of the people running WFC (although seriously, you guys might be sexist if you legitimately think ‘broads with swords’ is an appropriate panel title and discussion), but it certainly rankled that anything not “traditional” (male) fantasy was looked down upon in official communication.
  • WFC also has a really strict no costumes policy (it was relaxed on Halloween), which is really odd for a modern convention. Seriously, even if you don’t encourage it, what kind of con actively bans it??? I’d say that’s a totally old-fashioned view, bearing in mind the popularity of cosplay, but actually costuming is a strong part of fannish history and it makes no sense to me that a con would be so po-faced as to actually ban it?? Incomprehensible!
  • This is a really specific issue but – why the hell isn’t the con hotel’s post code on the website? Do WFC members not use sat nav? Even my glowing fairy wand needs a post code to give me accurate directions.
  • These last two points are entirely personal, so feel free to skip: I don’t know what happened over the weekend, but my social skills seemed to evaporate?? Normally I’m good at small talk, if nothing else, but when trying to talk to people at the con I just fumbled around and was really awkward, which was embarrassing as fuck and a shame as well – so many people I wanted to talk to, so little ability to do it with!
  • Oh, er, also, I made a bit of a tit out of myself by losing my purse in the dealers room (and having so filled my massive handbag with books, notebooks and illicit non-hotel drinks, I didn’t even notice). Luckily, the inimitable James Bacon came to my rescue and walked me all the way to the dealers room to get it back again! In one way – lovely to catch up with James, in another, what kind of adult needs to be led back to her purse? On a positive note, my wonderful spiky shoulders (in black) did at least make me an easy purse-loser to find.

Overall, my expectations of World Fantasy Con were pretty low, prior to the con I felt their communications were quite hostile, their attitude didn’t make me feel welcome, they seemed to view a difficult-to-access hotel as something to take note of rather than apologise for and they made some decisions I found baffling. As far as programming went, it lived down to those expectations. As a place to meet people and buy books, it worked pretty well. I know many people found the con enjoyable – certainly my family did, I think perhaps part of the problem is I’ve been to some very good cons in the past so I may need to stop holding every con to those high standards.

Rather than end this on a depressing note, I will instead link you to three enjoyable things related to WFC!

Runemarks by Joanne Harris (who was one of the GOH) – This is a book I bought at the con and one that I enjoyed reading a great deal! It’s a really cool story set 500 years after Ragnarok, centring around a girl called Maddy Smith, who has a few unusual powers. If you like strong characters, intriguing plots and Norse mythology, I think you’ll love this book!

Chie and Weng Read Books – a blog by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and her sister, Weng (Rochita attended AND was on a panel discussing how blogging has affected the art of criticism. Or at least, it was meant to. It didn’t.) If you want to talk about blogging opening up criticism to include voices from the under-represented (which of course you do), you could do worse than listen to two Filipino ladies talking about SFF – and SFF from a diverse variety of sources. It’s a lovely blog filled with good reviews and author-interviews, I highly recommend it!

Loncon 3, the 2014 Worldcon – Worldcon is similar to WFC in that it is a globe-trotting convention dealing with genre stuff. It is different in that it is definitely meant for fans, it’s HUGE, it covers a massive range of topics (science! sci-fi! fantasy! steampunk! comics! anime! free wifi!) and there really will be something for everyone. The last Worldcon I attended was in Glasgow, it was my second convention and it set the bar incredibly high – it was interesting, thought-provoking, fun, inclusive and remains the best con I’ve been to. If you’ve never been to a con before, then Worldcon would be a brilliant start! I urge you to check it out!

Did you go? What did you think? Have you been to any other cons recently?