A few thoughts on the issues of body positivity and size and the godawful language used around body shape.

Sizing Things Up

I’m a size 12-14. The issue of ‘body positive’ seems to have got mixed up in a whole load of body shaming shit about ‘real women’ having curves or not being skinny, obviously this is not real body positivity, but there is a trend for skinny shaming and body positivity being seen as almost interchangable with fat positive movement. Don’t get me wrong fat postive is awesome, but body psoitive is about all shapes, fat, skinny, inbetweeny. I suppose I’m an inbetweeny sized person and feel a bit unsure of where I fit into all of it. Do I  have any right to talk about feeling fat when I’m not really fat? What is fat anyway? Is there an official limit of when one is deemed ‘fat’ or ‘plus sized’ A quick google has confirmed various ‘plus size’ fashion shops whose ranges start at any size from a UK size 12 to a UK 20 with most of them plumping (ho ho excuse the pun) for a 14 or 16. Dress size is a bit of misnomer anyway, the sizing varying wildly from garment to garment and it takes little account of body shape, many of us are different ‘sizes’ on different parts of our bodies and we just tend to plump for ‘well it fits most of me ok it’ll do’ items.

The average UK dress size is 16. I’m a 12-14 roughly but own items than (mostly) fit from a size 8 to 16 and many more in ‘small’ to ‘large’. I’m somewhere between 5’4 and 5’5 , hovering between the ‘petite’ ranges and ‘normal’ ranges height wise and I have 34 E/F boobs. My weight yo yos, I have no idea how much I weigh as I just don’t like knowing, but by the power of looking in the mirror and the tightness of waistbands I change size often ish. A combination of medication, diet and exercise all varying.  I have small feet and delight in being able to buy kids shoes.

There’s so many contradictory messages as to what is an ‘accepted size’. I am smaller than the average dress size for the UK and not really ‘plus sized’  though my BMI tells me I should loose weight, though even at my thinnest I have always been at the borderline between ‘hey you’re ok no need for shame here’ and ‘OMG FATSO YOU’RE GONNA DIE OF OBESITY AND EXPECT THE NHS TO PAY FOR IT YOU SELFISH FUCKER I HOPE YOU CHOKE ON A DONUT’. I’m considerably larger and wobblier than the models in all the magazines even the ‘curvy’ ones. Though ‘curvy’ seems to mean anything from ‘has noticeable breasts’ to ‘OMG A HIPPO MADE OF LARD!’ depending on what article one is reading and the exact levels of body shaming going on and what has been determined as the ideal woman shape of the nanosecond. Despite  the fact the human body is made up of a lot of water I’ve still not managed to work out how to ‘pour my curves’ into my clothing as opposed to just putting clothes on like everyone else does with zips and buttons and stuff, plus the old ‘skinny jeans lunge’  and ‘freestyle tights gymnastics’ one must do to get the crotch area anywhere above your knees

On the Fruit Salad of Body Shape

Body Shapes

I’ve never heard of men’s body shapes being described in such an odd fruit and inanimate objects based way. In the guise of making us ‘dress right for our body shape’ we are patronised into worrying about our proportions, fitting ourselves into some bizarre fruit shaped category forever worrying if we’re doing it ‘wrong’. A pineapple must never wear that, what do you think you are a raspberry? The shame!

Different body shapes are also given different attributes, as if the distribution of fat, muscle etc has a defining say over our personality. I am usually described as an ‘hourglass’  which means , by way of having large breasts and a waist smaller than my hips with a bum that sticks out a bit, I am a super sex goddess siren, always ripe to be sexualised because, well I have big breasts so I must be a nympho right? If you’re a ‘pear shape’ it’s all about the ‘booty’, if you’re ‘athletic’ or ‘apple shaped’ it’s all about how to create the ‘illusion of curves’. The advice written about women’s body shapes reads little differently from soft porno lads mag wank material, I am told by way of fashion advice,  ‘Lady, check out your sexy curves!’ . Other body types are told they ‘struggle with creating curves’ or that they are ‘juicy, juicy pears!’. It’s all about our sex appeal, how to appeal to men, how to pass the ‘patriarchal fuckability test’ . Not about say , the best styles of jeans that cover your bum and don’t dig in or how to find a bra that isn’t agony or tights that don’t roll down, all very important fashion dilemmas thats are of more use to me day to day that attaining some fabled sex goddess status which probably requires me not to admit human foibles such as the need to fart  (more than) occasionally or the desire to wear comfortable knickers.

The fact women are ‘curvy’ or ‘voluptuous’ or whatever word you want to use for ‘big breasts and/or bum’ type figures seems to be used an excuse to sexualise us, if we wear tight clothing we are ‘asking’ to be harassed or have our figures commented on, despite the fact that duh, clothes designed for smaller boobs and bums (which is most women’s clothing) tend to be tighter if yours are bigger. If your bum wiggles or wobbles when you walk, if your tits jiggle, you are a ‘tease’ despite the fact this is just physics, boobs and bums just do that, I move therefore my tits and arse move. My flabby stomach also moves but that’s ‘gross’ not sexual because of random societal dictates as to what fat cells are deemed sexy. Similarly if you are not ‘womanly’ shaped, you are made to feel inadequate for not having big breasts or sexy enough hips or a bum that isn’t pert enough. You are de-sexualised, told you look like a ‘teenage boy’ or you’re ‘not a real woman’ you should be wearing a padded bra, or padded pants to create the ‘curves’ another woman is being told she needs to control with shape wear to ‘minimise’ from head to toe. Women of colour are subject to yet more bullshit, their bodies not only subject to misogynist assumptions but racist ones too, from the stereotypes of ‘big butts’ and ‘exotic’ hypersexuality to those of ‘meek, mild and servile’ the celebration of accepting diverse women co-opted into yet more patriarchal fuckability bullshit for the pleasure of men, usually white men. We can never be just women, just us, even the advice supposedly by and for us, friendly ‘woman to woman’ chat reminds us our bodies are not our own that they are to be preened into a societally acceptable shape, sexualised, examined and commented upon by strangers.

 Conclusion – I Blame the Patriarchy

I feel guilty in some ways talking about how ‘fat’ I feel and how I relate to being wobbly and in and outty, when I know many people are larger and might see me as a ‘moaning skinny bitch’, as I used to do to other women smaller than me before I realised it’s all patriarchal divide and rule bollocks. Patriarchy makes us hate other women; whatever our size or appearance it seeks to place us in the category of ‘not good enough’, to turn us against each other. I remember being on an online forum ages ago as a teen, making friends and we did they ‘post a pic of you’ thing and someone accused me of having a boob job and lying about it. I’ve heard friends, acquaintances, rip other women to shreds over appearance things like ‘yeh we’re both fat but I have better boobs’ and ‘she’s skinny she looks like a boy, gross’ and all sorts of horrific shit only designed to divide and rule, to set women against each other in competition for what? The sexual attention of men? some scraps thrown down by patriarchal bullshit kyriarchy?

We are told some women are more ‘womanly’ by the random distribution of fat on their bodies, if they have a wide pelvis or not. We insult women who do not live up to this ideal, we sexualise women who are a certain shape, we de-sexualise women are another shape. Capitalist Patriarchy offers us all ways to reach this idea, with a million and one types of shape wear, exercise, diets, surgery, cosmetics. The natural variation in humans is used against us to make many of us feel inferior, less than human through racism, sexism, cis-sexism, transmisogyny, disablism, body hate, fat shaming, skinny shaming etc etc. I am trying so hard to detach a love and appreciation of clothes from all this but it’s hard sometimes. Why should liking clothes, nail polish,red lipstick and eyeliner have to mean I hate myself?

FUCK THAT SHIT!

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This is in a different vein to most ‘fakery’ and body image posts, I am not going to opine about surgery or make up or airbrushing (well maybe airburshing a bit) but comment on a new-ish trend that is dedicated to shaming people whose clothing choices give away the scandalous fact that they have a human body underneath and not some bizarre barbie action man plastic smooth areas. It’s body image ramped up a level to the point where the ideal seems to be to not have a body, at least not a living, breathing human one.

Have we become so disgusted by the human body that we cannot cope with seeing the vaguest hint of nipple, belly button,  and other assorted lumps and bumps we all have?

The Daily Heap of Shame (a k a the Daily mail has an article on Nicole Scherzinger having breasts as a ‘fashion faux pas’.

This culture of body shaming has lead to a bewildering array of bizarre products, that aim to convince us we need to cover up the hideous embarrassment of our own bodies being real, live bodies as opposed to polished mannequins.

You can buy little nipple ‘flowers’ designed to ‘nip in the bud’ any nipple problems you may have, like erm having nipples. You can even buy a bra with little nipple flowers built in.  If cameltoe , or having a vulva, is your ‘problem’ you can buy the hideously named ‘smooth groove’ which looks like some sort of armoured panty liner shoe horn hyrbid. Or you can buy ‘the original visual privacy undergarment’ the camelflage which also excels in the bad name steaks.

If the dreaded ‘muffin top’ a.k.a f having a torso that isn’s solid steel is an issue you can buy special jeans to banish your ‘unsightly’ fleshy human wobbly bits. Though judging from the pics it just looks like the model is finally put in a pair of jeans that fit, woo magic!

 

You can buy strange sticky things to hoik your tits up to your eyebrows, and other stick on things to shape your breasts into that spherical non breast shaped ideal. In the grand tradition of ‘body shaming solutions’ products and brands they have a terrible, punning name; ‘bring it up’.

On the other hand if your boobs are too high and poking out your top (proving whatever your boobs you will need a “boobie shame solution!”) you can buy a overpriced elasticated bandage to cover up your mammary related shame!

If you thought being pregnant would give you respite form the body shaming, think again, you can buy a sticky plaster to shove over your belly button lest anyone be mistaken you once had an umbilical cord too!

The market for bewildering stick on products seems to be as endless Blue Peter, for example stick on pacman ghosts so you don’t need to wear knickers, perfect if your lover is a bright yellow pie shape. Om nom nom.

The dreaded ‘cellulite’ is cause of a million and 1 useless products. You can even buy leggings infused with caffiene in to do something, I dunno give you a really zingy UTI?

You can also buy a bra for your bum or a fake bum, guaranteed to make getting laid just that bit more comical but perhaps useful for uncomfortable seats.

Barbie doll

 

The saddest thing is most of these products are found on a site called ‘good to be you’ , whose whole raison d’être is something along the lines of  ‘ha sucks to be you! you need a million products to cover up the disgusting shame that is your body!’ and that is why I view such products with suspicion, they are taking body hatred to new levels inventing new ‘flaws’ and this whole ‘ideal’ they promote is one of barbie doll plasticky smoothness, not real bodies. Any sign of being a human being, such as wibble, wobbles, pimples, sweat, hair, pores is deemed ‘unsightly’. It’s bullshit. Life is , imho, too short to shove yourself into medieval looking scary bum bra shaping shorts and stick sticky things all over yourself.

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All these rules come with the proviso – break ’em if you want. This my opinions and waffling.

 

After watching Gok Wan and his odious faux empowerment (of which Pamflet have done an excellent job of dismantling) and  inane ‘confidence tips’, which seem to boil down to ‘wear spanx and be boring’ I felt a need for some ‘rules’ (which are after all made to be broken)  I have titled;

“How I Learnt to Throw away my Spanx, Embrace my Wobbly Bits and Stop Worrying”

“How I learnt to Not Wear Spanx and Stop Worrying”

Here is what I have learnt over the years of being an enthusiastic if a bit podgy clothes horse, home of many fashion disasters who was asked in school on own clothes day if I was in fancy dress when I wasn’t, I was just rocking a vintage leather jacket and floor length skirt before this whole boho thing happened like 5 years later.

  • Ignore Size labels

The sizes of clothes, women’s clothes in particular, are often little more than random numbers affixed to items with no correlation to their actual size. Apparently standard sizing only applies to paper patterns and not clothes. This is how you can be any size from an 8-18 on the same day and even in the same shop. Things like style and cut can also affect sizing as well as the wonder that is lycra. If it fits it fits, the label is useless. The same also applies to shoes. This annoyingly makes online shopping a bit of a faff but thats why you look out for those magical two words ‘free returns’.

Most of us are different sizes on different parts of our bodies, I have trouble buying button up things like shirts and cardigans due to my big boobs so either avoid them or buy a size that goes over the biggest bits and take it in in other places. I tend to wear a vest under button up things after having had one too many popping open moments.

Don’t ever base your self esteem on a size label. Fitting into a randomly numbered piece of clothing isn’t anything noteworthy or god forbid an achievement or aspiration, as it so often marketed, especially towards women. But looking awesome and feeling confident  in something and not caring about the digits on the label? That’s worth celebrating.

  • Be Brave

Despite being quite shy I have always had a thing for show off clothes, hair and make up. I wear what I like and what I think looks good. Sometimes this correlates with a trend, sometimes it doesn’t. Whatever. People will try to tell you you ‘must’ wear certain styles and colours to suit you, these rules sometimes make sense but there are always exceptions. Rigid adherence to ‘style rules’ often equals a spanxed up to the eyeballs neutral beige, with a waist cincher belt, wrap dress festival of mundanity. Some colours may genuinely make you look nauseous but others that you aren’t supposed to wear or wear together, look awesome. The same goes for body size and shape, people will tell you if you aren’t a certain size you should suck it all in in some sort of elasticated tube prison or wear a tent, fuck ’em.

So your belly sticks out a bit and you have the odd roll of flab? You’re human being you are not a walking photoshopped mannequin. I’ve got a lot of stick over the years for my, admittedly sometimes comically misguided, fashion choices but I don’t care. I don’t want to blend in and look identikit. I like wearing crazy shit sometimes. It’s fun. If anyone tells you your individuality needs to be ‘toned down’ to fit in or attract people, ignore them they are talking complete and utter bollocks and probably have the style of porridge. Boring porridge with no sugar or syrup or any nice stuff in it.

image of sticker on mirror which reads: warning reflections in this mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty

 

  • Uncomfortable things, Why Bother?

There are some who assert we should ‘suffer for fashion’ but I can’t be arsed with that. I don’t do high heels ‘cos I can’t walk in them and they really fucking hurt. Other people can walk in them and don’t mind the pain, swear they get used to it (I have never reached that point but perhaps I am a tender footed little flower wimp). If you feel uncomfortable in something or it downright HURTS don’t wear it,

unless you love it that much you just don’t care. Don’t feel pressured into it cos you ‘should’. It’s the ‘rule’ women should wear heels with dresses etc, pah. I wear my DMs, Hi tops, brogues or flat pumps or whatever else doesn’t leave me limping. I care not for the supposed leg lengthening ankle snapping foot death miracle of ‘heels’. I’ve tried and I just don’t like it and don’t think the pain they cause me is worth it. This also applies to any sort of ridiculous crash diets and the like, drop a dress size by eating only some heavily marketed foodstuff, body shaming nonsense. If it hurts you physically or mentally and/or makes you feel uncomfortable. Fuck it. Wear something you feel comfy in. This goes a million and one times for ridiculous ‘shapewear’ spanx things(This is best post on spanx ever, you must read the comments too, hilarious tales of underwear woes!) that seldom improve my shape , oddly they seems to make my waist appear less defined, and made going to the loo a feat requiring infinite patience and strength. MY shape is fine as it is thank you very much, I am not a smooth plastic barbie type person, I wobble, deal with it, I’m not wearing something uncomfortable that has a pee hole.

That said I have fallen victim to ‘previously comfortable but suddenly turn so hideously uncomfortable they make your feet bleed you have to limp into superdrug and buy emergency plasters’ boots I haven’t worn in ages but still don’t want to throw out.

  • Some Things Are Worth Splashing Out On. Some aren’t

These are in my experience, underwear. A good bra is worth its weight in gold and a bad bra is not worth it no matter how ‘sexy’ it is. I once had a sexy purple bra that made my boobs look amazing but it dug in so much it left sores, not so sexy. Ditto pants that don’t vanish up your arse or constantly need pulling up and tights that don’t keep falling down. I also like to splash out on nice fabrics. There is nothing that depresses me more, fashion wise, than a lovely looking item of clothing in nasty fabric that feels all icky next to your skin. I am not a fan of synthetic fabrics; the sweatiness, the static shocks, the unfortunate tendency for acrylic sweaters to bobble, and if in the underwear dept the increased likelihood of a UTI. Yes I am a snob but I do like to splash out on things like merino wool, silk etc (top tip, also splash out on anti-moth products, I lost some lovely jumpers to some hungry moths, my wardrobe is now a fortress of anti- moth sachets and doo dahs). Good tailoring is also worth splashing out on, when it’s done right you just know, it just fits, as someone who has sewn (or tried to) a bit I really appreciate this. It’s bloody hard to get right. If you are poor like me, develop a bargain antennae. Be not afraid to elbow people out of the way for reduced designer goodies in places like TK Max, sales and those weird but wonderful fell of the back of a lorry shops. Learn when it’s really a bargain, is it made well? The fabric, the cut, the construction. Just cos it has a posh label or logo on it does not mean it will be good quality. I swear a lot of ‘designer’ places make money on selling t shirts and other cheap crap with a logo on and charge a stupid amount because of said logo. Especially things like bags and accessories in fake leather, IMHO if it’s over £30 for fake leather it’s a rip off. Well maybe £40 at a push if it’s really, really cute. This is also why it took me a year to find a handbag I liked, in real leather for under £100, but then I am a bit fussy, ok I’m very fussy.

Beauty wise a good hair conditioner is A MUST, especially for the awkwardly haired and if your hair is dry. There was many a horrific moment in my childhood before I discovered conditioner and the importance of detangling with conditioner on and was reduced to tears on many an occasion, even that de tangle spray for kids my aunty swore by did sod all on my hair. If you have kids and they are in tears cos of tangles and you’ve resorted to cutting the knots out of their hair for the love of god buy some conditioner, like bucket loads of it. I still don’t like people doing stuff with my hair and hate other people combing and brushing it, it may be why I don’t really like going the hairdresser.

 

  • Whatever You Wear Now, You Will Look Back and Cringe

No matter how awesome and amazing your outfit, hair, make up whatever is now chances are in a few years you will back and think you look like a tit until you leave it long enough and it’s come back in style again. Even if you wear boring ‘neutral classics’ they will date anyway, one day we will look back on our skinny jeans like we do bootcut jeans, flares and ‘casual fit’ jeans in stonewash. So you might as well go for it. My uncle has a bag of old glasses he keeps for spare parts, sometimes at family gatherings we get them out to laugh at them; but now those comedy plastic giant owl glasses could be sold in some sort of hipster retro fest for a small fortune, ditto this novelty koala jumper my mum made me and my sister wear for a school photo (we had matching ones, given to us as presents, as well as matching hair cuts and no we’re not twins, we don’t even really look a like).

  • THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE EVER, EVER, EVER!!!!

Don’t give a fuck!

If YOU like it and feel comfortable in it, that’s all that matters. Sizes, labels, brand, colour, whatever none of that matters. Part of embracing fashion and developing a sense of style is that personal thing, that confidence to have fun with clothes and make up, you have much more fun if you go wild sometimes. Make mistakes, embrace bizarre sartorial flings that seemed like a good idea at the time, live a bit. Do you want to be the one in all the photos who is wearing the same stuff as everyone else, with the same hair etc etc or do you want to be the one who might look a bit ‘eccentric’ but at least you made an effort. Of course if it’s your genuine desire to blend in and wear beige and stuff, go for it. I might be cynical but I don’t judge people for wearing anything, even if you think something is hideous someone else might love it and it’s their choice and that’s the end of it.

 

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