Category Archives: fat girl problems

Fat Woman at a Tweed Ride

A friend of ours has convinced us that we need to go to the Quad Cities Tweed Ride this year. It’s lots of fun, she said. It’s super laid back, she said.

I looked at photos from the website. They’re looking pretty seriously tweed. In most cases, they’re looking pretty seriously vintage and tweed in their attire. Yes, I realize they pick out the best-looking riders for photo opportunities to show off on the website, as the roommate reminded me, but I’ve been down the vintage costume path before and what it taught me is that there is a hierarchy to acceptance based on the perceived accuracy and beauty of your attire.

The roommate will be pretty easy to outfit. She’s tall and lean and looks fabulous in menswear. We’ve already sourced tweed knickers for her and a potential source for a vintage style wool jersey that she wants anyway. A newsboy cap and kneesocks and she’ll be too gorgeously tweed.

Me? I know I don’t have much (okay, any) budget for costuming, so I need to start building from what I already have.

Turns out, a toss of the closet yielded a not horrible starting point. I have a lovely A-line midi-length charcoal wool skirt with sky blue and tan plaid that’s very classic and could work with either the 1940s or 1950s as style inspiration.

I also have a black wool jacket with denim patches on the elbow. It has a more modern menswear vibe, so I don’t normally wear it with my skirt, but I think it will work with the skirt if I add a jacket cinch clip to the back to better define the waist. It would work with knickers if I decide to try to go that route.

I can wear either my white linen shirt or my white button up blouse and the overall look will be timeless blend in. My gut says that the blouse will work better because it’s got princess seaming which will give the illusion of being more tailored and body conscious.

black wool jacket next to plaid wool skirt

It’s amazing how much dust wool picks up in the closet.

Let’s leave off for a moment that I don’t have a step through frame bike and that I’ll need to practice mounting and dismounting in a ladylike way with this skirt. We’ll get back to that because I already have to do a modified tilt mount to get on my bike in the first place because of my hip. It just doesn’t move certain ways anymore. (Thanks, arthritis!) We’re going to pretend this is all just going to work for purposes of discussion.

That leaves the matter of accessories. I think I still have a pair of black leather Isotoner gloves that I can wear. If not, I’ll put “crochet gloves” on my list of things to do. Hat or head scarf for wearing when I’m not in my helmet also needs to happen, but that’s actually pretty trivial for me to find.

Where I’m really falling down is shoes. Normally I wear knee boots with this skirt and call it a day, but if I’m going for a more vintage look (as appropriate for a Tweed Ride), a pair of spectator pumps would probably be prettiest, if a little lousy to ride in. If I can find a lightweight twinset or sweater to replace the jacket, I could easily wear my a pair of coordinating crew socks and my loafers, like this picture. That’s currently a higher probability option.

The crazy part of me says “You have yarn. Knit a fair isle vest to go over your white blouse.” I call that part of me crazy because I’ve never managed to make a sweater I like for myself. Making something like this in the timeframe I have seems crazy pants, but if I did, I’d probably want to go completely crazy pants and make a Great Horn-rimmed vest.

Alternately, I need to find shorts like this picture from Life Magazine. That’s probably not a “find” option. It’s probably a “make” option, which is its own expense. Fabric. Pattern. Muslin. Time. Time. Also, it wants a short sleeved blouse, so I’d probably have to make that, too. More time.

Otherwise, I may have to search for a pair of larger men’s charcoal tweed pants at thrift to remake into knickers. If I get lucky and find the right pants to refashion, that solves both my shoes and my “how do I mount my bike” problems. It’s my preferred option. My jacket would work. I could wear a cute cloche for a hat. It would be super comfortable. It’s also my closest to least likely to happen option. I just never get that lucky thrifting.

If I could find a proper ’49er style jacket or pattern in my size, I’d throw it all out and start from there. I’d know my beloved loafers would be exactly the right thing to wear and I’d pair it with jeans and casual gloves and a 40’s style hairdo. That’s a total pipe dream. Pendleton still makes the ’49er in my size once in a blue moon, but I’ll have better luck if I track down a pattern with similar features and make one for myself and that’s well beyond my sewing ability.

To minimalise or not to minimalise

Minimalism is a difficult topic for me. On the one hand, it’s aspired to as an ideal. People quote William Morris “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” We read books on decluttering, like Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I loved it when I read it and yet I remember feeling a distinctly odd combination of pride and guilt while reading it.

I didn’t have words for it until I saw an opinion piece in the  New York Times which put my internal conflict into sharp light: 

(M)inimalism is a virtue only when it’s a choice, and it’s telling that its fan base is clustered in the well-off middle class. 

No one wants to admit they’re anything other than middle class. There are articles on the phenomenon of believing you’re middle class when you’re not (whether you’re poor or rich), but it basically seems to come down to being Middle Class is as much a virtue to aspire to in the United States as the vision of the  founding fathers that all men are created equal, the ideal of the self made man,  or the aspirational rugged individualism of the Old West.

If we’re all middle class, we’re all equal, and yet admitting that I might need to declutter and downsize is admitting that despite my perceptions of my bills and financial obligations that I’m in a different category than I care to admit. I have clawed my way into not just the middle class, but the well-off middle class. 

I don’t feel that way, though.

I still feel like the little girl getting teased at school for not having name brand tennis shoes, designer jeans, and Alligator shirts. I feel like the girl who took my lunch in a bag so I didn’t have to go through the lunch line with the highly identifiable Free School Lunch Ticket – grateful that we still had enough money to afford me that little bit of dignity. 

I feel like the girl who was told to be careful in my school clothes, because my sisters were going to have to wear them when I out grew them – the girl who wore clothes some family friend stole from out of a Salvation Army collection bin – things that weren’t actually nice enough to donate in the first place, poorly made (even for the 80s), out of style, and stained, but better than clothes that didn’t fit at all. Clothes that I wore and called “punk style” because it made it feel less embarrassing to wear them when I called them that than to admit the truth of the matter: We couldn’t afford anything better. 

I felt ashamed for even wanting something more. I taught myself not to really care about what I looked like.

Fast forward to today, I don’t really know what I like or how to dress myself like an adult. I have a plethora of things from the fat girl fashion ghetto (read: black), and in theory have lots of things to wear – enough that I feel like I need to minimalise. I feel like I have almost nothing I really like. 

I know what I’m supposed to want: Classic items that never go out of style in neutral colors. Preferably black, to hide my fatness.

Fuck.

That. 

Noise.

It’s safe and boring. My closet is full of safe and boring. No wonder I’m struggling with it. Of all the things that I’ve ever aspired to, I have never aspired to be safe and boring.

Comfortable and happy? That’s a different story. But is that a style?

I know what I like on other people. I want to dress in comfortable, casual things. I want colors that I look good in, like periwinkle blue and pale amethyst, tomato red and pumpkin orange, jade green and teal blue. I want a jacket that looks at home in the office or by the fireplace. A type of Casual Chic that runs something slightly more to the casual and less to the chic than to the feminine and cozy, with just enough quirky thrown in to keep it from looking like I stepped right out of the pages of the Eddie Bauer or J Jill. 

I want to dress like me. I just need to figure out what that is and maybe I need to get rid of some things in my closet to do that.

A study in black

I wear too much black. At one point I might have tried to deny it by pointing out the amount of grey and white I wear, too. After a coworker pointed out that she didn’t recognize me because I was wearing a pretty color (a coral t-shirt, for the record), I have to admit that my color palette for work shirts might be a bit too limited.

The thing is, I’m not sure how this happened. Even in my semi-punk stage in the ’80s, while I rejected pink and mint Polo shirts (and after a certain point, the preppie look all together), I embraced color enthusiastically. Yellow and blue sweaters. Purple t-shirts. Rainbow striped Oxford shirts with safety pin earrings and black lip stick borrowed from one of my friends.

I have proof: I make colorful accessories despite the fact that I don’t really wear colorful accessories. Oh, once in a while I’ll pull a scarf out and wear it, but I’ve become so used to primary black that sometimes I feel like I don’t really know how to wear color anymore.

Proof in the form stack of shawls and scarves I’ve made. from Instagram: http://ift.tt/2e1pklH

The problem, I think, comes from finding color in plus sized women’s clothing that isn’t garish or inspired by the leisure-wear of Bozo and his brethren. I want rich colors in classic styles, or barring that, something that’s more boho/hippie chic and less center ring at the big top.
Not that there’s anything exactly wrong with Clowns, I mean coulro-Americans, per se. Coultrophobia aside, they’re creepy. Living that far down in the Uncanny Valley obviously has to take a toll on them, which their unique sense of fashion and style is an obvious reflection on their tenuous grip on sanity and the fact that most clowns are probably one misspelled name on a Starbucks cup away from perpetrating some serious Falling Down style mayhem. 

But they must be super environmentally conscious. I mean, how many people do you know who would car pool with 35 of their closest friends in a Smart Car? 

The riot of clashing colors obviously makes them happy (or at least keeps them from slipping over the edge all the way. Most of the time.) It makes some people very happy who aren’t coultro-Americans. My dear, sweet Aunt Net. Knitwear designer Stephen West. The people who by and large design what passes for fashion for the zaftig set. 

Not me.

I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing a costume. I’m desperately searching for one perfect, deep, neutral red blouse. Not too tomato or too fuschia. Neither too sheer, nor too heavy, with cuffs, collars, and sleeves all in a classic cut that will look stylish for years to come. Too often, all I find are fashions from the Center Ring and Pennywise himself standing by the three way mirror.

“We all clash down here.”

To avoid it, I end up in the fat-girl clothes ghetto, a study in black, or grey, or white, and Paul Simon was right: everything looks worse in black and white.

I’m trying to change, though, and break out of my cage of black and white and at least branch out a bit. With fall here and winter on the way, it’s easier pull out a scarf, wrap it around my neck, and go. I just wish I felt more confident about it. Maybe that will come with practice.