My fashion sense has always been a bit quirky and fun, thrifty and different. I've loved shopping at second-hand shops since I was a teenager and I'm always spontaneous about what I might find and how I might pair it with something else. For the past six years I've been hosting an annual plus-sized clothing swap where friends (often members of the Boise Rad Fat Collective) come to my house bearing cocktails and appetizers and mountains of clothing to give away. We make piles all over my yard and garage and make a fun evening out of trying things on and modeling for one another. It is such a great way to clean out your own wardrobe and find new fun items to add back in for free in a supportive and environmentally-friendly way.
For years I've been touting the mantra "wear what you want," because life is too short to abide by nonsense fashion rules about how fat girls shouldn't don vertical stripes or crop tops or short shorts or leggings. Fuck flattering (is another thing I love to say) and wear what makes you feel good, even if it's the same baggy tee and beloved holey jeans every day. This summer a twenty-something model and blogger from Los Angeles named Simone Mariposa started the hashtag #wewearwhatwewant on Twitter because she, too, was tired of big girls being ridiculed for their choices of clothing, on social media and in real life. She told BuzzFeed in an article that she'd experienced this firsthand: “My body image suffered greatly from it. I stopped wearing my legs and arms out, I stayed away from clothes that accentuated my belly fat, and I was extremely self conscious [in] public,” she said. “However, after a while, I stopped letting society dictate my wardrobe, and starting wearing things that I always dreamed of wearing that made me feel beautiful.”
When I splurge on something new it's usually for a special event or shoes (I will forever spend several hundred dollars on Danskos and Fit Flops for my wide difficult feet and save up for hand-crafted jewelry from makers at Wintry Market). Over the past few years, though, I've discovered LuLaRoe, an online sale boutique that features the softest fabrics and most darling casualwear ever, at a really inexpensive price (items run $25 - $65). You can attend a home shopping party or buy from a representative via their Facebook group, which is typically how I've done it in the past (the parties are a GREAT way to try on various sizes and styles, though). My favorite part is that LuLaRoe offers sizes XS - 3x (the largest which has been known to fit people up to about size 26). So when one of the members of my Boise Rad Fat Collective, Tami Olsen, began selling LuLaRoe and offered me my pick of three outfits of my choice, I couldn't say HELL YES fast enough, as a die-hard LuLaRoe fan and fatshionista. I hightailed it to her home boutique to shop one Saturday afternoon just in time for a really big week in the spotlight. AND OF COURSE I WORE MY LULAROE.
On September 19th I hosted a sold out screening of the body positive documentary film Embrace out of Australia to celebrate the one year anniversary of my stand for self-love and kick off my 41st birthday week. Not only did so many eager Boiseans purchase all 285 seats in the Edwards 9 theater downtown, they showed up early to hear me speak and stayed later for a really compelling Q&A I hosted and asked hard questions like "can you be body positive and still want to diet?" and "can I still love my fat belly even if I'm not a mom and I didn't 'earn' it via pregnancy?" Another screening of the movie across town held 100 more body positive folks who tuned in via Facebook Live. KTVB invited me in studio right beforehand to talk about how this past year has been and the importance of films like Embrace coming to Boise. It was the perfect night to debut my new LuLaRoe Amelia dress, which I fell in love with immediately. The purple and lime green print appealed to my love of midcentury design and BOX PLEATS FTW (and for fat girls!). Also, a dress with pockets is like a dream come true for someone who needed a lot of tissues in her pocket that night (because, like I said, I haven't stopped crying for months now) and always a spot for my Dr. Pepper LipSmackers lipgloss. It's stretchy and the full skirt also gives it a fun flirty feel. I grabbed a 2X because the XL felt a little too tight in the arms (my upper arms are pretty big and I normally wear a XL or 1X in tops for reference). I can't even tell you how many compliments I've gotten on this dress from that night, and I've only worn it once so far.
A few days later I gave two historic walking tours of Cloverdale Cemetery for my work as an architectural historian and tour guide for Preservation Idaho. We are a nonprofit that has been around since 1972 and we advocate for and educate about our historic built environment. While that most traditionally means buildings, it often incorporates unique elements of our landscape like cemeteries. (Fun fact: in case you didn't know, I'm also a death historian, and used to work as a mortician's assistant and pick up dead bodies at night for an Oregon funeral home.) It was the first day of fall and blustery and cool and a perfect day to wear my new Tall & Curvy (or TC) leggings and Perfect Tee in dark green. Seriously, I have several pairs of these buttery leggings and could live in them and get a million "where did you get those darling leggings?!" every time I do. Here's the thing about the TC leggings: they're $25 and seriously fit sizes 16 - 26 in a variety of body shapes. I didn't believe it either, but after trying them on and owning several pairs for over a year I'm a believer. They feel like you're wearing the most stylish pajamas ever and allow me to crawl on the floor after my toddler, attend meetings, and look professional talking about death AND come in a plethora of fun prints or solid colors. The Perfect Tee is tight in the arms and has a swingy bottom more like a tunic and is made from the same soft fabric. It seems to fit large so I ended up with a size medium. Paired with garage sale boots, a vintage casket crank (used to seal caskets by funeral homes), and 1930s historic site maps of the cemetery, this girl was ready to lead an hour jaunt through sacred grounds telling sordid tales.
It may be this Julia dress, though, that really stole my heart. It's skin tight but so comfortable. It clings to every curve and showcases that VBO (visible belly outline) and booty like no other. It makes me feel brave and bold and beautiful and is seriously sexy (Dr. Brown thinks so too). The black and white pattern goes with anything and doesn't show stains, which is necessary for this messy mama. I can't imagine it doesn't look good on everyone. Mine is a size XL, which Tami says is about a size 16/18 (accurate for me). I wore it out on a date night for my 41st birthday with my hot hubby to the Boise Film Festival a few hours after I stood nearly nude downtown Boise in Freak Alley for a really cool collaboration with the famous and kind body painter Natalie Fletcher of Skin Wars.
If you were lucky enough to be at the Embrace premiere, you saw that I featured several size positive businesses at the check in table, including Tami Olsen's LuLaRoe business cards complete with a hand-drawn red heart for a discount off your first purchase from her. (She was also there handing out leggings to lucky recipients who asked about my darling dress.) But! She's offering another chance to my readers and fans to win free clothing and/or get a discount. Check out her Facebook group for more details.
I'm being asked more and more to do giveaways or to try out a product and, let me tell you, I'm super picky when it comes to endorsing someone or something and will only agree to share or post about something that I already loved or think is pretty great (like hand-crafted meat from Minneapolis or this darling LuLaRoe gear). I love supporting other plus-sized gals who are starting their own small businesses based around helping others look and feel their best, however that looks to them. Tami knows, like I do, that life is so much better when we wear what we want no matter our size, archaic misogynistic fashion rules be damned.