Fashion

Fear and Cleavage in Coorparoo.

20 July, 2011

A photo of me from the waist up wearing a black elbow length dress as a top with a lace detail down the front, and a red paisley skirt work on my high natural waist with a black belt.

When I was cleaning out my wardrobe for the Megaherzzz clothing swap I came across a dress I haven’t worn for ages and decided to wear it today. In times past I’ve worn the dress with a singlet underneath because it has a lace detail down the centre front, and being blessed with G cups I felt too exposed and never had a low cut bra to fully do the gorgeous detailing justice. Fast forward to this day in history, post cheap-Cacique-bras-on-eBay revelations, I decided to do it. I decided to wear the dress and show more of my cleavage than I’ve ever previously bestowed on this earth.

A portrait of me in the lace detail dress/top smiling.

When you think about it you’ve probably seen smaller chested people wearing low cut shirts without being hyper-sexualised, it just doesn’t seem to be a big deal; but when those who own big boobs wear similar style garments there’s another set of rules because large boobs are coded as hyper-sexual and slutty. There’s a huge pressure to be modest and hide yourself lest others say snide things or worse, invite themselves to comment or even violate your personal safe space. I wanted to challenge my own conditioning today, to wear a dress with beautiful detailing on my body and challenge that notion that only certain types of garments are appropriate for certain types of bodies.

An oufit photo of me, fat and pale skinned with short blonde hair in a blue scarf, wearing a black lace detail dress as a top with a red paisley skirt over black tights with black cage sandals.

Wearing the dress as a top, because it shrunk in the wash, and pairing it with a maxi skirt worn on my natural waist was another intentional subversion of the Myriad Rules of Fashion. I have a large frontal belly and many people have approached me and asked about my pregnancy. Even when I was smaller than I am now! I started to avoid certain styles of clothing that emphasised my frontal belly, like empire line dresses and high waisted skirts, dressing to “flatter” and “disguise” my body as it actually and naturally is. In the last few years I’ve been unpicking this conditioning because it does nothing to further my acceptance of my body, instead leading me to believe that there is a certain type of acceptable shape that I must aspire to even if I was not born with that shape.

Pregnant or not, who on earth has the actual right to interrogate me about my body? Or you yours? I ranted a little bit earlier today on my Tumblr about this and how pregnant friends have voiced their discomfort and even feelings of violation about strangers coming up to them and asking them about things they have absolutely zero right not know. More disturbing still, many pregnant people have had strangers touch them without invitation. It’s absolutely horrifying for me to think about and I’ve never been pregnant!

A photo of me in my black lace dress/ top smiling.

So I wore this outfit to challenge the “Rules” of modesty, figure flattery and how people have the ill conceived notion that they have a right to comment on or touch people’s bodies. After writing a short piece for another website about one of my outfits and talking to a researcher at Griffith University about fat activism last night, it’s really confirmed for me that my personal style and body is political. I can’t escape it. I think about it all the time and it informs how I dress and why I dress. Fashion may be frippery to some, but to marginalised identities it can be incredibly important and empowering.

Dress: Urbane Woman (I think!) from Myer
Skirt: Made by me
Belt: Yours Clothing
Tights: Asos Curve
Shoes: Spendless
Necklace: ebay
Scarf: Clothing swap

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  • Rebekah

    love that skirt!!

  • kathryn

    OMG the whole boob thing has been on my mind so much lately.  It’s summer in Japan and stinking hot yet I feel like I have to cover up  while (some) Japanese girls run around in skimpy tops. 

    That dress/top looks fantastic on you.

    I get the pregnancy thing.  I got it even at my lowest weight.  The most annoying thing is when you say that you aren’t pregnant and the other person gets embarassed.  I used to end up feeling like having to comfort them – tell them it’s okay etc but really if they weren’t commenting on my body in the first place they woudn’t have to deal with the whole situation.

  • I really dislike being touched by people I don’t know (and sometimes even by people I do) and this is genuinely something that concerns me when I think about the possibility of one day being pregnant. I can only just deal with it under ‘normal’ circumstances as it is.

    On a lighter note, I thought I recognised that scarf when you posted pics with it on Tumblr earlier. It used to be mine haha (and before that it belonged to my awesome and stylish mum). I’m glad it went to a good home. :)

  • Wow this post hit close to home,

    Check out this post I made about the same topic

    http://iwrotethisblog.tumblr.com/post/6655686114

  • guest

    this outfit is incredibly gorgeous! 

  • I really think a lot of people just assume they have a right to invade other people’s personal space. It sucks!

    I was wondering where this scarf came from, and now I know it was you I feel like it has a lovely story :D

  • laurenyay

    I totally agree with you that it is rude when people comment on or touch other people’s bodies regardless of whether or not one is pregnant.  The thing that I’ve been having more trouble with lately is when people offer to give up their seat on the train for me.  It’s obviously because they think I’m pregnant, but they don’t say that.  It makes me upset because I feel like people are reading and misinterpreting my body in ways that I don’t want. For one, I am happy being a fat person and wish that I was seen as such. Second, it makes me think things like, do people on the train think I’m a bad pregnant woman because I’m not sitting down? Are they feeling embarrassed for me because they know I’m just fat? When I’m out at a bar, do people think I’m pregnant and getting sloshed? I also think it’s easy when people touch or ask prying questions to say something like “this is my body and it’s not for you to touch/comment on” and be done with it. However, when someone offers a seat, I feel conflicted. They’re not making any statement about my body, and, if I DO want them to offer their seats for people who really are pregnant! Or people with disabilities, or people who are older, or anyone who needs to sit down.  Anyway, the point is it makes me feel shitty but conflicted, and I’m trying to understand why. Maybe it’s just some self-hatred I haven’t gotten over yet.

  • God, I love that whole outfit.

  • you look radiant.

    -ariel

  • Moe

    Had you not pointed out the cleavage factor on this shirt I probably wouldn’t have noticed.
    Your hair on the other hand — rocks!

  • Amy

    I love the outfit and think you look great in it! “Unpicking conditioning” is hard to do. Most people don’t even realize they’ve conditioned themselves. I have certain clothes that I’ve told myself I just don’t look good in so have avoided wearing them for years. Many have to do with clothes that I feel don’t do enough to hide what I consider chubby arms. After reading your post, I feel inspired to go shopping for a spaghetti strap….Thank you :)

  • Jenbunny39

    People are just way too sensitive/PC these days. Pregnancy is something to celebrate, so of course if you look pregnant someone is going to comment. They’re not doing it to be offensive, a lot of people just love babies.

  • The issue is that it can be very upsetting for the person people are making assumptions about. Some people can’t have children, how do you think that would make them feel to have someone comment on their belly?! Personally, I don’t find it upsetting so much as offensive. My body is not for public consumption or comment.

    If your right to say things trumps another person’s actual lived experience, you need to check your priorities.

  • I am not quite as ‘blessed’ as you. But I do have D-cup and I absolutely feel this way every time I ‘bare the ladies a little bit’. I envy women that can wear those shirts that are cut down to their bellies or expose a lot of their chests but still look really elegant and beautiful. When I do it I just look ‘slutty’.
    I think this outfit looks fantastic on you, I love the lace detail! :)

  • marie

    Stylish, feminine. You’re good at dressing up! And you remind everyone that there’s no beautiful without happy. Thank you.

  • kathryn

    Totally.  Also some women who have had miscarrages in the past are very wary about informing people of their pregnancy until it is quite advanced.  I figure if you know the person well enough, they will inform when they want you to know.

    Also, even if I don’t give a rat’s arse about someone mistakenly thinking I’m pregnant, if THEY get upset when I say I’m not, why are they asking in the first place?

  • Well put! Thanks for this.

  • Femsup

    I think it just goes to prove that big women are inherantly sexier.Thats why small breasted women can bare more of their chest.I remember watching a film made during the war in Germany (“Baron Von Munchausen”) in which there was a scene with women in a Turkish harem.They were bare chested.Not only was this taboo at the time but when it was shown in the afternoon in our times.

    The reason it was able to be shown in both eras was because the chests of the people were so tiny.If they had been large there is no way it would have been shown in each circumstance and time.   

  • Ester Jean

    I’ve been secretly stalking your blog (an archives) for the last few days and now I can’t even remember for the life of me how I found you! 1. This is my favorites of favorite outfits so far so I hope you still wear it sometimes :) I also wouldn’t have noticed your cleavage – just a gorgeous top! I have a 6-month old son and a whole new body as a result. People keep expecting me to lose weight and make comments like, “You’ll really drop weight after you stop breastfeeding,” when I haven’t even said anything about my weight! They were just a nosey when I was pregnant with him, people touching my body, asking questions – one stranger hollering loudly, “GOODYEAR!!!” And when I stared at him blankly, he made sure to holler it again as then follow with, “…you know, cause you’re a blimp right now!” Frick. I’m an asshole making it about me and didn’t mean to – just to say yep, as you already know, people can be righteous assholes! 2. I thought I was going to make a list, so in keeping with the theme, I’m numbering this but it needs no number. I love your blog. I Love your honesty about your mental health. I love your hair!! Goshdang I wish I had it! And thank you for havin this blog because I am learning a lot. And I am especially learning that If i don’t ever lose the baby weight (and I sure as hell am not ‘trying’), its just fine with me.