Body Image

An Unedited Rant About Looking Into Fatshion’s Navel.

11 November, 2012

Remember when I used to blog regularly? I had a lot to tell the world, a desire to be heard and seen. Writing to an audience was a novelty, a gentle fluffing of my ego after writing to no one in particular for most of my life. Hardly anyone was blogging in Australia, people wanted to talk to me, and I got opportunities to do exciting things even though I’m not the most fashionable or the most tactful or well spoken.

After being ignored by fashion all of my life, it felt empowering to be able to source and critique what little fashion was available to me. I spent what money I could on clothes and accessories, never wanting to fall behind other bloggers. As well as being fat, there were other things for me to deal with like mental illness and resultant joblessness. Maybe buying clothes wasn’t the best priority, but it made me feel good. I finally felt like I was part of a clique that lead, instead of followed (or got lost).

I never considered myself a 100% fatshion blogger, because I used too many words and got angry frequently, never fully being palatable enough for brands to consider sponsoring me. I was snubbed on many occasions, and this became more and more apparent as the number of Australian fatshion bloggers swelled. Newer, more congenial personalities were favoured, and I wasn’t surprised. I was categorised as too political, and fell back, feeling miffed but knowing that ultimately it was great that more fat people were speaking up.

Other things worked against me – ongoing mental health issues and hospitalisation kept me from blogging success. Blogging became about networking, personality and (frustratingly) looks. All the things I was terrible at. All the reasons why I felt so at home on the internet right from the beginning in the 90s. Due to my inability to form “relationships” with brands, I had to buy all the new clothes instead of being sent them. I couldn’t financially keep up with that, I didn’t make money out of my blog so it wasn’t worth that kind of investment. Even the advertising network I was part of stopped sending me opportunities and sponsorship offers, and the ones I did take up actually didn’t benefit me financially at all!

Clearly, many things about blogging were turning out to be much like the regular world I struggled to fit in with. Popular bloggers were white, less fat than me, certainly more conventionally attractive, and bought/ were gifted clothes frequently. Events in Australia for plus size fashion started occurring and were in “major” fashion hubs like Sydney or Melbourne, far away from Brisbane and the original Axis of Fat (a group of my friends and I based in Brisbane, among the first fat activist bloggers in Australia). Even when there were events closer to home, I could rarely bring myself to go due to now crippling social phobia.

The focus of fatshion blogs was fashion and consumption thereof, with rarely a critical lens applied. I began thinking more and more about capitalism and how it had tried to reject fat & fashionable people, but now shaped how people were seeing this emerging group of fatshion bloggers. The media requests that came into my email inbox were largely about fashion, and not about medical malpractice and neglect of fat people (which, I propose, is the actual killer in the so called “obesity epidemic”). The mainstream media had cottoned on to the fat activist movement in the blogosphere but only wanted to see us talk about fluffy topics, rather than bullying, harassment, abuse of human rights and denial of health care.

I don’t know why I seem to be talking in the past tense, because this is now. This is why I struggle to chit chat about whichever plus size brand is releasing poorly made, questionably fashionable, dubiously manufactured garments this season. I am angry at capitalist systems that not only abuse fat people for not looking good in clothes, or not providing fashionable clothes, but also make us feel some kind of imperative to spend above and beyond what we have to make up for our fat bodies. I’m angry that blogging is now just a new funnel for PR and marketing people, and most bloggers rarely get paid what mainstream media workers do for providing the same service. Being paid in clothing is NOT being paid in cash money.

I’m disillusioned with this whole fat blogging game. If I blog about clothes, readers will come. If I blog about politics, I am rarely engaged. Mostly, I struggle to put words together these days. I am on a lot of medication to function as neurotypically as possible (for me), and my ability to write and read has deteriorated. Remember when I was a blogger? Am I still a blogger if no one reads this stuff? If I don’t get free clothes? If I challenge dominant ideas? If I can’t afford to keep up? If I am sick, fat, and unattractive?

Art

Public knowledge/ private performances.

10 October, 2012

At first I wanted to draw empowering pictures but then I realised they were empty, almost lies. I’ve been avoiding my real self my whole life because I thought I wasn’t suitable. Confession is familiar, it keeps me in the dark; now I feel like it’s time to live transparently so I am drawing my secrets as if they were common knowledge.

Instagram of a pad with watercolour splotches and the text “Why would anyone choose to be ugly? Who gets to choose to be ugly?”


Watercolour and ink drawing of a fat white lady (me) in a ratty black bra and grey undies looking unsympathetic. Text says “Not for you.”


Watercolour and ink drawing of a fat white lady (me) wearing a green polka dot dress and sweating profusely, fanning herself with a notebook and wiping sweat from her brow.


Sometimes I’m astounded and depressed that we still have to talk about the male gaze.

Art

Ladies, monsters and morality.

5 October, 2012

A pen and marker drawing on transparent polymer sheets of a fat white lady with lilac hair wearing a swimsuit and sporting tattoos, with floating men and food in her stomach.


I slightly resent having to find words to accompany things I’ve drawn. I guess I draw things so I don’t have to find words. I’m trying to find a new way to express the monstrous ugliness inside me, how it is a normal/ neutral thing in my mind but a feared, castigated and hidden set of traits on a cultural level. How there are ugly things I can get away with because I am white (having straight hair that I don’t brush, being typically white and pale), and other things I can’t get away with because I am fat (dressing sloppily, not visibly reducing my fatness, taking up space). How I perform femininity in acceptable ways (I like crafts and flowers) and obscene ways (too much make up). In private spaces I am very comfortable doing my own thing in my own body, slouching, picking zits, pulling faces, sitting with my legs open, burping; yet in public spaces I am extra vigilant in policing my posture, demeanor, behaviour, and dress. I hate being uncomfortable, and I resent having to hem myself in to make other people comfortable. Surely our culture would be better off doing away with the discomfort, the niceties, the shaming, and focusing more on not being dicks to one another.

A self portrait of me with dark brunette hair, squeezing a zit on my stretch marked breast. A purse with a floral china pattern spills out to the left and around me, and a banner with “nice white lady” stretches over me. In the background is a pattern of pink and purple fuchsias, and a doily shape on the lower right.

Life

Watching as the locals pass silver balls…

4 October, 2012

It would be remiss of me not to include a lyric from Ben Fold’s “Adelaide” about the city we just got back from visiting for our niece’s wedding. We didn’t actually pass the silver balls in Rundle Mall on this trip (and it’s been over a decade since I’ve done it!) because we were in the Barossa region north east-ish of Adelaide. Sadly, this post is silver ball free but it is enriched with the soothing power of grapes.

Collage (clockwise) of blue sky through wisteria vines; wisteria flowers; and an arched window sitting in a wall covered in vines.


We went to six wineries on our day trip, but the most memorable and photographic was Seppeltsfield. Featuring an amazing range of ports that Nick partook in tasting (I stole sips) the winery also boasts 100 year old ports! We got the opportunity to smell 1910’s vintage and I swear it smelt like a sexy lady. I honestly can’t think of any other way to describe the rich perfumey scent! After elbowing in on the port tasting I’m beginning to think I may just be a port drinker after all.

Me peeking through wisteria vines wrapping around a rotunda.


Six HUGE barrels of wine, each about the size of an elephant torso.


A bottle of 100 year old port in a wooden presentation box.


Myself, standing amongst grape vines, arms outstretched and enthralled with my first encounter with a wild bunny.


We ventured back to the Barossa for the main attraction, our niece’s wedding, held in the garden of Lyndoch Hill which contains a ridiculous amount of rose plants (reportedly over 30,000!) Many of the roses were in bloom, but the bulk of the garden wasn’t and while disappointing, I’m sure it’ll look absolutely incredible whenever the roses do decide to pop out.

Jacqui and Kris surrounded by family and friends on their wedding day.


After the garden wedding was crowned by late afternoon sun peeking through the branches and the clouds, we headed up to the hall for delicious food and wine, meeting new people and singing raucously to The Righteous Brothers as we waited for our dinner! It was a lovely day to celebrate Jacqui and Kris and I feel so blessed to have been there to witness it.

Garden, Life

Perks’ Backyard *

18 September, 2012

I haven’t posted much about our new place mostly because I’m still working on it. The garden has come a pretty long way since we moved in and I may as well show you the progress!

Our courtyard garden as it was when we moved in. A small paved area bordered by a low hedge with taller plants behind.


Collage of the courtyard during process of ripping out the garden and pavers. (Also Miffy enjoying the new turf!)


We don’t have a large yard, and we weren’t fond of having the small space made even smaller by claustrophobic hedging. Miffy needed a place to go to the toilet and sun herself too! The whole yard was ripped out (mostly by Nick!) but we did keep the lovely pink camellia tree on the left hand side. The garden beds were pushed back a little on each side to allow for more grassed area.

The backyard blitz was done on the cheap: we pulled out plants on the weekends (a good thing to do because some were damaging our front fence!), recycled the tiles and sleepers into garden edging, and housewarming gifts bought our turf. We had (and still have) a heap of dirt which has been great for potting up cuttings from my mum and Nick’s mum. Sharing cuttings is FANTASTIC for getting a garden started! I never knew you didn’t really need to buy plants! (It sounds so basic, right? But I never knew!)

I have plans to put lattice up on the big fence (on the right side) and train vines up it, and to hang small pots of colour and herbs on it as well. The right side fence extends down the length of our property and could do with some softening! I hope to scour junk yards for cheap lattice – I checked on pricing at Bunnings the other weekend and discovered it’d cost $25 a piece of lattice and we can’t afford that!


I took a video this morning as I did my regular garden check up and prepared to plant seedlings given to me by my gorgeous friend Erin. I thought I’d share it here so you can see what I’ve been working on. Gardening is something I’ve wanted to do, but never had the chance; any pot plants I’d ever had died rapidly in my care so I was really nervous in the beginning. It’s nice to have things to take care of, that you can watch growing. It all seems very magical to me!

* For non-Australians, my punny title refers to Burke’s Backyard – a long running gardening show on the teev that starred Don Burke.

Art, Mental illness

~tortured artist feelings~

11 September, 2012

Illustration with purple clouds and the text “I’m so sad. What do I do with all this sad?” written in orange and surrounded by rain/ tears.


I’m really fed up with the tortured artist trope. People have said it about me since I was a teenager, and while it’s true that I am kind of a bit artistic and also depressed as fuck, the latter does not positively affect the former. If this were the case I’d be a lot further along in my artistic practice and career.

My craziness has affected me to the point where I can’t leave the house most of the time, let alone go to ~cultural events~ and network with local art people. Making connections is incredibly difficult for me. It’s not that I’m shy, I actually really resent being called shy, it’s that I am overcome with panic whenever I try to do certain social/ professional things. When I say panic, I don’t mean butterflies in my stomach. I sweat. I don’t perspire. Sweat rolls down my face, I get flustered, I forget how to form words and I get disoriented and dizzy. People don’t tend to react favourably towards a leaking, bumbling mess, and so I end up compounding panic with the fear of looking ridiculous. And so on and so forth. I only found out there was a name for this a few years ago, and it’s called Social Anxiety Disorder.

So I don’t go to art events, I don’t hang around with arty types, and I rarely get to immerse myself in discussion and critique. It’s frustrating. Every few months I descend into despair over my worth as a person who creates things, in addition to my worth as a human; but it’s balanced out by hypermanic episodes of frenzied sketching and creating. So it’s ok I guess. My psychiatrist says I might have Bipolar 2. I was put on Lamictal (lamotrigine) and for the first time I felt almost balanced, but now I am experiencing very familiar depths and all creating has halted.

This is my life since 15 and from now on, and that’s very difficult to come to terms with. I don’t wish to receive advice when I talk about my health (I want to emphasise that mental health IS health), I just think it’s important to talk about it instead of feeling ashamed. I try to talk about it, but it’s a struggle, because people’s responses pretty much always fall into one of the following:
* unsolicited advice (try this diet! meds don’t work!)
* redundant platitudes (chin up! be positive! it could be worse!)
* conversation terminated awkwardly (and usually the relationship)

So don’t do that. Thanks.

Illustration with text “Jam sandwich club” surrounded by jam splatters, a jam sandwich, jam donut, jar of jam and jam on a crumpet. A faint piece of bread is in the background.

What I am trying to do is be gentle with myself. I have started to learn ACT techniques, and it’s challenging remembering them but I’ve made a start. I wrote a list of steps I want to take towards sorting some of my drawing feelings out, and that made me feel less hopeless about my creative situation. My plan is to focus on research as well as technique, and to draw every day. Even if it’s simple.

So that’s what I’ve done for the last few days. I hope I can keep it up. These vector illustrations aren’t super slick or fully rendered but they’re something.

Illustration with two roughly cut out photos of manatees that look like they’re about to embrace with “Manatee hugs” above them.


People seem to like this one. You can download it to use as a desktop picture if you like!

For Sale

Raid my wardrobe!

8 September, 2012

Garments from my wardrobe.
“Wardrobe clear out – sizes 20-26 – if you love black you’ll love this!”


It’s spring and time for my annual wardrobe clear out! Please come check out my shop and see if there’s anything that takes your fancy.

Don’t forget you can take home a print (or two) or a necklace!

Life

Goodbye Nana

20 August, 2012

A photo of my Nana with hand drawn roses and freesias surrounding and a banner saying “Nana 1926-2012″.


My Nana died on the weekend. She has always been an exceptional woman, and an exceptional Nana. Her love and support for me and my creative work have been unflagging, and she helped me a lot with setting up my shop.

I still don’t really know what to say. I spent yesterday scanning photos and making a slideshow for her funeral. She still feels alive! I can still hear her chuckle and feel the way she’d grab my arm when she wanted me to listen to her.

Nana in 1946 at 20, wearing a cute square neck dress and a curled fringe.


She was a cool lady. You should have known Nana.

sewing

The eventual bull’s eye: Burda Style Dart Dress.

18 August, 2012

This has certainly turned into a sewing blog of late, and shall continue to be one for at least this post because I want to show you the fruits of my labour on the Burda Style Dart Dress. Firstly I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kate for sharing this pattern with me, mwah mwah! Secondly, this is a pretty good pattern but I strongly advise sewing a muslin first because I had to grade the largest size up four sizes to EU 60 instead of my regular 56. I probably could have done with the 58 but more ease in garments is a bunch comfier!

Instagram collage of pattern pieces undergoing grading and the dart dress made in polka dot fabric.


Burda made this in a polka dot fabric which is so cute, but I couldn’t find anything besides rough-as digital print cotton at Lincraft (yeh I bought some what of it?) and I’d rather have something a bit nicer with more weight. The original pattern has 18 darts, so yes it is aptly named, but I eliminated the darts at the hem because on my muslins they restricted my ability to walk comfortably. That’s the beauty of a muslin too, you can edit the pattern to suit your body as well as the way you move.

I made two dresses from this pattern, the first was a wearable muslin made out of some brown gabardine I had metres and metres and metres of, and the second was made out of purple ponte. The ponte is super soft and easy to wear, probably not the best choice for the structure in the design but whatever!

Full length photo of me (fat, white, with short blonde hair) wearing a brown knee-length dress with a V neckline, cap sleeves and darts at the shoulder, neck and waist.


The back view of my brown dress, with darts on upper bodice and top of skirt meeting at the waist.


The purple dress, staring Miffy.


The back view of the purple dress. Miffy glares at the camera.


Miffy jumping up on my knees in a blur of cute.


I have a feeling this pattern will be used quite a bit because the darts can be sewn the other way around for a less ~darty~ dress, and the neckline darts can be taken out with a bit of nifty pattern altering. I’m very glad I ended up making three muslins (including the brown dress) in order to figure out the right size for me, because it’s a good basic pattern with scope for flexibility and adaptation.

sewing

You sew and sew: don’t tell me DIY is my only option.

8 August, 2012

The mystical lower workings of my overlocker.

For interest’s sake I want to list the costs of making some of my clothes. So take for example my recent black dress.

Fatina Plus pattern – USD$4
2m ponti (50% sale) – AUD$13

Cool so that’s easily quantifiable and given a $ value. A $17 dress! Bargain! But there’s also the matter of time and access to resources.

Resources:

  • Internet
  • Printer
  • Tracing paper
  • Sticky tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing skills
  • Energy
  • Ability
  • Suitable fabric
  • Sundry sewing supplies

Time:

  • Print pattern and sticky tape it together – 30 minutes
  • Trace pattern and make sizing adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Dart to princess seam conversion, cap sleeves, side panel slash – 30 minutes
  • Cut pattern, pin to fabric, mark seam allowances, cut fabric – 30-60 minutes
  • Construction – 1-2 hours
  • Pressing – 30 minutes
  • Fitting – 30 minutes
  • Adjustments – 30 minutes
  • Battling with glitchy machine – 1 hr
  • Hems and finishing – 30-60 minutes
  • Final pressing – 30 minutes

I’m a pretty competent sewer and cut corners here and there, i.e.: I rarely baste things except when inserting a zip or gathering/ easing fabric. I have no idea how to assign a dollar value to my time but that dress took around 6 hours to make. Maybe more. I can’t remember.

A less experienced sewer might spend double the time working on this dress, even more if they follow the often confusing instructions that come with patterns (and they all love telling you to baste ridiculous shit like darts.) Someone with restricted time and ability could be working on this dress for longer than a week. I didn’t make a mock up of this dress (a muslin) but I have with more complex patterns. That’s extra time and material!

It really chafes my bits when people are smart arses and suggest “oh sew your own clothes” to criticisms fat people have about the clothing they’ve got access to. It’s not a skill everyone has, it’s not an activity everyone has the time to do or the physical or mental ability to carry out without barriers.

Sketches of clothes I want to sew for myself including a button down skater skirt, a slip dress and tapered pants.


I am very privileged to have an interest in sewing that has been developed by attending a high school that taught me how to do it, and to have a family that has nurtured my sewing. My mother bought me my sewing machine, my Nana gave me her sewing cabinet, and recently my Granma gave me her sewing machine, overlocker, lots of fabric and another sewing cabinet! I am truly fortunate.

For many people though, they don’t have access to the skills and resources I have access to. When it comes to clothing for fat people, it’s slim pickings and many affordable clothes are produced overseas, sometimes in factories that have poor working conditions. Domestically produced garments, especially in Australia, are way too cost prohibitive for me. It’s a situation fraught with the tension of guilt vs class with the added bonus of being too fat to get an actual choice.

Sewing is political. It’s something I enjoy, and a skill I use to make the things I don’t get an opportunity to purchase in stores. It’s not especially cheap, especially when it comes down to time, but it can save cash money. I would never sew as a job because the honest truth is that most people can not or will not pay the true cost of a hand made garment, but then again… we’ve all got to wear clothes as per our unspoken agreement with society, so what are we to wear if we can’t pay domestic designers and machinists? Criticising and shaming poor fat people for wearing cheap clothing produced in questionable (and often outright awful) working conditions is futile because there are few other options, and telling poor fat people the last resort is to sew their own clothes is flat out bullshit.