A few years ago I wanted to create a club for fat activists called Girth Guides. I love coming up with cute names for things and after I stopped patting myself on the back I registered the domain and swore I’d do something with it. My vision was an online gathering place for activists to seek community and a bit of support, a place where they could take a break from the public and private activism work that all too often leads to burn out.
Shortly afterwards I experienced a mental breakdown and burnt out myself. Life became mostly about protecting myself and I ceased doing interviews and public writing and even meeting up with people and going to events. I never stopped my personal activism, and I never stopped experiencing fat stigma. It is a perpetual work, and it IS work. Many people don’t think they are doing labour when they are resisting and questioning systemic abuse and neglect. It takes a toll.
Girth Guides: Patches for Fat Activists
Last year I saw how many artists were producing their work in patches and I remembered Girth Guides. I remembered the reason why I wanted to belong, and why I wanted a recognition of my work; so with the encouragement of my friends and peers I started to create artwork for merit patches – a small part of the concept for Girth Guides but the most tangible element.
The idea was that people could validate their own experience and reward themselves for their merit. It’s about recognising how we struggle and survive and overcome. There is no measure of fatness or activism, no hurdles to jump or litmus tests.
The original Girth Guide patch collection
After an amazing crowdfunding campaign on Pozible, I was able to get 14 patches made and now I have distributed the rewards to my generous supporters I’m super pumped to announce they are now available on Fancy Lady Industries to purchase!
My personal pink collector’s sash modelled by my dress form. The whole collection of Girth Guides patches have been sewn on.
There’s a limited amount of collector’s sashes (if demand requires, I can make more!) and because I have some ultra special Patron of the Fats patches left over, I’m going to include one when you order the complete collection of patches in one transaction. These patches were offered for the very highest tier of pledges for the Pozible campaign and due to ordering minimums I do have leftovers but I do want to maintain exclusivity!
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?
I was going to write a big post about my (and Nick and Miffy’s!) appearance last night on The Project but I have compiled a rushed recap instead because I had to get off the couch to do this and we are in a co-dependent relationship. First, here is the video for your viewing pleasure (if you are outside Australia it may not work but give it a go anyway.) I’m anticipating that this embed won’t work, so here’s a link to the video on the website.
We open with the classic fat zinger footage, headless fatties and motorised scooters. Fat people going about their days having their butts filmed without permission, drinking drinks and shopping for food like they aren’t essential requirements for living or anything.
Dr Cat Pause arrives and is cute! I want to be sure to stress that we need to step away from the good fatty/ bad fatty dichotomy. It’s not helpful. Also, some fat people are unhealthy (i.e. live with disability and disease) and it’s not for reasons you might automatically assume by looking at them. Some thin people are unhealthy (i.e. live with disability and disease) and you might dismiss that because their bodies are read as healthy. Quit the oversimplification of body size, health and disability, ok? It harms people.
Screencap of Nick and I sitting on our couch.
It’s not really called Fat Pride, or that’s not what Nick and I identify with. We say we are fat activists. There are zero things wrong with being proud of your body (at whatever size) but it’s hard for many fat people to find pride because of the burden of stigma, and “fat pride” doesn’t welcome those folks. We talk about stigma, frustration, ill treatment and at a very basic level, try to reach people with the message that fat people are humans and we have heads.
Nick and I arrive. We talk about stigma against fat people. Dr Sam Thomas arrives, talks about overstatement of risks of being fat.
Screencap of Anna Peeters, expert of not letting fatties into her club. Hand drawn text says “No fatties club soz”.
Anna Peeters arrives, we are worrying her with our fatness, she is part of a society for obesity. I wonder if any fat people are in that society? Probably not. Her testimony about health risks makes aforementioned fatties seem all footloose and fancy free, but fails to consider the non-fat related illnesses they have. Also it’s very nice they care so much about scaring fat people, I wonder if Stephen King advises them on their thriller skillz. Can we get a price check on who is funding the ANZOS please? Considering Peeters worked for C.O.R.E at Monash, who are funded in part by Allergan (A LAP BAND MANUFACTURER), I am highly dubious.
Screencap of me walking Miffy on a leash, the camera is at her height! Also hearts are everywhere.
Peeters redeems the case for fat stigma when she says it exists. Unfortunately most viewers probably didn’t believe us when we said that first. Thomas agrees, SOCIETY IS FIGHTING FAT PEOPLE. All we wanna do is have a groovy time and daydream about unicorns — WAIT THERE IS MIFFY. Nick and I demonstrate that we can walk.
Screencap of a close up on my hands typing. Hand drawn text says “bloggin bloggin bloggin”.
Screen cap of me concentrating really hard on sending out laser beams.
Happy music, focus on our blogging! Dramatic music change, I am concentrating very hard on doing up a jump ring on my fat necklace for the 100th time. Peeters bastardises the Sound of Music and stages an elaborate number called, “How do you solve a problem like fat people?”
Screen cap of Nick concentrating on making people fat with laser beams.
Screenshot of The Project panelists: Lehmo, Charlie, Kath and Waleed. A speech bubble says “We have opinions” and text saying NOT FAT with arrows points to each person.
We return to comments from non-fat panelists because they have feelings and opinions.
Charlie Pickering says we do judge people based on weight. Another thin person legitimising things fat people said first! I would give him a cookie but I ate them all.
Waleed Aly pulls out the concern troll card, which coincidentally wields an internet connection and a false sense of entitlement if you look closely. He thinks we are driven to being fat by stigma. Oh so it’s not like our bodies and personal health, environment, class, race, gender have anything do do with it. Thinking is hard for many non-fat people.
Kath Robinson admirably doesn’t even bother with concern – FAT PEOPLE ARE INTENTIONALLY BEING FAT AND STIGMATISING THEMSELVES. “These people could potentially be unhealthy and risk bad health problems!” Like suicide and death by neglectful health professionals or NOT seeking medical help because they know they’ll be treated awfully! At this stage I am laughing bitterly and bringing fat forehead to fat palm with rapid and great energy.
Lehmo, who only has one name because he is special and important, winds up for his big finish: “if you need a motorised cart to get around then you need to lose weight”. What ableist guff that doesn’t consider the intersection of fat & disability! (Not that I expected that degree of nuance on a light entertainment teev program.) Fat people on scooters don’t do it because they think it’s cool and hip and that people will say “SWEET RIDE YOU ARE COOL”. Fat people on scooters get abused because they are fat and SO RUDELY using mobility tools to move about their lives!
A pencil sketch of a fat lady wearing a ruffly top and knickerbockers.
Lately I’ve been looking through my sketchbooks and revisiting bits and pieces of drawings that I want to resolve to a point where I’m a bit happier with them. This fat lady sketch is from maybe 1-2 years ago when I was fascinated by fat lady sideshow performers.
A watercolour and ink illustration of a fat white skinned lady wearing a pink ruffly top and knickerbockers. A banner behind her says, "World's fattest lady... doesn't give a fuck."
And this is my resolved drawing. It only took… uh, forever! I changed her face so she looks more smug ;)
A photo of me rolling around on the bed wearing a blue flower crown.
If you’ve signed up for the Fancy Lady Industries mailing list you probably already know that the patches and flower crowns are up on my shop, but I hadn’t posted about it on my blog because my left shoulder decided it would like very much to cause me bogloads of pain. At least today I’m feeling a bit better, and I could sew my own patch on to my jacket to show you just one way to wear it!
A photo of a fluro red and a black patch that says "big girls donut cry" around a donut, as well as a fluro red sticker with the same design.
I went through a terrible emotional/ financial journey to bring you these patches. At first I was just going to use some fabric pens I’d bought, but lots of people said they liked the donut design so I figured it’d be kinder on my hand to use my Gocco to print a limited run of patches. Sixteen bulbs and eight screens later, I finally had a properly burnt screen! This will probably be the last thing I ever print using the Gocco simply because the cost of supplies has spiraled out of control. There’s another machine called the Yudu that looks fantastic, but sadly it has been discontinued too. WHAT’S THE DEAL?!
When we move I will endeavor to learn proper screen printing so I can continue making stuff like this and t-shirts too! However! In order to move on to bigger and better things, I need capital to invest back in to Fancy Lady Industries so if you want to support me and see me create even more awesome stuff, go on and buy something from the shop! :D
A photo of my fluro red patch stitched on to the sleeve of my denim jacket.
A photo of my denim jacket, patch on sleeve and studs and spikes over the shoulder.
I wanted to have a go at putting my patch on my jacket because I haven’t sewn on a patch in years. When I was a Brownie we had these pillows that we were meant to sew our collection of badges on to but I ended up using PVA glue to attach them all because I couldn’t be bothered sewing them on. If you want to glue your patch on, make sure you fold back the raw edges behind the patch and iron them so you don’t have thread coming off all the time. On the other hand, you might like the raw edge look! It’s up to you of course.
For my patch I had to figure out how to blanket stitch again. I know there is probably a better stitch to use, but I like blanket stitch! It was a bit awkward sewing the patch on the sleeve, and I didn’t end up with a completely flat patch, but I’m okay with it. I recommend using lots of pins to position the patch, then baste around the whole thing so it doesn’t shift as you blanket stitch. Had I basted first, I probably would have had a much flatter result! (Here’s a clear “two step” blanket stitch tutorial.)
If you’d rather have someone else attach your patch, embroidery places should only charge a few dollars to run around it and it will look spiffy and profesh.
A photo of my jacket, focusing on the spikes and studs running over the shoulder.
I also added spikes and studs over each shoulder, and a heart shaped stud on each collar point; I really like the idea of turning this jacket into a living garment, one that is adapted over time to reflect my life. It’s sort of like a quilt except… badass.
To buy flower crowns, patches, fat and vain necklaces and no diet talk badges waddle over to
I bought this dress on sale about a year ago from Myer, it was reasonably priced and comfortable and at that stage I was desperate to get some casual dresses into my wardrobe. The problem with this dress is that while it’s comfortable, it’s also incredibly hard to wear without making me feel really frumpy. It has a lot of gathered stitching in odd places, from the front shoulder to the bust line and across the back, and below the bust line it just falls away. Not under the bust, the bust line, and while I try VERY HARD to practice anti-flattering dressing, it’s just not as easy to carry it out when your body is not a conventional hour glass shape.
An outfit photo of me, fat and pale skinned, wearing a dress with a mauve/ purple/ cream/ olive dot pattern, a lot of brown bead necklaces, and a thin belt with black sandals. I'm standing with Miffy, who wants her outfit photo taken too.
This morning we decided to go out for lunch and I had a dressing dilemma. Summer is a terrible sartorial period in my life because it’s so damn hot and for some reason I don’t have a very cohesive summer wardrobe. I have made a few patterned skirts but none of them go with the tops that I have! I pulled out the dreaded dress and decided to give it another go. Without anything to around my waist/ under boob area (the two are basically the same place when you have a short waist) it just made me feel very frumpy and un-finished. I pulled a studded belt out of the top of the wardrobe and put on as many beaded necklaces as I could find, and found it infinitely more wearable and less frumpy in my head. I hate wearing belts that just float around, and I really resent the designer for making this dress loose fitting from the bust line, but this is basically the best way I feel I can wear this dress.
My dress struggles reminded me that even though I (or you or anyone) can fully reject something (like the principle of flattering clothes) in theory, in practice it’s a far harder thing to carry out especially when we’ve had acceptable body shapes and sizes drilled into our heads. In some ways I feel like a hypocrite, but being gentler and more tender with myself is probably a more productive and workable approach. No fat or body acceptance activist is perfect, we all make mistakes, and sometimes we practice things that fall outside what we preach. How can I expect myself to be a perfectly radical activist in every way when I’ve grown up in the very culture I am questioning? I am not objective, I am subjective; we shouldn’t give the objective viewpoints more weight in most circumstances, we should be giving voice to the lived experience of hardship, struggle and oppression. I am feeling these shitty feelings we’ve been taught to feel. The most powerful thing is stopping for a second to listen to my self talk, then questioning why I feel the need to comply. Talking about it with other people helps a great deal, and it’s one of the reasons why I write about being fat and wearing clothes on this blog.
An outfit photo of me picking up my necklaces with one hand and the skirt of my dress with another, in a very carefree sort of "I'm a blogger lalalala" kind of way.
So I chose the option that made me feel less shit about myself in this case. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the things I have to do in order to wear clothes as per my societal contract as a human being living in a city in Australia. I chose the option that made me feel like I’d be less of a target. As a fat person who is deathfat and can not hide it, my body is hyper-visible; I felt like I’d be less of a target for people to stare at and yell things at. I also chose the option that made me feel much better about a purchase I made, because I don’t have access to a diverse range of options in a size 24-26.
A photo of Miffy reaching up to give me a high five (with both paws because her front legs are adorably tiny).
A photo of my face, smiling in a kind of very forced way.
A photo of my legs and feet standing on grass sprinkled with red poinciana flowers. I'm wearing black studded sandals.
I get lots of feedback and questions about being fat and trying to be a “good activist” all the time, and honestly, I have no idea what a “good activist” is. The best human being I can be is a transparent, tender, forgiving, accountable being; and when it comes to an area of activism like body image that is so personal and emotional, the best activist thing is kind of a false aspiration. Seek to question, critique and be accountable but also be super loving and forgiving and remember that nuance is incredibly important. If you struggle with hating your body or participating in hurtful practices but love the idea of fat and body acceptance, you are not alone. There’s lots of us standing in front of mirrors every day battling this stuff, wondering if a belt will compromise everything. But it doesn’t.
Dress: Piper Woman
Shoes: Annie (via Shoebuy.com)
Belt: From a Yours Clothing dress
Necklaces: from a variety of forgotten places
Bangles: City Chic
A photo of fat necklaces in white, red, silver mirror, green and blue.
I was sorting the pile of new fat pendants into a box with compartments to divide each colour when my mother-in-law came in with her friend and I showed them how many necklaces I was preparing to sell. They took a closer look, marveling at all the colours and how shiny the mirror one was.
“Does it say something? What does it say?”
“It says FAT!”
Ordinarily I would jump in to explain defensively, just why I had the audacity to sell necklaces with THAT WORD cut out of pretty colours in fancy letters; however I just smiled and nodded. I’m a bit tired of feeling sheepish about fat and that’s why I made these necklaces, but I realise how awkward I still feel about the F word outside my community. It’s just a word, right? No it’s not just a word. It’s an identity. It’s my body. It’s a rebellion. It’s my attitude. I don’t want to feel defensive about this part of me but it’s hard when I’ve been taught that this word, this embodiment, is so taboo.
It’s a reminder that fat acceptance, or self acceptance, isn’t a destination. It’s lots of little steps, it’s sitting down for a while to reflect on how far I’ve come, and it’s the chub rub between my thighs from making it to this point.
An outfit photo of me with shoulder length blonde hair extensions wearing a white singlet with a red knee length skirt and a denim jacket.
No, this isn’t a photo from two years ago, and my hair hasn’t magically grown… it’s from Wednesday and I’m wearing hair extensions! Nick and I met up with Dr Lauren and Isaac from Griffith Uni to discuss our involvement in an exciting fat studies project, and as Nick took these photos we had Isaac taking photos of us and Lauren taking photos of him taking photos of us. It was all rather meta.
A portrait photo of me with the hair pieces in my hair and a blue scarf wrapped around my head. The hair is pinned half up and the ends sit on my shoulders in very loose curls.
I’ve been having a hair crisis for the past few weeks and having dyed my almost white hair back to brown, I actually added blonde back into it because I received some Lady Jayne hair extensions in the mail to trial and review. The colour of the extensions didn’t match my dark hair at all so I went in search of a streaking kit and enlisted Nick’s help in my DIY hair salon. I’m not a huge fan of proper salons, as you might know, and mostly always play around with my hair at home. Fortunately I’ve had a streak of successes recently (instantrimshot.com) and was pleased that my home dye job was a pretty good match with the hair pieces I was sent.
A photo of me from the back/ side, the extensions are half piled on the top of my head.
When I first clipped in the extensions I was pretty alarmed because my hair is so short at the back that they don’t blend at all. I experimented with pinning a few sections up loosely and decided to go with it! I’m sure with a bit more time I could style them a bit more neatly, with a little back coming and strategic pinning, but I’m always a fan of messy hair. For a seamless result with clip in hair extensions, it’s probably better to have more length in the back.
The Lady Jayne extensions are synthetic hair, and while they can’t be dyed they can be heat styled up to 210˚C. I own a set of very expensive extensions that I could probably dye to match my current hair colour, but I’m loath to touch them for fear of ruining them! What I noticed about the difference between my set and these Lady Jayne hair extensions was that the latter seems to be a lot fuller and thicker, with clips all along the top and two at the bottom of base of the extension. I used two of the 30 cm hair extensions in golden blonde and they didn’t move all morning, even though my hair is about 2″ long at the back and I didn’t backcomb it before clipping the pieces in.
As I wear the extensions and figure out how to do different styles with them I’ll post updates; I’m pretty excited to have longer hair again, even if my natural hair is a touch too short and I have to play around with the extensions so it doesn’t look like I have the most ridiculous mullet ever.
A photo of Miffy standing on grass, smiling for the camera.
This has been an obligatory Miffy photo!
An outfit photo of me, fat and pale skinned, wearing a white singlet top, red knee length skirt and denim jacket with black flats.
A side view of me in my outfit, as I pull a gleeful face.
I bought this red skirt for $4 from a local op shop (or, thrift shop for overseas folks). I’ve written a list of all the op shops in our area and I’m going to be hitting them up over the next few weeks to decipher which ones are rubbish and which are worthy of revisiting. So far, the only one worth going back to is the one I bought this skirt from, Salvos at Palm Beach. They have three and a bit racks of plus size clothing, and while it’s not all great it’s good fun to look through.
The second photo up there is one I had Nick take especially for an awesome new Tumblr called Fat From the Side. It’s all about showing fat bodies from, uh, the side because most outfit photos only show bloggers from the front and when many people see their own bodies from the side, or in other angles, they feel uncomfortable. So I’m going to make a concerted effort to include more angles of my outfits on here from now on! We have three dimensional bodies, dammit, and the front 180˚ isn’t the whole picture.
Singlet: Sara Jacket: New Look
Necklace: Made by me
We moved down to the Gold Coast this week and it’s been intense! Fortunately the move went smoothly and we’ve only lost the TV remote control in transit and pinched a few nerves. Protip: Use your knees when lifting and tape your remote to your TV.
We came back to Brisbane on Thursday and stayed with my Mum and Dad overnight to tidy up a few loose ends, and also to attend a talk by Dr Samantha Thomas at Griffith University. It was great to catch up with Sam again and introduce her to the Brisbane crowd for an evening of raucous laughter, drinks at Archive and delicious Thai food at Sawadee Ka.
A photo of me posing in front of the hollow brick cream wall wearing a purple floral dress and turquoise cardigan.
An outfit photo of me, fat and pale skinned with short blonde hair, wearing a purple floral dress, turquoise cardigan and purple tights with navy and white wedge shoes.
This will be my last outfit in front of the awesome wall at our old place in Coorparoo. A few people on Twitter said they’d miss it so I had to get Nick to snap some photos when we stopped in to do a few things.
I’ve posted photos of me in this dress before, and didn’t have time to iron it, but it’s still fabulous. I wanted to be super visible today and I’m fairly sure I achieved that!
Cardigan: City Chic
Tights: We Love Colors
Sunglasses: Giant Vintage
Necklaces: Markets and my fat necklace in pink.
A photo of Samantha, Sonia, me, Zoe and Lauren in a group smiling and looking fancy and chummy.
An outfit photo of Zoe, fat and pale skinned, holding her thick rimmed glasses on her face, wearing a black dress with black mesh panel tights, scarf and floral docs.
An outfit photo of Sonia, fat and pale skinned, leaning against a railing wearing a black dress, jacket tights and knee high lace up boots with a red scarf.
An outfit photo of me, still wearing the purple floral dress and turquoise cardi, posing like a menswear model pointing into the sky in front of a wall with "Lecture Theatre" written on it. I'm always exited to be in a uni because I'm a uni drop-out!
A photo of Zoe and I in matching "I'm poopin" poses, crouched over with strained looks on our faces. I don't even know if I can explain where this pose comes from but it's becoming a tradition!
A photo of Nick and I showing our colour coordinating outfits. Nick is wearing a purple polo shirt with jeans and coordinates perfectly with me!
A photo of an altered chandelier-style light fitting in Archive Beer Boutique with book pages hanging from each arm. It throws a nice shadow on the ceiling.
A photo of a bar at Archive Beer Boutique that is built with books!
A photo of a lounge chair with floral tapestry upholstry at Archive Beer Boutique.
A photo of Zoe and Lauren at Archive .
A photo of Sonia and Samantha sitting on lounge seats; Sam has her hand around Sonia's shoulder and is making a cheeky squinty smile.
A photo of Jennifer looking down and smiling.
I’m sorry there are so many photos but I wanted to share! We had such a great night. It’s fabulous knowing so many awesome people doing great things in the world. I’m both humbled and invigorated being around folks like these.
In related news, I’d love to get together with fatshion bloggers from Brisbane and surrounding areas for a meetup. Who would like to come? What should we do? Where shall we go?! It’d be so great to connect with local bloggers and readers of fatshion blogs so we can develop a stronger local community. Please let me know what you think if you’re from south east Queensland!
I attended the 4zzz Megaherzzz Clothing Swap today, and it was a little bittersweet finally getting to hang around such rad people before I move down the coast. Community is so important to me, but dealing with social anxiety is a huge barrier so I’ve found my community online over the past decade. I’ve wanted to connect with local feminists and activists recently but today was my first real attempt! This has only firmed my resolve to do more community stuff when I go down the Gold Coast.
A photo of a room full of people moving about and holding up clothes that are piled on tables.
A photo of Kat holding up a cream dress, there's a board full of colourful jewellery just in front of her too.
A photo of Ava Savage (I think! Let me know if I've got your name wrong!) holding jeans up amidst the clothing swap bustle.
A clothes hanger full of jackets and coats in different fabrics and textures.
A pair of pink/ orange opal looking plastic earrings on the jewellery board.
I took the opportunity to do a massive wardrobe purge for the swap, and brought along a lot of plus size clothing. I tried to get the word out on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook and to encourage more plus size people to come along but there weren’t many of us! I was happy to pass my clothes on to other people without looking for swaps, because I am minimising in preparation for the move, but I wished there were more people there I could have given my clothes to. (All the unclaimed clothes are going to Lifeline so at least they will be getting an influx of my quality plus sized clothing!)
Today reminded me again that I have a body that has been sidelined by our culture. If you wear plus sized clothing, you get closed out of a lot of spaces. Physically, medically, romantically, in your career, and in terms of fashion. I love the idea of clothing swaps but have experienced just how difficult it is to encourage fat people to take part and I think it has a lot to do with feeling that we’re not welcome and that there will be nothing available for us. In the future I would love to help organise swapping events that cater specifically to people who wear plus size clothing. In addition to providing a space where people will feel like they know they can swap clothes in their size, it would also be a more comfortable space. Even though I wasn’t swapping today, I did pick through the piles of clothing and found little for me. To be fat is to take up space, and when you’re not involved you can feel like you’re in the way, and that’s another barrier for fat people when it comes to clothes swap events.
My experience today was not an isolated one, and I think if we can develop a strong sense of local community amongst feminists, activists, women and fat people, we can work together to make more comfortable, resourceful and meaningful spaces. I see some fabulous fat activist communities working together to build resources for clothing and swapping in the USA particularly, and pine for that kind of community here in Australia, particularly in Brisbane. Even so, I do have a network of supportive fat activists and friends here in this city and I know I will grieve that when I move.
Oh and here’s what Zoe and I wore today, representing the fat femmes of Brisbane!
An outfit photo of Zoe, fat and pale skinned, wearing a short black dress with a lace collar, grey cardigan, purple tights and floral Doc Martens. She has a hand in her hair and looks down, very lookbook.nu!
An outfit photo of me, fat and pale skinned with short blonde swoopy hair, wearing a black velvet long top with a grey tie dye maxi skirt knotted over black tights with black sandals.
We walked into a few boutiques in Fortitude Valley and I felt like my imposter feelings were magnified. I looked at accessories and even the rings and bangles didn’t fit me. The shop assistants either glared or crowded around us asking if Zoe and I were hairdressers because of our “edgy hair”. One touched my tattoo, actually tracing around it with her finger. It was not a nice feeling.
It just makes me feel even more motivated to create spaces that make people feel good and not isolated or ostracised! Can I build a kick arse, supportive, size friendly community down the Gold Coast? Are you living on the Gold Coast? Do you crave this like I do? Gosh, please get in touch!
I'm a fat, crafty lady who lives just outside Brisbane, Australia with my husband and my one-eyed dog. I'm an avid pen collector who holds funerals for them when they die. I've been wearing clothes since 1980 and sewing them since 1995.
I make jewellery and other trinkets and sell it all on Fancy Lady Industries.