Politicizing Plus-Size Fashion with Blogger Brooklyn Boobala

Posted by on October 21, 2013

Walk into almost any department store and head to the plus-size section. What do you find? Nine times out of ten you’re going to be looking at some dumpy, shapeless sweaters and sad, tapered pants with elastic waistbands. Essentially, you’re going to find a lot of frumpy, poor-fitting clothes that vaguely remind you of your great grandmother. Plus-size clothes are so matronly for one simple reason: designers believe that plus-size women should be invisible. Society sends a similar message to the elderly, as well, that if you’re above a certain age, you do not deserve to be noticed and you do not deserve interesting and innovative fashion. Retailers consistently tell plus-size women that they are not as good as their thin customers. And it needs to stop.

Katy M., 34, a resident of Brooklyn, refuses to let society shame her figure, and she will not allow her body to be ignored. In fact, Katy tries to push the fashion envelope as much as she can to combat this sick trend of fat-shaming that permeates our society. “I wear dresses like most people wear jeans,” says Katy. “They’re fancy, effortless, and comfortable. People wonder why I’m always dressed up, but considering the stereotype of fat people wearing dumpy dresses and matronly attire, I think I’m part of a really great push for fashion to fit any figure.”

Katy, the owner of a Brooklyn-based business, blogs about her life, fashion, feminism, and cats at Brooklyn Boobala, which she created as a safe space for her to learn her true self-worth and how to love herself.

Katy says that she is endlessly inspired by the world around her and that she tries to stay creative no matter what is happening in her life. Credit: Brooklyn Boobala

Katy says that she is endlessly inspired by the world around her and that she tries to stay creative no matter what is happening in her life. Credit: Brooklyn Boobala

Like so many of the other plus-size fashion bloggers that we have featured, Katy finds her biggest fashion inspirations from other plus-size women who take the time to share their “Outfit of the Day” (OotD) images online, usually via Tumblr. Katy also admires high fashion and couture from afar, and she loves to see punk fashion icon Beth Ditto rock a great designer dress.

Since plus-size options are few and far between, Katy says it's important to be crafty and to think outside the box. Credit: Brooklyn Boobala

Since plus-size options are few and far between, Katy says it’s important to be crafty and to think outside the box. Credit: Brooklyn Boobala

Jane: What advice would you give to plus-size women who are struggling to find clothes that inspire them while shopping?

Katy: It’s really hard to find clothing in size fat. Especially within a budget. I’m so blessed that at this point in my life I can blow a wad on clothes and really feel out my options. I suggest visiting the Tumblr tags for fatshion to see what strikes your fancy. You might find a brand that has a style that speaks to you – whether it’s pin-up or super casual or gothic Lolita. Experimenting is key, but I know that takes money. If you get online and start poking around, you may find some plus size swaps or thrift shops with plus size selections. Strength in numbers, y’all. Make fat friends, even if it’s just online. You’ll start to see more of yourself being represented, and you’ll start noticing styles and outfits that really speak to you.

Jane: What’s the best shopping experience that you’ve ever had?

Katy: I remember my first time walking into Lee Lee’s Valise in Brooklyn. Lisa, the owner, told me why she wanted to create a boutique for plus size women. It had everything to do with her experiences as a plus size woman shopping. We shared horror stories, and then I went and bought up a bunch of her pretty dresses! Same goes for Re/Dress, a vintage/thrift plus size shop in Brooklyn that has since closed down [ed note: Re/Dress now has a new location in Cleveland].

Jane: Do you feel that these plus-size-centric shops tend to provide a more positive shopping experience overall?

Katy: The opening of these shops seemed in direct correlation to the lack of representation these women felt in the retail industry, and a need to create a safe space for fat women to shop. Because it’s true, it’s really hard to be a fat woman shopping. When I go shopping with my skinny friends, I get a lot of looks. I’ve even gotten an, “Oh, no, we don’t go up to your size,” or “Hmm, no, you won’t fit into that,” to which I’ve always shrugged and gone on to look at earrings or purses. I’ve learned to not let it get to me, but I must say…for years, shopping was torture. Pure torture. The looks, the comments, the fitting room girl’s unwanted critiques, the constant suggestion that I buy Spanx…I mean, I’m trying to spend my money. Why won’t someone make things for me so I can spend my money? Gah!

Being fat and visible means you’re out there, exposed to opinions, harassment, and critiques. Katy says that her fatshion is political. She glams it up and hams it up, all in the name of equal representation. Credit: Brooklyn Boobala

Being fat and visible means you’re out there, exposed to opinions, harassment, and critiques. Katy says that her fatshion is political. She glams it up and hams it up, all in the name of equal representation. Credit: Brooklyn Boobala

Jane: What’s your favorite piece in your wardrobe?

Katy: It’s very hard to choose a favorite piece, because I’ve so painstakingly built my wardrobe from such limited options. I have a lace dress that is so cute I want to cry. One of my go-to formal dresses is a vintage IGIGI from eons ago. It’s a silky fabric with a silhouette floral pattern and when I wear it, I feel like a goddess.

Jane: Would you say that that is a goal of fashion? To feel empowered?

Katy: I’d say that is the ultimate goal of fashion – feeling personally and bodily empowered to the point of bursting at the seams with joy in your own appearance, no matter what you look like, and no matter what society labels you.

If you want to dress like Katy, she recommends trying out the IGIGI Keira Beaded Dress, with which she would wear all of her favorite gold jewelry – particularly, her deer antler and fox rings and her gaudy Victorian-esque earrings. Katy says that she would then top off the ensemble with some cute gold shoes and a clutch, and get ready to hit the town – sparkling!

As far as Katy’s future, she plans to continue being fat, fatshionable, and unapologetic, all while fighting for visibility and representation by talking about these topics. “Fat is not a dirty word,” says Katy. “I’m tired of being treated as though this is my temporary form – that I’m trying to lose weight or get surgery. Nope. This is me. I am me. Take it or leave it. I’m quite happy, living a full life, with a thriving business, good friends, good lookin’ fellas, and nothing in my way but society and its stupid ideals!”

If you want to contact Katy or see some more of her awesome ensembles, check in with her on her blog – Brooklyn Boobala.

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