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Why I Never Read the Comments – Plus-size Women in the Online Community

Posted by on September 30, 2013

Part of the danger of being so immersed in an online community (namely the plus-size, body-positive online community) is that I often forget that not everyone is as evolved as the gorgeous, supportive, eloquent women (and sometimes men) that I have chosen to surround myself with. I am consistently reminded of this fact whenever some piece of news, blog post, or even the occasional photoset of a plus-size woman goes viral, and suddenly the mainstream takes note of the empowering work that these women are doing – to very mixed reviews.

Someone recently told me that my community could be considered a crutch; that my friends are too supportive, too understanding, too unabashedly confident. They never feel the need to judge or criticize others for being themselves and they deserve to be supremely proud of that fact. Maybe it’s my fault that my friends are just too good or maybe, just maybe, everyone else needs to catch up and get on our level.

My closest friends are a diverse and supportive group of wonderful women that promote body positivity and equality in every aspect of their lives.

My closest friends are a diverse and supportive group of wonderful women that promote body positivity and equality in every aspect of their lives.

When the Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries’ disgusting, body-shaming comments started circulating last Spring, there was an outpouring of thoroughly negative responses from plus-size and standard-size consumers alike. I’m not sure if any of them were as humorous, charming or effective as the open letter that plus-size blogger Jes “The Militant Baker” wrote to Jeffries on her blog, which was then picked up by BuzzFeed. The letter included pictures from a photo shoot that Jes orchestrated and modeled in, featuring herself and a conventionally attractive male model (one of the “cool people” that Jeffries is trying to market to) in various sultry poses with the tagline “Attractive & Fat.”

In her letter, Jes wrote:

“The juxtaposition of uncommonly paired bodies is visually jarring, and, even though I wish it didn’t, it causes viewers to feel uncomfortable. This is largely attributed to companies like yours that perpetuate the thought that fat women are not beautiful. This is inaccurate, but if someone were to look through your infamous catalog, they wouldn’t believe me.”

Jes the Militant Baker

Jes “The Militant Baker” recently posts about issues concerning women like body positivity and feminism. Credit: The Militant Baker

The unfettered gloriousness of Jes’ prose and images brought a tear to my eye and I scrolled through the letter several times before I noticed the comments featured underneath the page. There were a decent amount of “You go girl!” and “She’s so pretty!” comments under Jes’ letter , but unfortunately, there were the usual nasty, fat-shaming comments like “She is not a healthy weight,” and “Fat is never attractive.”

Many commenters were quick to identify their body type in their comments, such as “I’m overweight, but trying to lose weight,” or “I’m not heavy,” in an attempt to justify their words. Now, there is nothing wrong with healthy dieting. If that’s something that you want to do – go for it. There’s also nothing wrong with not dieting. Weight does not dictate health and the biggest problem with the commenters underneath this article was that they immediately assumed Jes was unhealthy based on her size and, therefore, needed to diet.

If you are not familiar with BuzzFeed’s platform, the site uses your Facebook account when you are commenting, so your full Facebook name and profile picture are visible when you post underneath an article. There is no hiding behind anonymity.

I was scrolling through the comments, getting more and more incensed, when I saw a post by someone who I knew in real life: a girl who attends my university. Her statements were decidedly anti-Jes, and she wrote that “she had no idea” why Jes would do this photo shoot, that “the ads weren’t attractive,” and that “obese people can change if they work at it.”

Aside from the fact that these comments are rude, offensive, and bigoted, her identity was equally hurtful to me. While this was not a girl who I considered a good friend, but I had met her on several occasions and spoken with her multiple times about various school related matters.

It was an eye-opening moment for me. It is easy to brush aside rude comments on the internet when these comments are made by virtual villains. However, knowing that it was someone who existed in my personal, physical world made her offensive comments so much more shocking. Not to say that I have never had someone make a rude comment about my weight before or that I’ve never been a victim of bullying, but to see the true colors of someone with whom you have had perfectly pleasant interactions can be alarming.

You can't always pick your family, but you can pick your friends. So don't allow yourself to welcome negativity into your life.

You can’t always pick your family, but you can pick your friends. So don’t allow yourself to welcome negativity into your life.

So I stopped reading the comments. On this story, and on all plus-size positive news stories. I can’t personally educate every wrong person on the internet (sadly), but I can decide not to let their comments affect my life. Ergo, I surround myself with positive people, I shop with companies that are supportive of me, like IGIGI, I write about issues that are important to me, and I give other plus-size women a platform where they discuss their lives and their bodies safely.

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“We Live in the Golden Age for Fat Fashion” – Talking with Plus-size Fashion Blogger Beck Poppins

Posted by on September 26, 2013

Every time you step up to the checkout line at the grocery store, your eyes are assailed with dozens of images and taglines from various magazines advertising how to dress your body type in the most flattering light, how to get better abs, how to achieve those enviable Michelle Obama upper arms, or maybe there is even a way to get a total head transplant ,because why not? Who cares how you feel if you look great? Women are told early on that they should find fault with their bodies. Young girls are told that they are too fat, too skinny, too freckly, too pale, and the list goes on.

Luckily, some people find fault with that line of thinking, and instead of just trying to ignore it they confront and combat it with a torrent of body positivity. Beck Poppins, a 25-year-old baker from Cleveland, Ohio, and a for-fun pop culture and fashion blogger, describes her personal fashion as “widowed fairytale princess.”

Lace, tasteful rhinestones and unusual accessories like fans, wigs and unique vintage pieces are the standout details in her wardrobe. She only owns one pair of jeans and that is a fact of which she is extremely proud. “I’ve fully embraced semiformal dresses as a life choice. My closet is split between black and pastels, with a few pops of color here or there. I always want to display myself as completely feminine and completely whimsical,” says Beck.

When looking for icons to inspire her fashion, Beck gravitates towards fashion risk takers like Debbie Harry, Dita Von Teese, and the Japanese artist Minori. Credit: Beck Poppins

When looking for icons to inspire her fashion, Beck gravitates towards fashion risk takers like Debbie Harry, Dita Von Teese, and the Japanese artist Minori. Credit: Beck Poppins

The most impressive and inspiring aspect of Beck’s style is its variability. Beck does not allow words like “flattering” to dictate what she wants to wear and as a result, her outfits are supremely successful and incredibly creative.

Beck talked with IGIGI about her style and the effects that the media can have on women’s confidence.

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

Beck: As a plus-size person, these media outlets and concepts are not aimed at making you feel your best or dress in a way that makes you feel special. Look at the art and films you already love and find your personal style. Once you know what you want to look like and how you want to dress, then you can start looking for clothing. Shop with a mission: ‘I have always wanted a teal sequin dress, I shall have a teal sequin dress.’ We live in the golden age for fat fashion, believe it or not.

Jane: Do you find that there is more support or options for plus-size women online?

Beck: Online stores have opened up so many doors, and better yet, the Internet has given us sites like Etsy where you can find great artists who can custom-make things for your size.

Jane: Are you ever discouraged when you’re trying on clothes that just don’t seem to work?

Beck: Never forget clothing can change – if you find a dress and its just a bit too long, it can be hemmed, or the sleeves can be let out, or buttons replaced. Don’t let fashion boss you around or make you feel like your body should conform to it

Jane: Have you ever felt unwelcome or unsupported while shopping at a brick-and-mortar store?

Beck: I can remember one nasty sales woman at a department store. I was trying on a stack of dresses because they were having a sale on formal wear and she followed me back to the dressing room. As I was trying things on, she was yelling through the door, ‘Don’t force any zippers if it doesn’t fit! Don’t stretch anything out! If it’s too small just leave it on the hanger!’ Just all this weird, misplaced negativity that she would have never yelled at a thin costumer. I don’t let that stuff get me down anymore. Now I shop exclusively at stores that treat me with complete dignity and I would suggest to anyone who has suffered discrimination at a store, never go back, never give them a penny, and always write to the store’s owners. Never let that nasty rude behavior slide.

Beck unapologetically loves her body at all times, even in "gross sweatpants," because as important and fun as fashion can be, self-love is important always, even when you look your worst. Credit: Beck Poppins

Beck unapologetically loves her body at all times, even in “gross sweatpants,” because as important and fun as fashion can be, self-love is important always, even when you look your worst. Credit: Beck Poppins

Stores and designers that specifically cater to plus-size women, like IGIGI, provide a more supportive and helpful customer service experience overall, with absolutely no body-shaming allowed. Beck recommends the beaded IGIGI Keira dress for those who are looking to copy her fabulous look. “It has two of my favorite things, a deep square neckline and three-quarter sleeves! The beading looks amazing,” says Beck. “It’s also so hard for tall women to find evening dresses in a length that goes past the knee. I feel like it would be a beautiful dress to go to the theater in. I personally would love to see it with a little brass tiara or gold laurel inspired headband, long black evening gloves, black tights and some gold trimmed heels, really play up the wicked queen fantasy that the beading on the skirt inspires.”

Thank you Beck for taking the time to talk with IGIGI and to keep up with Beck or talk to her yourself, make sure to follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.

Have you ever been dissatisfied with your experience in a store? Tell IGIGI and Beck in the comments.

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The Art of the Selfie, and Why Plus-Size Fashionistas Should Embrace Them

Posted by on September 24, 2013

Love it, hate it, selfies have gone legit. In August, the Oxford English Dictionary officially added “selfie” to its virtual pages, along with a variety of other pop-culture-heavy, conversational gems like fauxhawk, jorts, and twerk. According to the good ‘ol Oxford dictionary, selfie is defined as:

• selfie, n. (informal): a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn’t necessary. 

With all due respect to the ladies and gents running things at Oxford University Press, I’m  a firm believer in daily selfies. While I don’t necessarily feel the need to post pictures of myself everyday on my various social media, I think that taking daily selfies can be helpful, inspirational, and even therapeutic.

Here is a collection of some of my various selfies taken the last couple of months. When I take a selfie, it is often for purely personal use to double check my outfit.

Here is a collection of some of my various selfies taken the last couple of months. When I take a selfie, it is often for purely personal use to double check my outfit.

Sites like Instagram, with their flattering and vaguely artistic filters, encourage selfie culture.  The New York Times even ran an article in September about how Instagram is inspiring the fashion world by serving as an eclectic, virtual look book. According to the article, “In the broadest sense, Instagram functions as a crowd-friendly extension of the traditional trunk show, in which clients could order variations on a design.” Many designers and brands like IGIGI, Michael Kors, Jason Wu and Diane von Furstenberg use Instagram as a way to connect with their fans and allow shoppers to actually inspire their collections through direct comments and occasional contests. Those same designers are not shy about posting their own selfies: last week, Diane von Furstenberg herself posted a selfie lying in bed after a long day at New York Fashion week.

Selfies allow people to connect and inspire, but for me and for many like-minded fashion addicts, selfies are a way to share our design aesthetic and the cool details in our “outfits of the day,” or to use the popular Instagram hashtag, #OotD. They’re also a great way to check your outfit. Have you ever put together an outfit that you thought was perfect and then cringed when you saw the photos appear on Facebook? Selfies are my own personal cure for outfit remorse. By snapping a quick mirror pic, I can see the entirety of my body through another lens, look at how the fabric is laying, and inspect an improvised cuff before going off and facing the day. As a plus-size woman, I frequently find myself improvising looks from various thrifted and altered pieces that I rig up, and selfies give me a way to test these looks and feed my narcissism just a little bit  – and honestly, couldn’t we all use a small ego-boost every now and then?

There is even an argument to be made that selfies might become as popular and as much as a fashion staple as street style photography. Nanette Lepore mentioned in the same New York Times article that her most recent resort collection, which premiered at Fashion Week, was influenced by girls taking selfies on Venice Beach. “‘We were inspired by how these girls just go out in the street and take pictures of themselves,” Lepore said.

Vogue is also jumping on the selfie train. The magazine staff posted this selfie of Anna Wintour reading Vogue on the official Vogue Instagram account as part of a promotion about Vogue’s famed September Issue, encouraging readers and fans to upload their own selfies with the hashtag #voguestagram, to create more commentary and connection.

Unfortunately, there is still a decent amount of criticism when it comes to selfie-culture. Critics claim that the act of taking a selfie is annoying, insecure, and self-obsessed. Yet, I think that there is something inherently brave in posting a selfie. Everyone who views the image can tell that you took the photo and clearly felt comfortable enough to post it online, meaning that you obviously think you look good. What could show more confidence than telling the world that you like how you look and this is how you’re choosing to present yourself? So no more selfie-shaming! Be brave, be confident, be creative, and embrace all of your angles.

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An Interview with Allie Krystal, the Curvy Canadian Bombshell Blogger from “Ailurophile with Style”

Posted by on September 23, 2013

There is a definite lack of visibility of plus-size bodies in the entertainment industry. Very few confident, plus-size women appear on popular, mainstream TV shows and movies. And even when plus-size women are depicted, their size is often a major plot point rather than their personality (thank goodness for Retta’s unapologetically fabulous portrayal of Donna Meagle on the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation). Due to this lack of representation, many plus-size women with an interest in fashion often take to the Internet via blogging sites like Tumblr, or other social media sites like Instagram, in order to give both their bodies and their fashion sense the attention and visibility they deserve. One such blogger is Allie Krystal, a 23-year-old political science undergrad at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, who blogs via Tumblr and Instagram at the handle “Ailurophile with Style.”

Allie Krystal

Allie feels that all plus-size women and men have faced size discrimination at one point or another while shopping. Credit: Allie Krystal

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Day to Night: IGIGI’s Mara Dress and Our 5 Top Tips for Finding the Perfect Plus-Sized Versatile Dress

Posted by on September 19, 2013

Every once in a while you slip into a dress and immediately feel awesome. That happened today when I put on the IGIGI Mara dress in Imperial Blue. Whenever I’m at home online shopping, there are a few specific key words that I constantly search for: dresses with pockets, oversized crop tops (child of the 90’s) and dolman sleeves. So I was too excited when I found this gorgeous dress with dolman sleeves on IGIGI’s site and it was *gasp* on sale. The dress is fully lined so it slides perfectly over the body and it has a really interesting knotted drape detail on the side which I had not been expecting, but it is incredibly helpful in hiding my tummy. The draping pulls across the waist and made my body look long and statuesque, which at 5’6” it is decidedly not. I did not feel like this dress needed a wealth of accessories, so I just threw on a layered pewter necklace and a pair of black suede heels.

I wore the Mara dress to a lunch meeting at a friend's country club and I felt perfectly dressed. The heels might have been a bit much, but high heels always give me a huge burst of confidence. 

I wore the Mara dress to a lunch meeting at a friend’s country club and I felt perfectly dressed. The heels might have been a bit much, but high heels always give me a huge burst of confidence. 

Part of what makes this dress so great is its versatility. I wore this dress with a blazer and flats for work and got a lot of compliments on it at the office. The bateau neckline runs right across my collarbone and it makes the dress even more elegant since it adds that whole Audrey Hepburn look to any dress.

The length of this dress is truly knee-length, but the skirt of the dress closes in the front which serves as a slit and adds a little bit of sexiness.

The length of this dress is truly knee-length, but the skirt of the dress closes in the front which serves as a slit and adds a little bit of sexiness.

When looking for a dress that can easily transition from work to day to night I have five details that I always look for:

1. Fabric: Unfortunately, there are very few fabrics that can transition easily for any situation or event. Jersey is one of the only fabrics that is appropriate for both day and night. It’s also wrinkle-free which is a huge bonus for me. Cotton is ideal for day only and materials like rayon and spandex tend to be better for evening looks.

2. Color or pattern: If I’m truly looking for a transitional dress, I rarely choose a patterned dress because I want total variability. However, certain basic patterns like polka-dots and stripes are simple and uniform enough that they are essentially solids and therefore easier to adapt. The simple, but rich royal blue of the Mara dress is good for both day and night and the rich color gives a real vibrancy to my look instead of another little black dress. Solid hued dresses can be just as slimming as an LBD.

3. Neckline: For night, I tend to look for deeper necklines, but a bateau, or boat neckline, is incredibly elegant and creates a frame around the face to draw attention. For day, I would wear my hair down with a bateau and allow my hair to close the frame, but for night I would put my hair up and add a little extra eyeliner to make my eyes the center of attention.

4. Length: Length can be tricky when seeking versatile pieces, but it never hurts to play it safe with a knee-length dress. The layered skirt of the Mara dress gives the visual effect of a slit which will be even more apparent and allow me to show a little extra skin when dancing at night.

5. Comfort: In my mind, if I’m not comfortable in an outfit – it’s not worth it. The jersey fabric, with the dolman sleeves and the flattering draping makes this dress supremely comfortable and I would be able to wear it all day and well into the night.

The Mara dress also comes in "Majesty Purple."

The Mara dress also comes in “Majesty Purple.”

Edith Head once said, “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.” I think that the careful draping, but slinky jersey of this dress fits the bill. Where did you find your first “perfect” plus-size dress? Tell me in the comments.

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