8.07.2016

Body Politics and the Not-So-Little Black Swimsuit

It has been a while since I did a post focusing on body image, so I figured what better way to do it than with a fashion-y photo shoot wearing a not so-little black swimsuit!
Swimsuit:  GabiFresh for Swimsuits for All (Available here)
I love fashion, but swimwear has always been the last bastion for me in regards to sharing my style with others.  When you feel insecure about your body, you don't really want to show more of it off.  Wearing swimsuits have long been a source of anxiety for many of us who find fault with our bodies, but I realized something over the last few years as I started wearing more swimwear and as I tried out bikinis again.  MY BODY DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT (whatever perfection means anyway).  I don't owe my skinniness or curves or any aspect of my body to anyone at all.   
Shoes:  Amazon.com
My body doesn't have to be beautiful to anyone, and the more I wear swimsuits out in public, the more I learn not to care about what others think.  The more I wear swimsuits out in public or post photos of myself wearing them on the internet, the more that I realize that no one else cares all that much either.  If there were haters, I didn't see them, if for no other reason than I chose not to.  Certainly, nobody was so obnoxious as to force me to see them, which is a privilege that I will discuss more later.  Instead, I got the pleasure of spending the last week playing on the beach and in the  pool with my kids and husband, soaking in the sun while laying on the sand, giving little to no concern to the judgments of others.
Jacket:  Eloquii (No longer available; see here)
While taking these photos, I saw other people on the beach of all shapes and sizes.  I had momentary whims of thinking that these people were mocking me, laughing at me, or simply wondering, "who does this chubby girl think she is"?  I also had moments of feeling mysterious, which was a little fun.  At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what other people were saying or thinking - I was having too much fun posing, enjoying the waves crash over me, and feeling the sun on my chub to worry about anyone else for too long!  Whatever they were saying or thinking, bad OR good, it really doesn't matter.  Their thoughts and actions are a reflection of them, not me!
Sunglasses:  Tory Burch
All that said, my own confidence isn't really what this post is about.  Today, I'm talking about the issue of size and whether someone like me has a right to consider themselves a representative for the plus size community or a (plus size) body positive advocate.
When I first started blogging, I wore almost exclusively straight size clothing. While I was overweight, I considered myself a petite blogger more than a curvy or plus size blogger.  Having been every size between 0 and 16, I have always been petite.  While I had deep-seated, long-term insecurities about my fat, real or imagined, my identity as a girl and woman was even more tied to being short.

Being only 4'9", I'm smaller everywhere than an average-sized woman.  My shoulders are narrower, my legs and arms are shorter, I have a shorter torso, and my overall frame is smaller.  This means that I wear smaller size clothing than someone who is 8-10 inches taller than me but with similar overall height to width ratio.  What does this mean?  It means that I was wearing a size 10 or 12 when someone taller than me might have been wearing a 14 or 16.  Being a smaller person was a source of pride for me when I thought that taking up more space by having excess fat was nothing but bad.
Being plus size was a fear of mine.  I grew up around plus size women, some of whom were very negative about their bodies.  I saw being fat as a negative and being plus size as the truest definition of being fat (though in reality, plus size women have varying amounts of body fat and come in all body shapes).  

I rejected the plus size label for myself.  I didn't wear plus size clothing, so I wasn't plus size, right?  Technically correct, but the bottom line is that at a size 10 or 12, especially at my height, I felt much more of a connection with my plus size sisters than I did with many of my straight size ones.  Due to my own insecurities, I also felt much more comfortable with them, like I was with people who could really understand my insecurities even if I wasn't always open with how I feared being plus size like them.  
When I first started blogging, I would get an occasional comment that referred to me as plus size.  At first this bothered me - let me keep it real, it really embarrassed me.  I felt a need to reject this label and explain to others that no, I was not plus size. I wore mostly straight size and petite straight size clothing.  I wasn't plus size.  Those jeans I bought from Torrid in their smallest size were too big in the waist, but they came with an extra short inseam that was hard to find anywhere.  I wasn't plus size.  I had to justify myself, remove the cognitive dissonance I had that people thinking I was plus size was people thinking I was fat, surely fatter than I really was, right?  And ultimately, that being fat was nothing but negative, about the most unattractive a woman could be.  My fat made me feel unattractive because I was taught to think that way from the media, family and friends, fashion magazines, pretty much everywhere.  People thinking that I was plus size just seemed to validate my own feelings of inadequacy and un-attractiveness.
This was all so ridiculous.  I knew so many fat, beautiful, amazing women in my life, women who were plus size and who I found to be extremely attractive.  Women who I aspired to be like because they were successful, smart, confident, and inspiring in a range of ways.  One of those women is the gorgeous, uber-talented Marie Denee of The Curvy Fashionista (TCF).  As I started writing as a contributor for TCF, one of the most popular plus size focused fashion blogs on the net, I gained exposure and started seeing more people refer to me as plus size.  I also saw people question my plus size status since I sometimes was featured wearing straight-sized clothing from Ann Taylor NY&Co., or The Limited.  I also saw a lot of love and acceptance from the plus size community, love and acceptance that made me realize that I was being a total asshole about this plus size label and my rejection of it.
I was fat and being fat was okay.  It didn't make me less of a person, and it also didn't make me any less qualified to talk about fashion or to have great style, which was also a major fear of mine as someone with a life-long fashion obsession and a dream of being a designer in the often skinny-centric fashion industry.  Embracing the plus size label made me more authentic as a blogger and as a person even if it wasn't always accurately reflected in the size label in my clothing.  Besides, clothing sizes are completely skewed anyway

I had learned to love and accept this body, as flawed as it is.  Through greater acceptance of my body, I realized that there was ABSOLUTELY NO SHAME in being plus size.  After fairly steady weight for about 7 years, I gained around 15 pounds over the last year and a half, then subsequently lost about half of that.  Since I am so short, this 8-15 pound weight gain pushed me up about a size on both top and bottom.  While I can and do still wear a lot of straight size/petite clothing, I find myself reaching more and more for plus sizes depending on the type of garment and overall cut/fit.  

After having rejected being plus size for so long, I now find myself actually seeking out plus size retailers!!!  For example, I constantly search Eloquii's web site simply because I love the styles they offer.  If a certain style is really too big for my smaller frame but I gotta have it, I make it work for me through artful tailoring and styling!  Seriously gotta love the progression of plus size fashion over the last five years!!!
So here is where I am today, a little more on the plus side, more confident in my body than ever, and also more accepting and less judgmental of other women's bodies than ever.  But does all this mean that I get to call myself a plus size body advocate?
I've been at least a little on the chubby side most of my life, but I was never literally plus size until recently.  Do I now have the right to be a plus size body advocate?  Should I capitalize on a concept that I had personally rejected for so long?  I certainly don't have the experiences of larger plus size women.  For all my body anxiety and anguish over the years, I never experienced the problems of being a large girl or woman in society, not really.  I occasionally have received negative comments or judgmental looks about my appearance through the years, but many of them were more likely in my head than from the outside.  Other girls and women (and males and non-defining and transgender individuals) have faced harsh bullying for being fat or having non-conforming bodies.  Many have been victims of regular verbal and even physical attacks, including by the loved ones in their life.  These have never been my experiences.  I may have only been truly thin for a short time in my life, but I still have some amount of thin privilege. 
I am an in-betweenie, meaning that I fall between straight size and plus size clothing.  I wear a 12-16, putting me right at the average range of American women in terms of clothing size.  I am the norm.  While size 14 plus size models don't represent my body shape, my height, my droopy belly, etc., I can still see models who represent my overall size (and race).  Being a size 12-16, I can go to a variety of stores and peruse on-line shops, and I'm usually guaranteed to find my size available.  In the plus size arena, I am very privileged, and being an in-betweenie, I have the privilege of choosing to identify as plus size or not.  

I don't really have answers to my questions... as I love myself more, I feel more resolute in helping to bring more awareness to body image issues and in advocating for more true body positivity that is more inclusive of all of our beautiful, diverse bodies.  But, I don't want to ever do so in a way that is ignorant to all the amazing body positivity work that has been done by other women

I hope that some of you can relate to me.  If any of you find anything I write or do to be helpful, inspiring, or otherwise useful to you in some way, then I have earned my place in the blogosphere.  But, I also want to point you in the direction of body positive activists who have been doing amazing work, well before me and definitely well before it was trendy in the fashion world:


Aarti of CurvesBecomeHer.Wordpress.com
Maui of PhatGirlFresh.com
Jes of TheMilitantBaker.comVirgie Tovar of VirgieTovar.com
Sally and team at AlreadyPretty.com

Speaking of fashion, I must take just a bit to talk about today's look!

Who says a black one-piece swimsuit has to be boring?

This swimsuit by GabiFresh for Swimsuits for All is anything but boring.  The sheer details make the suit really sexy while the polka dots add a sweetness.  I love how the band across the torso creates an almost belted appearance. 

I am normally a DDD, so I went with the E/F cup option.  The swimsuits with E/F cups start at a size 18, so that is the size I got.  If you are a true 18 this one should be perfect as I had a little extra room in some areas and the torso area was a bit too long.

I added my crazy faux monkey fur from Eloquii and red Ghillie lace-up heels for the ultimate in beach practicality!  ;-D

Have you tried out Swimsuits for All?  The GabiFresh line?

For the jacket in another look, see here

3 comments:

  1. You most certainly have earned your place in the blogosphere, Cass. Thank you for this thoughtful and honest post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You most certainly have earned your place in the blogosphere, Cass. Thank you for this thoughtful and honest post.

    ReplyDelete

Comments? Please post here. Remember, this is a forum for fun and fashion. Rude, vulgar, and offensive posts will be deleted. Thanks for your feedback!