Plus Size but not Curvy

I have been thinking about this post for quite a few weeks, and about plus size fashion for significantly longer.

Back in January 2015, I wrote about my New Year’s Resolutions. There was every chance that none of them would stick for more than a couple of weeks, but two of the three have: I make an effort to hot-cloth-cleanse my face every night, and I have read lots of fantastic non-fiction books since pledging to do so. I have not, however, lost weight. Quite the opposite.

The fact is that I love our life together, mine and M’s. We go to gigs, and comedy, have weekends away in Brighton and random Northern cities where there’s a Strongman event on, eat great food and have too many beers at the fighting and the wrestling. I can’t imagine making the sacrifices  I would need to in order to get back to where I was two and a half years ago. And I am sad at my wardrobe of COS tops I can’t quite fit in, and I don’t love that I can’t shop in mainstream high street stores anymore, but not quite enough to feel bad about it. I have made the decision to look straight ahead, mindfully and intelligently, and not waste my days obsessing over my weight. As long as I can still find items to wear that I feel represent me and my personal style, I’ve resolved to accept myself as I am.

I like how my lashes look in this pic, even if it is a bit low-res.
I like how my lashes look in this pic, even if it is a bit low-res. And this necklace is exactly the sort of thing I’ll be banging on about from now on

[As a side note, I do realise that all these beers and fun times have to be balanced with sensible, positive changes. More walking, more vegetables, better sleep are all being tackled. I just refuse to conflate being healthy with being skinny.]

So, over the last few months I’ve been supplementing my wardrobe and beginning to follow some truly inspiring plus size bloggers. I particularly love Georgina Horne’s Fuller Figure Fuller Bust blog, although she’s well worth a like on Facebook too.  I enjoy seeing what bloggers have found, how they style the items they wear, and how unafraid they are to try things that aren’t automatically considered ‘flattering’. Is pretending to be slimmer than you are what nourishes the soul? The problem for me is that I don’t have their figures. Georgina Horne looks incredible but I’m a B-cup athletic apple- if you can imagine such a thing- and skater dresses, belts and a retro pin-up look suit neither my personal style or my figure.

This H&M + dress is great quality for the money. Full post to follow.
This H&M + dress is great quality for the money. Full post to follow.

There is no easy way to be a woman in the world, let alone one over a size 10. I am not for one moment suggesting that Ms Horne doesn’t get abuse and lewd comments- Christ, does she- but there is a traditional, curvaceous, sexy femininity to the way she styles herself and the way most of the plus size bloggers dress in their posts. They embrace their curves and enhance them, but I barely have them at all! At almost six feet tall, my limbs are long and slim (at least to mid-thigh). I have a high waist, and my weight is carried in the tummy (and the arse, but the tummy is what shows changes in weight immediately). My hips are rounder at the moment, but when I’m slimmer the weight comes off the hips while the stomach remains. At a 14-16, I look long and trim, but with a tummy. An athletic apple.

Future posts will have actual outfit shots! This is a preview; excuse the monster arm.
Future posts will have plenty of full outfit shots! This is a preview of a top I’ve worn way more than I thought I would; excuse the monster arm.

So I’m carving out my own style: plus size but not curvy. I’m taking the elements of my slimmer style that I still love and adapting them for my new figure. Clean, Scandinavian-influenced lines; an abundance of fabric worn with super-skinny jeans, leggings, or close-cut trousers; architectural lines and texture. Buying a size up for style but also so the items look better quality. Flowing dresses with statement jewellery and striking make-up.

More clothing than ever before is offered in size 16+, and the rise of online shopping has meant that companies don’t have to play it so safe, providing much greater competition. Navabi offers a wide range of high-end plus size clothing and my love of Carmakoma is well documented. ASOS offers over 1300 items in its Curve and plus size brand section, offering safer items alongside bodycon dresses and fashion-led pieces not traditionally considered flattering or acceptable for fuller figures. Evans hasn’t been able to rest on its laurels when River Island brings out a plus-size range, although I am yet to be entirely convinced on the latter. I can get the silhouette I want- I’m just learning that it might mean buying every top in three sizes to see what works. I shall report back soon.

Category: Style
me in a jumper

I never make New Year’s Resolutions… except this year I made three of the bloody things

In general I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I used to make them, and most Januarys I definitely need to slow down on the cheese and spending, but then I see a Whistles coat in the sale, and arrange many dinners because I have such horror at the idea of Boring January, and so resolutions don’t seem to have any relevance for me. If I want to make a change, I reason, why not make it when I decide it’s worth making, rather than waiting for the calendar to tick over to the next year? I know Christmas excesses play a part but all in all, I just can’t be doing with it.

One of the aformentioned Whistles coats... in Berlin!
One of the aformentioned Whistles coats… in Berlin!

Except that this year, I am. My 2014 included moving in with M, our first holiday together, and all that those exciting things involve. We’ve had a bloody good time but a few small tweaks need to be made, and after a post-Christmas period that saw me rolling around with insanely painful stomach problems, I’m ready to do some housekeeping.

Read more books

I read all the time. Moving to East London, I’ve shaved around 30 mins off my former commute but I’m still looking at a minimum of an hour and a half door-to-door. As soon as I get a seat on the tube my Kindle gets whipped out. I never don’t have a book on the go, and I like to read last thing at night too. However, that commute is a killer. On top of this, I’m usually pretty tired in the morning as my need for kip is closer to the cat’s average hours asleep than a humans’. So I get tired, and I get lazy, re-reading beloved crime novels because it’s fun. But learning stuff is fun too, and feeds the mind; it’s why I listen to a Woman’s Hour podcast most days, and then go home and bore M with what I’ve found out. I was lucky enough to get  Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and What Should We Tell Our Daughters? by Melissa Benn for Christmas, and I have The Book of Jezebel, Lena Dunham’s essays, and lots of other lovely Feminist tomes waiting for me on the IKEA Kallax it took me three hours to put together. So my very first resolution, after such an awesome Christmas haul, was to make inroads into my book collection ay-sap.

I currently am one
I currently am one

Clean my face, FFS!       

When I was at university, I had for a while a dalliance with what we will call A Very Low Maintenance Look. Beanie hat, baggy jeans, hair tied up- you get the picture. But regardless of sartorial misfires, the five-minute walk from Mile End tube station to the college did horrendous things to my skin, and my forehead in particular was a dry, sore mess. I tried a lot of lotions and moisturisers but when your skin is angry and irritated- and I’m talking dry and slightly sensitive skin, not the type that needs specialist advice- you have to start with how you clean your skin. When I was in my skin crisis all those years ago I finally found Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, and my skin became the skin I always knew (hoped) it could be! But, for the same reason that I’ve been stuck in a rut literature-wise, I’ve skipped Liz far too many times over the past few months in favour of a quick-fix face-wash.

Me without make-up. Believe it or not, it could be worse.
Me without make-up. Believe it or not, it could be worse.

Made up of all sorts of botanical goodies, and no nasty stuff, Liz Earle products are calming and hydrating, and I don’t actually know of anyone who hasn’t tried them and benefited. The wonderfully soothing Cleanse & Polish is put on to dry skin and then taken off with a hot cloth or flannel and the Tonic that follows boosts your skin further. I feel distinctly less scaly after a few days of using Liz Earle.  While handy in an emergency, I really hate cleansing wipes but use one- or my personal favourite, micellar water on cotton pads- before you hot-cloth-cleanse and you’ll find your cloths look less like they’ve been dipped in clay. My skin isn’t thanking me for my skin care rut at all, and I know what the right thing to do is so I’m making the change. Again.

The LEGENDARY Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish
The LEGENDARY Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish

Lose weight (YAWN)

Yeah, sorry: predictability claxon. One of the most pretentious reasons that I don’t usually make resolutions is the fact that I don’t want to be the same as everyone else: I want to make my decisions, when I want to make them, and anyway January’s such a downer after Christmas so why do dry/diet/gym with a gazillion other sheep? But this year, like every other bloody person, I am back logging in to MyFitnessPal, firmly attached to my Fitbit, and counting every last calorie and step I can. And what’s extra galling is that I did all this before, and it worked. And then I drank all the beer.

On holiday in 2013, when I was very happy with my weight... then I ate a few too many of these delicious treats
On holiday in 2013, when I was very happy with my weight… then I ate a few too many of these delicious treats

Of course my relationship with my weight is weird, complicated, and uncomfortable- isn’t most people’s? In 2011, a year after leaving a job in which I was truly miserable, I was ready to make some positive changes, and after a work trip to Copenhagen produced some photos I’d be quite keen to never see again, I finally decided I was in the right place to lose weight slowly, healthily, and positively. I lost two dress sizes and at 5’11” and a size 16, I felt superb. Of course if I could click my fingers I would have liked to be a size 14 (I’d try things on in The Kooples!), but everything I had told myself and not quite believed was actually true. A sexy, confident weight for me was at a size 16 and fuck what the rest of the world says- this was my skinny. It took me two years to lose two stone, but I was very happy and spent many of my hard earned GBP in beautiful shops like COS. My style developed and I had a new way of carrying myself. And I met M, which I truly believe that old me couldn’t have done, as old me didn’t think she deserved it. But I’m now about 7lb off being right back to where I started and I can still taste how good it was to feel confident and relaxed in my clothes. And I have a wardrobe full of them to prove it! Getting that weight back off isn’t an attempt to fit in to other people’s idea of how I should look or what I should wear, but I can’t wait to get back in to some of the beautiful Scandinavian goodies I own and walk tall: I did it before and I know I can do it again.

A pic of me drinking? WHAT A SHOCK
A pic of me drinking? WHAT A SHOCK

So, my usual resolution of not making resolutions has been broken! I am a predictable sheep, bleating her way into 2015 and browsing workout gear at lunchtime. Writing this piece has really highlighted to me how much I need to concentrate on getting more and better sleep, so I can give energy to the things that I need and enjoy, and I know that I have to focus a little better on my health.  Soon I’ll be sick of calories and ‘active minutes’, as will everyone who knows me, but for now I’m happy to have taken back control of my life, muslin cloth in hand…

Category: Life