Whichever queer scene I’ve been in, I’ve often felt self-conscious about my femininity. It’s only recently that I’ve found myself in a queer community that centres itself around challenging masculinity as the queer default, and celebrates femme identities. I’m feeling super empowered by my fat femme image at the moment, and deriving a lot of power from ‘femininity’. It’s not just about being ‘girly’, it’s about saying that your queer identity can’t be reduced or erased. As a femme who’s also specifically attracted to femmes, it’s powerful to me to know I’m not alone in that. Someone who’s always stood out to me as a shining beacon of fat queer femme energy is Nicolette Mason, whose style I’ve always revered in its own right, but also in relation to the fact she’s queer. People have written reams of interesting stuff on image and fashion in relation to queer identities and presentation so I’m not going to say too much about that, but I just wanted to tip my metaphorical fedora to someone who inspires me in how she lives her femme ID.
This is why Nicolette’s collection with ModCloth is so exciting to me. According to the size chart, the 4X which the styles go up to works out as a size 32-34, which is higher than I’ve seen pretty much any plus size range go (assuming it’s accurate).
Obviously the swishy, pretty prom dresses are super inspiring but this jumper just warmed my heart in a deep and meaningful way. I don’t know if it’s meant to be a pun, but I’m reading it thus.
This dress is such a showstopper. I absolutely adore the twisted-bow front and the length of the sleeves and feel like it’s those kind of details that elevate this dress beyond your average plus-size prom dress. That’s what happens when you get a fashion femme to help design your clothes [insert sassy lady emoji here].
This piece is genius because it speaks to the chic femme and the stylish butch. I’m particularly enthused by how the inimitable and decidedly non-femme Dannielle from Everyone Is Gay is wearing it in that outfit photo on the page.
My final fave is this teal prom dress, which, like the polka dot creation, is firmly in the list of ‘things I would love to own if only I had someone to wear it’. The sheer décolletage, the shape of the bodice, the bow, the colour of the material, the shape of the skirt are just divine. I want to wear this dress to stroll the streets hand in hand with a beautiful babe, swishing my skirt as I go.
In the time that I’ve been blogging about fat fashion, the industry has improved greatly. Where once it was a bleak wasteland of hanky hems, butterfly prints and a lesson on how to blend in, there are now brights, prints, sequins, hotpants, bodycon and all the rest. One area, though, where the plus size fashion industry is quite clearly failing is in basics. Amid all of the fun and froth, where are the staples that are always cited as the foundations of a woman’s wardobe? I decided to do an experiment to see just how easy (or otherwise) it is to come by these supposedly essential items if you’re fat. I chose five, to start with: white shirt, Breton t-shirt, black cigarette pants, grey marl t-shirt and black leather biker jacket.
I searched for these five items on one straight size retailer’s website (I chose Topshop, the most ubiquitous of all high street chains), just to prove to myself that they are perennially available and easy to come by if you’re a size 10. All five were there. I then looked for the same item on the websites of three major plus-size retailers: Evans, ASOS Curve and Simply Be. So what I’m saying is: you can buy all five of these items in one single high street shop aimed at slim women, of which there are many high street shops where you can get the same or similar items. Will I be able to find the same items in any of three of the biggest plus size retailers? Let’s find out!
The white shirt
My criteria were: no front pocket (pockets on white shirts remind me too much of ugly school shirts), long-sleeved, with a collar, made of cotton. Here is what happens when you search ‘white shirt’ on Topshop. That’s how many variations there are. Not all of them fit my specifications exactly, but there’s a massive variety to suit pretty much all tastes and needs. Satisfying!
How many on ASOS Curve? 1. How many on Simply Be? o. How many on Evans? o.
Only one out of a possible three plus-size retailers are currently carrying a similar item. ASOS Curve have what they call a ‘girlfriend shirt’ that meets all my specifications, and are the only brand to have one that does. I don’t really get what ‘girlfriend shirt’ means… surely there are no special design qualities related to making clothes in the proportions and style expected of the gender you’re marketing the clothes at? Oh well. It’s a nice shirt.
The breton t-shirt
I was looking for a jersey t-shirt with sleeves of any length, horizontal navy stripe on white, with no other pattern or design. No random Eiffel Towers, a straight hem, just, you know, a white t-shirt with blue stripes. Here is a serviceable version on Topshop.
How many on ASOS Curve? 1, if you’ll buy it in a two-pack with a navy blue t-shirt. How many on Simply Be? 1. How many on Evans? 0.
This was Simply Be’s offering. It’ll do.
The black skinny trousers
I was looking for a pair of trousers that are black, full-length or slightly cropped, and made of a heavy, matte material (not jersey or pleather) like crepe or polyester at a push. I’m not looking for the moon on a stick, right? Just some sensible but sexy trousers that you can wear with heels and feel trop chic.
How many on ASOS Curve? More than 1! In fact, ASOS Curve had several different skinny black trouser styles. How many on Simply Be? 1. How many on Evans? 0.
I adore these ASOS Curve trousers. They’re maybe not as skinny as I would want them to be, but the shape and the material are spot on.
Simply Be’s version are great too. Well done Simply Be!
The grey marl t-shirt
No specific criteria here, just a grey marl t-shirt. Comforting, easy, oddly sexy. Shouldn’t be too hard to find, right? I mean, it’s only a t-shirt, and Topshop’s is lovely. I wasn’t even looking for a cashmere tee but I won’t turn down luxury bitch vibes. Now, can we find a basic bitch t-shirt in fat sizes? Can we heck.
How many on ASOS Curve? 0. How many on Simply Be? 0. How many on Evans? 0. You can’t buy a grey marl t-shirt in cashmere, jersey or any fabric at all from three major plus-size retailers. Bad times. This is precisely why I thank my lucky stars that I fit into Topshops M/L or size 16 t-shirts. All my favourite t-shirts come from there. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t wear t-shirts at all.
The black leather biker
A black leather biker jacket. When I moved to Montreal in 2010, I got to autumn and couldn’t figure out why none of my outfits looked right. I realised it was because I’d chosen to leave my beloved All Saints leather biker in England, deeming it non-essential. Turns out a black leather jacket makes 90% of my outfits feel more coherent, more satisfying and more me. I’m now wearing one I got from ASOS Curve last winter, which is perfect. But what’s around at the moment?
This is exactly what I’m looking for. Gently cropped, black, real leather, biker shape.
How many on ASOS Curve? 2. How many on Simply Be? o. How many on Evans? 0.
ASOS Curve have two at the moment, which is the same as they did last year- one for £100, and another, slightly nicer one for 120. If you want a leather jacket and you’re above a size 16/18, you pretty much have to go to ASOS. I’ve been super happy with the style, fit and quality of my leather jacket, which I’ve worn endlessly since I got it.
So, all told, how did the stores do? Did any one store offer one single version of all five wardrobe staples that you can easily buy from Topshop? Nope. The scores are thus: ASOS Curve with 4/5. Simply Be with 2/5. Evans with 0/5. This is a problem! The thing I hear my fat compatriots saying more than anything else about the macro trends in plus size fashion is “I just want what thin girls have, but in my size” and nowhere is this more obvious than in basics. I’m sure I would suffer the same fate if I did the same experiment with a black blazer, a coloured cashmere sweater and a sharp-pleated midi skirt, but alas these things are quite labour-intensive and I have neither the time nor the inclination. This serious gap in the market only serves to make dressing difficult. These items aren’t extraordinary feats of design, they’re just clothes that make getting dressed easier and serve as good backdrops for other, more frivolous items. Please, fatshion retailers, hear our prayers?
What item of clothing do I love more than any other? Outerwear. I just can’t get enough of coats and jackets. They pull an outfit together, they can make a statement, they can conceal a lazy ensemble underneath. I just adore them. So when Simply Be were kind enough to let me road-test two items from their new collection with Look magazine, naturally I went for the coat as one of them. That said, I actually had my heart set on the skirt and the shirt, but when it came to it, and when I saw the collection in person at an event at the new Oxford Street store, I had a total change of heart. I’ll post the other item I was sent next week when my regular photographer is back from New York (I miss her painfully), but for now here’s one excellent item from the Look collaboration.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this season’s Look // Simply Be collection is my favourite single plus-size offering ever. I would wear each and every piece they’ve made this season, and it’s the most cohesive, design-led selection I’ve seen marketed at fat women. Every item is perfect, and I don’t feel like any of them are compromises to please fats at the expense of pattern or shape. I got so many compliments on my coat this weekend, and I feel so comfortable in it. It’s chic, wearable, well-made, not too heavy, no polyester lining, big square pockets that I can fit a book in (currently reading: Victoria Glendinning’s biography of Vita Sackville-West). I just love it. Maybe that’s why I’m smiling so much. Or maybe it’s because my friends Laura and Leah were doing sexy dancing behind Ellie while she was taking my picture. Maybe.
While going through a breakup earlier in the summer, I decided to give myself some light at the end of the tunnel and make sure I had something to look forward to. I booked to go to Gothenburg for a few days towards the end of September, knowing that by then I would be back on my feet and in the mood to enjoy it. And how right I was! I spent last weekend in Sweden and had an absolutely wonderful time, sitting on trams, sitting on boats, learning stuff, eating cake, drinking coffee, reading, strolling in the sunshine, looking at art, chilling in the harbour. I also did some quality hangouts with my pal Fiona who lives there, including a spot of shopping, where I picked up some excellent items. I’ll post the accessories when the temperature drops (a perfect baby blue scarf and a black beanie hat with a net veil!) but I’ve already put a couple of the items into wardrobe circulation.
I adore this light jacket. I’m naturally hot as hell (in body temperature as in looks) so having very lightweight outerwear makes the beginning and end of summer much more bearable. It comes in various colours (from plain black to a pattern reminiscent of fireworks) but I thought this one was the best of both worlds. And I love wearing it over a midi dress of the same length, so it’s a good job I also got my hands on this useful black jersey midi dress. I noticed Swedish H&M had a lot more basic pieces in XL than I’ve ever seen in London branches, which is why I bought it while I was there rather than chancing they’d have it or something similar when I got home (which I bet they don’t). A comfy, easy autumn outfit.
I’m sure I’m not alone in having a Dress Hall of Fame. Dresses I’ve owned over the years that stay in your mind long after you’ve outgrown them and sent them to the charity shop or consigned them to the bin. My greatest hits include the one-shouldered lemon yellow dress from the first Kate Moss for Topshop collection (2007), a black dress with yellow flowers and a tulip-shaped skirt, again, from Topshop (2009) and vintage lilac and white dogtooth (2012). I have a feeling that this very dress is going to enter those ranks. A bright yellow shift dress with huge leopard print? It’s perfect. I included it in my wishlist post last week and had been deliberating over it for weeks and weeks (maybe months, at this point), so when my sweet, lovely, girlfriend told me she had 25% off on ASOS with student discount, I decided to bite the bullet and just make it mine once and for all. Boy, am I glad I did! I felt so good wearing this. It’s just so me- it’s attention-grabbing but sweet and feminine at the same time. Perfect.