On Swimsuits and Bodies

My beautiful Avenue swimsuit!

I grew up around water. Whether I was going to one of the Great Lakes for vacation (as I did this past week), or swimming in my grandmother’s pool, or joining the swim team, I spent countless hours perched on the edge of some body of water, wearing little more than a swimsuit.

This past week, I logged at least three or four hours a day in my swimsuit. Spending that much time bearing your body to the world is difficult for many people, male and female. And every summer, when vacation time comes around, it’s something I always think about.

I was lucky, I think. As a kid, I joined the swim team. From age eight up through age fourteen I swam competitively. It was, in many ways, a terrible time for me. I frequently was called fat. I was incredibly uncomfortable in my body and with what was happening to it. I was hyper aware of what my body looked like to other people. But I enjoyed swimming. At some point, I began winning my heats and doing quite well in long distance swimming. (I used to motivate myself to swim fast by pretending there was a shark behind me. It worked every time.) Though I was aware of how my body looked (and how fat I was), I was also aware of what my body could do.

Having spent so much time during my formative years in a swimsuit, I barely even notice it today. Yes, there’s always a twinge when I break out the swimsuit for the first time each year. I stare at it for a while, put it on, glare at the scrap of fabric in the mirror for a while. However, it’s not enough to stop me from wearing it. I vow not to let it stop me from enjoying myself.

But it’s harder sometimes. I sat on the beach yesterday, watching as girls pranced by in their bikinis, and I wished that I had the confidence, the curves, the abs that would make me feel comfortable in so little fabric. I look at them and wonder if I could ever look like that. And then I shake myself, trying to not let myself get invested in that counter-productive train of thought. I remind myself that, even if I were that thin, who’s to say I won’t still want to have a “better” body in some way? Who’s to say I will appreciate what I do have? Who says the body I have isn’t good enough?

Renewing my faith in myself is something I always do. I have to love my body, even in a swimsuit. I have to love my body in a tank top, in a skirt, in a bra and underwear, in long pants and a sweater. I need to love my body in some way every day. And I need to stop believing my body isn’t good enough how it is. Yes, I’m only human, and insecurities come with the territory. Some days it’s harder to do. Yesterday was a day I forgot. Today, I hope I’ll remember.

What’s the Skinny on Skinny Jeans?

I’m a girl who loves fashion. I like (some) fashion shows (ahem…Project Runway). I love to shop. I sometimes spend hours just browsing my favorite stores online. But there’s one trend I’ve been hesitant to jump on: the Skinny Jean.

Now, I have to admit…I like how they look on many women. My friends wear skinny jeans, my cousins wear skinny jeans, I think my mom might even have a pair. But I’ve proceeded with caution, unsure whether the skinny jean would look good on a not-so-skinny me.

I’m definitely an apple shape. I got the goods in the stomach area, with thinner arms and legs. It’s a body shape that is both easy and difficult to dress. You can pull off the empire waist with grace. Flared jeans are always in style. Knee-length dresses and skirts look fantastic. But with pants, huge problems arise. For me, I have issues fitting my waist while still fitting my but/hips. I want the leg of my pants to fit tightly in the thighs, and then do its business on the bottom. Often, I get wattle butt —  my pants have a handful of material that just hangs down from my butt all the way to my knees, like that flap of skin under a turkey’s beak. Apparently, manufacturers think I should have a bigger butt to even out my waist size (jeeze).

So pants have always been a problem. It wasn’t until I found Lane Bryant’s Right Fit jeans that I found a pair of jeans that really fit my body. (Yellow FTW!) My butt looks fantastic in those jeans. They fit my thighs and feel almost like a second, wonderfully denim, skin. I wear them all the time and love how I feel and look in them.

But now, looking at, and even trying on skinny jeans, I’m reliving all my pants problems over again.

The other day I stopped by the Macy’s to look through their clearance section. Surprisingly, their 60% off rack had a selection of designer skinny jeans in plus sizes. I decided to give it a go and try them on.

I tried three different brands in sizes 18-22. I’m normally a 22, but the 22s felt too big and gave me wattle butt. The 18s fit perfectly in the leg, but not the waist. The 20s were only available in a style that was cropped (ugh).

But worst of all, every single pair I tried on made my body look wider. It was like taking my apple torso and putting it on chopsticks. Skinny jeans mess with my proportions. I look wider, weirder, and felt uncomfortable. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase any skinny jeans.

But, I still find the style appealing. I’ve seen fat women wear them, and I think they look great on them. So is a skinny jean still out there for me? Dare I continue to look? Or should I abandon the cause and stick to my Right Fit flares?

Weigh in, and give me the skinny!

On Dresses

I haven’t mentioned in a while that my sister is getting married in May. This is partially because I haven’t written in about forever, but also because while I’ve been at school, working on all my various projects and jumping through the last (most stressful) of my academic hoops, I’ve been largely removed from all the planning. This past weekend when I was home, however, I got a good healthy dose of wedding talk.

Most of it is stuff I really do want to hear about: plans for flowers, seat covers, etc. But occasionally, we get to something that puts me off the whole thing: dresses. I talked yesterday about how much I love dressing up. This is no different. I took joy in picking out my shoes. I’m excited for my sister’s wedding dress to come in so we can see her all dolled up. I actively participated in finding my mother’s Mother-of-the-Bride dress (and the most beautiful shoes ever). I love dressing up.

But the one thing I absolutely detest about dressing up is all the talk of thinness that’s associated with it. This weekend, my sister came to visit my parents house when I was around, and immediately the conversation turned to how good she looked (read: thin). My sister talked about how she had cut pop out of her diet for a good few days. She talked about how she’s on a diet, etc. My mother chimed in with how good that was. I scoffed, expressing the opinion I often express that they should both get dresses that fit them the way they are now.

This proceeded to a conversation about motivation. My mother said it was good that my sister had this motivation to lose weight. There’s no harm in having some motivation. She wants to look good. Therefore she should lose weight.

My problems with this statment are obvious. And I proceeded to say so.

“I think that’s all bull. Yes, it’s good to have motivation, but didn’t we once have a very productive conversation about changing the emphasis from looking good to becoming healthy?”

My mother ackonwledged this point, and the conversation continued. Honestly, this has been my biggest problem with the whole wedding: fighting against the perspective that being beautiful and looking perfect on your big day means being thin.

This whole experience and conversation coincided with my own struggle with dresses. When I arrived home late Friday night, there was a dress hanging in my room. A beautiful, patterned dress with red and pinks and black and white, creating a sort of abstract rose pattern. My mother had bought it for me after a discussion of how many formal outfits I was going to need for the upcoming spring in which I will graduate from college, attend a number of formal graduation events, and attend all the showers, rehearsal dinners, etc. for my sister’s wedding. I immediately tried it on, very excited because it looked very cute on the hanger.

It was pretty simple to see that it didn’t fit. It was slightly too small. Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. I would put it down and say “too bad.” But I had absolutely fallen in love with the dress. And although it was too tight right under my bust, it fit everywhere else. I went to bed thinking, as was inevitable, “if only I lose a little bit of weight…I’ve been trying to start working out again anyway. I can get down to fit into that dress, right?”

I promised myself, though, that I would never do such a thing. But I just loved this dress so much, and the way it cinched under my bust made me look especially well proportioned (in the way that the media shows us whe should be). The dress, in the end, was more important to me–looking ‘thin’ was more important to me–than having a healthy attitude about my body.

In the end, we were able to find the dress in a size up (which fit much better). But in that moment of weakness, that moment of love of the dress, I wondered if that was how my mom and sister felt all the time. If that was the place they went to. And I wondered, then, if there were any way to really get them out of it.

The Re-boob-olution: Fatshion and Feeling Good

I’m not sure I’ve ever written about how I discovered the FA movement. I’ve come to call it (mostly in my head) the Re-boob-olution. Just after I’d returned from Ecuador, I went to visit my college, and all my friends, who were still in classes for winter quarter. I stayed with my friend, E., who has been a very influential woman in my life. We’re both fat, and throughout our friendship, E. has taught me a lot about confidence, believing in oneself, and living life large. She may not have known it, but I always saw her as an extremely self-confident, beautiful woman. I wanted to be like her because of that confidence, but I never quite got there.

If you were to ask her, she’d say that she’s never been very confident. In fact, she’s always considered herself as having low self confidence, and low self-esteem. Anyway, that weekend that I stayed with her, she and I took a trip to Lane Bryant. I hadn’t been to Lane Bryant since I was in high school, mostly because I had a bit of a hatred of “those stores” (i.e. Plus Size stores) because they sold “old lady clothes” (i.e. Fatshion). But E. loved Lane Bryant. She swore by their jeans. Plus, neither one of us had ever been shopping with another plus size woman before. We’d gone in groups with our thinner friends, but never just us together. It was a thrilling prospect.

First thing we did as soon as we walked through the door was find about FIFTY THOUSAND things we wanted to buy. It happened to be a sale day (the only way we could buy anything), and we just pounced. It was really busy, so we ended up having to wait for a dressing room. We were chatting amicably, standing by the underwear, when I remembered that E. had told me she wanted to do a bra fitting. I found someone to measure us and get us going, and thus the Re-boob-olution began.

As soon as we had those bras on, and had seen the difference they made in our bodies’ shape, we were hooked. It turns out my bra was only slightly wrong in size. E., however, was one of the 80% of women wearing the wrong size bra, and her size was greatly different than what she thought it had been. While trying on our clothes and bras, we almost died of excitement. The right bra made everything look beautiful. It made my boobs fill out the clothes I never had been able to fill out before. It made me feel like my proportions were better, it made me feel more confident.

I spent a fortune at LB that day, and so did E., but it was ALL worth it. My LB jeans made my butt look fantastic. My bras made my boobs look fantastic, and in comparison to all that flabulousness, the parts of myself I hated (arms, stomach, etc.) didn’t seem ugly. The difference wasn’t just the clothes, it was the confidence the clothes inspired.

We went back to E.’s apartment and showed off for all our friends. That same day we watched Joy Nash’s Fat Rant, and the rest was history. Now, I’m not saying that the clothes changed my life. I’m not even going to give the credit to Joy and her incredible film. What changed me was the positivity surrounding that whole experience. Suddenly, my body felt beautiful to me. The clothes fit, the bras fit, the jeans fit, my friends thought I was beautiful, and I began to believe it too. It was the positivity focused on my body, coming from myself and others. It was the beauty I could finally see in my curves. It was the happiness I felt, the success, and it was the acceptance of myself.

Now, when I need a pick me up, I put on my prettiest bra, and my beautiful jeans, and think back to that incredible day. I’m working, this summer, in The Avenue, a plus size store, and I only hope that I can make someone else feel as positive about their body as I do about mine. I try to look nice at work, I smile at everyone, I compliment people’s choices (genuinely), and I tell the truth about what looks good on everyone. A positive shopping experience can boost someone’s day. And believe me, I know how much.

So now I want to open this thread: tell me about your Fatshion positivity, your re-boob-olution, or anything that just makes you feel good about yourself! Ready, GO!