“Are you gonna write your big blog post?” my friend Renee excitedly asks.
Yes; absolutely. I definitely didn’t just have my laptop out to browse Etsy (but, I mean, just look at this wonderful stuff).
Life at The Edge
Voodoo Vixen gave a bunch of us plus size babes an incredible opportunity to head to London Edge a few weeks ago. This was the first event that I’ve been to officially as a blogger for DiDMs, and I was so excited – we would be given a dress by Voodoo Vixen, get our hair and makeup done, and get a bunch of extraordinary goodies to review from the vendors at London Edge.
Dress: ARLENE from Voodoo Vixen (3XL). Ain’t she sweet?
I had such a wondeful time! I got to meet the incredible Hannah Boal again (who I’m totally in awe of), and met the wonderful, kick-ass, Kitty Kaos (aka Kelly). She’s really rad, and it was great to talk to someone who’s surfing the same wavelength. And AND, and, I was super happy to meet the astonishing Katie of the #EffYourBeautyStandards team. She’s effervescent and glam, and a really lovely person to know.
My full review of the Voodoo Vixen dress and all the awesome things I got in my London Edge goodybag deserve a full post to themselves, so look out for that SOON (and hopefully with some pro photos this time, courtesy of Margot, My Lovely Friend With a Really Good Camera).
Be, Agressive, Be, Be, Agressive!
The thing I mostly noticed about women’s fashion at London Edge, particularly plus size fashion, is that unfortunately it seems as though it hasn’t changed all that much in about a decade (i.e. since I first became aware of ‘alt’ styles as a wannabe emo teen). I’ll restrict my judgement to plus size women’s fashion because that’s what I know most about, and I’m also only talking about self-consciously alternative fashion. I noticed an overwhelming prevalence of the ultraglam, psychobilly, high-femme, pin-up-inspired look from a lot of the vendors (including Voodoo Vixen, obviously, as that’s their whole aesthetic). Disclaimer: this, in itself, is not a bad thing. Disclaimer to the disclaimer: nothing we choose to do, say, or wear happens in a vacuum, so maybe we should examine our choices and why we make them.
I’m on the margains, as a plus size person who wants to be involved in fashion. I know that. But that doesn’t mean I want to fit a mould specifically made for the margianalised. For example: I loved my Voodoo Vixen dress; it’s so lovely and well made, but I mostly liked it because I could wear Doc Martens with it and feel comfortable. With many of the dresses and styles available to us it would be hard to resist the urge to put on some super high pumps, or at least kitten heels, as the vintage style dictates. And for a lot of people who don’t want to high-femme themselves that’s the problematic element of the main body of alternative, plus size clothing: this feeling that we’re not doing it quite right because we can’t identify with feeling comfortable presenting ourselves to the world like that.
Hence my subtitle: being agressively alternative and creating an accessible form of fashion that also acts as a critique of what the norms of our topsy-turvy world expect from us is really important. Straight-sized alt fashion has heros for this such as Viviennne Westwood (I was also going to list Betsey Johnson but when I went to her site it’s pretty much all flouncy florals or sailor-chic; not so groundbreaking). And, what’s really fundamental, is that this is already an aim at the centre of the plus size movement! Not apologising for our existence, forcing people to take notice, and saying “fuck you” to the bullies who are expressing the backward values of a world that dehumanises and then demonises fat people. That’s why I love effyourbeautystandards and all the body positivity babes I know. But that agression doesn’t seem to translate all the way to our self-presentation re: fashion choices. It seems like what we’re offered, and what we have come to adopt as our own, is an assimilation into the world and not a radical overhaul of it. A friend (the same who was so excited about this blog post) once asked me how to find plus size body positivists who don’t wear a lot of make-up, for example, because she found it so hard to identify with people for whom that’s a big part of who they are. I love makeup, I have a lot of fun with it, but I generally don’t bother because I’d rather sleep longer than have visible eyebrows Monday to Friday. I also have friends who look like extraordinary birds of paradise because of the way they glam themselves, and I think that’s really wonderful too; it’s another way of being really in the faces of people who would rather ignore us.
I want radical overhaul. I want a world where we can adorn ourselves with whatever the hell we want if we feel like it expresses our character, rather than doing it to fit in. If we do that, and get positive feedback, it might be likely that we come to feel happy doing or wearing something because other people feel happy for us rather than honouring our inital creative impulses. I’m not saying that this is something the plus size or alternative fashion communities lack – not at all! – but perhaps the type of actualisation of it is something we need to work on.
I want to see more people who aren’t concerned with being beautiful, because we all know that our worth is not defined by that. Beauty might be subjective to a certain extent, but there are a lot of standards we’re adopting that might need to change. I would love to see more people doing radical things with their appearance in order to stand out from all the crowds and express themselves. I know it’s not as simple as that. But I really, really want avant garde, agressive, unapologetic, queer, in-your-face plus size fashion movements to start gaining more traction. Something like angry, fat, New Romantics, without the crap music (sorry not sorry).
I very good friend, who has been trained in design, pointed out the value of classic design and trends in fashion. Without them, we wouldn’t have a foundation from which to deviate from – we wouldn’t be able to conceptualise how to begin! And I agree. But I feel so at home in the dystopic 80’s DIY era of punk that I disagree that we need to perpetuate those classic design tropes for their own sake. But I must concede that they have their value, otherwise I would sound naive.
If you want to be ultra femme, that’s cool – not my bag, but I obviously get that as a plus size person doing anything that you’re told you’re not supposed to (like be sexy or feminine) is an act of resistance and can be a personal revolution (it was for me!). The only issue I have is that this is now the norm, and I know so many others like me feel significant pressure to fit in with it in order to be accepted into the ranks of bopo babes. I’m also not saying the creation of this norm is intentional on anyone’s part, as I know everyone reading this is probably going “yeah, but that’s cool too, whatever you wanna do, y’know”. But it’s there, and this is the way I want to break it. Let’s not focus so hard on being pretty, let’s be more pretty out-there. Y’know?
I love you all, and if you’re reading this I hope you think this is a conversation worth having!
Chrissy x ❤