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I could give two shits about fashion, but I will say this for it: fashion is easy.* You buy a magazine, you watch a television program, you read a website, you keep your eyes open when walking past shops with window displays, you hang out in the common areas of any accredited undergraduate institution, and ta da! You now know what is in fashion. You may not like it and you may not have the knack for making it look effortless and you may not be able to find it in your damn size, but at least you know that skinny jeans and high heels that lace up and kind of look like boots but are also open-toed and over-sized watches are on trend.**
But what about style? Not what the fashion industry is excited about this season, but what I am excited about every day? For some people, those two things are the same, but alas, not so for me. The problem is that after, shit, nearly a lifetime of having to subjugate my own personal style instincts in the face of a dearth of off-the-rack, at-least-semi-well-fitted, affordable clothing, I had no idea what my actual style preferences were. In the same way that in a patriarchy, women are strongly encouraged to ignore their own instincts regarding hunger and eating, in a capitalist society, everybody is encouraged to ignore his or her own personal taste and preferences regarding consumer goods, because capitalism feeds on the constant dissatisfaction of the consumer base the way Pennywise the clown fed on little kids’ fear. If the consumers stop chasing the brass ring of the Next Great Thing, capitalism stops working (or at least starts winding down (presumably; it’s hard to say what those in power will do to keep the status quo chugging along)), so consumers shouldn’t worry about what they actually like, because if they buy it and hate it, they can just buy something else!
So my first step was to figure out what I even liked, style-wise. I could have followed Plumcake’s reasonable directive to make an inspiration board, but I have this thing where when I get an idea and I know it’s good, I’m all, “FULL STEAM AHEAD” and “DAMN THE TORPEDOES” and many other naval metaphors and creating an inspiration board was going to take FOR-EV-ER and GOD I just wanted to do this WARDROBE THING, OKAY? So instead I started by thinking about stuff that I like, the kind of stuff where when I see an item that is representitive of said stuff, I say, “Ooo!” and run directly toward the representative item, leaving my companions standing around, brows furrowed in puzzlement. For me, this list includes (but is not limited to):
The Arts and Crafts Movement
Jane Austen Novels
The English Renaissance
Norma Desmond’s bedroom in Sunset Boulevard
While there are a few outliers, this is a sufficiently cohesive list from which I can tease out a general aesthetic trend: bookish, proper, and correct yet unrestrained and unpretentious, and a little witchy with a crypto-goth streak a mile wide. The cool thing for me was realizing how right freaking on this general aesthetic trend actually was. I looked around and saw this aesthetic on my bookshelf, in my DVD collection, on my iPod, around my workspace, and to a lesser extent in my home decor (I do live with another person whose preferred aesthetic is best summed up by the concrete and stainless steel modular home that this dude in Japan built that was featured on the TV show Small Space, Big Style a couple of years ago, in which you can slide big, blank, dully reflective walls around to hide your kitchen, bathroom, living and bedrooms, and which, in its native state, looks like a big, empty concrete and metal box, the mere thought of which makes my chest tight). The one place this aesthetic does not appear? My closet.
Unfortunately, another place in which this aesthetic is absent is on the racks and webpages of most plus-size retailers, unless Victorian Dress Reform included a hidden period of enthusiasm about polyester and plastic bedazzling. And so, now familiar with my personal style aesthetic, I bought this dress in every color and spent $5,000 at Holy Clothing and called it a day.
Just kidding! For me, there is a lot more to creating a capsule wardrobe than just selecting clothes that satisfy a particular aesthetic paradigm. I also have to consider the logistics of why I need to wear clothes. There are obvious environmental considerations: I live in Chicago, which while sometimes as hot and humid as a hobo’s armpit, is mostly temperate to colder than batshit on a witch’s tit. Then there are professional considerations: I am a legal professional and while my current job does not require a particularly high standard of dress, I am a believer of dressing for the job I want, and I want a job where people won’t ask me if I am going to be on TV or something because I happen to be wearing a tailored black dress and pearls. And finally there are general, practical considerations of personal preference: a strong preference for natural fibers and dresses more so than pants, a unabashed love of cardigans, a white-hot hatred of constricting clothing, the need for durable and easy-care garments, and a tragic lack of closet space.
The bigger challenge for me was taking this aesthetic, and all these logistical considerations, and turning them into a style. I actively and intently thought about this quite a bit. Eventually I settled on the following characteristics: evolved from an Anglo-Western tradition; was fairly modest without being timorous; relied on smart tailoring and a wee smidge of stretch to achieve a fit that emphasized simple lines yet was comfortable and non-restrictive; had a decidedly yet subtly old-fashioned vibe; was minimally embellished and then Morris over Mondriaan; and constructed, whenever possible, of natural fiber fabrics. Think an episode of Project Runway as hosted by Lady Dedlock and Aubrey Beardsley, with special guest judge Queen Elizabeth I, in which the designers have to create a plus-size look appropriate for presenting oral arguments before the US Supreme Court, and Stevie Nicks wins.
And thus was born My Personal Style. The next step is to apply this nascent personal style to my fantasy capsule wardrobe.
*Well, in some respects. In other respects, such as the respect of actually finding those on trend items in your actual size, it’s fucking hard as hell as Gabi and many other excellent fatshion bloggers can tell you.
**Actual trendiness of the listed items not guaranteed.
I read somewhere (maybe Fatshionista, or Fatshionista, I can’t remember – ETA: It was in the comments of this great post by my pal the Pretty Pear) that a number of mail-order purveyors of women’s plus size clothing, such as The Catalogs, insist on using straight-size models, despite the fact that doing so often makes their clothes look ridiculous, out of some misinformed notion that fat women won’t buy clothes that other fat women are wearing. And, you know what? Fine. Whatever. Go ahead, pin those 12Ws to hell and back on a size 6 model. These retailers are usually so fashion tone deaf anyway that getting them to jump on the Fat Pride bandwagon by using fat women to model their plus-sized clothes is akin to teaching a puppy to drive a car before you even train it to stop peeing in the house.
So it’s not the fact that Chadwick’s is using a straight-sized model to display its plus-sized dresses that bothers me. It’s the fact that they are manipulating the photos of these straight-sized women to turn them into impossibly spindly, spaghetti-shaped, wire hangers, like so:
If either of those two models are naturally that shape and size, I will not only buy that dress, I will also eat it.
1. Monday night, as I was dishing up some delicious rice pilaf with black beans and fried plantains for dinner, I put my delicate inner arm directly on that 350 degree pan handle and got this little souvenir of culinary ineptitude:
2. Then yesterday morning while walking to the bus, a bird pooped on me. I did not take a picture of my misfortune, but I did immediately tell myself a story about how Chicago’s pigeons are planning a revolt, and are marking those who will be spared, to console myself over the indignity of starting my day by getting crapped on.
3. Yesterday afternoon, I wandered into Rainbow near my office because there were so many bright colors on display, plus dresses, and I’m already planning ahead for the stultifying heat of the 2008 Pitchfork Music Festival (OMG Dinosaur, Jr.!). Now, I hate Rainbow. The clothes are hideous and cheap and made of cast-off children’s Halloween costume fabric and they smell bad but I have this idea in my head to make a sundress out of pre-smocked fabric, but with some fluffy eyelet layers under it, because I am really into fluffy multi-layered skirts, and Rainbow had some smocked sundresses already made and selling for less than the fabric would probably cost and I had an idea that I would buy two and stick them together somehow. FRANKENDRESS. So I’m poking through the stinky dresses and I recognize a brand label, Mlle Gabrielle, for which label-recognizing ability I absolutely have Live Journal community Fatshonista to thank, and the dress was cute and $14.99 and made of 100% cotton, can you believe it, and is pre-fitted with a fluffy multi-layered skirt so I bought it and I’m wearing it today and I look super cute, if I do say so myself.
4. Too bad I wasn’t wearing this dress last night when I was in the laundromat because who did I see but Steven Rosengard, of Project Runway Season 4 fame, doing his own laundry and thus disabusing any notion I may have had that being on a reality TV program means nothing but drop off service from here on out, baby! I was a fan of Steve’s designs (and thought he was consistently funny in a low-key, dry witted way), but declined to approach him because I was wearing what Colleen has termed a “Brady Bunch dress” and rather than fight the 70s-era upholstry look, I decided to take it to its logical conclusion with bright orange tights and brown flats and really, was it going to make this guy feel any better about getting kicked off PR for being saddled with a wedding dress to have somebody dressed like this accost him while he washes his own unmentionables and tell him that she likes his style?
Sweet merciful crap!
I think I’m going to start a new blog. It will be like an opposite day combination of The Pretty Pear and Things I’ve Bought that I Love that will serve as a cautionary tale to anyone who thinks they can get away with owning two pairs of jeans* without an in-unit washer/dryer and I will call it Things I’ve Worn to the Laundromat. After two years in my neighborhood, I’d like to think that the locals are accustomed to my braless runs to Jewel for some last-minute breakfast necessity or my penchant for publicly folding my laundry dressed in my pajamas. Still, as I politely held the courtyard gate open for an incoming resident, despite being burdened by a giant laundry bag, she actually stood ankle-deep in slush and stared at the gauzy folds of my gaily printed sundress puffing out from under my giant Chicago-style down coat, worn over boot cut yoga pants stuffed haphazzardly into filthy fake-fleece lined boots until I said, gently and encouragingly, “Go ahead!” at which point she snapped out of her stunned silence and skittered past me through the gate and into the safety of her own apartment.
Speaking of things I’ve bought that I love, for the first time in my 23-year history of wearing glasses, I am soon to be the owner of not one, not two, but THREE pairs of eye glasses. The first pair is covered through my insurance so I just picked them out from the optical shop connected with my DO’s office. The other two I bought from Zenni Optical, a magic place that sells frames and lenses for, in some cases, EIGHT AMERICAN DOLLARS. I printed off the order page for a pair I wanted and brought it to my eye doctor to ask whether $8USD glasses would blind me and he assured me that the lenses had to be ground to spec. He was unable to assure me that they would not promptly fall apart, but for $8 I’m willing to take the chance. Actually, I bought one pair for $8 and one pair for $12.95, plus another $4.95 to turn them into sunglasses, which thereby marks the second time in my 23-year history of wearing glasses that I officially own prescription sunglasses (the first pair were lost in a tragic river tubing accident). It’s going to be hard to let go of the “giant cheap plastic glasses worn over my regular glasses” look, but maybe I can just save that for laundry day.
*Okay, I lied. I actually own four pairs of jeans, but three of them feel hideously uncomfortable right now and I’m saving the other pair for a visit to a friend on Saturday. Actually, for reasons that I suspect are largely hormonal, almost all of my clothes feel hideously uncomfortable right now. The nadir of my clothes comfort (or the pinnacle of my discomfort, depending on whether you’re a nadir of comfort or pinnacle of discomfort kind of person) occurred yesterday when I wore a Thing That I’d Bought That I Did Not Love, namely a new bra from Lane Bryant. I ordered it, which was dumb, but I was trying to pad my order to take advantage of a coupon and I had tried on some bras in the store not long ago so I thought I’d be safe. Well! Imagine my surprise when I discovered that said bras contained not just underwires, some diabolical sidewires that seemed to serve the sole function of making me absolutely miserable. Once I got home, I had the fucking thing off in about 0.0003 seconds and went at it with a seam ripper, only to excise this:
No, that is not a dental implement or an intestinal parasite (it’s no testament to my photography skills either). That was the once straight, totally superfluous piece of plastic in my bra. Through a combination of body heat and unstoppable side fat, the plastic in my bra molded into an instrument of torture that put me in a really bad mood all god damn day. I’m better now though.
Inspired by Weight Watchers Works. For One
Three Out of a Thousand (and I’m not changing my clever title to match the change to Fatfu’s clever title, although I suppose I could go back to my working title, which was “Fuck you, Weight Watchers”).
I have always said that one of the most important milestones in recovering from the break-up of a long-term relationship is The Rage. It’s hard to end a long-term relationship. It’s hard to admit that all that love in your heart was not enough to make it work. It’s hard to mull over the possibility that you wasted your time and energy, or that while you were busy bailing out a sinking ship with a tea cup, the most awesome sailboat in the world was floating there waiting for you, until the crew ran out of provisions and went back to port because, damn, girl, just let that junk hit bottom and come on aboard! It’s hard not to internalize the failure of a relationship as a failure of some fundamental aspect of your own self. And so because it’s so hard, people at the end of long term relationships often say things like, “Well I still love him/her, and we’ll always be friends.”
Don’t get me wrong. You might be friends again someday, but not until after The Rage. Because, you see, to love this person again, you have to hate her first. And I mean hate. Like, honestly attempt to seriously injure that person and feel sincere sadness when you fail. Like get so mad that you literally spit every time someone mentions his name. Healing requires an intense and extreme hate that burns hotter than a thousand suns, that rages like a forest fire and clears away all the dead emotional underbrush of your past relationship, leaving a layer of nutrient rich ash from which the sprouts of actual friendship with this person may grow.
I am rich in metaphor today, no?
So it also goes with any long-term emotional investment, as with a job, or a volunteer commitment, or a prolific writer of horror novels who was fairly original and entertaining when you were younger but then ran out of ideas yet failed to have the grace to quit publishing the books that you keep reading because you can’t let go of that glimmer of hope that he’ll stop sucking for like, a second. Or a diet. Like Weight Watchers.
I got into a discussion at work the other day about reverse racism and reverse discrimination. Now personally I think “reverse racism” is a load of shit, and under US law, “reverse discrimination” is just discrimination and, thanks to the white people on our Supreme Court, is just as illegal as the whites-against-everybody-else historical kind. I also think that some white people like to throw that “reverse” in front of “discrimination” to scare other white people into thinking that there is actually a difference and that it is a mounting problem and that MINORITIES ARE WORKING COLLECTIVELY TO TAKE AWAY OUR STUFF OMG RUN.
My coworker posed a question to me, basically, “Don’t you feel bad when somebody treats you different because you’re white?” The answer is yes, I do feel bad when that happens, because while I don’t need to be liked (so much as I like being liked or enjoy being like or have to be liked (ahem)), being disliked or unfairly treated for any reason hurts my feelings. But just because somebody hurts my feelings doesn’t mean I get to be righteously racist in response. The way I look at it is I either did something, unconsciously or not, that could be interpreted as racist and so I ought to take the opportunity to look at my own behavior instead of kicking and screaming like a petulant toddler, or the person who treated me ill really does dislike all white people, in which case, who the hell am I to declare such dislike unjustified or unfair? I don’t know what kind of experience that person has had with other white people, and I don’t feel like it’s my place to challenge the legitimacy of any person of color’s beliefs or experiences relating to race. Basically, I pretty much strive to take Magniloquence’s advice about What I Can Do and How Not to Be An Asshole to heart.
So yeah, pat me on the back and give me a fucking cookie, right?
But yesterday (more like last week, now) I was walking to the bus and I walked past some dingaling mall punk Hot Topic type of white kid, probably in his late teens. He was wearing a sweat shirt that said, “I am sick and tired of white girls.” And I got really irritated. Like, really irritated. Irritated enough to start this post, save it as a draft, and then actually come back to it later (twice!) anyway.
What is it about this shirt and its essentialization of white women that bugged me so much? Sure, there’s the misogyny but tragically, that doesn’t really stand out above all the other daily misogyny to raise my feminist terror alert level much above “junior absorbency.” It’s definitely the combination of “white” and “girls,” two parts of my own personal identity, that made me take that stupid t-shirt personally. It made me think about what sort of insipid stereotypes this asshole kid assigned to white girls and internally rail against all the ways that I defy these stereotypes, and all the ways all the other white girls I know defy these stereotypes. It made me want to ask him where the fuck he got off declaring that he was “sick and tired” of an entire segment of the population, the segment that I happen to belong to?
This also got me thinking about how my feelings might change depending on who was wearing the shirt. If a man of color were wearing the shirt, I’d be less irritated by the race aspect but my feminist terror alert level would increase to super plus. Same if a white guy who didn’t look like he was running to meet his mom for a ride home from the mall was wearing it. If any woman were wearing the shirt, I would just feel sad. I think the kid wearing the shirt was just trying to be clever, plus he was with someone who looked like she could be white (although I know that doesn’t necessarily mean she identifies as such), so maybe it was just some racially provocative ironimisogyny.
When I was searching the web for more information on the shirt (I sort of figured it came from T-shirt Hell or one of those stupid places), besides a lot of spam blogs and an old post on a Detroit-specific board about the shirt’s creators, the only discussion I found about the shirt itself was on a white supremacist message board which, you know, doesn’t make me feel any more conflicted or anything.
Okay, after all that rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, I got inspired by the Rotund’s love of pot roast and thought of something to post about: Macaroni and cheese.
Macaroni and cheese is my favorite food, and has been for as long as I can remember. In my family, oven-baked mac and cheese was a special occasion dinner staple. No Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter dinners were complete without a hot dish of ooey, goey noodles and cheese topped with a crunchy crust. I started looking forward to any holiday dinners months in advance because I couldn’t even fathom how to make macaroni and cheese happen all by myself, plus? Mac and cheese is like the worst and most evil fat-making food in the world and if I ever ate it on a day that was not a major holiday I would suddenly swell to roughly the size of house and nobody would love me anymore. Yeah!
As an adult, I have made macaroni and cheese, to varying levels of success, a number of times. The version I made the most is a Weight Watchers recipe that was actually pretty decent, all things considered. Most recently, I made the Cook’s Illustrated version and it was close, but not quite perfect – too creamy, and the breadcrumb topping tasted like bread.
And so, for love of cooking and food and to prove to myself that macaroni and cheese is not evil but rather possibly the most perfect distillation of all that is good and right on earth, I am now on a mission and that mission is this: create the perfect macaroni and cheese. I want to make a mac and cheese that evokes the magical casseroles of my childhood, that lives up to my memories, that is super delicious, that my hypothetical grandchildren will demand the recipe to lest I take the secret of such an amazing foodstuff to my grave.
I plan to try different cheeses, different shapes of pasta, different binding agents, different sauce bases, and different toppings. I’ve got a block of two year cheddar that I bought at the Federal Plaza farmer’s market today and will sally forth this weekend. I will, of course, document my progress here.
If nothing else, this can be Ottermatic’s Macaroni and Cheese Blog.
So, mac and cheese fans, if you have any recipes to share, suggestions, or just want to revel in a shared love of cheesy pasta casserole, comment away!
Blogging sure has changed since the last time I had a website. In the olden days, in addition to having to walk barefoot to the internet cafes in the snow uphill both ways, most people just didn’t notice what I was writing. And those that did were internet people, not real life people. I could talk about pretty much whatever floated my boat at that particular time and, with a little nominal obfuscation, the subjects of my blog posts would be none the wiser.
Now, I don’t know if it’s WordPress and its clever tagging scheme or the robustitude of Google or the ubiquity of the internet or what, but even with a quiet little low traffic anonymous blog, people find me. This was brought to light when the Dog Fish Head rep that I talked shit about a few posts back stopped by to call me out on my shit talking. It had never occurred to me that he’d find this, or even look for it. I’m used to assuming that the majority of people I meet on a daily basis check their email or maybe read MSNBC or whatever news portal is the manufacturer’s default homepage on their browser and that’s the extent of it. To my chagrin, I find this is not true.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about what I am comfortable writing about and what I feel like needs to be off limits, just in case. And there’s a lot that I really feel is off limits. The only person that I know in real life who knows about this website is my husband, but most of my friends are super internet savvy so how long before they find it? I wear my politics on my sleeve, and it’s pretty clear to any body who has seen me in person in the last six months that I’ve accepted my fat, so it’s not the mere existence of these things that I would be loathe have my friends to discover but the depth of my feelings about them. Some of the things I write about are not open for debate or discussion with friends.
Basically, I worry that people are going to read my blog. But then see, I’m also worried that people won’t read it.
I’d decided from the get go that I would not blog about my job, the organization where I volunteer, the details of my personal activism, organizations of which I am a member and with whom I occasionally do interesting things, or any leisure activity thats description would suffer for lack of detail if adding the detail would be likely to alert someone to the presence of this blog and my identity. That basically leaves meals, cats, crochet (which I’ve not been doing much of lately), fat issues, and what I watch on TV. For example, here are some things I’ve wanted to blog about REALLY BAD but felt it prudent not to:
- My friend’s documentary opening at a well-known local theater.
- My friends’ bands playing at various venues.
- My friend’s stage debut at a very well known Chicago theatrical institution (although not her stage debut in general).
- My friend’s new dance number, and her dance troupe. (And yes, I have some f’n amazingly talented and beautiful friends!)
- My love of and frustration with the organization that I volunteer for as they struggle for funding and I struggle to create boundaries around my free time and avoid having a nervous breakdown.
- A yoga class that I signed up for and dropped out of because the teacher passed out weight-loss materials to the students.
- Some neat new developments in my professional life.
I’ve been unmotivated to post about political issues, too, for a couple of reasons. For one, I think other bloggers do it much, much better than I ever could. For two, I want to do these posts justice, to give them the attention and detail that they deserve and I rarely have the time or energy to do so. And for a special bonus reason, while I still read the news and the blogs and strive to be informed and aware, because that is almost literally the least I can do, processing that information and really thinking about what is happening in our world… well, it’s depressing. I mean that in the literal sense – sitting at the computer ready to write and then WHOOSH here come the waves of despair and I just want to go watch cooking shows on television.
I had something else I was going to write but I forgot what it was, so here is a picture of my cat, post vet visit, coming down off her kitty Valium that we have to administer to keep her from eating the vet’s face, because I am confident that she does not read the internet: