Thirty Pretty Projects: Week Two

Jewelry in Chinatown!

Jewelry in Chinatown!

Yes, I realise it’s been longer than two weeks since I began the Thirty Pretty Projects! It’s been far too busy and crazy to write. I’m in the process of moving abroad for the fourth time. I’m applying for a UK Student Visa. I’m working full-time. I’m trying to cram things in before my boyfriend has to leave in August. I’m travelling several weekends this month and next. I can barely get more than six hours of sleep in a night, much less work on writing about my fashion!
Yet the projects are going well! I am feeling more confident in my fashion choices after a couple of successful choices (see awesome outfit #1 here and #2 here). The second week of the projects is all about observing style and analysing my own style evolution. I was lucky enough that I travelled to San Francisco during that week, a fantastically fashionable city! So much opportunity to observe fashionable folk.

I spent some time considering the people who inspire me stylistically, and found that I have few role models for my particular brand of style. My favourite people to watch in fashion tend to have a French aesthetic to their dressing, à la Marion Cotillard. Sometimes I feel that inside, I am a petite and dark-haired Frenchwoman who dresses in neutrals and like to wear Chanel No. 5 perfume every day. This is obviously at odds with my plus-sized, six foot tall reality.

I’m much more suited in body type to Christina Hendrick‘s style of voluptuous and unapologetically feminine style. But then again, she is the same height as Cotillard at 5’7″ and my legs are all different proportionally.

It’s hard to find fashion-forward celebrities who are anywhere near my height and weight, but it feels even harder to find real life role models for women my size. I have always been the 99th percentile for height in my age group. In fact, I scoff at the CDC’s paltry 178 cm cut off for that distinction.

CDC chart

From the CDC’s report for 2000.

I appreciate and follow Fashion for Giants, a great blog for tall curvy women. But even though we both shop thrift stores and have similar measurements, Gracey’s style is very different from my own. I really like that she wears heels all the time though. That is bordering on social disobedience for a tall woman. I’ve only just started to wear heels regularly since graduating from university, because of how much crap I catch, unsolicited, from friends and strangers alike over the act of putting on additional height. How dare I? Don’t I know that women are supposed to be petite and still only come up to men’s shoulders even in heels?

Makeup is very important to my style. I generally wear liquid eyeliner, blush, and mascara.

Makeup is very important to my style. I generally wear liquid eyeliner, blush, and mascara.

Greaser-style hair.

Greaser-style hair.

This is one of the great body acceptance challenges I’ve faced in my 25 years on the planet. I was this tall early. My estimate is that I reached 6 feet at 12 years old, and in middle school towered over even my teachers. One bonus: I could always see to both ends of the hallway to the cafeteria in the lunchtime rush. Bad news? Nothing fit, even more than in the usual post-puberty adjustments. Stores in the early 2000s didn’t carry the various lengths of pants that they do now. High-water bell bottoms were my mainstay. Midriff tops were in, which turned every shirt I owned into a belly-barer. I had boobs and a butt and I hated them. Hated them! Why couldn’t I just be small and flat-chested like the other girls my age? I remember my ballet classes going from fun to exclusionary overnight as I filled out and grew so much my aching legs kept me up at night. Even the moms said that the other girls were excluding me because I looked “adult.” At my 8th grade graduation, my vice principal said that I looked like I should be graduating high school. I was mortified.

Amongst my own kind in Chinatown.

Amongst my own kind in Chinatown.

Despite being very tall, my height actually made me somewhat less visible to those around me. I wanted to be invisible, and my style reflected this for years. I slouched. I desperately tried to avoid colour. I refused to even try on heels. But when I went to university, I decided to move toward dressing more femininely and having more style. I moved to Italy for a semester and was pushed into dressing more fashionably by my surroundings. I began to come up with my “cheats” for dressing a super-tall body.I tuck my too-short pants into tall boots. I let down the hems of some pants and skirts. I wear mini-dresses as tunics over pants.

This is the most developed part of my style to this day. Especially after a year and a half buying consignment as much as possible and then abstaining from shopping at all for six months, I am much more in touch with what sizes actually mean (little) and how garments fit my body. But imagine my surprise when over the weekend in San Francisco I found that everyone was wearing high water pants. Everyone. Sometimes even rolled up to make them even shorter. Also blazers with the sleeves rolled up to make them purposefully too short (a tall person’s trick with pesky sleeve lengths). Why wasn’t this style around when I was a struggling teenager, slamming my jeans in the door and then yanking on them to try to get even a half-inch more? I had several pairs of jeans that were “too short,” and sold them. Suddenly I could wear them without shame? What the hell, fashion!

Note the pants tucked into boots to disguise the four inches of ankle.

Note the pants tucked into boots to disguise the four inches of ankle.

I struggle to incorporate colour and prints into my wardrobe these days, in part because my closet has to be mobile and has followed me from Patagonia to Korea to Colorado. Travel clothing is for observing, not being observed. I have many colourful pieces from India, but they look ridiculous and vaguely culturally patronising when I wear them in the US or UK. I once looked down at my outfit on the bus in Korea and noticed that all I was wearing were brown, black, or gray turtlenecks with tiny holes from wear in them. Solid, neutral colours are my MO, possibly a leftover of all those years spent trying to vanish.

Prints also pose a problem for me. I don’t like them. I just don’t. They look old-ladyish and I associate them with couches in therapist’s offices from the 1980s. They make my curvy body look even curvier. Or so I thought. This week I made my first shopping trip in a long while to one of my favourite consignment stores and made a conscious effort to buy printed items. These are the results.

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Printed top is thrifted from Found Underground in Louisville, CO.

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This whole outfit is thrifted! The skirt cost me $5.

They look pretty damn good, if I do say so myself!

As I work through the Projects, my pile of To-Sell clothing and shoes grows ever-larger. I won’t be making the rounds at the local consignment stores until August, when my boyfriend leaves town and I will need things to keep me occupied. It’s very helpful to focus on dressing my body, as it is right this second. I can always get new clothing next year in London! Might as well get rid of nearly all of it this summer and make some money in the deal.

I will be writing about the third week of the projects this week. I promise.

Maybe My Style Is Developed Already?

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I’m doing the Thirty Pretty Projects from Already Pretty to help myself transition stylistically and develop better ways of dressing my newly plus-sized body. I struggled hard the first week and haven’t found time to write about the second, but today I went to try on bridesmaid dresses. I found this fantastic dress and styled it with red accents…to great effect!

Maybe I know a bit about this style thing after all.

Thirty Pretty Projects Week One – Triumphs, Tears, and Adjustments

My less-successful outfit for the Fourth of July. No photos of the other one!

My less-successful outfit for the Fourth of July. No photos of the other one!

It is 2008. I am 20. I am in a dance class at my university.

For the class, we had to buy a large piece of traditional fabric and wrap it around ourselves in order to produce a semblance of a traditional garment. They only had one size. It cost $30 (in addition to the fees for the class). Mine is too small. Too small! After only one class wearing the sarong-like thing, I have big red marks all over my hips and waist from the fabric digging into my skin. It was barely staying on anyway, because I almost couldn’t tie it. At one point in the final part of class, it burst off and fluttered to the ground. I am distraught.

I am six feet, one inch tall. I am easily six inches (but probably more like eight) taller than each and every other woman in that class. I have a frame that is just larger than most. Even my bones wouldn’t fit into a size 0. I figure that there must be some way to make it right, to talk to the teacher, to adjust. I summon what little courage I have and walk up to the instructor after most other students have cleared out.

“Excuse me, is there any chance I could have a bigger size?” I gesture to my “garment.”

What happened next shocked me and has made me self-conscious of my belly and my size ever since. The instructor leans forward, shakes his head, presses two fingers into my stomach just above my navel. He says, “Diet.”

A scarf always makes me look European somehow...

A scarf always makes me look European somehow…

I started working through Thirty Pretty Projects last week, in the midst of a major style transition. I outlined some of my reasons for this undertaking on that post, and this week tried to dress with more care and record my efforts with a camera. It isn’t going superbly well. This semi-fail has nothing to do with Already Pretty! It has everything to do with me not realizing just how far my body and style issues have gotten out of hand.

Style is a direct reflection of how one sees oneself. I try to generally dress with care and to choose things that will look great on my body, whatever form within seven or so inches its currently deciding to take. I’ve struggled this week, quite a bit. On the very first day I realized that I feel incredibly insecure in front of a camera in my current body, much less sharing anything that camera produces with all you who follow this blog. I look uncomfortable in the photos. It’s very different from two years ago when I began this blog and posted once weekly about fashion. It’s been more than a few tears, and my wonderful boyfriend has been so supportive. I must really need this body and style overhaul!

Tibetan Necklace from India

Tibetan Necklace from India

Target Necklace from Boulder

Target Necklace from Boulder

Part of the Thirty Pretty Projects’ first week is to explore aspects of the body that I want to highlight and show off, and ones that I would like to downplay. A problem that I discovered is that generally all of my outfits do both at once. I’m not sure how to remedy this other than to experiment more. I’m not particularly good at dressing for summer heat. Two years without a summer in my early twenties saw to that. I prefer cool weather, covered up styles, and layering to make my lumps and bumps less apparent. Few of those are available to me when it’s 95 degrees outside.

The collar of one of my favourite dresses.

The collar of one of my favourite dresses.

 

I do have some things that I want to emphasize in my outfits. I found that it was harder to admit to having things I didn’t like, perhaps because I feel as though I’m failing somehow if I don’t have perfect body acceptance.

I swing between extremes in my self talk and thought processes about my own body. I think “Fat! Disgusting!” one moment and then “Oooh! Pretty, shiny eyes!” the next. I snark at my hips in the mirror at the yoga and then marvel at my waist two minutes later. It’s a bit like a body image personality disorder.

Not happy with my outfit. I felt the jeans are too tight and my tummy stuck out too much.

Not happy with my outfit. I felt the jeans are too tight and my tummy stuck out too much.

But I came out of this week trying to balance myself out and find the actual parts of my body that I want to emphasize, flaunt, and flatter! I also tried to pin down the actual aspects that I want to downplay, instead of just feeling “fat” or uncomfortable overall. Voilà!

Celebrate: Butt, ankles, wrists, waist to hip ratio, décolletage, neck, eyes, nose ring

Downplay: Belly, upper arms, boobs (size), thighs

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Piercing power!

One of my favourite intersections of my body/style is my nose ring. I’ve had it all of my adult life. It is unique, edgy. I like to use other silver-coloured jewelry to make it “pop” on my face. It feels like me, and when I had to remove it for work in Korea I felt like my face was naked. I love my big round butt. My hips and waist are an excellent .7 ratio, which some have argued is excellent for both attractiveness and fertility.

I love my old-ass orange shoes! I dug them out this week and hadn't worn them in three years.

I love my old-ass orange shoes! I dug them out this week and hadn’t worn them in three years.

My neck is long and slender. My wrists and ankles are thin and taper nicely, perfect for emphasizing. There are so many good things to celebrate about my body. I need to make a list of them and keep them on my person for when I feel negativity creeping in.

I look a lot better in the pictures than I imagine myself looking. My perceptions about my style and my body are clearly out of whack, since the photos look fine! I need to work on my reactions to photography and the thoughts that come up for me each time. Why not celebrate how great my butt looks instead of how my arms look or how wide my boobs make my ribcage appear?

Feeling good in the kitchen!

Feeling good in the kitchen!

To my dismay, I found that my favourite garment of all, a dress from Modcloth that I bought for a friend’s wedding…no longer fits.

I'm not a size 12 anymore!

I’m not a size 12 anymore!

I can’t zip it up. My boobs and my waist have expanded past the point that the non-stretch fabric can take. I cried. I’m not certain that I’ll be able to get rid of the dress or replace it with a new one, especially because my body may readjust and thin down next year while I live in London. For now, the dress did me a favour. It made me realise that many of my clothes actually *can* be purged. I have a lot of clothing, but little that reflects my current style and less that fits my current body. I’m gaining weight still, but I can’t put my finger on why or how. I’m doing hot yoga three times a week. I’m getting acupuncture. I’ve even been dieting. It seems like my body just wants to be bigger right now, and no amount of effort is going to change it. I can still do all of this for my health and my sanity, but I have to stop trying to force my body to be smaller.

I love to emphasize my eyes with glasses. They look classy and academic, too.

I love to emphasize my eyes with glasses. They look classy and academic, too.

These teardrop earrings are from my coworkers in Korea. They sparkle!

These teardrop earrings are from my coworkers in Korea. They sparkle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I need more clothes that emphasise the right things about my chest, not just the size. I need bras that support and push the girls together, not apart. I need ways to make my waist look smaller but camoflague my tummy. I need more polished-looking clothes, with structure. I need more matchable things. I may need a new nose ring, as mine is a little misshapen from seven years of wear. I need to either mend or get rid of the many garments I have and wear that have large holes in them.

At the end of the first week, I feel frustrated but like I may be slowly wandering toward a better me. Check back next week for more updates and photos!

And a special thank you to Sally McGraw at Already Pretty for creating these projects! You can get our own copy here for only $5!