Grab a cuppa, this is a long’un.
Before I start? Let me get a couple of things out of the way, cause I’ve been saying some variation of these points, a lot, since I shared the photos:
1. You see more at the beach, in a nightclub, or after 11am at your local Walmart. If you’re offended by these pictures, or think I should be ashamed of myself? Bite me.
2. Before you comment and call me brave, or bold, or daring. Please take a moment to consider where that comes from inside you, am I brave cause I’m a fat chick showing some skin? Am I brave cause I’m showing a vulnerable and exposed side of myself with the entire internet? Am I brave cause we aren’t used to seeing women empowering themselves? WHY is it that you think I’m brave?
3. No, I didn’t have these pictures taken as a gift to my husband, that was an added perk. I had them taken as a gift to myself. I’ve spent way too long feeling like crap about myself and wanted to do something to feel beautiful for a change.
Let me explain;
I typically spend most of my days chasing around an energetic, almost two year old boy. A boy, who, for the record? Doesn’t like having his hands dirty, so will wipe his Nutella, cheese puff, or paint covered fingers on my clothes if I’m not careful.
And? While I am trying to get into running, I don’t run. So anything other than flats on my fallen-arched flat feet? You can forget about it. Chasing a toddler in anything other than my comfy gel-soled Asics, sounds like the seventh circle of hell to my chubby-legged and unfit self.
I live in denim capris, some kind of graphic T-shirt and flip flops.
A friend of mine recently described me as dressing like a college kid.
He wasn’t wrong.
He didn’t stop there, he went on to say that almost my entire wardrobe needs thrown out. “Maybe keep some stuff for when you go hiking” (no, really, he does know me, I swear!) “but the rest needs to go”.
Again, he wasn’t wrong.
I’d love to say that being a stay at home mum (SAHM) is the reason to blame for my college “style” wardrobe. Alas, I cannot. My poor relationship with clothing and fashion began much, much, earlier than I’d care to admit. I’ve always been overweight, fat, obese, having always had a waist much smaller than my hips and bum, I have what you’d politely refer to as a classic “hourglass” shape, but I never learned to dress for my shape, love my curves, or, without sounding too pathetic, like myself, in spite of my size.
Instead, I learned to dislike, often hate, the reflection I saw in the windows of shops and the mirror. It wasn’t the same as the images I saw in magazines, on TV, in shop windows. It was different. The only time I saw people who looked in anyway like me, was for Weight Watchers adverts in January when people had over indulged over Christmas.
Hot damn girl!
Don’t draw attention to yourself!
I learned to abhor shopping. No kidding – I mean panic attacks, palpitations and hysterical breakdowns at the mere idea of needing new clothes. At my smallest I was a 12-14 on top (UK) but on the bottom I never got below a 20. I was grossly out of proportion. My narrow waist meant you could always see my knickers when I sat down in jeans or trousers cause I always needed bigger sizes to accommodate my rotund arse. I lost patience at myself when I could find anything to wear, I’d cry angry tears in dressing rooms wondering why things didn’t look, on me, like they looked on the stick thin models standing in the windows as I walked in the door.
I learned to wear the same half-dozen outfits in rotation (I’m pretty much still wearing the same outfits, decades on), never be “brave” or “daring”, only have “nice” clothes, look “pretty” for special occasions. If I found something that fit, and looked passable, I’d buy one in every colour and call it good. Shoes (ok, flip flops) too.
I learned to be ashamed of my body. To never dare look at bikinis, anything knee length or higher, anything low cut, bright or bold patterned either, for that matter. Not only that? But you can’t shop at “normal” shops, you have to go to “plus” shops, for “bigger girls”, where the selection is crap, the prices are higher and you almost wonder aloud as to why companies can’t just make the same damn clothes they make for skinny people, just, y’know, bigger?
Dark colours flatter, don’t wear anything that shows your flab or calls attention to your “not normal” shape.
Right? That’s what “they” say.
As a result? I learned to hate and hide my body. Black dress trousers, then jeans, paired with “cute” graphic tshirts conveying my love for the TMNTs, or the Care Bears, paired with oversized hoodies (at least in Ireland) that covered as much of my shameful plus sized figure as I could manage.
Then you think all your prayers will be answered if you could just lose a bit of weight. You go on a diet. You work out. You drop thirty or fifty pounds, only to realize that your shape? Is still a Goddamned hourglass. That the weight you so fervently tried to lose, is coming off your pinky finger, your ear lobes, your ankles…everywhere that ISN’T your fat arse, or thighs, or double chin, or bingo wings, or wherever else you’d spent nights praying to God to take it from. That unless you take a hacksaw to your hips (believe me, I even contemplated that a time or two) those bastarding hips aren’t gonna budge. “Childbearing hips” they call them, and while they served me incredibly well during a blessed, easy and quick labour, they make clothes shopping painfully frustrating.
Then you find routine. You get lazy. Or, you have a baby, your body shape changes, but not in the ways you’ve dreamed about your whole life and you suddenly have the added dismay of a “mummy tummy”, cause life wasn’t unfair enough with your big hips, big arse and big thighs, I guess at least now a big tummy completes the set, and so you hide behind your baby for a couple years. You justify it to yourself, saying “I’m a mum”, like that excuses you from taking a moment to think about what you put on to wear outside, in front of other people in the mornings. Like that means you can’t justify carving out some extra cash to treat yourself to an outfit here and there, like it means you don’t deserve to feel girlie or pretty any more. Like you’re resigned to sweats and hoodies forever, because you don’t have the time, the money, the energy or the wherewithal to go shopping and treat yourself to something that makes you feel human.
And here we are.
I turned thirty-one this year and I still dress like a college kid. I still wear jeans and flip flops, I still self-hate, am ashamed of and hide my body, I still lust over pictures in magazines wondering if there will ever come a time when I can walk in to a “normal” clothes shop and not end up with hot tears of frustration down my cheeks in the fitting room cause I just want to find something decent to wear out the door in the mornings.
Enter plus sized fashion bloggers.
Ok, one fashion blogger really. Georgina Horne over at Fuller Figure, Fuller Bust
. I’ve had her on the periphery of my radar for a few years, but lately, she’s been ALL up in my ‘bidness’. She’s a sassy, loud, occasionally rowdy lady, with large cleavage, a rockin’ waist and an ginormous heart.
She takes a genuine interest in real, every day people (seriously though, the first time she tweeted me back I was all fan-girlie) and she gives great advice (on any manner of things!)
Without realizing it, her “f*ck it” attitude kinda rubs off on you, and you suddenly find yourself believing that maybe you could look half as hot as she does in front of the camera, and suddenly you’re off out down the town, squishing your boobs in to a corset named after an Addams Family character and booking yourself a boudoir photoshoot.
What possessed me?
I’ve toyed and flirted with the idea for years now.
Around my wedding, I even momentarily SERIOUSLY considered the idea, and at 35lbs lighter than where I am right now, and feeling a little more self confident, it probably would have been a more “sensible” time to act. But I shelved the idea and buried it under ALL of my jeans and hoodies.
My “everyday” photographer, liked a picture on Maribella Portraits Facebook page that appeared on my Facebook feed and I liked it.
I liked it a lot.
So much so, that I went back the next day and stared at it. And the day after that, too.
It was a picture Maria had taken at dusk in downtown Houston of some beautiful curvy women. The more I dug into her page, the more I discovered she was keen to empower women, make them feel strong and show to them their beauty – both inside and out. Her work, her page, her mantra spoke to me.
I booked a consultation, had a chat with Maria about what we both expected from the shoot, pencilled it in and hit up Pinterest for inspiration before hitting the shops to frantically search for pieces of clothing to wear to my shoot.
After WEEKS, yes, weeks of searching, I finally had my outfits. My corsets, sports shirts and underwear for boudoir, a couple of dresses and an outfit or two for Downtown glamour, jewellery, hot rollers, props and heels. I was good to go.
On the morning of the shoot I was overcome with nervous excitement. More nerves to be honest, but those quickly dissipated as Maria and my friend Sandra kept telling me I was doing great and looked hot. They stole my glasses so I couldn’t see my reflection (that’s not why, but it worked) and although at certain points I felt somewhat unnatural and a little ridiculous, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of getting dolled up and, I guess, almost being someone else for the morning.
Maria was excited by the results, her original two-week turn around, became only days, as she was inspired by the shots she had on-film. I, on the other hand, felt sick to my stomach. What if the pictures didn’t come out good? What if they weren’t what I had expected? What if, what if, what if.
There was even a moment of “Dear Lord, what have I done?” Was I absolutely crazy to think that my chubby self could look as good as the other plus size women I’d seen in similar photo shoots?
And then Maria showed me my film.
The same friend I mentioned above (who told me to dump my wardrobe) asked me if I learned anything from this experience, and I guess my answer to him, is yes. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about other people and I learned that you don’t need grand changes to make yourself feel pretty or confident. Even the smallest of changes, mentally, more so than physically, can make a huge difference to your every day life. My friend Amber has asked me three times this month if I’ve lost weight, I haven’t. Maybe it’s because I feel even just a little more comfortable in my own skin. Maybe it’s because, as she says, “you’re carrying yourself differently”, or maybe it’s because I’ve realized that being fat, isn’t the end of the world. There are people out there with real, honest to goodness problems and maybe I just need to get over myself a little.
Houston friends, I know some of you have said in passing that you would love to do something like this, quit thinking, here’s her website
, call or Facebook
Non-Houston friends? Research photographers in your area. Interview with them, study their work. Find someone who ‘gets’ you, whose vision you love.
Don’t delay – everyone should feel beautiful, even just for one day!
Since my photo-shoot with Maria, I’ve worn all the clothes I bought for it. I’ve even worn two out of three pairs of heels I got too – wonders never cease.
I’ve tried to take a little more care in my appearance. I’ve continued to shop for clothes – not like a woman possessed – but I’ll saunter in to a clothes shop and casually browse, which is something I never did before. I don’t seem to have the same core-melting fear about shopping that I had before.
Most of all? I’ve tried to give myself a bit of a break.
I’ve already stated, that I’m fully aware I’m plus-sized, over weight, obese, chubby, fat, whatever label you’d like to stick on me. I’m an unhealthy weight, I’m unhappy with my size, it’s something I’ve been working on, and will work on, for a long time.
There’s no quick fix.
Maybe who I am right now? Isn’t quite so bad after all.
Maybe? Instead of frantically trying to change who I am every day and being soul destroyed that I haven’t found a magic cure for being fat yet, maybe I should more frantically try to find a way to like myself a little more?
Maybe? Being fat isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’m not a criminal, or a murderer, I don’t kick babies, or burn animals (nor do I share those God-awful burned animal photos on Facebook). Being fat doesn’t make me a terrible person. It doesn’t make me “less than” because I’m bigger, because I’m different.
A friend described me as being “not societies definition of beautiful”, who said society was right?
Can’t we all just be beautiful?
“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine”