Rachel is an elaborately decorated cupcake come to life who lives with her cat Ivan in Dallas.
Rachel is an elaborately decorated cupcake come to life who lives with her cat Ivan in Dallas.
Even though my job was ramping up to a busy spring, I decided to apply. I love clothes, I love shopping, I spend most of my weekends endlessly clicking through plus size clothing anyway, why not get paid for it? Right?
(Me in my Dia&Co/Junarose blush trench coat. Just call me Rachel Sandiego!)
I had seen plenty of Dia&Co ads on Facebook. I actually commented a bit disparagingly on an ad once, as it had billed itself as workwear but every sample outfit had jeans. However, my mother is a subscriber, and she seemed perfectly happy with the service.
Whenever you request a box, a real live person reads through your profile, looks at any photos you’ve uploaded, and even looks at any social media profiles you’ve linked. Your stylist tries to get an idea of how you normally dress, what your body type is, and what pieces they think you’ll like/appreciate/want/need. Then, the stylist writes you a personalized note about how to wear the items included. The box gets packed and shipped out, then you have 5 days to try everything on and decide what you’d like to keep, return, or exchange. If you keep everything, you get an extra 25% off.
Way back in September, I went to a plus size pool party. It was awkward. I did meet a lady there who was the head of styling at the Dallas office of Dia. I kept my previous denim comments to myself. She asked if I was going to attend Curvy Con, which was happening the next week. Dia is the main sponsor of Curvy Con. At the time (and now!) I was dying to go to Curvy Con in New York, but just couldn’t swing it, so she definitely had my attention. We chatted more about being a stylist, we took some pictures in the Texas-shaped pool, and then we exchanged numbers and instagram handles.
And then I kinda forgot about it. Until I saw her post that they were hiring for part time. And then I found out that I needed a new car. So a second job was on the cards.
There was a video interview, a take-home styling test, and then an in-person group interview, which included another styling test and a typing test. I was surprised to see how many straight size ladies were in my group interview, and then how many were at the 2 day orientation and training we attended after we were hired. The orientation/training was great. We got to see a lot of the garments in person, to see house brand quality (high!) and sizing (fair!). We also went over different body types, different clothing shapes, different styles, and each of the in-house brands. Some of the body shape and clothing info was a little redundant for me, as a fat seamstress, but it was definitely important for the straight size employees to understand how many factors go into clothing and fit for plus sizes.
Once those two days were done, we were on our own to work from home. Our lead stylist still oversaw our progress to make sure everyone was getting the hang of it. All boxes and styling notes were double checked before being sent out. Corrections, suggestions, and ideas were given to each of us via Google Docs.
I am really pleased with the quality, fit, and style of the clothes — especially our house brands you can’t test out in a store beforehand. It’s been really fun to know that I’m helping under-served plus size women throughout America try new styles and find their confidence through clothing. The downside of that is reading their personal styling notes – things like, “I have a fat stomach and I should never show it” and “I hate my butt, I have to wear long shirts to cover it”. It’s a bit jarring to read how many women have such strong insecurities.
(My favorite Dia&Co/Rachel Roy dress)
I don’t have cable. I don’t read magazines. My instagram feed is BoPo beauties and DrakeOnCake. I have been living in a body positive, pro-visible belly outline, anti-diet talk bubble and I didn’t even realize it. I feel very lucky, and very proud to be able to help create that bubble for other women through She Might Be and through Dia&Co. While critics may call it an echo chamber — not all echos are bad. It’s perfectly okay to have positive ideas and feelings echoed back at you.
I try to use mine to help women feel confident and empowered by the items I’ve chosen for them. Dia&Co is focused on empowerment. We share positive feedback and happy customer photos throughout the company, and cheer on our beloved customers. Within the first month of work, there’s been a call for deserving organizations that we can help. Confidence through clothing can be looked down on as shallow. However, feeling confident in an outfit can be the building block to feeling confident in other areas of life. I walk taller and speak more confidently when I’m not afraid of people looking at me. That leads to doing better at work. One tiny step snowballs into a happy, content life.
If you’d like to sign up for Dia&Co and are in the US, my affiliate link will give you a $20 discount.
(My Beth Ditto Collection skirt and Dia&Co blouse.)
Not to be maudlin, but I love Sylvia Plath. I first read The Bell Jar as a depressed teenage girl, hiding it in my pillowcase. I identified so strongly with Esther/Sylvia and her feeling of being on the outside looking in. As I’ve gotten older and thankfully grown out of my major depression, I identify more with Sylvia’s poems, and their tone of growth and healing.
It was an emotional last session; my therapist Anna, reassured me that I am always welcome to participate in any of the group sessions they offer after we talked about my plans for the future. Then we went straight into the last session of group therapy, with the 4 women who participated through all 20 weeks.
Together, we ached. It is a strange and powerful feeling to know that everyone in the room knows your biggest secret, and shares it. Those weeks together were like a movie montage — laughing, crying, hugging. Usually in the same session.
A shared background, interpreted individually, bringing people together across all social lines. That has contributed to the smooth transition out of therapy and back into “civilian” life. I hope that we, as a society of interconnected social media accounts, continue this feeling of community and allow more survivors to come forward and share their stories. Waiting, aching, healing — and now, feeling more complete than I have in years.
Please take from this that not only is it okay to speak out: it is good. Not only can it help you heal, but others can use your strength as a weapon in their own battles. Keeping an open discussion about mental health is really important for helping to end stigma and shame. Its okay not to be okay.
image taken from the She Might Be Instagram.
I recently participated in a market research study regarding the new range of women’s apparel at Target. I was really excited to participate, because I love Tar-Jhay, and because I hadn’t bought any clothing from them in years. Ok, and because I got paid.
Target is introducing several new clothing brands, and reinventing themselves. The study focused mostly on their new brand A New Day. The tagline for the new brand is Style That Goes Wherever You Do, and with sizes ranging from XS-4X, they’re working towards inclusivity. In the store we were in, the plus sizes were in the branded section, but still on their own racks. I actually prefer that, it’s easier to tell if something will come in my size or not. The campaign seems really focused on including plus size customers.
I was a little disappointed in the Ava & Viv brand section, as in the store it was around the corner from the main clothing area, and the clothes just weren’t my taste. I’m also disappointed to see that online, Ava & Viv doesn’t have their own fancy splash page, like A New Day does. To be fair, it looks like Ava & Viv is more focused on basics, rather than trendier fashion pieces. As an American, I am very excited to see the Ava & Viv line has a great ASOS knit midi skirt dupe, no more shipping charges!
Who What Wear has a great look, with a ton of work-friendly yet very trendy pieces. This line is reminiscent of Misguided or Boohoo, with a more sophisticated finish. This is a collection that really looks like me. I look forward to trying out the pretty blouses and the professional dresses.
I felt liberated to tell them that the plus size clothing being placed around the corner was annoying. It feels like they’ll happily take my fat money, as long as we keep it on the DL. It’s offensive. I’m not your middle school girlfriend, this can’t work if you’re not proud to be with me. Since the women interviewing me were all thin, they were surprised that was something so important.
Consequently, I’m excited to try out these new pieces and to see how the quality and sizing compares to my usual haunts. I’ve been spending my extra pennies on housewares lately, so my wardrobe could definitely use a little refresh before the cold weather hits Texas.
This gorgeous jumpsuit that is giving me serious Danielle Vanier vibes.
These faux leather trousers, perfect for holiday parties.
This floral pencil skirt that will slot in perfectly with my normal work clothes.
And this shirtdress that will look just as good with tights and boots as it will with sandals and rolled up sleeves in spring.
The holidays can be an extremely stressful time for those with even the best family situations, and they can be near impossible for the black sheep. Oh good, a room full of people disappointed in me! Let’s have a nice meal together. Great. Luckily, I’ve put together my top survival tips for getting through the season while still proudly being the black sheep.
Once you know your own emotional boundaries, you’ll feel so much more relaxed even in uncomfortable situations. If you have a hard boundary on weight talk, counter Aunt Eve’s remarks about your body with a simple, “I’d rather not talk about it.” If she persists, repeat yourself again and, if possible, leave the room for a moment. You don’t have to bend your boundaries for family.
This is another big one for boundaries. You do not have to explain anything, to anyone, for any reason. A firm, but polite “No” is the only explanation you need to give. “Come give your Uncle a kiss!” No. “Are you seeing anyone special this year?” No. “Can you watch your cousins while we go to a movie?” No. Consider this your permission slip to not explain yourself.
Giving yourself the quiet alone time we all need can be especially difficult if you’re staying in the family home, or if you have guests staying with you. Commit to giving yourself the space you need for just 30 minutes a day. Even if it means sneaking out to your car and parking a block away to browse instagram, give yourself private time to breathe. Can’t leave? Shut your bedroom door and pop on some headphones. You’ll feel so much better prepared to socialize after you’ve given yourself a break.
Let your freak flag fly! There’s no use making yourself miserable by playing a role for family that already judges you. Make the weird reference no one else will get, but you find hilarious. Put on your favorite film, even if you don’t think the rest of the house wants to watch it. Been reading a lot of fanfiction lately? Let your family know you’ve been reading a lot of independant fiction from up and coming writers you’ve found online. Live your truth.
If you just can’t face family this holiday season, you can have a full, happy celebration without them. Let yourself enjoy your office party, a get together with friends, even just watching Christmas movies at home. You haven’t failed Christmas if you don’t spend it with family. The important thing is to celebrate in ways that fulfill you, whatever that means to you personally.
This is probably not news to you if you are, like me, fat and depressed. It shocked me to hear that this has not already been explored by the medical community. And then, the biggest shock — “Scientists don’t know why.”
Really? Scientists don’t know why? Did they ask any of their fat and depressed patients? Sure, I might not know the biological reasons why, but I can detail several reasons why my fatness and depression are linked.
My weight has many causes: some genetic, some medical, some my decisions. Generally, I try to eat pretty healthily, as I tend to get heartburn and gastrointestinal distress pretty easily. I feel my best when I don’t eat meat or dairy. It’s not about weight, it’s about not spending the next day feeling nauseated and in pain. I do a pretty good job sticking to meals that I know are “safe” for me to eat. However, when I have a lousy day and my depression is really bad, it’s so easy to go “Ugh, what’s the point?” and grab fast food on the way home. I am weak to the siren call of the double quarter pounder with cheese. And I buy it anyway sometimes, because I know it will make me feel better in the short term. Depression says, “What’s the point in eating healthy, you already feel terrible, do something you know will feel good.” It’s a very short term reward, a hit of dopamine, to eat that burger I know I’ll regret.
Constant messages that your body is unacceptable are depressing. Mentally healthy people struggle with their body image in the face of the media’s obsession with thinness and health. People already predisposed to depression take the criticism even harder. Facing the insidious idea that you are wrong and bad and should feel bad about it, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. Even going to the doctor for help with a mental illness can be a trial. Often, no matter what you see your doctor for, they’ll start the consultation by telling you to lose weight. Have a sore throat? Lose weight. Ingrown toenail? Lose weight. So depressed you can barely make it to work every day? Try getting some exercise! Knowing that your concerns will be brushed off and you’ll be chastised for your body make it much easier to avoid seeing a doctor at all.
The side effects of the most common antidepressants almost all list weight gain. Seeking treatment for depression while fat can cause you to get fatter. Even if you remove morality from weight, gaining weight can be difficult to handle just in a day-to-day-life kind of way. Your clothes stop fitting, and it gets expensive to buy more. If you start to feel better mentally, the pressure to lose weight creeps back in. Trying to find the right prescription is difficult enough, but if your doctor won’t prescribe you one known to cause weight gain, the list of options gets smaller and smaller. What if the pill most likely to help is also the one most likely to cause weight gain? Depending on your current weight, your doctor may not even prescribe it to you.
My depression seemed to cycle. I would be okay for long stretches of time, sometimes even years, and then I would suddenly sink for months. The first time I took an antidepressant, I was 14. I gained weight, but I was able to do my school work and participate in activities again. After a little over a year, I went off it on doctor’s orders. I went back on a different one at 17. And 19. And again at 21. And 23. When I was last prescribed an antidepressant, the doctor told me to take it for at least two years straight, hoping that it would permanently change my brain chemistry. So far, it seems to have worked. But having depression is like being an addict, in that you’re always in recovery. I’ll always have depression, even if I’m not currently depressed. I’m not as high-functioning as I could be, but I’m at a point of feeling “good enough” that I don’t want to try any new medications and upset this balance.
My depression and weight are absolutely linked. I’m curious to see if the medical community can get past their bias against fat people to find out the biological reasons why. I’ll be waiting, fat and depressed, to see if they can improve my quality of life.
However, this doesn’t stop me from window shopping for them. I have a little daydream about living somewhere with a real winter and think about how great I would look in all the new coats every year.
This leopard print coat from Eloquii is perfect for that. The beautiful emerald green collar gives it a little pop and it definitely stands out in a sea of black wool. This is sized from 14/16 to a 26/28 US, which means it’s great for UK size 30/32. The best part? It’s currently on sale for 40% off!
Maybe leopard print isn’t for you. This hot pink skater coat with ruffles still stands out of a crowd, with a huge pop of color. I love the skirted bottom and the frilly shoulders. This is a steal at £75 and is available in UK sizes 16-30 and US sizes 12-28.
Day Dream #2 is Boogie Nights. Pair those bell bottoms with some disco or some folk music, whatever floats your boat.
ASOS Curve is bringing back 70’s glam with faux fur coats this season. Everybody can be a little bit Jerry Hall with the help of a faux fur. This midi-length is available in UK sizes 18-28 (size 30 is currently out of stock) and US sizes 12-24.
This tweedy vintage-y cape from ModCloth can also make your 70’s dreams come true. Sizing up to a US 4X, so just add bell bottoms and clogs.
Daydream #3 is Ultra Luxe. Luxurious fabrics, cool, cultivated styles, and being the HBIC.
The Beas coat from Universal Standard is perfect for my ultra-luxe, ultra-boss alter-ego. Cosmopolitan, polished, no drama, no trifling. Just lush fabrics with high quality finishes. Universal Standard offers international shipping, and this is available in US size 10-28.
Isolde Roth’s shawl collar coat from Navabi is another ultra-luxe option. The rich color is unusual enough to stand out without sacrificing the sophistication. This is available in UK 14-26, with size 28 being sold out, and US 10-22. Use She Might Be’s exclusive code “SheMightBe15” for 15% off.
Daydream #4 – Hello Snowbunny
This Faux Fur Hooded Coat from Evans is perfect for trekking through the snow on the way to meet bae in a mountain lodge. Since this is a daydream, Tom Hardy meets me there with a glass of champagne and a fire blazing. This coat will get you almost as warm. Since there’s just the one Tom Hardy, heat things up with this coat, available in UK sizing 14-32 and US sizing 10-28.
If you’re a more rock n’ roll type of snowbunny, this faux fur parka from River Island might be for you. This parka mixes soft faux fur with shiny coated fabric and silver zips. Soft with a hard edge, great for grunge snowbunnies on the go. Available in UK sizes 18-28 and US sizes 14-24.
What’s your winter coat daydream?
Things that I’ve been through that still evoke an emotional response that I’d rather approach as more of “just a thing that happened” and less of a “life-changing THING THAT HAPPENED.”
I’ve been participating in a “processing” stage therapy group at my therapist’s office. Meeting weekly with other women who have a shared experience and are at a similar stage in healing has been really helpful. We recently went around the circle and talked about what we’d like to gain from attending the group. I personally, would like to be better at acknowledging my anger, and also, to be able to approach my trauma as if it is a fact, and not a feeling. That’s the difficult thing – how do I treat this traumatic, emotional experience as a fact? How do I remove my emotions from it, in order to move past it?
Sometimes I like to think of my past relationship as a book I read. I let it feel real while I’m “reading” it, and then I try to close it, put it back on the shelf, and think about it more as a hypothetical than as something tangible. Sometimes it’s the only way to get past the memory playing on a loop. Part of processing is also being able to take the next step, to move onto the next level, to live in the present. To stop letting feelings inform facts.
That’s the long and short of it. I could give you a million valid-feeling reasons as to why, but all it boils down to is that I don’t trust myself to choose a better partner. Because I’m still letting my feelings inform the facts. I know that I have grown and learned about myself and have far, far better boundaries after seeing my counselor for these last couple of years. I know that I’m not 18 anymore, and it won’t be my first boyfriend anymore, and that I’m not afraid of being alone anymore. But my feelings are still screaming louder, that it’s too frightening to try.
For now, I’m okay with that. As time passes, I realize that the only things I’m really missing about being married is having someone else to run errands for me. That’s not the basis of a healthy relationship. I’m currently interested in a unpaid personal assistant. In time, that might change. I might change. For now, I’m really very content with Ivan (the cat) being the only man in my life.
In other ways, I’ve learned to let facts take over. When I first started to acknowledge what happened, I was too afraid to be alone in an elevator with a man. Any man. Because I was letting my feelings inform the facts. Now I can take any elevator I choose. I was too afraid to give tours to men at work – an essential part of my job. I used to have to take someone with me. Now I can evaluate the facts of the situation, and give my feelings the appropriate amount of consideration. I’m learning that it’s okay to have the feeling of fear, as long as I don’t let it take over.
Ok fine, I’m not a devious mastermind. I am, however, a pretty good seamstress. I started as many little girls do, making clothes for my Barbies out of scraps. Then I graduated into cutting up my own T-shirts. Then turning a pair of too-short jeans into a skirt – by hand. I think I still have the needle indentions in my fingertips from trying to pull that needle through 8 layers of denim. My middle school sewing class was a revelation – suddenly I could use a sewing machine and a tissue paper pattern to make my own clothing! In fabrics of my own choosing! No longer stuck buying whatever I found in my size! My excitement was palpable.
Odd fits, weird fabrics. Subtlety wasn’t something I learned early. It was a long learning process, with lots of wonky seams. Obviously, I still wore them out of the house and proudly told everyone I could that I had MADE THAT. There were difficult lessons to be learned – quilting cotton shrinks when you wash it. Poorly placed darts can make for weird boob shapes. I still hate pants, even when custom fitted. Pattern sizing rarely has any basis in real life. But I learned. I persevered, I didn’t give up, I measured and cut and sewed and ripped and re-sewed. And soon, shit started to get wearable.
Though my parents are very conservative, I could push the envelope more if it was something I’d made myself. I made a cherry print mini skirt that I wore for years. I tried out halter tops, backless dresses, crop tops. Sure, some of them weren’t allowed out of the house, but it was still illuminating to see my own fat body in a style I wasn’t “allowed” to wear. Sizing was no longer an issue. I taught myself how to grade up a pattern that wasn’t big enough.
Gone are the days of having to work with whatever I could find from the Big 4: McCall’s, Vogue, Butterick, and Simplicity. Thanks to Instagram, it’s easier than ever to find new pattern companies, making great options in plus sizes. Some of my current favourites are:
Sew House 7 from whom I made The Bridgetown Backless Dress for my birthday. I found the sizing to be pretty generous on that pattern. I cut a size 20, but ended up cutting it down to about a size 16 by the time I was satisfied with the fit. The dress is gorgeous and every time I wear it, someone asks me where it’s from.
(The Sew House 7 Birthday Dress!)
Sew Over It who has a great mailing list with both new patterns, completed project photos, and fabric suggestions. Their plus size options are more limited, but I’m looking forward to trying out their Kimono Jacket pattern with a soft pink sweater knit. Kimonos are such a must-have and they’re simple to sew up. If you’re near any of their London locations, Sew Over It offer sewing classes!
(A Sorbetto top & a Beth Ditto skirt!)
My absolute favourite is Colette Patterns / Seamwork Magazine. Colette lured me in with their free Sorbetto Tank Top pattern. It had been several years since I’d sewn anything, and I wanted to start with a basic. Now I’ve made several Sorbettos, and they’re a staple for my work wardrobe. Seamwork is their monthly magazine. It’s a great deal at $6 per month, as you get two new patterns in each issue. They also include fitting and customisation features, but my favourite part is that they now show a fit guide for both Misses and Plus sizes! Their sizing goes up to size 26, and is pretty reflective of ready to wear sizing.
There’s just something about the sound of my sewing machine that blocks out all my negative inner voices. And sometimes turns them into negative outer voices, as I curse and mutter while I rip out a seam. Seam ripping can be almost as cathartic as ripping into a person, though! It’s extremely rewarding to have a tangible, wearable garment at the end of all the frustration. Making coworkers jealous of your custom fitted clothing is just a bonus.