As you may have read in past months, I tend to travel up, down and all around to plus size fashion events and Fat Acceptance meetings. From London to Sheffield and all the way to Leeds, I love visiting and supporting collectives that hold the often confusing belief (to the rest of Western civilisation) that fat people deserve as much dignity and pride as everyone else. This sense of dignity and pride includes being able to navigate society, establish professional, amicable and intimate relationships, start and develop a career, get involved in joyful physical activities for health improvement and maintenance, and simply survive without fear. And for most of these activities, unless you work on a nude beach, you need clothes. Clothes that reflect your personality, are worth the money and are fit for the occasion.
This is why plus size fashion (or fatshion) is so important: it lets us achieve our goals in life and express ourselves without size limitations, being capable of wearing beautiful and comfortable clothes that lift our spirits, fuel us with confidence and reassure us that we are not subhuman blobs pretending to be productive citizens or sentient human beings – “it thinks it’s people!”, The Simpsons dixit.
I love the big catwalk events – Plus London, Plus North – and I’ve spent years wondering when we could have one in Leicester. We’re in the middle of the country and we’re about 1-2 trains away from everything, but it’s always nice to walk it or bus/cab it there. Last Saturday, the wondering stopped and the dream came true: Style XL was not only the first event of its kind in Leicester, but in the entire Midlands, thanks to Leah Shafik from LeLeLicious Events and 30 Something Curvy Me.
Style XL took place in The Sanctuary Workshops, a small Apostolic Church in Aylestone. It keeps its church-y characteristics, including an altar-like stage and impressive glass work. The stage had a large white “throne” which served for several candid pictures and a few impure thoughts from Leah’s part. 😉 I mean, it would work wonders for acts of unholy communion.
But as I’ve said, this was about clothes and not a lack thereof. There were clothes, clothes, clothes. A small amount of stalls, but each one with racks of wonder and excellent offers for almost any occasion.
The first stall I visited was that of the lovely ladies from Yours Clothing. The shop used to be frumpy and clubby some years ago, but they seem to have blossomed into something closer to High Street fashion. Take for instance, the Hayley Hasselhoff collection. No, there’s no red bathing suit in sight, but there are adorable dresses and nice-and-fresh jumpsuits. Even funky-patterned sandals for those with wide feet. Speaking of High Street, Yours Clothing seem to sprout shops in all towns big and small, so people don’t have to travel miles to their nearest plus size shop. I didn’t know they had one in Leicester too! It’s in Beaumont Shopping Centre, a place I haven’t been to and I absolutely need to visit.
There was a stall full of Mary Kay products and catalogues, but I stayed away because I’m a lifelong catalogue addict, and my family and I have been known for ordering ALL the products. Topsy Curvy was there too, with colourful patterns and serious offers.
Sam from Iridescence, as a dear Leicester fashion star, brought her entire kit to dazzle plus size bloggers who came all the way from North, South, East and West. She was also in charge of adorning the models.
Which leads me to the catwalk: such a relaxed and positive experience. The models came in most shapes and sizes, and even backgrounds. A few were professional models, such as Bristolian bombshell Sam and Hertfordshire stunner Sarah H. Others had a history in pageantry, like former Miss Loughborough Abigail Rose Hill, and Miss South Essex Curve 2014 Cathryn Vallance. However, most of them were bloggers and common people like you and me. And they were all stunning.
We all cheered and clapped as they walked across the hall. Leah was an endearing Mistress of Ceremony, as excited about the clothes as the rest of us and giving details such as prices, websites and brick-and-mortar locations, to a background music comprising mostly of obscure 90s R&B. Including Les-tah’s own “Return of the Mack”.
Chunky Cat Cuddler is another exciting clothes and jewellery brand. The supercute Nicola brought big, thick, whimsical accessories, mostly based on animals. Cats, foxes, dogs, geckos, bunnies, dinosaurs, immense and all over your chest. If we had enough money, we would have bought the whole stall.
However, the highlight of my day, and something that should be celebrated as a Bank Holiday, was discovering Dizzed Plus. Diana and Zed (hence, Dizzed!) bring sober and sophisticated clothes from Germany for sizes 18 to 30. They are quite an investment, but they will last you forever. The ladies themselves have been wearing these brands for decades. That’s where I found a nearly tailor-fit smart jacket and a pair of smart trousers. If you are my mum, you will know how long I have been looking for a pair that felt good, looked good and lasted better.
It got even better when I met Monique from MS.SVG. She sells clothing and beauty products from huge brands and designers, such as Cabiria, Anna Scholz, Junarose, Zizzi and Carmakoma. It’s from the latter that I ordered a sultry starry top. When I get it on the post, I’ll be able to say that I bought a complete working outfit. I’m ready to rule the world.
Some time ago I used to complain that fatshion blogs weren’t political enough and that their lack of activism was dangerous. But what is more political than being able to find smart clothes your size and slightly increasing your success in a professional environment? Having a hard time looking for smart clothes can be pretty detrimental when the market only presents you with yucky polyester clubwear or shapeless frumpy materials. If that’s all we have left to wear, potential and present employers could see us as lazy, incompetent sloths. You know, as satisfying the stereotype of the fat lady. This may reduce our credibility in the high and mid echelons of society, so our voice is least likely to be listened to, power may be harder to obtain and those things we want to grab and change may be harder to reach. If the Devil wears Prada, why should we wear nada?
Rant aside, I’m very happy that Style XL happened. It was so successful, it threatens to come back next year. Perhaps in Birmingham, as Leah suggested. Back to one train away, but at least a fast one.