Weekend Observations: The Racial Dimension of Plus-Sized Fashion

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Aaahhh, the bar mitzvah is over and I finally have a few minutes to indulge in some reading. (Pics to come soon!) I grabbed the latest edition of the New Yorker and came across a fascinating article entitled the “Plus Side.” Playing off the term “plus size,” the article addresses the transformation of the plus size fashion industry.
This article is so replete with interesting facts, that I can’t address all of them in one post.  No question I’ll be mining stories from this article for posts to come.
One interesting story within the story has to do with the racial politics around plus size fashion. When we think of the conversations that surround plus sized fashion, health and weight come to mind. But there’s a racial one too. A huge group of women in the plus-sized community are African-American.
And the African-American element is probably what keeps the industry as exciting as it is and can be. Not only do black men and women celebrate a fuller figure (or “thick” figures), but the community has a history of embracing fashion — and fashion shows for that matter — as forms of resistance.
The story references the Sunday church processions of black slaves and how they became forms of fashion shows and beauty pageants.  And in so doing, these processions elevated the slaves in a sense, even if for only a few hours.  How interesting!
Over the years, we, at Beautyskew, have often challenged the cultural conversation around fashion shows, beauty pageants, and in some cases, the fashion industry in general, which depict these cultural elements as frivolous at best and demeaning at worst.   We have cited examples of when these cultural institutions were uplifting. Here, again, is an example of fashion shows and beauty pageants don’t hurt but elevate people. Fashion shows and beauty pageants for African-American slaves were forms of rebellion against enslavement and inhumanity centuries ago, and now they are forms of resistance against cultural norms.
No matter the health or economic issues some may have with celebrating plus sized fashion, I’m all for rejoicing people’s right to feel powerful, celebrated, and equal to all others.
 

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List


For this week’s “Additions” we focused on beauty pageants: the Good, the even Better, and the Ugly too:

  • This isn’t the first plus-sized pageant but the fact that it happened in France, the home of the waifs, is remarkable!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2265989/The-catwalk-curves-IN-Frances-plus-size-beauty-queen-crowned-Paris-Haute-Couture-fashion-circus-arrives-town.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

  • A pretty amazing teen defies stereotypes in a MAJOR way at her hometown pageant

http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Miss-Ky-Teen-contestant-shows-inner-beauty-4209459.php

  • Pakistani beauty pageant becomes a stage for political activism

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Bhopal/Beauty-pageant-to-raise-voice-for-Sarabjit-s-release/Article1-993263.aspx

  • A sister bemoans the fact that pageants judge people for outer beauty rather than the inner kind…hmmm…I’m SO over this debate!

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865570990/Miss-America-2013-How-can-beauty-be-judged.html

Any more stories to add? Comment or tweet us @Beautyskew

30in30 Week 5: I Love Me, I Love Me Not

Week 5 of 30lbs in 30 weeks.  +/- ? lbs *

Today, I am taking my sixteen year old niece out shopping. Like many in my family, she is a big girl. She is also a smart, outgoing and friendly girl. Her size seems to have no bearing on her self confidence. I have always admired how self possessed she is and her “I don’t give a !@$& what you think” attitude. She is at an age where kids can be cruel and it is hard to love yourself. I am proud of her for being true to who she is.

fat models

But, that’s the dilemma isn’t it? The fact remains, she is overweight and she does need to slim down. It is harmful to her health. And whether we like  it or not, her appearance could also impact future opportunities. It is a question I have asked  myself many times. How do I love my body today, but be disgusted enough to want to change. I can’t tell my husband, “I don’t feel sexy today, check back in 6 months.” I don’t want to be the fat woman I am today, but I need to love her today.

This is an increasingly popular trend – this idea of “I am fine just the way I am.” I think it is a dangerous one, at least in its current form. We are a nation of extremes. I read an article recently about the first runway show that featured “real curves.” The photos featured clinically overweight women strutting down the runway in bikinis. While I embrace any movement away from the impossible standards set by runway models and Photoshop, I really don’t understand why the pendulum must swing so far in the other direction. Why can’t we celebrate a healthy size 8 or even 12?

I suppose this is why I am trying this “happiness” approach to weight loss. I don’t believe that loving myself means believing that I don’t need to change anything about me. I love myself enough to change. I also don’t believe our confidence should be tied to our physical appearance or size. I have met women of all shapes and sizes, and usually, the sexiest ones were the ones that believed they were sexy. They exuded it, regardless of size.

So, I will take a note from my niece’s book and be confident and happy today. I won’t wait until I’ve reached some preconceived notion of perfection. But, I love myself  enough to take off the blinders and strive towards a healthier, leaner version of me.

* I did not post weight lost or gain because I am away from home and every scale I have tried gives a different number. I will post when I am back home on my own scale.

To learn more about my project, 30lbs in 30 weeks, follow my weekly posts here.

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Karen Propp is an artsy-fartsy digital geek who sees beauty in a different way. She chronicles the pursuit of happiness and  her weight loss project, 30lbs in 30 weeks, in a weekly feature. You can read the introduction here and follow her journey here. You can also follow Karen on twitter @karen_propp.

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