Friday 1 January 2016

Vintage and the Plus Size Aesthetic

A few months ago, the super talented Laura sent some questions over to me to reflect on our photoshoot together. You can read it all here, but something I touched upon, has, in recent days, come to a head in the plus size community.

"I think that pinup is always thrusted upon the plus size arena as the hourglass figure is lauded as the ideal. Which is why I was keen to express the other side of pinup – the rockabilly masculine side with my ‘fat rizzo’ outfit!"

It seems to me, that when you start on your body loving journey, on of the first steps is into the world of 'flattering'. The society perception of flattering is very much so the hour glass figure, and so the vintage style is one that is 'flattering' - it skims the tummy and the thighs, it nips in at the waist, it highlights the bust. It is, to use a contentious phrase - demure. Especially the 1940s aesthetic of the tea dress.

Demure is such a loaded term, isn't it? Sexy but not too sexy, quiet and well put together. Oh, and femininity is a MUST. Because heaven for bid, women have to look feminine right!

And that is why it's so pleasing to someone, emerging from the wardrobe of black tents, jeans and hoodies, and starting to experiment. Most likely to be met with comments about how flattering that outfit is, or how slimming, ad ultimately, how great they look. And this kind of attention is addictive. And sometimes, people stay here, quite happy with their flattering, and they're content.

Just because they stay at this stage on their journey, doesn't mean that the journey is over. They are beset, just like you or I, with constant pressure and images that demand more. Or less. 

That's the thing, with this body love journey we're all on right now - there is no destination. Even for those who have the ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED BADGE, and wear it with pride, have to fight to stay at that peak level of body confidence. So those who are at the start of their journey, it's worth it, believe me, it is SO worth it, but it's a life long journey.

The journey looks different for all of us. Some of the most amazing women I know, have chosen to rock the vintage look, because it represents them, it is THEM to a T. I've talked often about how the rockabilliy aesthetic was something I dreamed of as a late teen, going to soul club nights, which then led to wanting the perfect 60s shift dress. But that is part of me, my personality. 

When I moved on from flattering, and vintage, and experimented with shapes, colour, print, trying to find the style that represented ME to the world. I didn't find any given style that appealed, it was about playing with styles, being 50s pin up one day, school teacher the next, and then a bit of an oversized shirt and jeans the next.

Our journeys are different, but it doesn't mean it's any less valid, or that we're any less of an advocate for body confidence because we dress in typically flattering way, or because we happen to want to have a jeans and a hoodie day! Just because someone wants to dress in a pinup style all day, every day, doesn't mean they've thrown feminism out of the window either. As I said in the interview:

"Pinup is the empowerment that feeling sexy gives you. Whether that sexy comes from the bold red lip, the cinched waist, or a visible d├ęcolletage, it is owning that sexiness, rather than being the unwilling participant in that exchange."

Fashion is almost never about the opposite sex, but about taking the power back, and making it all about us, in all our amazing forms.

Much love my lovelies, 

K x


  1. Love this, such an important post. It's totally okay to identify however you want, just don't feel like you HAVE to look a certain way because of the way your body looks. Comments like 'women should look demure' (to use a nonspecific example... Ahem...) can just be so damaging and dangerous.

  2. This is perfect, I think demure is such a problematic term when it's being held up as a style for women to aspire to.

    It's a word that means "quiet" and "modest", it's more than just a description of a look, it's also a particular way of behaving. It's a behaviour that has been expected of women in a patriarchal society for a very long time, and often harshly enforced.

    Suggesting that "demure" is something aspirational is rooted very much in the idea that women's role is to be subservient to men (ever heard a man get called demure?), to not take up space, to be seen but not heard. As an aspirational term it suggests that women's role is as decoration, careful not to speak to loudly or strongly. To capitulate politely, with grace, to their "betters".

    I think when it is used alongside words such as feminine it is especially harmful, as it equates being quiet and modest with what it means to be feminine, what it means to be female. It's a reinforcing of a gender hierarchy.

  3. I love this post. I've never actually tried any vintage style myself as it isn't very me. I know many of the dresses would flatter my shape but I dress for me and me is a pair of jeans, trainers and a cute top or a skater dress and trainers. It's always been my comfort zone.

  4. Great post! Demure to me suggests the old days where women should put up and shut up and it bothers me. There are better words: modest, delicate, graceful etc. MOG has got it spot on.

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