Sew, It’s a Mini Dress

The mini dress as first pieced together.
The mini dress as first pieced together.

I had two button down shirts that I bought ages ago but never wore because I hated the sleeves on them. Hey, plus size clothing designers/manufacturers, some of us fat girls have fat arms, too. I know! Shocker! Anyway, I shoved them away in my “fabrics and projects bin” with the idea that I would make something out of them. They’ve been in there for several years and I’ve periodically pulled them out and messed with them whenever an idea hit me. I was stuck on the idea of turning them into a skirt, but I just couldn’t get that to work out. What mostly held me back was how to work the waist.

And then finally the glowing spark of epiphany hit me.

I’d make a shift dress out of them!

I love the shift dress style. It’s very ’60s and I love clothing from that decade (’70s, too, particularly boho stuff). I also decided to go bold and make it a mini dress. I’ve recently become very enamored by the concept of mini dresses, something I thought I shouldn’t wear because I’m fat and have fat legs and such. But now that I’m wearing tights with a lot of my dresses, my fat legs aren’t such an eyesore anymore. I thought this would be a good chance to give a mini dress a try.

When I first started piecing this dress together, I already knew that I’d have one problem with the set up: the shirt I used on the bottom would have to be split up both sides and fabric added so that it would fit my hips. And since I was using the red gingham on the bottom, well, that was going to be interesting. Soon I also realized that I was going to be cutting mini dress really close if I wanted the dress to look the way I wanted to. I had limited fabric I could comfortably work with. There was also the problem with the fabric itself. It’s a crinkly sort of thing that frays pretty easily. I decided the best thing I could do was go for a deconstructed look, which solved the fraying, patching (because the shirts acquired a couple of holes), and pattern matching problems, and pray that the dress would be long enough in the end, knowing I could add fabric to the bottom if I really needed to (but really didn’t want to).

I started by cutting off those hated sleeves from the red shirt and then cutting the bottom of it off. I cut the top off of the gingham print shirt, slit it along the seams up the sides, and pinned the two pieces to the bottom of the now cropped red top. I tried it on to get a feel of how much fabric I’d need for the new sides and the length was pretty shockingly short. This was the moment I doubted that it would work. And so, instead of giving up or trying to work it as something else, I said, “fuck it”, and whip stitched the new top and bottom together to see what would happen.

The length got better.

I sewed in the new sides, which basically completed the overall form of the dress. And it worked! It’s really short as a mini dress should be, but I was pleased to realize that I didn’t HAVE to add any fabric to keep my dignity. If I find that it rides up too much, I can always weight the fabric later.

Featuring my newly acquired button skills!
Featuring my newly acquired button skills!

After I reinforced the stitching between the two former shirts and patched up the holes (gingham on red, red on gingham), I turned my attention to the buttons. In cutting apart the shirts and sewing them back together, there was a gap where a button should be. I debated about this because I had never added a button hole to anything before. I thought maybe I’d just sew that gap together and disguise it with a bow or something, but in the end, I decided to go for broke and try a button hole. If it didn’t work out, I could still cover up my mistake.

I Googled how to do it, ended up learning a new stitch to do it, and, TA DA! I did it! I’m pretty proud of that bit.

And I’m pretty pleased with how the dress turned out.

Oh, and just as a reminder, I can’t work a sewing machine. This was all done by hand.

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Fat Girl Fashion in a Small Town

Kiki's '60sToday (as in the day I’m writing this blog post, not necessarily the day I’m posting it) I was feeling a ’60s vibe. So I wore a coral shift dress, white flats, and tied a wavy-patterned, purple bandana around my head in a ’60s style, fluffing up my my hair at the crown of my head to really sell it. I even did my make-up in a more ’60s style, but not too overtly ’60s. I don’t have the skill with false eyelashes and eyeliner to do that.

I also don’t own any white lipstick.

Then I went out and ran errands.

While out and about among the people of my little town in the cornfield, it was pretty obvious that I was operating on a different fashion level than the people I was around. Not a better fashion level, just a different one. And when you operate outside of the normal levels, well, you tend to stand out a little more.

Coral shift and white flats (legs)I fell into a fashion rut a few years ago. Part of it was because I was broke and couldn’t afford new clothes. Part of it was because, even though I wanted to rock some new, stylish duds, I felt like I needed a place to wear these things. Just going out around town to run errands or going to teach homeschool or ferry the kid to and from school didn’t seem like a good enough reason to deviate from my t-shirt and jeans. I’d stand out and I didn’t want to stand out.

Patterned pixie pants (legs)Last year, this started to change. First, I was able to afford new clothes. Second, I decided to stop worrying about what other people might be thinking about me because I chose to wear fishnets and boots to the liquor store (for the record, the older ladies at the liquor store have always been very complimentary about my style). Just because people around here were used to seeing only t-shirts and jeans, and people who knew me were used to seeing me in t-shirts and jeans, didn’t mean that I had to continue in that rut.

Coral shift, olive jacket, fishnets (legs)I’ve been a little adventurous in my fashion choices as a result. Wearing my coral shift dress with an olive green military style jacket, bright purple scarf, flower fishnet tights, and black suede boots. Rocking black and white patterned pants with a black or white t-shirt and black or white flats, depending on the need. Wearing an olive green tie dress and bright purple scarf (that scarf became a favorite over the winter) with gray and black fishnets and black combat style boots. Pairing my black shift dress with a red plaid shirt, gray tights, and boots.

Olive dress, fishnets (legs)I got a million of them.

(Okay, not really, but I wish I did.)

I kidded on Twitter that if I had a full-length mirror, people would be getting daily tweets of my outfits. Only, I wasn’t really kidding. I really would do that just because I’m so pleased that I’ve broken out of my fashion rut in such a colorful, fun way.

It gives the folks in my small town something different to look at, too.

Fashion Advice From a Fat Girl

Kiki in red flannelYou may think that someone of my size couldn’t possibly know anything about fashion, let alone be in the position to give out advice, but let me assure you, I’m quite qualified.

Think about it.

I’m a person that society doesn’t want to even look at it. I’m not supposed to even leave the house and inflict my fat self upon them. But if I have to leave to do things, could I at least cover up in some sort of burka type ensemble so they can just see me as the shapeless blob we all know I am. (This is not a slight on those who wear burkas, by the way; just the only example of head-to-toe clothing I could think of at the moment.)

The fashion rules aren’t written for a person of my size.

But since the fashion “rules” are a made-up, bullshit concept to begin with, don’t you think you should be taking advice from someone who makes up her own? Damn skippy.

Lucky for you, I only have two rules to follow.

Rule #1-Dress for yourself

To head off any “buts” right at the beginning, I understand that sometimes you will want to dress for a partner or to attract the attention of a certain someone. Wearing your husband’s favorite outfit or wearing a shirt you look dynamite in to attract the attention of a cute girl is fine. So long as you are also dressing for yourself.

What I mean by that is wearing what you want to wear. That’s it. You feel more confident in clothes that you like, that you’re comfortable in, that you want to be sporting. And because you’re rocking out your way, you automatically look better than you would if you tried to wear stuff that society’s fashion rules tell you to wear.

Red BlackWhen I was in my early twenties, I wore purple lipstick, pro-wrestling t-shirts over prom dresses, combat boots, had my eyebrows pierced, and colored my hair all sorts of colors. People said I did it to get attention and didn’t believe me when I said that I didn’t. No doubt I attracted attention. When you look like that, people notice. But I looked that way because that’s the way I wanted to look. I thought I looked good like that. It was the look I wanted to rock.

The picture at the top of the post? That’s what I look like today, right now, as I’m typing (okay, not as I’m typing as it is obviously a bathroom selfie, but you get the point). I’m wearing a bright red and orange flannel over a black cami, dark wash bootcut jeans, and combat boots (I love combat boots; it is a pure love). Yesterday I wore a blue cableknit poncho over a white longsleeved t-shirt (both of which my youngest niece picked out for me for Christmas).

I will wear skinny jeans. I will wear boots with my denim pencil skirt and tights. I will wear a bright purple scarf with my olive shirt dress. I will wear red owl socks with my gray owl sweater over a blue buttoned down shirt.

I wear it because I like it and that’s what I want to wear that day. I dress for myself.

Rule #2- Wear clothes that fit

I cannot stress this rule enough because it’s very important.

I’m not just talking about clothes that are too tight either. Honestly, I don’t know how that’s comfortable for anyone when their t-shirts are constricting movement and their pants are cutting off their circulation. This isn’t just for the big folks either. Just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean you get a free pass to look like you’ve swaddled yourself in a boa constrictor going in for the kill.

Kiki DressOn the flip side, don’t wear clothes that are too big. I realize, particularly for big girls, people do this to hide their bodies because society has shamed them for their size. Well, let me put this in bold print and all caps: YOU ARE FOOLING NO ONE. You can throw a circus tent over an elephant, but baby, there’s still an elephant in that tent and everybody knows it.

Clothing should fit. Even if you’re just doing a t-shirt and jeans, they should FIT.

The ass of your jeans shouldn’t be sagging, they shouldn’t be dragging the ground, you shouldn’t be hiking them up all the time. They shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t sit down without unbuttoning them, that every ounce of fat from below the waist is spilling out over the top because it has no place else to go. You shouldn’t be in danger of your skirt falling down or hiking up.

Your shirt shouldn’t be so tight that it’s a twenty minute wrestling match to get it on and then you spend the rest of the day pulling it down. It shouldn’t be so big that a family of four could camp in it either.

Think skim. Your clothing should skim your body. Loose enough to be comfortable, but tight enough so you don’t look like a slob. Even if you’re slumming it in a ratty t-shirt and jeans that have more holes than a prairie dog village and stains from unidentified sources on them, you automatically look less like a lazy, dirty grub if they fit.

Denim Pencil SkirtSo if you weight 300 pounds and want to rock a belly shirt, by all means, do so, just make sure that shirt is the right size. Jeans, too. A good bra is also a must, but that’s another post (it’s a Holy Grail quest, fellas). All about the booty shorts? Terrific. Make sure that those booty shorts aren’t so tight that they’re squeezing the booty out of the top.

Remember the rules.

And don’t let anyone shame you for what you wear.

Those folks should be ashamed for being such assholes in the first place.

Rebuilding My Wardrobe

Wardrobe

Not having a steady income flow means that I’ve learned to be very cheap in order to get the bills paid. This means that the things I want are no longer options and many things I need are relegated to want status because I can find a way to live without them.

This is why I went for several years without buying new clothes. Oh, I’d buy a new shirt or a pair of jeans if I absolutely needed to, but clothes became a “want” item and I couldn’t afford to want anything. As such, my look and my style suffered. I’ve posted before about my fat girl style and let me tell you, I’m not much into fashion, but it’s a real drag when I can’t keep up with my own style the way I want to.

However, lately, the income has picked up and gotten steady and I’ve been able to capitalize on it. In other words, I’m buying new clothes.

And it’s a glorious feeling!

I’m finally able to do some of the trends that I’ve be admiring: skinny jeans tucked into boots, cute cardigans and scarves, bright colors, things that actually fit. I’ve felt so dumpy in my old stuff. I’ve got sweaters that are a decade old and are, unfortunately, showing it. I got tired of always wearing t-shirts and jeans that were patched within an inch of their lives. Like I’ve said, I’m no fashionista, but dammit, I like to look good. This is my fat body and my fat body deserves to look its best. I know other folks would rather I dress this bad bitch in a muumuu and never leave my house, but that’s not going to happen. (Unless I can find one of those fabulous 1970’s Hawaii Five-0 muumuus, but I’ll still be leaving my house to show that bad boy off.) I’m enjoying this whole experience of getting new clothes and rocking them hardcore.

But this little bit of extra money coming in doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my cheap ways. I’m still only buying clearance or sale stuff, still waiting for days when I can take an extra 25 or 30 or 40% off. I’m still trying to stretch my dollar to the limit, getting the most I can for what I pay. And there are still things I’d love to buy, but that price has to come down more first.

I’ve waited for so long to be able to get to this point in which I could buy new clothes that I’m worried that I’m overdoing it, that all of this spending, even if I’m not spending that much at a stretch, will come back to bite me in the ass. That’s the trouble with being money-less for so long. Having money doesn’t eliminate the worry of going back to not having money.

But in the meantime, while I work to make sure I’m not money-less again, I’m bound and determined to look good doing it.

Fat Girl Style

I am known as a tomboy, which isn’t a bad label to have. I earned it.

I’m low maintenance. I favor jeans and t-shirts. My obsession with shoes begins and ends with Chuck Taylors. I own exactly two purses and I rarely use them. The concept of spending hours on my hair and make-up is foreign to me. I really don’t like shopping, unless it’s of the online variety. I don’t try clothes on before I buy them, usually.

But none of that means I don’t have style. Oh, honey, I have LOADS of style.

Don’t let my aversion to shopping and trying on clothes fool you. I actually love fashion. Not runway fashion. I’m talking realistic, off the rack fashion. I’m talking about putting together pieces that work together and flatter my body. Granted, it’s not always easy. After all, it’s a sin in this country to be fat and laws forbid if you want to be fashionable and fat at the same time. But I have my ways and my stores.

Torrid, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, and Target are my go-to’s when I’m in the market for something new.

Torrid is more high-end and caters specifically to plus-size. They GET fat girl style. They’ve got gorgeous clothes that keep up with the trends. They don’t shy away from sexy or edgy.

Old Navy also has a decent selection of plus-sized clothes (that are only available online, the only downside if you’d rather shop in-store). They’re good with the trends as well and have a good selection of casual clothes and basics that belong in any wardrobe.

I know most of you are raising an eyebrow at Wal-Mart and Target, but for cheap staples, they are the way to go. Wal-Mart is where I like to get my jeans and I got my favorite Capri pants at Target. And both places also have a decent online selection of plus-sized clothes if they don’t satisfy in-store.

I have a diverse style. I try to balance edgy and punky with classic and casual. It depends on my mood. Sometimes, I want to look more sophisticated. Sometimes, I want to look more rock ‘n’ roll. I like having the option to dress to match my moods.

My make-up is usually pretty simple and natural, but I’ve got options to spice it up if I want. Red lipstick usually does the trick. If I actually want to spend a few extra minutes, I’ll put a little more effort into my eye shadow configuration.

I prefer my hairstyle to be as wash and go as possible. As it is now, I just need a little gel, some scrunching, and it dries into the rock ‘n’ roll, messy style I like to rock. Keeping it short has really helped get as much personality as I can out of my hair.

You put all of this together and I’ve got some serious fat girl style.

Unfortunately, as I’ve gone on about my wonderful style I’ve circumvented the truth that my style is several years out of date due to lack of funds. I’m working with what I have, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m not wishing for new clothes and filling up my wishlists in the event I come into money.

If ever there were a time for Santa to come down my chimney…

Until then, we’re adding “vintage” to my style choices.