January, 2012

Jan 12

And the gong for best supporting role goes to…

All curvy women know that wearing an underwired bra is pretty much essential to for the best support, plus clothes hang so much better as well giving you a more flattering look.
Lingerie designers Ultimo this week revealed its new Dreamwire bra, said to provide all the lift of an underwire but with none of the discomfort.
‘Sounds great’, you may say. But hang on a minute… What discomfort and why should we put up with it? Because in reality we don’t need to.

To my mind it’s a major myth that underwired bras dig into your rib cage, rub the skin or pinch the breast. If one wears a good fitting quality bra then one shouldn’t even be aware of its wire – at all.

The new Ultimo bra

For many years I’d opt for a soft bra, one that didn’t have an underwire because whenever I tried them they would indeed – as the clique goes – hurt and chafe in the tender areas – Ouch!

I wasn’t on my own, either. Friends and colleagues would complain about theirs. One woman I used to work with even cut the wires out of hers while in the office on one occasion because it pained her so much.
I had in it my head that if I wanted a good lift then a painful underwire was a necessary evil – rather like Victorian women who used to squeeze themselves into impossibly tight corsets because that was what everyone else did.
No pain, no gain, I thought; suck it up, woman.
Angry red weals along my ribcage were the price I had to pay for having a good shape. End of.

But I changed my mind when at last I was fitted properly…

In a good bra you should be able to walk, run, sleep, do cartwheels, hop, skip, jump, hand glide, go mountaineering, trek across the Andes (or anything else you see women doing on the tampon adverts) without discomfort caused by your bra. If the wire is digging in then you’re wearing the wrong size.
A good bra fitter won’t let you out of the changing room wearing an uncomfortable bra that doesn’t do the business for you and make you feel great.
Accept no less!




Jan 12

What’s a real woman?

I, of course, fly the flag for curvy women – I’m one myself and the celebration of having a full figure is what this blog is about. But the debate about what constitutes a ‘real’ woman makes me shudder. We are all real women, whether we are flat chested or blessed with an impressive cleavage; someone with slim hips is as beautiful as those of us who are more cushioned. One is not better than the other.

The conversation about what is attractive seems to me to veer into quite nasty territory sometimes…

There’s an awful Nigella Lawson vs Gillian McKeith image floating around on the internet and on Facebook at the moment which really gets my back up, the premise being that one is the most attractive and desirable.

In her photo Nigella is seen in a gorgeous evening gown (wouldn’t mind one like that myself, it’s beautiful – and very flattering), wearing full professionally done make up, hair coiffed gorgeously and she’s well lit. The photograph was taken at a public event and she’s made an effort, to put it midly.

The Gillian portrait contrasting Nigella’s is a still from ‘I’m A Celebrity (Get Me Out Of Here!)’ She wears no make-up and surprisingly enough hasn’t had time to do her hair, probably because she’s been doing things like diving into tanks of fish eyes and kangaroo boy bits to earn food for her fellow camp mates. Oh, and she’s been living on rice and the odd courgette for God knows how many days at this point so forgive her if she doesn’t quite look her best.

It’s unfair to compare the two with these photographs, and it muddies the waters about beauty and body shape.

This isn’t some sort of competition where one type of woman comes out on top. What we should all be aiming for is that us curvies get an equal deal from retailers, magazines and so on, and that skinny women aren’t represented as the only ideal. Being horrid about a slim woman not looking her best isn’t the way to go, we need to celebrate all women and encourage acceptance of all shapes and size!

Jan 12

The Perfect Fit

No matter how my weight has fluctuated I’ve always had problems finding clothes to fit me properly, in particular dresses. Shopping was a nightmare. There’s nothing worse than hitting the shops with enthusiasm, a skip in your step and a few hard earned quid in your purse only to find that nothing nice fits you. If I wore one that accommodated my bust then it would be hang around the hips like old stretched washing; I’d have to gather it in with a belt to stop the item – no matter how expensive – looking like a shapeless sack.  On the flip side, dresses which were perfect around my hips weren’t woman enough to cope with my top half, leading to gaping buttons at best or me committing indecent exposure at the very worst!

Throughout my twenties and early thirties I never wore a dress as they just looked awful on me, in fitted frocks I’d bulge all over the place like a fat sausage with too much filling. It’s something I feel a real sense of sadness and loss about; I was forced instead to settle for skirts and tops of wildly differing sizes. Even on my wedding day I had to wear a suit instead of the dress I really hankered after. I did a happy jig when they introduced Lycra into clothes but a tailored top took me up to a size 20 a couple of times, and believe me I’m nowhere near that.

In recent years shops have cracked on to the fact women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes (well done, retail sector!) and so us full figured women are better catered for. There’s room for improvement though and much of it.
Should any clothing stores be reading this is there any chance we could get shut of the  unattractive label of ‘plus size’? I have generously proportioned chest and hips in my possession and I’m proud of both; I shouldn’t have to slink into an out-of-the-way corner of the shop – where the plus size range is typically located – as if I’m an undesirable distant relative at a wedding, or a flabby elephant. And while I’m on the subject can shops for curvier women call a halt to the row up row of shapeless unflattering tunics which don’t acknowledge we have waists and make us look a good stone heavier than we are? They’re horrid!

But, steps although hesitant baby ones must be acknowledged. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar and so forth.  It’s a move in the right direction that curvier women are acknowledged on the high street and progressions need to be applauded – although not that much, we don’t want the clothing chains and designers to get cocky and complacent, do we?

The day I discovered Liverpool’s Bravissimo shop was one I’ll always remember. For the first time I bought a dress – a wrap around one; I still have it three years on – that actually fitted and flattered my figure. It emphasised my good points and were kind and forgiving about the ones not so great. The feeling was alien to me, so much so I felt the urge to pick up the assistant in the changing room, twirl her around and kiss her (I didn’t, by the way. That sort of thing tends to be frowned upon).

The chain paved the way in telling women they are a realistic size by giving their nice, pretty and feminine clothes the correct cut which curvy women need.

With Pepperberry, I am size 16 Super Curvy to accommodate my bust and the dress fits the rest of me as well and not two whole sizes bigger like some other shops! My wardrobe now contains fitted tailored dresses, a design I prefer rather than smocks or baggy ones – much more me!

Up until the last year my husband and friends stopped asking me where I got a new dress from because they knew the answer would be – yep, you guessed it, Bravissimo or Pepperberry.

But over the last year in particular, other shops such as SimplyBe have now acknowledged the need for a more generous cut around the bust and/or hips meaning progress is being made. Now I have more of a retail palette to choose from I can keep them guessing! I still look forward to more from high street names as they realise there’s a market in clothing full figured women properly. After all, our cash is as good as that of our more slender counterparts. Or so you’d think…

Jan 12

A new Dawn

The UK’s tabloids went into a major lather last year when comedienne, writer and actor Dawn French was snapped at the Galaxy Book Awards ceremony having obviously lost weight. “Dawn looks hot”, said one red top. “It’s a new dawn”, another in Punsville quipped. “Her ex-husband Lenny Henry must be kicking himself now”, said one television presenter – I cringed especially at that one.  “Some people look drained when they lose a lot of weight, but she doesn’t does she?” beamed another.


Photo: Getty Images

Let’s get something straight here. Dawn French has always been generously proportioned and embraced her size; after all her autobiography is called Dear Fatty, so it’s not as if the woman suffered from self-denial when she was heavier.
People – and the press – have always made a bigger deal (I do apologise – I seem to be going down the pun route myself here) of it than she has, despite her well-publicised adoration of chocolate and flying the flag in many ways for full figured women out there. She always said plus size women can be just as sexy as thinner ones.  And she’s right.

Dawn, from what I can make out, hasn’t been on a diet as such, just started to eat more healthily and take exercise. Both are rational sensible things to do. She’s lost a few stone by this method and good on her, I say. I understand her weight loss being the focus of attention – she looks wonderful, but then she always did. What I can’t comprehend is why fingers are being pointed gleefully and nastily at her.

“No one can be that happy being so fat”, said one commentator.  Another paper pointed out the ‘downside’ of losing weight – loose skin. When I read that, I imagined some paparazzo desperately shimmying up the drainpipe outside her bathroom trying to get a shot of her in the all together just to prove the point. Some have even offered the view that Dawn French has let curvier women down, that she has failed us in some way. No she hasn’t.

And neither have Nigella Lawson and Ruth Jones (who played Nessa in the sitcom Gavin & Stacey). Both have lost weight over the last year, the latter in particular will always be a full figured woman – and looks fabulous with it. The woman gets it in the neck when she’s bigger and when she’s slimmer as well. She can’t seem to win. It’s judgemental and makes all women feel bad about themselves.

Dawn French is still her beautiful curvaceous self. Hardly a size zero and even if she was she’d still be gorgeous. I’ve got news for people having a pop at her – women come in all shapes and sizes, it’s nothing new. Hardly a revelation, you’d think. Dawn looks healthy and happy, which is the best way to be.

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