Oscars Liveblog Tonight/A Gabby Rant

For those who have been wondering, yes, we’ll be liveblogging the Oscars tonight! Snarky’s Machine, Sweet Machine, Fillyjonk and I are all on board, though we can’t guarantee we’ll all be there from start to finish. We’ll start with the red carpet at 6 EST/5 CST/3PST 7 EST/6CST/4PST (we decided we can’t take quite THAT much merriment) and keep going until we’re bored or too drunk to type.

All this will be happening over at the brand new Shapely Prose Liveblog site, which we hope will work better than Cover It Live did for the Golden Globes. If all goes well, that’s where we’ll do all liveblogging in the future, and the archives will remain there for anyone who missed the events.

If you can’t watch on TV, here’s a list of options for watching at least some of the coverage online. (We’ll try to agree on one of those sites toward the beginning, so we’re not all talking about 5 different things.)

In the meantime, Erica Kennedy has a glorious rant about Gabourey Sidibe’s stylists over at The Feminista Files. I’m not sure I agree that Andre Leon Talley is the answer here, because I still haven’t forgiven him for Jennifer Hudson’s space bolero, but I heartily agree with this:

Now if you had read this on USA Today’s site and not on another blog that was linking to it, you would have noted, as I did, that they felt the need to put “full-sized” in quotes like it’s such a derogatory thing to say about a woman that they needed to soften the blow with… well, kinda.

She IS full-sized, mofos. She’s not ashamed of it. Stop trying to be ashamed for her! DAMN.

I’d noticed that Gabby was showing up to a lot of stuff in off-the-rack dresses — mostly ones I’d lusted after on the Saks website, so at least it wasn’t like, as Kennedy puts it, “She HAS to do the red carpet and then to have to say 100x, ‘It’s… Lane Bryant’?!” But then I was online window shopping the other day, and I stopped by SWAK Designs, which at the time had a bunch of pictures of Gabby (supposedly) in their dresses — which I think top out at $99.99 — at major events. And she’s certainly been out on the town in Igigi.

Now, I’m a fan of Igigi, and when I have semi-formal events to attend, it’s one of the first places I check. And for most of us here in the real world, those dresses ain’t cheap. But most of us here in the real world are not FUCKING OSCAR-NOMINATED ACTRESSES. Gabby is allowed step it up. Gabby is expected to step it up, in the crowds she’s now running in. Remember when I attempted to run up an imaginary tab as high as Sarah Palin’s from high-end department stores, and utterly failed? Yeah, here’s what I said then:

If a fat woman were running for office at that level, she’d still be in suits that cost under $1,000, ’cause that’s all that’s out there. Some of the career wear for fatties is very well made and plenty expensive, but if you buy the only argument in support of Palin here — that women of her stature are expected to dress a certain way, and it costs that kind of money — then a fat woman who aspired to be a woman of Palin’s stature and look the part would be shit outta luck.

And of course, it goes without saying that a woman who wears over a size 24 is already shit outta luck. Everything I’m saying here about upper-class fat women being shut out of dressing like their peers goes quadruple for fat women who are sized out of high-end department stores.

Also, is Tadashi really the only fucking designer making plus-size evening wear? (What happened to Carmen Marc Valvo’s plus line?) There are loads of dresses that cost over $1,000 in Saks’s straight size section, and some a lot more than that, but only one over $500 in “Salon Z.” Again, if fat women want to move in the circles where women blow a couple thou on a dress for one night, we don’t even have the option of dressing to the same level. We’ve got to show up to our charity events and opera openings in gowns that don’t cost much more than the average bridesmaid’s dress.

Gabby is moving in circles where women blow many more than just a couple thou on a dress for one night (or at least, are loaned/given dresses worth that much). And yet all of the above still applies. (Except that David Meister has joined Tadashi in Salon Z –more on that in a moment.) Sure, she can also have stuff made — she did for the Golden Globes, and apparently for tonight. But even though Kevan Hall, who designed the GG dress, talks a good game – “it’s all about picking the right silhouette for her shape,” he told Robin Givhan — that dress was such a fucking disappointment to me.

I think the color’s gorgeous, but the sleeves are bog standard Fat Girl Arm Tents, and the beading doesn’t look much more impressive than what you find on a $150 Igigi. And as for it being “the right silhouette for her shape,” um, am I the only one who can’t even find her shape under there?

Which brings me around to the other side of this rant, in which I note that sometimes, off-the-rack is not such a bad thing. This dress, which she wore to a Precious press conference in Toronto (I have no idea who it is or where she got it), is slammin’ — sleeves and all.

And as for formal gowns, in my opinion, she has yet to top this $530 David Meister.

FAT GIRL IN SHINY FABRIC WITH BARE ARMS! THE HORROR! And yet, if you can get past that (and okay, the wrinkles at the bottom), she looks a lot younger and prettier than she did at the Golden Globes. There’s that.

As long as she looks like the beautiful, confident twentysomething it girl she is, I really don’t give a shit if her clothes were a dollar a pound at Goodwill. Sharon Stone wore Gap to the Oscars, and everyone found it charming. But the difference is, Sharon Stone had a bazillion other options. Her Gap top was seen as a conscious rejection of the pressure to princess out for Hollywood’s annual circle jerk, and hooray for that. But the problem for Gabby is, you can’t consciously reject things they won’t let you have in the first place.

And my big problem with Gabby’s event wardrobe is not that it’s cheap, comparatively  — as I said, some of her off-the-rack dresses have made me swoon —  it’s that it shows such a stunning failure of imagination on the part of whatever stylist(s) she’s working with. People who get paid a lot of money to make her look her absolute best apparently default all too often to the fashion approach ordinary fat women are all too familiar with: If it fits, it’ll do.

We all deserve a hell of a lot more than that, but an Oscar-nominated fat woman attending A-list events left and right not only deserves it, she should be able to get it easily. So if her stylists can’t be bothered to think outside the Salon Z, and designers can’t be bothered to cut more fabric for a hot, young, highly visible actress, we’ve got a problem. Not that that’s a surprise, but still.

Anyway! Here’s hoping Gabby looks more gorgeous than ever tonight.  If she doesn’t, I am going to be making this face all night.

See you at the liveblog.

Friday Fatshion: Lucie Lu

Here’s a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes work here at SP: Practically every email thread among the five of us, whether it’s about blog biz or work gripes or righteous feminist anger, eventually turns into a discussion of dresses. What can I say? We like dresses, and I think part of the reason we cohere so well as co-bloggers is that we have similar ideas about how internet goof-off time should be spent: baby animal pictures, clips of Morgan Freeman in The Electric Company, and looking at pretty dresses. Oh and looking at shoes.

Pretty dresses are not without their political dimension, to be sure. There’s the cult of femininity, and class issues inherent in clothing purchases, and the problems of the fashion industry, and the narrow ideas of what’s “attractive” and “appropriate” in clothing (which, as Snarky pointed out in the recent fashion thread, are strict for most women but even stricter for marginalized groups within that group). But there’s also room for those of us who like dresses to just get excited about dresses. So when a commenter stopped by to alert me to the new store Lucie Lu, I thought “you know what? It’s so rare that there’s a new plus size store with cute stuff. I’m going to review this place on the blog. We can unpack the semiotics of dresses later.”

Lucie was nice enough to send me a few things to review for you, and somehow they got through last week even though the mailman only fought his way to our house twice and only pried open our iced-over mailbox once. And even though I barely got dressed in the last week, I managed to put them on! Below the cut, some thoughts on this new store for those of you who like dresses or pictures of dresses.

Continue reading

Fashion without hatred

There was a time, when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, when I used to think about fashion the way The Guardian‘s Tanya Gold details in a recent article: that it was a foolish realm of fantasy for people who would never give me the time of day.

The oddest thing rescued me from fashion. It was that I got fat. Never mind why; that is a story for another page. But I got so fat that even fashion wouldn’t pretend it could fix me. You can get so fat they don’t actually want you in their clothes. It is bad marketing; if very fat people wear their clothes, thinner people won’t buy them. There was no point rattling through the rails any more, seeking a satin redemption – nothing would fit my unfashionable bulk. I was consigned to M&S smock-land, across the River Styx. And it is lovely here; no heels, no stupid dresses-of-the-moment, certainly no thongs. Fashion has died for me, with an angry little hiss. Ah, peace.

I can look at the clothes on the catwalk now and laugh at their imbecility. They are not for me.

I can’t speak for Gold, but when I felt like this I wasn’t really angry at the gods of fashion, though I felt that “angry little hiss.” I was angry at myself for being insufficiently thin, insufficiently feminine. I was angry at my body for growing too much hair and too much flesh, at my feet for hurting in pointy shoes, at my hands for not being deft enough for perfectly applied eye makeup. This is not to say that I didn’t recognize the harmful practices the beauty industries — including the ones Gold describes, which so many of us have experienced — but my anger was still not borne out of a sense of being harmed psychologically, but of being rejected physically. Why bother, well, bothering when I was clearly never going to succeed? The idea of failing and succeeding at looking a certain, very specific way completely permeated my attitudes about fashion.

My dislike of fashion basically ended when I started taking baby steps toward accepting my body. The more I liked what I looked like, the more interested I got in adorning myself; getting dressed was no longer about correcting my supposed deficiencies but playing with my self-presentation. FJ and I spent some fantastic time in college hitting malls, thrift stores, army surplus stores, anywhere we could get our hands on clothes that spoke to us and fit our bodies, “too fat for fashion” though they may be. Eventually I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where feeling like a freak was as point of pride for many people, and the fashions reflected that. I dyed my hair bright red not out of rebellious angst (as I had done in high school), but because I loved having a dash of red near my face. I got glasses that stood out on my face instead of blending in. In other words, I built my own style, and even became known among my friends as having a strong fashion sense — words that my younger self would have furiously disbelieved. Fashion started to seem less like an enemy conspiracy and more like an artistic world that, like other art forms, has elite circles, everyday practitioners, and a lot of people in between.

In fact, despite the notorious anti-fat norms of most of the fashion world, it was an interest in fashion that led me to live body acceptance in my everyday life rather than just giving it lip service. I joined the Fatshionista community on LJ, got voraciously addicted to outfit posts, made several incredibly stylish and intelligent friends, and realized that the politics of fashion weren’t only something that happened to me without my consent when I put on clothes.

All of this is basically a long-ass way of introducing a wonderful response to Gold by a fashion blogger I think is just phenomenal, Tavi of Style Rookie. You may have heard of Tavi; she’s been getting a lot of press lately because she is a popular and charming style blogger who is also 13 freaking years old. 13! What were you doing when you were 13? Granted, I am 100% positive that if blogs had existed when I was 13, I would have had one — but I can guarantee you it would not be fashion-positive, much less fashion-forward. (It would have featured a lot of terrible poetry, is what it would have done). Here’s part of Tavi’s response to Gold’s lament:

Ms. Gold speaks about how she discovered fashion at 13 and then dressed in a way she knew she was supposed to dress. “How I enchanted. How I belonged. I thought I looked just like the effortlessly beautiful girls at school. Except I didn’t. And, very soon, I realised that I didn’t. All that weekend job money and childish angst and still I looked like me. That was the first seduction – and the first betrayal.” I don’t believe Ms. Gold “discovered” fashion; she discovered middle school and teenagerdom. She said that before that, she dressed as Andy Pandy and was happier.

I find the idea of dressing as Andy Pandy pretty awesome. It’s creative and it’s fun, and that sounds fashionable to me. What Tanya Gold and many others, including myself, hate is the everyone-has-to-look-the-same-and-also-sexy philosophy, which is NOT fashion.

This is by no means written with the intentions of a personal attack on Ms. Gold, but rather, a kind of response to this idea that I see coming up often. I think that the problem with fashion isn’t fashion, but how others decide to see it. The same “fashion” magazines that offer advice about pleasing men might decide that fashion isn’t for overweight people, but it’s Tanya Gold’s fault for believing it, and if she really wanted to have fun with clothes she could. Same goes for the idea that clothes HAVE to make you look sexy. Not if you don’t want to! Isn’t that amazing!

Don’t you wish this girl were your niece or your friend’s daughter? She’s seen through the sexyface plastic facade of fashion advertising — the part that uses the desire to conform to sell you things — to the part where people get to have fun with their own looks, and all before starting high school. Instead of desperately apprenticing herself to grownup sex appeal, as girls are pressured to do younger and younger, she creates an outfit (to pick just one recent example) as an homage to Edward Gorey.

T is for Tavi, whose hair is now blue as a Na'vi

My friend Coco perfectly summarized Tavi’s great appeal for feminist fashion-lovers: “What I love most about Tavi – and I’ll be heartbroken when it changes, as it will most certainly change – is the fact that she is still very much a child who is enjoying her childhood. She dresses like a 13 year old girl with fantastic and interesting style, as opposed to a miniature version of an adult woman. She rejects the notion that fashion is for making us sexier and rejects that being sexy is the objective in womanhood at all. In today’s culture where we make thongs for 8 year olds, and “boyfriend jeans” for toddlers, this is positively radical.”

I agree. While I have great sympathy for Tanya Gold’s rejection of the mandates of fashion, I think Tavi is a great face for personal creativity and self-respect in style. Fashion is not just about what gets pictured in “women’s magazines,” which are by definition handbooks in compulsory femininity. Style blogs are, I think, a great antidote to the orders “to buy a dress, and a bag and then perhaps some stupid, unnatural shoes and feel a kind of brief, bright burst of self-acceptance, which always evaporated as soon as I was home,” as Gold puts it. You don’t have to buy those things. You don’t have to be sexy. You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to look like everyone else — in fact, you don’t have to look like anyone else but your own damn self. You can wear a character from My Neighbor Totoro as a brooch and look like a million bucks. You get to decide what fashion means to you.

Photoshop’s greatest hits

It’s nothing most of our readers haven’t seen before, but Newsweek has a refresher course on the “biggest airbrushing scandals” of the 2000s. Consider it a visual illustration of the impossibly narrow standards of beauty that we’ve been talking about this week (and note especially how the women of color involved have had their skin lightened to fit that epically narrow ideal).

ETA: For shame, Newsweek! Looks like you got the “inspiration” for this piece — along with many of the examples — from our friends at Jezebel. Thank heavens for the mainstream media, doing all that original reporting, am I right?

Links: Golden Globes backlash, or This one goes out to the ladies

Those of you who hopped on our Golden Globe live-blogging adventure on Sunday (which was way, way more fun than I expected — GIVE YOURSELVES A HAND) might be interested in the following posts on Jezebel about (sadly predictable) sexist reactions to various women at the show:

James Cameron & Kathryn Bigelow Used To Be Married — Get Over It

‘You Don’t Put A Big Girl In A Big Dress': Dissing Christina Hendricks

And, my personal favorite: Paper Devotes 363 Word Article To Mo’Nique’s Leg Hair

Basically these are all iterations of a theme: woman dares to look “different” (i.e., boobs, leg hair) and/or succeed artistically, must be put in her place. Well played, media journalists. What daring provocateurs you are.

In which I am defeated by a billboard

I hate this ad.

Doesn't this make you want to... buy a dress?

I stood waiting for a bus the other day while another bus idled in front of me. It had this ad on the side, bigger than life. I stared at this passive, anonymous woman, done up all ’80s-retro so you can pretend she’s not even in the present, much less someone with thoughts and desires that might conflict with your own.

There are a lot of reasons to hate American Apparel. So, so many (NSFW on all those links). But for some reason, seeing this image around town — even though the woman in it is more clothed than many others in AA ads — makes me especially sad and especially angry. To me, this looks different from the usual despicable American Apparel visual language for women’s clothing, which is of amateur porn; this looks like a woman impersonating a blow-up doll. She’s ready for you (and by you, of course, I mean Manly Straight Man You, not Woman Who Might Want to Buy a Pencil Dress You) to climb right on top of her and yank that ponytail to kingdom come. And you don’t even have to look her in her stupid eyes — they’re conveniently covered up to disguise any trace of personality!

Women are represented as sexual objects so frequently in our culture that it often barely registers for me; I walk past ads with tits and ass galore and just go “hmmph” as I go about my business. But every now and then, some image wakes me up temporarily to just how fucking disposable women are in ads, in songs, in films, in books. I take off my “just make it through your day blinkers” and look around me in horror. I don’t know why image in particular jolted me any more than another — it might have just been the amount of time I had to look at it — but I can say unequivocally that seeing this image in public made me feel unsafe. There’s no other way to put it.

This ad, like so many others, has a message: women are here for your sexual amusement. Stare at them. Talk to them. Touch them. They’re just waiting for you to do it; they put their hair up so you can grab it. They wear heels so you can ogle their legs. They’ll do whatever you want, and you don’t even have to look them in the eyes.

Links: Ladies We Love

Kate writes a mash note to Gabourey Sidibe of Precious, who could not be any more fabulous if she was abducted by aliens from the Fabulous Nebula.

Long-time SP hero Lesley from Fatshionista is the star of today’s Boston Globe! Congratulations, Lesley, on your continued march toward world domination and a more fatshionable world. We adore you!

Just a reminder

The beauty ideal is socially constructed and changes over time.

In 1912, Miss Elsie Scheel of Brooklyn, New York, was deemed the “most nearly perfect specimen of womanhood” among Cornell’s four hundred coeds. Scheel was twenty-four years old, stood five feet seven inches tall, weighed in at a healthy 171 pounds (her favorite food was beefsteak), and possessed a decidedly pear-shaped figure (it measured 35-30-40). Nevertheless, Cornell’s medical examiner […] judged her “the perfect girl,” having “not a single defect” in her physical makeup.

–Lynn Peril, College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Coeds, Then and Now, p. 256*

Miss Elsie Scheel’s BMI would have been 26.8, placing her squarely in today’s dreaded “overweight” category. At Banana Republic, to pick a random contemporary store, she would wear a size 8 top, a 12/14 bottom, and probably a 12 dress with the bust taken in. And she was the “most nearly perfect specimen of womanhood” among 400 young, mostly white women in 1912.

Peril writes that the NYT was citing fashion experts in 1923 — just 12 years later, but in the post-WWI flapper era — who said a 5’7″ inch woman (presumably also white) should weigh 110 pounds and measure 34-22-34. (Also, “The ankle should measure 8 inches” [p. 256]). The NYT did not consult the student body or the medical examiner of Cornell, current or emeritus; one wonders what this group would have made of a 60-pound reduction in specimens of “perfect womanhood.”

*This book merits the Sweet Machine Seal of Snarky Feminist Approval

Items… Of … Interest!

Please read the post title in a Futurama announcer voice.

Welcome to 2010, Shapelings! Have some links.

Kate takes on the “no fatties” dating site controversy at Broadsheet.

Jezebel’s Jenna discusses V Magazine’s latest plus size fashion shoot, which features back fat and belly rolls! For reals!

Lauredhel talks full body scanners, disability, and privacy at FWD.

Latoya inaugurates “Moff’s Law” at Racialicious, and we are totally copying her on that. It starts so deliciously and just gets better:

Of all the varieties of irritating comment out there, the absolute most annoying has to be “Why can’t you just watch the movie for what it is??? Why can’t you just enjoy it? Why do you have to analyze it???”

If you have posted such a comment, or if you are about to post such a comment, here or anywhere else, let me just advise you: Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut your goddamn fucking mouth. SHUT. UP.

Read the whole thing.