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Guest Post: Burning Bras – A (Plus) for Effort

Ally: Remember when you were in pre-school and in order to talk you had to hold the special “talking stick”? No? Was that a game they just made up for me to get me to shut the eff up? Whatevs.

One of the things I love about this site is the ability to pass the “talking stick” on to others who have something to say. On Sunday I was catching up on Facebook, you know to see what was happening in the five minutes since I’d last checked, I saw an interesting update from Nalani which read:

wants to know why “plus sized” clothing is always so misshapen! Do they think we like wearing garbage bags? And, why “plus” – like the person didn’t already know they packed on the pounds without announcing to the world that yes I’m tooo huge to shop in the “normal” section! Get a life fashionistas!

I emailed her to see if she would be interested in writing a post about this very topic. It’s something we’ve been wanting to take on for a while. So, here’s Nalani’s take on “plus-size” fashion. I’ve asked her to also comment on a recent photo shoot she participated in. I thought the shots were beautiful, and I so admire her confidence (and her make-up).

L-A: I’m going to leave the blogging to Nalani today, because her post is amazing. We’ve been wanting to talk about this for awhile. I’m a girl who falls somewhere in between “normal” and “plus size”. And it’s annoying. Especially when all you want is a pair of jeans that fit and look good. Is this too much to ask? It shouldn’t be. Take it away Nalani…

Nalani: I love being a rebel, and I love being fashionable doing it.  I constantly question the world around me and I demand answers to those questions.  This became very evident when I decided I wanted to do a bra burning photo shoot.  What woman wouldn’t want to liberate herself from the clothes that bind her and say to hell with the world, I am going to do what I want.  A little bit of fire goes a long way to independence!

First of all, let’s get one thing straight.  Bra burning is a myth.  It never happened.  Seriously!  In 1968 a group of women got together to protest the Miss America Pageant, but they never burned their bras.  Interesting – I know!  The idea and movement behind the myth is what prompted me to do it. It is about liberation and freedom, strength and confidence and most importantly independence. Liberation from everything that constrains you; confidence to overcome your adversities, and freedom to choose the path you want in life. All of this is what women were feeling and thinking back in 1968 and the burning of the clothing that constrained women is powerful. That is what prompted me to do the burning and let’s face it, it’s really cool!

In my quest to find the perfect clothing for the bra burning, it became very evident to me that there are not a lot of options for women who do not fit into “normal” size clothing.  What constitutes normal is beyond me.  I mean was it Neanderthals that decided what is normal?

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I personally think everyone is normal.  However, I stand corrected.

Plus-sized clothing is a huge industry, no pun intended – ok, maybe a little pun.  To be categorized into this size a person must fit into clothes that are sized 12 -26.  A size 12 doesn’t seem to constitute a “plus size” to me.  Is society made up of this type of person?

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I consider myself a confident person, but I will never, ever look like that!  A woman who is a size zero that looks unhealthy is not “normal” to me.  She’s so food deprived she is leaning over as she walks!  Sorry fashionistas, a waif if not my idea of fashion, style or confidence!

Why separate out fashionable clothing depending on your size? It’s like shopping for spoons, but the soup spoons are placed in their own section or store because of their abnormal dimensions.  Come on, a spoon is a spoon, and clothes are clothes.  Why separate them out!  I may be an inch bigger than average, but I don’t need a store to single me out, and I especially don’t need you to label me as “gigantic”.  It brings flashbacks of grade school where you don’t get picked for team sports.

Why store names are characterized as “plus” or “image” or “wide” is preposterous!  I know I have a few extra pounds; I don’t need someone to plaster the fact that I am overweight all over a store front screaming to everyone that I need bigger clothes as I sheepishly enter the front doors.  I want clothes that are the same as everyone else.  I want to look pretty, be confident in what I wear and have people notice that I look like a rockstar.  I think I pull it off, ne croyez-vous pas?

In my quest to look like a rockstar, I shopped till I dropped.  Seriously!  I mean, I went out shopping after knee surgery trying to find the perfect garments.  My stylist (Nirah Villeneuve)  came up with a look – pencil skirt, blouse, heels and fabulous jewellery so that I would be confident, sexy and “me”.

Nirah is a stylist to the stars and lives right here in Halifax.  This woman sells jewellery by Stella & Dot and has styled the likes of:

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Nirah has case upon case of Stella & Dot jewellery.

It’s all beautiful and she will pick out the best jewellery for you and your wardrobe.

Nirah and I both thought it would be extremely cool to do a modern 70’s look for the actual bra burning.  Sounds easy to pull off, right?  Wrong.  Plus sized clothing that is actually fashionable and stylish is hard to find, especially if you are looking for something specific.  I couldn’t feel liberated if I couldn’t even find what I needed to wear.  Needless to say, I went everywhere.  I went from Old Navy to Laura Store, Tommy Hilfiger, Ricki’s Bootlegger, to Esprit.  I have never tried on so many clothes in my life.  I even – horror upon horrors – went into a plus sized store (Addition-Elle) to see what they have.  I get flashbacks to the Jaws theme song…

… every time I think about stepping foot in these stores.  I made it my life mission to not shop in plus-sized stores because of the way their clothes fit.  If I wanted to wear this:

I would have shopped at the local grocery store.

The photoshoot was to take place with the help of Liam Hennessey of Applehead Studio Photography.  Liam is fantastic.  You feel comfortable and confident with him immediately.  The guy loves shooting different, unique types of photographs.  I mean he gets off on doing Trash the Dress shoots – which are phenomenal and I am a HUGE fan.   As soon as I told him I was a feminist and wanted to do something different, both of us said “Burn the Bra”.  We basically read each other’s minds.

My photos turned out unbelievably well.  After all the humiliation of walking into plus-sized stores, asking for the forbidden plus sizes and being looked at like I was crazy to enter a “normal” store, I knew I wanted to be liberated.  Liberated from letting people make me feel bad for having a few extra pounds.  Liberated from the insecurity of wanting to look and feel like a beautiful, fashionable rockstar.  Liberated from the fashion industry and the designers that make clothes for people who are too thin, too tall, and too “normal”?  I think I pulled it off.  Confidence is the greatest fashion.

Burning the bras was fun and petrifying and somehow satisfying.  Who knew that bras are actually fire retardant?  We doused those bras with so much fuel it was permeated into the air and we still had problems getting them lit.  Basically we had to do it as soon as the fuel touched the material.  What do manufacturers think – women are going to burn their tata’s off slaving over a hot stove?  Do they think we all want to be Lady Gaga?

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Once that bra started to burn it was action time.  Time to be strong, confident and most importantly shed those insecurities.

Being a “plus size” doesn’t mean I am not normal – it means I am “me” – fashionable, confident, strong, and proud of it.

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