The Swagger Coach: Folklore – The Tale of the Floral Pants

swagger coach

We know the rules. Black is slimming. Choose looser, skimming styles to hide a belly. Keep skirt hems around the knee, and avoid volume. Pick pants with a straight leg to minimize hips.

This leaves me, and other fuller-figured gals, with a rather rectangular wardrobe. Doesn’t that sound like fun? So at the end of the day, if we follow all of these fashion rules, we’ll end up looking five pounds lighter, but we’ll also have the most boring, lackluster wardrobe in the world. Sign me up!

This weekend I was shopping around Toronto, looking to fluff up my spring wardrobe (after stocking up at Fresh Collective, of course. Its hard NOT to shop while you work when you work here), but was not looking for anything in particular. One of the trends I’ve been shamelessly attracted to for the season is those beautiful, lush floral prints. I recently picked up a pastel floral jacket, and even a funky floral pair of wedge heels, but have stayed away from the floral pants for a while, keeping those “fashion rules” in mind.

You may have read in earlier posts, I’ve kind of got a crush on my legs. After hiding them in bootcut jeans for years, I’ve realized that they’re very curvy, but well-suiting, and highlighting them makes me feel sexy, shapely and feminine. I’ve rocked skinny jeans to accentuate my curves rather than hiding them for some time now, but have stuck to mostly dark or mid-rinse denims. So you can imagine that, once I saw those brightly-toned floral jeans, thrown over a rack at a fitting room, I felt a mix of contempt and interest, with an air of challenge. Okay, jeans, lets try this. One leg on. The other one on. Button. Fly. Wiggle.

Pants1They did exactly what I expected them to. They totally brought attention to my legs and butt. And as I looked at myself in the mirror, I wondered how I had gone without them for this long. Yes, they definitely attracted attention to the parts they covered, but what’s so bad about that? I mean, I’ve never been one to think that a well-draped dress can make me look like a size 6, but I’m very aware that dressing for your size is the most flattering strategy of all, rather than trying to fool people into thinking you’re (at most) a size or two smaller than you actually are. So, if the goal is to flatter the body you have, why the heck was I so intimidated by these pants? They were good pants, and fulfilled their job nicely; They covered my butt and made me look like a rock star.

So I’ve been thinking about the concept of “fashion rules” and exactly what they achieve. It must take a lot of effort, time and control to make oneself look so very ordinary, and I wonder what the pull is behind the action. So here’s what I have to say on these so-called “fashion rules”, and ways to observe but challenge them. After all, rules are meant to be broken.

BLACK IS SLIMMING – Yes, black is slimming, and can be a powerful tool in not just drawing attention away from one area, but to highlight a different one! It absolutely breaks my heart to see people dressing in all-dark colours solely for the purpose of appearing thinner. How much more of an impact would they make with, say, a tailored black pant, topped with a vibrant structured top which brings the attention upward? Or a cool black leather jacket to offset textured jeans or a printed skirt? Black, like fudge cupcakes, should be something used (eaten?) in moderation. It’s striking, dramatic, and a great canvas for your brights to pop and take the spotlight, so make sure you’re adding some light to your dark!

Spring colours and prints from Mandala Design!

Spring colours and prints from Mandala Design!

LOOSE CLOTHES HIDE AN IMPERFECT FIGURE – Again, this can be true at times. For example, I have a pair of cropped pants (polka dotted!) which I absolutely HAD to own. They’re very retro, super-slim fitting, but low rise, which I’m not usually a fan of, since they can create an off muffin-top effect. With those pants, I choose longer flowwy tops to create a flattering silhouette. What I do NOT do is pair a wide-leg trouser with a loose-fitting top, and then throw a chunky cardigan over top. Some gals look as though they’re drowning in their clothes, and it ends up attracting more attention (the bad kind) and hides any shape you have under layers upon layers of clothes. Come on, ladies, I’m all for the bohemian tunic trend, but remember to offset a breezy piece with a well-fitted garment to create balance and flow.

PRINTS ATTRACT ATTENTION – True at times, but people seem to forget that prints also camouflage a whole lot too. Panty-lines, that tiny stain from your egg salad sandwich which should have ended up in your mouth but ended up in your lap, baby drool, and all the good stuff life throws at you. All of those can be ancient history if you’re wearing a well-printed garment. Prints also create (what we have lovingly dubbed here at Fresh Collective) “visual confusion” as the eye is attracted to the print itself, rather than the shape of the person underneath. Large, bright prints create interest and drama, while smaller prints in more neutral colours simply add dimension to your look. Many professional stylists advise clients to incorporate SOME kind of print into EVERY outfit to create a focus point, so get comfy, because prints are making appearances everywhere. Pick a printed shoe, jacket, or bag for a “pop of print” or get sassy with an exceptionally flattering allover printed dress to highlight your rockin’ silhouette. Get on with your bad self, girl.

Our friend, Adaline embracing prints at Fresh Collective, then rocking them onstage at Canadian Music Week!

Our friend, Adaline embracing prints at Fresh Collective, then rocking the popular printed pants from Brenda Beddome onstage at Canadian Music Week!

KEEP SKIRTS LONG TO CONCEAL LEGS – Have you ever seen a curvier gal in a below-the-knee-length, loose-fitting skirt? Have you noticed just how much volume that ADDS to the silhouette? Skirts are often a tricky area for many body types including mine. I’m only 5’4″, and I have a long torso, so finding skirts which are flattering on short legs is a bit of a challenge. I’ve found that leaner styles are most flattering on curvier gals, and love my collection of Bionic pencil skirts which channel a bit of Christina Hendricks’ Mad Men style. Alternatively, shorter skirts can flatter just as well, but should be kept flouncy and flirty to make them look sweet and feminine, not as though I’m heading to the club to fist pump until 4am. Snookie happened for a reason, ladies, and we should learn from her. This is a great way to play up the print trend too, pair a fun skirt with a classic oxford for an office-friendly look, or toss on a cute tank and some sandals and hit the downtown core for an afternoon of patios and shopping!

PANTS SHOULD FALL STRAIGHT DOWN FROM THE HIP –  Not always. What kind of look are you trying to create? I’m a fan of playing up my curves, and I’m relatively obsessed with the 50’s, so I typically choose a skinnier pant which accentuates the shape of my legs. That being said, there are plenty of opportunities to rock a wider-leg pant. There’s a big difference between wearing a wide leg pant because you want to create an effect, and wearing a wide leg pant because you think its your only option and the sole shape which will flatter your body. Wider bottoms create a column affect. This can be desirable in menswear inspired pieces, and is also super prominent in the upcoming global fashion wave, but it also eliminates any curves you’ve got throughout your bottom half. I love being a girl, and being shaped like a girl, and I simply can’t imagine hunting down items which negate my curves and make me look blocky, for fear of looking TOO curvy.

Here’s the secret: Your body has already decided what shape it is, and now it’s given you full control over dressing it accordingly and with love and pride!  Take a good long look at yourself in the mirror today, and pick out your best features and parts, and think of ways to play up these wonderful, wonderful attributes. Cutie booty? Shapely legs? Perfectly flat tummy? Be proud of the features which make you look like a rock star/pinup/Superwoman and give them center stage to shine. Having trouble seeing this for yourself? Drop me a line at Jamie@freshcollective.com and I’ll reply. We can chat about ways to create a great sense of balance and self-love through your wardrobe, and discover what sorts of new fashion territory you can cover confidently!

Happy spring, folks! See you next week!

The Swagger Coach: Jamie’s Top 5 Ways to Feel Great in a Jiffy!

Jamie’s Top Five Ways to Feel Great in a Jiffy!

Its Holiday time, folks. Now, while many associate that word with sunny beaches, elaborate cocktails and extra-tanned cabana boys, we know that here in Toronto it means break-neck shopping strategies, endless days of errands and a whopping average of 4 hours of sleep per night. Yuck. Here are a few easy-squeezy ideas to add some sunshine to your day by brightening your mood and letting that light shine on those around you. Don’t be a Grinch! (And don’t tie a branch to your poor little dog’s head, either.)

1) Pick Yourself Up

Great posture conveys power, confidence, and class. It also conveys the fact that you know that no one looks good when they slouch like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Proper posture has always been seen as a highly desirable trait, and is often seen as the best way to “lose 5 pounds in 10 seconds” much to the credit of Woman’s World Magazine (I still love those things, they teach you to make cupcakes resembling every animal of the forest/farm). Take a deep breath. Imagine a string tied to the top of your head, and it gradually being pulled upwards. Stand tall, be comfortable and smile!

2) Splurge Wisely – So you’ve been lusting after that pair of Jeffrey Campbell boots, but you’re “being responsible” with your hard-earned pay cheque, so you shop around for a budget-friendly knock-off. You’ve had your eye on an awesome new bike, yet you settle for a less-inspiring model with a weird paint job and remnants of streamers dangling from the handlebars. Having your sights set on a particular prize and getting anything other than that coveted item seems like a disappointment. We don’t truly experience the same satisfaction we would have, had we just indulged. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all throw caution to the wind and toss our life savings into a Mayan-calendar-world’s-ending-shopping-jamboree, but there’s something to be said for allowing yourself a reward for accomplishments, good performance at work, or simply because you haven’t treated yourself in a while. Go on, order the boots.

3) Take Inventory

We all have stresses and reasons to be frustrated angry, sad, self-righteous. My instant cure for the blues is to literally take notes on all of the positives in our lives. Use Post-its, or that coloured note app thing you downloaded and were POSITIVE you’d use (the one you deleted Zombie Booth to make room for), just note down things like your awesome roommate who buys you every pug mug she sees, your wicked job which not only pays the bills but is helping you achieve your dream career by taking a chance on you, or having a great relationship with your parent, sibling, or family member. Small, irritating things are pretty easy to forget once you sit back and take a look. Now, think about one of those things and devote the next hour expressing your appreciation for it. This could be writing a mid-day pick-me-up to a pal, or spending a full, uninterrupted hour in the book nook you built yourself, you crafty little minx. Be thankful for what securities and luxuries we’re fortunate enough to call ours, and let that great energy move forward.

4) Wiggle – Yeah, that’s pretty much it. My personal recipe is finding some awesome music (Led Zeppelin? Lenka? Whatever your tastes are, I’ll trust you can make this decision independently) and just kind of prance around. Not fully-choreographed routines, which require thought and effort and a trace of dignity. Nor a Tom Cruise shirt-undies-socks revival either, because apartments in Toronto aren’t that big, and if you slide that far, you’ll be in the kitchen of the guy who lives across from you. Hey new friend. Loosening up and enjoying your favorite song not only increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and gives you a whole three and a half minutes of music, but has been proven to improve your mood on blue days. Its a simple, silly task, but it offers a big payoff!

5) Set a Goal – Closet needs purging? Kitchen needs an overhaul? Pile of paperwork? Create an action plan to tackle the hurdle. The task itself seems daunting, but once broken down into smaller bits, its not so bad. “Cleaning room” can be broken down into “Pick up trash, sort laundry, hang/store clean stuff, organize accessories, match shoes”. Tackling individual areas gives you a greater sense of accomplishment than trying to organize several items at once, which most often results in one cean corner, and three corners slightly more cluttered than they were when you started. Plan your attack, stock up on what you need (None of that “But I dont have _____.”) and follow through. Productivity is infectious. Its also great inspiration for more projects. You know what else is inspiration? Seeing your bff’s place all dolled up and realizing that yours looks like something from a TLC reality show on people with hoarding habits. That usually works if you aren’t the action-plan-making type.

I encourage each of you to pick one (or a few) of these to try today, and over the weekend. Why? Because we could all use a little pick-me-up! Send this to your overworked co-worker who can be heard sighing with every pile of paper put on her desk, send it to your awesome partner who’s been running your holiday errands on their day off, or to your best friend with the three kids and outstanding ability to keep calm under pressure. They’ll feel just a little more cheery, and I know you will too!

 

The Swagger Coach: On Forgiveness

I like to consider myself to be a relatively strong person. I’ve endured a lot of bullying and name-calling due to my shape or fashion sense, and while growing up wasn’t always easy, I am glad I experienced what I did, and the impact on who its made me today. Yeah, it was a battle I wished I could have been freed from at the time, but its taught me to be tough and sensible, along with teaching me objectivity and the art of not taking life too seriously. Each snide remark, each mean-spirited comment has come from a peer, someone like myself who was at the same stage of life, and was dealing with their own issues and challenges of growing up or discovering who they were. Its shocking how easy it is to become extremely self-centered when handling bullying, and thinking about the impact it has on us, but what about the other side of it? How often do we think to ourselves in empathy, “I wonder what this person is dealing with?”

Over the last two years I’ve had a handful of childhood bullies actually get in touch to apologize for their behaviour, and to share their motivation or story with me. I’ve got to say that while some of these conversations have been uncomfortable or even marginally offensive, I truly do appreciate the sentiment of it once I begin to think about it from an out-of-body perspective. I’ve laughed during these discussions, and cried, but I can say without a doubt that a couple of these individuals have been more open, honest and kind-hearted during these interactions than many people I speak with on a daily basis. Mind you, its a bit difficult to keep an unbiased mind when these folks reach out, and the first thing that runs through my mind is “I’ve totally forgotten about this person, why do they think I still remember them and their crappy actions? Do they think I’ve really spent the last ___ years harping on this?” But then I realize that yes, I have moved on from that point in time, but humans rarely do anything without motivation, and perhaps their motivation for lashing out was something which held them down, or made them feel insecure, scared, or hopeless. Perhaps it still is. I’d like to share some of these experiences with you guys, to encourage you to think twice before condemning or judging someone’s behaviour, and inspire you to reach out and offer honest, unguarded acts of kindness to the people around you.

I was up late and on Facebook one night, when a guy I’d gone through middle and high school with started an IM conversation. Typically, Ryan* (names changed, that’s how I roll) and I didn’t talk much inside or outside of school, but he had been part of a group whom I’d had a couple of friends within, so he wasn’t a total stranger. So, when he popped up online after at least six years of not chatting, I was a bit surprised. We chatted about what we’d been doing after graduation, and the difficulty of finding jobs in Toronto, when the conversation changed direction. Ryan apologized on behalf of himself and his buddies for acting out at me when we were younger, but I wondered what he meant. To be honest, I truly don’t remember him ever being mean to me directly, but knew that his friends definitely made a spectacle out of giving people a hard time. Ironically enough, I did remember those same friends being rather unkind to him, likely because he was a bigger guy, and had adopted the persona of class clown. Funny how much we had in common, creating a larger-than-life alter ego to help us fit in in social circles. Did Ryan know that his buddies had committed the same crime that he was apologizing for, against him? Would he be just as surprised as I was to learn of this? We chatted for a while longer about things going on in his life and some of his more recent challenges, but I assured him that anything he may have said certainly didn’t make a negative impact, since I didn’t remember it happening. I was thankful, however, that he had the honesty and genuine desire to mend what we had of a friendship, and I wished him the very best in the future. I’m still baffled by his confession, and wonder what motivated him to share this with me. Was I the only person he was reaching out to? Why now, all these years later?

Megan* had been someone I’d attended an extracurricular with twice a week. She and I were the same age, and although we didn’t start out as friends, our relationship began pretty neutrally. Well, as neutrally as a relationship between two eleven-year-old girls can be. Megan had been attending these classes for a while prior to my start with the group, so she knew most kids and was friendly with all of them. She was funny, outgoing, boisterous and a little sarcastic, but nevertheless the kind of girl I could see myself being friends with. I realized rather quickly though, that Megan and I just simply didn’t get along, possibly because we were very similar; self righteous and bold at a young age, and totally unable to accept anyone questioning our judgement. It was like two rams bashing horns. She was part of the crew and lived locally along with the others, while I lived far away and had to be driven to and from the class. I rarely socialized with the others, while they were her everyday friends and neighbours. The two nights a week I loved began to be a source of major stress, and I constantly felt like I was crashing their party. Eventually, I decided that I had outgrown the class and left the group feeling dejected and almost displaced. Years later, Megan sent me a brief but jarring message through Facebook. It was simple and short, but her apology made my heart drop when I read that she lashed out due to some very serious abuse she had endured as a child. She saw parallels between myself and her attacker, and thus was guarded if not aggressive when interacting with me. It saddened me that I could be so narrow-minded, she was always such a leader, I never would have seen her as a victim. I sat on my couch reading her message, and it dawned on me that I was really good at villainizing others. Throughout the years I never stopped to think that maybe she had her own demons to battle, or worse, that she was being attacked in a far more serious and humiliating manner than I was. I was floored by the fact that reached out to me, not only to apologize, but to share this huge and troubling part of her life with me, which took tremendous amounts of strength and courage. I can’t express what it meant to me, to have someone I had thought wanted to distance herself from me for years, share something so personal.

Both of these individuals, among others, overcame their own pride to reach out to someone they believe they had wronged to set things right. Both of them had full and likely complicated lives, just as I did (and do) yet I felt as though the weight of their actions weighed heavier upon them than it did on me. I’ve learned to let things roll off, and I’m not very good at holding a grudge, so yes, while their actions have had implications, they were certainly not front-and-center memories in my mind. I’m grateful that these folks have reached out to me, and I know that apologies are the first part of a healing process, most prominently within themselves. Apologies are the result of genuine desire to attain peace and resolve conflict, and to rid yourself of the guilt or negativity that can follow you around when you let these things build up. Friends, if you can learn anything from these people, or the ones who offer you apologies, its that we never know what motivates anyone other than ourselves to do the things they do. Its easy to classify someone as a bully, but can we classify those bullies as victims too? These experiences have been so humbling for me, and while I’ve experienced sadness, guilt, hesitance, and shock as a result of these and other conversations of this type, I feel a million times more connected to the people around me as a result. Each of these exchanges has resulted in a heavy conversation in my own mind, and it makes me more accountable for my actions and realizing their implications on the people around me. I encourage each of you to start a conversation with someone in your life who needs to be apologized to, or forgiven, and liberate yourself of the burden you’ve held. You never know who’s been waiting years to hear it!

The Swagger Coach: Badass and Buxom: Plus Size Bombshells

Today I’d like to remind everyone that although we are bombarded with images which suggest that ‘thin is in’, we’re also fortunate enough to have a handful of smart, savvy gals with curvier figures rounding out the bunch of bombshells in pop culture today. These gals are sometimes forgotten as sex symbols, but regularly make an impact with their confidence, humour and killer curves. Lets salute these wicked women and their commitment to being fabulous, fashionable, and free-spirited… but never frumpy!

MILF, MILF, MILF!!!

She’s in her 50s, wears a size 12 and is the butt of every blonde joke ever told, but she’s an icon in her own right. Brought to fame by her infamous role as Stifler’s Mom in the American Pie franchise, Jennifer Coolidge is one of my favourite actresses. Not only is she an established comedienne who has carved out her niche in film and television, she’s a fuller-figured, hilarious and unapologetic gal who is reportedly a dream to work with and one of the most genuinely nice actresses in Hollywood. While she’s often cast as a dippy blonde bombshell, shes a great example of a chick who’s learned to love, and make the best of, her curvy body. She’s also a talented vocalist and voice actor, and her standup comedy routines will work your abs like never before. Originally written for a much thinner actress, the role of Stifler’s Mom was offered to Jennifer after she read for the role of a school teacher, featured in a scene cut from the original movie. The directors felt that, despite her size, she “just had it” and cast her as Jeanine Stifler, even altering the character’s lines to include some of her famous one-liners. She’s taken on similar roles in Legally Blonde, Two Broke Girls and Epic Movie, but never drops the big bold bombshell act, and for that, I salute her!

Show-Choir Show-Stopper

Amber Riley has made a name for herself as the smart-mouthed vocal diva Mercedes on GLEE, and has gained fame and fortune, plus an entourage of teen girls for this role. But, before Mercedes was born, Amber was an introverted 17 year old girl who was turned down from American Idol due to accepting “too many girls like [her] already”, struggling with body image issues and desperately trying to land roles.

“Hollywood is a very hard place to be in. It really is. Being the person that I am, you know, the size I am, being a woman, Being a black woman, there’s not a lot of roles for us. After I did St. Sass, I kept on auditioning. I was being offered the girl who sits in the corner and eats all day, the girl who committed suicide because she was fat. I never wanted to play a character that hated herself. I wanted people to know that those aren’t the only roles for people like me, normal girls.”

Well, Amber, perseverance and talent always pay off. She sounds like the lovechild of Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston and has an active hand in creating storylines and music selection for her character on GLEE. She’s got a repertoire of power ballads behind her to prove her vocal prowess, and she’s being offered roles left right and center. Recently, Amber landed a role in the Broadway production of Cotton Club Parade, and is putting a face to a whole new generation of body confidence. She’s successful due to her selection of roles, and I hope to see far more from her!

Ham or Bacon?

She’s written a New York Times Bestselling book, is named after the Greek term for ‘river of passion’, Pigathia, and she’s described as “a truck driver who wants to be a woman” by her creator and puppeteer, Frank Oz. Miss Piggy Lee is one of the ever-evolving creations of Jim Henson who has made her mark on pop culture and the fashion world in general, having designers such as Prada, Prabal Garung and Marc Jacobs create custom outfits for her. Gracing musical stages, talk shows, reality shows, and the like, Miss Piggy is a no-nonsense gal who can switch from being a doting girlfriend to a karate-chopping badass in a matter of seconds. I adore Miss Piggy, and think that children’s programming needs more confident, fashionable anti-victims like Miss P. Her glamour is unwavering and she thinks the world of herself, and I think these are traits we could all benefit from.

“Style comes in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, the bigger you are the more style you have.”

Who’s YOUR style icon? Who do you think deserves a shout-out for their contributions in portraying the confident, glamourous and hilarious plus-size bombshells we’ve come to love? Have an amazing weekend, friends, and don’t forget to channel your inner bombshell!

The Swagger Coach: It May Go On, But it Doesn’t Fit

I used to own these absolutely fantastic jeans as a teen. I wore them every other day, and cherished how comfy they were. Once, while on my way home, I tripped and tore open the knee. Well, the grunge movement was over, and I was fresh out of oversized plaid shirts, so I decided to transform them into shorts to get some more wear out of them. They were carefully hand-modified by yours truly. I spent hours pulling threads along the bottom, then realizing the hem was uneven, then cutting them more to even them out. Then fraying more. Then cutting more. Then fraying more.

Fraying is NOT a girl’s best friend…

Eventually what I ended up with was more or less a pair of frayed denim underwear with pockets and belt loops. And we all know, nothing says classy like a pair of frayed denim underwear with pockets. Especially when they have belt loops too. They turned into cottage shorts, home shorts, backyard-tanning-my-pasty-legs shorts, but never being-seen-in-public shorts.

A friend of mine came across the shorts during a pool party (all girls, I’d never be caught dead around the opposite sex in these monstrosities) and commented on how odd it was to see me in shorts.

“I didn’t even know you owned shorts. Do you not wear them because you don’t like your legs? Because, I mean, your legs are fine. You should wear shorts more often.”

Yeah, I could wear shorts more often. It wasn’t that I hated my legs, or that I was covering up in nun-like modesty. I often saw fuller-figured women wearing beautiful clothing, in flattering, appropriate cuts. I knew that, for my pear-esque body shape, shorty-shorts would cut the leg line and widen my thighs. I simply replied saying that they weren’t the best cut for me, but they were comfy and familiar, and would get lots of wear at home or on occasions such as these. She protested, insisting that showing skin was just a matter of confidence, and should not be dependent on body type.

“Look, they wouldn’t make them in your size if they weren’t meant to be worn!”

Hoo boy.

My mind immediately shot back to images of a woman who would board the TTC with me every morning. She was in her 30s probably, but made a point to wear the most ridiculous outfits daily. Pink fishnets layered over black ones, tiny denim skirts (which were, in my opinion, glorified belts) fur-collared tops which read SEXY, ANGEL, BABY, or a combination of the three. She wore bedazzled belts paired with lace-up-the-leg sandals, bizarre acrylic nails and glitter eyeliner. She had the confidence to wear these things. They came in “her size”. Was this what the designers were envisioning while making those clothes?

Is this TOO body confident? Where is that line drawn?

Where is the line between sexy and trashy, and why does it depend on body type? I’ll be the first one to toss on a dress with a plunging neckline, or a hip-hugging style in a vibrant colour. I won’t pick up a bright, low, tight, short dress though, because I know that the garment will not flatter my body. Not because my body can’t handle the garment.

I realized that dressing yourself with confidence has everything to do with your body’s relationship to the game. When the clothes themselves are the endgame, we set ourselves up for failure. Our body is the canvas. Its the fixed, not the variable. Our goal should not be to fit into specific items because they look good on others, but to find items to fit our specific bodies. When we respect our bodies enough to want to adorn them with flattering cuts and strong lines, we create a unique portrayal of ourselves and invent our own image.

Every body type has an ideal outfit!

The right outfit can make a person feel powerful, confident, expressive. A too-tight ensemble, clothes that fit poorly or simply don’t flatter the body creates insecurity within our own minds. Is this cutting into me weirdly? Is this rolling up/down? Is this hanging right? When we fix and adjust our clothes consistently we show that we’re not comfortable in them, both physically and psychologically. When we don’t feel good in what we wear, we don’t look good. Nothing, in my opinion, looks worse than poorly fitting clothes and a grandiose sense of bravado.

Lets be a little kinder to our bodies and to our egos. Lets accept and appreciate our shapes, and find clothing, accessories and other garments to celebrate and show off our bodies, rather than forcing them into this-should-fit items which create an entirely contrasting effect. Lets start to look at fashion in a personalized, unique way and create outfits for our very own shape, sense of style, and comfort level. Lets push boundaries and wear styles that showcase our best assets, but don’t tip too far from stylish and bold.

Lets be sassy!

The Swagger Coach – Loving your body, Living with grace, Learning with humour

We recently gained a wonderful addition to our FC Family. Jamie is an inspiring and beautiful gal with a passion for empowering plus-sized women. The minute I saw this in her I asked her to write a weekly guest-post so she could share her thoughts, feelings and life lessons with us. She was thrilled to use FC as a platform to spread joy, so without further ado, the first edition of…

Episode 1 – The Turning Point

I’m the fat kid.

I’m the kid who got bullied at lunch, who got laughed at in gym, and who avoided pool parties like a moody cat being stuffed into a carrier. I’m the loner who was self-conscious about eating in front of her peers. I’m the kid who cried in frustration and hopelessness while buying an 8th grade graduation dress, and I’m also the kid who turned pseudo-goth in grade 6 to avoid having to find trendy clothes to fit me. Yeah, I’m that kid, and that kid will always be with me. But things got a lot better.

Lets fast forward 12 years. I’m a mid-twenties chick living in Toronto with her amazing fiancee (formerly best friend), two puggles and working my dream job with my dream company. I proudly wear a size 18 (20 if its made without a spot for the boo-tay) and I’m 100% okay with that. I’m a social media enthusiast, and have been known to spam my friend’s feeds with self-taken shots of me at various points of the day, making stupid faces or modelling a new hairstyle. I dance like a moron when I go out with friends, and I have recently developed a love affair with skirts and skinny jeans. I think I’m pretty cute. Its been a long and challenging process, but now I’m seeing value, elegance, beauty and, dare I say it, sex appeal in my very own body. So what’s changed?

I have.

By the end of middle school, I had developed a bit of a reputation as being “fashionably outrageous” as one teacher put it. I wore 8″ platform boots to school every single day, and jeans so wide and with so many pockets, you could hide a three-ring circus down one leg alone. I layered on black cat-eye makeup and got my nose pierced even though I still hadn’t done my ears. I filled my vocabulary with a list of mean-spirited words which were often thrown at me, and learned how to string them together to create the same impact, a weapon used when needed… and sometimes when not. On Crazy Hair day, I used a Styrofoam cone, the underwire from a bra and two full cans of hairspray to create the most elaborate, ridiculous contraption with my poor hair. Why? Solely to appear even more outrageous, and win that much more respect or fear or whatever it was that was keeping fellow classmates at a distance. I slowly turned myself into an unapproachable, intimidating badass with a silver tongue and a rather unforgiving sense of humour. I prepared myself for battle every single day, and learned to keep my bullies away offensively rather than defensively. I felt like a victim so I did what I could to ’empower’ myself. This resulted in me hardening to the point that I truly believed that I had become this spooky creature with the red streaks in her hair and the studded leather cuffs.

Of course, the odd quip came. I was told that they used all the denim in the world to make my pants, and the year I performed in the school’s theatrical show, I was asked if I had auditioned for the role of the stage. Har har. But, they say that people only do things if there’s a payoff involved, and sure enough I had my payoff too. My dark ensembles gave me permission to retort with an equally malicious comment, and win the battle for the day. I was shocked at how much freedom my clothes and appearance gave me. They transformed me from my bubbly and perky self to an unpredictable and often antisocial ghost who had the ability to float around, largely free of the harassment I was taking when I was being me. I was liberated from the fear and insecurity I’d battled as a kid, but was now trapped by my inauthentic and “fashionably outrageous” attire, and the persona I’d created.

When grade 8 graduation came around, I went to a formalwear store with my mum and asked to try on a selection of graduation dresses. Since all of these were in ‘missies’ sizes, they were tailored for girls with no hips, no boobs, no curves. At 5’0, a full C cup and wearing what was probably a size 14-16 at the time, I was mortified to see another girl from my school there, trying on dresses just a few rooms down. I watched and listened as she tried on four dresses and selected her favourite within 20 minutes. By that time, I had been trying dresses on for well over an hour, and had exhausted almost every single style in the department. My mom was eased into the idea that her daughter was a “big girl” and they didn’t carry dresses for “big girls”. I was absolutely, hands-down convinced that these slim-fitting dresses were sent from the Devil himself, and their only use was to mock me. Why did this employee want to taunt me with clearly too-small dresses? Yes, they can be let out a bit but will they be let out enough to avoid that baby-blue-satin-sausage look I was achieving so well while trying them on?

It was then that one saleswoman, much older than the one working with us, carried over a gown which made my jaw drop. She stated with a wink that there was no need for me to try on dresses for little girls, since I was obviously a young woman. I liked this woman. I liked her a lot.

It was an adults gown, deep burgundy with a lace and satin corset-style top and a huge A-line ballgown skirt. The neck and straps were made from burgundy satin roses and it had an almost-too-mature sweetheart neckline. It was dramatic, Victorian looking, slightly vampiric and everything that I wanted in a dress. Best of all, it was a size 16. I tried on the dress and looked at the shape it created on my body. Narrow waist, full bust, and with slight alterations the straps and hem would be absolutely perfect. It wasn’t the periwinkle spaghetti criss-cross slip style that the other girls in my class would be wearing, but this dress was better. I had never owned an article of clothing I had felt more beautiful in. This dress was my little secret.

I showed up to graduation in the gown, my long hair dyed to a natural-looking dark brown and my nose hoop changed to a tiny ruby. My makeup was professionally done, and I wore the heels I’d strutted around my home in for days breaking in. I looked magnificent. As good as I felt, the response I got from others was truly what made that night memorable for me. Outstanding amounts of fellow students approached me to tell me that looked great in my gown. The others seemed shocked that I was showcasing my body for the first time. Needless to say, pushed up and cinched in, I made a hell of an entrance. It was then that I realized, I can achieve this look every day, and can love my body and the way it looks in clothes on a regular basis. Immediately, my persona softened. When I was faced with smiles and compliments, I chatted freely with classmates, and laughed with students who’d never uttered a word to me before that day. I’d struck a happy medium of normalcy and badassery, and this was the best I’d felt about myself and my relationship with my classmates since… ever.  I realized that it wasn’t my body shape that allowed people to mock me, it was the confidence and perception I had of myself. Previously, I saw no value in myself, so why should they?

I’ve kept this experience with me for years, and I’m thankful that I’ve been through it. This was definitely not the last time I’ve overcome social challenges with my body (stay tuned!), but it was the single most defining occurrence that I can tie back to developing confidence and learning to see yourself through the eyes of potential. I’ve battled with clothes – fit, drape, fabrics, prints, belts, darts and the like – for years. But, as of that summer, I’ve made a conscious effort to adorn my body, and remember that every body (yes, everybody too but I mean every BODY) has a “perfect dress”. Every body has a perfect pair of jeans, and a perfect tee, and a perfect jacket and so on. The secret to looking and feeling great is learning how to love your body. Similar to falling head over heels for our crushes, we have to begin to forgive ourselves of our small flaws and romanticize our best features. We need to find ways to turn a blind eye to our imperfections and dote on our strengths and attributes. We have to learn to create that love affair with our bodies and offer it the unconditional support, flattery and kindness that we offer our partners, friends and family.

My goal with this weekly feature is to reach out to others who are at a similar crossroads in their lives. Folks like me who have struggled with expression and body image and confidence. I want this blog to be read by everyone who has been bullied, those who have been bullies, and those, like me, that walked the thin line between the two. I want this to spark that internal dialogue and inspire people of all genders, nationalities, orientations to change their relationship to whatever it is they are trying to overcome. Most of all, I hope that The Swagger Coach gives someone the reassurance that yes, others are feeling exactly as you are feeling right now, and yes, we can all come out the other end unscathed. I place high value on being able to handle life’s little kicks in the pants with humour and grace, and I’d like to share some of these experiences with you guys in an act of community, love and support.

My name is Jamie, and I’m still the fat kid.