Caitlin Bradley is a plus-size fashion and design enthusiast whose love of life is documented on her blog, Closet Confessions. The 20 year old art school student who spends her time studying full time, designing couture gowns and scuba diving. Closet Confession’s was lucky enough to attend some events at Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival at Sydney Town Hall, and was one of the few in the audience for the Myer ‘Big is Beautiful’ Fashion Launch. This blog was originally posted on her blog, Closet Confessions on September 1st, 2011.
Sitting near the press pit, looking at the figure emerging from the dimmed lights and heavy smoke, I sense I don’t belong. The bass fills Town Hall with a sense of urgency and the tall figure picks up the pace as the lights lift to reveal a stone faced beauty, bold orange lips and high cheekbones, highlighted by a slick Yves Saint Lauren Paris runway look hair from February. The clothes seem to hang from her skeletal frame. In fact, it’s hard to tell if she’s actually a lady. She’s tall, her collarbones are sticking our dangerously under a tomato red dress and she’s got no chest, not breasts, nothing feminine about her. The masculinity of the garment doesn’t help, and even as she struts uncomfortably on platform pumps, it’s hard to tell why the fashion industry finds her ‘normal’.
As a plus-size femme fatale (insert laughter here), it’s hard to sit so close to the front row and take it seriously. As I snap away to get some good look book pictures, I can’t help but feel insecure about the fact my ASOS Curve dress would easily be made into three dresses for the model in front of me. Is it wrong to feel self conscious in a room full of size 4-12 (maximum) women, most of which have waists the size of my upper thigh? Should I be worried my dress isn’t as flattering because I’m a size 22, and I’m not prepared to bare that much flesh? Should I care that most styles are sleeveless and I prefer a dress or top that covers my arms? Why, should I of all people, reserve myself for not attending events like Fashion Festival, just because I ‘m overweight, I’m fat or I’m not ‘the same’? Isn’t it my right to live, and breathe and walk and talk amongst the rest? Since when have I been excluded because I am a human being? Should I not have the right to fashion if I pay my taxes, I catch public transport, I vote and I support my country?
The past week of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival has been tied up in a knot of awkwardness. Since when is it not right for a ‘fat person’ to wear something that makes them feel good? Since when have ‘fat people’ had the opportunity to wear something that makes them feel good? As a plus-size 20 year old, I am, for the first time in my human existence, enjoying what I wear. I no longer have to worry that I’ll be wearing the same tunic as a woman in her 40s when I go to the supermarket. I can spend my money on something that flatters me, that makes me feel sexy, that shows of parts of me that I like the best. I can wear as much or as little fabric as I want and not feel compelled to wear a terrible floral print in a stretchy acrylic fabric.
How can someone thin and fashionable say that someone fat and fashionable isn’t deserving? How can someone even suggest that fat people should be shamed into wearing things that make them unhappy, self conscious? How can you make the suggestion that fat people will just get fatter by creating clothes for them? How does boosting someone’s confidence make them want to gain weight? I’m here to tell you it hasn’t happened to me, and in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
When I put on something new, something that fits me, I feel liberated. I feel confident. I feel like I can do anything. When I put on a new dress, I feel like I could prove my past wrong and I can lose weight. I get excited when a dress I love gets too big and it’s an excuse for me to get ready to buy a size smaller. Clothing for some people is like a safety net, it holds in their insecurities and provides them confidence. Fashion can let a bigger persona express who they are, hide the stereotype (even just for themselves) and be free. Don’t skinny people have that feeling? When they find a dress that makes them feel alive? Their formal dress? Their birthday dress? Their wedding dress? Why should something as important as fashion be discriminating? Why should be alienate someone because ‘hey, you’re too fat for a size 14’ or ‘Your size 24 belly won’t make my brand look good in a bandage dress’. I wouldn’t normally wear on a blog, but to those brands, those buyers, those writers, journalists, editors, fashion bloggers, magazines…..F***K OFF! Let a woman speak her mind with what she wears. Let her scream her love of fuchsia in a pair of silk trousers. Let her beam because she’s wearing a fabulous dress that makes her feel sexy. Let her be who she wants to be, loud, proud and fantastic. Why can’t we support her in her journey? Isn’t that fashion is? A journey of styles, of changes, of evolution. Sounds like the journey of life to me. So why should she wear something that gives her a kick in the butt to make the first steps into her life? If you think it’s wrong, look at yourself for a minute.
Look at yourself in the mirror in the change room. Haven’t you felt that sinking feeling in the pitt of your stomach when something you loved on the mannequin looks terrible on? What about when you pull on a skin tight mini dress, feeling confident and sexy until you see how that tofu burger has given you a bloated belly, or your soy latte made you full? When you do the standard ‘butt check’ in the mirror and see the first few dots of cellulite on your thighs or the fact your butt in fact does look big in that, and you swore you’d lost weight. Imagine that feeling every time you needed to buy something, needed to go to a party or a wedding and everything you look at was ‘too old lady’, ‘too shapeless’, ‘too frumpy’ and NOTHING suited you. Imagine having to resort to a dress that you hate, but it’s the only thing that fits. On the way home, you thinking about your pathetic decision, and trying to think of something not as bad in your closet already, that you can be creative and disguise the frumpy thing. Any slender blogger or writer who tells you fat people don’t deserve fashion have no idea the torment that fashion can bring.
While I don’t condone being overweight or obese, I can say that of all the plus-size bloggers and women I know actually eat very well. When we go out, it’s rare that we pig our faces with junk food and terrible food. In fact, I always pick a healthy option when I go out. I eat well at university, I eat well at home and I’ll wait 20 minutes in the line for the salad bar between classes just to have a healthy lunch. I know I’m fat, but I eat well. I try my best to look after myself.
Saying that the fashion runway is no place for a plus-size lady is absurd. I understand that history and the background of fashion week has never seen the bigger woman of society on the runway, but as a culture and society of fashion-hungry young people, there comes a time that we need to face the facts and come to understand that we need to bring these fashion issues into the limelight. Let’s get women of all sizes on the runway. Let’s get people opening their eyes to the fact that even if someone isn’t a size 10, a size 4, a size 12 that people want to look good and fashion can be the first step into making someone’s day shine and be fabulous.
When I left the Fashion Festival, and after the last Alex Perry gown slipped behind the curtain, I didn’t care what people said to me. Girls across the room looked in my direction and slinging my bag over my shoulder, I strutted out of Town Hall and internally celebrated my love of fashion. My name is Caitlin Bradley and I am fabulous. My name is Caitlin Bradley and I am fat and most certainly fashionable.