SHARING MY “WHYS” in Body Positivity & Social Justice

SHARING MY “WHYS” in Body Positivity & Social Justice

I’ve been grappling with some major realizations lately that have influenced some of my focus personally & also professionally. (If you haven’t read about what informed my Weight Loss Resolution Resistance project, that might help put some of my thoughts into context.)

I am only one woman. But, I want to do my part in spreading support, love, information, and validation to others - especially other curvy/plus-size/fat women and also those in other marginalized groups.   

To do this more effectively, I’ve identified two actions that I want to better infuse into what (and how) I share my perspectives. . .

1. Explain more fully why I believe what I believe.  
I have so many opinions, y’all! If you’re reading this you are likely aware (or, well aware - depending on how closely you know me). I want to do a better job of sharing my “whys”. What, exactly, my values are & why my convictions are so strong.  Why certain information has lead me to increased understanding. And, why I feel so passionately about certain topics.

I can’t just say something like  “I don't support intentional weight loss” and expect you to understand exactly what I mean. There are years of reflecting, learning, and internal work that have brought me to where I am. It’s silly for me to assume that I can say one quick comment & that y’all are ready to come along with me. . .or, even understand what I mean, for that matter.


2. Actively work with people who are just starting to adopt a body positive mindset.
I spend a lot of my time in fat activism spaces. A place where body positivity is old news (or, even bad news) and we’ve moved on to unapologetic, radical self love and demand representation of not just traditionally attractive chubby folks in mainstream media but super fat folks, people with big tummies and small booties, fat people of color, fat trans & gender nonconforming people (a.k.a. Nice try Lane Bryant, but you’re still not cutting it) . And, are calling for a major cultural shift including active resistance against fatphobia & all systems of oppression.

This is radical. I get it. And, I know that lots of things I do, even saying “fat”, for example, are a bit much for some of you.

Though my values are unwavering, I am challenging myself to take more time to engage with people who aren’t in that space but are craving body love and body positivity in their lives.

Those who are beginning to understand that diets and intentional weight loss efforts are not making them healthier or happier. Maybe people who are impressed and excited to see the very Lane Bryant ads that I am so quick to dismiss as “too little too late”. Folks who see what I am doing and might be drawn to it, but are utterly confused by some of the things I say flippantly or in a matter-of-fact way. I want to do a better job of showing up for you.

Not just in body positivity! 

Y’all! I can’t mention these two areas of focus and just relate them to body positivity. There’s more.

Since the election, I have been painfully reminded that I do a pretty shit job of talking to people outside of my circle about what’s going on in our community, country, & world. Though it was shocking to find out that 54% of white women voted for President Trump, I now see how I definitely contributed to this. Just because I didn’t vote for him doesn’t mean I did my part. I keep coming back to the fact that I didn’t speak out as much as I could have and, when I did speak out, it was mostly just lots of sassy statuses and not true engagement with much of anyone.

So, I want to bring these two tactics to my overall social justice & racial justice work, as well, . . . not just body positivity & fat activism! Because, the same thing holds true! I can’t just say “That policy is racist!”, for example,  and expect everyone to understand why. It’s easy for me to speak without remembering that we all have different knowledge bases, different experiences, different relationships, and different stories.

I am going to be honest. On both accounts, this feels really, really daunting. But, so very important.

BODY BRAVE CONSULTING 

One way I am excited to actively work on reaching more folks maybe just entering body positivity AND sharing my “whys” is through a new collaborative endeavor - Body Brave Consulting.

 
body brave - bravely embrace your body as is it is today. 
 

My friend & co-creator, Ani, and I are offering facilitated trainings for people interested in developing a new framework for pursuing health & body confidence. Rooted in (true) body positivity & Health at Every Size®, we want to help others bravely embrace their bodies as they are today. We currently offer trainings (two or six hour sessions) & a monthly discussion group locally in the Twin Cities. (I’ll be sure to update if/when we expand to more virtual resources.)

Yes - this is a new business endeavor. But, don’t worry - my shop is still going strong. Now, more than ever, I am working hard toward opening a storefront in St. Paul. In fact, Body Brave aligns directly with these efforts. I am committed to having my shop also be a community space. I envision doing these trainings and welcoming lots more body positive, intersectional feminism, social justice focused events in my shop, too.


 
 

Another thing! I’ve added a “Just Ask!” page to my website. If there’s something I’ve mentioned that you want to know more about, ask me! You are also more than welcome to remain anonymous.  You can "Just Ask!" here! 

RESOLUTION RESISTANCE: Voices in Opposition to Weight Loss Goals

RESOLUTION RESISTANCE: Voices in Opposition to Weight Loss Goals

For a week in June, I gave away my goal setting workbook for free. As part of the download form,  in addition to the “required” name and email fields, I included one more optional question. Just for fun, I asked people to share what goal they were working to accomplish before the end of the year.

The response to my offer started off really strong - which was exciting. Of course, I wanted to look right away to see what kind of goals everyone was working on.

I started to peek at the responses rolling in. . . .and my heart sank.  So many of them referenced weight loss goals. I was literally holding back tears as I scanned through some of the responses.

I was mad & sad & overwhelmed that, for many people,  the first thing they thought of when I asked them what they were working on was losing weight.

It enraged me that we live in a society that reinforces daily, especially for women, that how we look is more important than what we accomplish.

It made me angry that this myth of "healthy = thin & unhealthy =  fat” continues to be the status quo (in spite of research to the contrary) because I am sure many folks who reference weight loss really just meant they wanted to be healthier but didn’t see the difference between the two.  

It made me sad to think about all of the ways fat people & people who do not live up to societies standards of beauty/desirability are made to feel less than. And, are often treated differently because of their bodies. (When your body size and appearance can literally play a role in whether you get hired or promoted, it’s understandable that people would feel pressure to change themselves.)

It also made me realize that I need to do a better job at sharing true body positivity & empowering messages of self love with my community. (I did NOT go through and match names to goals and start picking out people - or anything like that! But, based on sheer numbers, I can assume that some beautiful folks who follow me - and see my body love messages, inspirational self acceptance quotes, and countless shared articles and resources - were actively pursuing intentional weight loss.)


Weight Loss Resolution Resistance 

This has been weighing on my heart and mind, literally, since June, and has informed a project I worked on throughout January. I wanted to share voices in direct opposition to the typical “New Year! New You!” crap that is thrown at us at the start of each year.

Don’t get me wrong, I think January is an amazing time to set goals! (I love goal setting! Remember, I even wrote a workbook about it!) What I do take issue with is the idea that we need to be new people. The presumption that the present “us” isn’t good enough. A focus not on growth & progression but on guilt & shame. And, finally, the assumed notion conveyed in these “New Year! New You!” slogans that we need to change ourselves to live up to an ideal that is truly unattainable.

I was honored to have so many people participate in this project. Their statements are strong and their stories are ones of resilience. Have a look at a few below &  see all of them on my website or Facebook (for easy sharing!).   

Finally, in reference to weight loss goals & choices you make about you. . . 

Your body is your body. I am not here to judge you. Do whatever you want. (Truly!)  Your goals are your goals. Set them however you see fit!

I do care a lot about your insides. . .your thoughts, feelings, emotions, & baggage about your body -  all informed by messages around us that are constantly telling us that we’re not good enough. . .that we deserve less. . . that our bodies are not valued. I also care a lot about information. I want everyone to be able to make informed decisions about their bodies with the full picture in mind.

Whether these are things you care about or not, know that you are so much more than the size of your body!  Losing weight is not your life’s purpose. You are capable and valuable and worthy no matter what size your body is or how healthy you are (or, aren’t)!

DENIM: Simple Summer Looks

Denim and chambray make up lots of my casual summer looks. Here are details on three ways I put together summer looks with denim. . . 

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Chambray Over Denim

When pairing chambray or denim on top of each other, I like to wear two decidedly different hues.

This lighter top pairs nicely with my jean shorts as they are not the same color and not just slightly different, but totally different shades of blue. And, the unique stitching detail on the top is darker and ties into the color of my shorts without being too matchy-matchy! 

Info about my shorts to the right - - - >. 

Add some accessories that are not blue to create a complete look.  I've paired this with one of my Candid & Co totes. *Unabashed product placement.* I'm not usually one to tie a scarf on bags, but I love how this one brings my outfit together. 

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Oversized Top & Bermuda Shorts

I love flowy, oversized shirts for summer! (Or, honestly, for all seasons.) I usually wear a 2XL but often will size up for roomy t-shirts like this one (which is a 4XL). 

I'm wearing one of my favorite pair of jean shorts from H&M. (Mine are a few years old but these look to be very similar! P.S. I always size up with H&M bottoms!) These are a little longer - almost bremuda length - which is the only length comfortable for me to wear out  and about (to prevent chafing discomfort). But, they have some stretch and are snug so they pair perfectly with this larger top. 

Wedge sandals are a simple way to accessorize and dress up or funk up a simple outfit like this! I find a lot of good wedge or healed sandals from Lane Bryant. These look to be almost sold out but, as I'm peaking at their website, this pair also seems great! 

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Denim Vests Over Everything!

I adore a good denim vest! In the summer, they're cool enough to throw on over tank tops or strapless dresses without being too warm. 

I prefer vests and jackets that have a cropped look and hit me at my waist. I often wear them open but also button the bottomif I want to bring a look in at my waist. 

The vest in this photo is available here and I'll be posting a similar vests soon.  My favorite denim vest is American Rag from Macy's. (I don't love these vests, but here's an idea of what's available currently.) 

Ooo, and that tote! *Shameless product placement.* For real though, the large sizes make great beach bags and the medium sized bags are perfect for gal-on-the-go life! 

Most of these items are currently available in my shop! Currently, the detailed chambray top, black t-shirt, & black skirt haven't been snatched up yet. (Though this denim vest is gone, more are coming soon!) Plus, for the summer, you can purchase select Candid & Co bag designs straight from my shop! 

What are some of your favorite ways to wear denim in the summer! Let me know in the comments below. . . 

THRIFT SHOP FINDS: #VillagerforaDay Instagram Takeover

You all know I love to thrift! Not only do I find fab items to share in my shop, I often snag some bargains for myself.  One of my favorite thrift shop chains in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is Arc's Value Village.  This past weekend, they invited me to be a #VillagerforaDay in an Instagram takeover to share some of the great items I've thrifted at their shops. 

To see details about each item pictured here (as well as some helpful thrifting tips and fun anecdotes), just click on each picture. They all link to the original  instagram posts. 

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to the takeover! I'm sure I'll see some of you local folks on Sundays at the Arc. 

WINTER STYLING: Layering Tips & Tricks

When I was in New Orleans, I was lamenting the unseasonably warm weather. Sandals weather in December when I wanted to wear my boots. Well, I'm up here in the thick of it now! It's been quite cold here in Minnesota since I've been back.

One of the best ways to keep warm and stay stylish is simple - layers on layers on layers!  Here are some of my layering tips and tricks. . .

1. Leggings and tights are your winter weather bffs.  They’re great under skirts, dresses, or tunics. (Even wear two pair for warmth & thickness.) You can wear leggings or tights under pants for extra warmth, too!

2. If multiple layers feel bulky, consider sweaters with a little stretch in them, layering with thinner fabrics, and/or belting your look.

3. Layer a flannel or chambray shirt under sweaters or long-sleeved tops. Let the wrist cuffs and collar pop out.

4. You can rework summer looks like sleeveless dresses by wearing them over leggings and a long-sleeved shirt. (Even a tube top can even work over a snug, long-sleeved shirt.)

5.  Consider choosing bulkier layers on either the top or bottom of your outfit instead of both. Lots of long layers on top over skinny jeans or leggings and boots. Or, a snugger top with fitted crop jacket over a flair skirt.

6. If you’re looking for more shape in a big, puffy jacket or vest, look for designs with structure, a built-in belt, or adjustable waist synching inside the coat.

7. Scarves! Get to Googlin’ or Pinterestin’ to learn new ways to wear scarves. They’re a great accessory, add warmth, and can be easily removed if you get too warm. 

8. Explore layering multiple traditionally “top layer” items – like pair a poncho over a moto jacket or double layer jackets and vests.

 

What are some of your favorite ways to wear layers this winter?

BEST OF 2015: Top Six Blog Posts of 2015

I started my blog this time next year! I'm still finding my space with blogging. I want to share a good mix of body positive content, motivation and inspiration, fatshion, updates from my world, plus critique and conversation. I'm looking forward to doing even more of that in 2016.

Looking back, these are the six most popular blog posts from 2015. (This doesn't include my Inspiring Women project last March. Those posts received a lot of love from folks who loved the women I featured.)  Take a peak if you haven't read these already. Just click the title to go straight to each post.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and sharing! I appreciate you!  Here's to lots more great posts in 2016. Plus, an exciting writing project I'm excited to share with you soon. . .

BODY POSITIVE NEW YEAR: Resisting Toxic Diet & Weight-loss Resolutions

I love the start of a new year! I take it as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and think about goals, dreams, and plans for the year to come. Unfortunately, “health & fitness” (read: “diet & weight loss”) talk, “info”, and resolutions are almost everywhere. Even the most secure and confident among us can have trouble getting through this time of year unfazed.

 
 

I surround myself with a lot of body positive media (particularly social media). There have been so many great articles shared over the last few days about just this topic. Take a look at these voices and perspectives if you could use a little help resisting toxic diet and weight-loss resolution talk.  Let’s replace that mess with a more self-love!

I recommend these 8 videos & articles:

  1. Melissa Harris-Perry is a goddess. Her critique on social and political issues is always on point. This open letter to Oprah (shared in video form from MHP's TV show) is no exception. Long story short, Oprah has a new Weight Watchers commercial out in which she essentially claims that there is a thin person inside of all of us fat folks. Um, no. MHP’s response is *everything*.
  2. And, this additional response to Oprah’s commercial from Bethany at Power, Peace and the Poarch Gym is also great!
  3. Huffington Post knocked it out of the park with this article on "Resolutions to Boost your Body Image."
  4. Though I am not familiar with this mom blog, I really love the "New Year, New You! And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" article from Peachie Moms.  It even includes a pdf sharing 20 self-care ideas.
  5. Love Virgie Tovar’s tips for dealing with the New Year’s diet & weight loss obsession.
  6. One of my favorite articles circulating is from Mashable sharing “What 8 body positive activists want you to know about losing weight in the new year”.  
  7. I started my blog this time last year and kicked it off with a short “Starting 2015 with Intention” series. It’s totally applicable to any year (not just 2015) and shows where I came from. (Even though it was just a year ago, I feel like I’ve already grown in terms of blogging but especially video – thanks Periscope! The videos are a little funny but the content is good. I promise!)
  8. Finally, I have a Body Positive Email Course that I would love for you to take part in – “5 Steps to a More Body Positive You”! It’s super simple and free! You just pop in your email and receive an email a day for 5 days. Each one includes a tip for loving yourself and enhancing your body positivity. Plus, each lesson includes an accompanying worksheet.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! And, while you’re clicking on links, take a look at these 77 babes in fab outfits from 2015 (including yours truly at number 55)! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, seeing more images of women who’s bodies look like mine and/or aren’t the traditional standard of beauty has been really helpful for me in learning to love myself and be bolder in how I dress, think, and feel.

MONUMENTAL MOVES IN 2015: The Year Personal & Professional Moving & Shaking Reached A-whole-nother Level

“So much happened in 2015!” Ok, that is likely the most overused & cliché way to open up a post like this but it is the absolute truth. Honestly, this past year might have been the most emotional, action packed, life direction altering, monumental movement making, overall major year I’ve ever experienced.

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I remember last January very clearly. I didn’t travel for the holidays and spent the entire winter break from my university job working on launching this very website and blog.

Though I was already operating my online shop, I had more to offer and share. I knew I wanted to quit my full-time job and needed some changes in my life but I wasn’t sure when I could make them happen.

Seriously, if someone were to give January 2015 Cat an update about what January 2016 Cat is up to, I probably would not have believed it.

This weekend I settled in for my yearly New Year's journal session consisting of documenting memories and life events from the past year, listing personal highs and lows, reflecting on my business, brand, and professional life, and. . . .a new addition. . .Pic Stitch-ing several 2015 photo highlight collages which you will also have the pleasure of viewing today.

Though I won't share everything (like you'd want to read all of that anyway), I will share my major highlights and hardest bits from 2015:
 

    2015 HIGHLIGHTS

    • Being part of the New Leaders Council of Louisiana and developing close friendships with many of my cohort members!
    • Travel & trips (Chicago, Minnesota 4 times, Boston, the beach (Alabama/Florida) – twice, Miami, Dallas & Commerce, TX)
    • Celebrating the marriages of some of my best friends and spending time with so many beautiful friends on my various trips.
    • Reentering the dating world and absolutely loving every minute of it.
    • Connecting with fabulous au pairs within my part-time role with Cultural Care Au Pair.
    • Developing an off the chain Snapchat game.
    • Leaving my full-time job.
    • Writing a workbook!
    • Having my very best semester adjunct instructing! (I was basically on fire this fall.)
    • Creating a successful email course.
    • Consistently posting quality, stylish, thrifted plus-size fashions weekly in my shop.
    • Having several successful pop-up shops.
    • Getting positive, heartfelt responses from clients and customers.
    • Developing online & in-real-life relationships and connections with so many #WomenOnAMission around me.

    HARDEST BITS

    • Discovering that working from home can be kind of a lonely road. (I LOVE me-time! Loooove it. But, y’all, there is such a thing as too much alone time!)
    • Not reaching my financial goals. (Both in managing money/budgeting and not generating as much money as I need with my business. Dramatic deficits.)
    • Realizing that just because I am excited about something doesn’t mean folks will be flocking to read/buy/support it. (Which can be disheartening.)
    • Ending a long-term relationship. (Which was hard and still is a little hard – especially if I’m listening to Adele.)
    • Managing my time and feeling productive. (When I was working full-time, I rationalized never completing my to-do list because I was working a full-time job, adjuncting, and running my business. Well, my to-do lists still never gets completed.)
    • Struggling to decide which idea(s) to pursue now and which to flesh out later. (I have SO MANY IDEAS. Always. Who the fuck knows which one is gonna be lucrative and fulfilling and which ones won’t?)
    • Two big moves. (One across town with a ton of stuff and another across country with considerably less belongings.)

    HERE'S TO 2016!

    2015 was major in lots of ways ranging from excellent to awful. I have a personal theory about my life where my even calendar years are better than my odd years. It's a definite trend! While I like to think even numbers have some kind of positive impact on me, it's probably just because I graduated high school in an odd year thus making odd years full of more transition and challenges than the even ones. In any case, I am so happy to welcome 2016 as a year where I can settle in to the developments and transitions that life gave me in 2015. Here's to 2016! 

    I’M BACK: Why I Relocated to Saint Paul, Minnesota

    Less than two weeks ago, I moved cross country with only the belongings I could fit in my little car. For those of you who know me, relocating back to Minnesota might have come as a surprise.

    Well, it was a bit of a surprise for me, too. For years I had rejected the idea of moving back but a little bubble of excitement around the thought of coming home popped up over the summer and grew rather quickly. With so many summer trips home (wedding season) and an extended stay this fall, something about being back became more and more appealing.

    Once I decided I wanted to move, it was just a matter of figuring out when. Things fell rather perfectly into place and I made my trip back just before the end of the year.

    My final days in NOLA were spent sending out the last of my inventory and attending lots of good-bye brunches, good-bye lunches, and good-bye happy hours!

    My last major drop off to my neighborhood post office. (Complete with a holiday treat for my favorite USPS ladies!)

    My last major drop off to my neighborhood post office. (Complete with a holiday treat for my favorite USPS ladies!)

    Lots of good-bye's! Here with my NLC crew!

    Lots of good-bye's! Here with my NLC crew!

    Reconnecting with some of my Body Positive FIG students!

    Reconnecting with some of my Body Positive FIG students!

    Brunch! Brunch! Brunch!

    Brunch! Brunch! Brunch!

    What convinced me to move. . .

    I am from Minnesota. Well, I technically grew up in Wisconsin till 7th grade but moved to MN when my parents divorced. My adolescent life started to get much better when we moved, so that’s probably why I’ve always claimed Minnesota as home. (I am, however, a Green Bay Packer fan. My dad and I have approximately 5 main topics of conversation – the Packers being a major one – so, I couldn’t imagine not being a Packer fan. . .although, I am admittedly a “I’m here for the party not actually to watch the game” and/or score googling kind of fan.)

    I’ve been out of Minnesota for 5 years. Halfway through college I knew I wanted to relocate to a warmer climate. Even summers weren’t warm enough for me here. So, I moved to Texas for grad school where I loved the weather but hated ultra-small-town life. Then, I moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. Though I loved the city for lots of reasons (people, culture, food, festivals, sense of community), I didn’t feel a pull to settle down there. Also, the humidity was miserable. I kept waiting for my body to get used to the climate but I was just as frizzy and shiny on the day I left as I was when I arrived. (Athough, now I am having some major issues adjusting back to the dryness here. At this rate, I’ll be going through a jar of coconut oil a week.)

    For years I said I would never move back. I loved visiting but didn’t want to settle down here. (And, at this point I suppose I am not committing to that either. I’ve been putting an “at least three years and probably longer” timeline on it.)  But when I visited home at the end of September, it all just clicked. Somehow, there was a perfect mix of variables that made moving back seem like it would be the most natural decision in the world:

    1. My summer was quite lonely and being closer to my people (my close friends and family) felt so good.
    2. The weather while I visited was magical. (Even while I was basking in the sunny-but-just-cool-enough-for-a-scarf-weather I knew this was not typical and a major bait and switch move on the part of my home state. But, I still couldn’t resist it.)
    3. I have always felt a lot of support for my shop and other professional endeavors from folks here. And, not just from friends, but my more extended circles from college and beyond. This is so important and feels so good.
    4. Along with Bella Moxie, I hosted the best attended pop-up-shop I have been part of (so far). The overwhelmingly positive response made it even more clear to me that plus-size women want and need thrift shops that focus on our sizes!
    5. I helped organize my 10 year class reunion which took place over my small town’s Apple Festival weekend and, for the first time, instead of feeling sort of annoyed or above small-town life, I felt extraordinarily nostalgic and happy.  
    6. Oh, and.  . . an old friend from college and I reconnected and quickly decided to become roommates. (Love and thanks to my previous roommate in NOLA who helped me realize that, even as an adult, roommate relationships can be beautiful and helpful.) So, I had a place waiting for me when I got back up here.

    All of this, along with the fact that I had moved to New Orleans years earlier for a job and a man. . .neither of which I was with any longer, helped me make the decision to move back to Saint Paul.

    The Journey North

    Those following my Snapchat story saw the play by play of my packing, car Tetris, and the journey north getting colder and colder. It was an adventure but one that I’ve done before when moving from MN to TX and then TX to LA.  

    My car was an absolute champ! (Car-related struggles were also detailed on Snapchat in the days leading up to my departure.) To make it through the 18+ hours of driving,  I listened to lots of podcasts and also Aziz Ansari's book "Modern Romance" - which he hilariously narrates on the audio recording. (LOVE Aziz. Though, I'm not a fan of his subtle fat-shaming. Don't tell me I'm the only one who has picked up on that in his new series, stand up, and in this book!) 

    I am so happy to be here!

    Personally, this is a great place for me to be right now. Working for myself and mostly from home, it’s important for me to be closer to friends and people I love. This is also an area that is really familiar to me. Instead of learning a new city, I’m simply back in one where I am happy and comfortable.

    Professionally, this will be an excellent area to open up a thrift shop. It’s my intention to expand my plus-size thrift shop to a physical location here in the Twin Cities. Boutique thrifting is big here – but rarely do stores have great plus-size sections. I am confident that there are enough customers, fans, and friends here to help me make it a reality. Plus, I know that with all of the young professionals moving and shaking here I can be a great benefit to folks through my style consulting and life coaching services. Oh, and no sales tax on clothing definitely helps my shop’s bottom line.

    Here we go. . .

    Now that I'm back I am focused on settling in and getting into a good routine. I'll have Cat's Closet back up and running this week. (I already have so many fab items to share!) Some pop-up shops are in the works. And, I am beyond delighted to be closer to my favorite shop owner at The Golden Gurl and am excited to be chatting collaborations already.

    Everyday, I am even more convinced that I am exactly where I'm supposed to me.

     
    Speaking of The Golden Gurl Shop, I am so in love with this cute Minnesota tumbler!

    Speaking of The Golden Gurl Shop, I am so in love with this cute Minnesota tumbler!

     

    PLUS SIZE COSTUMES: Epic DIY Costume Compilation

    Like I've mentioned in several of my posts leading up to Halloween, finding affordable and cute costumes can be tough for us plus-size ladies! (And, let's be real, it can be rough for lots of folks regardless of gender or body size!)

    I've found the best way to look and feel great in costume is to craft my own!

    Here is a compilation of of all of my recent costume posts. Just click on each one to be taken to that blog post where you'll find more pictures, info about how I created each look, and suggestions for items you can use to make your own version of these costumes.

    And, for a little more costume inspiration, here are some looks I didn't have a chance to detail in the posts above.. .

    Mermaid

    Mermaid

    Circus Ring Master

    Circus Ring Master

    Retro Flight Attendant

    Retro Flight Attendant

    What are you wearing for Halloween?? Let me know in the comments below!

    PLUS SIZE COSTUMES: DIY Pirate Costume Ideas!

    Pirate costumes might be my favorite!!  Maybe it's because I happen to have a lot of items I regularly wear that can easily be used for costumes like this. At any rate, it's a frequent go-to of mine. Here are some ideas for easily throwing a pirate costume together! (You might have more than half of these items in your closet already!) 

    Basics: 

    • Flowy white tops (I like them off the shoulder)
    • Lots of reds, whites, and black. 
    • Tattered or ripped items 
    • dark pants or skirts 
    • knotted or gathers skirts
    • layers 
    • corsets! Create your own! (That red one was originally a dress that was too tight so I cut it in half, made some holes, and then cut up a t-shirt for the black lacing.) Or, make a small one larger. (The black corset is actually a size M but I got my own ribbon and added it in to make it fit my XXL body.) 

    Accessories: 

    • eye patch
    • sword
    • scarf tied at waist or around head/in hair
    • belts (big buckles) 
    • bangles
    • hoop earrings
    • ripped tights 
    • bare feet or boots 
    • Hair ideas: messy curls, side ponies, ponytails, or scarves in hair 
    • Make up idea: intense eyes!

    Like this? Check out all of my awesome costume ideas here. And, leave me a comment about what you're planning to dress up as this weekend? 

    PLUS SIZE COSTUMES: Turning Gowns into DIY Fairy Costumes

    Do you have an old prom or bridesmaid dress laying around? Maybe a ballgown? A fancy dress you found at a thrift shop?

    A natural way to re-purpose these type of dresses is to turn them into a fairy costumes! This costume post some easy tips for converting a gown into a fairy costume.

    As plus-size people, I think creating costumes ourselves is the best way to find cute costumes that aren't too terribly expensive. So, here's another crafted, thrifted look you can recreate!

    To create this look, cut away at the bottom of the dress to get it to your desired length. Remember, you can always go shorter, but you can't (easily) add fabric back on after you chop it off - so take your time! You can also wear a pencil skirt, shorts, or slip under it if it gets too short. You can save some of the fabric to re-purpose to poof up wings, add to a wand, or another creative use.

    On the green dress, I was going for a Tinkerbell look so I chopped the skirt in triangle cuts and then sewed green, yellow, and white fabrics to it. (I used a sewing machine but you could totally do it by hand.)

    NOTE: If you're looking for dresses at a thrift shop, size tags can be deceiving. Think about it - many people get dresses like this altered so you just never know. For example, that green dress had a tag that read "size 26" but it fit like a 20.

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    Wings, gloves, and wands can be found at dollar stores or other in expensive places. (Maybe at a thrift store if you're lucky!) This might be a little fancy, but I didn't want the elastic arm bands to take away from my look (plus, they're tight), so I cut the wings in half with a wire cutter and then hand sewed them in/on to the back of the dresses!

    Oh, yeah! That purple number is my prom dress from my junior year of high school Not surprised it doesn't quite zip anymore. . .

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    Of course, here's a look at my costumes from last year. Also check out my other thrifted, plus-size costume tutorials on my blog this week!

    Do you have a dress laying around that you could turn into a fairy costume? Share a pic with me if you do!

    PLUS SIZE COSTUMES: Four Easy DIY Thrift Shop Costumes

    Sometimes one or two key clothing items found at a thrift shop can make a great costume. Visiting thrift shops this time of year in search of some thing specific can be tough, so it's good to go in with multiple ideas.  Here are four simple and creative costumes that were put together with thrift shop finds!

     

    50's CHIC

    Pencil skirt, retro top, scarf in the hair, keds or saddle shoes, and a scarf around the neck or hair. . .throw them together to create a simple, chic 50's look.

     

    GYM TEACHER

    Find an epic wind breaker, throw on a white t-shirt underneath, add tennis shoes and maybe a clip board and a whistle. . . and you've got yourself a gym teacher costume.

     

    FLOWER CHILD/PRAIRIE GIRL/EXCUSE TO WEAR A FLOWER CROWN

    Find a flowy and flattering dress and construct a flower crown - boom! =)

     

    CARMEN SANDIEGO

    Find a red trench coat or dye a light colored one red. (That's what I did with this one!)
    Add some other red accessories and you have yourself a fab Carmen SanDiego costume!

    These costume are fun and simple - but, they rely heavily on one or two items! When you're at the thrift shop, be open to what you might find as you keep these and other costume ideas in mind!

    For more costume ideas, checkout all of my looks from last year. . .

    PLUS SIZE COSTUMES: DIY Flapper Girl Costumes

    Flapper costumes are cute and classy! Plus, they're relatively easy to put together with items already in your closet. . . and, a few small and inexpensive additions. Not to mention, so many fabulous make-up and hair possibilities!

    Here you'll find two different flapper costumes that are easy to recreate. Below, I list each item you can find or create to put together a costume like this! I'm all about thrifted, crafted costumes! As plus-size ladies, sometimes it's hard to find cute AND affordable costumes.  Well, its time to get all DIY with these so we can have both!

    FLAPPER GIRL ESSENTIALS

    • Dress: Start with a simple shift dress or skirt and top. Look for garments with low waists that are solid, bold colors.
    • Gloves: Find these for less than $5 at almost any store or thrift shop. I suggest black or white.
    • Pearls: Find a long string of beads and knot it if you can. (I am wearing left over Mardi Gras beads!)
    • Headband: You can glue some feathers to a headband you already have or get some of that stretchy sequin elastic at a fabric store and make your own. 
    • Tights: Wear black tights - a design or stripes is a fun detail.
    • Shoes: Something black! Flats are usually great for these looks.
    • Extras: A coordinating clutch, a fake cigarette on a cigarette holder, or fringe on the dress!
    • Hair & Make-Up Ideas: Red lips, dramatic eyeliner, finger waves, faux short hair/headband hair styles, or a wig! (In the second pictures, I am wearing a $3 wig I found in Target's $1/$3/$5 bins. By itself, it looked messy and hilarious but the headband toned it down a bit and I think it totally works!)

    For more costume ideas, checkout my looks from last year. . .



    PLUS SIZE COSTUMES: Favorites Throughout the Years

    Costumes are a good way for me to get crafty and thrifty - two things I love to do! This post highlights some of my best costumes throughout the years and shares a little info on how I created each look. I can't even choose which is my favorite - I love them all!

    ADELE

    Yeah, yeah, I feel like every curvy, bright-eyed woman in the world has been compared to Adele at some point (or, is that just me?), but I really do love her and loved this costume!

    I was really proud of this costume! It's a recreation of her 2012 Grammy look with all of her awards! I created the whole outfit from things I already owned - a lacy top and high-waisted a-line skirt. I bought the wig (which I think looked better in person). And, I crafted the grammy's! I spray painted mini bread loaf pans, sponges, and dixie cups and then hot glued them all together!

    SCARY ZOMBIE/HAUNTED HOUSE CREATURE

    I HATE haunted houses. . .hate 'em! I get way too scared and they are absolute no fun at all. I will, however, happily be in a haunted house! Maybe it was working at universities for several years, but I have found myself being part of many haunted houses (or, more like haunted hallways, haunted Rec Centers, etc).

    I love creating bloody zombie type looks for occasions like these. And, it's really pretty easy! I find an old flowy dress or nightgown and rip holes in it. (I always wear leggings and a tank underneath!) Bonus for blood stains on the dress. Every time I've been in haunted houses, they've supplied the face paint and fake blood but never have a good selection of costumes in my size. So, I always bring my own and always get compliments on how scary I look!

    I paint my face with white paint and then darken my eyes and add lots of smudges. (You can't really tell in the pics but this usually looks extra scary with my bright eyes!) Make sure you put the white paint over your lips, too. I make my hair big and messy. Finally, I use fake blood to make fake gashes on my skin and always do some from my hairline and lip or nose.

    PUNK

    We're going way back with this one! (Yes, I had short hair! Yes, it was amazing! No, I didn't spike the top like that regularly. Yes, I plan to have short hair again soon. #30Before30 Bucketlist!)

    Although, for one summer I did have my lip pierced, that ring was fake for the costume. Those fake tattoos were amazing! They were rebel librarian themed temporary tattoos and said things like "Literature 4 Lyfe!"

     

    PIRATE

    I do love a good pirate costume! This was actually one of my favorites! My friend Margot and I are both dressed as pirates here. I put some work into this one! It's actually probably one of my sexier costumes, too! Gosh, I was a hottie in college, wasn't I? ;)

    I'm wearing a wig. It's not a great one, but with the scarf over the top it doesn't matter. I have tons of layers - ripped fishnets, a sheer black nighty thing, a cream top ripped up and worn off the shoulder, (lol, I wore a bra with lacy straps because I knew they'd be revealed), and an epic coreset dress thing that I crafted! I cut a dress open and made those ties with a ripped up black t-shirt.

     

    NON HALLOWEEN COSTUME FAVORITES

    Since I'm sharing costume favorites, I have to mention the following two looks that I would also qualify as winning costume moments. . .

    A few years ago I had a pretty epic tacky holiday party outfit! I saw this look as an avant-guard Christmas tree. Gold bow at the top (with the help of a headband). Amazing turtle neck. My German dirndl as the main "tree" look covered with ordainment.  (Shoes not picture. They were wedges with bows on the toes to resemble presents under the tree.)

    Years ago I was a camp counselor at a German immersion summer camp, Waldsee. They had an amazing costume collection because we were constantly dressing up to act out lessons and skits. The picture below is of our fairy tale evening where we were all dressed up as fairy tale characters.

    AND, THESE GEMS FROM LAST YEAR!

    What were your best costume moments?

    GAL ON THE GO WORKOUTS: Catching Up & Working Out While Traveling

    I was home in Minnesota for two and a half glorious weeks in September & October! What an amazing trip. Literally, every day I was catching up with people I love! Most of it was over brunch or drinks, so I really appreciated time to be active and get in workouts while spending quality time with my besties! Here are some ways I remained active while still being a social gal on the go!

    HIKING

    The weather happened to be beautiful and unseasonably warm when I was home. One of my high school bff's, Krissy, and I went for a hike with her two cute dogs. She was familiar with the trails and we went through both fields and wooded areas. Then, we stopped at the top of Granddad Bluff in La Crosse, WI to take in the view.

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    TRAMPOLINE PARK

    Y'all know I LOVE giant trampolines! We grew up with a trampoline in our backyard and I suppose that's why I am so natural on them. Plus, I am flexible and love getting in some toe touches (something I could never do by simply jumping off the ground).

    While I was in Minnesota, my friend, Margot, went through a bone marrow donation process. Margot is on the national bone marrow registry and, four years after signing up, was asked to donate. Talk about #WomenSupportingWomen and, essentially, being a selfless angel, Margot donated bone marrow to a woman she might never meet. Because of the donation process, she needed injections to draw out her bone marrow into her blood stream and was sick with side effects for 5 days leading up to the donation procedure.

    Because she knew she'd be in bed for almost a week, she suggested we do something active before hand to get the wiggles out! ;) She loves these trampoline places as much as I do, so we spent the afternoon jumping!

    We went to a kind of amusement place that had a pretty small trampoline area (not like the other trampoline parks I am used to), but it was literally just the two of us on them the whole time we were there. (They also made us wear grippy socks - which I was not used to nor a fan of.)

     

    ZUMBA CLASSES

    Zumba is also one of my favorite fitness activities. When I am home, I love joining friends at their gyms for zumba or asking for suggestions on where to find a great class. Last time I was home my friend Karyn and I got a class in at the local YWCA ( shoutout to Tania!)! And, this time, my friend Maryse got me in to a really great zumba class at her fitness center! No pictures of this one - I was too busy gettin' it! ;)

     

    I love love loved my trip home. Infusing some active social activities helped keep me feeling good while I was there. (Also, I am convinced that drinking an EmergenC a day helped, too!)

    FALL FASHIONS: 4 Ways to Look Put Together This Fall

    Fall looks are probably my favorite! Boots, tights, scarves, hats, jackets! Not only do fall fashions incorporate some of my favorite clothing and accessory items, I find that it’s really quite easy to create a put together fall look in no time at all.

    When I say “put together” I mean that effortless cohesion in an outfit. That look that’s not trying too hard or overly matchy-matchy, but just works. Simple & chic. Today, I’m sharing four easy ways to create great fall outfits!

     
     

     

    Coordinate your boots with a belt, statement necklace, or bag!

    Find a great pair of boots (or two) and a few key accessories that coordinate with them. I have some belts that are the same cognac color as my favorite boots. When I pair them together in an outfit it just effortlessly ties together.  I suggest picking one or two accessories to pair with your boots– there’s no need for you to be matching head-to-toe!

    (The boots in the photo above are my absolute favorite but, alas, Target is not making them in my size this season. Perhaps they're in your size. You can find details in one of my previous fall fashion blog posts.)

    Throw on a blazer or jacket.

    A blazer is the easiest way to class up a look in no time at all. Blazers can be thrown on over lots of outfits and can provide warmth or another layer if you’re chilly.  One of my go-to fall looks is leggings or skinny jeans, boots, a t-shirt, and a blazer. My favorite type of blazer are those made of material with some stretch in it.  I also like a crop blazer or jacket over skirts or dresses that come in at my waist (instead of a longer blazer that eats up my shape).

    Add a scarf or a hat to your look.

    Fall is a perfect opportunity to wear scarves and hats. Think about the colors of your scarf or hat and try to coordinate them with some other part of your outfit – including each other if you’re wearing both! (Ooo, a scarf could also coordinate with your boots to bring an outfit together!) Check out some tutorials on different ways to tie a scarf online. And, if you're wearing a hat, consider showing a pop of hair around your face or in a pony tail for a more put together look.

    Wear black tights. . .with almost anything!

    Tights! Tights! Tights! Black tights are an instant way to make an outfit look put together and appropriate for fall.  Especially under shorter skirts or dresses - black tights (or, tights in other colors) work really well. I love wearing black tights with shoes that aren’t black. It adds a great pop of color. Also, when I’m wearing boots and want a little extra warmth, sometimes I’ll wear actual leggings instead of tights as it achieves a similar look.

    Fall is the time I pull out those dresses and skirts that are too short to wear comfortably with shorts or spanx underneath. Thick black tights provide enough “protection” and are also thick enough (Y’all know me – I wear spanx shorts under everything!) Everyone probably has their favorite tights. Mine are currently ASSETS brand – which I believe is a sub-brand of Spanx. I wear a size 4 or 5. They both fit fine but 5 are roomier. (I don’t really wear shapewear to be “sucked in”, but rather a little support or protection – so I love to wear larger, roomier sizes.) I wear a size 4 when I’m wearing a shorter skirt and don’t want the “shorts” to show.

    What are some styles you're wearing to look put together this fall?

     

    PLUS SIZE COSTUMES: Easy DIY Witch Costumes

    Last year I went all out for Halloween & costume season. I created and sold crafted, thrifted, plus-size costumes in my shop! 

    As any plus-size ladies reading this know, it can be a real challenge to find cute & affordable costumes that go up to our sizes. So, I created my own!

    Although I'll be selling a few costumes and costumes items at the two pop up shops I'll be doing in Minnestota in the upcoming weeks (details here & here), I won't be selling them in my shop this year.

    I will, however, be doing more blog posts and tutorials about how you can create looks just like these! First up. . .simple do-it-yourself witch costumes! 

    CUTE OR SEXY WITCH COSTUME

    Throw on any kind of little black dress! (Belt it or add accessories as you see fit.)
    Pair with black boots or booties! 
    Add some black gloves. (I found these thrifted but you can also find them for $5 or less at most discount stores.)
    Top it off with  a cape or hat. (I created this simple cape & hood with 20 minutes, my sewing machine, and a black bedsheet. You could also easily do a no-sew cape by simply cutting it and tying it around your neck. )
     

     TRADITIONAL WITCH COSTUME

    Find a long or flowy black dress or top & skirt. 
    Get some green facepaint!
    Cut holes in black gloves to make them look tattered! 
    Fashion a cape out of some kind of black fabric or garment you have laying around. 
    Add a witches hat (and, a broom to take it to the next level)!

     

    80's WITCH COSTUME

    I know this witch costume is a little quirky, but when I found the bodice/dress and wig I knew I could create something funky! You can basically add witch or zombie to anything to create a fun costume - zombie bride, witchy librarian, zombie super hero, etc. So, this is an 80's witch! 

    For this specific look: 
    Get a bright wig and a dark colored 80's style dress or skirt. 
    Find or construct a little witch hat you can pin to the top of the wig! 
    Put on some lace gloves. 
    Wear some ankle socks.
    Add beads (mine are all left over Mardi Gras beads) and other 80's accessories! 

     

    THRIFTED, CRAFTED PLUS-SIZE COSTUMES 

    These are all the fun costumes I put together last year! Check out my album for a recap of all my fab costumes if you just can't wait for more tutorials! 

    I cannot wait to see what creative costumes folks come up with this year! Also, remember that cultures aren't costumes! (This might also relate to witch costumes, but I think that the feeling are quite different based on my reading.) More costume tutorials to come! 

    DIY DECOR: Crafting Large Wall Art

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    I am staying in my summer space through at least the end of the year, so it's about time I start settling in! My room isn't totally put together just yet, but I have completed a major project - creating some large wall art for my biggest, blank wall. 

    As a gal on budget,  I knew what I wanted but had to find a way to do it inexpensively. Plus, I love an excuse to paint and be crafty. (I'm looking to infuse more of that into my life!)

    I completed this project for around $40 and m very excited about the results! Let me share the details! 

     

    SUPPLIES

    • 3 large canvases: These are 24 X 36 (I think?)! I found two at thrift shops and bought one new. (I could have saved money if I spent more time looking at thrift shops! I probably could have found them all for around $4 each!) The new one was $16 on sale at Michael's and the others were $4 and $10 at the thrift shop. (One is slightly thicker than the other two, but it's not really noticeable.) Total cost: $30
    • Paint: I got got black, white, & gold craft paint. (The gold was too yellow - so I ended up mixing some black into it. Also, I didn't get enough gold but thankfully had some laying around from a previous project. Total cost: $9
    • Brushes: I did all of this with one pack of those foam brushes. Total cost $1

     

    INSPIRATION 

    I found some images on Pinterest that reflected the type of patterns I as looking to create. But, my main inspiration was one of my favorite bags! In the end, my attempts at other looks failed, so they each ended up being the same design but with colors playing different roles in each. When I started painting, I didn't know that would be my end result. 

     

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    PROCESS

    • I started by painted the two used canvases white. I did two coats each and let them dry. I am not fancy with this. I literally squirted the white on to the canvas and spread it out with the brush. 
    • Then, I started with the new canvas - I created a design inspired by the bag pattern (described & pictured above). 
    • I tried  to do some other fancy stuff on the two other canvases - but it looked terrible so I decided to make one all gold and the other all black (mainly to cover up my failed attempt at different designs). Then, I created the same pattern on them but used the colors for different elements. 
    • Voila! This is what I created! 
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    I'll show more when I actually get around to completely decorating my room and creating a put-together look! Till then, this is adding a little character to my space and I'm loving it! 

    FALL FASHIONS: Last Year's Favorite Looks

    Summer is winding down and fall is on it's way! I am already selling fall fashions in my shop and have some fall themed blog posts planned for the upcoming weeks. But, before I get in to this year, I thought I would share some of my favorite fall looks from last year! Spoiler alert - I'll be wearing a lot of similar styles this season. Something about boots and leggings just does it for me!

    Meanwhile, it's still too hot in New Orleans to even consider wearing warmer weather clothes. I am already dreaming about what I will wear when I'm back in Minnesota for a few weeks in late September. 

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    A long maxi skirt or dress can be paired with warmer clothes for fall looks. (Above is one of my favorite Lane Bryant skirts from last year that I referred to - and, hashtagged- as my harvest skirt!) Flowy tops over skinny jeans and booties is also a comfy look I love. Blazers over everything - even dresses like pictured here. And, funky fall accessories make an outfit, too! 

    Two big differences in my world between this fall and last year are my hair and my phone. Wow, these pics are so grainy! That 4S struggle was too real. So happy to have upgraded! 

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    As you can see, leggings and black tights are pretty much my favorite components of cooler weather wear! I pair everything from over-sized tops, shorter dresses, dusters, to flannels around the waist with leggings and tights. 

    By finding a belt or two that coordinate effortlessly with your go-to boots, it's simple to put outfits together. I also have two statement necklaces that work well with my favorite boots. 

    It would not be exaggerating to say at least 100 women have asked me where I got those boots! They are clearly my favorite and play a leading role in many of these looks! I actually bought a pair two years ago and then purchased a new pair last fall.  There are an 11W ordered from Target online. You probably heard all about my sort-of-wide-calf boot struggles last year. While most straight sized boots are too snug in the calf (if they even come in size 11 anyway), boots at plus size retailers are usually way too roomy in the calves. 

    I planned on ordering yet another pair of these great Merona boots this year. (I wear them so much that they just get beat up.) Unfortunately, it looks like they are not offering wide calf in size 11 this year. I am really disappointed about this and hope it's just a beginning of the season oversight! (Rarely do I recommend such high priced items but I really love these boots!) Stay tuned for boot adventures this year. . . 

    Ooo! Also, fall means that many us will be searching for costumes or crafting our own! Remember mine from last year? Not sure what exactly I'll be doing this season, but something fun for sure! 

    What are you looking forward to wearing this fall? Any looks you'd like to try but aren't quite sure how to pull them off? Let me know in the comments below!