In all the rad fattie events I’ve been to in London (Plus London, FA&HAES Seminar), I would always stumble upon Kirsty Fife, and would always admire her from afar. She looked bold, confident, free and fearless, with such an out-there sense of style. She’d seem like a femme Peter Pan, playing with fashion rather than conforming to it. Tight gold dresses, feathers, capes, you name it. But I didn’t have the chance of talking to her until Plus London Two, where I found out she was also beautiful on the inside, was very friendly, and almost sold me the idea that Leeds was actually nice – I’ll have to confirm this at Plus North, then tell you my veredict. Then, about ten days ago, she released Make it Work, a DIY Fatshion zine. Hardcore fan I am of zines, I knew I had to get it. It’s quite affordable, and has tons of useful and wonderful pages. And it arrives really, really soon. So soon, it makes you wonder ‘what’s a Kindle?’*.
The beginning is not an easy one. After Kirsty’s reflections on ‘Making It Work’ as ‘an act of resistance’ (a view I deeply share with her), Rebecca McCormick wrote a two-page explanation on why she doesn’t diet. Hers is a story of courage, depression, bullying, and suicide. It might be triggering for some of you, and it surely brought tears to my eyes. It’s a shame we didn’t really talk much on Plus London Two, and now I want to hug her and tell her how strong she is. I don’t think I would be able to survive a situation like hers. It takes, as I’ve said before, courage. I hope this story scares the trolls away and their ‘yeah, you can be pretty and wear nice clothes, but what about your health?’. They can just fuck right off, right now.
Then comes some ‘Bad Art’ in the shape of Divine, followed by an article by Kirsty about her relationship with second-hand shopping. As a child and teenager, it all started as a necessity – and something her peers would laugh about. Then, from art school afterwards, at a time everyone and their mothers did shameless vintage shopping, it sort of became both a luxury and an aid to her lifestyle statement.
I find myself reassured, too, when I find 50s dresses made in size fat – it reassures me that my body isn’t a phenomenon of the “obesity epidemic” — it’s a body that has existed in generations before me. I love that my wardrobe contains the clothes of other badass fats that have come and gone before me. It helps me situate my body within history, when everyone else is telling me that it’s an oddity.
If your morals or traumas – e.g. mum can’t shop second-hand as she despised the poverty she lived in as a child, while my dad is more like Kirsty’s and still proud of his working-class background – do not allow you to charity shop, you can still Make it Work at the High Street. Mel Chillag gives some tips about stepping into places like Topshop and still managing to score. I have to be honest: there have been times I get upset just by stepping into a straight-size boutique and seeing all the tiny things hanging on the racks. As a teenager, going shopping with my smaller friends on a Sunday would end up with me starting a new diet on a Monday. Even after leaving that mentality behind, I still get into places and run away as soon as possible, made uncomfortable by things only going up to a 14 or 16. The last thing I got from Topshop was a pair of socks – amazing ones, but still… Mel and I are about the same size, so her article is quite inspiring. One day I might be brave enough to step into straight-size places and come out with something larger than footwear. She kindly shares it on her blog, but that doesn’t mean you should not buy the zine!
For those with talent and without money: you can make your own clothes too! Kirsty begins giving the basics about ‘Crafting on a Budget’, with suggestions on where to get fabrics, patterns, and sewing machines. Of course, there are tutorials on either making stuff from scratch or modifying something you already have. Turn regular jeans into skinny jeans? Bronny knows how. Want sweater clips like the ones that one lady from that one TV show wears? Kelsey W shows how easy it is. Reclaim your ugly through stitching with the help of Margo from Craftivist Collective! If your patterns don’t come in size deathfat, grade them larger! And get ready for warmer days with a rectangle dress thanks to Brenda Jean!
Other way of getting clothes your size is going to fat-friendly jumbles and events. If none of them are happening in your town and you have a sense of iniciative, you can always organise them. If you have no idea where to start, you can read the testimonials written by Charlotte Cooper – who helped at Big Bum Jumble – and Claire Merchant-Williams – who was in charge of Plus London Two. I really wish these things happened and the articles were published before I moved out of Mexico. Now I want to do something similar over there when I go back. Or even here? Plus Midlands? No idea.
Besides being useful, Make it Work is also aesthetically rad. I seriously ADORE how it was typewritten – or made look like such – and xeroxed, like good ol’ zines; and the pink zebra cover – ft. a drawing of Kirsty with VBO – is totally fierce. In the centrefold, there’s a Big Fat Dress Up feature, following Marilyn Wann’s brilliant idea of the Venus de Willendorf paper doll in Fat!So? If you don’t feel like ‘mutilating’ the zine, you can make copies of the doll and play dress up with them, colour the outfits, and make new outfits for her!
You can still get copies from Etsy, and I’m not sure if there will be some for sale at the Plus Sized Clothes Swap she’s organising this month:
* I wonder the same thing anyway. TEAM PAPER.