Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

January 16, 2009

The Big Question: Novelty Socks as Psychological Cop-Out Edition

Filed under: The Big Question — Miss Plumcake @ 4:45 pm

Was listening to Simon Doonan’s interview with Renee Montagne this morning, discussing the discussion (how meta!) of Michelle Obama’s inauguration gown. I’m saying she’ll probably go with Narciso Rodriguez –as she did on election night– or Oscar de la Renta (although I wouldn’t rule out Armani or Reem Acra) and it’ll be lovely and tasteful and probably just interesting enough to be, well, interesting without evoking liberal guilt  or alienating the folks in Ioway.

Honestly, I don’t care. What I do care about is this little tidbit from Doonan.

Simon Doonan“I remember years ago I interviewed Hardy Amies who designed for the Queen of England. He gave the Queen of England her iconic look, that sort of frumpy dress with the matching coat and the hat and the purse.  And I said to him ‘How did you come up with this iconic look for the Queen?’ which was for many years criticized, how she could look chic-er if she let Parisian designers design her and blah blah blah.Hardy Amies looked at me through glasses with great withering contempt.

He said ‘Young man, the Queen of England must always appear to be friendly and appealing, and if she were to look chic she would become unfriendly and unappealing because there is an unkindness to chic.‘”
And then it hit me.

Is THAT why so many big girls avoid chic? Because they want to look friendly?

It’s undeniable. There is something unapproachable, something extremely, unapologetically “F*** You” about being truly chic.

I mean it makes sense. So many women, especially women who were chubby as girls, have this compulsion to appear friendly and nice at all times. Non-threatening.  As if it’s our duty to make up for the sin of fatness by being extra-pleasant and extra-unassuming so maybe people will like us. Avoiding chicness is a way to say “yes, I  know my place. I won’t get above my station.”

I think the gift of being a singularly unpleasant child –which, make no mistake, I was– was that I knew people weren’t going to like me. Outré or meek, the result would be the same, and outré was much more fun.  Eventually I became a halfway decent person (only just) but I still don’t see the need for “dressing friendly.”

Do you know how I let people know I’m friendly? By being friendly. Not by being the grown damn woman in a Pooh sweatshirt and novelty socks.

So my question today is a little tough-love to the big girl who knows she doesn’t dress her best. It’s not a place for excuses (it’s not my lifestyle/I have kids/I’m broke) but an honest question and maybe a chance for some self-evaluation.

Today Plumcake wants to know:

Hey! You un-chic dressers! What are you afraid of?


  1. What I am afraid of: Wearing something I don’t personally like because someone else’s definition of stylish or fashionable dictates I should. Spending money I could have spent on something I actually care about on something I DON’T care about because someone wants to form an opinion about how trendy my clothes are.

    What I am NOT afraid of: Some Internet person’s definition of superfantasticness that doesn’t match mine. The ridiculous accusation that the reasons for my clothing choices are “an excuse” for something.

    When I’m working, I pretty much live in black pants or skirt, plus a solid color top, usually v-neck, with the occasional vertically-striped button down thrown in. My clothes are neat, they fit me, and they are appropriate for the office I work in. I just cannot be bothered with thinking about it any farther than that. There are so many more interesting things to do with my time and energy. If being fashionable is interesting to you, if you choose to make it a priority for your time, attention, and money, more power to you.

    But don’t insult me because I have different priorities. This is not junior high.

    Comment by Tiff — January 19, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  2. But for my money (gimme your money!), personal style isn’t frivolous; it’s a right we all deserve, whether we choose to exercise it or not.

    Nonsense. Contrary to popular myth, women are under no obligation to be decorative, or good consumers. Health care is a right. Education is a right. Privacy is a right. Personal style is something one may or may not be interested in, like gardening or Egyptology.

    Comment by Sniper — January 19, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

  3. I feel like I could be more chic, if I put a little more effort into it. Unfortunately, in the mornings it tends to be a case of “grab clean-ish sweater and jeans off of the floor.” Am I afraid to be chic? No. I’d love to be chic. But I’m lazy as hell. I do agree that there are some big girls who would like to look nice, but they’ve just been discouraged by a dearth of options, and so they give up. If you genuinely don’t give a sweet damn what you look like, and still feel that you can carry yourself with confidence through any situation, no matter how you’re dressed, then more power to you. I do tend to feel more powerful and more confident when I know that the hair is did and when I’m put together with some thought and care.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — January 19, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  4. Why do we have to explain ourselves to you?

    Comment by dcsurfergirl — January 19, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

  5. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone on the internet. Ever. (Unless it’s a message from your boss asking what the hell you’re doing on Facebook when your TPS reports are due.)

    This is primarily a fashion blog. The people who write it are, obviously, going to have strong opinions about fashion. If you are the sort of person who deeply resents the aesthetic-centric way of life, as many perfectly nice people do, just scroll the fashion posts. I don’t give a tinker’s about cooking, so I scrolled Twistie’s recent food posts. (Nothing personal, T!)

    No one is making you read this. No one is making you respond. Plumcake is waaay too busy of a girl to show up at your door and demand to see the contents of your sock drawer.

    Comment by Janey — January 20, 2009 @ 3:46 am

  6. imho – you don’t have to explain yourself here or elsewhere. It is interesting that a lot of different opinions & reasons have been disclosed & discussed here. Clearly – one size never fits all – whether its clothes or clothing choices or “style”.

    Comment by g-dog — January 20, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  7. There was a moment about 10 years ago when I was trying to figure out what to wear for a concert. The director said “Wear something low-cut, all sopranos have a ton of that in their closets.” Much to my shock and horror, I had NOTHING that worked the girls. I’d gotten all mumsy in my 20s and 30s, and even though I had a ton of stuff in my closet, little of it was particularly flattering.

    I think the real trick is to resist fads and only buy items that you know are flattering on you (or can be made so with a minimum of effort/money). Gapping waistbands, fussy bits that you’re never comfortable with, and items that are ALMOST right are your enemy.

    Comment by Sarahbyrdd — January 20, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  8. I have never been able to pull off chic. Or even looking remotely pulled together. I spend most of my time fretting over what to wear (usually via Polyvore because I am a huge dork) and end up looking like I just pulled out some random crap from the closet and threw it on.
    I’m used to this.
    I’ve made attempts to try and have some sense of ‘style’ and be fashionable and all that. The problem is the staring. I’m a little bit panicky in large crowds to begin with. Anytime I try and put together outfits, I feel like people are *staring*. Of course, I realize that this is my own issue and not anyone else, but it really bothers me. Plus, I feel like I don’t have the personality necessary to pull off things like bright colors or ‘conversation pieces’.
    Plus, I’m used to the whole ‘oh god, why are you wearing *that*?’ that is usually what I get whenever I step out of my bedroom (since I still live at home, unfuckingfortunately). Doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, how expensive or cheap it is, how well tailored or fitted it is–the same response. No matter what. I’ve just stopped trying.
    (As an aside, I work in a temperature and humidity controlled environment and spend a good portion of my day on a forklift, so my work wardrobe is limited to layers, long sleeves, pants, and flats.)

    Comment by Rosemary — January 20, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  9. Oh, McMiller, you break my heart. I too know that awful weight up/weight down, looking at my beloved pieces from another size.

    Can you possibly invest in pieces that might have adjustment built into them? Wrap dresses that have a really good overlap, with a full princess hem, rather than a narrow one? Wrap skirts made on the same basis? Heck, even jackets can be made that way – especially if you cut them with kimono sleeves to accommodate arm/bust size changes. even has a couple of vintage patterns in larger sizes! If you truly want some beautiful pieces that you can wear, and are willing to perhaps have a dressmaker make them to accommodate your size shifts, you could have the style you want.

    Comment by La BellaDonna — January 21, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  10. What do I fear?

    Hahaha, such an awesome question! While I am someone who aims to be as tres chic as I can, the FEAR I have is not finding what i want in my size, in the same tres chic fashions as my straight sisters.
    I fear that there are always people out there telling us Curvy.Confident.Chic. fashionistas out there that we have to dress a certain way- disallowing us the opportunity to be, look, and feel as fabulous as everyone else.
    So, I take my chic and my friendliness that I exude and tell all those ney- sayers to shove it…
    I look fabulous!

    Comment by Marie Denee — January 21, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

  11. I’m definitely unafraid of chic and try and practice it all the time.

    On the other hand, I have some advantages in my quest. I wear either extended misses’ sizes or on the smaller side of plus, so it’s easier for me to find my definition of “chic” classics than it would be for somebody above a size 24.

    Bridge sportswear used to be a good resource for me earlier in the decade. That’s a challenged market, however. Oscar de la Renta killed off his bridge line, Dana Buchman went down-market, Ellen Tracy has a new owner and is in flux, and I wonder what’s going to happen to Talbots (do not sleep on their wool crepe basics). Lafayette 148 and Marina Rinaldi are great, when I can find them at deep discount.

    I don’t worry about looking foreboding (although when you get to know me, I’m quite friendly). I like a hint of take-no-s*** intimidation to my look. I’m a woman of color in what’s still a rather white area of the world.

    Comment by OCCaliAKA — January 22, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  12. I live in a small community and work in the medical field. Please explain to me where “chic” dressing fits in. My big outing to the local Wal-Mart? Give me a break.

    It’s been my experience that people compensate on the outside for what they don’t have on the inside.

    Being a full-time mother and/or being strapped for cash is a VALID excuse for not dressing up to “expectation.” Fashion is a frivolous thing, a playtime for people with money and extra time on their hands – not for real people who work for a living and are striving to raise families.

    “why don’t you want to be and look fabulous?”

    Because I don’t want to. End of story. I don’t really care what you think.

    Comment by Sarah — February 1, 2009 @ 12:58 am

  13. “Why do we have to explain ourselves to you?”

    You don’t have to. Maybe we should ask the author why she feels it’s necessary to judge a woman by her outside appearance. Shallow much?

    Comment by Sarah — February 1, 2009 @ 1:00 am

  14. I put my effort into developing an affordable signature style, made up of pieces I feel comfortable in and which are cut in a way that flatters my shape. Sure, this means I’ve likely got several shirts in the same style, or several skirts from the same maker, but that’s fine. Quality, well-cut basics are a good foundation.

    I invest time and money into the pieces that really shape my style — in my case, I buy scarves in vibrant hues from all over the world.

    I have no idea whether or not this is chic, but I feel good in it, and I know I present myself to the world in a better frame when I feel good about myself. That’s all I need. If chic only means the latest trend, the only chic people in the world would be the folks working the runways. If you’re happy with your look, your happiness will shine through. That’s plenty.

    Comment by LF — February 2, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  15. Honestly, if you’re so offended by the question posed, why are you here reading this blog in the first place? I come here to get tips on great deals, inject a little creativity in my wardrobe choices, and “ooh and aah” over great pieces that I could never realistically afford. No, my life is not consumed by the need to be superfantastic at all times and all costs, but I don’t see the harm in the question, and I don’t see where all the hostility is coming from. If I didn’t aspire to dress a bit nicer and take care of myself a bit more, I wouldn’t bother with this blog at all.
    I am currently unemployed, and my big outings of the day involve the gym, the grocery store, and the dog park (not necessarily in that order) and I admit to wearing my gym clothes pretty much all day those days. So no, I don’t do chic or superfantastic every day. I do, however, make sure that when I am going somewhere that involves contact with more people than a cashier and fellow unemployed dog owners, I put much more effort into my look. And I’m always on the lookout for advice and the occasional reminder that I am worth spending the time and money on myself.
    So really, if you honestly don’t give two craps about fashion and are offended when someone dares to ask if you really are trying your best, why are you here? Why do you care what she thinks?

    Comment by Kate — February 3, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  16. Happy Wednesday! Nice article. :). Enjoyed “Manolo for the Big Girl!” although maybe not everyone did. This has been a great read and a help; especially in the current economic climate. Added you to my feed reader.

    Comment by Womens Purse — February 4, 2009 @ 7:04 am

  17. On the flip side, I always try to look chic and feel like that is overcompensating for my weight.

    Comment by Qari — February 4, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  18. Hi. I think you could also make more of it through a bigger exposure about \”Manolo for the Big Girl!\”. Perhaps you can have some custom chocolate england.

    Comment by Mariah Mirza — February 17, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

  19. I found your topic “The Big Question: Novelty Socks as Psychological Cop-Out Edition » Manolo for the Big Girl!” when i was searching for combination wardrobes and it is really intresting for me. If its OK for you i would like to translate your topic and post it on my german blog about combination wardrobes. I link back to your topic of course!

    Comment by — March 13, 2009 @ 4:35 am

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