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

June 4, 2009

A Glamorous Guinea Pig and the First Official MftBG Homework Assigment!

Filed under: Homework — Miss Plumcake @ 5:14 pm

A few days ago The Manolo forwarded me an email saying “Deary, do something with this.”

Now, I don’t usually get directives from The Manolo so when says “jump” I ask “how high” (okay, if he really asked me to jump my response would probably be more like “Are YOU high? You must have me confused with one Miss David Lee Roth.” and then we’d talk about how Van Halen was nothing without Diamond Dave although “Right Now” was totally my second favorite Poignant Video of 1992, right after “Everybody Hurts” which inspired me to act mopey and Stare Meaningfully out of the car window for, like, six months.)


Internet Friend Cat wrote:

I have a rather odd request.  I never was taught while growing up how to be a “girly girl” […]  I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, but have now turned into a 40+ maternal-type, with masculine tendencies. But I still spend an awful lot of time wishing I was more “feminine.”  I’m a strong woman, with strong opinions – and tend to be very vocal.[…]

What I am really looking for is something like Manolo for the Big Girl, but for Gothic/Alternative types.  Not because I am some whacked out, depressive – but because I really do like some of the fashions (particularly the Victorian-esque ones).

While I am trying to lose weight (only for my health, not because I don’t accept myself as I am), I have finally (after that damned 40 years) come to a realization that *I* deserve my own style.  […]

So, that’s what I am asking for……can you point me in the right direction?  I’m still going to be following you anyway – you help me see fashion and being “girly girl” through an entirely different focal lens!!!



First of all I think I should tell everyone reading that I have never met Cat, in fact, in my mind she is not a person but a slightly butch cat with Flock of Seagulls hair, a “steampunk” collar and the cutest pinkest nose ever. Kinda like this:

artist’s rendering

So fantastic, in fact, that we’re going to use it for the next week as we journey, step-by-instructive-step, to finding and creating an authentic personal style.

But first there’s one teensy thing I need to get out of the way: the phrase “Girly Girl” needs to go.

Why? Because girls are children. Dressing to accentuate our feminine characteristic shouldn’t reduce our status from adult to child.  So we’re banning the G word, starting now.

Besides, women dressing as girls?

“amaloli”-style dressing outside Harajuku Station, Tokyo

With that out of the way, let’s leave Frump Junction and hop on the express to Fierceville. Our first assignment? A little arts and crafts.

Assignment 1: Create an Inspiration Board

Plumcake’s Inspiration Board

(my current inspiration board, click image for a larger picture and more information)

An Inspiration Board is just an amalgam of stuff you like. It doesn’t have to be fashion or clothes –in fact, save that for your Look Book which we’ll do later– it’s just a collection of object and images to which you feel drawn. Don’t worry about a theme or making sense, just put up anything that stirs your soul.

Traditionally these boards take shape slowly and on an actual, you know, board with bits of paper and little found objects tacked up there, that’s the preferred method, but this is an excellent quick and dirty jumping off point.

Go to Big Huge Labs’ Mosaic Maker and create a 4 x 4 grid.

The first image will be the hardest, so here’s a little nudge:

Go to Flickr Advanced Search.

Scroll to the bottom and check “Search only within Creative Commons

Type in your favorite color  in the search field and click “tags only” hit search

click “most interesting” and scroll your happy self down until you find an image that speaks to you.

Copy the image location and paste into the Mosaic Maker grid.


Now just let your mind wander. Free associate.  If Flickr is too limiting (it is for me) go to Google images. Put in anything you like and admire, use your imagination, a word of caution: don’t be too literal.  We’ll talk about “literal” later.

One key from being too literal is to go for the second thing that comes to mind, never the first.

Cat digs the gothic stuff but instead of “gothic” she’d use “victorian funeral” then pick out an intriguing image or two. I came across:
666 Photography


Millais' The Widow's Mite

The top photo  is by my girl Gayla at 666 Photography, with whom I had the pleasure to shoot a few years ago. The bottom is Millais’ “The Widow’s Mite”.

Do I especially want to dress like either of them? No. But they DO inspire me…to what? I don’t know yet. Doesn’t matter.

So that’s it, just keep going until you have 16 images. Don’t worry about image order. Think about time periods that interest you, movies, people. Do a little wikipedia search on things that interest you if you’re looking for new Google terms.

Once you’ve got all 16 images, make your mosaic and save it.

Look at it. Are there themes? Commonalities?

On my board there are some obvious connections: the girl in the tux on the second row is playing a character based on the woman in the hat on the first row and I knew that, but I didn’t notice how the curl of the snail’s shell (snails hold very special personal significance for me, and not just because they’re delicious) looks like a turban or that Kiki de Montparnasse was wearing a turban in addition to those famous violin F holes in a photograph I’ve seen a thousand times. Suddenly my well-established headgear love made more sense, contextually.

This is how great designers work to create collections, they start out with references. All fashion is referential, especially haute and directional post couture. Let’s take Man Ray’s Violon d’Ingres again. It seems it had an effect on Viktor and Rolf, too.

Viktor and RolfViolon d’Ingres - Man Ray

So that’s your assignment for today, and as long as you get 16 images that speak to you, there’s no wrong answer.  If you’re willing to share,  host your image online –I suggest– and send me the link to YOUR inspiration board. I’d LOVE to make a mini gallery of our inspiration boards to use as illustration for future lessons.

Now get to work!


  1. First off, I am the “Cat” of the email. :)

    I guess for me, the term “girly-girl” isn’t meant derogatorily. For me, it implies that kind of feminine that simply “is.” The kind of feminine that people like Eartha Kit, Sophia Loren, and others like them are/were. I suppose the word has become “fierce” – but after watching that season of Project Runway, I want to stuff him and his little attitude into a toilet and give him a swirly! (I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all….but please…) But, I will bow to your greater fashion experience (and your true fierceness), and quit using that particular term.

    Plus, I am noticing as I am doing the homework, that what I am really interested in isn’t actually “Victorian” per se, but actually comes from a bit later the “Le Belle Epoch” (which in some minds, I suppose actually could be considered Victorian in nature, but isn’t necessarily).

    While this is how I see myself, the following photo is a photo that includes me. (I am the one in black on the left side – click to see a bigger version).

    And, of course, see my mosaic: (again, click for a bigger version)

    Of course, you can also see some of my other inspiration at my design portfolio (see the website link above).


    Comment by Cat — June 4, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  2. GAH – won’t show my images.

    Here they are if you want to see ’em: (the image of how I see myself) (the image of me in black)


    Comment by Cat — June 4, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

  3. It didn’t take my image links – so I’m trying again. – This is how I see myself

    The following photo is a photo that includes me. (I am the one in black on the left side – click to see a bigger version).

    And, of course, see my mosaic:


    Comment by Cat — June 4, 2009 @ 7:20 pm

  4. Dammit, Plummy, but I just can’t do this virtually. I’ve been considering making an inspiration board for a while now, and you’ve got me rooting through old postcards I picked up because I liked the images, family photos, back catalogues, and other assorted odds and ends. Pretty soon I’m going to have a board covered in oddities that make me happy.

    As for some sources Cat might find useful, I’ve got a couple to point her at, having a touch of Gothlove myself.

    Persephone Plus ( carries a small but fabulous line of goth-inspired dresses for the larger lady. Several of them are fairly stripped down and minimalist versions of goth, too. Oh, and check out the link to her Etsy store for some super steampunky jewelry.

    If she’s an in-betweenie, Cat may also find some things she can fit into at Gypsy Moon ( The styles run from Stevie Nicks to nuevo piratica – a term I just made up, because of the fun! – to renfairy. Yes, there are some ruffles, but there are also some pieces based on menswear of half a dozen eras. Even if you don’t find something to wear, you can definitely find some inspiration for what you’re looking for.

    Good Goth ( Has a variety of looks for a variety of figures. In fact, I think I just fell in love with the Mood Indigo jacket on the Plus Size page. Considering that it’s only $29.95, I may give in to temptation, too.

    Check them out, follow a couple links. Chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for with a bit of effort.

    Comment by Twistie — June 4, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  5. So I made mine, and it’s awesome :D But the first pic didn’t show up, alas! So.
    Here’s the mosaic itself:

    And here’s the first pic that should have show up:

    Comment by Cassie — June 5, 2009 @ 1:10 am

  6. Ok, this was just plain fun!

    Here’s my inspiration board :

    Comment by sugarsick — June 5, 2009 @ 1:34 am

  7. hehehe this is fun! and I could go on all night…
    (so I have a monochrome dark-chocolate side and a candy-coloured side…. but too much sugar makes me unpleasantly buzzy!)

    Comment by rach3 — June 5, 2009 @ 7:48 am

  8. …oh heck it, I made another one:

    Comment by rach3 — June 5, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  9. I tried this. Total failure. Only like four of my pics worked.

    Comment by Gryph — June 5, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  10. Just a quickie question, for Twistie – what’s an “in-betweeny”??

    I used to be an hourglass figure (well, I jokingly called it a “century glass” but you get the drift). I still have a waist, but I find as I am getting older that the waist is “shifting” – although some of that is losing weight to strangely enough).

    But I’m a super-sized woman – and I’m not doing any stupid diets (i.e. things that will wreck my health). So the losing of the weight is going to be a long drive, not done in a year kind of thing.


    Comment by Cat — June 5, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  11. First time didn’t work… let’s try this again…

    Comment by Marty52 — June 5, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  12. I had to do this as well.

    This is such a great idea since you can see your line of thought when watching the entire mosaic.

    Comment by Ravna — June 5, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

  13. This was good times!

    Comment by lowbudgetdiva — June 5, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  14. Hmm, well here goes something :)

    Comment by AmazonAngelle — June 6, 2009 @ 2:53 am

  15. This was so much fun, i am delurking to join in.

    Comment by rebecca — June 6, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

  16. I liked this assignment so much I’ve borrowed the idea (with attribution, of course) here: I think that’s the best way to see my mosaic too (it’s in there) since I can’t upload pictures here and the mosaic link will soon die…N.B.: given topic of my blog, may be way TMI for audience. Feel free to delete this comment.

    It’s striking how just sixteen images do really give a flavor of the person, and how after I went on a scavenger hunt – “Oh! I have to include that Spode blue-and-yellow garden print pattern that was only made from 2004-2007 and I am going to have to start collecting before they vanish forever!” – for things that struck me, I ended up with a collection that really did have a coherent feel.

    Much fun.

    Comment by the misfit — June 8, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

  17. What an exciting creativity thing! I’m just going to bed now but I’m bookmarking it for tomorrow. :D I’m going to post my picture on my blog, too

    Comment by Katana Barnett — June 9, 2009 @ 5:22 am

  18. I was convinced this would come out as garbled nonsense, but now that I look what happened, it’s not so bad at all…

    Comment by Nariya — June 10, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  19. What a great idea! Today I just stumbled on to this lovely blog and jumped at the chance to participate in this!

    here is mine:

    Comment by miss jinxx — June 10, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

  20. So my graphic designer friend, also fashion-minded, did this too: Hers has such strong trends!

    Comment by Nariya — June 11, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  21. That was really fun!

    Here’s a link to my flickr

    Comment by barbara — June 12, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  22. Hey thanks for that dig against lolita fashion. No, really. I mean, it’s not like any of your readers wear it on a regular basis or anything.

    Hahah, that poor picture from Hair looks so out of place between all the flowers and soft colors and “kuh-reepy” lolita girls.

    Comment by Arisu — June 12, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  23. I owe Plumcake a huge thank you for putting up the photomosaic challenge – I got on a bit of a roll, and after making 4 of ’em, came up with a design for a personal business card :)

    Comment by rach3 — June 21, 2009 @ 12:14 am

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