Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/big/public_html/wordpress/wp-content/themes/StandardTheme_20/admin/functions.php on line 229
Art | Manolo for the Big Girl
Archive - Art RSS Feed

You Asked For It: “It doesn’t work but I don’t know why”

Superfantastic reader Ginny wrote in with a work wear quandary. Seems our heroine, who is in the process of entering a more professional work environment, happened upon a pair of wide-legged navy pinstriped trousers and is at a loss how to wear them.

“Logically the pants should work almost like jeans because of their colour – they should kinda go with everything? But they don’t seem to.
Am I just overanalyzing because I’m not used to formal pinstriped trousers? Should I just wear it with my navy cardigan despite the slight colour mismatch [her navy tops are different shades of blue]? Am I just going to have to wear black or white button down shirts with these pants? Why don’t the pants seem to work with purple or brown? Could I do a blood-red slim sweater with these trousers? Help!


Okay class, raise your hand if you’ve made the rookie mistake of buying a fantastic separate without being sure anything else in your closet is actually compatible. Of course you have, it’s a rite of passage like bad bangs or ritual sacrifice. Now you’re stuck with making it work.

First the jeans thing.

Jeans “go with everything” because we’ve trained ourselves to believe that.

Just because you’ve got a pair of pants that are the same color as your favorite pair of 501s doesn’t mean you can wear them the same way. If it did I could wear my blond mink in place of my favorite khakis (ha ha, just kidding. Could you imagine me owning khakis?)

Jeans are sui generis as a pantular species, so just save yourself some heartache and abandon the whole idea.

You’re  also wise to be wary of donning mismatched shades of navy. Trust your instincts and skip it.

It takes a quadruple black belt fashion ninja to be able to wear colors that are ultra-close-but-not-quite the same. I’ve only known one personally who could do it and although she could,  she didn’t.

Let me touch on the idea of pinstripes.

Pinstripes are a little tricky these days. I call it the Curse of the Naughty Secretary.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good pinstripe, but when a design element becomes porno shorthand for an office worker, it’s something that should be approached with fear, trembling and a concerted effort to say “I am a professional” not “I am dressing up as a professional.”

So, on to your neutral matching woes.

Ever wonder why some people can wear brown and black together and look amazing while others look like mentally deficient beagles? 

The most successful dressers have a strong understanding –either innate or taught– of color theory. They keep their cools with their cools and their warms with their warms if they want a cohesive look and mix them thoughtfully if they want something purposefully disjointed.

If you’re having the dickens of a time getting colors that should go together in theory go together in practice, I almost promise you it’s because one is warm and the other is cool.

Your two go-to neutrals for navy other than white (which you mentioned you didn’t like wearing) are camel and gray, but any color can work.

The trick is making sure your neutrals –or any color, really– are the same temperature.

Most of us think blues are naturally cool, but it ain’t necessarily so, so color check yourself before you color wreck yourself.


What this means to you is if your pants are a warm navy, make sure your grays are warm too. If they’re cool and you want to wear a red sweater, make sure it’s a cool red sweater.

Purple works with navy only when the navy is has a good bit of red in it. Browns can go either way but generally cool on cool is more successful than warm on warm for that particular combo.

So analyze, but analyze wisely, brush up on your color theory, be careful with pinstripes and don’t ever come home with a separate unless at least you own three other pieces that can work with it right off the rack.

Oh, and sit up straight, get that hair out of your eyes and give me some grandchildren. I won’t be around forever you know.

Gin and Tonics,

Miss Plumcake



Big Girls in Art: You Still Can’t Make Me Like Renoir

Nope. It’s not going to happen.

Appreciate, admire, regard…all that good stuff, but I just don’t like Pierre-August Renoir’s paintings and you can’t make me.

It’s like Jane Austen. I’m not saying they weren’t highly talented individuals very important to the this and that, it’s just that I’d rather go out to an antique store, find a telephone that actually has a cord and then hang myself with it rather than spend an hour subjected to their individual, or indeed collected, works.

BUT, I know how many of you gals liked the big girls in art feature and I’m always glad when I see plus size women painted beautifully in any style so I thought I’d offer you a handful of Renoir’s portraits, mostly from his later years 1914 and on, featuring some of his larger models.

The first portrait is of Austrian actress Tilla Durieux who at the time was married to a prominent art dealer in Paris.

Nice job if you can get it.

The second –and perhaps my favorite– is of his longtime muse Gabrielle Renard, who just so happened to be his childrens’ nanny and his wife Aline’s cousin.

I don’t know whether he had an affair with her, but can you IMAGINE the fights?

“Pierre, WHY is the nanny naked in the studio again? I thought you were doing landscapes this week!”

Next there are several portraits of the mysterious woman labeled just as Andrée. Could it be actress and Impressionists’ darling Ellen Andrée?

It seems a good guess as Renoir definitely painted her often in their younger days, these portraits all show a voluptuous woman with a full, almost carnal, mouth. Other paintings and photographs of the actress show her to have very thin, tight lips.

Ellen Andrée would have been in her 60’s by the time these portraits were painted, not that any portraitist has ever shied away from shaving off a few years –or decades– from his subject.

Finally we’ve got some bathers.

You can actually blame the Hot Latin Boy for this post because it started with this painting.

Back story? Why sure.

The fella and I hadn’t seen each other in donkey’s ears and because your pal Plummy does like to make her entrances –I’m glad you all were sitting down for that shock– when I first appeared to him at Villa Plumcake it was at dusk, wending my way in white dress and gossamer thin shawl through a lovely shadowed garden.

I hadn’t seen him in months and I sure as heck wasn’t going to be stared at in the merciless glare of some fluorescent lights or, you know, the sun.

I plucked a single blossom of night blooming jasmine and stuck it behind my ear as the Pacific swallowed the last breaths of light.

He came up, put my hand on his heart so I could feel it beating (apparently that’s A Thing) and said:

“You look like a sílfide

For any of you people who are, you know, normal, you would understand immediately that sílfide is a Spanish cognate for sylph.

I didn’t quite understand, so he tried to explain what he meant and somehow I got it into my head that he meant I looked like a selkie.

No, it didn’t occur to me that perhaps a not-widely-traveled Latin boy’s frame of mythological reference might not include little-known Scottish shape-shifting seal maidens, but it honestly seemed more likely than being called a sylph.

Still does. I’d make a damn fine selkie. Plus I could have a seal fur coat without feeling guilty about it and that would be swell because even Cruella DePlumcake can’t swing that coat.

Anyway, sylphs are to my mind quite thin and willowy as are nymphs so I was pleased to see Renoir’s 1919 work The Nymphs (also called The Great Bathers) featuring women who don’t fit the slender sylph model either.


Shawls: What Would Frida Wrap?

I have a confession: the fine art and subtle science of wearing a shawl has always eluded me.

I can carry off a scarf eight million ways to Sunday, I can wear white mother of pearl sunglasses without looking ironic, I can even deploy a Spanish silk fan without channeling Karl Lagerfeld in the pre-tapeworm days –these are no small feats– but the shawl? Jamais!

Oh sure I TRIED to wear a shawl, but I was always like the White Queen from Alice Through the Looking Glass and got myself all tied up higgledy  –and on more than one occasion– piggledy as well. So in the end I’d just throw on a shrug or a seasonally-appropriate mink, depending on the time of day and weep bitter tears.

The problem was twofold.

The first fold is I’m not naturally shaped for most of the ways I’ve seen shawls worn.

I’m pear-shaped without an excess of neck, that means my delicious self is most naturally flattered by keeping everything from the waist up free from heavy visual clutter, like a broad swath of bulky fabric obscuring the loveliest parts of my body; my neckline and my waist.

Fold two, the most important fold, was that I didn’t know how to wear a shawl in a way that flattered me without being fiddly.

Then when I went to Mexico, something clicked. Call it the spirit of Frida Kahlo (did I mention no waxing services for a month? Just a further reminder that I am at any given moment no more than six weeks away from looking like Harry from And The Hendersons fame) but I finally GOT the shawl.

For me the best look is to drape it evenly around my neck, adjust the scarf over my shoulders and then taking each of the outside edges –about five inches below the elbow is comfortable for me– bringing them together in front and tying just those bits in a small square knot, pulling down on the bottom of the shawl to make a nice sort of hospital cornered look that covers my shoulders but keeps the neckline open and the bulkiness to a minimum.

I discovered this by accident, but if you’re smarter than I am –and let’s face it, that’s not setting the bar prohibitively high– you’ll check out this series of tutorials by fellow big girl Kathie Plaskiewicz for The Proud Peacock.

Although I can’t imagine anyone even owning, much less using a scrunchie in public, what with it not being 1994 and all (an elasticated or drawstring bracelet is a chic-er choice) she gives you a whole mess of ways to wear a shawl, very few I’d seen before. What’s better is since she’s a big girl, you can see how these folds and knots look on someone of more, as Alexander McCall Smith would say, “traditional build.” Enjoy!

Big Girls in Art: Fat…like me?

Let me tell you everything I knew about Ensenada before yesterday:

The Road to Ensenada is plenty wide and fast. I knew that because it’s in the lyrics of The Road to Ensenada by Lyle Lovett from the album of the same name which happens to be my favorite Lyle Lovett album when I’m feeling particularly Texan.

The lovestruck young waiter who jumped the gate of Villa Plumcake my first night in Mexico was from Ensenada (fun hint: if you are trying to impress a lady of position and quality, do not offer her hardcore intravenous street drugs on your first outing. Odds are if she won’t drink the tap water she probably won’t be all that enthused at the prospect of sharing a needleful of Mexican methamphetamine)

As it turns out, the road to Ensenada is about six feet wide and built into the side of what can only be described as OHMYGODSLOWDOWNIDONTWANTTODIEONTHISDAMNCLIFF. But it turns out Ensenada is a great harbor town with an excellent fish market and in a strange way I can’t exactly describe, reminds me a lot of Wales.

If I was a good and faithful blogger, dedicated to journalistic excellence and all that other stuff that doesn’t involve sitting in a cantina eating ceviche out of a cracked sundae glass and drinking 50 cent Coronas with a hot Latin boy, I’d have a picture and all the salient details of an enormous sculpture of a big girl’s kelp-covered torso and over which our antediluvian carriage driver waxed poetic while he and his equally aged horse jostled us around in a shiny (wherein shiny = not shiny in any conceivable sense) little surrey with the fringe on the top, doing his best to put an end to the last vestiges of dignity or bladder control I once possessed.

But I think we both know that in the journalistic battle between reportage and cheap beer, cheap beer will always, nay MUST always win, so I don’t have a picture of the big girl, or even really any idea where it was other than “next to that churro place” which I’m not exactly sure narrows it down enough to work my inimitable google-fu.

The driver went on and on and on about that sculpture, it’s new to the city (thus making my internet searching even more fruitless) and he’s clearly very enamored of it. At one point he even made a joke to my companion that I was the model.

My companion, the aforementioned Hot Latin Boy suggested it might be the work of Guillermo Valentin.

I have mixed feeling about artists who portray big women where the bigness is the focus. It smacks of fetishism and being reduced –even if it’s in a positive light– to one simple characteristic: fatness.

That’s not me. I mean, sure I’m fat. If I stay still long enough small Mexican children try to use me for shade, but that’s not ALL I am, it’s not even my most striking characteristic unless you’re looking at me from 50 feet away. I have a hard time feeling good about to being reduced –even symbolically– to a characteristic that frankly is kind of boring to me.

I’ll try to get more information on the sculpture and hash out my own complicated feelings on big girls in art, but for now I’d like to leave you with a few examples of Valentin’s work and ask you how YOU feel about fat women in art. Put it in the comments, gang!

Flat Month: Degas

Dancers Rest by Icon

I don’t usually go for a theme-y shoe, heck, I don’t even really like Degas all that much, but there’s something about these skimmers that speak to me. They’re whimsical but not overdone, so visually they read the same as a soft floral and not like Novelty Socks of Doom.

Degas flats

They also work across the generations. I could easily see a 14 year-old young lady wearing these with a sweet little dress, I’d certainly toodle around town in a pair of narrow but not skinny dark jeans and a ballet neck top, and a woman of a certain age could wear them beautifully with a chic pair of trousers, softly luminous jewelry (I’m thinking something like pearls with a bohemian edge) and a dove grey cashmere sweater set.

What Miss Plumcake is…

Hello my chubby compadres, how’s every little thing? Me, I’m great. Just getting used to being back in Texas –by which I mean the face of the sun– after a glorious month of actual springlike weather in DC. Well, it’s Tuesday, so it’s time to find out
What Miss Plumcake is…

(now with sales code AND a recipe!)

Your Weekly-ish Humpletter: Now Almost Never on Wednesdays!

Happy Friday everybahdy! I have been remiss in letting the weekly sales slip through my elegantly sausage-like fingers. Well no more!

At Lane Bryant you’ve got 30% your entire order until March 25th using code 000300384. I’m a big fan of the cargo jegging which is really more of a riding pant with cargo detailing than a legging. It’s surprisingly well-made and makes my legs look like ten miles of very good road.

I’m also digging the tissue-weight striped sweaters they’re practically giving away. They’re low cut but If you’ve got a defined waist and a good bust, this will be all about Brigitte Bardot on you.

From One Stop Plus you’ve got your choice of sales codes.

Use OSPCOUPON7 for 40% off a single item or OSPCOUPON8 for $20 off your $50 purchase, $25 off a $75 one and $30 off $100. Have you stocked up on slips? If not, now is the time. Whether you prefer shapers or full slips, get your underpinnings in order before those light spring dresses come out of the closet.

At  Avenue you can take 50% off your highest priced item using code JLE4473 and take 40% off your entire clearance purchase if you use code AV111081.

That’s right, you can double up on coupons. I’m liking this mini ottoman dress (get a better belt though, I’ve seen it in person) for your full-priced item and then clean up on denim with your clearance coupon.

If you’ve not been turned on to Amazon’s monthly $5 album downloads, you’re missing something good. There are some killers this month including The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed,( featuring two of the most iconic album covers of all time. Everyone knows Andy Warhol’s “peel slowly and see” banana for Louie Blue and the VU, but far fewer people know the woman responsible for Keef’s cake was none other than Delia Smith)  OK Computer from Radiohead, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and The Score from the Fugees.

Page 1 of 1112345»10...Last »