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

Review Revue: Mode Merr, Vamp Dress (and also some seabirds)

Yesterday the internet and telephone went out. Oh the humanity.

I’m not sure what happened, but having lived in Mexico for very nearly a month now I feel qualified to say it was most likely a pelican or something that landed on a roof somewhere in the state of Baja California and screwed us all to hell for the better part of the day. Pelicans, man.

Fun fact: For the past 15 years, I thought pelican in Spanish was alcatraz (thanks for nothin’ ornithologically-challenged high school Spanish teacher). Turns out, Pelican in Spanish is –wait for it– pelicano. I know, kind of a let down. Alcatraz is actually albatross. However, it’s also the name for Calla lilies here.

This would have been valuable information to have in my Spanish-to-English arsenal BEFORE Hot Latin Boy, the biggest bleeding heart in this particular postal code when it comes to animals in need, announced he was bringing home 30 alcatraces for my front garden and could he pretty please borrow my shiny new SUV to pick them up.

I’m not gonna lie, kids: I had visions of two and a half dozen over-sized seabirds making their happy home in my garden being all messy and foreshadowing my ironic briny death and whatnot. I was not best pleased.


Remember two weeks ago when we were talking about niche designers and how they’re worth a gander (again with the avian allusions?) even if their clothes in general are not your cup of what you tell your HR director is tea?

Here is a case, perfectly illustrated.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was very much a rockabilly girl in my early 20’s and many of my friends still identify with the saddle shoes and safety pin set. One of them, the massively talented Double Down Dixie from Red Light Burlesque, turned me on to Mode Merr.

Mode Merr is a neatly edited online boutique of pinup-flavored designs offered in straight and plus sizes by Angela Zampell, all handmade in the good old U.S. of A.

Admittedly, most of the designs are too literal in their pinup interpretation for my lifestyle (please hold on while I shake an angry fist at the sky) but let me draw your attention to The Original Vamp Dress:

Now okay, everything looks good on Bernie Dexter and it’s hard to see the exact construction and fabrication of the dress, but I thought for fifty smackeroos, I could take a chance and if it ended up just being a shapeless knit sweater dress sort of thing, I wouldn’t be out a ton of cash.

First of all, I found a coupon code moments after I’d ordered my dress, so I emailed Angela to ask her if she’d apply it, figuring it was a long shot, but a test of customer service. She did, no questions asked.

Then an item I’d ordered –I suspect plus sizes might be made-to-order– turned out to be unavailable she included a handwritten note explaining they couldn’t source any more of the material in that pattern. Handwritten, folks. Oh, and my entire package was tied up like a present in red lace trim, a cute nostalgic touch.

Now let’s talk about the dress:

It should be noted the only time I’ve ever seen Hot Latin Boy have a flare of Hot Latin Jealousy was when I was wearing this dress. We had tentative plans for a late dinner so, not wanting to waste a good outfit, I decided to take myself to the one restaurant in my village so that I might avail myself of a margarita and a little harmless ego massage.

Well, HLB showed up to Villa Plumcake an hour early, just as I was leaving the house in the Vamp Dress and was convinced I had some secret hot date with the Lovelorn Boxer, because I looked so beautiful in “your so sexy dress”, and there was a whole semi-comic telenovela scene that would’ve been deeply endearing had I not been wearing 5″ silk heels and standing on cobblestone.

The next week we went to watch the Marquez v. Pacquiao fight and, not being an animal despite my enjoyment of watching heavily-lubricated men hit each other for money, I dressed up. The Vamp dress came out of the closet again and I was the belle of the boxing ball and a chair miraculously opened up for me the minute I stepped my size 41 foot in the completely packed room. Not bad for dress that hits below the knee, has long sleeves and shows no cleavage.

As it’s a vintage-styled piece, I wore it with the era-appropriate undergarments. Yes, that means a corset. By no means is it necessary, and next time I think I’ll just go with a waist cincher –I believe the fabric is a smooth acetate with a bit of stretch to it and the boning of my corset was semi-visible even under a slip– but I wanted the full Boris and Natasha (well, just the Natasha) so I went all the way.


Mode Merr is great. The customer service is great. The Original Vamp Dress is great (FWIW I ordered it in XXXL and I’d call it a generous 18, true to size 20) and it’s the best fifty dollars I’ve ever spent on something that wasn’t Scotch. Go get you some. Mode Merr I mean, it’s nearly 5 p.m. in New York so I assume you already have the Scotch.

Lazy Poll Monday: Who Moved My Cheese Edition

You know you’ve had a rough weekend when the best thing you can say is no one threw up directly ON you.

True, it makes for a pleasant change from last weekend when I was not so fortunate, but I woke up on the wrong side of every bed west of the Mississippi this morning (in the I’m-Very-Grumpy way, not the I’m-Gonna-Need-Some-Penicillin way) and my situation has not improved in the three hours since I was rousted from my peaceful slumber by the lovelorn cries (okay, technically lovelorn telephone calls) of a very nice former Golden Gloves boxer with whom I struck up an acquaintance over the summer.

The Man with the Golden Glove has the dubious honor of being the only man who has ever carried me down a flight of stairs as an adult without using any type of complex winch and pulley system. Impressive, yes, but it does not excuse a telephone call before nine in the morning. Still, he’s very sweet and has been hit in the head an awful lot so I did my best not to be openly hostile, which I think is as much as can reasonably be expected before my feet have hit the floor.

THEN I stumbled down to the kitchen to fix myself some cornbread and a restorative only to discover the fresh butter I got from the lady who sells baggies of various unlabeled dairy products at a little shop down the street tasted like cheese and the memory of an unpleasant scene from yesterday came flooding back.

See, someone who shall remain nameless started rooting around in my cheese cage (not a euphemism) and decided my carefully arranged cheeses should all go live together in the refrigerator because apparently this person was raised by wolves/howler monkeys/some other animals that don’t understand the importance of not messing with a woman’s Camembert without express written consent and thus are to be pitied and very occasionally killed.

Unbeknownst to me, in attempt to right an egregious wrong and get that weird vein in my forehead to stop pulsing profanities in Morse code, the person who was raised by wolves/howler monkeys/etc decided to put everything back EXCEPT he took the previously mentioned fresh dairy butter (which, it should be noted, tasted of nothing but baby angels and cream) and put it in the same cubby of the cheese cage as my most rank and resplendent soft-ripening cheeses.

So, despite it being before noon here on The Wrong Coast, I am calling this day a wash and have decided to spend it in the Texas Room with my best friend, Sweet Lady Internet.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Lazy Poll Monday and I’ve been greatly remiss in responding to your comments, so let’s give it a go. You know the rules: Anything (almost) goes. Tell me what you’ve been doing, what’s on your mind, survey the MftBG readers for answers to life’s mysteries. Anything you want, just keep it clean.

Suck It, Food Network!

Next thursday, January 26, Food Network is premiering a new show called Fat Chef. Is it the adventures of a chef who happens to be fat? No. It’s a new Biggest Loseresque fat-shaming extravaganza.

Each week we’ll see two fat working chefs who fear that they’re going to die because they’re fat and work around food. Said chefs are put through a sixteen-week course of diet, exercise, and exorcism of  their horrible food issues, whereupon we see them all much thinner, more active, and promising they’ll never be unhealthy fatsos again.

Read this blurb taken from the Food Network site:

For overweight chefs, working in the food industry is a double-edged sword. While indulging their love of food has brought them success, money and respect, it’s also killing them.

That’s right. Eating is killing them. Because they’re fat. And fat people are all automatically dying. Right now.

I saw an ad for the show on saturday while enjoying an episode of Chopped. One of the fat chefs admitted shamefully that she tastes her dishes. Well stop the damn presses for that one! Chef tastes dishes! Clearly that’s why she’s fat! Except that Giada DeLaurentiis does that, too.


And Anthony Bourdain does it, too, as well as eating all kinds of indulgent foods while globe-trotting for the Travel Network and being a sometime guest judge on Top Chef.

In fact, chefs who don’t taste the food don’t stay in business long. No matter what the dish, no matter how many times you’ve made it, tasting remains an important part of cooking. This could well be the night when the dish needs more salt, or less tarragon, or it just isn’t working and you need to start over again from scratch.

At least five times a season on Top Chef you’ll see Tom Colicchio  fix a contestant with his laser beam eyes and ask incredulously: “Did you taste this?” He doesn’t tell the fat contestants that they get a pass because it might kill them to eat one tiny dab of food to see if it’s seasoned properly.

But no, the Food Network knows better! Fat chefs are chefs who have a toxic relationship to food and it’s killing them now! No exceptions! But thin chefs apparently all have perfectly healthy relationships with food and you can tell this by their – wait for it! – healthy weight.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… and again… and again until more people actually hear this: you cannot tell by looking at a person how they eat. You cannot tell by looking at whether a person is fat or thin what the state of their health may be. There is no such thing as a single ‘healthy weight’ that works for everyone. And you cannot shame people healthy.

So no, I have no intention of watching a show that takes people in a highly active line of work (Seriously, have you ever seen a professional kitchen during a busy service? It’s beyond any aerobic workout!) and tells them they’re eating too much, not moving enough, and have serious mental/emotional problems all based on the fact that they aren’t thin.

Suck it, Food Network!

WW Active: The Good, the Bad, and the WTH?

So. Yesterday in my inbox, I found an announcement of Woman Within’s new WW Active line. It’s a collection of activewear, exercise equipment, and blog for fat… er… plus sized women. So far the blog only has two entries, so I can’t say much about it other than it’s got cheerful graphics of straight-sized women and has not yet specifically mentioned weight loss.

While I haven’t seen the clothes up close and personal, I did take a bit of a gander at the offerings on tap to see what I thought of them. Overall, they look practical and comfortable. Most of the pieces do include polyester and/or spandex, but I did find a couple all-cotton shirts, which is nice. Let’s encourage more of that, shall we? And most of the pieces in the collection do seem to include some cotton along with the synthetics.

Most pieces offer color choices, some of them a positively dizzying number, which pleased me to no end. For instance, those yoga pants shown above? come with your choice of twelve color combinations. Okay, all that changes on these is the color of the stripe down the leg, but many pieces come in eight, twelve, even sixteen completely different colors.

Speaking of choices, most of the pants come in petite sizes as well as regular, and quite a few also come in tall. And while the largest size I found among the pieces I actually looked at was 6x – and I only found a couple of those – the size chart tops out at 7x. I have high hopes that that means we’ll soon see attractive, reasonably priced activewear for women up to size 46w/48w. Most of the pieces in the collection seem to go up to 5x, though I did find a couple pantsuits that only went up to 1x. Still, if you’re super sized, there’s a good chance you can find something to wear in this collection. And chances are it will come in a pretty color. I even found athletic shoes up to a 13xww!

Another thing I appreciated was the fact that the line includes exercise equipment. On the downside, nearly half the section is made up of scales and juicers, with only a couple actual pieces of exercise equipment. On the very upside is the unfortunately named Love Handles Exerciser.

What do I think is so great about this machine? Well, basically it consists of two handles which, according to the write up on the site can be attached to nearly any chair or wheelchair. Yes, this site is actually willing to acknowledge that an inability to walk doesn’t necessarily mean you have no interest in fitness.

On the downside of the fitness equipment is the constant talk in the write ups about fat burning, which, I know, is to be expected, but still disappoints my little activist soul. On the even more downside, many pieces of equipment are designed to hold no more than 250ibs. and the treadmill is only rated up to 225lbs. I hope that more equipment for the super sized will become available as time moves on. As things stand, I would break the treadmill, since I’m somewhere in the 240 range.

So yes, there are some downsides. But compared to what has been available for the larger athlete (aka: virtually nothing), Woman Within has done a pretty darn good job, and I applaud them for it.

Oh, and right now? Most of the items in the catalog are on sale. Plus, to sweeten the pot, WW is offering a 20% discount on your entire WW Active order with sales code WWActive20 until 2/28/12.

Let’s support a good effort, and keep our criticisms constructive.

Big Question: Lunchtime Quickie

Get your beautiful, beautiful minds out of the gutter, gang.  I’m talking about a quick blog post before Hot Latin Boy comes to pick me up for a picnic on the beach, which I’m sure will turn into another one of those five-hour lunches.

See, that’s the thing about living on the wrong coast (sorry, I’m an Atlantic girl and although I love my new country, I still generally object to the west coast, especially because so much of it is California) if I accidentally sleep ’til 11 because I am too fundamentally stupid to remember Time Bandits scares every last milky drop of bejeezus out of me and has since I was a kid, then by the time I wake up, it’s 2 p.m. in D.C.

The original plan for today’s picnic was some tuna salad sort of nicoise-style stuffed into these enormous tomatoes my neighbor grew, some cornbread from the only purveyor in town (it’s sweet, but sweet cornbread is better than no cornbread at all) a cold bean salad, one bottle of homemade jamaica each, some chocolate cake from the hardcore Mayan chocolatier down the street and a bottle of green Spanish wine, to split.

Sadly, the tomatoes and the bean salad are going to have to wait, because I only have time to run to our favorite taco place (I give them limes from my tree, they give us tacos from their parilla) to get a torta –a sort of enormous sandwich filled with carne asada and happiness– and the chocolate shop. I’ve got the wine at home and we’ll just have to have the bean salad at a time when I’m not too stupid to remember I’m afraid of Terry Gilliam and puppets.

Today’s question is simple:

You’re going on a picnic. You get to pick up to five living guests (dead people at a picnic are a drag, but I suppose they do help weigh down the blanket if there’s a breeze) and the menu. Who would you invite, what would you eat, where would you go and for extra imaginary bonus points: What would you do after?

(took this photo outside a shop in Aberystwyth, Wales. It’s so hard to pick just one)

I’d take my brother, my best friend Megh, my high school sweetheart (why not? He’s turned into a cool guy and I’d like to know him as an adult) Hot Latin Boy and my beloved pooch Dozer to have lunch on a beach somewhere desolate and beautiful on the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales.

We’d have a combination of traditional Welsh food –laverbread, cockles, some nice meaty faggots, and bara brith– plus shrimp and grits and my grandmother’s brownie pecan pie, and after we’d all go for a long hike along the coast and then have a good tea and a nap. Then later, a game of football and the pub!



More Paula Deen!

So here’s what I don’t understand: Are we supposed to be responsible for our own actions or not?

Because the charming follow-up article, titled “Paula Deen Needs to Accept Blame for her Diabetes” (note: blame, not responsibility because make no mistake, we are talking about something shameful. I wonder if athletic legend Billie Jean King also has to accept blame for her Type 2 Diabetes.) makes me confused.

If Paula Deen has to accept the “blame” for her diabetes because of the choices she personally made, then doesn’t that sort of mean we ALL are responsible for the choices we personally make? And yet she’s contributing to the Big Scary Obesity Epidemic because…what now?

Listen, I can’t say I have total recall of every morsel I’ve shoved into my elegant maw in the past 32 years, but I am almost certain even during my discotheque days I would’ve remembered a chubby Southern lady with strip lashes force-feeding me Krispy Kreme bread pudding.

We are all responsible for our own decisions and although I make my living on the internet, which as we all know is the Intergalactic Capital of Moron, even I give people enough credit not to base their entire nutritional lifestyle on someone they see on th’ teevee.

It’s not Paula Deen’s job or responsibility to be the health model of our nation because she makes food on television.

Do you think Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods or whathisname, the guy who needs a shave and a shower in a carwash from Man vs Food, gulp down cold picked yak balls and 20 pounds of hotwings every day? Maybe, I don’t know their lives, but probably not. We imagine, because even on the internet we are marginally rational human beings, that they do what they do for a show, and that is not how they eat, or are suggesting WE eat, in our daily lives.

Neither of them are exactly willowy (hmm, could it be that men’s bodies aren’t generally considered public domain, existing mainly as an object to be appreciated or reviled, depending on how much random strangers find them physically desirable?) but no one seems to be on their mantits about healthful eating.

And what about Anthony Bourdain?

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him smoke more cigarettes in his apparent lifelong quest to become Lou Reed (never gonna happen Tony, not for me, not for you, not for David Bowie) than anyone outside of a Thin Man movie. Is he responsible for the lung cancer epidemic?

Oh wait, not responsible…to blame.

Paula Deen and Diabetes: Smuggery in Action

Good morning, friends and lovers, how was your weekend?

Mine was okay. Friday, when I totally promised myself to write about Mode Merr (I will soon, I double promise) took an unexpected turn as I discovered when you live on the beach and the weather is perfect year ’round, that the appropriate length for a Friday lunch is just about five hours and involves a trip into town for a cultural event/random people watching, a leisurely lunch of aquatic foodstuffs and the mandatory accompanying cervezas, an even more leisurely stroll on the beach with the occasional smooch (recommended) and watching the minor league futbol team train in the sand (HIGHLY recommended) all topped off with a cafecito at home.

Nice work if you can get it.

Saturday was all fun and games, literally and Sunday. Well, let’s just say introducing the local population to Lemon Drops (straight shots of vodka with a sugar-coated lemon wedge as a chaser) was not the kindest thing I’ve done to my host country, so this morning –and not for the last time, I suspect– I uttered the phrase “I love you, but I warned you and I am NOT cleaning that up.”


So while the shining stars of central American athletics were trying to locate their livers, dignity and any of my four complete (and thankfully tiled) bathrooms, all with little success, I was toodling around the internet for News of the Fats.

First up is this smug little article about Paula Deen getting type 2 diabetes. Honestly I don’t know much about her other than a few clips I’ve caught on the internet. From what I can tell, she makes high fat soul food . Okay. And?

Listen, if you’re going to make traditional soul food, it’s going to be high fat, it’s the nature of the southern fried beast.

Sure, she revels in her use of butter and other high fat ingredients, but it’s her shtick. Celebrity chefs gotta have a gimmick and that’s hers. Now I’m not going to pretend to say there isn’t possibly a correlation between eating high fat foods all the time and getting diabetes, but it ain’t that simple and pretending only fat people get sick is ridiculous, harmful and just another brick in the socially-acceptable wall of fat shaming.

Also, in 20 years or so, when our young, thin, vegan stars get osteoporosis, which is far less likely to affect a woman whose diets are chock-full of dairy and who carry a little extra weight on their frames, how many people are going to be smug about that, saying they had it coming?

I’ll have more for you tomorrow, someone just woke up downstairs and there are loud and pained cries for menudo. I sort of hope they mean the soup. But then again, I sort of don’t.