This Metaphorical Bar ep. 15: Fashion, Fiction, and Fatness (Part One)


Who We Are

I’m Carla M Lee, an author, artist, and attorney living in the Midwest USA, and I’m wearing a University of Michigan hoodie over a black pro wrestling shirt (Bray Wyatt), blue jeans, and red and black socks.

I’m Karen Healey,  an author and teacher living in Otautahi New Zealand, and I’m wearing my new! favourite! jeans! and a purple sleeveless top

I’m Robyn Fleming, a parent and writer in Tucson, Arizona. I am wearing pajamas right now, but earlier I had on a tshirt that said “Not to brag, but I totally got out of bed today” – I often get compliments from other moms on my sick t-shirt game. I love everyone in this metaphorical bar.

What We’re Drinking

Carla: iced water and New Amsterdam peach vodka straight from the bottle

Karen: instant coffee made special by the Hamilton mug from which I am drinking it

Robyn: Mountain Dew out of an aluminum can, which makes it taste better because of the metallic tang

Episode Summary

Topic: Fashion

  • Host personal styles
    • Robyn: ironic, snarky t-shirts and comfortable casual clothes, jeans rather than skirts, deliberately ugly shoes, etc., lightly fitted t-shirts
      • her t-shirts often start conversations with strangers
        • I have nonfictional feelings about fictional people
        • World’s Okayest Mom
      • Robyn calls her style schlubby, Carla calls it casual and down to earth
      • wears horrible crocs that she loves and Karen and Carla haaaaaate
      • has a look, not a feminine look, but an actual look
    • Carla: falls in between Robyn and Karen, favors form over fashion, t-shirts, jeans, Chucks and knock-offs, casual cotton dresses with leggings, and bright red lipstick
      • fits better in her legal job at a manufacturing company and when at Microsoft legal because of her lack of polished fashion and make-up
      • younger sister and law school friends tried hard to help her learn about fashion and make-up and what she knows comes from them (ed. and Marianne Kirby)
    • Karen: high femme, traditionally feminine, florals and skirts and dresses, fabric that swishes, still likes function too, though
      • jewel colors
      • make-up at work generally though sometimes none
      • likes playing with make-up, finger painting on her face
      • picks an outfit the night before
      • loves shoes
  • Components of fashion
    • Gender (how we associate with gender and how we want to present and how we do present)
      • Robyn verges on genderqueer (though she does not find it appropriate to claim and use that label) in that she is very bad at presenting as feminine and leans more to the butch side of fashion
      • Karen has been working hard to make her school dress code into a gender-neutral policy
    • Socioeconomics
      • Part of why Robyn uses schlubby and sloppy is because she’s compared to her socioeconomic peers. Other mothers at school drop off, for example, wear dresses and make-up and heels, and that is not Robyn’s style at all
      • Carla was always the most casually dressed person at the law firm and was often read as not a lawyer and as support staff for a lot of reasons (woman, fat, casual end of business casual)
    • Size and body type
    • location
      • Karen has a dress code at school for herself and a much harsher one for the students that she has to enforce
        • School uniforms function well to equal out disparities in socioeconomics of students, but rules about nail polish and hair colors are rooted in old-fashioned ideas of what a good woman wears
    • Fashion “rules” in real life or in fiction can cause real harm to people who are outside of what is expected
    • Fashion changes can reflect social changes and social progression
  • Clothes habits
    • Karen lays out an outfit the night before and puts together actual outfits
      • Karen wears one outfit to work and then sometimes changes into another outfit (track pants, hoodie, etc.)
    • Carla has a specific outfit for each day of the work week (Mondays are this shirt and jeans, Tuesdays are this sweater, etc.) and keeps her amount of clothing low, especially when it comes to shoes
    • Robyn is in flux, watched the Marie Kondo show on Netflix with Karen and liked the idea that you should enjoy the things you keep, so she’s been pulling clothes that while they worked, she didn’t really like them when she wore them, so keeping them is not relevant to her and someone out there will like them more
      • keeps jeans and bras on the right of her bed, which are the things she wears more than once before washing. Stumbles to them in the morning, stumbles to t-shirts and socks on the left, as soon as she comes back home after dropping off the kids, puts on pajamas again
      • gets dressed and undressed several times a day
  • Fat and fashion
    • We are three fat women.
    • Using fat as a label helps make it a more neutral descriptor but maybe don’t use it as a label on someone unless you know they use it in their identity
    • Hard to find clothes that fit or have the style you want or aren’t restrictive
    • Scarcity of access to fashion, particularly when shopping secondhand
    • Friend of the podcast Marianne Kirby writes nonfiction about fat and fashion and is an extremely fashionable fat person
      • taught Robyn to stop buying fashion for a size she’s not
      • also recommended Vintage Veronica by Erika S. Perl – cute story about a young adult coming of age who is a fat character that loves fashion and doesn’t need a makeover
    • Karen loves Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie – adult romance, sibling’s wedding brings up a lot of body stuff and clothing stuff because of family pressure – does get a makeover of sorts, but it is more that she gets clothes and make-up that work with her fat body as it is and how she embraces colors, etc., celebrating the body she has rather than changing it
    • Makeover trope is often about transforming the ugly self to become the pretty self when in reality, we are all pretty great
      • Robyn brings up What Not to Wear which has good points but has some problematic stuff around beauty and style — one good point is that they need to try on clothes because you don’t know what will feel good on or what will look good or both — led to Robyn trying skinny jeans for the first time and learning that they are comfortable and they look good
        • Carla talks about how hard it is when you get to the bigger plus sizes to find stuff in stores because they don’t keep them in store, you have to try to order online, which can be cost prohibitive and time consuming
      • Be open to trying new stuff and accepting of your body as it is
    • Karen talks about difficulties with mothers and daughters and fatness and fashion
    • Oh, Glee season two, Carla both loves and hates you (tiny little part is the only part she liked and really watched)
      • Compare Lauren Zizes and Mercedes Jones, both fat characters, though Lauren is fatter
        • Mercedes is often not confident in her awesomeness, dresses in somewhat more subdued ways
        • Lauren is very confident and dresses in bright colors and eye-catching styles
        • HOWEVER, Lauren never bares her upper arms, especially in their choreographed outfits — felt out of character for a character who was so confident otherwise (and who is a wrestler in a tight outfit so regularly) to hide her arms
          • Mercedes sometimes does start baring her upper arms
      • Karen brings up Tina Cohen-Chang who is not fat but is Hollywood middle size, and she wears a bunch of different fashions
        • when the choreographed outfits include strapless dresses, Mercedes almost always has straps, Rachel almost never does, and Tina sometimes does
      • One potential complication is that maybe the actor doesn’t want to bare her arms, which is perfectly valid, but still doesn’t fix the out-of-character feel of it
    • Karen and Robyn both love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
      • Rebecca is a fat character with very interesting clothes and songs that embrace her body
      • She’s also not the only fat character (e.g., her best friend Paula is also fat but in a different way)
      • Rebecca wears pretty much everything, jeans, swimsuits, leopard print unitard, sparkly evening gown, her underwear — has a ton of fantasy dream sequences
      • Again touches on mothers and daughters and bodies — Rebecca’s mother is an abusive mother and fat-shamed her quite a bit
      • Food and bodies and sexiness intersect in interesting ways
      • Lots of romantic and platonic love despite certain cultural ideas that fat people will never be loved

Things Mentioned in the Episode

  • Marianne Kirby’s writing on fat and fashion
  • Vintage Veronica by Erika S. Perl
  • Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
  • What Not to Wear
  • Glee (specifically the second half of season two)
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Find Us Online

Carla: @carlamlee on TwitterTumblrInstagram
Karen: @kehealey on Twitter, @karenhealey on Tumblr, and karenandrobyn.com
Robyn: @robyn_writing on Twitter

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