This Metaphorical Bar ep. 16: Fashion, Fiction, and Fatness (Part Two)


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

  • Picking up with fashion as character.
    • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend touches on this, different fashion shows what genre in music and performance in fantasy sequences, but also fashion shows character outside of the fantasy sequences, tied to personalities and life choices
    • Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
      • No fat characters in main club, bad treatment of fat characters in side characters
      • Claudia Kishi’s fashion is one of the highlights of her characterization in each book
        • She’s Japenese-American and her parents and older sister are very conservative in dress; she’s already different from her family in her food choices and her dislike of school and her fashion encompasses that and her art.
        • From #85 Claudia Kishi Live From WSTO! “Anyway, I wore the coolest tuxedo I’d recently bought in a thrift shop, including a silky, piped shirt and a bright red velvet cummerbund. I removed the shoulder pads from the jacket, which made it really slouchy (I love that look). Then I bought a pair of white socks with silver glitter.I decided to wear a pair of red sneakers to match the cummerbund. I swept my hair up and fastened it with a rhinestone barrette in the shape of a musical note.”
        • Her fashion is a character in itself.
      • Juxtapose Claudia with her best friend Stacey McGill who is very contemporary for the times, sophisticated fashion, would wear what was in the magazine.
      • Fashion tied to the personality means none of them can dress like anyone else; very narrow fashion categories though Claudia pushes it quite a bit within her artistic fashion.
    • BSC uses fashion as short-hand characterization, but you can do that in a crowd scene, too, using fashion to show brief characterization.
    • Karen and Robyn writing story with fashion and spies and they are using fashion to code switch and lie to people just as much as their words and actions — they can, for example, fade into the background because of how they’re dressed or put themselves on display
      • Matches reality in which people are judged and treated differently based on what they wear, fair or not.
    • Star Wars
      • Easy for rebels to sneak into Imperial forces due to rigid uniforms, harder to figure out how to dress when there is no uniform and you would be uncomfortable in deciding for yourself.
    • Star Trek
      • Uniforms have pants and skirts (or as Robyn says, the skant, though Carla thinks that’s a terrible word). Idea is that anyone could wear any of the variants, but in practice, there was pushback on the production side, so you only see some background characters who are male presenting wear them.
      • Mild Discovery spoiler about meta fashion awareness.
    • Fashion in historical romance
      • A huge part of appeal is the clothes porn, all the fancy clothing and beautiful styles.
      • Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan – Main character uses fashion to signal a lot of things, including her wealth and her intentional presentation that she is kind of clueless. Fashion as a wealth signifier is very important in it. Excellent secondary romance, too.
      • Loretta Chase’s The Dressmakers Series – Three sisters set up shop as modistes, and in the last book, the sister who is the romantic lead refuses to give up her shop because it is her art, it is so vital to her life, and her love interest absolutely affirms that she makes incredible work and great business decisions and he wants to support her in that.
      • Regency, Victorian, Colonial American – Emphasis on guys in fashion can be wonderful in these stories in ways that straight cis men aren’t often allowed to be in a lot of contemporary stories (thanks toxic masculinity).
      • Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh – Normally a great author, and the story is cute and sweet, but the male lead in this story likes flamboyant clothes and fabrics and colors, and the female lead confuses him as gay even though it fit the fashion of the times and she would not have done so. Strangely modern perception here.
  • Fashion-Adjacent books
    • E.g., books set in the fashion industry like The Devil Wears Prada, which is sexist in some terrible ways. It’s scathing about the weight-loss regime, but it’s scathing in a way that is very Not Like Other Girls and who is naturally thin. Very judgmental of other women.
    • Fashion industry notoriously an industry where people involved in it have their appearance judged harshly for them to even be a part of it at all.
    • Marian Keyes handles this style of book very well. She wrote for beauty blogs and magazines and newspapers, and when there are mentions of brand names and styles, they are used because the characters love them and it makes them feel good, a joyous celebration of fashion and style. There is bodyshaming between the characters but the narrative itself doesn’t bodyshame. Focuses on enthusiastic and fun aspects of fashion. She also writes about a cis dude who wears dresses and he is a romantic interest and he is wonderful.
      • In This Charming Man, but major warnings for domestic abuse, spousal abuse.
    • Runway Job episode of Leverage, lampooning people’s idea of what a fashion maker would wear, and Eliot getting grief for his eyeliner, and Pilgrim chic.

Things Mentioned in the Episode

  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
  • BSC
  • What Claudia Wore
  • Documentary about Claudia Kishi
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan
  • Loretta Chase’s The Dressmakers Series
  • Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh
  • Marian Keyes in general, specifically This Charming Man
  • “The Runway Job” episode of Leverage

Ask your friendly neighbourhood bartender

Carla: Robyn, do you have any issues with the nearsighted/farsighted thing?

Yes and no. Robyn’s right eye is nearsighted and her left eye is farsighted. The biggest issue is that her right eye is worse than her left eye and has an astigmatism. It wasn’t diagnosed until she was a young teen, her brain had already started ignoring information from her right eye. This is why she likes to sit to the far right of rooms. Her depth perception with moving objects is also crap.

Find Us Online

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.