A Plus Market has opened new doors for me and taken me to some unexpected and exciting places. One of those places has been and is the organising committee for the Curvy Couture Roadshow.
The committee is full of amazing, smart and beautiful women including these two, Jess and Jess or collectively, The Jess’s. And why am I telling you this….. WE ARE GETTING IN TO THEIR WARDROBES!
But before we swoon over their pre-loved suprises, lets get some information out of them.
As there are two being interviewed for this Spotlight it is a little longer than normal, and as The Jess’ are my friends I took the liberty of asking the really tough questions, that no one ever asks, but always wants to know of fashionistas, like, What is it you really wear around the house? and How long does it really take to get ready?
There is also some serious stuff, so definitely stick it out.
I’ve found their answers illuminating, I hope you do too….
Please tell us a little bit about yourselves
I am the older, shorter Jess! I am a Government drone by day and a bespoke fashion designer and seamstress by night…and weekend…and public holiday. I’m also on the committee of the Curvy Couture Roadshow (Melbourne’s own plus size fashion event). I met Jess at a committee meeting and we worked so closely together, on the same projects with the same kind of enthusiasm and ethics, it just clicked! We work really well as a team, we think of things at the same time. When we’re really in our stride we’re like a hivemind. In Jess I’ve found a great friend, a cheerleader and an extra wardrobe! We quickly found out we’re the same size in clothes and we swap items nearly every week. I’ve never had a friend that was my size, nor who wore clothes that I wanted to wear! It’s a real bonus to our friendship.
I am a fashion enthusiast who believes everyone should embrace their bodies, enjoy fashion and always have fun with it. Jess and I met whilst organising Curvy Couture Roadshow (CCR), we are both on the committee and also modelled on the day for Sonsee, after all the long hours and many weekends together we formed a bond, we would email each other at the same time saying the same thing to each other (we still do) we call these hive moments, we are very similar in our thought processes and work ethic and our love for fashion, since then our friendship has blossomed, we live close by and both work in the cbd so we catch up a lot, go shopping and just have fun. It’s the first time I’ve had such a close friend who is the same size as me, its amazing I’ve never been able to swap clothes with someone which is exciting because its now like my wardrobe has doubled in size, when we go shopping it’s great because we say, ‘does our wardrobe need this?’. We still have our own unique styles and likes but Jess is such a wonderful caring, smart and gorgeous woman with a heart of gold a fantastic sense of humour that I cherish our friendship so much and always get excited when we hang out or do theme days with our fashion (check out the #purpleginger hashtag on instagram) or just have a pj night we get called ‘The Jess’ a lot and I love it as not only does she have a great name but she is one of my best friends.
What do you love about fashion?
I am most interested in the history of clothing and why we wear what we wear. For so many people clothes are tied to their identity. It’s a way of showing off, defining what people do or how they want people to see them. For others it’s about hiding or fitting in. Nationalities, social groups, work places, communities can all have a certain way of dressing, that identify where we belong. It’s also an amazing way to show how different you are!
Fashion and clothing is the easiest and most easily changeable way to express yourself. Whether you make it, hate it or just claim it as your own, fashion and clothing says so much about you. I also really believe that as a fat woman, what I do with my clothes and not conforming to what society believes fat women should be gives me the power of fashion (I like to pretend I’m on Sailor Moon, it helps).
Being visible as a different body shape to the ‘norm’ is important to me as a feminist and as a fashion loving fatty. No matter what size someone is, or how they want to represent themselves, they should have the freedom and confidence to do so. Having examples of bodies that look like your own helps so much.
I have obsessions with neon, hounds tooth. Recently I have started falling into love with vintage shopping, from finding those special pieces that no one else has to styling them and mixing them into my modern wardrobe. I like to not listen to the ‘fashion rules’ and wear what I want to and what I think looks good on my body.
What is your dream outfit?
Oh man. This where my goth roots start showing. I would have to say that it’d be knee high black leather boots with a two inch block heel, coupled with black thick knit tights. A black ponte skater dress, long sleeved, boatneck collar. A dark maroon duffle coat, with a hood and deep pockets. A long grey woollen scarf with tassle ends. Dark red nail polish. A wide brimmed black felt hat. Lots of eyeliner. One day it’ll happen. Possibly when I move somewhere cold enough to wear it every day.
That’s hard to say, I don’t think I have the exact items of clothes to make up this outfit but more I know I would love something that represents my personality whilst making me feel confident, sexy and comfortable, also something that no one else has (yes I’m all about standing out)
What do you really wear when bumming around the house?
Some oversize cheap trackiedacks, some knockoff ugg boots, laundry day undies, no bra, a tshirt and a hoodie I bought at a gig in 2004 with ‘Sounds Like Chicken’ on the front. So classy. Comfort realness.
To be honest I actually don’t own any tracksuit pants or anything so in winter its my love of an oversized hoodie, some leggings and either fuzzy socks or my old man moccasin slippers, In summer its usually a lot less layers but the key thing is fabrics that breathe.
How long does it really take for you to get ready? On average how many outfit changes do you make before you’ve found the one?
Honestly on a work day it depends on how fast I’ve gotten out of bed, usually 45minutes to an hour but if im styling my hair or curling it, this can take much longer. On a night out I can take up to 2 hours but if im getting ready with the girls and having pre-drinks well that can be over a few hours as we all know its much more fun getting with the girls and taking our time. Mostly I plan my outfits the night before or in my mind before I get out of bed, but if the weather is not complying to my plan or im feeling bloated or change my mind it could be 3-4 changes before im happy and sometimes I might even go back to the original idea I had
Ha! So on a work day, it takes me 1 hour and 15 minutes from bed to shower to door. If I’m going out, it can take maybe 2 hours. My gigantic hair takes time. I usually don’t change an outfit more than once, so I sometimes leave the house in things I’m not 100% on, but honestly you just gotta roll with it. I tend to spend the time I have in the shower thinking about what I want to wear so I’m prepared to chuck it on in the 5 minutes I have before people turn up or I have to leave.
Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
My biggest inspirations come from Instagram, I love seeing how other women put outfits together. I also get inspired from shopping, from the clothes themselves. I’ll buy a piece not thinking that it will perfectly match everything in my wardrobe but being excited by the challenge of mixing new things together to create a new look.
A lot of it recently comes from Jess! She has a really fashion current, bright and colourful style that I love on other people but I’m usually too afraid to try myself. I am also really into dressing like a witch from the 70s, or a Teddy Girl, or a 50s Greaser girl. I guess I am really into girl gang style. I also love looking at other fat fashionistas on Instagram and looking at their outfits, picking out what I love most and trying to work that in. I still carry around the inspiration from my early 20s in my heart though – comic books. People always dress so cool in comic books.
What is your favourite fashion rule to break?
Bikinis. Always bikinis.
What ‘fashion rule’ isn’t there to be broken! A few that I do love flipping the bird to are; Tall women can’t wear heels, well I’m just under 6ft tall and I proudly rock up to 5 inch heels because I love heels, my ass and legs look great and I don’t feel the need to only wear flats to make others comfortable.
I also love to flaunt my curves, by wearing figure hugging pieces.
You both are extremely body positive, can you share some of your journey to how you got there, and any tips for those on that journey and any tips on keeping that body positive attitude?
I think my body positivity comes from a political place. It took me a while to embrace feminism and body activism, but now that I have I am determined like fire to always fight for women of every body type and from every place to feel attractive, strong, sexy and feel like they own how they look. I make sure that when I see a woman in the street that I think looks amazing, I will tell her.
I tell my friends how great they look as often as I can. Because you know what? It’s easy to tell other people how good they look with feeling and mean it, it’s harder to tell yourself how good you look and mean it, but the first step is projecting outwards. When I tell a woman on the tram that her outfit is awesome, she feels good (I hope) and I feel good too. The better I feel doing that, the better I feel about myself. Guerrilla kindness!
Another trick that seems to work for me is being naked a lot and getting to know what I look like and accepting it. I think my first real experience of body positivity and how bodies are pretty great no matter what they look like was when I participated in a Spencer Tunick photograph back in 2001. 1000 naked and shivering at 5am in the Melbourne streets will make you feel like being naked and different is normal. But when you look at everyday people naked, you see all the flaws you have on other people and it helps to accept them, I think. You’re not alone. It all stems back to seeing bodies that look like yours and realising normal is subjective.
I guess the next step in body positivity is not comparing. This is maybe the hardest part of anything. I compare myself to other designers, I compare myself to other women, I compare myself to my friends, I compare myself to my sister. But when I can shut that off, it’s glorious. When I can look at myself and say ‘Yeah, I’m pretty boss today’ and look at the women I love and see their greatness without allowing myself to think that I am less because I can’t see that in myself, it feels so good. I am not like them. I do things differently and win and lose differently. I have great things going for me! I just have to remind myself of that. Also the ‘If you wouldn’t say it to someone you love, don’t say it to yourself’ adage is pretty much the best thing in the world to gauge how to treat yourself.
I still have a heap of days where I look at myself and go NO, YOU ARE FAT AND SHORT AND UGLY, THIS IS BAD. Today is actually one of those days! But now at least I know that I have to live in this body, I can’t change that right now so I have to do the best I can with it. That means wearing what I like, shutting out the external negativity and keeping the internal stuff in check where I can. It’s hard but I practice.
I haven’t always been this accepting of myself, about 3 years ago I hated myself and my reflection, A big part of my transformation was something in my brain switched I finally woke up from that silly thought that ‘I should worry what others think of me’ I learnt that 9/10 people are too busy worrying about themselves not you, once that made send my self-acceptance started, I found instagram and the #effyourbeautystandards and #honourmycurves and the world of body positivity and I became hooked, myself love and love for my body has come leaps and bounds.
One of my biggest turning points was posing for a nude shoot for the Natural Beauty Project, the empowerment and confidence I felt during and after the shoot was amazing and I cried when I first saw the photos (that initial thought of omg that’s you was there but the more I looked the bigger my smile got and it was tears of happiness I hadn’t felt so proud of myself for taking the plunge or proud of my body at how beautiful I looked). Saying that I still have bad days where I feel frumpy, bloated and those are the days I draw on my friends and family for inspiration, I push myself to make that effort to dress up or put on my favourite red lipstick (I always feel womanly and empowered in red lipstick, almost wonder woman like I guess) also looking at people who inspire me or reading positive messages helps.
You both played integral roles in organising the Curvy Couture Roadshow, but your involvement didn’t stop there. You both stood up and modelled stockings! How was it walking the catwalk in just a bra, knickers and stockings?
Modelling with Jess at CCR was another huge moment in my life, with all the craziness of organising the event the added excitement/ scariness of going out on stage in your fineries was a little daunting at first but as soon as we stepped up on that stage (even in dress rehearsal) the energy from the crowd was mind blowing everyone was smiling at us cheering and it was such a rush of confidence and empowerment and something I’ll never forget
Modelling at CCR was both easy and difficult. The easy part was wearing my undies and some tights on the runway and riding the energy of the day, knowing that people were cheering and supporting us. The difficult part was accepting that it was okay for me to be the centre of attention for a bit and for me to look pretty and made up. It’s a weird little mindset to be in, to be surrounded by models and know that they look amazing and that you’re all here for the same reason and then to say have your brain say to you ‘you shouldn’t be doing this, you’re not as good as these women’. I’m proud of myself for doing it and forcing myself through the mental idiocy. I look at the photos and I don’t cringe. I look great. That’s really important.
Do you ever have nothing to wear and how do you combat this problem?
Yes. I used to pull everything out onto my floor in a mad rush to get dressed and declare I have nothing to wear and get frustrated (I have 2 wardrobes full of clothes so this was clearly me being dramatic) but I’m so lucky now that Jess and I swap our clothes so I find that mixing the pieces borrowed from Jess into my wardrobe I rarely find I’m without something to wear. Saying that if it’s a super casual event then I struggle, I’ve even not gone to a friend’s BBQ in the park once as I couldn’t put an outfit together that I deem casual enough to fit in (I’ve since had words with myself about a) the idiocy of missing out because of my vanity and b) the fact that if I’m overdressed so be it, just be fabulous and happy within yourself and it doesn’t matter)
At least once a week before work I look at my clothes and make the biggest uuuurrrrrggggghhh noise. Sometimes I can fight the ennui and pull out something exciting but on the days it is just too hard, I have a couple of jersey dresses I can chuck on and be comfortable in. On the weekend, my men’s tshirt and high waisted jeans game is strong. This happens less now because I have more of an idea of what clothing I have to work with.
And finally what will you be selling at A Plus Market?
Pieces I’m selling are a mix of pieces I don’t wear anymore or I’ve only wore once. Some shoes in the similar situation and some fascinators I’ve made (I have a small hobby of Millinery that I sell)
So many things! There will be some handmade, one of a kind dresses, some hardly worn brand name gems, a bit of vintage, some winter wonders. I’m also shedding some of my beloved scarves and bags collection. Ooh it’s been hard to do!
You can follow these ladies on social media
Instagram: @xutraa Instagram hashtag: #purpleginger FB: PetShop & FoxParse
Instagram @J1987t #purpleginger
or better yet, head down next week and help me not to buy the entire contents of their stall.