Size acceptance and having a good time…

A very dear friend of mine, let’s call her “M” for the purposes of this post, is in her late 30’s and single. She’s gorgeous, funny and very successful in her life. “M” is always busy, but is always doing something for someone else. She’s actually one of my favourite people 🙂 We enjoy regular catch-ups, usually over dinner and coffee and chats on the phone.

A few years ago I started to gently suggest that she might start thinking about doing more for herself, and perhaps think about dating.  After a bad experience earlier in her 20’s she’d shied away from the dating scene. Recently, I was telling her about a new night that I’d heard about called “Pounce” and she completely took me by surprise and said “let’s go!”.

I can’t say for sure if it was just timing, or if it was the lure of a night that is aimed at plus-size women, but whatever it was, we had a blast and I’m happy to say we’ll be doing it again.

Being engaged, a mum and running a business, I haven’t had to think about going out or how to meet people for a long time. I outgrew nightclubs, bars and parties a long time ago! I can completely understand how entering a disco or sleezy bar can be overwhelming and very confronting, it’s not my scene at all.

When I heard about Pounce I was curious. Not only is it hosted in a “Bar”, but it was also touted to be BBW friendly.   Now this sparked my interest as often over the years I’ve felt uncomfortable in a “meat market” type feel of a venue.

“M” and I agreed to check it out and the 19th March 2013 was the next event.

On the day I’ll admit I was kind of nervous, we arrived at the venue to find that there was a McDonalds immediately opposite. We thought ourselves very clever to park the car directly across from the entrance of the bar aptly named “Whole Lotta Love” in Lygon Street, East Brunswick – so we could scope out the place first! We sat giggling like teenagers, checked our make-up, sprayed our perfume and waited. Slowly but surely we started to feel comfortable, we watched people arrive, couples, singles, groups of girls, groups of guys. What to expect? Tonight’s advertised “theme” is “Chubbyoke!” – mmm should we be offended or excited? Did we dare enter? How would it feel?

After 15 minutes of scoping things out, we took a deep breath and walked across the street and entered the bar.

Immediate impression – relaxed, welcoming environment

Second reaction – OH, I’m one of the smaller women in the bar!?

Third reaction – this feels good

And so the evening progressed, we ordered a drink and within minutes we were chatting and mingling with an array of people – female, male, couples, big, small, tall, short, happy, funny, friendly, straight, gay and everything in between. It was an incredible mix of people and SO MUCH FUN.

The chubbyoke was hilarious, we listened to many brave souls who took the mike and belted out a tune (some even belted out two or more!), there were prizes and lots of clapping, cheering and encouragement.

The feel of the entire evening was relaxed, no pressure, no sleeze, just ease.  Now that’s a great start to re-entering the dating scene!

I highly recommend this night to all of you and I know “M” and I plan to visit again sometime soon.

What made this evening so special? I can’t answer that, was it that it was advertised as a BBW night and I was in a room full of women of all different shapes and sizes? Was it that I didn’t stand out because I was larger? I don’t know. I just know that I would do it again.

I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Ramsay who is the founder of this Pounce BBW Night, and I asked Julie if she’d mind sharing with us a little about her inspiration, here’s what she had to say…

Who is Julie Ramsay?

Wow, I see you are getting the hard questions out right off the bat! LOL. I am simply me. I’m a plus-size powerhouse. I am a SSBBW pin-up web model (the first one in Australia actually).  A philosopher in some ways and an airhead in others. I’m clumsy and always loosing things, but I’m also a complete and utter high-class fashion diva. I love cats, sappy romance novels and plays, old movies and car singing. I hoard lingerie and headbands. I’m frivolous and decadent but also a bargain hound. I live with my boyfriend and have a fondness for vintage Scotch, tattoos and music.

Due to degenerative illness and a severe car accident, I am disabled and suffer from immense pain on a daily basis, but you wouldn’t know it to see me. I stand tall and proud and I’m very loud!

Not that any of that can define someone entirely, but it’s part of me. I stand for what’s right but I sit when I’m tired. I ask for help when I need it but I feel invincible. Simply, I am a contradiction. But aren’t we all? 🙂

What inspired you to found Pounce?

It’s sad that there’s so much prejudice against plus-size people in society. It’s everywhere, and it’s running rampant. Being very large myself, I experience this unfounded hatred quite frequently. But I’m an old hat at ignoring it.

That is until I went to a nightclub (that I use to be considered a regular at when I was smaller) and was treated so poorly that it put me off wanting to venture out in to the club scene ever again. Not only were the intoxicated patrons being horrible to me, but the bar staff ignored me. I made a complaint to one barman that I was being harassed and was told by the barman that I should “waddle off and leave if I don’t like people stating the obvious”.

That made me so mad, I honestly felt like a second-class citizen.

So I started approaching bars attempting to find one that would allow me to host a size-positive club night and I’m sad to say I couldn’t find any that were interested. I just wanted there to be an environment where big women, well big people in general, could party it up. Somewhere they could wear what they wanted and feel sexy and safe and, most of all, free from judgement.

A year or so later my friend Rob announced he was opening his own bar, Whole Lotta Love. He had always been a big fan of the BBW events in the USA when he visited, and was keen to host his own version here. So we thought we would combine forces and we created ‘POUNCE’.

What is the concept of Pounce?

Pounce is quite simply about size acceptance and having a good time. You don’t need to be a plus-size lady or gent to come along, but you do have to be accepting of plus-size people. It’s a safe haven for anyone to come along and have a great night out free from judgement. We have quite a lot of people bring their smaller-sized friends and family along to party with them. It’s great to see a whole spectrum of happy people varying in size, ability, age, colour, gender and sexual orientation dance the night away.

Rob and I run Pounce as a profit-free event. The only cost to our patrons are their own drinks, although we always seem to hand out quite a few free ones. Sure, it has cost us a fair few pretty pennies, but we do it for love. We do it because Australia needs this.  We need to make size acceptance a hot topic.

The last Pounce event was a PJ party, sounds fun! What else is on the agenda?

The pyjama party was awesome, everyone got dressed up and had a great time! We always have a photographer on hand to capture all of our crazy fun events. Make sure you check out the Facebook page to not only find out about upcoming events, but to see how wild our previous events were.

Pounce has some brilliant events coming up. In June we’ve got an 80s party that’s shaping up to be truly epic, the playlist is amazing and so many people are planning to dress up in their glamest 80s attire. Later in the year we’ll be having another round of our hugely successful karaoke – or ‘chubbyaoke’ as we call it. We have a Halloween party on the books, which is always hugely entertaining. And a Traffic Light party – lots of singles ready to mingle at these events.

And I’m planning a second-hand plus-size fashion stall to be held at the bar, with a gold coin donation entry to raise funds for Pounce.  But the best thing to do is keep an eye on the Facebook page to keep abreast of all things Pounce.

Thanks so much Julie, look forward to seeing you again soon – and maybe a few of my curvy readers too?

Love your shape!

Janine x

I’m not suffering, be gone hang-ups!

It’s 40 degrees and windy here in Melbourne today, I’m sweltering.

Just an observation and a reflection, years ago I used to be so hung up on my “yucky arms” that I would do everything I could to cover them up in the warmer months – avoiding sleveless tops and dresses. In my late 20’s & 30’s as I grew more accepting of my curvy figure I have embraced sleeveless garments in the warmer months, and especially on days like today!

I just saw a lovely curvy woman in a gorgeous dress but covered up with a long sleeve knit – she was sweltering – and I know it’s presumptious of me, but I’m guessing she was allowing her hang up about her arms outweigh the freedom to wear a gorgeous dress with her arms showing on a sweltering day!  I wanted to run up to her and hug her and encourage her to embrace her arms and free herself! Got me to thinking about all the years I suffered because of my own crazy hang-up. So proud of myself.

My other hang up was my pale pale skin, I was always hearing people talking about how tanned looks “thinner & better” – and so I was hesitant for that reason also to show my white skin. It’s a basic fact, my skin doesn’t tan, and I don’t want to suffer the consequences of trying to tan my skin, I know too many people who have paid a high price with skin cancers. Slip, Slop, Slap! You will see me walking proudly with my pale skin and sleeveless tops this summer, and every summer – happy happy in my own skin. I encourage you all to do the same.

I’m not suffering – my hang ups are gone!

Love your shape!

Janine x

Wardrobe staples you don’t have to live without…

Recently I was reminded by a client how many women are driven by lack of choice or fear of not looking their best in a garment. My client is a size 22 and insisted that jeans do not suit her! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that she had completely closed herself off to the possibility of ever finding jeans that flattered her shape.

I’m happy to say that during our personal shop, we DID find jeans that flatter her figure and she is now the proud owner of TWO pairs of jeans!  “Suddenly there are options, thank you” she said.

It’s common to meet women who feel their curvy bodies are not suited to jeans, I constantly get asked about this topic and I encourage all of my clients to step out of the box and try on a pair (after years of avoiding them and omitting them as a wardrobe option) they are often surprised at what an important item jeans are to their wardrobe.

Jeans ARE a great option for curvy girls, but the trick is in sourcing a pair that not only suit your body shape, but are comfortable to wear. This not only applies to jeans, but it’s essential to have some wardrobe staples for each season in which to build a base for great, simple outfits that flatter your curves.

TIP No 1: When you find THE perfect pair of jeans for you, buy two pairs!

Let’s take me first. I am currently a size 20-22 (Australian sizing) hourglass in shape, but in jeans can appear to be top-heavy. I find that a bootleg in most instances suits me best as it balances me out.

I have two pairs/styles of GO TO jeans that are a staple in my wardrobe.

The first pair are NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) which I have always found are of high quality denim that retain their shape and colour even after many washes. The jeans wear well over time and I always feel comfortable in them (no muffin top here!). I hate that too tight feeling around my waist and although these jeans fit my waist snugly, they do not roll or squish! Very important.

The narrower bootcut gives me a longer legged sillouette and helps to balance out my figure.  These jeans are worth the investment! I also LOVE the sticker that comes on the “bum” of the jeans… check it out:

 NYDJ Jeans – Barbara Modern Boot Cut in Dark Indigo – $199 – Size US16 (Aus 20)

I’ve teamed my jeans with a long sleeve cuff shirt with horizontal stripes. I LOVE stripes, and am so thrilled with stripes being on-trend this season. I often opt for monochrome colours as a twist on the classic white shirt.This shirt can be dressed up or down.  The fabric feels amazing on my skin. It’s so versatile and looks great with and without accessories or a vest or similar.

My Size – Long Sleeve Cuff Striped Shirt – AUD$99.95 – Size L

The vest I’m wearing is one from a few seasons ago that I picked up from a sales rack for $10 at Target. It is a classic cut vest and I love that it adds value to my wardrobe all year round. In my wardrobe, vests are a key signature of my own personal style.

My second go-to pair of jeans are skinny legs that I love to wear tucked into my favourite boots. There’s nothing worse than bulging ankles in boots, so make sure when tucking jeans into boots that they are straight leg and are wrapped around your ankle to create a smooth fit.

These “A Stitch in Time” skinny leg jeans are a medium blue colour. They have five pockets and I just LOVE the stitching detail on the pockets and inner leg. They are cotton/spandex allowing for good stretch whilst not losing their shape (and fit so comfortably especially around my waist again without creating a muffin top!) with lovely silver star diamante buttons.  They are a valuable addition to my wardrobe, and give me the versatility to wear my boots on the outside, or with flats or heels, look amazing too.

PLUS HQ – A Stitch in Time Skinny Leg Jeans – AUD$59.95 – Size 20

 

My boot of choice for this season are from Australian company Bennetts Boots. The Mona Lisa in chocolate – just sensational, one of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn. The heel is 7 cm and is very comfortable to walk in (I’m not a big heel person, so I’m always wary of height creating an awkward walking gait, but these are just perfect and I can glide along). Made of quality Crocodile/Nappa Leather, the boot fits my calf beautifully, with plenty of room to tuck in my skinny leg jeans or wear stockings or leggings without squishing my leg. The quality is great, 100% leather, and comes with instructions on how to care for them so they last for years to come.  Oh and they are fully lined with anti-smell, anti-sweat breathable lining with extra cushioning for comfort and shock resistance – seriously it’s like walking on a cloud.

Bennetts Boots – Mona Lisa (Chocolate) – AUD$325.00 – Size 9 WW

 

TIP No 2: Invest in Quality – I realise that these boots are a significant investment, but if you are like me and have made the mistake of buying cheap sub-standard shoes/boots on a budget only to have them ruined and tatty in a very short period of time after purchase, you will agree that it is 100% WORTH investing in a quality product that not only will fit properly but will last for years to come.

I asked the gorgeous Michella from my Curvy Revolution agency to pick her favourites too. It’s so important to talk about plus-size fashion from different size and body shape perspectives. Michella is a pear shape, and a size 16.

For a fabulous and comfortable day look, I teemed a pair of on-trend colour skinny leg jeans, which flatter her shape.  Married with a classic style white shirt – a staple in every girl’s wardrobe, and topped off with some gorgeous accessories, this outfit is not only comfortable by gorgeous! The accessories from Franky and Cate are just amazing, the necklace is a quality piece with a great length for curvy figures and the cuff bracelet, which unfortunately I forgot to include in the pic, is not only gorgeous but is elasticated allowing it to fit beautifully on any size wrist!

NYDJ Jeans – Sheri Skinny in Dark Teal – AUD $209 – Size US12 (AUS 16)
My Size – Boyfriend Shirt – $89.95 – Size M
Franky and Cate – Long Strand Earth Tone Chain – $69.00
Franky and Cate – (not pictured) Elasticated Metal Alloy Cuff – $69.00

 

Another wide-calf boot option is this gorgeous pair from The Pear Tree.  Now just a warning for those of you with calf size over 45cm.  Beware, my calf measures just a smidge over 45cm and  these boots are a size 9, the sizing chart on the site states that they should fit from 42-48cm calf, for me they did not. It’s fair to say that a size chart is always just a guide only, it always pays to try on anything for the fit just for you.

The Pear Tree offers a refund for the purchase amount or exchange for UNWORN boots in original condition within 30 days of order date. So this is reassuring.

Michella’s calf measures 42cm and as you can see from the photo, they fit her perfectly. In fact these boots are extremely flattering, I love the kitten heel and the 100% leather is again an investment in quality which I highly recommend.

The Pear Tree – Asha Boot – Wide Calf  – $325 delivered!

 

TIP No 4: A beautiful signature piece such as this gorgeous lace top is a wonderful investment, perfect for dressing up a pair of jeans and flattering your figure.

Using the same gorgeous jeans, Michella added a beautiful Lace Flutter Top from Volupture and a pair of heels and she was ready for a night out! This stunning lace flutter top is a beautiful addition to any wardrobe . The lace detail is so beautiful, the v-neck flattering to a curvy figure and the wide lace gives it structure. The crinkled chiffon fabric is cool and flattering.

Volupture – Lace Flutter Top – $53.00 – Size 2X

 

I encourage you to step outside the box and experiment with garments that you may have put in the “no-go” zone – you might be surprised. I’m always available to add value to your shopping experience, you’ll find more about that by clicking this link.

What are your favourite wardrobe staples?

Love your shape!

Janine x

Your invitation to have your say…

As you know I’ve always been passionate about “Real” talk when it comes to plus-size issues.  I love pushing the boundaries, networking and collecting resources to share with you all to make life a little simpler and more deserving for us girls with curves. But I also acknowledge that YOU, have great ideas and resources too, so here’s your chance to join me.

It’s time to have your say, have your voice heard.  I’m opening up my blog to YOU, consider this your invitation to write a guest post for my blog.

All submissions will be considered, so please get your thinking caps on, write something down, add some pictures, photos whatever to illustrate the piece and send it to me here janine@janinemison.com.au – it’s time that Australia heard your views and suggestions – straight from you.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • My favourite outfit is…
  • I feel amazing when…
  • My biggest frustration when shopping for clothes…
  • If I could design my own clothes I would design a…
  • I’m not curvy because I overeat, I’m curvy because…
  • I’m a great role model for my children/peers/students because…
  • How I see the world, by me a curvy girl…

Or maybe you have a question you’ve been wanting answered, and I could help? Brainstorm, or maybe there’s been something you’ve been wanting to share for ages and just haven’t had the forum to do it, now’s your chance!

(Please note: This is NOT an advertising opportunity, this is about sharing our thoughts and resources, so if you are a business, please do feel free to submit, but please make it educational and informational rather than just advertising).

Go for it! I look forward to receiving your submissions.

Love your shape!

Janine x

I wasn’t putting ME first…

Pummelled by the media telling me how I should look, feel, react, love, play, run, jump and work, and thinking about learned behaviours, I’ve recently been forced to reflect on how this is working for me…

The Herald Sun reported this week:

Beyonce hit the stage this week, just on four months after having her baby, 27kg down and looking amazing. “Y’all have no idea how hard I worked,” she exclaimed to her fans during her concert in New Jersey last Saturday night.

“I had to lose 60 pounds (27kg). They had me on that treadmill. I ate lettuce.”

My first reaction, wow she looks amazing!

My second reaction – “they” had me on a treadmill? Imagine having a “they” watching over you and ensuring you’re the appropriate weight – what pressure. No thanks!

Then I started to think about what pressure I put on myself.

When someone needs me, snap, I’m there. If someone’s coming to visit, it’s like the Queen of England is about to arrive and all must be in it’s place and looking great…

Which started me thinking, what does the Queen of England (or said visitor) have that I don’t? Don’t I deserve a mess to be tidied or a broken object to be mended? Well, of course I do.

What time am I dedicating to what I need? Why are my thoughts about others first and myself second? (Of course as a mum, fiancé and business owner, sometimes it’s just simply not possible to think about me first, but you get my meaning, there has to be some balance to this).

I apply a positive approach to my outward appearance; I’ve always put my best foot forward, made the most of who I am every day. I always dress for ME, I wear nice clothes and I make an effort. That’s just me. But when it comes to making time for me, I’m not so good.

I also work very hard, I’m a mum, step-mum, fiancé, daughter, friend, sister, and business owner. Like most of us, my time is not my own and I am constantly on the go. I’ve been known to sacrifice sleep for example to get the job done, and to keep up with my To-Do List, especially when it comes to my business. Down-time is not in my dictionary. This way of doing things has come back to haunt me!

Last Year I quit smoking, after 22 years of smoking – you might remember my blog.  Shortly thereafter I lost my dad suddenly. The shock of these two events turned out to be too much for my body to take. And BAMM, my health took a nose dive.

It’s been a long 11 months. Over this time, I’ve had expert help, it turns out after months of tests and trial & error approaches that I have a metabolic condition that causes my body to not retain vital nutrients, causing all sorts of horrible side effects. In addition, I have extremely low vitamin D, and I am anaemic.  To top it off, the lack of nutrients (even though I eat a good diet and exercised regularly), caused me to literally crash with no energy, at its peak unable to walk far at all.

To add to the challenge, no standard medications can assist my condition; it’s simply a condition that is supported with supplements, and lots of them and a change of attitude/approach to my life.

AND in case this wasn’t enough to deal with, during this time of illness my body put on 18kgs.  Test results last week proved, in writing, that high cortisol and other complications with the condition have 100% contributed to this weight gain.  It’s taken all my strength to not panic about the weight gain, to understand that my body is sick, and as it is healing it is evening out again to it’s natural size and weight.

I’ve experienced some interesting reactions from healthcare providers (Namely GPs) during this process which has appalled me. I am working on some blog posts to address these experiences and issues and I know from talking to you that this occurs on a regular basis.  This sort of attitude from “trained healthcare providers” certainly doesn’t aid an improvement in health/attitude when you’re being judged for something you are not in control of!

I’m happy to report there’s been a huge turnaround in the past two – three months, with the help of the gorgeous Andrea Hepner from Hepner Health (Period Pain Guru), and my gorgeous Superman Pete, My mum and my kids, I’ve had expert love and support to get through this hellish year.

I’ve had to surrender to my body, and work with a team of people to understand what it needs and ensure the best care I can.

One of the main lessons I’ve learnt is that if I don’t put myself first, I can’t be there to look after my family.

I am on a path of creating time for myself. Of balancing work and life – no mean challenge!

The challenge is working that ME time into my every day,  to being smarter with my time, to saying NO more and ignoring the pressures of the media, ignorant medical professionals and others about how I should and shouldn’t look, and focussing on being the best ME I can be, for ME and then for everyone else.

Last weekend my very good friend Erika came down from Brisbane, we had time on the couch watching re-runs of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (always entertaining), then we shopped at TS14+ outlet store and grabbed some amazing bargains (retail therapy is good therapy right!), and filled our bellies with the most amazing cheese fondue I’ve ever had, but most of all we talked and talked and had a wonderful time.  Friends time is always good for the soul! I need to do this more often.

Janine & Erika – “Time with good friends is good for the soul”

I’ve started a checklist for myself, of things to ensure that I have in my life everyday:

  • Space of my own at home
  • A GP who I can relate to and who puts my health first, not my weight
  • Healthy, nutritional food and good exercise to nurture my body
  • Good friends and positive people around me
  • Family time
  • Time with my fiancé
  • Time doing nothing!

This might seem pretty simple, but it’s a good start.  And the most amazing part, once I had my light bulb moment, and stopped pushing hard to meet all the rules and deadlines I’d placed on myself, it’s all fallen into place.

Now I must practice this new found approach EVERY day. What can you do to make positive changes by putting YOU first in your day?

Love your shape!

Janine x