Getting Message #1 Out: Let’s Embrace Our Bodies

If you started watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend after my survey of Rebecca Bunch’s bust-friendly wardrobe last week, then you know all about Valencia, the epitome of every unrealistic beauty standard we’ve ever tried to meet. I was completely surprised, therefore, to find her singing “Women Gotta Stick Together” with the kind of women we see in our own mirrors and around us every day–women of a variety of ages, heights, weights, ethnic origins, orientations, bust size, and hair styles.

It seemed like mainstream TV was finally sending us a body-positive message! Then I listened to Valencia’s lyrics:

Women have the power—
The power to make a change.
Like this girl should pluck her eyebrows,
And those jeans should be exchanged.
You really need a size up.

Instead of sending just one message, this video juxtaposes two:

  1. acceptance and representation of all body shapes and sizes
  2. unforgiving perfectionism.

I’d like to say that #1 wins, but if so, why do the women that Valencia hurts stay with her to the end of the song? On the other hand, #2 doesn’t win either because it is impossible to see Valencia in a positive light. If you watch the video, I’d love to hear your perspective.

This topic is on my mind a lot because I’m helping promote a new documentary called Embrace that CLEARLY sends a body-positive message.

embrace documentary poster

Embrace is part of Taryn Brumfitt’s Body Image Movement that began when she posted a “before” photo of herself as skinny and healthy next to an “after” photo of herself as larger and healthy. You may remember when these photos went viral a few years ago.

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Screenings begin around the United States on September 19, and you can click this link to find a screening near you. If you are in or near New York City, I would LOVE to see you at the September 22 screening at Loews 19th Street. Sixty more reservations are needed so that it can happen. Would you share the link with your friends? Brooklyn screening on the 19th.

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Here is a recent review of the documentary, another review, and a recent interview with Taryn Brumfitt. At one point the interviewer asks about Taryn’s interaction with a plastic surgeon: “How the hell did you not sock him in the face when he was talking about your boobs?” Don’t you want to see what she’s talking about?

 

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Posture Power When You’re Busty

If you’re like me, you probably always thought that proper posture was simply a matter of aesthetics–it makes you appear taller, slimmer and more confident. It takes a lot of discipline to maintain, though, so it’s perfectly understandable when we allocate our energy to nice clothing and makeup instead.

Bad idea. It turns out that proper posture isn’t just about looks. It affects the way we think, feel and act, and there’s a physiological reason for it: When we strike expansive poses, our  testosterone (the dominance hormone) increases, and our cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, causing us to feel powerful and in control. I learned this from Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TED talk that I only discovered this summer. Now whenever I’m feeling nervous before an event, I strike Amy Cuddy’s Wonder Woman pose that I write about on the Campbell & Kate blog.

wonder woman pose

After the TED talk, I marched to the library for her book Presence. The concepts of personal presence and power are much more nuanced than I can develop here, but when she discusses power, she doesn’t mean becoming a blustery bully. Instead, she means the ability to be ourselves and to tap into the resources available to us when we’re feeling calm and capable: [Read more…]

F Stands for Full Bust . . . Even if It Doesn’t Feel Like It

When I used to shop for bras at Macy’s, I’d make a beeline for the full figure sign because that was the section with the D+ bras. It seemed like overkill to label every woman with a big bust as full-figured, but I guessed I must be full-figured.

Then in 2008, a designer connected me with her patternmaker, who turned out to be the 84-year-old Roslyn Harte, a highly regarded lingerie designer who agreed to talk to me by phone. I described how I wanted to create a shirt for full-figured women–you know, a shirt for women with large chests who aren’t plus-sized. Roslyn immediately interrupted me: “You mean full-breasted, not full-figured.”

I was thrilled by the revelation. How wonderful that there was actually an industry label for me and the women I wanted to design for. To be defined made me feel acknowledged and recognized. I no longer had to be an exception within a category that only partially fit.

Today there are many more people who understand the phrase “full-bust”–it’s not just for industry insiders anymore. I’ve even seen department stores with “full bust” signs, and any online lingerie store worth its salt has a separate category just for us.

Recently, the bloggers over at An Enhanced Experience discussed each writer’s definition of “full-busted” and whether she thought it described her. As each writer shared her bra size, I thought, “Of course you’re full-busted! Case closed.” I felt a little chagrined by the dialogue. “Full-busted” may be more widely recognized now than in the past, but it certainly isn’t universally understood. There are still too many people who believe that a bust size past a D means a woman has a large body to match. If women who clearly fall within the textbook definition of full-busted disclaim the title, there are less of us to embrace it and educate others.

As you read that last sentence, you probably wondered what textbook definition I was talking about. I’m not even sure there is one! The Full Figured Chest has suggested that anyone with a 34 band and lower and a DD cup and higher qualifies, while a Wikipedia contributor has written that full bust is “commonly used to refer to a breast with a cup size of at least C.” However, I tend to agree with Ali Cudby’s definition from her Fit My Bras course: 28-38 bands and D cups and higher.

Now that I’ve set out my criteria, it’s time to confess that even I haven’t “felt” full-busted lately. As a 32F in French brands and a 32FF in British brands, I have it easy; and like many of the Enhanced Experience bloggers, I tend to associate “difficult” with being full-busted. In fact, I focus so much on the challenges facing full-busted women who wear H+ cups that I completely discount my own experience. When I visited the Empreinte store in Paris last month, I almost missed out on their amazing very plunge seamless padded bras that stop at an F cup (review to come) because I only ever look for styles that go to an H cup.

A couple of weeks ago, Eveden invited me for a fitting at their press event and put me in the Fantasie Allegra* vertical seam bra. I was confounded when it fit me in 32FF and 30G. I NEVER would have tried this bra on my own because I had it confused with the Freya Starlet** vertical seam that only goes to an F cup. Because of the F cup ceiling in the Starlet, I had in mind that all vertical seam balconettes were off limits to “real” full-busted women. 

freya starlet fantasie allegra

Freya Starlet on the left, Fantasie Allegra on the right.

It’s not just F cups that challenge my perception of full-bustedness. I also carry a subjective ruler around in my head. Someone who is mildly projected, I immediately discount because she probably “only” wears a D or DD and has it soooo easy. Someone who is moderately to very projected, I give my full busted seal of approval. For instance, I was super interested to read A Big Boob Styling How-To on Man Repeller recently, but when I saw the writer’s photos, my internal ruler said, “Her experience doesn’t count because her boobs don’t look big enough.” Even though she wears a 32G, maybe it’s an American G, which is only a British F, and life just isn’t that hard for F cups. Or FF cups like me.

Since I have been minimizing my own full bust status lately, the following pictures of me with my graduating niece last weekend astounded me. How did my chest get so prominent??? (I have to admit, I was kind of relieved to see it again!)

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I’m wearing my Freya Hero in 32FF in this photo, compliments of Bras-Galore. I’ll be reviewing it soon!

Darlene and niece cropped

I’m not sure which bra I’m wearing in this photo.

Maybe you don’t think my chest is taking over the photos like I do. And hopefully you’re not tempted to disregard my experience in the same way that I was tempted to disregard the Man Repeller writer. But if you are tempted, I completely understand.

However, rather than giving in to the temptation to discount our smaller sisters, I wonder if we can find ways to appreciate the full spectrum of full-bustedness. For instance, the Man Repeller post gave me some great ideas for accessorizing. Any article that goes beyond the busty basics has something to offer all of us regardless of where the writer falls on the spectrum. And being full-busted isn’t only about difficulties. We have a lot of celebrating and sharing to do.

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*There are reviews of the Allegra by A Tale of Two Boobs and Faustineli.

**You can find a great review of the Starlet by Science and Silicone.

Helping with Fit and Learning a Lesson About Value

A law school friend asked me to reach out to Ester, her Tanzanian translator who was in New York “with 5 albino children who will be fitted for prosthetics”. Like me, you may be wondering what the significance is of the children having albinism?

Global Relief Fund

In Africa, and especially Tanzania, people with albinism are regarded as bad luck and outcasts . . . unless a witch doctor instructs his client to return with the limb of a person with albinism so that he can mix it with a potion to bring good luck. Ester, who you see on the left in the photo above, works with the 320 children with albinism that are sponsored by Under the Same Sun. One of her jobs is to make sure they are placed in private boarding schools with strong security.

Six months ago, a group of men barged into six-year-old Baraka’s home and hacked off his hand. His story caught the attention of the founder of Global Medical Relief Fund, who tried to contact his parents to bring him to the United States for a prosthetic. Instead, she reached Under the Same Sun and ended up bringing Baraka and four more children with him. That’s how Ester came to be in New York City with the five children you see in this picture. (Baraka is the smallest child on the left next to Ester.)

Although these children return to Tanzania on September 30, a Tanzanian teenager with albinism will take their place, so Ester will remain. Having packed for only two months, she is now at the end of her third month and running out of clothes!

Last night, Hourglassy’s clothing swap came to the rescue. Thanks to some great pieces that no one took home last year, Ester now owns several dresses, blouses and bras that fit her perfectly. What an honor it was to be able to help this amazing woman.

pepperberry tweed dress on ester

Pepperberry

pepperberry white blouse on ester

Pepperberry

bolero black dress

Bolero

With our first swap in 2012, I promised to donate any unclaimed clothes to charity, but last year I had an idea I like better: keep the clothes in my basement for the following year’s swap, and make them available to busty women who stop by before then. Doesn’t this make you want to visit New York City? Of course, if you already live in or near the city, then you should come to our 4th Annual Big Bust Clothing Swap this Saturday!

When I drove home from visiting Ester last night, I felt thankful that my goal of helping busty women find clothes to fit had been reached in such an unexpected way. My encounter with her charges, however, gave me a new perspective on the theme of self-acceptance that we often discuss here. Under the Same Sun sponsors many children with albinism who have run away because their own families are the ones who want to harm them. How can a small child have the strength to refuse to believe the lie that she is worthless and to fight for her very survival? The battles that these children are winning gives me courage to overcome my much smaller struggles. I hope they do the same for you.