Tag Archives: spanx

A Killer Green Dress and other Fashion to Die For

Recently I heard about Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century a new exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada.  The centerpiece of the exhibit is a bright green ballgown from 1860.  Like many other fashions of the time, the bright green color was accomplished with a dye created with arsenic.  The vivid green color was very popular at the time because it looked beautiful under the new electric lighting.  Other arsenic-laced fashions on display include electric green shoes, gloves and other items.

These arsenic laced items were known at the time to be dangerous to the fashionistas who wore them.  Arsenic was absorbed through the skin when the wearer perspired and frequently caused rashes and worse conditions.  And the garments were not only very dangerous to those who wore them, but also to those who created the fabrics and made them into clothing.  Similar to these dangers in dressmaking were the frequent poisonings by those who created the fashionable hats of the time.  The demand for a larger number of felted fur hats, required cheaper fur which used mercury in the finishing process.  Mercury is known to cause a wide variety of damage to the brain and nervous system.  The poisoning of hat makers became so well known that the phrase “mad as a hatter” came into widespread use.  Add to this the generally poor working conditions for those working in the garment district including terrible fires like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and you see a whole class of workers dying to help others look good.

The desire for using cheaper materials to replace more expensive ones, led to an explosion in products available to the middle classes, but sometimes it simply led to explosions.  On display at the exhibit you will find some hair combs created from celluloid rather than the more expensive tortoiseshell combs.  The material was so flammable, that houses burned when the combs came too near a fire.  The material was also used as a film base for motion pictures, and theater fires at the turn of the century were dangerous and sometimes deadly.’  Also on display in the exhibit are tightly-laced corsets and extremely narrow shoes and gloves which were considered fashionable during the day.

One might be tempted to believe that we have moved beyond all that and are no longer willing to die or kill for fashion.  But I wonder if this is really true.  We certainly have stricter regulations regarding the dyes we use in clothing.  And many items are now fire retardant.  But there are some studies indicating that the fire retardants themselves might be bad for our health.

Studies in laboratory animals and humans have linked the most scrutinized flame retardants, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, to thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, delayed mental and physical development, lower IQ, advanced puberty and reduced fertility. Other flame retardants have been linked to cancer. At the same time, recent studies suggest that the chemicals may not effectively reduce the flammability of treated products.

And while corsets are more often decorative than function in modern fashion, how often do we use spandex “shapewear” to smooth our bodies under certain kinds of clothing?  Even though we know that it literally squishes our internal organs and makes us more prone to yeast and bacterial infections?  And some women go as far as painful and dangerous surgery just to look better in their Jimmy Choos.

Fashions are still based on a very narrow vision of beauty attainable by no-one without a huge budget, great genes and Photoshop.  Women are still dying in droves trying to make their bodies conform to a size and shape that may not be attainable by anyone without significant photo retouching.

And plenty of people are still dying to create inexpensive fashions.  We may have created work regulations that make the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire  unlikely here in the U.S.  But plenty of people are dying in other countries in order to offer us the cheap clothing we still desire.

All of which leads me to ask this question.  When will it end?  When will we decide that it is unfashionable for people to die so we can buy more clothes?  When will we start demanding clothing fit us instead of asking our poor bodies to be starved, mangled, stretched and permanently damaged to fit clothing?  When will we stop impregnating our fabrics with chemicals that cause brain damage and cancer?  I hope it’s soon.  But however fast it is, in my opinion, is just not fast enough.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Red Carpet Walk–No Diet, No Girdle, No Regrets

PGA_AwardsYou know what I did last night?  I went to a the Producers Guild Awards in Beverly Hills.  You know what I didn’t do?  Give even one hoot about whether or not I was thin enough to be there.  I wore something I had saved up in my closet.  I didn’t have on sky-high heels or even a foundation garment.  No Spanx.  No control-top pantyhose.  (Hell this is LA, who wears pantyhose?)  I sat at my table in the Beverly Hilton–right where, just one week ago the Golden Globes were held.  I was in the same room (separated by literally miles of tables of course and more handlers than you could shake a stick at) with Ron Howard and Brad Pitt and ate as much as my stomach could comfortably hold, because it looked good and I was hungry.  I went to an awards show and had fun and felt good and was comfortable as can be.  And it was awesome.

Today, for Healthy Weight Week, the question was asked, “How might life be different for someone who decided to stop hating their body.”  And I’d humbly like to suggest, that this, THIS is how life is different.  I didn’t even think about going on a diet to get ready for this event.  I pulled something beautiful out of the closet that I knew would fit, because I’m no longer weight cycling.  I had very fancy clothing in my closet that didn’t require me to put on a girdle or a corset or even stomach-punishing pantyhose to fit.  When I was standing in line to have my picture taken at the step and repeat, my friends talked about their January juice fasts and cleanses and body programs.  I then outlined my program: I find exercise that I really love and do it as much as I can because it’s fun.  Then I eat whatever the F*$! I want as long as it tastes good and feels good in my body.  I think they are more than a little bit jealous.

And when my beautiful salad arrived and the waiter asked if I wanted dressing, I said yes please, and a little bit more please because, hell yes I wanted dressing.  When he asked if I wanted bread, I took without apology, the big, yummy parmesan triangle thing right on the top, large enough to sail a small boat, and I enjoyed the heck out of it too.  When the inevitable chicken composed with 4 grilled baby vegetables arrived, I devoured most of it.  When dessert showed up, I devoured that too–ice cream and all.  Not because I might not get to eat naughty food tomorrow.  Or because I knew I wasn’t planning on allowing myself ice cream ever again.  Just because it tasted good and I was hungry.

And yes, I definitely went to the after party in the penthouse and shook hands with Morgan Freeman (who by the way, is just as nice as you’ve heard).  And I didn’t worry even a little bit about if he thought I was fat.

Despite what you may think, not everybody in LA goes to these celebrity shindigs.  I am very, very grateful to be on the national board of the Producers Guild of America and get to go to this type of event from time to time.  But I’m even more grateful to my sisters and brothers in  acceptance for teaching me to go and feel completely at home in my body and completely unconcerned about looking very, very different from the vast majority of those treading the red carpet.

I am so grateful.

And that is why I post my glittery picture.  Partly because I’m excited to show you a picture of me all dressed up.  But also to let you know that this fat girl is here and she is representin’!  In sparkly, but comfortable shoes.  With a full tummy and an even fuller heart.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)