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Guest Post: Burning Bras – A (Plus) for Effort

June 9, 2010

Ally: Remember when you were in pre-school and in order to talk you had to hold the special “talking stick”? No? Was that a game they just made up for me to get me to shut the eff up? Whatevs.

One of the things I love about this site is the ability to pass the “talking stick” on to others who have something to say. On Sunday I was catching up on Facebook, you know to see what was happening in the five minutes since I’d last checked, I saw an interesting update from Nalani which read:

wants to know why “plus sized” clothing is always so misshapen! Do they think we like wearing garbage bags? And, why “plus” – like the person didn’t already know they packed on the pounds without announcing to the world that yes I’m tooo huge to shop in the “normal” section! Get a life fashionistas!

I emailed her to see if she would be interested in writing a post about this very topic. It’s something we’ve been wanting to take on for a while. So, here’s Nalani’s take on “plus-size” fashion. I’ve asked her to also comment on a recent photo shoot she participated in. I thought the shots were beautiful, and I so admire her confidence (and her make-up).

L-A: I’m going to leave the blogging to Nalani today, because her post is amazing. We’ve been wanting to talk about this for awhile. I’m a girl who falls somewhere in between “normal” and “plus size”. And it’s annoying. Especially when all you want is a pair of jeans that fit and look good. Is this too much to ask? It shouldn’t be. Take it away Nalani…

Nalani: I love being a rebel, and I love being fashionable doing it.  I constantly question the world around me and I demand answers to those questions.  This became very evident when I decided I wanted to do a bra burning photo shoot.  What woman wouldn’t want to liberate herself from the clothes that bind her and say to hell with the world, I am going to do what I want.  A little bit of fire goes a long way to independence!

First of all, let’s get one thing straight.  Bra burning is a myth.  It never happened.  Seriously!  In 1968 a group of women got together to protest the Miss America Pageant, but they never burned their bras.  Interesting – I know!  The idea and movement behind the myth is what prompted me to do it. It is about liberation and freedom, strength and confidence and most importantly independence. Liberation from everything that constrains you; confidence to overcome your adversities, and freedom to choose the path you want in life. All of this is what women were feeling and thinking back in 1968 and the burning of the clothing that constrained women is powerful. That is what prompted me to do the burning and let’s face it, it’s really cool!

In my quest to find the perfect clothing for the bra burning, it became very evident to me that there are not a lot of options for women who do not fit into “normal” size clothing.  What constitutes normal is beyond me.  I mean was it Neanderthals that decided what is normal?


I personally think everyone is normal.  However, I stand corrected.

Plus-sized clothing is a huge industry, no pun intended – ok, maybe a little pun.  To be categorized into this size a person must fit into clothes that are sized 12 -26.  A size 12 doesn’t seem to constitute a “plus size” to me.  Is society made up of this type of person?


I consider myself a confident person, but I will never, ever look like that!  A woman who is a size zero that looks unhealthy is not “normal” to me.  She’s so food deprived she is leaning over as she walks!  Sorry fashionistas, a waif if not my idea of fashion, style or confidence!

Why separate out fashionable clothing depending on your size? It’s like shopping for spoons, but the soup spoons are placed in their own section or store because of their abnormal dimensions.  Come on, a spoon is a spoon, and clothes are clothes.  Why separate them out!  I may be an inch bigger than average, but I don’t need a store to single me out, and I especially don’t need you to label me as “gigantic”.  It brings flashbacks of grade school where you don’t get picked for team sports.

Why store names are characterized as “plus” or “image” or “wide” is preposterous!  I know I have a few extra pounds; I don’t need someone to plaster the fact that I am overweight all over a store front screaming to everyone that I need bigger clothes as I sheepishly enter the front doors.  I want clothes that are the same as everyone else.  I want to look pretty, be confident in what I wear and have people notice that I look like a rockstar.  I think I pull it off, ne croyez-vous pas?

In my quest to look like a rockstar, I shopped till I dropped.  Seriously!  I mean, I went out shopping after knee surgery trying to find the perfect garments.  My stylist (Nirah Villeneuve)  came up with a look – pencil skirt, blouse, heels and fabulous jewellery so that I would be confident, sexy and “me”.

Nirah is a stylist to the stars and lives right here in Halifax.  This woman sells jewellery by Stella & Dot and has styled the likes of:





Nirah has case upon case of Stella & Dot jewellery.

It’s all beautiful and she will pick out the best jewellery for you and your wardrobe.

Nirah and I both thought it would be extremely cool to do a modern 70’s look for the actual bra burning.  Sounds easy to pull off, right?  Wrong.  Plus sized clothing that is actually fashionable and stylish is hard to find, especially if you are looking for something specific.  I couldn’t feel liberated if I couldn’t even find what I needed to wear.  Needless to say, I went everywhere.  I went from Old Navy to Laura Store, Tommy Hilfiger, Ricki’s Bootlegger, to Esprit.  I have never tried on so many clothes in my life.  I even – horror upon horrors – went into a plus sized store (Addition-Elle) to see what they have.  I get flashbacks to the Jaws theme song…

… every time I think about stepping foot in these stores.  I made it my life mission to not shop in plus-sized stores because of the way their clothes fit.  If I wanted to wear this:


I would have shopped at the local grocery store.

The photoshoot was to take place with the help of Liam Hennessey of Applehead Studio Photography.  Liam is fantastic.  You feel comfortable and confident with him immediately.  The guy loves shooting different, unique types of photographs.  I mean he gets off on doing Trash the Dress shoots – which are phenomenal and I am a HUGE fan.   As soon as I told him I was a feminist and wanted to do something different, both of us said “Burn the Bra”.  We basically read each other’s minds.

My photos turned out unbelievably well.  After all the humiliation of walking into plus-sized stores, asking for the forbidden plus sizes and being looked at like I was crazy to enter a “normal” store, I knew I wanted to be liberated.  Liberated from letting people make me feel bad for having a few extra pounds.  Liberated from the insecurity of wanting to look and feel like a beautiful, fashionable rockstar.  Liberated from the fashion industry and the designers that make clothes for people who are too thin, too tall, and too “normal”?  I think I pulled it off.  Confidence is the greatest fashion.

Burning the bras was fun and petrifying and somehow satisfying.  Who knew that bras are actually fire retardant?  We doused those bras with so much fuel it was permeated into the air and we still had problems getting them lit.  Basically we had to do it as soon as the fuel touched the material.  What do manufacturers think – women are going to burn their tata’s off slaving over a hot stove?  Do they think we all want to be Lady Gaga?


Once that bra started to burn it was action time.  Time to be strong, confident and most importantly shed those insecurities.

Being a “plus size” doesn’t mean I am not normal – it means I am “me” – fashionable, confident, strong, and proud of it.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Nancy Drew permalink
    June 9, 2010 10:54 am

    YES. I absolutely do not understand why stores cut plus-size clothing differently (i.e. shirts are always several inches longer, pant legs consistenly require hemming, etc.). I think marketers sit together in a room where there are very few large women and think, “yes, yes, they don’t like their bellies. Rather than give them A-line dresses with more room for the boobs [which, btw, never happens] we will just make everything super loooong. That will be camo. Get it?” It’s ludicrous.

    I have found the Internet to be the great leveller when it comes to clothing. I live in New Brunswick but I can order gorgeous dresses from Pretty Things in Halifax. I had a proper bra fitting at Lily’s on Spring Garden (which has stunning merchandise but at prices outside of my student budget) and can order lingerie in cups D through KK from British sites like Bravissimo (SERIOUSLY, North America, get with it. Why are the Brits so much better at this?). And I do find, despite the columnist’s ill luck, that Ricki’s offers stylish clothing (both work and casual) up to size 18. Hope this helps some of the other ladies out there with similar problems.

  2. Nancy Drew permalink
    June 9, 2010 11:01 am

    And one more thing. Women of all sizes prefer natural fabrics to polyester. For the love of all things holy, stop making everything plus sized out of crappy synthetics and charging me more for the favour. Linen. Silk. Cashmere. You get the idea.

  3. June 9, 2010 11:17 am

    Great post Nalani. I think you are lovely, chic and amazing!

    I know it’s not the same, but I have had a similar experience shopping for maternity clothes, which leaves me asking, as I exit every specialty store or miniscule preggo section, “Just because I am having a baby DOES NOT mean I want to dress ugly.”

    The fabrics, styles, and cuts are mostly offensive. No, I don’t want to wear a muumuu (sp), thank you very much. Or something that makes me look like I’m 12.

    I have watched my sister struggle with these plus-sized fashion issues for years. She always manages to look incredible, but I don’t know how she does it. The pickins are slim. Oh, the irony.

    My saviour has been on-line shopping as well. The entire industry is messed up, but posts like this help people stop, take notice, ask questions, and demand and expect more.


  4. karol ann permalink
    June 9, 2010 4:56 pm

    Great post!

    I too am plus sized and find it hard to find stuff that doesn’t make me look like a grandma or offend my eyes. I have curves (nice ones!)that I want to flaunt, not hide in something that resembles a giant man’s Tshirt! And I don’t want (for lack of a better word) to be ghetto-ized in terms of fashion! I can rock a pencil skirt and Leopard cardi (If I could find one!)

    Thank you for introducing me to Pretty Things here in Halifax – I can’t wait to get in there.

    Sorry for the rant and excessive use of the exclaimation(sp?) point.

    Loved it.

    • L-A permalink*
      June 9, 2010 10:04 pm

      Pretty Things has some amazing stuff. I love that they love curves on ladies of all shapes and sizes.

  5. Benj permalink
    June 9, 2010 7:41 pm

    Mass produced clothing is patterned into a standard size (2-4) and then they used industrial scaling to make it smaller or larger to create sizes like 00 or 8, for example. The reason is seems like companies are just adding extra inches to plus sized clothing is because they are doing exactly that.

    I am a guy, and I am not plus sized. My extreme height combined with my entirely average weight actually qualifies me as “underweight” if I’m to listen to that ludicrous BMI calculation.

    It is impossible for me to find a button down dress shirt that fits to my wrists without having a shoulder line that’s slinked halfway down my bicep. Unfortunately, the only answer is to pay more for clothing that has been specifically patterned to resolution in every single size, which drives up production costs greatly. This is something that has become a problem since custom-made clothing fell out of relevancy.

    • allygarbs permalink*
      June 9, 2010 8:39 pm

      Hmm…this might be a good post, Benj. Perhaps we need to take you shopping! Yay! Field Trip!! Field Trip?

  6. edenkaill permalink
    June 10, 2010 7:39 pm

    This is an awesome post!

    I have a small quibble with your use of a photo of a very thin woman – I feel like that’s just the flipside of those horrible anti-obesity articles that show a picture of a random fat person. Bodies are bodies, you know? Let’s not ridicule or shame any of them, at any extreme.

    I am SO on board with the rage against women’s clothing sizing.

    • allygarbs permalink*
      June 10, 2010 8:14 pm

      Yah, I see that point, Eden. I guess Nalani’s point is that the majority of women are spoon-fed this image of what is fashionable, and sometimes it is extremely unhealthy to achieve that “ideal”.

      I do agree that women tend to judge each other so harshly, and that many women who are thinner than “average” (I hate that word) are attacked unfairly. You’re right, bodies are bodies. We need to stop trying to shove everyone in a box that others deem to be the appropriate size.

      I loved this post for the very important issue it raises. I was hoping it would generate discussion. Thanks for adding your thoughts. I recall your dance performance a few years back that addressed this issue. It was the only performance I can remember that moved me to tears. One of the most amazing things you have ever done.

      • edenkaill permalink
        June 12, 2010 8:14 am

        Aw, thank you! That makes me so happy to hear!

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