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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Undie-lievable! A Chaffree Review

I've always struggled with legwear. Through my teens, being tall made finding and successfully wearing tights almost impossible. Later, becoming plus size and reaching the height of 5"8 made the search even more difficult. Buy them too small and they wriggle down your crotch, too big and they fall down too! Finding ways to keep tights up can be a struggle-in ten years I've tried; wearing knickers on top of tights (not keen on flashing my knickers at folk), chopped down leggings (not always enough support) and even, in times of desperation, a pair of braces (don't even get me started on how impractical that was). My most often turned-to option has always been shapewear, as it's always guaranteed to always hold up tights, but also usually guarantees a level of discomfort as well as suffocating and smothering my nether regions. Also, I'm trying to embrace my big body and belly, and don't always fancy hiding my VBO! So when I heard of Chaffree, I was keen to give them a go!

Chaffree describe their products as 'Sweat Absorbing, Chafe Reducing Underwear Designed For Women & Men Regardless of Size, Shape, Age or Fitness'. My partner in crime is an avid cyclist and tried out Chaffree's men's boxers on his daily commute, and was impressed with the comfort and practicality of them! Like many, I struggle with my thighs constantly kissing themselves, which can lead to incredibly painful chafing (once I tried without tights and was walking around like a wincing cowboy all day-not a good look) so I've been curious about Chaffree's womenswear for a while! The team kindly sent me a pair of the Ladies' KnickerBoxers and the first thing I noticed about Chaffree is the sizing. Many plus size folk can tell you that what is labelled as 'large' in most clothing companies can be surprising, however Chaffree's size guide was refreshing!
While I am slightly smaller on my bottom half than my top, I carry weight on my bottom and stomach which can make clothing fits unpredictable. As the company promises the KnickerBoxers to have plenty of stretch, and I usually buy leggings a size smaller, I opted for the M/L which covers sizes 16 through to 20. The KnickerBoxers come in a choice of waist and leg lengths-being tall I chose the longer length leg and the full waist due to a love of high waisted underwear.

They arrived quickly, really well packaged and slipped through the letterbox easily (always handy to prevent trips to the sorting office!) At first I was dubious that a size 16-20 item would fit me at a 22/24, but the they fit beautifully. I was expecting that wet-suit-like texture of shapewear, but amazingly, they're a very light and breathable fabric that slips on with ease! Important to note that if you are trying Chaffree items as shapewear, they won't work for you. The cut and shape isn't designed to pull in, and while snug, they're more comfortable and supportive rather than squishing everything inwards.
Now for the test run! I wore them with tights and a dress and they didn't move at all, despite my enthusiastic lunging! In the past when I've tried using shapewear or cut-down leggings, the legs ride up incessantly. The Chaffree KnickerBoxers stay in place without doubt! They didn't flop under my belly either, and felt light and flexible under my clothes. Most importantly for me, they kept my tights up (cue Celebrations by Kool & The Gang) so they get a glowing review from me! For the ultimate wriggle test, I wore them another day under skinny jeans, and still stayed in place! Whatever witchcraft they're using, it definitely works.



Prices for the Knickerboxers start at £17, and you can get discounts by buying multiple pairs. I know I'll definitely get my money's worth out of these, I've already worn them loads.
This summer I'm aiming to overcome a body hang up of mine- going tights-free and knowing that I won't be in constant pain from chafing by using Chaffree's products is a big reflief. They'll be my body positive buddy this summer! I'm also really keen to try them with shorts in the warmer weather too! Wearing the KnickerBoxers has made me remember how cute I look in shorts, so I'm actually excited for the summer for once!



Have you tried Chaffree? What did you think? 

Stay wonderful!
Melly x

Friday, 19 February 2016

Alternatives To Feminine Plus Size Fashion

Plus size shopping can be tough for anyone, and many factors can make it even tougher. One thing I'd like to focus on in this post is finding plus size clothing that isn't stereotypically traditionally feminine.

Like many body positive babes, my fat fashion began with retro and rockabilly fashion. Figure hugging and oh-so glamorous, if you're feeling insecure about your body, this style can make you feel completely feminine and sexy. Much, though not all, of this trend relies on the hourglass figure-nipped in waisted, wide hips and heaving bosom. At that point in my life it felt perfect for me-I was going through puberty and had found a way to feel good in my 'new' body. As I've gone through University and into my twenties, I've tried many different ways of dressing and been many different sizes. Until the past year or so, I've always been a feminine dresser- I love youthful retro fashion, especially 1960s looks, and have had many a dress over the year. Since coming out as queer in 2015, I've been thinking more about how I present myself. When 'in the closet' part of the way I dressed was to mask any possible indications of my sexuality. While stereotypes are ridiculous, in my mind I was scared that if I stepped away from swooshing skirts and plunging necklines and towards items more stereotypically assigned to queerness, I'd be rumbled somehow (silly, I know). Since coming out, I definitely feel more free in how I can express myself. Gender wise, I do identify strongly as female, but I feel less pressure to dress in certain ways. Some days I still want to ooze femininity and girlishness, and others it feels like the last thing I want to do. While I've been trying new things fashion-wise, I discovered something I'd been ignorant too before- finding plus size clothing that isn't traditionally 'girly' is hard! 

I feel like this is really something that should be addressed. For some, like myself, it's a question of taste and style, but the issue runs deeper. We need plus size clothing for people of all gender identities-more options need to be available. We don't just come as 'men' and 'women' and fashion should start to reflect that.

Below are some of the items I've found (but not necessarily purchased) that could be considered as a step away from the feminine norm. Some of them are merely items that are not floral, while others may have less of an hourglass shape, or be used alongside other items for a more gender neutral aesthetic. This is from the view of a cisgender woman and influenced by my personal tastes in fashion. I have also ensured that all items are below £35 in order to be more accessible to different incomes.



If, like me, you love plaid and flannel shirts, you'll know that sometimes they can be hard to find in larger sizes. I swear by these shirts by Yours Clothing-they come in a whole load of different colours and checks, all in the same amazing cut, though I do hate the term 'boyfriend' in fashion (damn you, heteronormativity!).
Many of these style shirts at Yours have popper fastenings which, as a speedy dresser, I love! As well as wearing these buttoned up, another way to wear is wearing them open with t shirts underneath- a fave fashion trend of mine is clashing patterns and I love experimenting with different prints to compliment the plaid! The cut of these shirts are perfect for me on days where I don't want to project a 'figure-of-eight' body type, and I usually wear them with skinny jeans.These are great for casual wear and day-to-day looks, and are well priced!







Looking for evening wear or formal fashion when plus size can be a nightmare. I find gowns and elaborate dresses both intimidating and not at all 'me' (while many women really rock these looks!). If you're not one for tea dresses or velvet fishtails, it's easy to feel lost and frustrated shopping for events.
If you're looking for a sharp alternative, some plus size stockists have all you need to suit up! One of my style icons is the incredible Janelle Monae, and while not plus size, I adore her way of dressing. The sheerness of this chiffon Yours Clothing shirt does makes it feel more feminine, but I love the neck tie, and feels fancy without being too decorative. I think this, along with a blazer (like this New Look number) and these amazing New Look High Waisted Trousers are a winning comination!




Denim is undoubtedly cool. It's versatile, customisable and goes great with so many different items. With the recent 70s trend, denim can be found almost everywhere and there's styles for all kinds of tastes. Dungarees are really high on my wishlist at the moment, for their versatility and sheer awesomeness. New Look do some brilliant jackets, and I love this black denim jacket. Jackets are one of my favourite garments, but I really struggle to find styles other than flower-adorned waterfall blazers- for me denim jackets are both casual and comfortable but stylish. This denim shirt is a beauty as well! Yours Clothing also offer denim shirts in various shades, for a good price.




Jumpsuits are another alternative to a dress. Jumpsuits offer a simple luxury that dresses do- they are an 'all in one' item that you can simply throw on and get going (always a plus for me!)
This ASOS Curve Jumpsuit is so cute- I love the peg-leg detail and the slouchy, casual aesthetic. This looks so comfortable while easy to accessorise to make your own. My favourite detail of this is the drawstring waist, meaning you can make the fit baggier if you don't want the cinched look.  This jumpsuit from Yours Clothing is more feminine in cut than the ASOS garment, but I personally would team it with a blazer or open shirt over the top, and low converse, for a casual sort of style! Jumpsuits can be difficult to find for a low budget, but they will most likely be making a comeback for summer so I hope that we'll have more options soon!




Plus size T-shirts in less traditionally feminine styles can be surprisingly hard to find! Many of the choices are either plain basic T-shirts or hanky hems with floral designs, and not much inbetween. I love the eyelet detail in this ASOS Curve T-shirt, and think it would look badass with skinnies and ankle boots.  I'm a sucker for a Raglan tshirt and this would look great with most things (I'd love to see it with a pair of dungarees) and stripes are always a YES for me. When I have days where I want to feel fashion-forward but not confine myself to polka dots or chintzy florals (which I can love on other days!) stripes are always my go-to. Forever chic and easy to coordinate. Also, the fact that it is a twin pack for that price is pretty good.

Personally I'd love to see more of these styles in plus size clothing stores, as well as wider gender representation. What are your favourite items? I'd love to know!

Stay wonderful!
Melly






Friday, 12 February 2016

About The Art-Personalised Portraits! #1

As a full time illustrator, I draw a lot. What I draw changes every week, but the what I create the most, and one of my favourite things to create, is a custom portrait. When I was brainstorming about what to fill my new blog with, some of you requested I talk about my artistic process, and here we are! I've chosen a piece from last year that was a lot of fun to work on, and I'll be sharing exactly how I made it!

Last summer, I was contacted by one of my lovely customers to make a portrait of her daughter, Orla. As I knew the client was interested in retro and vintage fashion and has quite eclectic taste, I really wanted to reflect this in the portrait! As soon as I had read her requests for the piece, I knew the sort of direction i wanted to take it in!
One of my biggest influencers artistically is fashion illustrator Rene Gruau. Most popular in the 1950s and 1960s, his work is incredibly colourful and chic. I've been a fan of his for a while now, and I think his work is so beautiful and stylish.

All images belong to Rene Gruau- images found at https://uk.pinterest.com/quiquemaqueda/rene-gruau/
Gruau's work always conveys a sense of fun and energy, as does a lot of vintage fashion illustration, especially in 1960s advertising. I wanted to capture a similar aesthetic that would help portray a young and fashionable girl as well as the tastes of the customer.




Here's the initial sketch I sent-I knew she and her family were fond of nature so I wanted to fill the piece with wild flowers and leaves. I never seem to draw any flowers in particular-I quite enjoy improvising and making things up! The design was approved and I moved onto my favourite part- deciding on the colour scheme! 

I wanted to step away from the colours so commonly associated with femininity (pinks and purples) and create a colour scheme that had a nod back to retrospective art as well as gender neutrality. Many of the artists that I adore use warm colour palettes- reds, oranges and yellows that feel friendly and cosy yet vivid, and I chose to do the same. I set about finding colours that compliment each other and the piece- I've always really loved creating colour combinations and seeing what fits the illustration!




This was the range of colours I decided on! One of my favourite colour combinations is orange and green, so I chose to try a combination of different shades of this idea! I chose a black background as this makes the brighter shades really stand out. I've seen how artists such as Tim Biskup and Johnny Hannah use black backgrounds, and fancied trying it myself!
Once I had my selection of colours, I sent a 'colour plan' to the client. This is a flat plan of what colours will go there, and gives the customer an opportunity to make any changes they'd like. Initially this was a one-off for the customer but is now available to all portrait customers! 




 I created this colour plan by dropping the initial sketch into Photoshop and digitally adding the shapes over the top. While this colour scheme was a bit of a gamble, the customer enjoyed the design, and so I began the final piece! 

My process is mostly digital but occasionally I scan in or create textures to use as well, so many of them end up being mixed media pieces. I moved from traditional techniques to digital at the start of 2015, and while I have alot yet to learn, I'm finding the process much easier now! I made some tweaks to the initial drawing, and added more detail, until I came to the final image! 




Like most artists, I'm always self-critical, but I'm really pleased with how this one came out, and the customer said she was too! This piece gave me more confidence in trying new colours and hues, and was so much fun to work on! I'd like to say a big thank you to the customer for their order and continued support!

If you'd like me to make some art for you, head to my Etsy store, where I have a full range of personalised pieces! If you're looking for something not listed in my shop, simply get in touch at mellyemclark@gmail.com or via Etsy, and I'd be happy to help!

Stay wonderful!
Melly

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Dating Your Delightful Self- Woo Your Body!

Dating is fun! You get to spend time with people that interest you, and experience fun new events, with that flush of excitement and possibility. Whether you are single, playing the field, newly besotted or settled down- there's one person we could all commit ourselves to- ourselves! 
I truly believe we could all benefit from treating ourselves like a hot new beau- looking after ourselves, treating ourselves and saying 'I Do' to self love and self care. In this series of posts, I'll be exploring different aspects of taking the time to enjoy your own company and indulge yourself in courting the most important person in your life- you!

Part One -Woo Your Body
As in both romancing your body, and as in 'Woo!! Your body!'

Illustration by Melly Em Clark-Please Do not Share Without Permission


Body positivity as a movement is quickly gaining popularity- activists and pioneers of self love are leading the way in the world of body love and appreciation. Women's magazines are starting to address the themes of embracing your body and we're seeing a rise in pop music with body positive messages. Many of us recognise the concept of self love as a valid one- yet why does it feel so bloody difficult?
Letting go of negative thoughts can feel impossible at times. We all know how impressionable we can be from our surrounding factors. While progress is slowly being made, there are still certain ideals of exactly what is attractive. Even if somehow and, somewhat miraculously, tomorrow we awoke to a transformed and radically body positive world, full of representation for all different types of bodies, we could still have the lingering self criticism and self hate many of us have been taught to practise.  Addressing our bubble of self image as well as combatting the attitudes of the world around us is vital. I'm only part way through my 'journey' and I don't think it's ever something we complete- we always find new ways to improve our self image, but here are my tips for starting to become smitten with yourself!

Dress For Your Body Love Relationship Accordingly

-Many amazing bo-po activists march out of their comfort zones, donning skin tight garments and figure hugging outfits, but if you're new to Body Positivity, this can feel daunting at first. The notion of showcasing the areas we're encouraged to hide can bring on feelings of vulnerability and low confidence if it's something you're initially scared to try. What I urge you to do is to take it at your own pace, like you would with any other relationship! If you're raring to try on bodycon dresses and scuba leggings, go ahead and rock those looks- but if you feel happier and more comfortable in a baggy t-shirt and jeans, that's awesome too! Self love doesn't have to happen overnight (it rarely does) and you can always try more 'daring' styles later, if ever at all. Don't push yourself beyond what feels good to you, always make sure you feel at ease in what you are wearing, and take it one step at a time.

Whisper Sweet Nothings to Yourself

-It can feel amazing and empowering to embrace the parts of your body you once hated, but learning to love what you regard as flaws can be tricky. My advice is to start by identifying body parts or features you know you feel confident about and really focus on why you love them. Do this in a relaxed environment where you're less likely to feel anxious thinking of your body- while having a soothing bubble bath or before going to sleep, for example. Take time to fully take in these features and appreciate yourself as a sum of these parts and more- write all of them down if it helps! Learning to really love even one part of yourself is the rung on the ladder to appreciating your whole self. When you're ready, start to note the positive aspects of areas you're perhaps less confident with- for example, I've been self concious about my stomach before, but it's soft and warm and makes for a little hill down to the valley of my bits! But on days where I struggle to see this in a positive way (bad days can still happen) I try to remind myself of the areas I love- my boobs, my legs, my waist, and make the focus about those instead until I'm feeling better. When you find a new happy thought about your bod, it can help to jot them down and remind yourself of them on more self-conscious days- like a little love letter to your future self!

Get Naked!

-In my experience, nudity, or wearing very little, can help incredibly with body comfort. Now, I'm not insiting you sign up to the nearest nudist community (though if that's your thing-go you!), I just mean in ways that are practical, safe and comfortable for you. Sleeping naked made a huge difference for me, and while impractical during the colder months, this and pottering around indoors wearing not a lot made me feel more aware of the way my body looks, feels and moves. While it was scary at first, it's led to an increased understanding and confidence in my body. If it helps to wear something that makes you feel great (lingerie for example) that can be a great stepping stone too!

Commemorate Your Date

-Selfies are a sure-fire way to sweet self confidence. If you're feeling cute, share it! It doesn't have to be with the world, it could just be to a friend or partner when you dig yourself! Capturing moments of confidence in a visual log can lead to a collection of pictures of bliss, as well as adding to the body love revolution. If you do choose to share online, you'll inspire others too, leading to a stream of photos of positivity and wider representation! There seems to be the argument that selfies are seen as self-centered or vain, but I think anything that encourages self love and self appreciation can only be a good thing! Many women find that taking nudie pictures for themselves to look at can be another way of learning about your body and its awesomeness!

Find Your Body-Loving Soulmates

-One of the biggest influencers upon our self esteem, lifestyle choices and general happiness is 
who we interact with, from the people we spend time with to the impact of who we follow online. Social media can be rife with body shaming, aggressive messages and expectations, but you don't have to consume it. While there's power in witnessing and confronting these opinions, sometimes we absorb these thoughts subconsiously, and we can cut them out. I've found that unfollowing accounts that made me feel worthless and spread negative vibes throughout my mind has helped tremendously. Simply replace them with people who make you feel great! Getting involved in the body positive movement not only helps in times of low confidence but also adds to the overall power of the movement and its message that ALL bodies are worthy of love, and self-love. It also helps to find like-minded folk who you can talk to during a confidence crisis too, whether it's an online personality, or a friend. Reducing any negativity witnessed offline can be harder, as we can't use the same techniques with family and close ones. In my experience, I've spoken to family members and asked them not to use certain terms, and expressed why certain language or attitudes can be seen as upsetting or offensive, but changing a viewpoint isn't always possible. Seeking out friends who make me feel empowered, confident and unashamed to be who I am, however, has had a hugely positive effect, and can really alter how you see yourself.

Treat Your New Lover (You!) with Kindness

-When partners, friends or family come to us with moments of sadness, low confidence or worries, we take the time and care to ensure they feel safe, supported and loved- this same approach is necessary with ourselves too. When we have low days, it's easy to get caught up in anger towards our feelings, and the way we process our thoughts. Listen- all of your feelings are completely valid- you're allowed to not feel on top of the world, or feel stressed, anxious or confused at every day occurances. We're supposed to feel emotion and very few of us are happy all of the time. What's important is that you take care of yourself-treat yourself like you would a loved one. Think of the little things you've done for others, or things people have done for you, that have helped soothe and relax. Things like running a bath, a warm cup of hot chocolate and a hot water bottle, or a stroll out in the fresh air. Self care is another form of self love, and in my eyes, it's just as vital as being happy with your appearance.

If you're in need of someone to talk to regarding mental health, body issues, or anything else that's been troubling you, it's best that you speak to a trained professional- a list of UK based organisations can be found here. 

Please note that these are simply the techniques I used to kick-start loving myself, and it's always best to read a variety of views and sources and only do what works the best for you, your confidence and your comfort!

If you enjoyed this post, check out these awesome stories of self love, self care and the body loving revolution!

Michelle Marie's Finding My Feet 
Lottie L'Amour's It's Okay Not To Be Confident (And Other Confessions of a Body Positive Blogger)
The Vintage Lady of Lincoln on Finding Happiness Through Self Love 
She Loves Herself's Post on  Seven Things That Are Good for Soul
 Nerd About Town's shares Thoughts You Deserve
The Not So Secret Diary of a Wannabe Princess's Loving You Is Easy Because You're Beautiful
U Can't Wear That brings us A Message To My Sisters (That Means All of You)
Murder of Goths' declaration I Will Not Hide My Lumps and Bumps

Later this week, in tribute to Valentine's Day, I'll be sharing more posts about Dating Yourself! Have you written about self love or body positivity? Send me a link-I'd love to read them and hear your views!

Stay wonderful!

Melly






Friday, 5 February 2016

About The Art: You Don't Need Abs To Be Fab


Illustration by Melly Em Clark- available to purchase at etsy.com/shop/mellyemclark. Please do not share without permission.

Hello beautiful! 

A new type of post I'm introducing to the blog is a collection of short posts about the stories behind my illustrations and what they mean to me! I'll be posting these weekly and alongside other posts.

First up is perhaps my best-known piece, You Don't Need Abs To Be Fab. I've been incredibly lucky to have this image shared across social media- a particular highlight was seeing it reposted by the awesome team at Eff Your Beauty Standards, helping my art reach an incredible amount of people! I've been completely overwhelmed by the reaction to this piece, and very grateful to those who have shared it!

The idea came for the artwork came from frustration and anger at society's approach towards fitness, health and body image. While I have no ill feelings towards those who are passionate about fitness and exercise, many people feel sometimes these industries can push things too far, especially around New Year. Many people start each year with goals and aspirations, which I can understand-I've made career and confidence goals for 2016- but we are all expected to want to change various aspects oif our physical appearance. Personal growth is one thing, but we see so many torture themselves over a societal ideal hanging over their heads. Each year we all share our Resolutions, each bringing our own list of changes needed to be the 'perfect' person. It's all so negative- instead of viewing the coming year as another 365 days of potentially amazing experiences, we're taught to instead count everything we hate about our bodies- or if we don't already hate our bodies, many brands use advertising tactics to make us question ourselves.

I wanted to create something that was both a one-fingered gesture to these standards, and something ultimately optimistic. As with many of my pieces, I start with a phrase. I jot down lists of rhymes, alliterations, puns and slogans until something feels workable. Then I start to doodle. Once I had the phrase You Don't Need Abs To Be Fab, the rest pretty much fell into place. 'Abs' (the visible definition of the abdomen) and a muscular frame are becoming seen as more and more desriable on the typically male body, and while this piece wasn't intended soley as art directed at men, when sketching out characters, I kept returning to this guy seen above. Fatness is almost completely neglected in representation in both the high street and high-fashion, for all genders. Men's body issues are definitely and unfortunately on the uprise. I wanted to portray a figure of self love and happiness- someone who doesn't need to 'fit in' to feel confident. I feel the most important word of the piece is 'Need'. If you have Abs or a six pack, that's absolutely fine, but they aren't a necessity to be sexy, self assured or worthy of love. To me, it's all about choice.

The illustration was made using a mixture of acrylic paints, gouache and Photoshop. I wanted a bright colour scheme to express a fun and light-hearted feel, as well as to catch the eye! During 2015 I excitedly released Pocket Mirrors into my Etsy store with this design upon them- a regular, pocket sized reminder that you are fab! I'll soon be restocking these-watch this space! To promote the product, I was overjoyed to collaborate with plus size blogger, model and my partner in crime, Dom Clark. Dom is one of the few male plus size bloggers of the community, and is a great presence to have whilst making body positive art!

You Don't Need Abs To Be Fab Pocket Mirror, seen here with plus size male model and blogger Dom Clark 
What would you like to see in a furture print? Who are your recommended Body Positive artists? I'd love to find more inspiration!

Stay wonderful, 

Melly 


P.S- Please always try to credit artists when sharing work- we love to hear where our work has reached and would love our names to be alongside our hard work. If you are unsure of the artist, a quick Google search can usually help! Thanks, lovelies!