Feeling Myself: Katie's New Bod

In Depth

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than putting on an article of clothing that really feels like me. In the last five years I have gained 80 pounds, and as my body has changed I’ve had a series of identity crises triggered by how the difference in the fit of my clothes—things that used to be “flattering” are suddenly too small. It’s like a snakeskin that I am continuously shedding.

During this process I have been fortunate enough to have body positive mentors, including Marilynn Wann, Sonya Taylor, and Amanda Levitt. At this moment I am 5’4″ and 246 pounds. I have learned to manipulate clothing to fit my new body, but more importantly I have learned to feel like myself in the body that I have, regardless of the size on the clothing label.

I’m a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Writing at Michigan State University. I do interdisciplinary work that combines dress studies, fat studies, and cultural rhetorics and my current project looks at how fat fashion bloggers make meaning with their clothing.

As an educator, I try to purposefully bring my body into all the work that I do both in the academy and beyond. This outfit is something that I would wear for a conference presentation or to teach a class. I like how the clothes, put together this way, create a shape that otherwise my body doesn’t really have, as you can see here:

I’m wearing a navy skirt from Old Navy, size XL. I have this skirt in bright pink and yellow as well, but a size smaller (so it’s shorter). I absolutely love it, and wear it in the summer all the time. I pull it up to my waist in order to hide my stomach (which is just as large as my bust). The XL size hits a little longer than the L, and I feel more comfortable in it for “professional” things.

I’ve paired it with a turquoise belt to emphasize my waist. The pink tank is a XXL, also from Old Navy, and is quite casual on its own. It also has a deep neckline and I know I have to be careful when I wear it to not show too much cleavage. The necklace, from Charming Charlie, is meant to draw the eye away from the boobs but I’m not sure how successful it is. I love this top because it helps give me a great shape.

The long white blazer from Target, size XXL, with a poodle brooch that I found at a flea market in Cleveland last summer. I have a rescue poodle/bischon mix and enjoy things that remind me of her. I’m wearing nude kitten heel shoes from DSW. I usually wear flats, but when I go for a heel it’s a kitten, with a pointed toe. I feel like this elongates my legs and makes me look taller.

When I wear this I feel femme, powerful, and sexy. I make a point to wear something like this outfit when I’m doing something really academic/cerebral — like presenting at a professional conference — because I want to make sure that I bring my body into my work.

This is something that I wear most days. This semester I am on fellowship, which means that I spend most of my days at home with my partner and my dog working on my dissertation (the banner behind me says “FINISH THAT DISS”). In the past when working from home I’ve worked in pajamas, but lately I have to get dressed up to really feel like I’m working.

I’m wearing black jeggings from Torrid, size 20 short. I had a deep hatred of pants for about four years, and it was only recently that I started wearing clothes without an elastic waist again. I gained quite a bit of weight in 2011 after losing quite a bit of weight in that same year and as my body changed I grew frustrated with clothing that didn’t change with my body. Since 2011 I have exclusively worn leggings. This year, though, I found these jeggings and fell in love. They are flattering, totally opaque, and look great.

I’m also wearing a polka dotted button down shirt, from Old Navy, size XXL. I was thrilled this year when I found button down shirts that actually fit my bust (I think I’m an F cup now). This shirt is flattering—making me look like I have a narrow waist and hiding my stomach (which is almost as big as my boobs). It’s fascinating to me, as someone who studies the rhetoric of dress practices specifically in relation to size, how a garment of clothing can manipulate the way a body looks. The polka dots are something that I love—something preppy but still whimsical.

I’m wearing a sterling sliver necklace that I also bought at the flea market. As soon as I saw this piece I fell in love—and for only $10 it’s still one of my favorite purchases.

I’m wearing pointed toe navy flats from target (size 9). I almost exclusively wear flats. I like these shoes because they aren’t black—they are another neutral color, and I like to mess with the “rules” of fashion.

As an advocate for body positivity, I try to push at the notions of what it means to be professional—the bright colors, the cut of the top, the curves of my body are all things that can be written off as “too frivolous” in the academy.

Previously: Erin’s Perfect Jeans.

Katie Manthey moderates Dress Profesh, an online gallery that works to smash racist, sexist, abelist and sizeist notions of dress codes.

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