Reclaiming the word 'Stout'

It's so strange that if you are lucky enough in life, after a certain age you can actually be at peace with some of yourself.

I'm not a very politically correct person, but I do have sensitivities and I also don't walk on egg shells when it comes to body size. I remember my mother saying my legs were like 'hammocks' when I was about 9. I remember being called 'buffalo' in middle school for years by a boy in class. Growing up I was only allowed a 'sliver' of cake or pie or whatever else it was that was making me fat, and I distinctly remember when I was about 11, my mother asking me if I was 'okay' when I didn't want an ice cream cone.

Wow, it looks like I had a pretty horrid childhood in those above few sentences, doesn't it? I didn't in the least. My late mother was amazingly encouraging of my creative side, I left home and grew into my own person, loosing nearly 50 pounds when I became vegan. I came home and got hit on by that boy who called me 'buffalo' when I was a child, and now that I am an adult, I feel no need to sit and take any comment toward my size. As a result I have a very sharp tongue.

This all brought me to thinking how we actually think of ourselves, visually. I think sewing helps. I haven't bought RTW in about 3 years. I don't have to worry about the crazy inconsistency of modern clothing sizes, or the tent like garments or to the opposite, the unnecessarily 'sexy' paper thin see through tops. It's not as if you can bluntly guess in sewing, "Oh, I'm this and that," and get amazing results. A lot comes down to math. And what is math? Honesty.

Being honest in how you see yourself is more valid than how sensitive in what you want to be called. If you have a gut, say so. Its not as if no one else can't see it. Thick thighs, fine. Fat arms (raises hand), okay. Double chin....yeah.

Plump, Curvaceous, Zoftig, Voluptuous, Plus Size, Rotund, Stout, Fat

My politically correct size index. I left out a few, and some might say rotund is worse than stout, but some people love the compliment their boobs being 'rotund' so there counts the word's extra bonus points.

First off I don't think anyone wants to be fat. Period. Thats not what I'm taking about. Just like I don't think people want to be short, or unwillingly bald, or old, or have bad skin. Duh! But ample (which is my favorite word next to stout) has been expected since the beginning of time.

I just decided that for me, and for the styles I like, I was going to find the most relevant identifiers I could and see how they were in their element. And when I think of larger women from the 30s, I think of Lila and Rita Sue.

Carnivale was an awesome show, but those two women, who were sexy unapologetic and stout, helped me identify with some of the characters. The show starts in 1934, so I looked through my NRA marked Lane Bryant catalogs and I see them, and the target customer the clothes were aiming to. Not women ashamed of their size, but wanted something that *was* their size, made to flatter their size. Not the constant notion of, 'You need to change to fit our clothes because smaller is overwhelmingly better,' that we get today.

I mean really, in the modern context of weight appearance, what we call fat is really what was fairly normal back in those times.

Take modern Lane Bryant for instance. Those current models are average weight, or straight sized. That is plus size today. So the fashion industry jumps from a size 2-4 to a 10-14 for plus. Wow. So if straight sizes are fat, what are fat sizes?

Look at this progression of Lane Bryant Catalogs.

See how ridiculous it all is?

I'm also not talking standards of beauty. Those change with each gust of the breeze.
We've gone from The Venus of Willendorf
to Ruben's Venus to Twiggy and beyond. Wow.

Acceptance of your body, which I know is not an easy thing to reach is empowering. But really, the older you get, don't you get more and more tired of standards that are applied on the wind? I know I do because I've never looked like the modern standards, but I do look like the oldest Venus (except I have feet and a face). If I had lived back then, I would have had the body of a goddess.

Naw, I'm cool with living now. I like deodorant. :)


  1. So the reason our body image has changed is because we are evolving.

    In the past people didn't have as much as we do now. So a robust woman was a wealthy woman. She was the most healthy because she had enough to eat. A healthy woman was always there best bet for making and delivering lots of babies.

    Now, we all eat to much (in the US at least) almost everyone is well fed. We also have science on our side, so we know what foods are healthy, and we know it is bad for your health to be over weight. In addition to that our "wealthy," or our "kings and queens," are thin. We don't need to fatten up to stay healthy.

    Everyone has there own size that is the most healthy for them, but none of them include a lot of fluff. I am a fat girl. At my largest I was 5'8", 236 pounds. That is clearly fat, no stout here. I was getting looked at and I could feel the judgments. I had crossed over to the freak side of fat.

    Most of my life I was a happy 12-16. I would argue that I was stout at that size. 5'8" 160 pounds, very athletic.

    I did very well for myself. I didn't fit the photo of the model in vogue, I had something better. In my stout, curvy size I would always get picked at the clubs before my skinny friends dancing along side me. Never fail I got the first look. Think of Mad Men right now. I know it is set in the past, but it is being shown NOW. People like it now. Who do you think of when you think of that show. John Ham and Christina Hendricks. She is a smoking hottie, and well recognized as such. She is a curvy beauty, but she is no size 2.

    Twiggy was a while ago, even Kate Moss is endlessly judged for her small size. I feel bad for those girls. I don't know there story but I feel like there skinny must be my fat. I would hate to be skinny, I way prefer fat. I feel like there is a lot of help for someone looking to loose weight.

    Anyway I have lost 36 pounds and am now down to 200 pounds. I look good and feel great. I love the discussions on plus size that you always put up in your posts. I come back mostly for the plus size discussion.

    I am currently working out at the gym, and eating natural foods to take down some of my excess size. I am back in a 16, and I feel sexy the way I am, others have noticed. I would be happy here if my belly didn't still look like two babies lived in there for 9 months each.

    My point, I think we are moving in a positive direction with body image as a cultural ideal. If a person is happy and healthy I think that translates out into the public. The more woman like us that go out in the world with our heads up high, in our amazing well fitted clothing made just for us. The more heads will turn in our direction.

  2. *LOL* At your deodorant comment! I embrace my thickness. I love having hips, breasts and thighs. It's too much dayum work to be skinny. I don't have time for that. I have a life to be lived doing the things I yeah I'm pretty okay with me as I am! Thick and plus size work for me, too!

  3. This is a wonderful post, Shelley! You are fabulous-looking and have style to spare.

    I can relate in that I am short (5'7") for a guy and it was often hard for me to find pants that fit. Suits in a 36 or 37 Short size are rare these days. Even some new Simplicity patterns start at 38 (chest)!

    Sewing for myself is such a blessing because my clothes fit precisely as I want them to. Years of feeling like I was a "wrong" size was tough. Thankfully, those days are over.

  4. you are Fabulous! And i think you look fantastic in everything I have seen you in!

    Being at the opposite end of the spectrum and "pocket sized" I have always had a hard time finding clothes that fit properly. There was a time in HS when they had adjusted the sizes and I couldn't find anything to wear because they had literally stopped making my size. Now I make my own clothes and i have no idea what size I am in a store, i don't even know where to start! and i don't care!

    I also have to say that the only woman who understood my frustrations with clothes and didn't make fun of me for having them is an amazon woman. My boyfriend's mom is tall and stout but she is one of the best dressed women that i know.

    and carnivale, the whole thing was so beautiful and inspiring. and my favorite dress is that wrap dress that Rita Sue almost always wears.

  5. You do rock, Lady ! I love reading your posts, esp about size. Love your style and your clothes. Now that I'm 66 and have smooth skin, I totally agree with Marilyn, "At some point a girl's gotta choose between her fanny and her face."

  6. Thanks everyone on the comments. I appreciate it.

    I don't talk about or think on my size every moment of the day. Its a part of me, but not a huge part. I'd like to think I'm more multi faceted than that. But every so often I do want to comment on how I equate my size to the rest of the modern world, and truthfully I haven't been in the modern world in a long time :)

  7. I just wanted to say BRAVO! :) Most people look at me now and call me a "tiny little thing", but I have spent most of my life on the other side of the fence as the "curvy girl" (I was 170 and wearing a 14/16 at one point in my teen years). I just didn't know how to *own it* like you (and so many other fantastic gals!) do--and thus felt badly about my curviness and large rear/thighs. I hate how our society places such shame on being heavy/fat to the point of encouraging (though never in the open) drastic measures to be super skinny. I've had a really sensitive relationship with my body for most of my life (including a long bout with anorexia in my early 20s), and the pressure to conform to a certain look at the expense of one's health is disgusting! I just wish more ladies like you had been blogging frankly about body image and posting your outfits back when I was a teenager!

    Even though I fit into the category of "ideal body" right now (whatever that really means... I still don't think of myself that way!), I don't fit into RTW or even out-of-the-envelope patterns. I have a big caboose for my size (I'm a pear in disguise ;) and have to wrangle with everything to make it fit right so I'm not uncomfortable and feel like I'm squeezed into a tube. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't sew... Shopping off the rack clothes is too frustrating! I'd probably just spend my life in knitwear. haha.

    Thanks for posting this... I am slowly starting to care less and less about what "ideal" there is as far as body image goes, and embrace how I'm shaped. At 25 I am definitely far more comfortable with how I look than I was at 20--so maybe by 30-35 I'll really *own* it? ;)

    ♥ Casey | blog

  8. I'm going to add on to the agreement category. I can't stand that people get angry with you for loving who you are. You keep doing you. And I am certain the day is coming when all these then people self destruct!

  9. Isn't it funny how some words hurt (for some), and some words don't (for others). I've always preferred the word 'chubby', because it has a weird correlation with 'cute'. I absolutely hate zaftig, just think it's ugly, no reason.

    I am an actress and deal with my body as my instrument on a daily basis. We have a love/hate relationship. In my current production (Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet), I am dealing with a lot of people having to grope me or sieze me in some way, and have found that my big booty and DDD chest is actually more uncomfortable for my cast mates than it is for me. I can do a lot of physical comedy, pratfalls and such, that the others can not. Mostly it's the comfort that I have in my own skin that has gotten me this far. Does that make sense?

    I appreciate this post so much, but I think I'm going to stick to chubby, for comforts sake. :)

  10. Ample I like. There's something generous, warm and welcoming about it. The women in Carnivale were ample and so fantastically sexy! Made me realise that you can wear that fashion and look amazing, even if you're not the skinny hipped shape of 30s pattern covers and film stars. It immediately got me hunting around for 30s patterns so I too could look like Rita Sue (I wish!).

    Stout however, conjures up very different images to me. Stout women are the unappealing dragons of 30s - 40s films, large but dry and forbidding all at the same time. There's a harshness to that word that I just can't get over and I don't think it's one I'd want to reclaim for myself! Funny what's in a word and how personal it is...

  11. I'm late but I'd like to high-five this post. Awesome.

    Isn't it all about owning who and what you are? I was always uncomfortable with my very non-anglo and non-African face (I am from Afghanistan) and I always wished I could either be Anglo-American or African-American. Until I saw a picture of one of my ancestors and his big ole eyes and his big ole nose.

    Then I realized, it's all part of me and my history...


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