I love clothes. I admit it. I have a lot of clothes, probably way too many.
Thrift shopping has always been the greatest of adventures, even back before it was “hip”. In the late 70s and early 80s, my highschool days, I was scouring the Sally Ann for mens’ ties, at a dime apiece, to repurpose into skirts; for vintage sweaters, overcoats, and any other cool merch I could get my cheap little hands on.
Putting outfits together fascinates me. I always like to insert a little unexpected juxtaposition in there. Menswear elements with eyelet lace. Pre-Raphaelite cowgirl? Sure. Stevie Nicks meets Mrs. Roper? Okay, let’s try that.
My mother was not a large person, and I think she was embarrassed and overwhelmed by my size. I wanted to dress like the other kids, whether the clothing was “flattering” or not. I wanted bomber jackets, bell bottoms, and platform shoes. She felt I should be camouflaged, mostly for my own protection. As we all know, though, kids are mean, and there’s no hiding being a foot taller than the other girls. “Navy blue is a sensible colour for Big Girls,” I heard. That turned me off the colour for life. “Big girls can’t wear (ruffles, pleats, big patterns, horizontal stripes, etc., etc., etc.)”. Oh yeah? No one puts Baby in the corner.
One thing I will be forever grateful for is that Mum taught me to sew. She realized that I would always have trouble getting things to fit. My mother was an amazing seamstress. She had a unique sense of style, and after she retired from teaching, she went to work at Fabricland. I’m not sure whether her motivation was the actual paycheque, or just access to their employee discount.
When I got my first student job, I found that suddenly I had money to buy and make my own clothes. I wasn’t under anyone’s fashion thumb anymore, and I think I may have gone a little off the deep end. Dobby is a free elf! I cheerfully admit I am a boho hot mess: a swirl of fringe and paisley, a little too much, and my favourite colour is All of Them. I took the words I had heard so many times, “you can carry off that dramatic look because you’re so tall” and ran with them like Usain Bolt. Do my clothes “flatter” me? I have no idea. What does that mean, anyway? Hide the parts of myself that I’ve been conditioned to believe are unacceptable, so no one has to be “offended” by seeing my body? Whatever.
I tell you what – I’ve been fat, and I’ve been slim. In my adult life, I’ve worn everything from a size 12 (at a time when I was so thin from stress and worry that I made myself ill) to a size 24 when my weight got really out of control, and was starting to affect my health. I am larger than I’d like to be right now, around a 20, depending . I’m most comfortable with myself at around size 16. But regardless of where my size was at, I’m still six feet tall with a 36″ inseam. Surprisingly, that never changes.
So, I have trouble finding clothes. I shop online a lot, and I have a couple of favourite retailers (One Stop Plus and Zulilly, mostly). Long Tall Sally (formerly Tall Girl) is very expensive, so although I drop in and ogle every time I’m in the city, I rarely buy very much there. We don’t have a tall specialty store in Peterborough. Staff at Old Navy here told me that they don’t stock tall jeans anymore because no one buys them. Umm, hello? I am buying them. I can get them online, though. Walmart is okay for basic things, sometimes, but I don’t like supporting the Mega Monster Godzilla store. There’s the plus size specialties, Penningtons and Addition Elle, but often I find Penningtons clothing is not good quality for the money, and I can seldom find what I’m after.
I’ve learned a lot of work-arounds. One piece bathing suits are out. They’re never long enough and are torturous to wear. Tankinis work. I roll up my sleeves quite often, as they’re never long enough. I wear more skirts than pants, because pants are almost never long enough in regular stores. I wear short boots, because long boots either don’t fit my calves or aren’t long enough and look funny.
In short (pun intended), regular stores and regular clothes are often a nightmare for me. Either nothing is big enough, or it’s big enough, but not long enough, or it’s exorbitantly expensive. Someone long ago decided that large women really liked synthetic fabrics, baggy styles, and ugly prints.
So, imagine how excited I was to hear that Melissa McCarthy was coming out with a clothing line. I LOVE her. I loved her on Gilmore Girls as sweet, neurotic Sookie. I howled over her in “Bridesmaids”. I even liked “Identity Theft”, which was almost universally panned. She’s unapologetic and outspoken, and takes up as much space as she wants to, thank you very much.
I have never been quite so disappointed in anything as I was with “Melissa McCarthy Seven7”.
She stated that her mission was to make the clothes she wanted to wear, to make high-quality, stylish, dramatic pieces for larger bodies.
Everything in the collection, almost without exception, is black, white or grey. It consists almost entirely of baggy overshirts paired with skinny pants and leggings. And they are not cheap! Jeans are $119, and fairly simple tops weigh in at between $59 and $89. If the clothing was truly exceptional, I would perhaps be willing to pay that, but it’s simply not. I am quite underwhelmed by this collection.
My point, I suppose, is that I always saw her as an icon of body positivity; an in-your-face, “here I am, ain’t I gorgeous?” beacon of hope for those of us whose bodies don’t fit into the little box that society tells us is acceptable.
I wanted MORE. I wanted clothes that fit, yes, but FITTED clothes, not baggy tents. I wanted beautiful details and eye-popping colour combinations. If she can’t do it, who can?
Melissa McCarthy, I’m sorry. I still love you, but I’m really disappointed. I don’t think these clothes reflect your sunny, hilarious, confident, outspoken personality. I think I’ll stick with doing my own thing. I hereby give you, me and all of us, permission to take up as much space as we require, and to wear whatever makes us happy in that space.