Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chronic Disease & Disability in Grad School

Even though I'm less busy now that I've passed my exams, my comorbid chronic diseases have decided to flare up, after fortunately offering me a respite during the last few weeks of my exam period. Commenter hleighh asked me to write about how I manage depression and chronic disease in grad school, and I think now is a perfect time to do so.

The short version is that it's difficult. I feel so ecstatic that I survived my comprehensive exams, because I was never sure if I would survive, not just pass, but survive. I've never been more depressed than I was during the past year, with what felt like all the pressure in the world riding on my ability to remember and analyze my reading despite many months of fibro fog, severe pain, anxiety, and depression.

To be frank, Xanax and beta blockers helped me a lot. I got a prescription for Xanax the semester before I started studying for my exams, and I don't take it regularly, but when I need it, I REALLY need it. This summer, there were periods of time when I could not study without having a full-blown panic attack.

What helped? Asking for help when I needed it. Giving myself permission to be less than the best when it came to my teaching in order to focus my energy on caring for myself and getting my studying done. I regularly studied with Cee, who has about a month left until her exam (good luck, Cee!), and that helped a lot, to feel like I wasn't alone. Also? RuPaul.

It sounds silly, maybe, but a clip from RuPaul's Drag Race always made me feel better. I've tried to find it on Youtube, but I haven't been able to. Basically, RuPaul tells the drag queens that they can't ever let someone else determine their self-worth, that they have to build up their self-esteem and never forget they're fabulous, but that no one can tell them that, they have to believe it themselves, they have to walk through the fire and "earn it." Every single time I listened to the audio clip, I felt better. Impostor syndrome was strong with me, and it was difficult to fight it. Something about studying all day every day makes you go a little loopy. I couldn't concentrate. My attention span waned and all of my insecurities were ramped up. And you know, I didn't expect this, but having passed my exams, having "walked through the fire," I do feel a great deal more confident. Having done this, I feel like I can do anything.

I have to admit that part of that confidence comes from the fact that a week before my exam, my poetry collection (which will be my dissertation) was accepted for publication. For a creative writer, having a book is absolutely the best thing that can happen, and it's what I've wished for my entire life. Having that accomplishment gave me the extra boost I needed to ge through the exam. In fact, after my orals, I experience a strange dissonance; I was furious that it hadn't been more difficult. Everyone tells me this is because I was prepared, and they're probably right. I just felt so frustrated that I spent a year working so hard, and then felt that the questions asked weren't challenging. (I didn't feel that way about the written exam, btw.)

Most of all, self-care was important. Now self-care has recently come under fire, but Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha  wrote a brilliant piece recently about the important role self-care plays for disabled and diseased folks. For me, self-care meant going to bed at 10 and getting up by 8. It meant adopting a dog last September, because I needed some other mammal to be my companion, someone to make me get up in the morning. It meant drinking A LOT of herbal tea (in a stress-relief blend). It meant asking for a lot of help from friends, who overwhelmed me with their care and love, their support through food. During my 72-hour written exam, I craved pancakes, and a friend brought me not only a stack of fresh pancakes, but also two kinds of homemade soup and jam.

It is not easy for me to ask for help. I was raised by folks who believe heartily in the bootstrap myth, because that worked for them, and it's been a huge challenge for me to recognize that my physical abilities require me to get help from others, which requires asking, because I live alone (with my pets).

Being disabled and diseased has meant I need to not pursue certain opportunities. I've had to turn down fellowships for writing residencies that, it turned out, weren't accessible to me. I haven't been very social at all, and that's been very lonely, but I have a lot of days when I need to spend the day in bed on painkillers. Sometimes I've missed a lot more classes than allowed, and not all professors are sympathetic. It's difficult. I'm glad that my field is one that is relatively conducive to illness, in that I can sometimes feel awful and still get a lot of reading done, rather than having to go into a lab and do work, but so often I have a migraine as part of my pain, and I can't do anything but feel pain.

I guess the truth is, I don't have many answers for how to do this, other than recounting how I've managed it.

And it's also the reason why there haven't been any posts here in about a month. I have been getting dressed to go to class, but not in anything special. I'm having difficulty getting through the day again. I think a lot of it is that all the stress I couldn't deal with during the month of my exam caught up to me, and I'm so fatigued. I've been sleeping literally all day, getting dressed to go teach, then coming back home, getting back into pajamas and going back to bed. Fortunately I did a thorough job planning my class, so there's not much prep work to be done. I also have some senioritis. I'm graduating in the spring, and I'm using my already-written manuscript as my dissertation (upon the advice of my committee chair), so while I do have to plan my class for the spring, as well as revising my dissertation manuscript, I fortunately don't have that much to do (other than job applications, which are stressful).

In fact, even writing this has used up a lot of spoons, so I'm going to end it here, but I'd love to have a discussion about coping mechanisms with disease and disability in grad school.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Sweetest Acronym

Y'all. I passed my exams. I'm ABD!

I'm sorry for my long absence. I just found out yesterday, and I totally forgot to take outfit photos the last few times I left the house, but you haven't missed anything (except that I got these colored jeans from Lane Bryant and they're amazing).

I feel so relieved that I passed and now strangely, wonderfully empowered with my new almost-doctor status.

I drank a bottle of champagne and Skyped with my NOLOSE roommate last night to celebrate, and then promptly requested letters of recommendation and started working on my job letters and CV for the market.

Really, the pressure never ends, it just changes.

But I'm feeling very good because I'm ABD, my first book is getting published (I found that out just a little bit ago), and there's something about putting together a CV that makes me feel really proud of how far I've come and grateful that I've survived despite disability, systemic oppression, chronic disease and depression.

Next week is fall break, and then expect more regular posts to resume.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I Wore to Exams

Today I'm going to take the oral section of my exam. It's three hours in a room with my five professors, and I am nervous, but I also feel prepared. I anticipate there will be some moments when I don't know the answers to the questions asked, but I know my committee wishes me well. Now I just have to relax, breathe, and have a great conversation with them.

This is the dress I'm wearing, by Bertha Pearl of Size Queen Designs, out of PDX.

Dress: Size Queen

I wore this dress during the Friday Night Fashion Show at NOLOSE (that's actually what this photo is from), and I felt so comfortable and confident in this dress. I love houndstooth, and I love the sleeve length. It's very comfortable, and I think it's professional as well (I'm wearing a teal camisole under it today).

I am looking forward to passing my orals, then making it through the 72-hour written exam, which I'll start on Friday afternoon and finish on Monday afternoon. This is the biggest thing I will do as a PhD student, since the dissertation defense is not nearly as scary and stressful.

Thanks for all your support and for following along!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I've been trying to write this post all week. I have so much to say about NOLOSE, but I have a lot to process, and no time before my exams to process. I'll be talking about the issues raised at NOLOSE for a long time.

NOLOSE is not a traditional academic conference in any way, though for those of us interested in fat studies and intersectionality, it's a great way to put our activism into practice. From the NOLOSE website:
NOLOSE started out as the National Organization for Lesbians of SizE. As the years passed and the organization grew, we changed our mission to include not only a broader community of queer women—dykes, lesbians and bisexual women, including transgender women—but also transgender people overall.
After a while, it became clear that this identity-based attendance rule was no longer working for the majority of the NOLOSE community. After much facilitated discussion and careful thought, the NOLOSE Board of Directors decided that participation in the NOLOSE community and attendance at the annual NOLOSE Conference would no longer be identity-based; we now welcome all who share an ideological and activist commitment to fat and queer liberation, as well as anti-oppression politics in general. For more information, please see our gender policy, announced and posted in July 2011. In effect, this policy means that all genders and identities will be welcome at future NOLOSE conferences.
For me, NOLOSe is one of the only places I feel like I can be my whole self--fat, queer, genderqueer, disabled, a poet, an academic, sexy, struggling. It isn't a completely safe space, but it is the safest one I've found, and it is in that spirit that I'm going to share my experiences at the conference, knowing that many of our new readers are folks I met at the conference this year. And I want to remind you that we are eager for submissions from everyone, so just email asktippet at gmail.

I didn't get photos of all my outfits. I wanted to bring my dSLR camera, but ultimately, I had to admit that I couldn't take everything I wanted. I was low on spoons all weekend, but managed to rally in a way I'm not usually able to. I really think that the combination of having a dog who MUST go outside by 6 in the morning every day no matter what and the discipline of going to bed at 10 and getting up at 6 almost every day for the past year has given me the ability to get up and go in ways I couldn't (or wouldn't) when I was younger. I was so impressed by my reserves of energy this weekend!

I have to be honest and tell you that I am not quite sure how to talk about NOLOSE. I'm still processing everything I experience this weekend. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life, allowing me space to struggle with my own demons, from disordered eating, to letting go of being a "good white person" as I do the difficult anti-racist work required of me. NOLOSE is a very special place I feel grateful to have in my life, most of all because of the connections forged.

And, of course, for the fashion.

I feel free to wear things at NOLOSE that I would not wear elsewhere, and each year I push my boundaries a bit, and carry home with me some of those shifting boundaries I can bring to my every day life. For example, today I wore the same blue maxi dress I've worn before, but without anything over it, meaning my tattoos showed. And when one student asked me what my female symbol heart tattoo meant, I told them it meant I'm a lesbian. It was strange to come out so casually, but it also felt right.

Anyway, on to the outfits. For the first day of the conference, I wore this gem:

I apologize for the low quality of the photo. I'm wearing a red t-shirt that says "I'm Fat Let's Party" (purchased from here), a black ruffly skirt from Old Navy a year ago, and yellow teggings. I got so many compliments on this shirt, and saw several other folks wearing the shirt, too. It was fun to wear a skirt I'd normally think was too short, and a shirt that would invite unwelcome comments outside of NOLOSE. I've actually had this shirt for a year, but never worn it. 

Another big outfit moment for me was wearing a fatkini for the first time. It felt so much better to swim in fewer clothes, and I'm so glad it was warmer this year, since last year it was way too cold to swim.

The bikini is from ByRoDesigns on Etsy. I'd never worn it before. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd have the courage to wear it anywhere else, but it is empowering to explicitly, purposefully transgress when it comes to the rules of fashion. "No one want to see that," we are told, but my body is not there for others to stare at, but for me to enjoy. Wearing clothes intentionally feels like an act of radical subversion.

At Margitte's Fatshion panel, we discussed a lot of great issues involved in fashion for fatties, like the trouble we have once we size out of even plus size stores, as well as differing opinions of what it means to be Femme and what responsibility we have to be "on" all the time. That's a topic I'll get back to later.

I ended up bringing way two many clothes. At one point, I couldn't decide what to wear, so I put on all my clothes on top of each other and made my roommate help me decide which layer looked best. It was pretty hilarious. Mostly, I feel like NOLOSE was an amazing array of gorgeous fat folks sporting incredible fashions, a really affirming place for me--it feels good to be complimented by someone who understands 1) how hard you worked to find that outfit that fits you and 2) how dangerous it feels to wear it in public and 3) is hot, fat, and queer themselves. I got to model in the fashion show on Friday night, and ended up buying the dress. It felt like it was made for me, and I plan to wear it to my exam on Wednesday. 

The truth is, I have so many things I want to say and explain and process and explore about NOLOSE, but a lot of it doesn't feel ready for a blog, and moreover, I have no time to blog until after my exams. But I do have some exciting news for when I return. I plan to take a photo of myself the day of my exam, to show what I wore for the big test, and then expect some radio silence until a week later.

Thanks to all the rad fatties I met who are reading this. Please don't forget to submit your own posts!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Off to Fatlandia

I wish I were the type of blogger who could take meticulous photos of my packing process for a big conference, but alas, two weeks before my exams with at least two meetings a day all week, and low on spoons from my chronic disease, so no big post or photos for you. :)

I'm headed to NOLOSE tomorrow, a conference for fat queers and our allies, and I am presenting a workshop on Sunday about being fat in academia.

Hoping to take some photos (probably iPhone photos) of outfits and events over the week, but I'm not promising anything but a recap.

Barely able to stay awake right now.

Farewell until Fatlandia!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Feminist Killjoy

I'm feeling gleeful today, because yesterday I "passed" my mock exam! What does this mean? Well, four of my friends and colleagues who had already taken and passed their exams came over and pretended to be my committee, asking me questions four three hours about my exam list. It was grueling and I felt just as nervous as if I were taking the real test; they were very convincing with their impersonations! But I did much better than I anticipated, and I have a better idea of what I need to study now, so I think the mock exam was a rousing success.

This is the first time in months I've woken up hopeful and confident that I can pass!

Today in the mail I got this necklace from a friend, (it's a gold necklace that reads "Feminist Killjoy," and it was purchased from this awesome Etsy shop). My friend wanted to give me a "passing present" early to show how much confidence she has in me. This is a friend I've known since college, and she's since gone on to achieve ABD status in another field. It means so much to have the support of my friends and to know they believe in me.

I'm enjoying a long weekend to bone up on my areas of weakness. 18 more days until the oral part of my exams (then a day of rest before 72 hours for the written. Then I will collapse and pray until I find out whether or not I passed! It's nice to have an extra day to study and play fetch with my dog, who has been a great comfort to me. During the mock exam, he slept by my side the entire time, and it made me so much more calm to have him with me.

Next week I'm headed to the NOLOSE conference, and I am so looking forward to wearing daring outfits I'm not yet comfortable enough to wear at home, reconnect with my rad fatty family, and challenge my own boundaries and ways of thinking at great panels, including my own on being fat in academia. I'm a bit stressed about going to a conference two weeks before my exams and missing four days of studying (though I will be bringing some books with me, at least on my Kindle!), but I hope it will be uplifting and rejuvenating to see my friends and get to talk about fat and intersectionality for a weekend. NOLOSE allows me to develop the radical activist side of my academic interests, and transform theory into practice. It feels so necessary to be able to focus on how to strike back (the theme of this year's conference) against fat oppression, instead of just theorizing about it. I hope it will full me with power and I will go into my exams knowing I am powerful and awesome and capable and I will rock the heck out of my exams.

Proud to be a feminist killjoy. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Winded Wednesday

Is it really only Wednesday? I've started a new medication, and I'm really having a hard time adjusting to its side effects. They're supposed to go away after a few weeks, but right now, I'm feeling so lightheaded and weak, which is a hazard when walking across campus and teaching.

My outfit today isn't exactly as I wanted it to be (despite owning several black belts, I couldn't locate a single one this morning), but I'm happy with how my pattern mixing worked out.

I think that wearing a shirt over a dress (or a skirt over a dress) is a great way to extend and remix your wardrobe. As you can see in the later photos, this is a totally different look as a dress and as a top over a dress. After taking these photos this morning, I tucked in the bits of the dress that were sticking out of the shirt before I left for campus, but I really like the mix of polka dots and stripes, and my defiance of the fashion maxim that fat women can't wear stripes. 

This is a very casual dress, but I think the polka dot top breaks up the pattern and makes it a little more formal and interesting. As I said, I think it would have been a better outfit with a black belt to further accentuate the boundary between shirt and dress, but oh well. 

Dress: Old Navy
Top: Lane Bryant
Necklace: I honestly can't remember where I got this.

It's so hot today (100 degrees), and the top is fitted, not flexible at all, so it wasn't actually comfortable. I  wanted to be more comfy hanging around the house, cleaning and studying, so I took off the polka dot top when I got home. The dress came with a matching tie belt, but I didn't bother putting it back on.

Do you ever mix patterns?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blue Monday

I don't have time in the mornings to take outfit photos, so they are always taken as soon as I come home. I'm usually tired and sweaty and cranky. I look at these photos and all I and summon to feel about this outfit is: Well. I am clothed. So that's good. Also I think my legs look thinner than they appear to me in my mind, which is a neutral statement, not good or bad, just an interesting thing about viewing photographs of yourself and comparing them with your mental image of yourself. I didn't intend to wear teggings with this outfit, but when I got dressed, the dress was shorter than I anticipated, and you could see the cotton bike shorts I usually wear under dresses to prevent chafing. Not a cute look. So teggings it was. This dress is not that comfortable. It's tighter than I'm comfortable with, and I definitely have some VBO showing, but looking at the photos, I don't look as bad as I thought I did. 

I'm making that face because my cat was doing something funny at that moment.

Dress: LucieLu
Camisole: Lane Bryant
Teggings: Re/Dress
Necklace: Gift, but from Etsy

Black and white polka dots are one of my favorite patterns. I probably have (at least) a dozen articles of clothing in this pattern with a variety of dot sizes. I was glad I was wearing teggings, too because they are so damn comfortable. I wanted to wear cuter shoes, but I still have a nasty blister on my toe I'm letting heal, and these are orthopedic flip flops.

Today was a tough teaching day, because we read an essay on abortion, talked about immigration (and some of my white students said some really racist things that, understandably, offended my Latina/o students. It was a difficult day as a teacher, and I wished I'd been wearing something more professorial, but right now, with 23 days until my PhD exams and the heat rendering most of my clothes obsolete, I feel happy when I make it to class in anything other than my pajamas.

I don't know if you've heard about the high school shooting in Maryland today (on their first day of school), but as a teacher, it's always so terrifying to hear about. Especially when I teach a class on controversial topics, I do fear becoming a target, though I of course try to show compassion to all my students. Part of my goal in my classes like this is to help students learn how to discuss emotional, controversial topics in a calm and respectful manner. Not that school shootings necessarily have anything to do with a teacher or classmate's political opinions, I just get uncomfortable sometimes. I think it's hard to be in a classroom on a day like today.

Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but it feels emotional to me.

What did you wear today?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Maximum Comfort

This has been an incredibly busy week, so busy that I didn't even have a chance to take a photo of my outfit yesterday, which I actually really liked. It was a grey dress with grey and yellow flowers on the bottom (much like the Old Navy dress the other day) with yellow teggings (teggings are an awesome super stretchy combo between leggings and tights from Re/Dress). I had two meetings with committee members on campus, and a department Welcome Back party for faculty, grad students, and their families. I wanted to be comfortable yet put-together, and not too formal. The outfit ended up being perfect, though I'm always a tad insecure when I don't get comments from others on my outfit.

There was a funny moment with one of my professors yesterday (unrelated to fashion), who is a self-identified butch lesbian. She was trying to offer advice on exam tactics, and used a sports metaphor. Knowing very little about sports, I had to ask for clarification, and I jokingly said, "Remember, I'm Femme!" she laughed and said, "This is where our genders come into play," and joked about telling her Femme partner about this. (I want to note that of course Femmes can enjoy and understand sports, but I happen to not be one of them, and it was a funny moment). It was the kind of moment where saying I'm Femme was shorthand for so many other things about my identity, and it felt so comfortable to be able to use that vocabulary with a professor and have them just implicitly understand. I also love the way my professor referred to our respective butch/femme identities as our genders, because that is how I think about my Femme identity. I'm not a man or a woman, I'm a Femme.

Today I am killing some time between the time I woke up, took out and fed the dog and when I can take him to daycare. I honestly have no idea what I'm going to wear today. I have some options, but I'm so tired, I just long for comfort. I have to teach this morning, and all I really want to do is sleep in. It is supposed to be hot today. If it were colder weather, I'd throw on a comfy dress, colorful scarf, and leggings, but I know that will be too warm for the walk from my car.

I also have a meeting after lunch with another committee member, and even though we're meeting at a coffeeshop, I still want to look nice.

I actually ended up wearing the exact same maxi dress/grey blazer combo I'm wearing in this shot here. It worked out well, because I was able to take off the blazer when my classes were done and when the weather heated up, but still felt more professional in the classroom.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

OOTD Wednesday

Today's outfit did not go as planned at all. First of all, my dog had to go outside at 4:50 am, and I couldn't get back to sleep for an hour, which meant I slept in too late to take a shower like I'd planned. Which meant 3-day-old hair for me. Not how I wanted to start my 2nd day of teaching, but with some dry shampoo and another bun, I think it worked out ok.

Dress: Old Navy
Shoes: Orthaheel 
Glasses: Warby Parker

I'd planned to wear a hunter green shift dress with a gray blazer and a gold necklace. I had it all picked out and ready to go, but when I tried it on, I didn't feel comfortable with the level of VBO (visual belly outline). I'm trying to get more comfortable showing my VBOs, and I think this website celebrating the VBO is great, but some days I just don't have the spoons to be that risky with my fashion choices, and I think it is a risk for a fat, femme-presenting person to wear clothes that don't make every attempt to hide the fact that they are fat. It's a ridiculous attempt. No outfit is going to make anyone think I'm skinny. I'm not skinny. I'll never be skinny. I don't want to be skinny. But some days comfort (physical and emotional) comes first. Next I tried on my first-day-of-school dress from last year, but the top half was way too transparent for the bright pink bra I was already wearing, and I didn't have time to find another clean bra, so I grabbed this dress, which I have actually never worn. I love the floral pattern, but the purple/burgundy color is not one I typically choose. However, it's comfortable, and it worked out ok.

I like how you can see my bun in the mirror in this shot!

I think I ended up looking ok, and it was a comfortable dress, but I was so frustrated that my first two outfits didn't work out. I am also still having such a hard time getting up in the morning. I'm incredibly stressed about my upcoming exams and busy setting up meetings with my committee members for last minute advice and check-ins, and I'm really not a morning person. I'll be honest, too. I'm having a hard time with how I look right now. I HATE looking at these photos of myself. I always feel like I look better in the mirror, or the image I have in my mind than in a photograph. My body has changed so much over the past ten years, and even though I believe in body positivity, it's a struggle to always believe my ideals. Additionally, I'm sick of hot weather. I long for the weather to get cold enough to wear tights or leggings, cardigans, and sweaters. Pants! I am always happy when it gets warm enough to go without a jacket, but autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, so I really expectantly await the return of the cold.

I am glad that I have several different outfits lined up for these next few weeks, though. It helps quite a bit to have a rack of clothes from which I can choose rather than scrambling to find everything. I look forward to organizing my clothing after I'm done with exams!

How do you style yourself when things don't go according to plan?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What to Wear for Exams

I have a query for our readers. I know you're out there, because the stat counter says so. I hope a direct question will get you to start commenting. We want this to be an open discussion!

I take my PhD exams (prelims, quals, whatever you call them in your department) in 29 days, and I'm stumped as to what I should wear! I want to be comfortable and not restricted, but I still want to look nice. I also will be sitting for 3 hours (we take our orals first), and my committee will see the top half of me, so I'd like the better focus to be on my upper body. So many of my favorite dresses have more interesting skirts that I feel unsure of what to wear. I would prefer to wear a dress because it's just easier to wear, one less thing to put on.

When E. from Academichic sat for her written exam, she wore patterned tights, a scarf, a sweater dress, and boots, but I suspect it will still be rather hot when I take my exams in less than a month. I like the idea of bringing a cardigan, but I'm just so unsure of what to pick! I know I'll feel better once I have an outfit lined up.

What did you wear for your exams? What do you think I should wear?

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Day of Classes

Despite much anxiety about a last-minute course location switch, and the scrambling around that entailed this weekend, my first two classes went well, and I like the new building in which I'm teaching. I teach two sections of the same class back-to-back, and requested these sections because they were both in the same building, making it easy for me (with my very slow gait and use of a cane) to get to the room in time. Well, Friday evening, the room and building changed for my second class from the same building to a building much farther away. I went to campus on Saturday and timed how long it took me to walk from one building to the next, and it took me almost 15 minutes, which is all the time I have between classes. Apparently my school has a habit of doing this to teachers, and it's bad enough for an able-bodied instructor, but for someone who is disabled and suffers a great deal of pain when walking, it's completely unacceptable. They refused to change the room of my classroom, so I found a colleague who taught at the same time as my early class, but in the same building as my second class so that I only have to change floors. I'm now teaching in a completely new (to me) part of campus, one undergoing a great deal of construction and, basically, a huge clusterfuck, but I made it and I taught, and it went well.

This is what I wore:

Dress: Lucie Lu
Shoes: Softwalk Jupiter
Necklace: gift from my French host family years ago
Glasses: Warby Parker

You can't see my top knot/bun, which I'm really proud of (tutorial here), so here's another photo, 
though it looks better in person. I use this brush to tease my hair.

I'm currently feeling exhausted, sitting eating my lunch, listening to a story about disability access on Talk of the Nation on NPR ("Wheelchairs Welcome? Not Everywhere."), which feels completely appropriate to the day I've had today.

First of all, I rarely photograph with my cane, because I keep my main cane in my car, since I don't use the cane to hobble around my apartment, but whenever I am on campus (or anywhere I am walking a lot), I use my cane, and even though I am capable of standing and walking, it is with great pain that I do so. The cane makes it slightly less painful for me to stand and walk, because it offers me added support. I can't personally speak to the difficulties wheelchair users face, though I have a lot of friends who use wheelchairs and I'm frequently aware of the lack of access everywhere.

The new building in which I'm teaching this semester does not have any handicapped access as far as I can tell. There are stairs into every entrance (part of the building is obscured because of construction on the adjoining building) and there is no signage directing one to the elevator. I had a moment of crip solidarity with another woman using a cane as we both happily discovered the elevator on the opposite end of the building from the entrance labeled "Handicapped" (that had a flight of stairs up to it). We discussed how hard it was to get around with the construction and how thankful we were to get to an elevator. I get anxious when I can't find an elevator because, while I can walk up and down stairs, it costs me spoons I need for teaching and navigating the rest of my day. I get so frustrated when a public university fails when it comes to access.

But I am happy with how my classes went, and now that I know where I'm teaching, it shouldn't be too terrible. It is hot today, so I wanted my outfit to be comfortable yet professional and still represent my femme identity. I also like that this dress has sleeves. I feel more professional when my shoulders are covered. I love the blue in this dress; it's one of my favorite colors, and I love the suit-like skirt to this dress, plus it's very comfortable.

What did you wear on your first day of school?

Sunday, August 19, 2012


It is stressful being in academia, and I have exactly one month until my comprehensive exams, so I took  this day before the semester starts to take care of myself. I think it is vital for activist academics to take care of ourselves so that we can help others, even though it's so easy to forget self-care. Being a teacher can be draining on its own, but on top of being a graduate student, preparing for exams and going on the job market, it's so important to make sure we don't burn out. 

I took a long bath and used this homemade sugar scrub exfoliant, using two tablespoons of honey, two tablespoons olive oil, and four tablespoons granulated sugar. It felt delicious and worked great.

I'm sad that I wasn't able to attend FemmeCon with my friends, so I've been wearing this robe during my day of last-minute syllabus prep and self-care. It's my favorite new item for my pajama femme/lazy femme days:

Robe from Aupple Aupple on Etsy, glasses from Warby Parker

I took some time to organize my vanity in my bathroom (featuring wonderful art from the fabulous to make it easier to get ready before my early morning classes. In the mirror, you can see the reflection of my necklaces, which I put up on the wall to keep them organized, untangled, and also so I see them and remember to wear them.

My nail polish and hair brushes:

I love this Ugly Femme Pride postcard from Definatalie (with my face wash regime)

more of the same:

My jewelry and a drawing reading "Worlds Fattest Lady Doesn't Give a Fuck" (Definatalie again)

Having an organized vanity like this makes me feel fancy and makes it so easy to take care of myself during these stressful times.

What are your self-care tactics? Are you looking forward to getting back to school?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Conspicuous Consumption

I am a compulsive shopper, with the embarrassing credit card debt to show for it. 

Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money for and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power—either the buyer’s income or the buyer’s accumulated wealth. Sociologically, to the conspicuous consumer, such a public display of discretionary economic power is a means either of attaining or of maintaining a given social status. Thorstein Veblen, a sociologist and economist, first wrote about the idea in the nineteenth-century. With the growth of the leisure class, the acquisition and display of material goods that are not actually necessary to life became a way to flaunt one's class status. 

Growing up as a fat girl, I constantly struggled to find anything to wear, not to mention finding anything cute. Getting dressed for church, when I had to wear nice clothes, always resulted in tears because of how uncomfortable I felt about my body. Not because of anything my family said to me, but  because of the larger culture. Though I wasn't conscious of it at the time, I believe that part of the motivation for my decade of butch presentation was that it was (slightly) easier to find clothes, and I was able to hide my body under baggy clothes and layers. After my divorce, I started exploring the femme side of my identity, and accepting that side to myself that I had previously felt ashamed of. I started reading fashion blogs and discovered the world of fatshion blogging. There are so many amazing bloggers out there of all sizes, and through them I discovered a whole world of online plus-size retailers. At this point, just starting out, I didn't have a single dress, and I had a legitimate need for new clothes, having gotten rid of most of my wardrobe when I moved to a new town to start my PhD. I started buying clothes compulsively. Everything I saw on another blogger's site, I had to have for myself. I started blogging my own outfits, and that fed my desire to always have a new outfit to wear. There is so much pressure in the fashion blogging world to never repeat an outfit, which is ridiculous since few people have the funds to buy a new outfit every day. 

I kept buying and buying in order to blog about my outfits. I feel like there are some really wonderful things about the fatshion blogging community--I've never had many fat positive friends, so the community I found online was invaluable, but the subtle "outfit Olympics" across the blogosphere rarely makes room for considerations of class. I went from hardly ever shopping for clothing to buying something literally every day. I felt so much pressure to prove my femmeness through external signification. When Beth Ditto came out with a mini collection at Evans UK, I had to buy up all the pieces I could. I had this starvation economy mentality that caused me to collect and hoard clothes because of my years of never finding clothes that fit. 

So much of femme identity seems, deceptively, about external appearance, even though most of us believe that femme is more than skin deep. No matter what I'm wearing, I'm femme. I'm trying hard to learn that now, as well as combatting stereotypes about what a queer person should look like, and fighting femmephobia. 

Sarah Lazorovic painted a picture of everything she didn't buy for a year and wrote this brief piece on consumption. She writes about the trouble of instant gratification the internet offers. I would see a blogger with a skinny red belt, and I would google away and find a similar skinny red belt. By the time it arrived, I'd already forgotten about it. I'm ashamed to admit that my den/closet (my den is supposed to be the main bedroom, but I wanted a larger office than bedroom, so my large closet is in my den) quickly filled up with packages I avoided even opening because I felt so much shame and embarrassment over my conspicuous consumption. I bought indiscriminately because I had no idea what my style was, after so long presenting as butch. I bought whatever I saw other people wear, and looking back at outfits (even outfits from last year posted on this blog), I shake my head at myself. At the same time, I understand where this scarcity mentality comes from. Not just from the dearth of clothing options in my size for most of my life, but also the fact that I have, on several occasions, lost all my clothes, once in a fire, and twice in floods. This causes me to hoard and accumulate when I can, for fear of losing it all again.

I feel this pressure toward overconsumption especially in academia, where expensive suits are expected on the job market, and my size has changed a lot in the last few years because of various medications I'm on that yo-yo my weight and size. It's hard to invest in good pieces when your size changes the next year and you have to buy a new blazer. I'm not sure if I'm trying to live up to my more fashionable colleagues (which is difficult when their favorite stores don't stock clothes in my size), or combat the stereotype of the slovenly academic, but it feels to me like there is a lot of pressure to measure up in my personal appearance in the classroom.

Now that I have a better sense of my own style--what I like to wear and what makes me feel good--this year, I am hoping to combat my overconsumption by 1) selling and donating items that I no longer wear for whatever reason, 2) remixing my wardrobe and getting more use out of the clothes I already have, 3) making a list of clothing items I think I want and waiting to buy them unless I actually find a need for them (which will almost always mean not buying them), and 4) accessorizing 

How do you combat the pressure to (over)consume on a small budget and the drive to "prove" yourself as a femme and/or fashionista?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Fat Body (In)visible

For those of you who haven't yet gotten a chance to watch "The Fat Body (In)visible," here is the trailer for the film, created by UCSD PhD student Margitte Kristjansson

The Fat Body (In)visible from Margitte Kristjansson on Vimeo.

Margitte will be screening the film at the upcoming NOLOSE conference in Oakland, and also leading a workshop entitled "Dressing the Fat Body: What Does Fatshion Mean to You?"
For fatties, fashion can be an incredibly fraught issue. Problems of access and societal pressures to "hide" our fat often leave us frustrated. And yet, fatshion can be a wonderful thing. Many of us have MAJOR feelings about our clothes, and we like to share our fashion stories with each other. This workshop aims to discuss fat fashion and the ways we use clothing to fashion our*selves*. Where do our emotional attachments come from? Why are we so eager to share fatshion with each other? Why is fatshion so often a gateway to fat political consciousness? Let's explore these questions and more! All genders and presentations welcome.
Do check out her film, available for purchase. Buy yourself a copy and request your library purchase one for their collection! I plan to show this film in my Rhet/Comp class this semester.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An (old) OOTD

Sorting through some photos to find a cover page for our NEW FACEBOOK PAGE, I came across this gem from my early femme days (2010...)

November fashion, doing the 30 x 30 challenge from Kendi Everyday, and matching my book to my tights. Irigaray, once again!

A New Semester

Next Monday, the 2012-2013 school year begins, and I'm thrilled that my syllabus is all ready, and after a year of relaxed and boring (but comfortable) study wear, I'm eager to get back to exploring professional yet fun academic fashion again. I cannot promise any regular blogging, but I do hope to get back to it now and then. I just signed up for dry cleaning delivery and as you can see, I'm starting to get my clothes organized before Monday. I have a month until my PhD exam, so I'm going to be quite stressed and distracted until I pass exams, and I'm going to a conference (the NOLOSE conference) at the beginning of September, so I'll be incredibly busy. But I'm trying to take one day at a time. 

I think my look for this semester is going to be mostly blazers over dresses, a look I started wearing earlier this summer. Here I am at my parents' house (in my mom and dad's amazing closet) back in May, wearing a blazer from SWAK, and a dress from Lane Bryant. I love the mix of hard and soft, masculine & feminine in this look, and I like mixing a solid color with a bright pattern.

This semester, I'm teaching two back-to-back sections of Rhetoric & Composition, and I'm focusing a lot on social justice issues. Standing in front of the classroom as a disabled (I use a cane on campus because there's so much walking), fat, queer person in a very conservative state makes me turn my thoughts once again to the impact fashion has in the classroom. There has been so much active hatred toward difference lately, through hate crimes against queers, to attacks on Sikh gurdwaras and Muslim mosques, and I feel a great responsibility to help my students feel compassion and understanding toward those who are different than themselves. I am the most visible and immediate example of difference for them, and I take that responsibility seriously. In my office, I have posted an Audre Lorde quote:

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Concern with sartorial choices often gets accused of superficiality, but I think the way we present ourselves to the world, and the ways, for better or worse, that people perceive us based in part by those choices, but also by the bodies in the clothes, is deeply relevant, and I look forward to continuing my own questions and exploration this school year.

For the rest of you going back to school, I wish you a smooth transition from summer!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Everyday I'm Studying

First of all, I want to apologize for the extreme lack of posts since beginning the blog. I did not anticipate just how busy I would be the year I started teaching three classes and studying for my PhD comprehensive exams! I've also struggled with a lot of health problems, and fashion has, unfortunately, taken a back seat. But the good news is that I'm taking my exams in September, and after fall break, I hope to get back into the blogging habit.

These days, my fashion is more comfy and less consciously sartorial, because of the reality that I spend 8-10 hours a day sitting on my couch reading.

I pretty much look like this:

me, yesterday, wearing an Old Navy compression exercise top, my Fitbit (2568 steps yesterday when I spent 8 hours reading. Quite the sedentary student I am!), and Warby Parker glasses, as well as my read of the day, Irigaray.

me, last month, reading Freud, wearing a Lane Bryant t-shirt, and Old Navy pajama pants (and Warby Parker glasses)

Spring semester, I wore this on the first day of school, an Old Navy cardigan and shirt. I don't remember what pants I was wearing, but I think it was Lane Bryant jeans. (And, yes, I was a brunette for a hot minute).

In April, I had a job interview, and I wore this:

It was a Skype interview, so this is how I looked to the prospective employers. (I didn't get the job, btw). I wore my Warby Parker glasses, a set of pearls from my grandma, a dress from Land's End, and a bolero jacket from Lucie Lu.

I clean up nice, but usually I look more like this:

Me, hiding in a custom burgandy and gold hoodie from Neighborhoodies

or this:

Me, wearing my wet hair in a towel, and a "Stay Chubby" tshirt from Dpcted Apparel

And me in a tshirt from Threadless (I think?) of the keyboard-playing cats with the moon. For awhile I was taking photos of myself with all the books I read for exams.

So that is basically the extent of my apparel this year. I dressed (slightly) better on days I had to teach, but I found as my health worsened and my energy waned, clothing was the first thing to go. I started identifying heavily with the "pajama femme" aesthetic, for femmes who are fierce but ill or broke or just don't have the energy or resources to dress fierce. Last year, when I started this blog, I imagined gleefully how cute I'd look in my very consciously put-together study outfits while at coffeeshops or my office on campus, but they closed my office, and coffeeshops cost money, so when I'm just on the couch all day, I tend to stick to pajamas, which also means there's less laundry to do.

However, my closet awaits, full of fabulous clothes, and I can't wait to start showing them off in the fall.

Thanks for sticking with us even when we're absent, and thanks for all the kind notes you've sent.

Don't forget that we gladly accept submissions and contributions, so if you want to showcase your academic fashion photos and/or ideas, email us at!