I’ve wanted the Dita Von Teese Her Sexellency longline bra for months and months now. For a long time I was sad that I could not find it anywhere in the UK. I had visions of wearing it much as Dita herself does as a beautiful, slightly raunchy and sexy top paired with a high-waisted pencil skirt. Regularly I looked online for it, only to come across stockists in Australia or America that wouldn’t ship internationally. Finally, unexpectedly, one of my friends on Instagram, lovely Brit-living-in-Australia @Nadiafaye found it on a mall trip, and was not only happy to pick it up for me and ship it over, but even managed to find it at 40% off. An international bargain answering my shopping prayers? What more could a girl ask for?
My bra arrived in less than a week from the other side of the world and I immediately donned it with my Pinup Girl Clothing Flamenco Mermaid skirt. I added a cropped cardigan to tone down the sauce factor a little bit and because, let’s face it, mid-March in England is not a warm month. Wearing that outfit I felt sassy and sexy and confident, but above all else, grateful.
Because there are many things my pinup journey has brought me. It’s brought me lovely followers across the globe who are willing to do truly generous things like donating their time and effort to scout out impossible to find lingerie for me, or wrestle the masses at the Pinup Girl Clothing Yard Sale (Evie) to try to find some of the gems on my PUG wishlist. That kind of global loyalty and kindness is a gift I never thought I’d receive, could never have even anticipated. But that particular wonderful bonus of what amounts to shopping internationally via a proxy willing to message me their finds is not the real gift of that situation–it is those ladies, those friends, I have made even without having met them.
These women who live across the world have mostly found me through my outfit posts on Instagram, the app I am both addicted to and a bit embarrassed to admit to people face-to-face that I use mostly to post pictures of my outfits and my face online for people to look at, as if I have expectations they would want to do that. I never really expected that. I cringe a bit at how narcissistic my Instagram must look to some people. But it isn’t really about me, about people looking at me. It’s about the style. It’s about being a pinup.
Being a pinup is a niche style choice. It makes you stand out and draw stares and it garners attention. In part that can be a bit embarrassing; mostly it’s flattering and often sweet, as strangers are 99% happy to ask about it and pay kind attention to it. But despite that kind reception I receive from strangers it still stands that for most of my pinup life I have not known anyone in real life that shares my passion. My friends and family enjoy it; at the very least they tell me I look lovely and at most they marvel at it, loving and loyal and encouraging. Proud, even. But there’s something about being able to bond and share with fellow women who understand the trauma of needing to put in a fresh wetset when you are desperately tired and do not want to, but definitely need to because otherwise in the morning you will have deep regrets. Something about being able to tell a story concerning agonizing pain resulting from a shapewear mishap layered under a boned bodice dress and receiving empathy as a reaction rather than a laugh and confusion that you would do that to yourself. There are lots of small tricks, efforts, experiences that are part of the pinup life that you don’t really get until you’ve lived it, and it is so wonderful to have fellow pinups who can reflect back the equal delight, exasperation, or excitement that you yourself feel at varying times living this way.
Through Instagram I met both Nadia, my Dita saviour, and Evie, my Pinup Girl Clothing Yardsale scout. I met Sarah Forshaw, my soul sister who I will finally be meeting this autumn after 2+ years of mutual pinup transforming, online chat, and boundless love. I met Amber, through whom I met the rest of the British Belles, my precious little lovebugs. I met Giselle, who understands that if I text her several times then call her at 7am it means there is a Pinup Girl Clothing emergency (ie, probably a flash sale.) I have Insta-met dozens of generous, hilarious, intelligent and fiercely passionate women through my narcissistic-seeming documentation of what dress I wear when I pop to the supermarket on a Saturday. Because I have documented my pinup life online in hopes of finding and sharing style inspiration, I have actually made friends who’s weddings I will be attending, who’s faces I plan to see at my 30th birthday party, who I have laid in bed with at 3am chatting into the night or else woken up for at 4am before work in order to Skype because we miss one another so much. I have found a sisterhood because of the clothes I wear and the way I style my hair. I marvel at it. I am always marvelling at that.
But as I stood there in my Dita inspired get-up, once more marvelling at the joy my pinup style has brought to my life by way of new friends and unexpectedly little gifty pleasures, I realised something else: I was standing there, happy, in a figure hugging high waisted pencil skirt and longline bra as a top. I was wearing underwear as outer wear and flaunting the squishy swell of my tummy and my round, round hips and my rather sizeable butt. I was wearing an outfit that for years I had loved the idea of, fawned over on other women, craved the confidence to wear, and for years had always considered nothing more than a style daydream, a fantasy. Because when ever before would I have had the guts to show so much of myself to the world?? (Quite literally, as I had posted pictures of said outfit on my Instagram, where my followers could view it the world over.) I was standing sassy and sexy and proud in my 5 ft 7, size 14 body. And people were praising it.
Here’s the thing. I have been 215lbs and I have been 134lbs. I was a UK size 18 and a UK size 10. I was still loud and happy and fun at my biggest size, but body confidence was not something I could claim to have. At my smallest size I was happy and sexy and loving my body, but even then I still had a squishy tummy, and my goal was to diet it away rather than undergo any kind of intensive exercise regime that would burn and tone and flatten. I stuck strictly to my diet and walked 6-8 miles a day six days a week to earn myself a daily treat that I couldn’t live without. I didn’t have an eating disorder, but there were signs I see now that show my life was being controlled by my urge to reach 132lbs, the weight that Weight Watchers claimed was my lowest healthy weight. I wore figure hugging outfits in skinny jeans and a corset, in a tight pencil skirt and a sweater, showing my new body off confidently, but that lifestyle that had attained that body was not sustainable for me, not livable forever. I could not keep up that kind of time-spend of 2 hours a day walking across country. I could not continue restricting myself to salad and vegetables and watery porridge and low fat yogurts. I am not built for that. My love for breads and cakes and sitting down runs deep. I have work to do and blogs to write and friends to see and family members both big and small to spend time on.
So I gained some weight back, more so at first because Christmas came and I fell off the dieting wagon than because I made a conscious decision to ease the control somewhat. I had spent 14 months of my life working full time towards dropping 81lbs, and I had done it, but I spent the next 2 years of my life gaining back some weight, gaining back a little more, losing some, gaining some, telling myself I should lose some again…all in a see-saw of trying to stay around the 145lbs which meant I could feel my hipbones under a thinner layer of fat when laying down while still being able to sometimes eat bread.
During that time, somewhen, I began to transform my style into a 50s pinup. The style, that era in fashion, had always been a secret love of mine, the epitome of femininity and elegance and chicness. I had always wanted to be and never thought I could. It began slowly with pincurling my hair after my natural curls had become too damaged to form, leaving me, the girl who had always been known for her giant head of curls, feeling lost and ugly. I became a wetsetter, a pincurler, then an eyeliner flicker, a red lipstick wearer, a circle skirt donner and a petticoat twirler. By winter of 2013 I felt like a full head-to-toe pinup, chic and polished and classic. Looking back, I still had so many ways I would grow to improve in my hair, style and makeup game, but back then I felt I had become. And I was happy.
…And I gained a bunch of weight. Part of it is that I had spent 4 years constantly dieting or telling myself I should be dieting (And a decade before that either feeling too fat or occasionally dropping a dress size before the eating took over again.) I was tired of that. I wanted to eat. But part of it, I think, is that I was growing to love myself more through loving my style. I had found a community that not only understood and loved my aesthetic, but encouraged women of all sizes to love themselves as they were, at whatever size that happened to be. Women I had never met were telling me I had an amazing figure, even though I had a visibly prominent tummy and thick thighs. I was spreading that love back, telling women online how much I adored their figures.
At some point it clicked: if I saw a picture on Instagram of a woman in a wiggle dress who had a small waist and large hips and a squishy tummy and some love handles going on, I told her she looked great and I meant it. I thought, damn, this woman is sexy and confident and working it. I didn’t care if she was sporting some extra bumps that would never be shown in a magazine. I applauded her for it. I loved seeing it on her. And, actually, if I took a mental step back, what I was seeing was not that different to what I was occasionally mustering up the courage to show other women; I was applauding women for having and loving the exact same kind of body as my own. And I wasn’t just being body positive and paying the compliments because I admired their bravery in standing up and being willing to show the world how much of their body would squidge softly inwards when poked by an intrusive finger, but because I really did think these women looked dope. They were hot! They had bodies like roman, naked statues had, just like me.
It was a woah revelation. I did not judge or dislike my body when it wore another woman’s face or carried atop it another person’s mind. That showed me what I had always suspected but struggled to accept; my body was not my problem, it was my mind. At 205lbs I had not worn my sassy Dita outfit but even at 134lbs I had not worn my sassy Dita outfit, and that was because the problem was not my body. It was my perception of my body.
It explains why I gained 30lbs in my pinup transformation and yet never felt obligated and distressed to lose it. I was happy enough as a pinup that it didn’t matter what size my swing dresses were. I won’t pretend it doesn’t feel a little scary and inside-wobbly wearing a wiggle dress or tight outfit, but the difference is that I will wear it. And will still feel, beneath the fear and self-conscious doubt, secretly, that I am probably looking hot as shit.
Becoming a pinup has brought me many, many things. Dozens of true friends; a supportive network of followers/readers across both this blog and my various social platforms; it has brought me opportunities I never would have had the gall to aspire to; it has brought me a sense of being helpful and open with my fellow pinup ladies and those aspiring to become one; it has made me happier and more confident than I have ever been; and it has made me realise that body positivity is something that can happen at any weight, at any time, as long as you allow yourself the mental space to let that positivity in and use your heart to enforce it.
I mean, there are pictures of me on my Instagram in my underwear. Once upon a time that would have been a terrifying thought. Now, not so much. I don’t post them to get compliments or likes–I definitely don’t post them for the pleasure of men. I post them both to enforce and reflect the body positivity feeling I was experiencing at that moment I took them, hoping that act of sharing will seal in those happy chubby juices that were flowing in that moment. But I also post them in the hopes that some other woman, whether she is shaped similarly to me, smaller or larger, will see that post and feel inspired. Feel happier. Feel that she, too, is a living, breathing roman statue, beautiful and worthy of self-love, both more than her body and a miracle because of it. Becoming a pinup has given me chances to learn to love myself more, and more miraculously still, to help encourage other people to begin loving themselves more too.
This was a long post and I hope you’ve made it through without feeling you wasted too much time on a wordy girl in a pretty outfit. Mostly, though, whether you are a fellow pinup doll, someone who found this post by accident, or someone sitting in your PJs feeling you’re not quite sure how to begin this self-love journey everyone else seems to know the secret Mapquest route for, I want to tell you this; there is no special starting point. The journey begins only when you decide it does. Decide to find something inspiring and beautiful and worthwhile, then act on it. Decide to focus on the good and the positive. Decide to decide. Start. You have absolutely no idea how very far and wide it may take you. And, believe me, that is the most incredible part.