Friday, September 10, 2010

Ren Faire Post 3 of 3: The Pitch

So anyway... In case you are now wondering when you can come and see me frolicking wrapped in a big wool blanket of a gown in the hottest time of the year... playing in the dirt and hay with grubby costumed little ones... learning to spin and occasionally throwing the orifice hook across the yard in frustration... and generally being a crazy fool spending all my free time pretending to be in Renaissance England... that time begins 1 week from tomorrow!

Or, ya know, since it's not all about me... if you want to see shows, watch silly people do their darndest to entertain you in the street, shop at nifty jewelry booths/clothing shops/artisans, or get yourself a great big turkey leg and a fyne pint of ale... that's all happening, too!

AND... special this year, KIDS ARE FREE every weekend!

AND... returning for the second year: Celtic Rock concerts on Saturday nights, free with your ticket price. Come a little later in the day, enjoy the Faire for a few hours, and stay for a rocking concert! Sit in the bleachers or dance in the arena, if your feet have any life left in 'em.

AND... I would love to see you there - and am happy to share my participant discount with you. It's not huge ($5 or so off), but hey - that's an ale or a bite to eat! :)

For all the details, go to Let me know when you'll be coming, so we can coordinate!

Huzzah - it's Faire season - the 2nd best time of the year!

(I love Faire, but Christmas is better. I get 2 weeks off for Christmas!!)

What do 10-plus pounds of wool look like?

So as a participant, I couldn't wear my beautiful purple gauze top (purple is for the Queen, don't'cha know?) and by this time I'd outgrown my velvet bodice (which I wouldn't have been allowed to wear anyway). So I went and bought a premade bodice. Again, even at this larger size, I had multiple options! They laced me into a royal blue bodice and I chose a goldy/ochre shirt shot through with threads of blue and maroon and forest green so that it coordinated perfectly with my blue bodice and the maroon skirt I'd made for that first costume 6 or 7 years earlier. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that in order to (mostly) fit my waist/hip area, they'd given me a bodice that was far too large in the chest. Here I was, ready to be beautiful and sexy and have all my bits rearranged into pleasing configurations... and my boobs were sinking (you don't wear a bra under a bodice). I went back to the vendor. Their answer? Shore up the ladies with a rolled up sock under each. Blech. I wanted to be sexy on my own. I didn't want to need a rolled up sock. How... high school. Middle school. Adolescent. Annoying/shameful. I never did try the sock thing. For 3 or 4 or 5 seasons, I suffered with a bodice that fit my waist but was too long so it always rode up, and had so much spare room in the top that I could fit my whole fist inside. Inside a garment that's supposed to fit like a corset! Over time as the garment "broke in" (i.e. wore out), the top got even looser and the bottom had to be left with a fairly substantial gap in the lacing... with the result that I was easily mistaken for pregnant! Fat girl nightmare!! I was miserable with the outfit, but unemployed and Faire is expensive even without new clothes, and I didn't feel I could afford the $70-100 for another pre-made bodice - especially considering I wasn't confident one existed off the rack that would really fit me right, anyway.

I finally started making inquiries about having a bodice made custom. Mamma Zini, AKA the formidable long-time costume mistress for the REC faires, had a clothing booth adjacent to my guild's area. Mamma Zini was a fat woman. (I say "was" with sorrow, as she passed away this year.) She was also a wonderful costumer, and made clothes for her own fat body - a body nearer the size of my own than most people I ever interact with. If she could make herself look great, surely she could construct a bodice for me! But sadly, she wasn't enthusiastic about trying to make a bodice long-distance from Los Angeles. I kept talking with her about it in the course of our friendship, and picking her brain half-heartedly for tips on making my own. Finally, one year - it must have been 2007 or so - I was fed up with my old bodice. I was talking with Mamma Z in between us all packing up and told her I simply had to buy a new bodice for the next year, even if it wasn't perfect it had to be better than the one I had that made me so sad. She beckoned her husband.

"Go get that bodice. You know, the (insert how she explained to him which one she wanted) one." He disappeared into their booth's storage container and came out with a brownish bodice with yellow and maroon trim. "Lace her into it," Mamma directed. He complied. It felt great! A little short, but sooooo much better than the blue one of doom. She gave it to me on the spot, explaining she'd bought it off the rack when she'd needed a bodice for herself on the double, had added the trim because she is a costumer and can't stand an unadorned bodice, but didn't really use it much. It was still nearly brand new. I made some token protest, but really I couldn't be anything but grateful.

It wasn't perfect. It was smallish on the bottom in order to fit better on top (because apparently my shape isn't what they design for in the bodice market). In fact, wearing it the next year, I managed to give myself bruises around my ribs where I laced the bodice so tightly that the waistbands of the skirts underneath dug into me. But at least I had boobs, and the bodice was beautiful and I felt Mamma Z's love and rad-fattie solidarity every time I wore it.

Finally, in spring of 2009, I got a real job that actually paid enough to pay my bills. I was no longer borrowing from Mom and Dad every month, and I took the leap. I called up a costumer friend and asked if she wanted to make a Ren Faire outfit. She did, of course, being a costumer. She's no "mere" seamstress (and yes, I use that designation carefully - not wanting to be a jerk like Project Runway). She's an artist. She made a gown that is more conservative and yet shaplier than any bodice I've ever worn. I don't have to have boobage spilling everywhere to feel sexy; instead, I have quiet, beautiful, historically-appropriate elegance. I love, love, love this gown, let me tell you. It's almost all wool, except some of the trim which I had her cut from a dying mustard-yellow skirt (my 2nd, and less successful, Faire-skirt sewing project). On hot days, I think, no know, I was insane to pick wool. On cold days, I'm a happy girl. On all days, I delight in the delicious historical accuracy of it. Ah, the torment we impose on ourselves for our hobbies and passions!

It's my 8th Renaissance Faire as a participant this year. It may not be Fatty Mecca, but I'm having a great time. And I'm finally wearing something that helps me feel good in the body I own, that accentuates what I have instead of pushing and pulling and helping and hiding. Here's me, in my 10 pounds of wool. Take me or leave me.

The most wonderful time of the year...

Good morrow, good gentles, and how fare ye this day?

I mean, uh... hey guys! So this may sound a bit like an advertisement, but only cause I really, REALLY love what I do and I tend to have this thought that everyone else in the world should love it to. Will love it, if they just come out and play with me. I realize this is not the case, but nevertheless I can't resist waxing poetic about the whole thing from time to time.

Now, I started wanting to go to a Ren Faire back in elementary school, first went in high school (rented costume the first year, then bought a bodice my second time), and knew I just HAD to participate after reading Camryn Manheim's book, Wake Up - I'm Fat! In it, she talks about coming of age at Faire as Chloe Blue Eyes (forgive me if the details are off... it's been like 10 years since I read this book), and it being this mecca of fat acceptance, where her fat body was finally OK and all around her were other self-loving rad fatties in bodices and whatnot.

I bought a bodice on my second visit to the Ren Faire (approx. 1997). Shopping for my first bodice was an amazing experience. There were choices in my size, the cute young lad salesman flirted or at least bantered while he laced me up, and my final selection was... wait for it... a beautiful jewel-toned velvet bodice and a deep purple gauzy top (I'd made my own skirt)! I promptly decided that a bodice was just about the most flattering piece of clothing for my body type ever invented - it pushed all the "right" things in all the "right" places and made me feel great! (And yes, I realize this implies that my body is not "right" in its natural state. I'm getting to that.)

Fast forward about 6 years. I've now finished high school, gone away to college for four years, graduated, and am finally in the right place at the right time to become a Renaissance Faire participant! The Faire is in a new location, Casa de Fruta in Gilroy/Hollister area - much closer to my home, and I proudly set out the first day of workshops to join the Faire. And of course nothing is a simple as a mecca of fat acceptance. Perhaps times have changed, or perhaps Chloe Blue Eyes wore some rose-colored glasses, or... who knows. But while Faire is my home away from home, my 2nd family, it's not any kind of mecca. Several of my guild-mates have had gastric bypass surgery (fairly to very successfully - not just in weight loss but in lack of side effects - which is perpetuating more and more in that circle of friends to consider it for themselves), which means there are some pretty major land mines to avoid. All the stars of all the shows are slim, or "appropriately" curved but still what I would consider slender/socially acceptable. But there are also awesome young women and men of diverse body sizes rocking it out in all their different roles, and unafraid to bare some skin after hours in fairy costumes or princess costumes, tummies and all. And though it's not the mecca I dreamed of, it's family... and well in the range of acceptable dysfunction for a family gathering!

This post is now officially WAY too long, and I still haven't told you about my 2nd Ren Faire costume, or my current one. That will have to wait for a future post, I guess.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 1

I can't believe it's September First and I still haven't written about my first NAAFA Convention. Was it really nearly a month ago??

One cool thing - out of many - that came out of attending the Con is that I'll be contributing to the monthly NAAFA newsletter now and then... beginning with the October issue, in which I've been invited to share my experience "coming out as fat" at work as I talked with coworkers about why I was taking vacation (to go to NAAFA Con), and where I was going/what I'd be doing.

It's super busy right now - has been ever since I returned! - with the beginning of the school year, so I once again don't have time to write the full, luscious NAAFA Con recap I do still hope plan to write. I'm sending myself an email right now... to remind me to do this.

Talk to you soon!