15 April 2015

Appearance Diversity: Melissa's story. "Living my life in a somewhat public way allows others access to a person (me!) who may just look similar to them."

Melissa from Suger Coat It is a blogger I've been following since I started this blog, maybe even longer. I've followed her fashions and blogging tips and candid posts about body image and confidence. I really admire her writing and style.  And I love her attitude and commitment to appearance diversity. 

We've met a few times in person, managing to snap only one selfie (in blogger's terms - in actuality, we took five!) at last year's Problogger Event. 

Melissa from Suger Coat It blog and Carly Findlay

While Melissa is different to the other people I've featured in my Appearance Diversity series (she doesn't have a disability or facial difference), I asked her to be a part of my blog because she exudes confidence as a plus sized fashion blogger. I love the way plus sized bloggers have paved the way in creating their own media, been recognised by fashion labels, broken down stereotypes and created a supportive community online and offline. 

There's a startling assumption that people who look different - who have a facial difference, a disability, or a bigger or smaller shape than what's classed as average - aren't living happy lives. I really like that Melissa addresses that in her guest post today. 

 Meet Melissa. 

Melissa from Suger Coat It blog wearing denim jacket over blue and white dress

"As a child, I was fairly mainstream in my looks. Hardly appearance diverse. I was an average sized tanned, blue-eyed blonde in Australia. I was pretty much a dime a dozen. Life chugged along nicely and my biggest concern was if I could get my hands on the same scrunch socks as my friends. I was average. Until I wasn't.

As I entered my pre-teen years, and I shot up and out. I was almost my full adult height of 178cm by the time I entered high school. And despite numerous attempts throughout the years through disorder eating and manic exercise to starve myself thin, I was never smaller than an Australian size 14/16. I'm a big girl from hearty stock. What can I say? Today I wear an Australian size 20/22. 

Melissa from Suger Coat It blog wearing blue and white striped top and white pants

It occurred to me then that I would never be a lot of things people demand of women. My diversity came in the form of the size of my body. I was different to a lot of my friends and the women I saw around me. I was tall, athletic and large in a world that tells women to be small, dainty and fragile. I began to rebel against the ideas of what, as women, we are told to be. I became bold in my rebellion, backing my own opinion and ideas on things. My differences had made me strong.

Somewhere along the line I became a blogger. A love of writing drew me in and the support of the community I went on to build buoyed me in some of the most difficult times of my life. Later, I'm estimating about 3 years, I made a switch and officially I was a plus-size fashion blogger. Women would come to me with their clothing and body concerns. Through the act of sharing myself, my opinions and my outfits I became their confidant.

You may assume that was for women over a certain size. For women like me. But that wasn't always the case. Women of all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds were compelled to ask questions, seek advice and talk back to me in the way blogs are so good for. We bonded over being on the outskirts of what is conventionally beautiful and attractive. Understanding that most women are. Learning in our own ways to appreciate our differences as being our beauty.

And somewhere along the way the hurt of not being accepted, not being the same as other people, disappeared. I was at home in the body I was given. I embraced it as an ever changing outward expression of who I am. Unique. Different. Big, bold and welcoming. It doesn't mean that I don't' still get abuse from people who believe they have the right to offer me their thoughts on my body. It happens. They weigh in with ideas, advice and well-meaning tidbits all the time. Fashion especially encourages, I think. 

Melissa from Suger Coat It blog wearing denim vest over yellow tee and short black skirt

"Oh dear, fat girls shouldn't wear STRIPES!?"

"Oh no, honey, with your shape you should wear more volume on the bottom to balance it out."

"You would be so beautiful if you lost some weight."

"You're so brave to wear a sleeveless top. I would never."

Or the what the heck, is that a compliment or a swipe that goes a little something like, "Great outfit. It's SOOO slimming, nice one!".

Those words don't impact my opinion of myself anymore. I stand for open conversation and demand to know why they feel the need to comment in that way. Slimming huh? Beautiful, if? What's wrong with the shape I have now? In some ways, I feel that I can challenge their ideas on appearance by asking them to explain themselves. By challenging their ideas on what I wear and how I look, I feel like things change a little for them. Ideas they didn't even know they could question. It just assumed that you want to appear slimmer, isn't it? 
Melissa from Suger Coat It blog wearing black  sleeveless short dress, white shoes

Thinking about it now, I am grateful to have not fit into the idea of what is acceptable, attractive or beautiful. By not fitting in I was released from the expectations placed on someone who does fit in. Or could. Possibly. If they 'tried hard enough' or 'wanted it more'. It's easier to break free from a mould you never fit in the first place. Right? That's my thinking. And there's freedom in that. A freedom of thought but also a freedom to be yourself.

Who said you need to be a certain set of ideals to be treated with respect? To live happily, even healthfully? Who says that the ideas you were programmed with are the right ones while what I developed for myself is not? I think we all need to be mindful of the idea that we know anything about a person from our first or even fiftieth glance at them. Appearance is just that. The way something appears.

Melissa from Suger Coat It blog wearing orange and blue print short dress

When I started this post, I was going to go into the ways that I feel plus-size fashion bloggers are treated differently by major brands and department stores. Hello, would an invite to the new season release kill them? Buuuuut I'd rather be part of the positive voices than the negative chorus. I look at the plus-size bloggers doing big campaigns and causing real change in places like the USA and UK and I know that our time with come too. We are chipping away at an idea of what is fashionable, just as people over a certain age, people of colour, or people who are differently abled are. 

Melissa from Suger Coat It blog wearing sunglasses, black jacket over black dress

For some time now I feel like living my life in a somewhat public way allows others access to a person (me!) who may just look similar to them. A person living her life happily. Gasp. There I am wearing what I like, when I like. Being fashionable in my own way. I share because I'm not some concept outside of the ideal appearance. I'm a person. A person who sometimes even does amazing things and people, women mostly in my case, need to be presented with that. Maybe there will be one girl, who just happens to be 6 foot tall, who might feel okay about it because she saw me.

That would be my aim. To make an impact like that."
Melissa from Suger Coat It blog logo

Melissa blogs at Suger Coat It and you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest


  1. What a great post and a great introduction Carly!

    1. Thank you Cheryl. And I couldn't agree more, a great introduction!

  2. I love Melissa's blog and how she radiates beauty and confidence, she is living proof we can look gorgeous at any size x

  3. I'm learning that it is okay to not be able to lose the weight I want to lose. That the person inside me is mire important than whether others think my weird taste is acceptable or not. The people who are often my worst critics are other big people - yet I am only a 16/18 while they wear clothes in the mid 20 sizes. I embrace circle skirts when I want to and wear pencil ones if I choose. Thankyou for your encouragement.

    1. I have encountered that. Women who feel the need to tell me how to dress based on the decision they make for themselves and how they feel about themselves. You don't have to listen. Wear what makes you happy.

  4. Love me some Suger, you rock Mel and I wish I had your fashion sense. Thanks for sharing this Carly.

  5. I do really love that blogging has bought us so many fabulous fashionable women dressing with style at all shapes and sizes. It's even making my unfashionable brain start to take notice :)

    1. Me too! It's one of my favourite things. Pinterest, I especially love Pinterest for this too.

  6. All this time popping by to reply to the comments and I didn't thank you for the gorgeous introduction Carly! Sorry about that. Thank you for the kind, super awesome introduction. And for having me on your blog. x


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