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CURB or CURVE: That is the Question

So today at lunch a co-worker from the table across asked me if I’m pregnant. “Cos you know, you gained weight”, she said.

“No they didn’t!” was my fiancé Ian’s reply when I called him later (I skipped the courtesies and immediately launched into “They asked me if I’m pregnant” in my best Oppressed Cecille voice).

“Baby, are you crying?”, he asked when I didn’t answer.

“No” is what I should have said…Instead, I said “Yes”, lobbying for sympathy. (Well, I was feeling bad, okay?)

“Don’t mind them, Baby. They’re just jealous of you because you’re beautiful and sexy”. (Oh yeah, my fiancé is awesome, isn’t he?)

See, when you have somebody telling you that, you don’t really care if you gain a few pounds. This isn’t the first time the girls at work have said something about my weight, but I never really minded them. I know that I’m healthy and I’m secure about my future husband’s attraction to me no matter what.

Today, I’ve decided that I’m sick of co-workers picking on my weight every chance they get when I don’t even give a damn. Jesus Christ, I’m 49.5 kg at 5 feet 3 inches. Is that so bad?

To be honest, it’s indeed a jump from the 45.5 kg I weighed at the same time last year. But it doesn’t really bother me much. Well, until last month when I couldn’t stop saying: “I’m fat”. I seriously thought that I was beginning to have body-image issues. I took a beating when my co-workers’, with their prying eyes, started to notice my weight gain. And boy, did they remind me every day!

I once took the lift carrying take-out dinner. This girl I ride the shuttle with every day came in and commented that it’s already 7pm and that I should have eaten dinner before 6pm! It doesn’t end there: I have girls knocking on my door asking me if I want to go to the gym. When I’ve wanted to buy a chocolate croissant for dessert, I’ve had to sneak out to the bakeshop, making sure my colleagues didn’t see me, or risk being told “Ceciw, you eating again?!? Khun Ian see you, he say: What happened to you? Now you are uaan (Thai: fat)!” 

 Sigh! It’s exactly these kinds of “criticisms” that have been souring my mood. I’ve always been happy and confident with my body.  Like I said, I don’t give a damn. But I guess that’s why: They want me to give a damn!  Like really, telling me I should stop eating rice every day or else my fiancé would leave me for a skinnier woman?!?

As annoyed as I am, I really don’t blame them for the kind of mentality they have. It’s all the media bullshit they see in TV commercials, bus and train ads, posters, etc.

Have you seen Beyonce’s Cavalli  ad?

In the poster, we see an extremely stylized image of the songstress to the point that her famous curves completely disappeared! Instead, we see  B’s head on top of an exaggeratedly skinny CGI body with spider-like extremities that makes her look more abnormal than a Barbie doll.

Here’s the Skinny: Roberto Cavalli is the official designer for Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show. The poster is supposedly for the tour’s campaign.

Famous fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was, of course, widely criticized for the release. The photo was immediately removed from circulation after the slamming from fans, nutritionists, health advocates, feminists, etcetera.  Cavalli’s camp had explained – and I quote: “the image of the gown (sic.) is a sketch and not a photo, and therefore it is only meant to be a stylized and artistic vision”.

I get you, Roberto, but you know that the damage is done.

Beyonce, of course, was reportedly upset about the whole fiasco just as she was when H & M airbrushed her swim-suit photos (to make her look thinner) and insisted the original/unedited versions be used for the official summer campaign. She is currently suing them for millions of dollars.

Speaking of H & M, this was a really ironic move considering that their April 2013 campaign featuring Size 14 Jennie Runk earned them positive raves and accolades.

24-year old Ms. Runk here is billed as the heroine of self-loathing women, especially teenage girls who suffer starvation, amongst other scary means of losing weight. She is said to be helping women feel better about themselves because she heralds real beauty and that she has “the body of a normal woman”. Ha!

While I admire Ms. Runk’s beauty and support her message, I couldn’t help but see this as a dubious stunt—big corporations preying on vulnerable women’s craving for approval from the mass media. Even Ms. Runk can be just a pawn in this giant scheme. I hope not.

But whatever, if it works for the deflation of the over-all insecurity of the female population and teen suicide rates, then it’s fine with me. Besides, whatever the billboard ads say is “trendy”, then that’s what is “trendy”.  Ugh!

Obviously, trend varies depending on the market these companies cater to. The disparity between the message of Jennie and Beyonce’s H & M ads says it clearly: There’s the normal market and the other markets. Jennie Runk isn’t’ exactly labeled as just a “model” but a “plus size model”. Ask any beauty or fashion magazine and they will tell you that the normal sized- women are supposed to look like this:

Scary!

As an advocate for women and a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, this issue has always been close to my heart. I have always found the popular standards of beauty to be ridiculous and unrealistic for most people.  To condone this is outrageous and it sickens me to think how many women have suffered (and are suffering still) both emotionally and physically just to fit into the accepted “beautiful” and/or “sexy” category mostly perpetuated by selfish companies with vested financial interests.

 But, why this sudden lashing? Well, because, I too have become a victim of this vulgar commercialism and I can’t just stand there and take it.

I live in Thailand- where girls eat garden salad for breakfast and have dinner before 6 o’clock in the evening, where women go out of their houses as if they forgot to put their pants on, flaunting their chicken-skinny legs! Here in Bangkok, a popular cosmetic hotspot, co-workers eye you with disdain every time you put food into your mouth.

I am not arguing that women should just eat with abandon and not care about their bodies at all. I say we should all take measures to ensure our bodies are healthy and that includes eating in moderation and proper exercise. Certainly not by skipping meals, or even worse, fad dieting.  More importantly, on a bigger scale, the bashing has got to stop!

It’s not as if this is a life and death situation where one has to curb her diet or run the risk of gaining, whoa! unwanted curves! Yeah, because that’s really the worst thing a woman could have!

This obsession with these (and I say this with a bitter taste in my mouth) “standards of beauty”, of an ideal sexiness is pushing women to go to absurd lengths- pressuring them to achieve a figure that may not be healthy for them. By the way, these ideals are not only promoting malnutrition, they are also cultivating a culture of mean-spiritedness and superiority complexes in those who fit the criteria, and low self-esteem in those who aren’t welcome into the category.

I do know that some women are just naturally skinny and they don’t gain weight no matter how much they eat. I don’t have anything against them. I do think they can be indeed sexy too, but not just because of their vital statistics. There are a million things that can make a woman sexy: wit, wisdom, kindness, sense of humor, skill, perhaps? If I were a man, these would certainly attract me.

It’s very sad that nowadays, the art of husband-hunting has almost regressed to merely an aesthetic tourney.  They used to laugh about women in the time of Jane Austen or the 1950s that had to be educated in art, literature, music, geography, science, language, home economics and the like to make a good match, when eventually they will be consigned to the home to attend to their men’s needs and look after the children. Well, at least they had to use their brains; these days, women only have to look good, wear a perfect smile, be a size 0-2 and they can land senators, business tycoons, heirs to fortunes, etc.

Lastly, these days women don’t really seem to try to look good just for the hell of it. When you hear people say “Oh you should do this and that so you can get a boyfriend” or “Oh you should be like this or else your husband will look somewhere else”, it makes you think, is it really all about attracting men?

I love it when my fiancé compliments me and this encourages me to try to look good. But also, I just want to look good for myself…just because it makes me feel good. Do you know what I’m talking about? I mean, these decisions about our bodies are ours to make and should not be influenced by peer or social pressure.  It should also be about us!

Sweating it out, running around the park, and working my butt off in the fitness center? Yes, I do it because I want to. I know I have a responsibility to take care of my body. I do it and I will keep doing it – not because some damn commercial is telling me too or that I am afraid of Ian Weinstein abandoning me if I bloat.

CURB or CURVE? No! I am not letting anyone or anything decide for me whether I am “sexy” or not.

I believe that in every woman is an innate seductress, a charming maiden, an irresistible nymph, a goddess… no matter what her shape and size. We only have to claim that inner vixen…and tell her she shouldn’t be intimidated by whatever people around her say. Let her out, because she should be freakin’ running the world. Size 2 or not.

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THE PRACTICAL POWER DRESSER : A Smart Girl’s Fashion Secrets in a Bad Economy

Since I started blogging, I knew that one day I was bound to write a fashion entry. Fashion talks may seem petty to some, but I tell you dearies, it’s not just about lovely dresses, to-die-for shoes and sparkly accessories that would make even the most proper of girls drool; I’d rather call it power dressing, or projecting a self-image of success through one’s wardrobe.

Power dressing refers to a style of clothing and hair intended to make wearers seem authoritative and competent, especially in professional settings in business, law and government.
                                                                                                                                -Wikipedia

To clarify, power dressing may revolve around clothes and accessories, but there’s more to it than the parade of labels and what-nots. It is more about the attitude of the wearer towards the clothes and the trend itself. Clothes can be tools we may use to project an image: how we want to portray ourselves and how we want to be perceived – but it isn’t about being pretending to like a style when you really don’t, or sacrificing comfort over fashion. If so, you run the risk of becoming a fashion victim. If I may boldly define it in my terms, power dressing encourages you to look into your inner self, evaluate your own sense of style, and bring it out through accents and/or statement accessories to be then paired with classic fashion pieces that would give a timeless and polished impression. It also helps if you have a fashion icon who can be your wardrobe guide to help you come up with your own version. The goal is to transmit an aura of calm confidence, being comfortable in one’s own body, and possessing undeniable flair that will make people around you think: “Damn, this girl is set to conquer the world! She is dressed to kill.”

As in the above definition, the term was originally coined to refer to wardrobe planning in relation to one’s professional career. Power dressing was viewed as ideal for government officials, corporate executives, and head honchos from all sorts of fields of expertise as well as job applicants. However, I believe that power dressing shouldn’t just be a costume to wear whenever one goes to their respective places of business. It should be a lifestyle, a state of mind. Thus, it may also be applied to our everyday lives. I am not suggesting that you should break your piggy banks, go on a shopping spree and start panic buying for a lavish wardrobe; rather, I’m advising that you invest in classic pieces (some of which may already be in your closets), pick out colors that suit you and accessorize in a way that brings out your unique personality while flashing that confident smile. Also, don’t forget to scour for budget finds. Bookmark places with great discount sales. Surely you can be a fashion Princess for less.

My personal fashion icon is Audrey Hepburn and it is very well reflected in my clothing preferences. Audrey popularized the Little Black Dress, an iconic fashion statement that says: elegant and sophisticated, conservative but not prudish- a true classic. It’s also very wearable. Ms. Hepburn, much like Coco Chanel, invested in timeless pieces (which can be worn anytime, anywhere) and in basic colors that are very easy to match with the rest of one’s outfit. Nonetheless, our heroine here isn’t afraid to add a pop of color such as touches of pink wherever she wants it. I personally like red. Red dress, red lips, red bag, red slim belt over a white or navy dress,  red shoes to match a classic LBD/LWD, red scarf, and red nails. Not at the same time of course, but you get what I mean. A hint or burst of red is a surefire formula to brighten my day and glam up my night.

I guess that’s enough talkin, let’s get dressin’.

The Little Black Dress-an every woman must-have, and my absolute favorite. 50% of my closet is populated by black dresses in all sorts of designs and variations. Here are a few of them:

The strapless black dress for cocktails and drinks

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The long sleeved black lace and lycra dress. I got mine on sale for B200 from Forever 21 last March (2013) and I haven’t had the chance to wear it yet.

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I used to have this version of the black lace dress from December 2010. I got it from Greenhills in Manila for Php350.

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The short sleeved black lace dress. I got this from H& M (on sale for B300). Here, the model definitely wore it better than I did.

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City Triangle open back dress (price unrecalled; adorned with pearls, hand-sewn by Jan Jay Espino ) as seen on my engagement photos.

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Vintage black dress (B150) as seen on my engagement photos.

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Vintage black dress (price unrecalled)

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The casual black top and leggings combo ala Mademoiselle Hepburn.

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The nude pumps. I admit. Just like the rest of the girls obsessed with Kate Midlleton’s style, I am also enamored with the Duchess’ favorite pair of L.K Bennett sledge heels.

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Sadly, at £49.50 a pop, the elusive pair is way beyond my thrifty fashionista budget. So instead I opted for a fashion steal in the form of Charles and Keith nude peep-toe pumps (originally priced B2, 000 here in Thailand but I got it for B1, 350 in Singapore). See actual photo here https://theglobalfilipina.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/cecille-and-ian-488.jpg

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To further satisfy my Catherine of Cambridge craving, I also availed of Payless Thailand’s opening sale and got this comfy and stylish pair at 50% off (B450).

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This version from Dexter is a nod to Kate’s penchant for wedges.

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A girl should never be without a pair of black stilettos. It’s the safe perfect match to any outfit a woman could think of. A Marie Claire- Paris black sling back (on sale for B200) does the job for me. https://theglobalfilipina.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/30.jpg

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Recently, along with my nude wedges, I got this pair from Christian Siriano for Payless, on sale of course! With a tinge of pink, this black number is the ultimate for killing the dance floor (only when out with the fiancé anywayJ). My new baby is still safe inside its box. I wanted to wear them today but I decided they’d be totally impractical for patient’s rounds and for going inside the O.R.

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Be the Lady in Red. Channel your “womanity” in this bright and bold hue…

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Either at the office party… (Bought from Tin Dayao-Tolentino for Php350)

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A celebration night with the girls…

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Or your birthday

Whatever in White. Simply cool, classic, comfy.

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And all of these stolen from my mother’s closet.

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Luckily for me, I am blessed with a quirky and fashion-forward mother too…unfortunately, I can’t bring my mother’s closet to America. This reminds me of what my future father-in-law said before: As a low-cost shopper, I will surely get sticker shock in the US. I am sooo used to cheap shopping in Asia (especially in Thailand which is the shopping capital of Southeast Asia) that I would probably never go out to the American malls.  I find it ridiculous how Asian-made products become way more expensive after being shipped off to North America. Consumerism at its finest.

 I was never a slave to fashion. I do like having nice things but I’ve always had the good sense to get them for reasonable, if not at absolutely low prices.  When I arrive in the US, I know I won’t be working for a while. With no income in a country where everything is practically, to coin Filipino slang, “dollars*”, how will the fashionista in me survive?

*Dollars- adj. (in Filipino slang) expensive

That’s when I thought of buying in advance for cheap here in Bangkok. Also, since I’m still earning here, I would actually have the means.  I used to joke with my cousins that here in Thailand, you can never be without clothes because they sell them as low as B20!!! That’s less than a dollar. True story.

Some of the stuff I displayed earlier haven’t been worn yet because I actually intend to bring them over to my new home. During my fiancé’s last visit, I asked him to carry some of my stuff to New York ahead of me.  It was actually therapeutic to our longing hearts because it was somehow our way of telling each other that my move to the US is definitely happening. How else would I be able to part with my darling shoes if I didn’t know for sure I’d see them again?! Hehe!

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Aside from actually “saving by spending” here rather than over  there,  I am investing in shopping because I am very excited to meet Ian’s family and friends for the first time. I know it might sound silly, but of course I really want to give them a good impression of me when they first see me. I want to look well put-together.  I have a feeling they would be pleasant to me anyway, even if I didn’t put in so much effort. Nonetheless, I still just want to put my best foot forward.

The truth is, no matter what one wears, it’s the overall personality that says more about a person. You may be wearing thousand dollar blings or strutting with all of Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen’s creations, but if you are as fake as a counterfeit Louis Vuitton Speedy from Laos, there’s no way you can charm a crowd. So here’s my advice to every lovely woman out there (advice I also so often give to myself):  Be your lovely and genuine self. And as I said earlier, don’t forget to smile and you will definitely win all of them over, fashionable outfit or notJ. Ciao!