You may not be aware but hiding in a secluded corner of facebook, is a private Aussie Curves group. A little fashion haven for women who need a jump start in confidence away from the world. It’s also for those of us who live and breathe fashion and somehow enable others along the way. It’s a lovely accepting and uplifting place and I’ve worked really hard to keep it that way.
I love facebook, I do but as far as plus size fashion pages and groups go things can slide into a dark nasty environment quite easily. You see everyone has their own gripes about the industry, most of it comes from feeling like they’re not being catered to or heard when their concerns are voiced. Plus size consumers are frustrated and facebook makes it very easy to air grievances.
I created the Aussie Curves facebook group as a place to share and listen. Only personal photos are allowed (no memes) and personal stories. I want them to voice their own true message (not hide behind the voice of another) and feel validated or at least open up discussion for further education from those who have more experience.
In the past I’ve looked after plus size brand facebook pages and most days it felt like a never ending pit of despair. It’s very true that for every positive comment you receive a hundred negative and I quickly realised that by truly listening, actively engaging (and not copy and pasting approved responses from corporate) people become content and a happier environment ensues. It’s not always possible but it’s a rule I’ve been very adamant about keeping true in the Aussie Curve facebook group.
People find the private group, request to join and then they go through a screening process. I check their profile, google them and check their engagement on other sites. The process is a lot quicker if added by a friend already in the group. Some might think it’s overkill, that I should concentrate on boosting numbers but it’s never been about that for me.
Whilst it may take up a lot of time, moderating the group to maintain the lovely balance of discussion and sharing it has now is extremely fulfilling. There are over 500 very active members and I’m a little in love with each and every one. They’ve made me cry ugly tears, smile proudly like a mother hen and they’ve shared stories about their struggles that makes me want to punch someone in the face on their behalf and I’m not a violent person. I just breathe and remember that providing a safe space to share a story that might otherwise go untold is what I’ve done to help. Listening helps.
Last night a member shared her experience at the shops yesterday afternoon and I (along with many others) was so enraged. I listened, gave constructive advice but even after sleeping on it I felt more action was needed. This post sprouted. I woke up, kissed the baby and started typing, I haven’t even had a coffee yet. I want to share her experience because it’s a common one, even something I have to deal with on a regular basis and I’m sure it’s relatable to a lot of people.
She walked into a fashion store that went up to an XXL ready to buy as she already knew she fit the selection on offer. She didn’t get to shop very often but she had cash burning a hole in her pocket and was excited to take home new things. I love that feeling, you’re on a high but in one fatal swoop from a shop assistant that feeling was ripped away from her.
“You’re over-size, get out of S*pre.”
Unnecessary, rude and disgraceful. To make a clearer point she fit the size L there and ironically they lost a large sale. She abandoned her purchases, went straight to the car park and cried… then shared her experience with those who would understand, those who would listen on the facebook group wall. This kind of situation isn’t new to me, not at all. It wasn’t new to the rest of the women in the group either, their stories started to pour out too.
As a consumer we have rights and it’s ok to stand up for them. We can also choose where we spend our money and invest in products and services that truly care for us and our needs. Shopping for me is still an experience of feelings, I’m an emotional person and often driven by them. I enjoy shopping, constructing an outfit to convey those feelings… but imagine your feelings have already turned sour before you’d managed to bring the products to the register.
You take those sour feelings home, begin to believe them, self worth damaged. You begin to avoid shopping, the joy in it gone and your daily wardrobe choices begin to reflect that. You stare in the mirror and don’t like what you see but unsure how to change it because the last time you tried you faced open abuse letting you know you didn’t deserve to. You don’t tell anyone because you know in your heart it’s silly and they wouldn’t understand anyway.
I’ve been a victim of a similar cycle of thought and I know I’m not alone. You’re entitled to fashion. You’re entitled to spend your money as you please without abuse. You’re entitled to care about your appearance and even enjoy the shopping experience. You’re entitled to control your own self worth and not let it be dictated by others. You are awesome and unique so please find a way to remind yourself of that fact everyday but if you need help then the Aussie Curve ladies have your back.