My Fashion Journey: From Plain ‘Ol Hiding to Hiding in Plain Sight

Before I fill you in on how to I learned to hide in plain sight and express my inner superhero, a little backstory is needed. My kid and I started cosplaying about four years ago and have been ever since. We started a blog together that chronicled our adventures as well as giving other geek parents tips and secrets to navigating the nerd world with their youngling, but our main focus was promoting body confidence and positivity.

We were really enjoying our cosplaying and blogging, but we also found ourselves feeling negativity in the cosplay community such as, picking on people’s cosplays, their size, their gender or nationality and what not. We both needed to, as my friend Justin so aptly put it, “rekindle joy”. So, we refocused our efforts on cosplay, but with a bounding and dapper slant. When we did, we found our new voices and my sense of fashion evolved even further than it had already.

Photo: Justin Davidson Photography

At the same time, we had the amazing opportunity to present a panel idea I have had for ages, “In Plain Sight: Using Everyday Fashion to Express Your Inner Superhero”, at WonderCon in Anaheim, California. Not only did we get to present this panel, but to have some of our closest friends sit on the panel with us and moderate the panel for us.

Triumphant selfie post-panel

It was an amazing experience to say the least! We filled the room and handed out all the ducks (our blog doesn’t have business cards, we have ducks)! Thank you all for coming to see us. We really appreciate it.

To explain why it was so meaningful, we need to go way, way back into my childhood. I’ve written about my early experiences with fashion before. My maternal grandmother was a huge influence on me. Matching bags and shoes. Dressed up for church. Red lipstick applied in the rear-view mirror. Other early influences include old movies, which remain the epitome of glamour in my humble opinion. I was in love with the 50s style dubbed, “the new look” after WWII. The swing dresses, the lady-like look of a scarf of your hair to preserve your “do”, the red lipstick, the handbags, all of it, really. Problem was, I was born in 1967, so as a kid, I was subjected to 70s fashion. I never felt comfortable in any of it, to be honest. I tried. I really did, but the skirts weren’t twirly and my long hair was always tangled, and my Dad wouldn’t let me cut it. I just didn’t feel, “right”. I longed for pretty twirly dresses, but my Mom didn’t care about fashion, so I didn’t have any kind of sources really to explore my personal style until much later in life.

Photo: Justin Davidson Photography

The 80s were my teenaged years and things were a lot better. The music was better and the fashions for teenagers were way better. I discovered thrifting, and holy crap was that amazing! Big blazers, rubber bracelets, wearing 5 watches at one time, hats! Yes, please!!! Also, what was really great about it was, first, I got to put outfits together by myself for the first time, second, at thrift stores there were tons of old vintage 50s looks. Turns out, I could incorporate them into my wardrobe and make my own outfits. I felt like me for the first time. There were swing dresses too, but unfortunately for a plus-size girl, they usually didn’t fit, but I didn’t give up trying. The lack of clothes choices forced me into creativity so I could really create a look that was me.

The 90s and 00s were made up of work uniforms and trying to figure out how to recapture my confidence of the 80s to no avail. But then…

I got divorced and started fresh with everything. I started going to comic conventions and discovered a whole world of fangirl fashion, size inclusivity and positivity. I also discovered that most geeky girls are like me, they love vintage 50s looks. I began to celebrate my fandom and feel like myself again.

My first geeky dresses were purchased at the Her Universe booth at Comikaze. I saw them from afar. Immediately assumed they weren’t for me, but something told me to go ask the question I always ask and walk away disappointed. Gluten for punishment, I guess. I go up the booth and ask, “What size do these go up to?” I was expecting, “An XL”, then me saying a soft, “Thanks anyway” and walking away. But, BUT, instead I got, “Oh, we have up to 3X.” Then, because I wasn’t born yesterday, assume they are an Asian 3X, which is about a Medium for us big American types. I ask if I can hold up a 3X and see if it will fit. The lady says, “Oh, it’ll fit ya for sure!” I’m thinking, “Yeah, right.” I hold it up. It looks like it will fit me, but I’m still waiting for disappointment. I say, “OK, if I buy it and go try it on in the bathroom and it doesn’t fit, can I bring it right back?” She says sure. I buy the dress. I got into the bathroom and try it on. It fit. I cried for 15 minutes. I go back to the booth and buy another dress and thank her for her kindness. I’ve been a faithful customer ever since.

Photo: Justin Davidson Photography

That was the beginning of the realization that the geek community is very body confident and positive. All sizes are included in the fun. These companies have figured out what others have not, that style has no size limit.

To be able to fit into fashion pieces you want is a, pardon the expression, a big deal. You are included. That positivity and confidence is contagious. You find yourself carrying yourself taller, and you want everyone to feel this amazing. I feel stronger when I wear something superhero themed. I feel more confident. I am a part of a team. I don’t want anyone to ever feel excluded like I once did.

I lost my grandmother when I was 13, so she never got to experience either of my fashion metamorphoses, but I like to think she knows and is proud. If she was here, with her love of movies and fashion, I also like to think that she would be participating right along side me in this. I am doing my best to pass on all this knowledge to Benji as well.

Photo: Justin Davidson Photography

I hope that my story has and will continue to inspire and encourage you to find your inner superhero, your body confidence and body positivity. As Cap would say, “Assemble!”

Kim Henderson McAndrew is a mom, cosplayer, blogger for inplainsight.style, model, warrior for body confidence and positivity, unicorn believer and a huge nerd.

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