Content warning: today's Body Story contains reference to infertility and miscarriage. If you're not in the right frame of mind or think you might find this content triggering, then please feel free to give it a miss today.
Welcome back to Body Stories: a series in which we talk with D&B customers about their relationships with their bodies.
This week we had the pleasure of speaking to George Horne, a curve and plus size blogger based in the UK. I first met George when she joined us for an afternoon of SUP Yoga back in 2019 and she's been a friend and supporter of D&B ever since. George is straight talking, witty and articulate, with that rare ability to talk easily and openly about complicated and taboo topics. In our conversation below we discuss the power of social media, Circles of Shame, miscarriage, pregnancy, Bridget Jones and more.
I absolutely loved chatting to George. I hope you enjoy reading this too.
Tell us a bit about you
I’m Georgina; I usually go by George. I’ve worked as a blogger for 10 years; full time for about six. My blog started as a passion project based on my love of underwear, well-fitting bras and pin-up clothing. It started because I found that, as I got a bit bigger, I was moving into that hanky hem, butterfly top, cardigan-wearing territory. But I found that non-mainstream styles, like wiggle dresses and 50s pin up pieces, really suited me and were helping me to feel confident and really good in my body. So I started a blog to show exactly that. I had seen a couple of other bloggers and I thought, ‘well, if a couple of women can read this and find it relatable then that’s great’. I didn’t expect it to take off. I didn’t even have an email address, let alone social media. But it did pick up!
People don’t read blogs in the same way since social media has taken over and so my platform has evolved. I tend not to update the blog these days but I share updates on social media regularly. I use my platform to talk about anything: mooncups, menstruation, marriage and now maternity too! I share as much of my life as I am comfortable with. I have spoken openly about my marriage, my pregnancy journey – including a lot about IVF and infertility – but there are, of course, things I choose to keep back too. Over the years I’ve learned to create boundaries to protect myself and also to stay true to why I started the blog in the first place: to share relatable content with ordinary women like me who are not otherwise seen in the mainstream.
George, I think you’re being quite modest. You have over 250k followers on Facebook and nearly 350k on Instagram. You have a huge following and have had huge success growing your platform in this way.
I attribute a lot of my success to my privileges: my age and skin colour, for example. But I was lucky to start when I did. Being a plus size blogger, especially in lingerie, was fairly unusual ten or so years ago. It really was a side project at the beginning. I can remember coming home after a 12 hour waitressing shift, putting on pretty underwear and sucking my tummy in for a photo for my blog; I had so much passion and dedication. Nowadays you do see more people doing the same thing and it does feel more crowded – but in an amazing way: it really allows individuals to curate their feeds and think about the exact kind of content they want to engage with. Social media can elevate and amplify different voices and it’s brilliant to see new voices and faces being thrust to the front of the crowd.
What is the earliest memory you have of your body image?
I was always quite a slim child and had no boobs, no curves, nothing. Then puberty hit, my boobs came in, my figure became more “womanly” and I noticed that I started getting attention from inappropriate men. When I was about 10 or 11 I wanted to wear pedal pushers; I’m 33 and these were a popular, tight, calf-length legging. I remember my step-mum commenting, ‘I don’t know if you want to wear those, they accentuate what a big bum you have’. She didn’t mean it unkindly at all; back then it was the era of constant body and diet talk. But the comment made me realise I had a big bum. This was the age of J Lo’s bum implants, the ‘does my bum look big in this’ rhetoric and so on. I just remember thinking ‘is big bad?’
I used to go to dance school (this is unbelievable because I’m shockingly bad at dancing) and once when I was getting measured for an outfit I had to wear the person measuring me said to my parents ‘oh she’s got quite a big bust measurement’. I didn’t know what ‘bust’ meant, I thought it meant bum! So I went home and looked it up in the dictionary. When I realised it was about my chest I thought ‘that must have been noteworthy’.
These incidents, amongst others, contributed to me becoming more aware of my body. Specifically, the ways in which my body was different to the bodies of my friends and peers. I look back at photos and can see that I was mostly lanky but my features, my curves, were just slightly outside of normal for my age group. And that’s when I started a spiral of being more self-conscious.
I was a teenager, reading magazines, watching the Spice Girls and so on. My sister was two years older than me and she used to read Sugar magazine which had the Circles of Shame. From an early age the only time I saw myself represented in the media was as a ‘before’ picture or in the Circles of Shame. I read Bridget Jones and remember her getting upset at being 9 stone. I was 13 or 14 and I weighed about 12 stone at the time. I thought ‘she’s really upset and she’s a full-grown woman who weighs less than me’. And of course the chain smoking and the excessive drinking didn’t seem to be anywhere near as problematic for her as her weight. Bridget Jones was meant to be relatable and that book could have done so much if she was, say, a size 16, a bit hung up on her body but still getting laid. I had to get on scales after I read that book and thought ‘oh shit, I shouldn’t weigh as much as I do’.
What have been some of the biggest influences on your body image and body confidence?
Curating my own social media has been a big factor for me in the last few years. So, when I go on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, I see women who look like me. Of course I also follow lots of people who don’t look like me: slimmer people, drag queens, trans people, people of colour – but I also chose to follow bigger women who do look like me. It means that when I open Instagram it isn’t like looking through a magazine with the same single images looking back at me. Instagram is our modern magazine.
And actually, I have a really two-way relationship with my followers where I feel I’ve genuinely fed off their comments and messages. When they say ‘I’m inspired to get my arms out for the first time today’, it makes me think ‘okay, I’m also feeling self-conscious but I can do this too.’ And I do. Their attitude, their stories and the things they share back with me has been amazing. And I do feel I have a responsibility to them to not put myself down online; to not pick myself apart.
I really dislike the constant talk about weight loss, calories and how our bodies are better when they are slimmer. I was at a friend’s baby shower recently and the expecting mother mentioned she’d eaten a pack of digestive biscuits. Someone else chipped in with the number of calories per biscuit and someone else excused the decision because she was ‘eating for two’. A few years ago I would have joined in and laughed. In a recent NCT class someone mentioned that ‘breastfeeding burns loads of calories’ and all the women cheered. This has become so normal. But we don’t have to talk about calories and weight loss and how naughty we are for having a chip or a biscuit.
(And yet at the same time it is completely normal to celebrate alcohol. The drinking is the thing that I don’t do: I just can’t be bothered to have a hangover ever again.) So I’m actively trying to change my language and be surrounded by people who give the good vibes back. And I find it has really changed how I’ve thought about myself. I’m having a child and I really want them to have a good body image, to be kind about themselves and others. I don’t want them to have a strange relationship with food and exercise. And all that blathering on about eating a chip or a biscuit and ‘trying to be good’: it gives food this strange moral value. And the more you deprive yourself, the more you want it.
I call it ‘the Christmas permission’. This idea that we give ourselves permission to eat and drink more over Christmas, because ‘the diet starts in the new year’, or ‘everyone is eating and drinking lots so I can too’. We did it during Covid too. That ‘lockdown weight gain’ everyone talked about. We were unhappy, not moving as much, missing our friends and trying to seek comfort and joy in what we could – which felt like it was less and less every day. Food and drink and cooking and takeaways and zoom cocktail classes. We gave ourselves permission and let go of the guilt temporarily. But the fall out is beating ourselves up.
Whether it’s ‘Christmas weight gain’ or ‘lockdown weight gain’. Or the woman who during her pregnancy tells you ‘all I crave is chocolate’. No, love, you’ve always wanted and craved the chocolate bar but only now that you’re pregnant are you giving yourself permission to enjoy it. Now that it’s Christmas or lockdown, it’s ‘acceptable’ to enjoy those things. But here’s the thing: it’s always been acceptable and you’ve always been allowed to. And, actually, if you gave yourself permission to enjoy those things day to day then you’d do it normally, in moderation, and not feel you had to apologise for any brief enjoyment or indulgence via a spin class. And don’t forget that since August you’ve been heavily marketed at to enjoy eating mince pies, morning, noon and night: so of course you’ve wanted to. Only now at midnight on 31st December does all the messaging change and it’s no longer about mince pies and chocolate and hearty roast dinners, it’s about weight loss and the fitness kick and feeling guilty for having indulged.
What do you love about your body today?
Our first round of IVF failed; we had just one embryo that was usable and I had a few days of positive tests. But the embryo didn’t take. I felt so disappointed in my body. I didn’t get as many eggs as I had hoped (we didn’t have any to freeze) and then the one embryo we did have didn’t stick around. I went into IVF pretty open-minded; I wasn’t naïve. But still I felt utterly devastated by the outcome.
So when my body somehow worked the second time around I felt so proud. In IVF they grade your embryos; ‘good grade’ ones can be frozen and then defrosted at a later date and implanted successfully – so it’s giving you future options if the immediate one doesn’t work. However, the second time I was told that the embryo ‘wasn’t very good’ and there weren’t any that were good enough to be frozen. So it was just going to be a fresh transfer straight into my uterus 5 days after it’d been taken. I was so sure it wasn’t going to work; I even called it ‘my shitty embryo’. But my body, somehow, took it and did everything right.
My whole pregnancy I have been told I am “high risk” because of my weight and also because of having an IVF baby, but throughout the baby has been fine and I have been too. The baby is mid-percentile, kicking and moving lots, growing fine, good strong heartbeat. Everything has been really textbook and I’ve been really proud of my body. I have found myself thinking ‘I’m sorry I hated you last year because you lost our little embryo but it happens; it’s sad but it does happen. And now, body, you are doing everything right.’ I just can’t wait for the baby to be here so someone else can take on some responsibility! I’m still walking and weight-lifting; I’m a bit more out of breath these days and I have massively swollen ankles but my body is feeling like it is doing all the right things. So I’m really grateful.
Thank you for sharing this with us George. It’s so important to talk about miscarriage and I’m really grateful that you're comfortable being so honest about that part of your journey. I know that other women will read about your experience and find it reassuring.
The thing I found really hard was not telling everyone until 12 weeks. But then if you have a miscarriage you might tell your closest friends and family, and then those people never got to share the joy. The pregnancy still means something and it is so frustrating that you have to meet the 12-week mark to make it ‘real’. ‘I’ve rinsed Boots of pregnancy tests, I’ve got a name for the baby and I’ve been throwing up for 8 weeks but still this pregnancy doesn’t count until 12 weeks?’ I was so early with my miscarriage that in some ways I feel quite lucky: I probably wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been IVF. I can’t imagine having seen a heartbeat and then losing a pregnancy. Of course it happens – and it can happen to anyone – but it’s still a grief and a loss. With IVF they say every embryo that doesn’t take feels like a loss.
I think we are so used to normalising the pain and suffering of women that we don’t even notice it sometimes. My embryo was implanted as a fertilised bundle of cells, shoved back up me whilst my legs were pulled wide and three embryologists watched. It’s not pretty but it is real. I think this idea that we should just suffer and grin and bear it needs to change. Loss and grief and pain: these things happen and it’s okay to feel them.
What do you like about Deakin and Blue?
From the get-go you guys have been so inclusive; you hit the ground running with models who felt more representative. You used women of colour, women with different body shapes. I remember Symara from your first shoot – a strikingly beautiful Black woman. Since you first launched you have not used stereotypical women and models on your website and social media. I love that alongside that you also work with Olympians and professional surfers: sportswomen who are really going to put their swimsuits through the ringer, properly wear them and be active in them; because we want to see those bodies as well, those bodies absolutely have a place in marketing.
And you’ve really listened to your customers: I think it’s incredible that you’ve increased your size range up to a UK 24. For a small brand that’s really great. Of course, people always think you should make more sizes, take more risks and keep extending the range but it’s really costly for a small brand. I also love that you don’t have a cost jump for larger sizes, even though of course a size 22 uses more fabric than a size 12. All sizes are the same price – it’s admirable.
People often think if you’re a brand that you have endless time, money, resources but I know you have to grade patterns up, test them on bigger bodies and so on. And bigger bodies are different in more ways than smaller bodies. Two size 8 women can probably fit into the same thing, but two size 20 women might have very, very different body shapes – you have to really think about those things. So it’s really admirable to have been so inclusive from the get go. It’s refreshing: this is us, we’re real bodies – swimming, surfing, working out – oh and we’re doing the whole thing sustainably too.
What advice would you give to your younger self to help her have a better relationship with her body?
Younger George was so stubborn I think, ‘would she have listened to anything a wiser, older me would tell her??’ I didn’t listen to anyone, but in a good way. I would wear the clothes, have the fun, travel alone, do the bungee jumps and the skydives. I did all the things I wanted to do with my body. I think the only thing I would say is ‘take the photos’. Because although I did do the things I wanted to, I think I always felt that I was not beautiful in society’s eyes.
Beauty standards are absolute shite and change constantly. The dream body one week can be in the circle of shame the next. Growing up I had big lips and a big bum and it wasn’t fashionable to have those attributes at the time so I was picked on for having them. How ridiculous that already within my lifetime that beauty standard has been completely turned on its head and those features are now considered highly desirable.
I got to a point where I was very camera shy. I’m grateful because I didn’t live for the photos, instead I lived in the moment and was very present. I was confident, I did amateur dramatics and pantomimes and I was absolutely fine on my own. But I do, looking back, wish I had a bit more of a record.
So I’d say: ‘take the photos to remind yourself that you weren’t this horrible thing that they said you were at school.’ And you don’t have to take them for social media, they don’t have to exist for other people, you can just take them for yourself. And you don’t even have to love them right now, but just sit with them for a few years and I think I’d be so grateful to have them. I’m doing it a lot with my pregnancy – taking photos, especially of my bump. I often think that it looks a funny shape or it isn’t my favourite angle, or my stretch marks don’t look great or whatever. But I want to remember all of that, when I look back on this time. So yes, I wish I’d taken a few more photos for myself, for my child, but yes mostly for me.
George wears the X-Back in Teal in a size 20 Hendricks, the Swimcrop High Waist Bikini in Mango in a size 18 Hendricks (18 bottoms, 18 Hendricks top) and the Plunge Bikini in Lido in a size 18 Hendricks (18 bottoms, 18 Hendricks top).