Sunday, April 26, 2009

Should your size affect your style?

Be faithful to your own taste because nothing you really like is ever out of style.
- Billy Baldwin

I love this quote because sums up my idea of what "style" really is about - my style (and anyone else's) isn't about "what's hot" but "what I like." When considering the state of the fashion industry, however, is this idea of style truly applicable to someone like me, who's shut out of the majority of the industry and limited to but a handful of places to shop, because of my size 16-18 frame? If all I like are only made by designers who won't make clothes over a size 10, how then do I be faithful to my own taste?

It's a shame. In the US, the majority of women are overweight (statistics say 62%), yet the majority of fashion designers/retailers refuse to cater to the demographic. The LA Times' article, Fashion's Invisible Woman, poses the question: "Did the [plus size] demographic give up on fashion before fashion gave up on the demographic? Or was it the other way around?"

My answer: fashion gave up on the demographic, AND the demographic has NOT given up on fashion!

Truly, a part of the problem with plus-size and fashion is that too many plus-sized gals don't believe that fashion is actually meant for us. But why should we believe that true fashion à la mode or even last year's mode is meant for us when those who create fashion don't bother to cater to us? Why feel that we can be fashionable and beautiful in our attire, when we live in a culture who has FOREVER told us- outright and not so outright - that fat doesn't equal beautiful?

But ultimately, all women in our society, regardless of size, want to wear great clothes that look great on them. There is MUCH happening in the plus-size community to 1) let the majority of the women in this nation know that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and 2) that no industry, ESPECIALLY the fashion industry, should ignore us because we don't fit their ideal standard of beauty!

I had the opportunity (the privilege, really) to attend the premiere of an event that exemplifies just such efforts. Curves and Cocktails ™ , the signature event of Belle Noir Magazine promised to "cater to your every curve" and indeed it DID! There were vendors which included handbag designers, clothing designers that catered to the plus-size woman, a lovely plus-size lady who designs handmade cards (got a few!) and another lady who designs accessories (from whom I scored a lovely leaf-adorned headband). There were also bra fittings (which by the way, I NEEDED and was shocked a bit to discover my new bra size!), curvytinis and really good hors d'oeuvres (the BOMB)!

There was also the underlying message of the event: we are curvy and beautiful and DESERVE to be catered to just like our "regular" sized sisters - and there is absolutely NO GOOD reason why we shouldn't get the treatment they get. I had a lovely time mingling, drinking and shopping.

Now I'm looking forward to attending Full Figured Fashion Week, which will launch in New York City on June 25-27, 2009.

I love what Belle Noir is doing for the plus sized community (I'm a huge fan of the blog - big shout to Ms. Aja B!) but they aren't alone in the effort for plus-size acceptance in the fashion industry - and in the individual plus-sized woman. Just google the phrase "plus size blog" and you get 76,300,000 hits chock full of writers pushing for their readers to accept themselves, let go of any fashion and fat related fears and go after their style regardless of their size (and big shout to my girl J, who does SUCH a good job of doing just that!!).

It's not that plus-sized women are relegated to two or three options when it comes to clothing or go naked otherwise. There are a slew of online retailers, B&Lu, Kiyonna, IGIGI and Newport News, brick-and-mortar stores (with online options too) like Lane Bryant, The Avenue, Torrid and Monif C. There are also mass retailers like Target, Old Navy (only online) and Wal-Mart, offering plus-size fashion at affordable (and sometimes downright cheap!) prices. And in about a week, retailer Forever 21 is about to join in on the fun (and the profits!) with it's Faith 21 line. If you check out these lines from any of the brands mentioned, they're not all frumpy and matronly - but fresh, feminine, funky, and everything else a plus sized gal might want to be in their attire.

The lovely Mia Amber (who was in attendance at Curves and Cocktails! She was awarded for her work in the fashion industry for plus size acceptance - she's so inspiring!). Here, she's modeling "Labelle," by Monif C. $178,

Your size doesn't HAVE to affect your style, but the reality is that if you are plus-sized, it's harder for you to find what captures your style than for your slimmer counterparts. Considering that the majority of the women in this country are plus-sized, this really doesn't make sense to me. Shouldn't the industry conform and cater to those they stand to profit from the most? Reading this bit from Fashion's Invisible Woman gave some insight as to why the industry probably doesn't:
Plus-size has been a challenge for the industry for decades," said Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst for the research firm NPD Group. "When I interview plus-size women, there's really nothing [in the market] that the consumer says they like. Because of this, women in this demographic have learned to make fashion not a priority." The longing for style is strong, but the hopes of finding it are low, and shopping is less fun than frustrating.
If this is the kind of information the industry comes across in market research, it will take a LONG time before industry titans see plus-size fashion as profitable and not as something OUTSIDE the norm. The longing for style is strong indeed! It's interesting to observe that though Old Navy decided to no longer make it's plus-size line available in the stores about two years ago (which many plus-sized ladies didn't like!) the line certainly didn't fade. In my opinion, the line only improved in quality once that happened and I doubt that it's going anywhere, because the longing for style for the plus sized woman is that strong! If more of the industry caters to this longing, the hopes of finding fashion for our size AND our style will be high.

You are only limited to the extent you believe something limits you. Even when it seems that odds are against you, you are capable of accomplishing whatever you desire, even when that desire is simply to present yourself in a certain style. Your size should not affect your style! Be the person you choose to be, in every way possible!


Ms. Aja B. said...

Tricia, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you yesterday afternoon. Thank you so much for your kinds words about the event. I am glad that you enjoyed it and if you left feeling inspired, then my job was done! :)

I'm loving this new blog, girl! Keep up the great work!

Hope we will get a chance to chat and hang out soon.

Peace & Love,
Ms. Aja B.

Danielle said...

Hey I remember you! Thanks so much for mentioning me on your blog. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Sherisa of L'élephant Rose said...

Thanks for the shout out! I enjoyed meeting you and I definitely enjoyed vending there! Look forward to bumping into you all over NYC boo!



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