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Happy New Year! 2016 is finally over. It felt like a long drawn out year, a few times making me question whether I was trapped inside the movie Groundhog’s Day. Even though the last cycle around the sun has been full of hardships and tragedies, the plus size fashion community has seen growth and positive change. We aren’t there yet, but we are on our way. Now that 2017 is here, I am thinking about the things I am most looking forward to throughout the upcoming year.
Actual Body Diversity in Campaigns
Big box stores are listening and (slowly) moving towards more inclusive campaigns. Lane Bryant, a company that has had some issues with executing campaigns in the past has just issued a refreshing ad that shows actually plus size people of different body shapes in active wear. Representation is so important and we’ve been asking for it. If a brand wants our money, we want to see bodies that look like ours in advertisements and on websites. It’s even more exciting because it acknowledges the fact that fat people work out without pushing weight loss. If this ad is any indication that Lane Bryant is listening, I can’t wait to see more like it and hope other big box brands take note.
Plus Size Menswear
Speaking of representation, 2016 saw Asos launch extended sizes for men with a bevy of babely plus size models. Fashion is not just for “feminine” representing people and it’s so great to see more masculine styles offered in larger sizes. For so long, plus size brands either have been pushing matronly styles or hyper feminine prints and cuts. Providing options for those that like to wear masculine styles or play with multiple styles to curate a unique look is what fashion is all about. Fashion is expression, and everyone deserves to adorn their bodies with a style that reflects how they feel inside. I can’t wait until plus size menswear is more accessible and not just relegated to boring button ups at the ‘big and tall’ store. I have a feeling that 2017 will offer up some exciting options.
Way more representation (yes, you’re noticing a theme here) for trans and gender non-conforming plus size models. Shay Neary became the first plus size trans model to land a major fashion campaign in 2016. You read that right. It really took this long to get here. As progressive as the fashion community may seem, it’s not always so and the plus size fashion community can feel like it’s moving at a snail’s pace. It’s SO important that brands are acknowledging that there are more than 2 gender identities. I hope that 2017 means we see more opportunities for trans and non-binary models.
Indie Brands Fighting the Good Fight
Indie brands still tend to lead the way by showing the larger brands that plus size people ARE ready for edgier styles, higher fashion, playing with silhouettes and that models with diverse body types can sell clothing. Trends start from the ground level and indie brands are the ones really pushing fashion forward. More and more independent stores and designers are producing clothing that we’ve always been told wasn’t for us. For instance, Origami Customs is creating beautiful size inclusive swimwear and lingerie. These are often untapped markets for sizes above 4X. Here’s the thing, as Kat Eves (of Style Ethic and Wear Your Voice) said to me yesterday “Did we really work this hard to just become consumers?” She’s right. We aren’t just fighting for the right to pay for clothing that fits, but we want to see people that look like us on the website, in the ads, on the billboards. If you want our money, show us you care.
Some of the independent brands that have recently gone into business are higher price points such as Universal Standard. Though they not be accessible to all of us, it’s important that we have a diverse community of styles, prices, and quality. These brands not only combat the direction towards fast fashion, but also pave the way for cutting edge design and a call for more quality garments. These things trickle down to more affordable lines over time. Straight sized brands have had access to lines across all price points and quality levels for ages. The fact that we are seeing more and more luxury brands catering to the plus size consumer means that things are changing, and we are showing the industry that we want and deserve options.
Ashley Nell-Tipton’s Next Line
I think we were all rooting for Ashley on Project Runway. I had been following Ashley’s career for a few years, and she was one of those women with a small brand that I looked up to. When I heard she was going to compete, I was SO excited. Seeing a visibly plus size woman on a popular show, competing (and winning) to make beautiful clothing for people like me was powerful. Not to mention, she just seems like a genuinely lovely person. So, when she launched her first line last Fall with JC Penney, I was cautiously optimistic. I know that designers often make concessions within the fashion community to please the higher ups, so I was surprised that I liked every piece from her line. On top of that, her fashion show at New York Fashion Week was so refreshing. Seeing a mix of models and non-models that were visibly plus was thrilling. With a couple seasons under her belt, I can only imagine that this year will lead to bigger, more trendsetting line and I personally can’t wait to see what she comes up with. I’m crossing my fingers for a lot of crop tops (no, I am not over crop tops yet) and some really cute accessories.
New York Fashion Week
If you love fashion then you have probably dreamed of attending New York Fashion Week. It’s a week of fashion shows by some of the best and brightest designers from all over. Editors, celebrities and socialites line the front rows. It’s the epitome of the fashion industry, which we know hasn’t been very welcoming to plus size designers, consumers, and brands. Over the years, we’ve seen some groundbreaking shows that have included plus size models sporadically at best. Last year we saw a lot of action on the runways from Bryon Lars’ gorgeous collection to the debut of plus-size menswear designer Brandon Kyle. If last year was any indication, then New York Fashion week is sure to have me glued to my seat.
DIY isn’t Dead
We all know that a lot of big brands have cashed in on this movement. Some of them are doing right by us, some still have a ways to go. What really warms my heart the most is being able to attend an event put on by a small brand or local people wanting to build community. I was lucky enough to attend a few such events in 2016 like Knockout PDX. There are indie brands from all over the country showed original designs, Jes Baker gave an extremely powerful presentation, Vendors and makers set up their one of a kind goods, and Beth Ditto popped in to give everyone a total fan girl moment. The Plus Bus in Los Angeles has also become a safe space and DIY event space locally in Southern California. They’ve taken some online only brands and made them accessible in person, as well as offering consignment, vintage, pop up events, and body positive speakers. We do not have to go with the flow and allow this movement to become totally commercial. We can still organize events locally to bring us together to support and lift each other up.
More Pool Parties, Less Apologizing
Plus size bikinis aren’t going away. It’s been a few years since the notion of a fatkini became popular. We are rejecting the idea that only one type of body is a “beach body” more every year. I don’t see us slowing down in 2017. In fact, the idea of empowering women to feel good in their skin has become such a force that Essie Golden took her Golden Confidence Pool Party on tour last year. As a true water sign, I can only hope she does it again this summer. I’ve already got my eye on a few new swimsuits to splash around in all Summer. Whether you feel empowered in a string bikini or a long sleeve one piece, I hope that you are able to feel the sunshine on your face and the water on your feet in 2017, without feeling as if you have to apologize for the beautiful body you inhabit.
Saturday 14th of January 2017
So glad you mentioned all these very important points about the evolution of curvy fashion. I am especially glad to hear you affirm the fact that there's room for lots of different kinds of clothes for us--not just the cheap trendy stuff that ends up in the dump in 6 months or less. We also deserve options for very high quality clothing, designs that push beyond comfort zones, and a spirit that is inclusive and welcoming. Love your thoughtful article. Thank you!!!