Fashion has historically been full of thin models and clothes that never quite fit. Growing up, it was rare to see someone that looked like me in fashion and media. I walked a confusing path of being obsessed with fashion, but never quite seeing myself fit into that space. I struggled to feel like I had a place in fashion, even though I had a love for clothes from a very young age. When I was a tween, my favorite magazines lacked in body diversity and stores that my friends shopped at didn’t carry my size, leaving me to feel like I just wasn’t meant to belong in the fashion space.
A store that reminds me of middle school is Hollister — their brightly colored floral skater skirts haunt me to this day. It seemed like if you weren’t wearing a skirt from Hollister, you would never be cool. Now, that’s a silly concept, and I know that a skirt was not going to make or break my social status for the rest of my life. But at the time, wearing what everyone else is wearing is what gives you a sense of fitting in, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Not fitting into clothes in popular stores when I was younger made me feel like I would never fit in anywhere. Thanks to social media and just growing into my own person, I learned that there’s space for my body (and everyone’s body) in fashion and I can make it my own.
While not wearing what everyone else was wearing was upsetting, it really gave me the chance to express myself through fashion. Since I usually didn’t fit into stores that were popular at the time like Hollister and Abercrombie, I was forced to get creative and make outfits with what I had. I remember one outfit, in particular, that was my own take on the infamous floral skirts. I stole an Old Navy skirt from my mom’s closet and paired it with a ruffled long sleeve shirt. It wasn’t what everyone else had — it was better because it was my own. This obviously wasn’t the most fashionable outfit to begin with, but the fact that I took a trend and made it mine was so exciting for me. All of my friends complimented me on the outfit.
Middle school isn’t easy for anyone and feeling like you don’t fit in is a challenge that every pre-teen faces. I struggled with wanting to be like everyone else, but once I realized I could wear things that fit me and still be fashionable, I started to care less and less about what everyone thought of me and I was just being myself. This technique of taking trends and making them my own with pieces that fit me has stuck with me into my 20s.
Social media’s effect
The most impactful tool in helping me to find my place in fashion has been social media. In high school, I discovered plus-size influencers and they changed the game for me when it came to fashion. These women were not only models, but entrepreneurs, and I seriously owe them my life because they taught me how to feel powerful in my body. They are the ones that give me the confidence to write articles like this one. Some of the women I followed when I first discovered the plus-size side of Instagram and fashion were Barbie Ferreira and Gabi Gregg.
Seeing women with curvy bodies like mine wearing crop tops, bikinis, and tight clothing had sent my already-existing love for fashion soaring. I didn’t copy everything they did, but I kept outfits they wore at the front of my mind to remind myself that I could wear anything, no matter what I looked like. While sometimes Instagram can be a toxic place, it definitely has its benefits if you’re following people that inspire you. Who I follow not only inspires me with fashion, they inspire me to love myself, too.
Stores that extend their sizes
A feeling that I always hated growing up was watching my friends buy everything at the mall while I sat on the bench because I couldn’t fit into the stores they were shopping at. This isn’t as big of a problem anymore because so many stores have begun extending their size range.
Places like Forever 21, H&M and Express have made shopping in-store a pleasant experience for the first time in my life. The options are even wider when it comes to shopping online. My go-to online shopping sites are Nasty Gal, Madewell and ASOS. I bow down to stores that carry extended sizes. They give me the opportunity to try trends and have high-quality pieces that fit my body. Plus-size clothes used to be limited to stores only my grandma would shop at (love you grammy), but now I can be included in fashion and find items that I’m in love with.
The biggest reason why I feel so connected to fashion is because of that confidence aspect. It all comes down to feeling good and feeling like your best self. When I put together an outfit, nine times out of 10 I’m so much more concerned with how it makes me feel rather than the clothes themselves. Don’t get me wrong, showing off your fit is a great feeling, but nothing beats feeling worthy and beautiful.
If you’re a plus-size girl that is struggling to find her place in fashion, this is my reminder to you that there is space for everyone, no matter what size you are. Through a little bit of hurdle-jumping, creativity and inspiration searching, I discovered that there is totally room for us in the fashion world. There hasn’t always been a place for us, but we have finally made our way in there. Not only are plus-size women making huge moves in fashion, but they are also teaching us you can love yourself at any size. My biggest reminder is this: loving your body in a society that teaches us to hate it is revolutionary. Go start a revolution, girl!