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Makeover Candidate through Catherine Schuller’s Y.E.S.S. #2 — Denise Mercedes (Instagram leader)

Posted by on July 8, 2015

Y.E.S.S.
SIGNATURE STYLE MAKEOVER #2

by Catherine Schuller, AICI, CIP

Makeover Candidate:  Denise Mercedes, Instagram Celebrity

Like any modern friendship these days, I met Denise on social media last year and was impressed with how well she “got it right” when it came to her ensembles. One of my pet peeves as an image consultant is how wrong some of the
influential bloggers are with their ensembles. You know my mantra is “Just ’cause you can button it doesn’t mean you should buy it.” It has become more and more apparent that proportion, balance and fit are not the major criteria used
when assembling outfits and placed up on social media these days. Forget about looking in the mirror and snapping selfies willy-nilly. If someone has a natural aesthetic and a personality that leaps off the screen, I’m engaged. Obviously I am not alone as Denise has amassed over 26,000 (yes thousand) followers in the past few years. It has been a meteroric rise by anyone’s standards, and I am amazed at her natural sense of style and ability to edit looks that really work for her. I chose her as my next makeover participant because she gets it right most of the time in her posts, even in light of her challenges: She is 5’5”, a petite curvy woman, size 16W – with a full bust measurement of 42”,  waist 33”,
hips 48” (a true hourglass) and shoulder width of 19” (not overly broad)….Denise probably represents the majority of plus women out there in the world since most of the U.S. is 5’4” and size 14. However, that’s far from the going size and height of most models in the plus divisions of agencies today. Denise expressed her disappointment at being rejected by most agencies because of her height but instead of slinking away into the shadows, she took the cyber-bull by the horns and marketed her uniqueness. She now realizes (in the truest sense of the world) that she is a role model for her fans who find her shape and height similar to theirs and therefore much more relatable. It’s a testament to social media that everyone, no matter how far outside the accepted norm, can find a growing number of followers who admire them for their differences.

Denose is twenty-three years old, born and raised in Jersey from a Dominican family. She’s currently studying psychology and hoping to obtain her bachelor’s degree in a few years. She is great at reading people and has great
listening skills. She is an avid lover of animals and actually says she has telepathic conversations with dogs! She would have become a veterinarian in another life. Eventually, she turned from reading animals to reading people. I asked her about her beginning days on Instagram, the platform where she truly shines. We live in a world now where a picture tells a story and is worth a thousand words.  She began on a weekly basis, taking photos of herself in a favorite outfit in the park with her friend and posting them regularly on Instagram. As soon as she began posting on IG she started to get followers, first a few at a time, then more and more over a relatively short period of time. Her followers started to grow so much so that she was encouraged to do it more often – sometimes three times a week. Consistency online is key these days–meeting expectations and delivering on a regular basis.  She was thrilled when her followers provided positive feedback. Her fans would tell her how much they loved her images that showed a curvy petite woman who wasn’t stopping herself because of her height and size “limitations.” The irony of her story is that she started taking photos of herself out of her feeling rejected from the plus-size model agency world. It’s a lesson about changing the pot, not the chicken! She was shy and insecure but believed in herself and wanted an expressive outlet. Unlike her counterparts who don’t really know their appropriate style, she knew what looked good on her and was willing to share it out there in the world in hopes that she would simply see herself as a model on some level, even if what she was modeling was clothing from her own wardrobe and her campaign platform message was “self love.” Other women even told her that she had saved their lives! That’s when she understood that her positivity was truly beneficial.

One tip I learned from our time together is that she never uses a camera phone to post.  She uses a Nikon camera with a zoom lens and her pictures are clear and well lit and have a depth that a selfie cam shot simply cannot deliver. She said
that her fans deserve the best visuals of her and respond in kind. A beautiful shot is a thing to behold, worth the investment. With 26,000 followers, she is quite inspirational and her fans are very vocal about it. Yes, she was shy and insecure, but she luckily didn’t have low self esteem…that was the difference. Since she can remember, her mother was a constant disapproving nudge about her weight. She was very thin and couldn’t understand why her daughter, Denise, wasn’t the same way. It seemed as though her mother badgered her because she was trying to shame her into skinniness, but we all know that always backfires. Her mother chose the worst possible shaming device ever – comparison. She had size 0, 2, 4 cousins and was constantly reminded by her mother that she needed to look like them.  Thank goodness that her cousins didn’t jump on the bullying bandwagon!  She was amazed that her cousins actually said she was beautiful, that her curves were gorgeous and that they weren’t perfect either – certainly not worthy of Denise feeling inferior around them. What cool cousins!! They encouraged and protected her, not beating her up any more than her mother already did! That fact was her saving grace…imagine if her cousins had been “mean girls” and fed the fire of her mother’s fat fanatic frenzy. I told her that she is truly a role model, turning obstacles into assets
and overcoming the feelings that she wasn’t good enough because of her mother and the rejecting New York modeling agencies.  I can only say, “You go, girl!” It was my pleasure to IGIGI-ify you. It was a delight to get to know you, to
assess and dress you and hopefully your fans will love the results from our encounter.

Her Y.E.S.S. assessment resulted in her style being Dramatic and Alluring. She loves magnetic dressing, showing off her curves and cleavage. She knows that it’s about appropriateness and IGIGI has just the right body conscious clothing that work for her petite plus silhouette. Add sexy heels and a necklace and she’s ready for the world! With her extreme curves, she needs a dress that flows and emphasizes her hourglass figure.

Note:  She took the quiz online and actually met me for the photoshoot a day after she had a terrible incident with her boyfriend’s ex girlfriends and friend who wound up confronting her and taunting her by saying, “So you think you’re a
model??” In an ice cream shop, they kept teasing and taunting until her friend said, “What is your problem?” They literally came at both of them and wound up yanking Denises’s hair and pulling a clump of it out and even snapping and hurting her neck in the process! I was appalled at her recounting of this episode that had just happened the night before. I also had a newfound respect for her. Even Shelia Gay Robbins of She She’s Closet who came along to add her gorgeous jewelry to the shoot was shocked when she heard the story. We wanted to pamper Denise as much as possible and make her feel amazing. Even with a boyfriend of three years, the ex-girlfriend isn’t leaving it alone. Denise still fights battles and with exposure comes disapproval and jealousy. A role model, indeed! IGIGI styles reflected her Dramatic and Alluring nature and She She’s Closet jewelry pieces, the perfect accent. I am so happy that we helped her feel like a pampered queen for a day at least! Her style was always there, maybe a bit on the exaggerated or even too casual style. Our focus on Dramatic and Alluring gave her a sophisticated and glamorous look which she embraced.  She was a great model with wonderful instincts allowing her to access that deep emotional space that expresses
how she feels– “fierce and fabulous.” It shows in her face and eyes!  I was impressed with her instincts and model potential. I would love if she could help me at F.I.T. when I teach. She could certainly be a shining example of the
women’s petite market….a much needed inspiration for my class as well!!

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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Blake Dress in Bombay Teal

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mercedes 13Charmaine Jumpsuit in Black (no longer in stock)

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Think you’ve got what it takes to take my Y.E.S.S. Style Assessment Quiz [take yours here] and let me “IGIGI-ify” your look?  Contact me at catschuller1@gmail.com. Send me a few jpegs of your face and body in your favorite outfits and you may be next!

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Makeover Candidate through Catherine Schuller’s Y.E.S.S.

Posted by on June 2, 2015

Makeover Candidate: Nicole Flores

Profession: Blogger, Writer, Spokesperson, Social Media and PR

Interests: Art, Hip Hop, Music and Entertainment

Photographer: Jose Pagan

Makeup Artist: Nicole Flores

Styling and Accessories: Shelia Gay Robbins of She She’s Closet

Nicole Flores lives in New York City and the backdrop of the arts scene is exactly what feeds her creative soul. She is passionate about everything to do with artists who perform, write, paint, draw, sing, dance, or express themselves through their art. She is a dedicated supporter and liaison of the art, music, fashion, business and beauty scenes in New York. Being a curvy woman, she has the same challenges in finding great outfits to wear to various art events in an about town. She is aware of her persona and how she presents herself in public. She is often dashing around the city, from morning to night, flitting among the art openings, gallery exhibitions, music and dance performances, and fashion shows. It’s this adrenaline rush that fuels her desires and motivates her on a daily basis. This is a high energy city and she is as dynamic a creature as you’ll find, curvy or straight.

Nicole is a beautiful Latina woman with a curly mane of hair and a smile as wide as her arms. She is one heck of a cook and a fabulous single mother. She works tirelessly and is all about empowerment, so she seemed like a great first candidate for my Y.E.S.S. blog post. We met when Nicole just started her Xponential Curve blog, which has grown in popularity over the past three years. She now has many followers and has become a writer, speaker and a heavy influence in social media. I have grown quite fond of this downtown diva with her Bronx roots and heart of gold. We became quite close over the past two years of my doing Runway the Real Way at the Yotel Hotel. With our having done over sixty shows at that venue, she has become a contributing member of the family, helping in a myriad of ways that make her indispensable to me each weekend. She assists with makeup application backstage and keeping the social media buzz going, not to mention rockin’ the runway with many of the plus-size designers who present in our show.

She has become my curvy confidante and I seek her advice, counsel and wisdom every week. You know you have a lot to say when a phone call goes on for an hour and you’ve barely scratched the surface. She is a wonderful mother, too, and in that regard I was honored to help her bump up her image and “IGIGI-ify” her current style. I chose Nicole for my first Y.E.S.S. candidate and am proud to make her my lovely lady of this first launch. I believe she personifies the very reason why I created this blog with IGIGI. I’m going to choose curvy women who have their own established style (although they may not know exactly what that is but as long as they know “what they like” and why). With Y.E.S.S., I’m going to help her pinpoint their style type, define what comprises that look and then have her choose an Igigi dress that best reflects who she is and more importantly, where she’s going.

After tallying the results from the Style Assessment Quiz [take yours here], we determined that Nicole has a Natural/Sporty core style but also has secondary characteristics (because no one is one dimensional, after all) in Dramatic/Alluring and Romantic/Feminine. For the most part, her style is casual, comfortable but creative. She wears a lot of pants and jeans because she “doesn’t like her legs” and has a hard time finding flattering dresses. IGIGI is known for its stunning array of dresses, so when I mentioned she’d be wearing a dress, she was a little hesitant at first, but I wanted her to try something that would reflect her appearing mores sophisticated and mature but not sacrificing her need for comfort; I certainly did not want her to feel self-conscious about her legs. “Style is being yourself on purpose,” I always say. We definitely discovered and tweaked her style; we used a few more flavors to complement and reflect her former style restraints, freeing her up to move into her more romantic and flirty side.

BEFORE: Here she is in some looks which she wore over the last few years…

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Her past looks were only a mere fraction of her style capability in my estimation. I chose the Kelly Dress in Noir Rose dress and the Francesca Dress in Tuberose because they are easy, breezy comfortable, but the message being communicated is Dramatic/Alluring with a touch of Romantic/Feminine. Something that was lacking in her wardrobe of yore. We have to examine how our style choices can show the world what we are moving away from and moving towards. She loves her new IGIGI-fied persona. We did her makeup and hair and added some fabulous jewelry which IGIGI dresses are MADE for fabulous accessories from She She’s Closet to coordinate with the colors in each dress and voila – instant glam!!

Then, with the spring weather in all its glory, we had the very talented Jose Pagan capture the new Nicole. How ironic that it was in the courtyard of The X Collective art studio where she was holding a gallery viewing during a Sunday afternoon. When I got her look all together and we were walking outside to start shooting the final result she put on the dress, spun around and said gleefully, “I feel so PRETTY!” Now isn’t that saying YESS to the DRESS???

AFTER: Natural/Sport, Dramatic/Alluring, Romantic/Feminine

Igigi Edited Igigi Edit2

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Meet our #MODELIGIGI Contest Winner: Nicole Simone, a Modern Day Mae

Posted by on May 1, 2015

NICOLE SIMONE

[MODEL]

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“IT’S ALMOST LIKE THE CURVIER YOU ARE, THE MORE BEAUTIFUL YOUR  MOVEMENTS ARE BECAUSE IT’S A LOT OF HIPS AND SHIMMYING AND IT’S JUST REALLY BEAUTIFUL TO SEE THAT.” 

I await Nicole Simone at the IGIGI headquarters but she arrives ten minutes early, which she tells me is her personal standard for any appointment: “I’d rather be early than late.” Over our morning chat, Nicole has an upbeat, girl-next-door kind of mien, but the kind who’s also effulgently well put-together. Her red lipstick is perfectly painted on her bow lips and her hair, which was swept in waves in her #MODELIGIGI photo, is now a perky chin-length bob. The outfit she smartly wears is very French: she’s dressed in a black-and-white striped shirt, tan cardigan, a black circle skirt and leggings with Fluevog black lace-up booties that turn out to have replaceable soles. The aspect of her stage persona is suggested by her graceful swoops and gestures. 

Nicole’s enthusiasm in winning #MODELIGIGI’s first successful campaign extends to all the other areas of her life. She tends to her goals the way someone peacefully waters plants on a rainy day. Her confidence “at any size” (she says her weight fluctuates and she’s at the largest she’s ever been, but her response is merely, “Bring it on!”) and optimism go together like bread and jam, undoubtedly her amulet for scrutiny from others that someone else with less resolve might find overwhelming. She’s started her own hashtag #anysizeconfidence to add to the lexicon of the #pluspositive movement. Nicole specifies that she doesn’t care for labels or numbers; she is a model regardless. Despite her cheerful aura, her awareness of the challenges of the plus-size world is apparent. For her part, she admits to having had an existential crisis of sorts in her youth and not knowing where she really “belonged” after letting go of her dream of going to college on a softball scholarship (she was that good: tensile arm strength). Her gateway drug was Plus Model Magazine which she credits on her professional website website as having opened up her eyes to a world in which she could inhabit comfortably. She connects the dots explicitly for all the signposts that led to her current success: cousins who are models, body awareness and dexterity through sports (specifically baseball: second and field positions), fluctuating dislocated knee, award-winning belly dancing, Plus Model Magazine. Nicole is a humble team player but you definitely want her on your team. –Jane Yu

Jane Yu: Tell us about your background.

Nicole Simone: So I have always had an interest in modeling. It’s something that runs in my family. I’ve had two successful cousins who are models. But I’ve always been on the curvier, thicker side so…

JY: Where are you from?

NS: I was born in Sunnyvale (California), down south for twelve years and moved back up here to the bay. Pageants were huge in my family. My aunt and uncle were huge players in the Hawaiian Tropics pageants for thirty years. I’ve always been around it but I just never really thought, “Oh, it’s something I can do” because in the fashion industry, you just didn’t really see girls who were curvy like me. So I kind of put that dream aside for a little while and in 2000, I started getting into belly dancing so I’ve been belly dancing off and on for like, fifteen years. And that’s really where I started gaining my confidence within my body and accepting myself, my curves and having the passion to perform and everything. In 2012 I actually stumbled upon Plus Model Magazine. Then I saw that, I was, like, “What is this vibrant world of curvy women?” I felt like I hit a goldmine! I was like, “That’s it. I’m going to pursue it. Because I’ve always wanted to do it and now I’m gonna do it.” And I did. In 2012 I just started booking with photographers and started shooting and building my portfolio and yeah, I just haven’t stopped since. I used to work in corporate sales for, like, twelve years and I decided… I actually knew for a long time that I wasn’t happy in that industry. It just wasn’t my passion and especially being an artist and going to college for art–fine art, photography–I didn’t finish college but I knew since I was young I’ve always been an artist. So I just knew that’s where my passion was. I said to myself, I’m going to take a risk, live a dream. Every year it tends to get a little better for me. I keep getting more opportunities or more people are noticing me. I feel like as long as I keep working towards it, really hard, and not giving up, not giving up on myself, that something will come eventually.

JY: Are you a full-time model right now?

NS: Yes, I work at the Academy of Art as well as a life model so I do that. I also model for designers here and there. One in particular, up in San Francisco: Dark Garden and Unique Corsetry. They’ve been around for over twenty-five years making custom and couture corsets so I was modeling for them as a plus-size.

JY: What’s the experience of being a life model versus a commercial model?

NS: Life modeling work is kind of hard. It’s really taxing on your body. You know, having to hold poses for twenty minutes and then getting a short break, twenty minutes. It’s one of those jobs where you get into a pose and you think the first three minutes, “Oh, this is comfortable. I can hold this.” But then, like, ten minutes into it you’re thinking, “My limbs are going to fall off.”

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JY: But you’re allowed to sneeze.

NS: Well, you can fidget a little bit, but for the most part you have to be professional and stay still. I like it. It’s really fun. It’s beautiful to see the work that the artists create of you and then sometimes you don’t want to see the work that they create of you. [laughs] Because you’re like, “Oh no, that’s how you see me…” But it’s fun! It’s a different medium of art.

JY: I think it’s great.

NS: Yeah, I enjoy it. I’m one of their only curvy models at the Academy of Art so…

JY: What about the others?

NS: They’re thinner, they’re older… I think I might be the first younger of the curvier. But all the instructors and students really love me. They’re always, like, “We want Nicole Simone back!” so it’s kind of fun. I enjoy it. It’s good. It’s a good experience and it pays the bills so that’s nice.

JY: What were you like before you discovered dancing and the confidence you gained through it? Did you have another outlet?

NS: Yeah, I just wasn’t sure where I belonged, you know? I was just kind of here, existing, not really feeling a part of anything. I have a background of being an athlete and playing sports and I’ve had knee injuries so I’ve kind of had to let go of that dream ‘cause of the recurring injuries I have on my knees and so, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I loved playing sports so much and it was a great way of keeping me in shape and thick and hot.

JY: What sport were you into?

NS: Softball. Yeah, softball and swimming were my two things. But then in 2000 I stumbled upon belly dancing and thought, “What is this magical performance art? These women–they’re all different shapes and sizes and they’re loving their bodies and it’s like a sisterhood.” I was, like, I get to be a part of this.

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JY: Does belly dancing encourage a diversity of people more than other dance forms?

NS: Well, belly dancing is definitely an art form that is accepting of all sizes and shapes. I think what I’ve really enjoyed about doing it is that it didn’t put too much stress on my knee. I could be free to express my emotions through movement and know that I was in a safe place, that no one would judge me. Actually, it’s almost like the curvier you are, the more beautiful the movements are because it’s a lot of hips and shimmying and it’s just really beautiful to see that. It’s just been something… I haven’t been able to do it for a little while because I’ve been focusing a lot of my time on modeling but I’ve slowly started training and taking dance classes again. I’ve been doing it off and on for fifteen years so I feel like it’s always in me, to just come back! [laughs]

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JY: How did you discover IGIGI?

NS: I would say about three years ago through Plus Model Magazine actually. I thought, “Wow, these clothes are beautiful.” I needed a dress for a wedding so I was looking and saw the Ambrosia Dress in black. I just was in love with it. I had to buy it. It’s still one of my favorite dresses today. The one thing I did notice is that the clothing sizes run actually big. Generally… right now I’m 18 but I can fit into size 12. So I noticed that they do run a little bigger but I mean, hey, I still fit it. I don’t care. A number’s just a number to me. What I care about is the fit on my body and how I look. I think the quality of the material is fantastic. When I go to spend the money before the outfit, I don’t feel like I’m spending too much on something that isn’t quality. I think the quality matches the price.

JY: How would you describe your own personal style?

NS: I’ve always been drawn to the pin-up style. The very form-fitting pencil skirts, cute tops. It’s still something I always lean towards. I try to step outside of the box and try new things, like half-circle skirts. I’m always afraid… I think, “Isn’t that going to make my hips look bigger?” but then it’s like, you know, I’m going to try new things.

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JY: Do you mean the pin-ups of the 1950s?

NS: Like, ‘50s. I like of the era styles. I mean, I really love the ‘20s and ‘30s but the outfits on those eras aren’t very shapely so I tend to go a little more to the ‘50s with the cute cigarette pants, the pencil skirts and the high-waisted belts. I think it’s just a very flattering style for my figure. I feel sexy and confident in it but I also feel I look classy, too. Like, I could go to a corporate job if I was still working and wear that outfit but I could also go out.

JY: Do you follow any style icons? Does belly dancing influence your style at all?

NS: I would say belly dancing influences the jewelry I tend to wear. I love that tribal, bohemian… the heavy jewelry.

JY: You wear it with your pin-up clothes?

NS: Sometimes I do. But the way I’ll style it will look like it just goes. I always have a mix of everything I like infused into my style. But the belly dancing… usually my style comes out on stage, you know, in my costume and my designs. I’m very influenced by old Hollywood actresses like Mae West. She was very curvy for her time. I’ve been kind of getting dubbed as this “Modern Day Mae” with some of my new photos. I did a photoshoot last year and I did an ode to Mae West. I kind of had the whole look of her and everything. I actually did a belly dance performance where I was Mae West on stage. She’s someone I really admire and I love the way she dresses. The dresses she wears–oh my god. She’s quite the saucy woman. But, you know, I follow styles… I’ll get inspired by that show, Mad Men. Christina Hendrix. I love the way she dresses and I always look outside of the show to see what she wears on a daily basis. I always tend to look at women who shaped like me because my waist is so small and my hips are so much larger. I’m always looking for women who have a figure like mine that I can see how they wear clothes and how their clothes look on them.

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JY: Do you have any tips for other women with your body shape?

NS: I would say for me, I always dress in what is form-fitting. What I try to never do is hide my waist because I feel like my waist is the highlight on my figure. It’s small in comparison to my chest and hips. I tend to wear form-fitted shirts and skirts that are high-waisted that I can bring up or maybe accentuate with a belt. I tend to wear just a lot of pencil skirts or cigarette pants or dresses like the Ambrosia (that I wore for the #MODELIGIGI contest) that are just super elegant, sexy, and form-fitting. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try new things. I’m still trying new things–full skirts, half-circle skirts to play. I think half-circle skirts would look really nice, too, because when you look up it’ll still make your waist look smaller.

JY: What else would you like to share with our IGIGI audience?

NS: Confidence is key no matter what size you are. I think if you just own who you are and continue to work on yourself, whatever that may be… Confidence is the number-one thing to keep you happy. I think balance for me is really key in life. To keep my ego in check, to be compassionate, to stay balanced and I think being just well-rounded in all those areas–self-love comes naturally. I don’t fight that. I really try to live this “Zen” motto, I guess. That keeps me away from a lot of the negativity that the world wants to, like, shoot at me all the time and I think that way I’m just constantly working on myself. If you have self-love you have confidence, you know? It kind of comes hand-in-hand. I’m at a point in my life where I’m actually the heaviest I’ve ever been and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful. It doesn’t mean that I can’t still model or pursue my dreams. Someone out there is going to appreciate me. So I just continue to work on myself and work on my path but continue to have the confidence all the way through. Keeps me happy.

 

 

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Bridal Look: Say “I Do” with Style

Posted by on April 22, 2015

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The love of your life has just asked you probably the most memorable question of your lifetime, and you made someone special very happy.

Congratulations! It is now time to prepare for a wedding to remember. There are so many details to cover, but none is more pressing than finding the most important dress you will ever wear. Picking your bridal gown, accessories, hairstyle, and makeup can bring up a spectrum of feelings ranging from excitement to anxiety. However, having a guideline to follow makes things go a lot more smoothly, so we thought you would really enjoy this checklist of top five things to consider getting ready for your big day. Enjoy!

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5 Styling Tips for Brides

1. Know your body shape: Are you an oval, a triangle or an hourglass? Choosing a gown that fits and flatters your shape will create a beautiful look. Don’t know your shape? Check out our ShapeStylist tool to figure it out.

2. Check out different dress styles: Trying out different kinds of fabrics, embellishments and colors is a helpful way of determining what weight of fabric looks the best on your particular shape, height, and complexion.

3. Highlight your assets: Do you have shapely legs? Is your décolletage a head- turner? Do you like to show off your arms? The style of your wedding gown should emphasize your best assets. Strapless gowns are great for a nice décolletage while shorter versions offer are a nice way to boast those great legs.

4. Pick the right undergarments: Once you have your dream dress, it is important to have the right undergarments that provide both comfort and a flawless look on your big day.

5. Play with hair, makeup, and accessories: Consider trying a few different combinations of hair, makeup and accessories with your dress to determine what you love the most and what works the best for comfort.

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“This is the Eugenia Vintage Plus Size Wedding Gown from IGIGI in a US size 14/16. I cannot stress just how beautiful it is in person. The detailing on the skirt is beyond beautiful, it’s heavy and luxurious and keeps it’s shape wonderfully, and I felt very boho-bride in it.”

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“The bust area is stretchy and so it’s quite accommodating if you are busty. If it weren’t for the sash then the waist would no doubt be too big for me, and so it’s a nice touch. The V-neck does require a plunge bra underneath, but I didn’t feel like I was flashing too much or too on show.”

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“I am 5’7 and I did find the dress pretty long – which is what most people will want on their wedding day. I would personally have it shortened but that’s because I am clumsy and would want to show my shoes off! However, you could always keep it long and your shoes hidden – something blue…”

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“All in all I think that this dress is a very reasonably priced, stunning, plus-size option. The gorgeous bead work on the skirt makes it one stunning garment, and the fact that it’s a viable option for big boobs makes it a winner.”

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Interview with Kailee O’Sullivan: A Natural Beauty

Posted by on April 15, 2015

KAILEE O’SULLIVAN

[MODEL]

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“I ALSO LIKE TO SEE THE MORE UNDERSTATED… JUST SO THAT THE NATURAL BEAUTY OF THE WOMAN SHINES ON ITS OWN.” 

With the face of an ingenue and a figure that’s reminiscent of a starlet from Hollywood’s Golden Age (luxurious curves), Kailee O’Sullivan sits patiently as the make-up artist preens her face. We’re afforded expansive views of the Pacific from the terrace room at San Francisco’s famed Cliff House but despite all the warnings of a storm and the crashing waves, the sky is already visible and the natural lighting perfectly adjusted for a photoshoot.

In her mid-20s where her modeling has already gathered steam over ten years, Kailee’s particular aesthetic is composed, serene, and attuned to nature. Her public Instagram feed @kaileeo (the digital snippets to one’s life behind-the-scenes nowadays) implies a non-grandiose understanding of her relation to the world, focusing on capturing the light emitting through trees or the soft trails of winter snow. She seems, in fact, for someone who’s photogenic and beautiful in real life with plentiful fashion spreads, to be disinterested in the casual vanity of posting numerous selfies that’s all too common as a modern aspiration or habit: the ratio of a non-human photo to a person/people photo (including hers) is 10 to 1. If the plus-size industry has always prized a colorful, loud glamour–then Kailee is what happens when glamour is tempered by subtlety.  She wears a relaxed navy cable knit sweater and black, wavy pants that encourage carefree movement. The ankle boots are just shy of meeting the sway of her gypsy bottoms.

The moments with Kailee are calm as if we’re both observing a painting together in a gallery. She speaks gracefully with a watchful gaze; she reveals herself at her own clear-eyed pace and sketches her background with the ease of someone who doesn’t shy away from introspection. Kailee cites anthropology and culture alongside her thespian interests. When the topic lands on the scrutiny Lena Dunham faces for her non-apologetic nudity in the HBO Show ‘Girls,’ Kailee lights up and defends her as a courageous and necessary feminist who strikes a chord with the angst-y Millenials. Or anyone who remembers what it’s like to be young and uncertain about what the future holds, especially in New York. –Jane Yu, staff at IGIGI

Jane Yu: What was it about you that made your mother push you to become a model as opposed to something else when you were young?

Kailee O’Sullivan: Well, I wouldn’t say she necessarily pushed me to become a model but she kind of was the one to push me to be more out in the limelight. I always wanted to do acting and I like being in front of the camera but I was always very shy. My mother was the one who kind of pushed me in that direction when I wasn’t really able to push myself. I would have never gone to an open call or a casting for modeling if my mother wasn’t the one saying, you gotta do it, you gotta do it. So, I’m grateful for her doing that in that sense.

JY: Is modeling your happy medium? How come you decided to pursue modeling instead of theater?

KO: Well, I did do some theater on the side in high school and I did study acting in school after in a few different colleges but modeling just sort of picked up by itself without me even trying too hard in the beginning. It really seemed like it was kind of meant to be because it just took off in its own direction. And then after that I kind of took the bull by the horn, as they say. I went with it and then made it my own instead of just riding the wave. I showed up being more myself, but not just like a young, little girl or young teenager in the industry who doesn’t really know what’s going on but more somebody who knows what she wants. “This is who I am. Here I am”– let’s work, that kind of thing. And it became a lot more fun and a lot more creative and a lot more adult. I felt like more of an adult.

JY: How old are you now?

KO: 25.

JY: And you said you studied theater after college?

KO: Yeah, I studied theater a little bit in high school.

JY: What was your major?

KO: In college? I never finished my degree. I’m kind of in and out still to this day but I’ve been studying acting and photography and writing.

JY: Creative writing?

KO: Yeah, creative writing.

JY: Cool. Creative non-fiction?

KO: Yeah, non-fiction. I don’t really… I’m not a fiction writer.

JY: What would be your alternate profession?

KO: I definitely want to do more acting. I want to be an actress just as much as I would like to continue modeling. But I definitely want to be in the acting field a lot more. And then on top of that I do have a huge interest in like, anthropology, cultures, communities, tribes around the world. I love traveling so in some ways. Somehow, eventually, I’d like to incorporate that into projects and to my career. Maybe do photographs and stuff like that.

JY: Is this your outfit today?

KO: Yeah.

JY: Boho chic–I like it. You look like a traveler… How much of your clothes has been influenced by the clothes you model from brands?

KO: I definitely think it’s influenced me to enhance and show off my curves more but in a very subtle way. It’s not always where I’ll model something and think, “Oh, I wanna wear that.” It’s more, like, over the course of doing this for over ten years, seeing different women and different body shapes expressing themselves through their clothing.

JY: So you’re into the silhouettes and…

KO: Right, so seeing how different women dress over a ten-year-period has influenced me more in a subtle or gradual way. Sometimes I’ll see something someone’s wearing and I’m like, oh, I want that but it’s rare… it doesn’t happen that much. It’s opened me to a world of how women can dress from a young age. I do have a totally separate style and taste, too.

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JY: How would you describe it?

KO: I’m drawn to textures and colors. And also something that flatters my body in my shape, personally. So even if I like something that is very trendy at the moment, I can say easily, well, you know, it’s beautiful but it’s just not for me. Like, I’m not gonna wear that. I’ll also wear something that’s not trendy, maybe, but something out of style I know that I look good in and I feel good in it. So, yeah, it’s just kind of eclectic. I definitely like colors, textures, fabrics–anything very natural. I like everything to be very natural looking and feeling.

JY: I don’t know too much about the modeling industry, but it seems like some models are more typecasted into one type of look.

KO: Let me think about that.

JY: In your pictures, there seems to be a variation to the outfits you wear and the looks you pull off.

KO: Right, yeah, that’s true. I think there’s a lot of glamour in the industry which I think is a wonderful thing. You know, I think everybody looks gorgeous and I love feeling glamorous at times but what there isn’t so much in the plus-size world is a more pared down, very natural, even naked look. Naked, quote-on-quote.

JY: Do you mean, like, rustic?

KO: Yeah, could be rustic. Rustic is a good word. T-shirts, jeans, just something that kind of shows a woman in her most natural state and how beautiful she can be and I think there’s more and more of that now. It’s coming up but I’ve always loved somebody who looks very understated. I love a glamour look but I also like to see the more understated, just so that the natural beauty of the woman shines on its own. So, that’s more of my style and I think I see it from time to time but not as much as I’d like.

JY: Is there something you wish that people knew about you since you say you’re people-shy?

KO: Yeah, I’m shy but I’m also a Leo who definitely likes to be in front of the camera. There’s a dichotomy within me or a duality where I am very private but I feel like there’s something in me that I want to show, that wants to be seen. I can’t wait to get it out and show it. It feels amazing and it feels creative and it feels like it’s an expression of the self.

JY: And how do you feel about New York or specifically, Brooklyn?

KO: I love Brooklyn. New York’s always changing which is really hard because you get attached to a certain place or certain neighborhoods, certain group of people, but the nature of New York is transient and it’s sad because it’s become more and more modernized. On a daily basis it’s becoming more modernized and a little bit more homogenous which is sad. I wish it would stay a little bit more mom-and-pop.

JY: When you say New York, though, do you mean Manhattan or Brooklyn or both?

KO: Manhattan mostly but Brooklyn for sure is on that incline, that path and all five boroughs are eventually… like, people just keep getting pushed out of their neighborhoods ‘cause the rent is so expensive.

JY: Did you originally live in Manhattan?

KO: No, I’m originally from about a half an hour east of Manhattan, on Long Island.

JY: And you were born there?

KO: I was born and raised in Long Island which is beautiful in its own way but definitely a lot quieter. New York will always be my home. I love it there but I also love to travel so I like to go away and come back.

JY: Do you watch the [HBO] show ‘Girls’?

KO: I love ‘Girls.’

JY: What are your thoughts on how Lena Dunham kind of pushes the boundaries and standards of beauty?

KO: Yeah, I’m all for it. I absolutely love everything she has done and I do hear a lot of her backlash and a lot of things that people don’t like. And I hear it. I understand. But,personally for me, we need somebody like her, and not just curvy women. Somebody who’s willing to just show all of her flaws in such a confident way. To me, it doesn’t feel forced or even too in-your-face. There’s nobody else out there who’s willing to make such a fool of themselves at this age and say, “Hey, this is okay. This is so okay. I’m struggling, I’m in my mid-20s. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my life.” I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all been lost, we’ve all been struggling. We’ve all struggled. I mean, I think we need somebody who’s like a champion for that, to show that it’s okay. Every episode of that show I’m, like, “Oh my god, there is somebody like me and my friends!” We all find common ground with her.

JY: Do people in Brooklyn find that show to be an accurate parallel?

KO: Yeah, I think it is. There’s a lot of backlash about how there’s all this nepotism and also that the characters are spoiled. But I think if you watch the full show, if you watch all the seasons, you see that, yes, they are spoiled but this is their big wake-up call. Like, they might not have had it so hard growing up but eventually the red carpet gets pulled out, yanked out, from underneath you. Your parents shelter you growing up if you’re lucky enough but then eventually, especially if you’re living in New York, you have to learn how to live on your own. You have to learn how to hustle and struggle and nobody’s there to really catch you when you fall unless you build a group of friends which is the best part of the show. You see their own little community, their own little tribe. I think if you move anywhere long enough you’re going to develop all of that and that’s so important when you start to create your own life outside of your parents’ house growing up there. I love everything she’s done. I think she’s amazing–so smart and intelligent, brilliant.

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