Jane Janeczko on
October 1, 2013
Full disclosure: I am a campus representative for Rent the Runway at Northwestern University. But that just means I love it a lot!
Rent the Runway participates in viral marketing through their campus rep program which recruits girls on college campuses for internship credit in exchange for promoting the brand.
I started interning with Rent the Runway last summer and absolutely fell in love with the clothes, the accessories, the business model, and most of all, the heavily-encouraged customer photos. These photos allow customers to get an idea of what the dresses look like on other women, and not just on the models. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss, the two co-founders of Rent the Runway, met at Harvard Business School, and the concept for the business came to Hyman (naturally) while she was looking for a dress to wear for a wedding. Hyman and Fleiss wrote up their business plan, got some seed money from Bain Capital Ventures, and a short year later, Rent the Runway was born. As of April 2013, Rent the Runway has over 3 million members, and that number is growing.
Jane Janeczko on
September 30, 2013
Part of the danger of being so immersed in an online community (namely the plus-size, body-positive online community) is that I often forget that not everyone is as evolved as the gorgeous, supportive, eloquent women (and sometimes men) that I have chosen to surround myself with. I am consistently reminded of this fact whenever some piece of news, blog post, or even the occasional photoset of a plus-size woman goes viral, and suddenly the mainstream takes note of the empowering work that these women are doing – to very mixed reviews.
Someone recently told me that my community could be considered a crutch; that my friends are too supportive, too understanding, too unabashedly confident. They never feel the need to judge or criticize others for being themselves and they deserve to be supremely proud of that fact. Maybe it’s my fault that my friends are just too good or maybe, just maybe, everyone else needs to catch up and get on our level.
My closest friends are a diverse and supportive group of wonderful women that promote body positivity and equality in every aspect of their lives.
When the Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries’ disgusting, body-shaming comments started circulating last Spring, there was an outpouring of thoroughly negative responses from plus-size and standard-size consumers alike. I’m not sure if any of them were as humorous, charming or effective as the open letter that plus-size blogger Jes “The Militant Baker” wrote to Jeffries on her blog, which was then picked up by BuzzFeed. The letter included pictures from a photo shoot that Jes orchestrated and modeled in, featuring herself and a conventionally attractive male model (one of the “cool people” that Jeffries is trying to market to) in various sultry poses with the tagline “Attractive & Fat.”
In her letter, Jes wrote:
“The juxtaposition of uncommonly paired bodies is visually jarring, and, even though I wish it didn’t, it causes viewers to feel uncomfortable. This is largely attributed to companies like yours that perpetuate the thought that fat women are not beautiful. This is inaccurate, but if someone were to look through your infamous catalog, they wouldn’t believe me.”
Jes “The Militant Baker” recently posts about issues concerning women like body positivity and feminism. Credit: The Militant Baker
The unfettered gloriousness of Jes’ prose and images brought a tear to my eye and I scrolled through the letter several times before I noticed the comments featured underneath the page. There were a decent amount of “You go girl!” and “She’s so pretty!” comments under Jes’ letter , but unfortunately, there were the usual nasty, fat-shaming comments like “She is not a healthy weight,” and “Fat is never attractive.”
Many commenters were quick to identify their body type in their comments, such as “I’m overweight, but trying to lose weight,” or “I’m not heavy,” in an attempt to justify their words. Now, there is nothing wrong with healthy dieting. If that’s something that you want to do – go for it. There’s also nothing wrong with not dieting. Weight does not dictate health and the biggest problem with the commenters underneath this article was that they immediately assumed Jes was unhealthy based on her size and, therefore, needed to diet.
If you are not familiar with BuzzFeed’s platform, the site uses your Facebook account when you are commenting, so your full Facebook name and profile picture are visible when you post underneath an article. There is no hiding behind anonymity.
I was scrolling through the comments, getting more and more incensed, when I saw a post by someone who I knew in real life: a girl who attends my university. Her statements were decidedly anti-Jes, and she wrote that “she had no idea” why Jes would do this photo shoot, that “the ads weren’t attractive,” and that “obese people can change if they work at it.”
Aside from the fact that these comments are rude, offensive, and bigoted, her identity was equally hurtful to me. While this was not a girl who I considered a good friend, but I had met her on several occasions and spoken with her multiple times about various school related matters.
It was an eye-opening moment for me. It is easy to brush aside rude comments on the internet when these comments are made by virtual villains. However, knowing that it was someone who existed in my personal, physical world made her offensive comments so much more shocking. Not to say that I have never had someone make a rude comment about my weight before or that I’ve never been a victim of bullying, but to see the true colors of someone with whom you have had perfectly pleasant interactions can be alarming.
You can’t always pick your family, but you can pick your friends. So don’t allow yourself to welcome negativity into your life.
So I stopped reading the comments. On this story, and on all plus-size positive news stories. I can’t personally educate every wrong person on the internet (sadly), but I can decide not to let their comments affect my life. Ergo, I surround myself with positive people, I shop with companies that are supportive of me, like IGIGI, I write about issues that are important to me, and I give other plus-size women a platform where they discuss their lives and their bodies safely.
Jane Janeczko on
September 27, 2013
After years and years of plus-size women being fashion’s invisible victims, a plus-size designer finally made it to the mecca of the sartorial elite – fashion week. Cabiria designer Eden Miller showed her plus-size collection during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City on September 6, and she is the very first plus-size designer to ever show a plus-size only line during the event. Her colorful and print-heavy fashions were met with “good but unexpected” reviews.
At the close of the show, designer Eden Miller (center), took a bow with her models. Credit: Cabiria
Jane Janeczko on
September 26, 2013
Every time you step up to the checkout line at the grocery store, your eyes are assailed with dozens of images and taglines from various magazines advertising how to dress your body type in the most flattering light, how to get better abs, how to achieve those enviable Michelle Obama upper arms, or maybe there is even a way to get a total head transplant ,because why not? Who cares how you feel if you look great? Women are told early on that they should find fault with their bodies. Young girls are told that they are too fat, too skinny, too freckly, too pale, and the list goes on.
Luckily, some people find fault with that line of thinking, and instead of just trying to ignore it they confront and combat it with a torrent of body positivity. Beck Poppins, a 25-year-old baker from Cleveland, Ohio, and a for-fun pop culture and fashion blogger, describes her personal fashion as “widowed fairytale princess.”
Lace, tasteful rhinestones and unusual accessories like fans, wigs and unique vintage pieces are the standout details in her wardrobe. She only owns one pair of jeans and that is a fact of which she is extremely proud. “I’ve fully embraced semiformal dresses as a life choice. My closet is split between black and pastels, with a few pops of color here or there. I always want to display myself as completely feminine and completely whimsical,” says Beck.
When looking for icons to inspire her fashion, Beck gravitates towards fashion risk takers like Debbie Harry, Dita Von Teese, and the Japanese artist Minori. Credit: Beck Poppins
The most impressive and inspiring aspect of Beck’s style is its variability. Beck does not allow words like “flattering” to dictate what she wants to wear and as a result, her outfits are supremely successful and incredibly creative.
Beck talked with IGIGI about her style and the effects that the media can have on women’s confidence.
Jane: What advice would you give to plus-size women who are struggling to find clothes that inspire them?
Beck: As a plus-size person, these media outlets and concepts are not aimed at making you feel your best or dress in a way that makes you feel special. Look at the art and films you already love and find your personal style. Once you know what you want to look like and how you want to dress, then you can start looking for clothing. Shop with a mission: ‘I have always wanted a teal sequin dress, I shall have a teal sequin dress.’ We live in the golden age for fat fashion, believe it or not.
Jane: Do you find that there is more support or options for plus-size women online?
Beck: Online stores have opened up so many doors, and better yet, the Internet has given us sites like Etsy where you can find great artists who can custom-make things for your size.
Jane: Are you ever discouraged when you’re trying on clothes that just don’t seem to work?
Beck: Never forget clothing can change – if you find a dress and its just a bit too long, it can be hemmed, or the sleeves can be let out, or buttons replaced. Don’t let fashion boss you around or make you feel like your body should conform to it
Jane: Have you ever felt unwelcome or unsupported while shopping at a brick-and-mortar store?
Beck: I can remember one nasty sales woman at a department store. I was trying on a stack of dresses because they were having a sale on formal wear and she followed me back to the dressing room. As I was trying things on, she was yelling through the door, ‘Don’t force any zippers if it doesn’t fit! Don’t stretch anything out! If it’s too small just leave it on the hanger!’ Just all this weird, misplaced negativity that she would have never yelled at a thin costumer. I don’t let that stuff get me down anymore. Now I shop exclusively at stores that treat me with complete dignity and I would suggest to anyone who has suffered discrimination at a store, never go back, never give them a penny, and always write to the store’s owners. Never let that nasty rude behavior slide.
Beck unapologetically loves her body at all times, even in “gross sweatpants,” because as important and fun as fashion can be, self-love is important always, even when you look your worst. Credit: Beck Poppins
Stores and designers that specifically cater to plus-size women, like IGIGI, provide a more supportive and helpful customer service experience overall, with absolutely no body-shaming allowed. Beck recommends the beaded IGIGI Keira dress for those who are looking to copy her fabulous look. “It has two of my favorite things, a deep square neckline and three-quarter sleeves! The beading looks amazing,” says Beck. “It’s also so hard for tall women to find evening dresses in a length that goes past the knee. I feel like it would be a beautiful dress to go to the theater in. I personally would love to see it with a little brass tiara or gold laurel inspired headband, long black evening gloves, black tights and some gold trimmed heels, really play up the wicked queen fantasy that the beading on the skirt inspires.”
Thank you Beck for taking the time to talk with IGIGI and to keep up with Beck or talk to her yourself, make sure to follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.
Have you ever been dissatisfied with your experience in a store? Tell IGIGI and Beck in the comments.
Jane Janeczko on
September 25, 2013
Project Runway is kind of fantastic, at least by reality television standards. I don’t watch every season (honestly, I got so annoyed when Mondo lost the eighth season that I stopped watching, but then he won Project Runway: All-Stars and all was right with the world), but the seasons I do watch never fail to engross and entertain me.
Project Runway contestants use workrooms at Parsons in NYC during the show. Tim Gunn served as associate dean of Parsons from 1989-2000.
Part of the appeal of Project Runway comes from the effervescent Tim Gunn, who makes me root for the designers and gets everyone really excited to see some palazzo pants made out of recycled black garbage bags. The man adds a certain likability factor to the stone-faced judges, because while Heidi Klum is okay, Nina Garcia comes across as dismissive at best, and Michael Kors was undeniably the Simon Cowell of the group. Gunn gives advice and support to the designers, and his insight is widely appreciated both on and off the television screen as a fashion and style mentor to all of America (I mean, have you read his book?).