Many of the plus-size fashion models that we see do not appear to look plus-size even though many of them have measurements that allow them to fall in and around a US size 12. After all, models are tall, and 220 lbs. on a 6’2” woman is going to look a lot different from 220 lbs. on a 5’2” woman and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone’s body is different and while that can be frustrating, it’s also pretty great because bodies, all bodies, are awesome and deserve to be celebrated.
Leah Kelley really burst on the plus-size modeling scene when she modeled some of pal and fellow plus-size model Robyn Lawley’s swimwear line. Credit: Instagram @leahkelley
I recently celebrated a pretty big birthday. It was one of those milestones where everyone has to finally, grudgingly accept that they are finally an “official” adult.
I mean, I pay taxes. Come on, now.
A little background: I am in my last year of college in Chicago getting a dual degree in journalism and art, but this semester I’ve been in New York City pursuing an internship at a pretty big media mecca and living it up as much as a 20-something (making just slightly above minimum wage) in a major city can. Life is good. I’m working in a industry that I adore, I have wonderful friends around me, I don’t have to start paying off my student loans yet, and I get to write about issues that are so important to me.
It’s easy to look at my life now and forget all of the struggle and all of the trauma that I went through as a young girl. It’s not always easy being the token fat girl in a group of skinny friends. It’s not easy finding homecoming and prom dresses in a US size 16. It’s not easy going through puberty and growing into your body. It’s not easy for anyone and it’s a really long road.
In honor of my birthday, I took some time to think about the advice that I would give my 13-year-old self on the cusp of high school. Before I had any comprehension of what body positivity was and before I realized how wonderful and beautiful my body really is.
You are beautiful. For real. Your buck-teeth, frizzy hair, acne, and total lack of makeup are perfectly acceptable, and no one will ever judge you for this awkward stage because it builds character. Eventually you will discover braces, hair products, Proactiv, and the Clinique counter at the mall, and everything will change. Maybe for the better, but maybe not, because all of that stuff is really only skin-deep and makeup will never be a substitute for confidence, although dear god it can help.
Stop wearing giant oversized t-shirts and baggy jeans. You deserve way more than that. You deserve beautiful printed swing dresses, chiffon skirts, luxe sweaters, skinny jeans, crop tops, form-fitting leather jackets, bikinis, and every other clothing item that you’ve secretly lusted after. You don’t need to have the “right” body to wear those clothes because there is no “right” body. There is only your body and it is perfect.
That boy is bad news, none of your friends like him, you deserve better, and you should stay away from him.
You can break up with friends the same way that you break up with lovers and it can happen just as frequently. Don’t buy into all of the BFF-hype and never feel bad for cutting toxic people out of your life.
Never regret having dessert and coffee and taking the time to linger after a meal. Those are the times that you will remember and laugh about when all of your best friends live in different time zones and you’re feeling lonely because you just moved to a brand new city.
Some of the best people I’ll ever meet.
You don’t need a credit card in college. There is literally nothing in your life right now that you need badly enough to pay interest on it. Also, you have to pay credit cards back.
There will never be a time when tequila shots are a good idea and ultra-sugary cocktails, while they are delicious, are not worth the hangover.
Moments will always be superior to things. Don’t blow a paycheck on an expensive handbag when you’re trying to save up for a fun vacation with your family. That is something that you are still trying to work on, but you’re getting there. I promise.
Bag-check fees are a total ripoff. Try to travel light in the future.
It’s not bad to like things or even to be “obsessed” with things, as long as it’s not hurting anyone. Don’t be ashamed of being a fan, even if the object of your obsession is nerdy or embarrassing. Fangirling can be wonderful and you will meet some of your best friends that way.
Your mom is a legit genius. She made it through all of the same, crappy stuff that you are going through/will go through, and her advice is invaluable. She will drive you crazy sometimes, but never go to bed angry, because you’re really going to miss seeing her everyday when you move away. And be nicer to your younger brother because he’s going to get really cool.
My mother (right) and myself on a trip.
You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. No one expects you to be perfect and messing up is good (and you will a lot) so you might as well lean into it and appreciate the lessons that you will learn.
It’s okay to be fat and that word is okay, too. You don’t need to use any thinly-veiled euphemisms like “curvy,” “plus-size” or “full-figured.” Fat is a descriptive word and that is it. The same as skinny. You are not any less valuable, important or beautiful as a fat person. You are valuable, important, beautiful, and fat. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you anything different.
If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self? Share your pearls of wisdom in the comments.
There are certain clothing items that plus-size women are told that they should not wear, like tight white dresses, shorts, crop tops and body-conscious (body-con) skirts and dresses, but there are always ways to make clothing work for your body regardless of your weight.
If there’s a really cute pair of shorts that you want to rock, a flippy miniskirt that you’ve been dying to try out, or a tight white dress that you’re curious about wearing – go for it. The most important thing in your wardrobe is your confidence – so as long as you feel good, you’ll look good.
The dress is fully lined, so you don’t worry about any unwanted lines from your undergarments peeking through and ruining the beautiful line of the dress.
For a long, long time, I shied away from wearing white altogether, since I was told time and time again how white makes you look wider, bigger, and emphasizes every bump and line. However, when I saw the Denise Dress in Ivory, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try something completely new and outside of my comfort zone.
When I got the dress in the mail, I immediately slipped it on and it fit like a second skin. I paired the Denise Dress in Ivory with a fitted black blazer and high black heels to balance out the skintight winter white dress for a night out in New York City and it looked amazing. Plus, I got quite a few compliments (even from a few strangers), which is always a sign of a great outfit.
The material is poly/viscose/elastane and it feels somewhat like a really nice formal shirt with a decent amount of stretch.
I’m a big fan of white dresses (even after Labor Day) and right now, all white outfits are incredibly popular, albeit impractical. The black trim on the Denise Dress in Ivory makes it a little more versatile. A couple tips to remember when wearing a white dress: nude-colored undergarments are the way to go when wearing a white dress, even if your dress is fully lined like the Denise Dress in Ivory. When applying your makeup. it’s better to put on your dress first and then throw a button up on over it, so you can keep your ensemble pristine. And my final, most important white-wearing tip is to select a shade of white that flatters your skin tone. The Denise Dress in Ivory works for me because it’s not as harsh against my pale skin as a true white.
I wore my hair up in a crown braid, which is quickly becoming a favorite ‘do of mine and with a strong red lip to contrast the black and white ensemble and set it off nicely.
The lace detailing around the neckline and the beautiful sleeves trimmed with scalloped eyelash edges provide a nice juxtaposition with the more severe black princess seams that run along the front and back of the dress.
There’s always a way to make any article of clothing work for you, regardless of your body type. I was a little nervous about giving so much emphasis to my midsection, so I selected a black, one-button blazer to cover up my tummy. There are tricks and tips for every tricky, taboo style item.
If you want to wear a crop top, try pairing it with a high-waisted skirt or jeans. Body-con skirts look amazing with dolman sleeve tops, and body-con dresses with leather jackets make me swoon. Don’t be afraid to wear tight-fitted clothing and take fashion chances. The magic always happens outside your comfort zone.
Life is way too short to worry about following fashion rules. What do you wear when you venture out of your comfort zone? Tell me what you think, readers!
A few weeks ago, I made up a list of some amazing body positive plus-size models and I was incredibly remiss in not including the lovely Tara Lynn.
Tara Lynn on the November 2013 cover of ELLE Spain. Credit: ELLE Spain
Even if you haven’t heard the name Tara Lynn, you probably saw her striking features in the Spring 2012 H&M Campaign. Most recently, however, the Seattle-born model just appeared on the cover of ELLE Spain with the headline “El Exito de una Mujer Real,” which translates to “The Success of the Real Woman.”
IGIGI specializes in sexy plus-size apparel for women with an emphasis on high-end formal wear, wedding gowns, and separates. We honor diversity in beauty and challenge the rigidity of the fashion world by celebrating the sensuality and confidence of a curvy woman. The IGIGI woman embodies femininity and courage as an individual with a true sense of style and ownership. Beauty. Authentic.