Left, Chastity Garner of Dallas offers advice to plus-size women on her blog. She does not settle for “frumpy clothing.” Nicolette Mason of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a columnist and blogger. “We shouldn’t hide ourselves,” she said.
By: Marisa Meltzer
EARLIER this year, Gabi Gregg, a Chicago fashion blogger who wears a size 18, posted a photo of herself wearing a bikini. It caused such a ruckus that Ms. Gregg, 26, was invited on the “Today” show.
“The general public is not used to someone my size wearing a swimsuit publicly,” she said recently in a phone interview.
Ms. Gregg is one of an increasing number of plus-size fashion bloggers. These are mostly young women who worship the sartorial flair of Alexa Chung, Solange Knowles and Chloë Sevigny, but who are proud to wear a size in the double digits.
“I really do love fashion and love being a voice for plus-size women, but I want to be known for being stylish and fashionable,” said Ms. Gregg, who received largely positive comments on her bikini post (the one she wore, a black-and-white striped version from Simply Be, sold out, she said).
It has been noted that plus-size women are having a moment in the spotlight. Comedians like Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy are becoming stars in their own right, Adele has conquered the airwaves, and television shows like “Parks and Recreation” and MTV’s “Awkward” feature plus-size characters with active love lives. Stars a few dress sizes shy of plus-size, like Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling, have become known for their proudly curvy physiques, and Lady Gaga has unapologetically put on a few pounds.
But the fashion world is not known for being particularly hospitable to anyone above a sample size, so plus-size bloggers have banded together to form a community of sorts.
Bethany Rutter, 23, of the London blog Arched Eyebrow, said she often hears from girls who “say they never thought they could wear a jumpsuit or a bikini or printed trousers before, but after seeing me wearing one they gave it a go.”
“Sometimes, though, it’s really big stuff,” she said, “like examining their relationship with their body for the first time, questioning why they feel they should lose weight or why they feel they don’t deserve to enjoy fashion.”
Tiffany Tucker, 22, writes the blog Fat Shopaholic from her home in Chicago and dreams that the designers Jeremy Scott or Rick Owens will start a plus-size range.
“I get a lot of messages that I inspire readers to dress well,” Ms. Tucker said. “In the grand scheme of fashion blogs, there really isn’t a lot of plus-size blogs. I want to help people see that plus-size blogging is a valid form of blogging.”
Nadia Aboulhosn, 24, is a blogger and model in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood in West Harlem who, at a size 10-12, has posed for American Apparel and Seventeen magazine.
“Sometimes I see myself as a role model,” she said. “American women are size 10, 12, 14. I’m very relatable. People aren’t used to seeing the clothes on somebody with the curves I have. If you’re fashionable, you’re fashionable regardless of size.”
Posts showing outfits tend to be the most popular.
“People like to see what you wear to work, out with your friends, what you wear to the gym,” said Samantha Rasmussen, 26, of the blog Stiletto Siren. “They want to say, ‘I love that jacket,’ and go to the link and find it for themselves.”
Ms. Rasmussen, who lives in Boise, Idaho, started the blog as a place to chronicle her dieting.
“It was making me feel horrible about myself,” she said. “I thought, I should be blogging for the curvy girls out there, who are having confidence, looking cute, living life at their weight, not an imaginary weight they cannot reach.”
Discussing weight is unavoidable, but not taboo.
“People around me get uncomfortable when I refer to myself as fat,” said Amanda Valdez, 27, of Fresno, Calif. She writes for the blog Fashion, Love, and Martinis. “I embrace the word ‘fat.’ Fat does not define me, it doesn’t define my character, or where I’ve been in my life. I am just another girl who is posting about her life and style, and I happen to be fat.”
These bloggers said they often bypass traditional stores like Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart or Avenue in favor of more up-to-the-minute styles at ASOS Curve, Forever 21+ and vintage shops.
“I don’t shop a lot of the stores like Lane Bryant,” said Chastity Garner, 32, who lives in Dallas and blogs at the Curvy Girl’s Guide to Style. “I feel like those clothes are almost for the woman that just wants to put on something and not think about what they’re wearing. They look like fat-girl clothes. I want to bring out the body rather than hide the body.”
Ms. Gregg, who wants to start her own clothing line, said she has found her calling in fashion as a plus-size woman.
“Once I sized out of mainstream stores, I loved shopping more,” she said. “It was a challenge. Just because I was a certain size didn’t mean I was going to wear frumpy clothing. I want to show them there are other options. I say there are no rules for plus-size dressing.”
A previous generation’s rules (no horizontal stripes, bright colors, fitted shapes or bold prints) have been tossed away by these bloggers, who embrace miniskirts, jeggings, peplum tops and sheer blouses.
“I tell my readers to throw the rules out the window,” said Alissa Wilson, 30, who blogs at Stylish Curves from Bayside, Brooklyn. “The goal is not to look smaller; the goal is to find clothes that make you look good.”
Most plus-size designers still haven’t gotten the memo, it seems.
“Retailers seem to think that once you are over a certain size, you don’t care about fashion and want nothing more fashionable than yet another midlength mock wrap-front jersey dress in an ugly print,” wrote Diane Dennis, 37, who blogs at Fat Girls Like Nice Clothes Too and lives in the West Midlands region of England. “Give us something new already and, God forbid, on trend.”
Trends can take as long as two years to trickle down to plus-size lines.
“I would love Marc Jacobs or Topshop or Zara or Urban Outfitters to carry plus sizes,” Ms. Gregg said.
Ms. Rutter of Arched Eyebrow said plus-size shoppers are conditioned to buy only cheap clothing.
“We don’t have aspirational designer fashion under our noses every time we pick up a magazine,” she said. “There aren’t pages and pages of Miu Miu or Isabel Marant to set the tone for the quality and price of clothes we could wear.”
One problem is that plus-sizes are often considered a transient state, a shameful stop before heading back to smaller sizes.
“When you feel that your current body is temporary, why spend money dressing it well?” said Ragini Nag Rao, 27, who writes for the blog A Curious Fancy from England and India. “Fat women need to realize that their bodies are worth dressing well.”
Nicolette Mason started buying fashion magazines at age 12 and told her mother she wanted to be Anna Wintour when she grew up. Now 26 and living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she is Marie Claire’s plus-size columnist and has her own blog. Ms. Mason said she found a radical element in plus-size blogging.
“We shouldn’t hide ourselves, be ashamed or be invisible,” she said. “Posting photos of yourself on the Internet and saying, ‘Hey, I’m fashionable, even if the fashion media doesn’t recognize me’ is hyperpolitical.”
Ms. Gregg embraces the attention she has received, but “at the same time, there’s part of me that gets frustrated,” she said.
“Why is someone my size in a bikini making headline news?”