Op-Ed: What Not To Wear? Personal Style & The Plus Size Woman
by ATFDC Contributor Dionna Humphrey
The other day I was interviewed by Curvy CEO, fashion blogger and government relations powerhouse about my business, my style esthetic, etc. During part of that conversation, we talked about body image and what looks good on plus size women. After I got off the phone, I sat for a while and thought about what drove me to get into this business in the first place and I decided to share those thoughts with my favorite fashiontonians.
I’ve always been a plus size beauty. I’ve also been one to push the fashion envelope. I’m not sure what inspired it, but as I think back to my youth, I know there was a lot of neon (that was the 80s, don’t judge me), a lot of leggings– a lot of the things that, as plus size women, we are warned to stay away from. I’ve always believed that when it comes to your style, it’s about how you feel on the inside as much as how you look on the outside. I also stand by the idea that, just because you are not a size 8 doesn’t mean that you can’t embrace your sexy, flirty, edgy self.
So what should we as plus size women stay away from, and what should we embrace?
There are a few key principles that guide my style persona. The first comes down to fit. I like to adapt the famous saying that ‘if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’! And by fit I mean too loose or too tight. It’s a challenge a lot of curvy fashiontonians face. We are often confronted with images of what’s beautiful in magazines, media and on the street—and plus size women are often not it. So when we look at what works and what doesn’t for our bodies, our response is almost always to cover up with shapeless frocks that appear to hide our perceived imperfections, or attempt to get attention by wearing things that are not meant for our bodies (translation= too tight, too short, too unforgiving).
Neither of these is the right approach, and the attention (or lack thereof) you get from it has an impact on your self esteem and self worth.
Which is my other key principle. Love thyself. There was a time in my life that I didn’t love myself because I thought I was x, y, or z, and while I continued to look fabulous (ahem), I didn’t feel it. I wasn’t convinced I was beautiful because I didn’t acknowledge the beauty about myself—and because of that no one else could. But that’s the wrong frame of mind. That negativity creates a loop, one that continues to drag you down. And how we perceive ourselves often translates into how we present ourselves. When I decided to love myself was when my frame of mind—inner and outer—began to shift, and as a result of that I saw myself in a new light. And so did others. And so will any beauty who validates themselves by recognizing that every woman is beautiful, regardless of size. We are daughters, sisters, mothers’ givers of life, money-makers- divas. Every one of us is beautiful. But you have to realize that before anyone else will.
Just like all women, plus size beauties come in a variety of shapes. But when it comes to fashion and style, it’s about assessing what your best strength is and wearing it proudly. This does not mean if you have ample bosoms you should have them out at every turn. What it does mean though is to find a shape that further beautifies your, uh, beauties so that when you look in the mirror you feel good about who you are.
I tell my friends and clients alike that fashion is about taking risks. Style is about taking those risks and making them your own. Do I think there are fashion trends off-limits to curvy fashiontonians? No. Over the summer I bought myself a daring two-piece high waist bikini. The minute I put it on I knew I looked fantastic in it. Not because it covered up any soft spots I might normally hide in a basic black swimsuit, but because what I felt about myself in the inside complimented the style on the outside. Of course, I would not choose to wear a string bikini because for my body type it wouldn’t look right. That’s what style is about. Feeling good enough about oneself to take a chance and knowing your body well enough to compliment it proudly with the right fit.
Dionna Humphrey is the owner of Body Conscious Beauty, a style consulting company serving the Washington, D.C. area. Body Conscious Beauty styles women of all sizes, including plus size beauties. For more information visit us online at www.bodyconsciousbeauty.com