Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2015-01-28

Why Plus Model Tess Holliday’s Media Blitz is an Important Moment for Fat People Everywhere

So the other day I got a phone call from a reporter friend of mine at the New York Daily News (one of the big dailies in NYC) doing an article about plus size model Tess Holliday (formerly known as Tess Munster) being signed to a modeling agency. Tess is unusual because she’s only 5’4″ and a size 22–much different proportions than the standard for plus size models. By the way, even though plus size models are modeling clothing worn by women of lots of different shapes and sizes, the “industry standard” is under size 14 and 5’8″ or taller.

tessCNNTess Holliday on TV! Source: Tess Holliday Facebook.

I did the interview with the New York Daily News and my quote is good and meaty. Here it is.

“It’s astounding the reach she has and how many people respond to her,” said QueerFatFemme blogger Bevin Branlandingham. “She created a movement around being a plus-size model.

“It’s radical to have an agency willing to stand behind someone and push the envelope about what way models have to look. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. A good model has more to do with how she works in front of a camera then what her height and weight proportions are.”

Since that article came out on Saturday the media has been blowing up about Tess getting signed! I got an excited text from the reporter, Pearl Gabel, that it was the third most popular article on the Daily News’ website! Since the Daily News article came out I’ve seen Tess in People Magazine, Buzzfeed, CNN and just learned she was on Inside Edition!

During my brief interview with the Daily News I had a lot more to say than what my quote could fit, so here are my thoughts on why it’s important that Tess was signed by an agency and the resulting media storm.

tesscuteShe’s so cute! Source: Tess Holliday facebook page.

Fat comes in lots of shapes, and my fat looks really different than someone else who may be the same size as me. And it definitely looks different than a standard plus size model. It’s really refreshing to hear of a modeling agency willing to take a chance on a model who doesn’t fit into the industry standard.

So why does the modeling industry matter in all of this? Shouldn’t we be moving away from more superficial representations of bodies?

I was steeped in this issue when I was working at Re/Dress in its Brooklyn incarnation, 2008-2011. Then-owner Deb partnered with Plus Model Magazine to do a model search for a size 18+ model. I resisted at first, not feeling great about modeling as an industry and Re/Dress as an indie store helping supporting it. I remember a long conversation with Deb while we were sorting clothing on the racks talking about this. (Plus size processing was one of the best things about being a Shop Girl at Re/Dress.)

I came around 180 degrees watching the model contest unfold. There was of course an essay contest in addition to the photos for the entries. As folks who love people who love their bodies we really looked for people who had body positivity as part of their ethic. Seeing how excited people get about modeling and models, I thought it was a great way to use that excitement to feed in messages of body positivity. Additionally, it’s really fun to dress up and look pretty, especially if you’re in a non-normative body that is historically marginalized.

We ended up selecting a regular customer of ours who was so glamorous and gorgeous and, like Tess Holiday, gives amazing face in front of the camera. Audrey Lea Curry, who later went on to co-star in the erstwhile awesome show Big Sexy with my friend and fellow Re/Dress shop girl Leslie Medlik, was the model and won cash and prizes, including a spread in Plus Model Magazine featuring Re/Dress clothing and shot by amazing plus size model and photographer Velvet D’Amour.

audreyplusmodelmagA page from the Plus Model Magazine spread. Photos by Velvet D’Amour.

The plus model industry and size positive movement has been pushing the issue of representation in the fashion industry for a long time and it’s really heartwarming to see a shift happening in this moment. I remember ten years ago mainstream plus brands were barely starting to use standard size plus size models in their advertising. And today mostly you get the really pretty, “curvy” models. I love brands, like Domino Dollhouse, that have been using bigger plus size models all along and work to support them.

I first heard about Tess Holliday when she was modeling for Domino Dollhouse. I got to meet the designer, Tracy Broxterman, at an indie trunk show at the closing of the Re/Dress Brooklyn incarnation. (Re/Dress has since retained an online store and has a storefront in Cleveland, and is now owned by the fabulous indie designer Rachel Kacenjar of Cupcake and Cuddlebunny fame.*)

tess-holliday-anthonyevansPhoto by Anthony Evans.

What I love most about Tess’s media blitz is that not only is there a non-standard plus model in the industry making huge waves, she’s also tattooed and pierced! Tess has been staying on message about believing in herself in spite of what people told her. This quote from the People Magazine online article is really inspirational:

“I’ve just kept doing this stuff recently, thinking, ‘Thank God I didn’t give up,’ ” says the Los Angeles-based Holliday, who had to overcome many detractors to get where she is today.

“I found out about plus-size modeling when I was 15, and I went to an audition in Atlanta. They told me that I was too short and I was too big, and I would never model. But I’m very hardheaded!”

I can definitely relate to being bullied and using that spitfire to rise above the lies people told me about my body and loving myself anyway. Tess didn’t just stick to plus modeling in spite of being told no at that audition, she also began a movement called Eff Your Beauty Standards in order to empower other fat folks. I think it’s amazing when plus models, who could just stay a pretty face in front of the camera, get political with size activism and empower others.

The modeling agency (MiLk Model Management) said that they were driven to sign Tess because of her social media following. I think it was Tess’s inspirational movement that has been a big part of her prolific social media presence that helped get her that deal.

Tess Holliday’s Instagram is a very satisfying feed to follow. Lots of gorgeous Tess shots, of course, but also glamorous behind the scenes of a modeling career and regular every day stuff like hanging out with her babetown Australian fiance and her son. And it’s always a good moment for me when Tess is in her underwear. Swoon!!

tesshollidayforpowdermagazineHeidi CalvertI adore Tess’s vintage aesthetic and her fatshions. Photo by Heidi Calvert for Powder Magazine.

Our society’s ridiculous notions of beauty are being thwarted a bit right now, because of this event and the media avalanche. This is a big story. People who read it who haven’t heard about size activism might have their minds stretched. The modeling industry is seeing that people respond well to non-normative body shapes.

The more people who share about Tess and talk about how great it is to have actual plus size diversity in modeling the more we can catalyze a bigger societal shift towards body acceptance. So share this blog post, or a media piece you appreciate about it. (I’m especially fond of the Buzzfeed article because it shows lots of Tess’s followers using the #effyourbeautystandards hashtag being empowered!)

Fat allies, this is your time, too, tell your people about Tess and let them know that it matters to you that this is representing change in an industry that oppresses bodies. Remember my mantra, All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are!

And be sure to write your favorite plus size manufacturers to ask them to use models of all plus sizes so we can be sure that MiLK model management and other agencies that follow suit have jobs to send these models on! And support the indie designers that have been using plus models of all sizes all along!

I would love to see this change mean more gateways for other non-normative bodies, ages, ethnicities, genders, body hair status, etc…

20150117_182554-MOTIONI also want to give a shout out to my bestie Mackenzi’s new women’s clothing boutique in Astoria, Queens, Lockwood Style, carrying sizes 0-24! The inventory is really diverse and there’s a lot of turnover in styles. It just opened as the sister store to her Lockwood home and gift store next door. It’s worth a trip to Astoria if you find yourself in NYC shopping while fat! The dress I was trying on was from Cabiria Style, an indie local plus size designer carried at Lockwood.

*If you’re suffering from cold this winter I highly recommend fleece lined leggings, and Re/Dress online is having a Winter layers sale right now. I just bought some in pink and black. Use code LAYERUP for $5 off each piece. I secretly wanted to buy this $98 vintage nightie but for now just practical layers, I will when I am a rich lesbian.

**PS. Be sure to check out Domino Dollhouse’s Valentine’s lingerie line featuring Tess Holliday!

***PPS. Read this article from Huffington Post last week about my friend Sophie Spinelle’s body positive feminist pin-up photography business. I love the title of the article so much! These Pin-Up Photos From ‘Shameless Photography’ Show That Every Body Is Gorgeous. Congratulations Sophie!

o-SHAMELESS-PHOTOGRAPHY-900Bra burning pin-ups is the way to go!

2013-05-03

Plus Size Vintage Clothing, Dresses, Jumpsuits, Blazers for Sale sizes L-4X

Hey readership! I have a giant stash of vintage (mostly) I collected around the country thinking I was going to do more pop-up shops than I ended up doing. I have it all neatly photographed in an album right here, but I’d love to highlight some of the gems for Spring for you below. Each photo on flickr shows the measurements, which is the best way to shop. It all ranges in price from ten bucks to forty, most around $25 or $30.

This one is not vintage, it’s from Torrid. I bought it off a babe but the bust is a little too small to work for me. Best for a size 24/26 babe who has a smaller chest. (Pinned behind the size 1X/2X model to show shape.) $25
2X/3X Torrid Garden Party Dress $25 (#20)

This vintage purple jumpsuit is a dream! The bust is up to 44″ with up to 38″ waist. $40. Magical.
XL/1X Vintage Purple Jumpsuit $40 (#34)

I made my friend Elisabeth try this on and it looks great and would be the perfect wedding guest dress! Size 1X/2X. $38
1X/2X Vintage Teal Sheer Sleeved Dress $38 (#9)

This sweet Springtime pastel wrap dress is going to make someone’s garden dreams come true. The rare wrap dress that covers up the yabbos. 1X/2X. $32
1X/2X Cotton Pastel Vintage Wrap Dress $32 (#35)

Who is the gender queerdo who wants to layer with this bizarre sweater situation? It’s roomy, bust and waist stretch all the way up to 60″ and would look great both with many things under it (think dress shirt, bowtie, hoodie, sparkly tube top, flannel shirt, or freeballin,’ as some of my genderfluid friends call that time you don’t wear a bra or anything. $20
2X-5X FREE WHEELING VEST purple $25 #29

Plum surplice dress so great for Spring! XL/1X (up to 42″ bust). $25
XL/1X Plum Surplice Dress $25 (#12)

This mod 80s blazer is foxy and 4X (pinned behind model to show shape of garment but it’s big)! $25
4X Mod 80s Blazer $30 (#23)

There are a whole bunch of pieces in the album! Take a look and email me with the number(s) you’re interested in. $5 shipping in US, free shipping for 2 or more items!

2012-10-23

Window Shopping with Simply Be

Hi friends! This featured post is brought to you in partnership with Simply Be, as an introduction for my readers. The words are all mine, but Simply Be and I both believe everyone deserves to look amazing at every size!

Simply Be offers clothing in UK sizes 10-28, US 8-26.

I’m super into the Gok Wan retro lingerie collection for Simply Be!

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This bra and high waisted brief combo is so killer! I also really appreciate that the photographs for the retro collection are pin-up styled because, lez be honest, that’s the look I’m going for with my underthings!

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I also love the Gok Wan Divine Outline shaper. I love shapers used as tools and not for body shame. Last night I performed in a performance art tribute to Taylor Swift and reinterpreted the Taylor Swift song “Speak Now,” her wedding busting up song. And I dressed like a bride. And dressing like a bride means bridal shapewear and that kind of stuff is no joke. I came home with some intense marks on my body. I was actually longing for a piece like this outline shaper that’s just about squishing in the right place and not about digging into me with a ton of extra boning. Fashion! (P.S. Shapewear is great for staying warm in the Winter!)

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A friend of mine was just raving about Simply Be bras and I deeply adore a Marilyn Plunge bra. I think the essential garment I wear every day is a plunge bra, regardless of how cleavagey an outfit happens to be.

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This Joe Browns Honeycomb Knit Dress is to die for! I love this for workwear or hanging out. I actually am totally adverse to regular sweaters and prefer sweater dresses where I get to choose where my waistline is.

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Great for going out, the Stud Detail Tunic Dress! I think it’s super sexy and edgy but is still something you can wear to your significant others’ corporate cocktail party.

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I love retro looks in modern fabrics and the Ring Printed Dress With Collar blends this well. The peter pan collar is so sweet and I still think the dress is sophisticated and not totally twee.

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The Joe Browns Fur Collar Coat is really close to the coat I wear all the time in the Late Fall. I created mine by pairing a vintage fur collar with a jaquard coat, but this is actually all the work done for you. And I get compliments every single time I wear it. This coat with the rose details is incredible.

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Simply Be also carries a ton of wide calf boots, including Legroom Boots Extra Ultra Large Calf Width. That’s a lot of superlatives but they are super foxy!

2011-11-15

Introducing Plus Size Brand Marisota

Hi friends! This featured post is brought to you in partnership with Marisota, as an introduction for my International readers. The opinions and language are all mine!

I was asked to look through the plus size ladies wear from Marisota. The first thing I do when I find a new plus brand is check out their shapewear and lingerie.

Well-made plus size shapewear is hard to find and I really appreciate the variety on the Marisota site. I am not a shapewear proponent for everyday, but it can help wiggle you into an outfit, smooth out a line, help prevent chub rub or act as a strapless bra that won’t migrate. The building block for a lot of fat style for ladies, men and gender benders is often found in the wonders of a foundation garment.

Marisota Plus Size Ladies Wear
I love the Gok Wan Osaka Shaper. Super cute Cherry Blossom print. Goes up to 46C.

Marisota Plus Size Ladies Wear
I’ve never found a plunge body shaper going up to size 48C. Naturally Close Plunge Bodyshaper.

Marisota Plus Size Ladies Wear
They have tons of bras all the way up to size 50. Like this babesauce navy situation Milliarosa Underwired Bra.

Marisota Plus Size Ladies Wear
Their boot selection is extensive and they carry lots of wide width calf styles that go up up up in fit. Like these Patent Riding Boots!

Marisota Plus Size Ladies Wear
I’m also a fan of this Zandra Rhodes Vintage Print Dress.

Marisota Plus Size Ladies Wear
And really intrigued by Joe Brown’s Ultimate Coat. There is so much going on but I think it could look really cool. I am into statement pieces as outerwear as a means to combat the Winter blah blah blahs.

Sadly they don’t ship to the US–yet. I will let you know when I find out that they do!

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