An otherwise exciting email was going around the office: a popular swim brand was having a massive online sale and we were offered a Friends & Family discount. The person who sent it said she’d place the order — we just had to send her our selected style and size. My heart dropped just like it does anytime the words “swimsuit” and “size” show up in the same sentence. Just like it does often in this industry.
I clicked the link but I barely made eye contact; I didn’t want to fall in love with any of the bikinis, coverups or one-pieces. You know that feeling you get in your gut when you receive a text and somehow, without opening it, you know it’s going to be a bad one? I had that. The homepage might as well have read, “Hey, we need to talk…” Sure enough, when I clicked the size drop down menu, “XS, S, M and L” were the only sizes revealed. I closed the website and never responded to the email.
As a plus-size woman in an industry where minus is the norm, my size constantly makes me feel less-than. “YOU ARE MORE THAN YOUR SIZE, EMILY.” I tell myself this daily, and yet, I can’t help but feel like an outcast. I want to participate when the office buzzes over a new collection. When there are fun clothes to try on. I want to look cool, too. You may not realize it because I’m not wearing it, but being plus size doesn’t mean that I don’t have an eye for fashion. For color, for taste, for design, for strange necklines and jeans that flare out and tatter at the bottom. But it’s 10 times harder — no, 100 times harder — for someone my size to go shopping on a high street, or to find pieces online that don’t require four rounds of returns and still make me excited.
So where does that leave me? Do I accept a wardrobe of black and boring basics? Or do I change myself so that I can wear a size that I’m almost positive I am not naturally meant to be?
Squeezing into something that I love but doesn’t quite fit has been a metaphor for my life. I’ve long been trying to fit: into clothes; into stores; into this industry. The world of fashion has always interested me — but it hasn’t really acknowledged my existence.
Except that I’m here, aren’t I? I’ve made it this far. When I sent this stream of consciousness to Amelia she said we’d turn it into a story and style me. I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret: it wasn’t easy. Trendy plus brands are limited. I have wide feet, so shoes are a pain. Take the usual process of calling in samples — which can be tricky due to inventory, timing and logistics regardless of size — then add the word “plus” into the mix. But we made it work. Three outfits later and I finally felt like what has long been living inside of my brain was showing itself on the OUTSIDE.
The ending of what I originally wrote didn’t exactly have a solution. It was more of a plea to brands to recognize that women of all different sizes and shapes are out there, willing to shop. We’re down to invest in a coat and want to buy a pair of jeans with our friends without it turning into “a thing.” We want to reply with our favorite style and size to the email.
But I also want everyone to consider that next time you see a plus size girl walking down the street in some printed top you think is horrendous and a pair of boring pants, it’s possible that what she really wants to be wearing may only exist in her head. For now.
Just know that we like cool clothes, too.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis. Styled by Amelia Diamond; Market by Elizabeth Tamkin.