When I was a teenager, I was terrified of fashion because I was over a size 12, and every magazine, website, television show and fashionista out there seemed to think women of my stature weren't worthy of 90 percent of the clothes available. Everywhere I turned, I was greeted by a long list of Plus Size Fashion No-Nos.
You know the thing: plus-size women can't wear this, plus-size women can't wear that, so and so accentuates your tummy, so and so makes you look like you have cankles. All the noise brought me to a point where all I felt comfortable wearing were baggy t-shirts and bootcut jeans. And it was a nightmare. I envied my thin friends who could walk into Wet Seal and Forever21 and buy anything they wanted, from horizontally striped dresses to ultra-skinny jeans. I so wanted to do the same, but feared leaving the bubble of things I was allowed to wear because I'd been assaulted by every media outlet telling me I was too fat to wear just about everything.
As I've gotten older, though, and branched out in most aspects of my life, leaving that fat girl turtle shell into which so many women feel forced, I've experimented with clothes like never before, and broken all those rules. So I think it's worth noting some of those so-called Fashion No-Nos that it's time to rebel against — because once you do, an infinite number of fashion possibilities await, and when you spend so much of your life fearing clothes, the chance to start a newfound love affair with them is sort of spectacular.
Stay Away From Horizontal Stripes (Or, Any Sort of Big Pattern In General)
Ridiculous. This rule is usually accompanied by some line like "horizontal stripes make you look wider" or "big flowers and things draw too much attention to your stomach." Who cares? If we live in fear of looking wide or of a passerby on the street looking at our tummies because we have big flowers on them, we will never dress for ourselves. I love stripes, especially black and white ones. And I don't think they make people look any bigger than they are — I think they're a classy pattern worn by fashion greats through the decades, and there's no reason curly girls should remain exempt.
Avoid Bright Colors
See what I mean about 90 percent of fashion being ruled out for a curvy woman? If you follow this rule, you will just be on a road to Gothville. There's nothing wrong with wearing black all the time if it's what you want to do. But only wearing one color because it is "slimming" (spoiler alert: it isn't always) and everything else is not is absurd. Sometimes you need bright colors. You need a source of light and happiness when it's gross outside and everything around you is gray. Colors can influence your mood, so why wear only one?
Body-Hugging Anything Will Draw Attention to Your Imperfections
My most-hated rule. This is what led me to avoiding bodycons, pencil skirts, and skinny jeans for two-thirds of my life. The theory goes that things that are tight to the body will make it obvious that you are plus-size, but this theory only stands if you think of being plus-size as an imperfection. The thing is, I personally think the curvaceous figure is stunning. I look at women like Rebel Wilson or Adele or Lena Dunham, and I think of them as total babes. There's no shame in having a fuller figure, and honestly, no shame in showing that figure off.
Size-Experimentation = Sin
So many times, I was afraid to try on anything that wasn't my average size because I thought, what's the point? It either won't fit, or it'll make my rolls evident. In the past year, though, I started going into Topshop and Urban Outfitters and other stores that technically don't sell anything over a 12, and finding out that a lot of those stores actually have pieces that are either stretchy or just made bigger, and so very feasibly fit me. I'm not unrealistic about this — I don't expect to walk into a place and discover I fit into an 8. But I do think there are loads of occasions when something you don't think will fit does, and looks amazing at that.
Pattern Mixing, Ew
I LOVE pattern mixing. I love wearing a flowery top with polka dot jeans. I love wearing a geometric dress with patterned tights. I find it fun and quirky and interesting, and I love seeing this trend on the streets. The idea of only wearing one pattern seems so antiquated in a negative way that it's just not worth bothering with. My mom, who is a pretty traditional dresser, always preached this particular rule for women of any size on the basis that it draws too much attention to virtually every body part, but following it can lead to a whole lot of boring. Quirky patterns were meant to meet other quirky patterns.
The Jean Predicament
The jury is conflicted on this one. The forums tend to either preach that you should only wear high-waist jeans because they help suck in your belly, or you should only wear lower rise, baggier-cut jeans so no attention whatsoever is drawn to the body beneath the clothes. I prefer high-waist. I think they make everything look good, from my butt to my thighs to, yes, my tummy. But I know a lot of fuller-figured women that prefer a lower-rise cut that focuses on hugging the hips. The moral with this one is simple, and emblematic of my point with all of this: wear what makes you feel good. Wear what makes you feel beautiful. At the end of the day, it's your body.
I'm suggesting breaking some rules because I don't think it's fair for women of a certain size to feel oppressed by fashion — an industry that should provide enjoyment. But the choice is always yours. Your individual style is (duh!) yours and no one should take that away.
Image courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina