It's undeniable that this year has seen designers and brands take some needed steps toward a more inclusive, body positive fashion industry. From beloved retailers like ModCloth signing "No Photoshop" pledges to luxury brand Céline featuring 81-year-old Joan Didion in ad campaigns to Courtney Noelle opting to use only plus size models of color in her editorials, I dare say 2015 has been one of the more progressive years the sartorial world has seen in quite some time. Of course, it's important to celebrate the folks who are doing things right. However, it's equally important to celebrate the folks who are doing things right, but who arguably haven't yet garnered the recognition they deserve.
Now, don't me wrong. It's nothing short of inspiring to see a mega retailer like ModCloth take step after step to become as inclusive as possible. But it's also nothing short of inspiring to see smaller, more independent retailers kick ass in all walks of body positivism. It's easy to get swept away in believing that society is becoming more evolved, progressive, and accepting when we hear news after news about body pos campaigns spearheaded by retailers or glossies like Marie Claire featuring Tess Holliday. But the truth is that we have a long way to go before bodies of all colors, of all sizes, of all gender and sexual identities, and of all abilities have an equal place in the fashion industry.
That's why it's especially touching when the lesser-known brands are doing all they can to make that inclusivity a reality. So here are nine companies we should keep an eye out in 2016, all of which deserve our hat-tipping.
Velvet Vixen Deep V-Neck Jumpsuit, $44.50, rebdolls.com
As stated on its site, RebDolls is a retailer providing "unapologetic fashion to women sizes 0 to 28." Most items are available in this size range (or Small through 5XL), without being separated into straight size and plus size categories. At RebDolls, equality feels like the main priority. That's why you'll see a diverse array of models of unique sizes, ethnicities, and styles repping these threads.
"Unapologetic" is definitely the word to describe RebDolls, what with its focus on tight fits, plunging necklines, and curve-accentuating silhouettes. The fact that such clothes are available to individuals of so many sizes makes things all the better. Additionally, the price point is comparable to fast fashion favorites, with items starting as low as $15 and generally not exceeding $50.
2. Bluestockings Boutique
Anais Bralette By Blackbird Underpinnings, $62, bluestockingsboutique.com
Bluestockings Boutique made headlines this November when it released a body positive, trans-inclusive lookbook featuring individuals of diverse sexual identities, ethnicities, and body types. The LGBTQIA+-focused retailer aims to "empower people who have been marginalized by the mainstream lingerie industry and to offer them an experience that reflects their identities, their bodies, and their values," according to its site, and does so by bringing together designs that are equal parts chic and practical.
When you consider how often trans individuals, especially, are still left out of body pos conversations, Bluestockings Boutique's efforts feel all the more necessary. Here's hoping the brand garners more recognition in 2016, and that more trans or queer humans who don't think the world of lingerie is "for them" discover the e-retailer.
3. Rachele Cateyes' Glorifying Obesity
Take Up Space Throw Pillow, $28.93, redbubble.com
Fat positive artist Rachele Cateyes (aka the Rad Fat Vegan) is doing absolutely genius things when it comes to the intersection of body positivism and art. Her illustrations tackle everything from diet culture to living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome to the oft-heard criticism that size acceptance advocates "glorify obesity." And on RedBubble, you can get her designs on phone cases, pillows, scarves, laptop sleeves, mugs, and more.
Cateyes' illustrations feature a perfect balance between cutesy kitsch and poignant activism, making her work one of the most striking in the world of independent artists.
4. Neon Moon
Emerald Green Bamboo Triangle Bra, $66.99, neonmoon.co
Feminist, body positive lingerie brand Neon Moon wants to eradicate the male gaze as one of the main factors seemingly involved in lingerie production, according to its site. Founder and designer Hayat Rachi has been a dedicated voice in body positivism this year, even helping take down fat shaming group Project Harpoon after discovering that her editorial images had been stolen and Photoshopped by said group. And her passion for mantras of self-love, inclusivity, and diversity radiate in all that she does.
Having only launched this year, Neon Moon has yet to expand its size range into plus territory. However, Rachi has been open about this being a goal of hers moving forward. In the meantime, we can all delight in the sizing structure of the brand. Rather than focusing on numbers or values, all items are currently available in sizes "lovely," "gorgeous," and "beautiful."
5. Smart Glamour
The Carbone Cropped Sweater, $35, smartglamour.com
Designer Mallorie Dunn of Smart Glamour has arguably the most size inclusive range in retail, with items ranging from XXS through 6XL and beyond, all available for customization. Smart Glamour grew in recognition this year thanks to its body positive campaigns like #MiracleMomBods and Dunn's decision to use mainly plus size models in her winter collection images. But considering just how inclusive this brand is, I'd argue that it deserves infinitely more kudos come the new year.
Oftentimes when we hear about brands catering to "all sizes," the reality is that those collections max out at a 3XL. What's so wonderful about Dunn and her brand is the value placed on actually catering to all bodies. It's a mantra that the world of retail at large could certainly use.
6. Chubby Cartwheels
Print Crop Top, $35, chubbycartwheels.com
What's perhaps so radical about Chubby Cartwheels is designer Shawna Farmer's ability to combine on-trend styles (like velvet or '70s-esque suede) with fat girl rule-breaking at its finest. From bold prints to crop tops to look-at-me-slogans like "sluts with guts," everything Farmer produces demands to be seen.
As such, the brand has gained a hugely positive reputation in the plus community. But it remains lamentably unknown in a more macro sense. And when you consider that this is an e-retailer unafraid of dressing plus size women in crop tops decked out in French fries or cannabis, that's nothing short of a shame. Here's hoping that in 2015, more fatshionistas become aware of the many wonders available in sizes 1X through 5X that are just a click away.
Loey Lane Champagne Toast Sequin Plus Size Leggings, $47.99, society-plus.com
Society+ is the baby of plus-centric publication SKORCH Magazine founder Jessica Kane and Cool Gal Blue owner Michelle Crawford. As noted on its about page, the brand is all about the "commitment to body and color diversity as well as a genuine passion to empower women and create a community." As well as its focus on being inclusive of size and ethnic diversity, what I personally love about this retailer is its commitment to style diversity. From the femme to the night-out-chic to tackily trendy sequin leggings, it's essentially a one-stop destination for humans sizes 14 to 20 who don't have an easily definable style.
What's more is that Kane's involvement as Creative Director means that a plus size women intrinsically involved in the plus community and online body positive activism is at the front lines here, and it definitely shows.
Robbin' Buttercream Cupcake Pencil Skirt, $32.20, rue107.com
Much like Rebdolls, Rue107 houses a myriad of body-hugging, unapologetically bold fashions, generally in sizes Small through 3XL. Although there is a specific "Curve" section, the majority of items are available in the full size range. On Rue107's e-retail site, you'll encounter a racially diverse group of models of various sizes, all of whom are rocking the hell out of mostly-tight ensembles. These clothes are definitely statement-makers, and deserve some praise hand emojis in the coming year.
The creative head behind this brand is Marie Jean-Baptiste, who was born in Haiti. According to the website, "She celebrates the vibrant colors of her Creole heritage and the essence of her second home New York City," in her designs. Perhaps through having two homes of sorts, Jean-Baptiste has cultivated a passion for diverse and colorful representation, and that's exactly what you'll find here.
Fur-Trimmed Textured Cocoon Coat, $132.50, simplybe.com
Although SimplyBe is quite a well-known plus size retailer in the UK, it's not quite as acknowledged on this side of the Atlantic. However, SimplyBe houses a sea of designer collaborations, with high-end folks like Anna Scholz creating more affordable ranges sold exclusively here. It's also hugely involved in blogger relationships, often turning to the plus size community for firsthand information on what its customers actually want from their fatshion.
What I personally love about SimplyBe is the sheer variety and amount of items. There are pages upon pages of apparel across various price points, of plenty of styles, and mostly available in sizes 8 to 28. So while it's a more established line in its home country, I'm hoping SimplyBe gains a little more momentum in the States next year.
The concept of "body positivity" certainly gained traction in 2015, but activists and proponents of its philosophies still have a lot of work on their hands. With brands such as these, however, the work will undoubtedly get done. It might take a while, but there sure are a lot of remarkable humans — equipped with remarkable clothing — to make it happen.
Images: Rachele Cateyes (2); Courtesy Brands