This has undoubtedly been a year of unapologetic plus size fashion. From all of Gabourey Sidibe's flawless looks on Empire to Ashley Nell Tipton's major Project Runway win, the plus size fashion community really did get some genuine mainstream exposure in 2015.
But it wasn't just TV where plus size individuals made fashion take notice of a group that has been otherwise forgotten or ignored by retailers for years. There was the continued rise of the fatkini beginning in the spring, and of course the crop top clapback come July. And while brands continued to expand their size ranges, I have to credit the plus size fashion community for using social media as a valuable tool to share just how we want to be represented, and how tired what-not-to-wear rules really are.
Consumers are proving that individuality should reign supreme in plus size fashion. So I wanted to celebrate the community of folks that helped challenge these sartorial rules and push for change by wearing whatever they wanted. Through social media, I asked a myriad of babes to share their favorite and most unapologetic outfit from 2015, and I got responses from across the world that show just how beautifully varied this community truly is.
Plus size blogger Ashleigh Rhoades tells me, "In this moment, I realized that no matter how flawed society may think my body is, it truly is a thing of wonder that is worthy of love."
"This was my 30th birthday in NOLA after I had been very sick the previous year. I wanted to wear something for me unapologetically that made me feel great and alive," Whit tells me via Twitter.
Alexander messaged me the following caption for why they picked this as their favorite bold look of 2015: "I think my outfit was well put-together and my socks were the bomb and I had my shirt tucked in so you could see my tummy, which is an aspect that I'm trying to work on feeling better about!"
Plus size blogger Tiffany of Beautiffullyme says, "This is my boldest look of 2015. Too much skin shown, I'm a grown woman wearing a tutu, and I have on a crop top. Some may look at this photo and see a fat chick. I look at this picture and see a Flower Goddess. Perception is everything and I personally feel absolutely beautiful."
Courtney shared this image with me and said, "I would say this is one of my boldest looks of the year! I found an amazing dress half my size, but it fit perfectly and I have never felt better! I usually keep my legs and arms hidden, but I am slowly gaining confidence! I felt super sexy in this."
Plus size model Dolores (aka Miss MozzyDee) shared this photo by The Estrada Experience and writes, "This is the boldest look I have done for a photoshoot on body positivity. I encourage all to embrace the body they are in no matter what!"
"I think that was my boldest moment, when everyone said that you shouldn't wear crop tops when you don't have a flat stomach. I was tired of hearing the same old stories about what fat girls can't do," says German plus size blogger Asta of RolyPolyWardrobe.
Actress and model Kathy Blaze Jefferson shared this image and writes, "In this stage of my life, I love myself as I am. Live, love, and be happy no matter what others think of my flaws."
Blogger Dionna Humphrey of Made Me Pretty couldn't pick just one favorite, so she sent me three. She writes, "I picked those three photos for two reasons: One, I look amazing! But two, they defy what fat girls are supposed to avoid — belly showing, arms showing, bikinis. I like who I am, rolls and all. And each of these photos shows that!"
"This probably doesn't seem like the sort of outfit that would be hard for anyone to wear. But for me, I didn't wear jeans or trousers for 10 years because I was so scared to wear something tight to my bottom half! So to rock a pair of red jeans was a hell of a thing, bright and tight," says UK blogger/photographer Kitty Wood.
"I love wearing exactly what antiquated fashion rules says I shouldn't, like mixing prints or stripes. I've got prints on prints on prints, and I look damn good in this outfit," says plus size writer and blogger Liz Black of P.S. It's Fashion.
Petite plus size blogger Cassie of Style Cassentials writes, "I chose this look first and foremost because I love it, and it made me feel sexy and fierce. I also chose it because I'm a 38-year-old mom of five with DDD breasts going braless and wearing a plunging neckline! I was told that I should be more conservative, that men might get the wrong idea (insert serious eye roll)... I took a dare that it really was OK for a plus size woman to wear a neckline down to her waist. Every woman should define for herself how she wants to dress, and neither size nor age (nor the fear of sexual harassment) should have anything to do with that!"
Model April Raquel shares this photo, saying, "Just because you have big arms doesn't mean you have to hide them! Fuck flattering!"
Plus blogger Darshana Pathak writes, "This was my boldest moment of the year for sure. People that think that plus size women can't rock crop tops and high waisted shorts are clueless because I felt tough as hell and like l am capable of anything."
"I was a fat Rizzo, and I finally felt the power of turning the negative words into my power words," says blogger Miss Kathryn's Miss Takes.
UK blogger Stephanie of Nerd About Town shared this photo and tells me, "For me, this photo was about letting go and owning my body and sexuality, regardless of how I look. I've never felt more exposed and attractive as I do in this photo and I absolutely love it!"
I was blown away when model Kat Stroud shared this photo of herself. "It has taken me years to get comfortable in my own skin, I now have confidence and believe in myself, I refuse to hide or edit myself any longer! This image is unedited with natural lighting in all my curvy glory — in my natural state — half dressed and enjoying life," she tells me. "I don't need to be fixed with diets and there is no 'skinny' person on the inside trying to escape."
Skadi Nokturvras shared this image as her boldest look from 2015, and it's definitely an ensemble that demands to be seen.
"My boldest moment was not caring about what other people would think. I wanted to wear shorts with a crop top. I don't think I've ever shown this much skin and it felt amazing," writes Melissa of the blog It's Melicious.
Plus model Nikki Carter tells me, "Whoever said a thick chick couldn't wear a lace top and bra totally lied, they're just hating. This is a jumpsuit I wore at a fashion event in Philly. I felt so sexy and couldn't have cared less if anyone thought otherwise."
The caption from this MUA says it all!
Vlogger Terr Cacilia shares, "I have selected this image because I never would have imagined myself in a bikini for all the world to see — with my large arms, thighs, chubby tummy, and rolls. Turns out that showing the world your 'flaws' is one of the most incredible things you'll ever do."
"This is around the time I realized, flawless is in the eye of the beholder," says Ari of The Curvy Girl Affect.
Shawna of Club Bodice shares her first time ever wearing a bikini as her boldest moment.
Along with this image, Ashlee Brioné writes, "You ever have these moments like, 'I'm gorgeous/hot/etc.,' and you put your finger on your butt and make a sizzling noise?"
"I wouldn't say it's a bold outfit, but I love how this photo came out. I felt pretty bold posting it because in a sea of selfies, this one someone else took. Not to mention it shows how large I am. I don't know, I just love it. I felt bold like a bold and beautiful mermaid babe," shares Anna Sisko.
I don't have a quote from model Saucye West on why this is her favorite. But when you look at it, the reasons sort of become obvious.
"I love wearing two-piece suits that enhance my curves. I wore this for a fashion show and got nothing but praise from women asking how I learned to love myself. No woman should ever be ashamed of what they look like," says plus model Danielle Ferguson.
Latina plus model Jennifer Barreto-Leyva shared this photo by Pointer Media and says, "This outfit represents exactly who I am; someone bold, unconventional, sassy but classy, and never giving up my comfort. I'm a firm believer that you can break the fashion rules but with class and brains, this outfit represents all of that."
Michsi of EatStylePlay says, "When they told us we shouldn't wear crop tops this summer, this was my way of say eff you, I wear what I want."
"I call this bold because I am tired of being told what to wear that 'flatters' my figure. If I like it, I wear it," says Aarti Olivia Dubey of Curves Become Her.
Erin writes of her boldest look, "White jeans! I was always told that I shouldn't wear white jeans because only tall, slim women with small backsides can wear white jeans. I now own three pairs!"
"I've always been terrified to show my stomach. These pictures were just the beginning of my change in attitude about myself," says Samantha of her bold boudoir shoot.
Plus model Megan Kimberling tells me, "Plus women should be comfortable in their undies! If skinny women can wear next to nothing and not be shamed, we should be able, too!"
Daisy says this outfit "breaks all the so-called 'rules,' and is a clear statement of who I am and what I stand for."
Blogger Chardline of Plus Size Beausion writes, "2015 was probably the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone after gaining 60+ pounds. I actually mustered up the courage to wear this caged mesh dress from Pink Clubwear after reading a Bustle article. This was the first time I actually learned how to be unapologetic about myself no matter what size I was."
Tumblr blogger Nicole of The Hefty Hideaway says, " I am living that Miss Piggy Bitch/Ham Jam Lifestyle and making everyone EAT IT!"
Comedian, actress, and model Alessandra Grima shares, "This photo is of the first time I wore a body chain! Accompanied by lace and leather, I felt unstoppable. You know it's a great outfit when you make uptight people uncomfortable."
"My boldest moment was creating the swimsuit shoot that I always wanted to do but never thought I could pull off," says model/blogger Dana. "I went for a total Sports Illustrated idea and I couldn't really care less who liked it or not. It's probably one of the times I felt my sexiest."
Sarah of Velveteen Femme writes, "This outfit is everything I wanted to be when I was younger but thought I couldn't be because I was fat. And yet here I am."
Italy-based designer and model Samantha Schloss-Sua Rotondità shares, "This is one of my best pics of this year. I wear a bikini designed and sewed both by myself. I love tiger prints and it is really rare to find a fabric like this here. And this is a part of a photo trilogy about body positivity and stuff we need in my country."
UK blogger Lottie L'Amour tells me, "I picked these looks because I wanted to remind others that fat women are allowed to feel sexy, look cute, and put whatever they want on their bodies and live unapologetically. My body is beautiful — I'm soft, curvy, fat, and happy!"
Burlesque performer Noella Deville writes, "This is my boldest outfit of the year. My fat thighs in a short skirt with a belt that makes a statement. No one can tell me I'm not flawless."
Rachel shares that bodysuits and fur are her boldest 2015 look and tells me, " I was always hesitant about showing my thighs, but I've fallen in love with them this year. I'm in love with this look and this lighting."
Blogger, model, and pageant queen Cha'Kiva Latrell writes, "My curves are a gift wrapped up in a bow!"
"I love wearing something revealing when I DJ because I try to create a body positive safe space at the nights I run and I want to lead by example," says UK blogger, journalist, and DJ Bethany Rutter of Arched Eyebrow. "I love this bodysuit and denim shorts combo for the mesh front and the fact you can see almost all my tattoos."
"I don't get cute, I get drop dead gorgeous," is how Starr sums up her boldest look.
Model and photographer Anna Criswell writes, "This photo is completely unapologetic, like yes I'm fat and yes I can use my bra as a top. There is nothing better than making a bare minimum fashion statement."
Plus model Olivia M. points me in the direction of this caption to highlight the reason this is her boldest look.
"I'm just really into pushing the lines on what swimwear is 'acceptable' for bodies like mine," says Cat Polivoda of Cat Inspired. "I love the beach and the pool, but I feel even better about being in those spaces when I remind myself that I am making a positive influence on both my body confidence and that of others when I refuse to feel anything less in my bikini."
"I was always chastised for having big legs and being so tall (6 feet)," Slade Vegas tells me. "I was never allowed to wear anything short or without pantyhose, let alone black (strict parents). So my goal as an adult, as a woman, as an independent and strong-minded representative of this body and self is to show as much naked leg as possible and embrace my strength, even if others struggle to see it. It's about me embracing my body and dressing how I want. Even if it's all in black. I'd encourage anyone to be just as rebellious."
Blogger Bessie Pledger writes, "This was one of my fave outfits in 2015, breaking free and wearing what I love without giving a crap what people thought; it's my body and I'll wear what I like always!"
In a tweet, Shameka tells me, "I love old movies, especially Breakfast At Tiffany's. When I found Holly Golightly on a T-shirt, IN MY SIZE, I was so hyped! I love it."
Blogger Natalie Means Nice writes, "I love this outfit. To some, it may not be bold, but to someone who tried to blend in most of their life, I feel like I'm breaking out of my shell these last few years. My dress is short, my legs are bare, and my coat is big and takes up space. Being bare and taking up space as a fat person is bold in and of itself. I drowned myself in plain and fully covered clothing for years and years trying to hide. I am breaking free from that and it feels amazing."
"I don't need an excuse to exist at this size or validation to love my body," shares plus model Brittney Tamang.
Netta messaged me this photo, writing, "This is my boldest look of this year because it's my first time ever wearing a crop top. My tummy is a point of sensitivity and insecurity to me so I generally avoid drawing attention to it at all costs and actively work to redirect focus to other areas. But this shirt encapsulated a confidence that lay dormant in me for too long. I AM a whole lotta woman, and that's OK. I make it look damn good."
"This is my boldest look because I have never worn a two-piece in my life, says Ratna Manokaran. "I've always been self conscious about my thighs, my stomach, my breasts, my butt, and when I put this on myself and looked in the mirror suddenly everything didn't matter because I felt so good and beautiful in it! I stood in front of a lot of people and took pictures in them and I felt really good about myself."
Fellow Bustle writer Courtney Mina tells me, "This is my favorite, most 'bold' look, as it's a dress I personally helped co-design with designer Shawna Farmer from Chubby Cartwheels. The dress fits and flows in all the right places while still revealing just enough body/skin to showcase my big, beautiful, curvy body beneath. Also, being (pretty much) nude underneath, the dress gives this look an element of boldness that you don't normally find in a regular, everyday look."
Blogger Maui Bigelow of Phat Girl Fresh directed me to her caption for the reason as to why this was her favorite bold look.
Scottish plus blogger Lolly of Lolly Likes Fatshion also pointed me in the direction of her image caption.
Plus model Katana Fatale writes, "This past summer was my very first time baring my arms. You'd think I'd have overcome that insecurity by now, but it just goes to show you that confidence has no finish line; it's something you work on for most of your life — and that's OK because it's always been about the process. It's the progress that's so rewarding."
Ann tweets me that she loves how she's showing off her belly and wavy body type here.
Plus model Dellany Peace says, I love this recent photoshoot I did because this is the largest size I have been yet lately I have been getting the most modeling work. I want other women of all shapes and sizes to see me living my life to the fullest and know that they can too. A size of a dress nor the number on the scale should ever dictate our happiness. It's all about loving who you are as you are right now."
This tweet says it all!
UK-based artist Kathryn Mallow a.k.a MurderOfGoths shares, "This is my turning point outfit, the one where I stopped trying to look slimmer or wear flattering stuff. I was happy in that, I felt good, and it broke all the so-called rules. It's the photo I go and look at if I'm feeling bad about myself, my fatspiration if you like."
Kaliesa writes, "I've struggled with my body image my entire life, and learning to love my fat has allowed me to love myself too. I used to wear baggy clothing that would hide and cover my body, but now I'm really in love with myself and will wear anything that pleases me."
Marcy Cruz of Fearlessly Just Me shares, "For years, I have worn super long tops and baggy pumps to cover my lumpy thighs. I realized one day as I was passing up a full length mirror and glancing at my own reflection, that the styles I was wearing to cover up my flaws were actually making me look worse! My legs looked shorter and the baggy clothes hid my wonderful curves and small waist. I realized that my lumpy thighs are mine, and how can I truly love myself if I can't love them as much as the rest of my body? I take it one day at a time and I refuse to give up until I finally accept them. Who cares what anyone else thinks? My body is my body and no one else’s."
Jamie of Baby Doll Beauty Couture shares this image as one of her favorites, and it certainly is divine.
Wear Your Voice Magazine's Rachel Otis tells me, "I consider this my boldest look, because for me, it represents the first moment of claiming freedom in my body and claiming space for it in the world. This is the first time I dared to show my stomach in public and the only way I had to do so was in my first ever bikini top — pairing it with two longtime pieces from my closet was also empowering. This Lily Pulitzer sear-sucker blazer and J. Crew skirt have existed since my high school dress code days of body hatred for over 10 years, and repurposing them into a new outfit now that I finally am in love with my body wasn't just an epic fashion moment, it was truly a healing experience and one that my #FuckFatPhobia mission was born from."
Aussie plus model/blogger Rhiannon Hennessey tells me, "This was one of my boldest looks as my whole life I've been told don't draw attention to your body, wear black, don't wear all the same pattern, and don't wear leggings as pants! So I loved killing this outfit. It was liberating to be honest."
Radio host Dani Da Ninja writes, "I love the pictures for my hair. Bringing that much attention to myself is an anxious yet fulfilling experience. I love my outfit. Black is my favorite and the shawl is from Bene Scarves, who support women in Africa."
77. Yours Truly @readytostare
The comments section on this photo will tell you why this was my boldest look. But in case you want to know more, you can read about the controversy this dress sparked on my blog regarding what constitutes "acceptable" plus size fashion.
With babes like this at the helm of the plus size fashion revolution, I have no doubt there will be way more rule-breaking to come in 2016.