One of my personal fashion icons is undoubtedly Rihanna. So with the Rihanna's album ANTI and a new single with Drake having just been released, I felt it was the perfect time to channel RiRi in everyday life.
Rihanna spent 2015 teasing that a new album was on its way while keeping us hanging, but she did deliver on the fashion front. I have always looked to her for inspiration because her style transcends gender norms and so-called sartorial rules — something that I also strive to do with my own look.
Rihanna breaks fashion guidelines with ease, and her 2015 Grammys dress inspired one of my own biggest fashion rule-breaking moments, which caused a debate in the plus size fashion community along the way. Queen RiRi has an IDGAF attitude when it comes to fashion that I try to personify in plus size form. So I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if I consciously dressed as a fat version of the musician.
I started by looking through every single one of her photos on Instagram for inspiration, and then got way too into recreating the outfits and the images. Here's what happened when I lived like RiRi for a week.
Day 1: Overalls & Orange
This is a pretty iconic Rihanna photo. I knew that I had overalls that I could wear loosely, but I hardly own any long-sleeve tees, let alone bright orange ones. Lucky for me, I wear the same size as my dad and he had just the ticket in his closet. It wasn't the crewneck that Rihanna was wearing, but with my hair in the way, it was definitely close enough.
The first person I encountered was my mom. In fact, it was her idea for me to steal my dad's shirt. When I told her that I needed to photograph myself wearing it, she was very into recreating this image. I sadly do not have a photo of Bob Marley in my house, but I do have one of my great-grandparents on their wedding day (what Italian doesn't?), so we settled on that as a backdrop. My mom was obsessed with posing me and critiquing my expressions and angles.
My best friend's only comment when she saw me was that this look "wasn't very fashionable." And while it wasn't traditionally fashion-forward, Rihanna made it look cool. And it's probably the coolest I could feel in a shirt from my dad's wardrobe.
Day 2: Pleather Skirt & White Shades
I originally picked this look because it seemed like a fairly basic one to recreate, considering my closet is composed of mostly plus size leather/pleather pencil skirts. But actually putting it together was a challenge. How could I not own a single plain heather gray T-shirt? I settled on a logo tee from my own brand in a soft gray. I did have white cateye shades, luckily. But as much as I adore this PVC skirt from ELOQUII, I would have probably felt more comfortable with a tighter-fitting one.
Once again, my mom got very into my position for this photo. I never pose with my fingers in my mouth, so it felt very unnatural and half of the resulting photos were just of me laughing. Wearing this look for the entire day was also a challenge. I was terrified of falling on black ice in these shoes and PVC isn't exactly a fabric that lends itself to sitting at a desk or babysitting my young nephews.
Even though I was wearing a skirt, I still felt dressed-down. When I saw my nail artist, her first comment was a very enthusiastic, "You look cute!" And you know what? I felt it!
Day 3: Bangles & Bandeau Bra
Although I owned these bangles before coming up with this experiment idea, I originally bought them because of this Rihanna photo. It was no easy feat to find them, because most bangles are not designed to fit someone with arms my size. I found this set at Ashley Stewart and knew my Rihanna bangle dreams could finally come true. RiRi was obviously topless in this photo, but I wore the look with a bandeau bra, a fur coat, and a skirt.
I took these picture at a local hotel swimming pool because that's about as tropical as I could get in Ohio's dead of winter. People in the pool stared at me hard, but I did not care in the least. My mom's first reaction was that I would be cold only wearing a bandeau bra as a shirt, and she was right. I was definitely cold, but I also really liked this look. It was one I had dreamed of wearing and finally being able to accomplish it felt great.
Day 4: Red & Black Jersey
When I found this photo of Rihanna wearing only a jersey and heels, I instantly thought of this two-toned football jersey in my closet. I've been wearing men's sports jerseys for years, so I had a whole bunch to choose from. This one matched the color scheme, but I had two big limitations to wearing it without pants: The fit and the cold. As much as I wanted to go pantless for the look, this jersey was too short to do so in, and the temperature outside just didn't allow for it.
I showed my best friend the original Rihanna photo and she commented that this jersey was a perfect match, agreeing that wearing no pants was not an option. It was a choice grounded in circumstance more than my size. If it was summer, I probably would've worn a pair of booty shorts instead of leggings. I think I would've felt better about this look that way, but I still liked it nontheless. I went to an event that evening with my best friend and I felt very comfortable — sporty and sexy.
Day 5: Leather Skirt & Orange Jacket
This short leather skirt was a pretty good match for Rihanna's look. Though I wished I had a printed tee of my dog to substitute for RiRi's rottweiler Givenchy T-shirt, a graphic tee from the Selena Museum was my closest fit. I was bummed to discover that not only did I not own an orange bomber jacket, but I didn't own a bomber jacket at all.
My parents had invited me out to dinner that evening and when my mom saw this look, she told me that the skirt was way too short and I had to change. It was like high school all over again. I agreed to wear tights under the skirt once we got to the restaurant, though, and we compromised. She continued to make comments about my "butt hanging out."
But I couldn't be mad at my mom for too long because she realized that my dad's winter jacket was a close match for RiRi's coat. I convinced him to wear my faux fur coat while I wore his orange one. When it was all said and done, this look was pretty close.
Day 6: Jeans & Veil Beanies
The veil beanie is another iconic Rih look and she was one of the first people I remember wearing the style. I had gotten a few requests for veil hats in my shop and the shipment came in while I was doing this experiment. Perfect timing! I don't own any jeans and haven't worn them in years, so I knew that these acid wash joggers would be my closest bet.
On this morning, I had an interview. But as soon as it was over, I purposefully messed up my perfectly coiffed hair so I could pair my natural curls with this beanie. I felt comfortable with both hairstyles. If RiRi can go from red carpet glam to after-party chic, I figured I could too.
My best friend asked if I was going to wear the beanie to our vet appointment, and I said yes. Actually, her exact words were, "Are you going to dress like a crazy person even to the vet?" But I didn't feel strange at all. I really liked this look and it's something I would probably have worn anyway.
Day 7: Backwards Hat & Body Chain
I knew that somewhere in my wardrobe, I had a baseball jersey like Rihanna's. But try as might, I could not find it anywhere. I went with this vintage American flag button-down instead. I couldn't tell if she was wearing a bathing suit top or a bra, so I went the bathing suit top route and wore this cute fringe one from BECCA ETC. I took the body chain from my brand's own stock. In my studio, my interns and I named all of the chains we use after celebrities. Ironically, the chain we use to make this body chain is named Rihanna.
I grabbed a pair of shades from my showroom, and I knew I also needed some sort of cup in my hand. So I figured what better than my Drake Versus Meek coffee mug? When my best friend first saw me, she asked if I was still dressing like Rihanna. When I replied yes, she said, "Oh, well this looks like something you would just normally wear." And that response sort of summed up how I was feeling about this whole experiment.
What Did I Learn?
Dressing like a fat Rihanna wasn't hard for me. In fact, it was easier than some of my everyday looks. I didn't wear a single dress. I never had to do my hair. And for the first time ever in my fashion career, being the same size as my dad benefited me. Plus, I got to wear hats four out of the seven days of the week, which was a total bed-head savior. I usually wear them one to two times a month, but this reminded me to incorporate headwear into my look more often. I will say that doing this in the summer would've been even easier. RiRi has a ton of good bikini photos on Instagram that I just couldn't swing in these weather conditions.
More importantly, this experiment reminded me how much a straight size celebrity like Rihanna can influence my fat girl style. There is not a different set of standards of dress that I have to abide by as someone who is on the total opposite size spectrum of Rih. So the moral of the story of this: If you like it, wear it.
Images: Alysse Dalessandro