There's something that I refer to as "pulling off culture," and it's a phenomenon that tends to make its most boisterous appearance come spring and summer trends. "I couldn't possibly pull that off." "I don't have the legs for that!" "That was designed with a woman half my size in mind!" "Taylor Swift is the only human who could ever wear such a thing!"
Now, everyone has their own personal style, and said style should be allowed to manifest itself in whatever unique way an individual chooses. You love t-shirt dresses and loose-fitted silhouettes? Rad! You adore mini skirts and bodycons and anything else that shows off your figure? Perfect! What I have a problem with is this "pulling off" notion — the idea that because you're a certain size or shape, you just aren't worthy of fashion. You couldn't possibly look "good" in trendy things.
"Trends" are kind of a weird thing. Mainly because no one really knows what they mean, who decides them, how every high street brand (by what can only be some sixth sense magic) knows to produce them each season, and whether or not they'll still be covetable once the craze has died down. For this reason, I think it's pretty important to stay true to your sense of self and sartorial identity and never buy something purely because it's "on trend." That's a recipe for a lot of unused items a couple of months down the line and wasted cash that could've been spent on far more useful things. Like, I don't know, macaroons and margaritas.
I also believe, however, that there's always a way of making a trend your own. And that's why it's such a disheartening thing when plus-size women, especially, refuse to try something out at all. Speaking from past experience, I know this is often rooted in one thing: fear. Fear that you'll look "fatter," fear that you'll be "too visible." Fear that "you'll take up space." Fear that you'll be laughed at for not sitting in a corner in a peplum dress or A-line skirt and empire waist top.
And the thing is, those fears make sense. Chances are that if you do happen to be fat, and you opt for a trending bodycon co-ord set with a crop top that shows off more than an inch of your tummy, you're, um, going to look fat. People will see you. You will take up space (as all humans do, regardless of size). And there's definitely a chance that a fat shaming stranger on the street or Instagram troll will find you and call you out via giggles or slurs because humans, as we know, suck.
But that's no reason not to try things. Just because we've been taught that "fat" is just about the worst thing a person can be (with weight often being prioritized over actual, integral character), doesn't mean we should have been taught that. And it doesn't have to mean we live our lives hidden under sack dresses (unless that's what we want to do, on our own terms, and not out of fear).
When it comes to spring/summer 2015 trends, "pulling off culture" has been crashing the party since the first glimmer or sunlight beamed into our windows in April. And for some reason — perhaps because this season's "trends" are so correlated to traditional "plus-size fashion no-nos" — I've heard a lot of fuller-figured women say they'll have to "wait for fall to shop."
Although everyone's journey to body positivity is unique, there are few things more empowering to me than wearing the things I dream of wearing, and embracing the way my body looks in them, sans conditions. Seeing how the roundness of my belly or the curvature of my bum look and transform style-to-style. It's no secret that our clothes tell the world something about our personalities, and in wearing this year's "trends" — molded to fit my own personal style — I guess what I'm hoping to convey is, simply, that I love my fat body. Not because I want people to think, "Awww. Good for her. She's so brave!" But because I actually love my fat body. And I don't feel like hiding it in prime heat stroke season.
1. The Psychedelic Prints & Fanny Packs
ASOS Curve '70s Print Romper with Bell Sleeve, $51, ASOS Curve Waist & Hip Belt with Western Tipped Purse, $27, ASOS Curve '90s Tattoo Choker with Faux Pearl, $7, asos.com
As soon as I heard the '70s were back "in," I knew that would mean an influx of trippy prints and ensembles fit for post-Woodstock days. A major plus-size fashion "rule" for as long as I can remember has been "stay away from bold prints! People will see you too much!" But personally, it's always been one of my favorites to break because I have something of a penchant for loud patterns.
Add psychedelic-y patterns to the table, and well, I'm totally sold. This ASOS romper breaks so many rules in one that I'm about to have some kind of sartorial climax, guys. From the short cut of the bottoms to the bell sleeves to the vibrant colors, it demands to be seen. Just as proponents of the body pos movement also demand to be seen. And the fanny pack? Well, anything that draws attention to the tummy area is usually deemed a "no-no," which means it's actually a total win if you want to show the world your personal self-love for that part of the body.
2. The Pastels
Portia Mini Polka Dot Shirt, $41, collectif.co.ukBonnie Pastel Gingham Cigarette Trousers, $65, collectif.co.uk
If "black" is the quintessential hue for fat girls, then "pastels" are definitely the antithesis. It's commonly accepted that plus-size women should strive to wear black as much as possible. And although I totally understand the glam and classic appeal of doing as much (and definitely let my black-on-black tendencies get some air time from time to time), limiting yourself to one color is just kind of... well, boring.
Pastels aren't exclusive to "spring/summer 2015," but rather, they seem to surface every year. And they're just perfect for walks on the boardwalk or strolls down tree-lined city streets. Pastels are bright and airy — they instill a sense of summertime adventure.
As something of a lover of classic vintage cuts, Collectif's selection of summery pastels is just about an ideal means to "experimenting with seasonal trends" while staying true to the style I personally find so empowering.
3. The Cape Dress Or Romper
"Safiya" Cape Romper, $108, monifc.com
I have been wanting to try out a cape dress since seeing Rebel Wilson rock the look at the 2015 MTV Movie Awards. So when designer Monif Clarke came out with a cape romper (another trending style for this season), well, I was beyond excited to take it out for a spin.
There are few things bolder, sartorially speaking, than a cape. I mean, it's prime superhero fashion, so there's that. And it has the kind of volume and depth to it that every time you move an inch, it'll flow and sway in such a manner that people will obviously take notice, for better or for worse.
When wearing the cape romper out into the world, I definitely noticed more stares and glances than I would on a normal day. People saw me. I mean, this design is also a super bright color (ticking off all the rule-breaking boxes, here), and it was being worn by a woman whose thighs are comparable to a package of cottage cheese (and I say that in a complimentary way. Who doesn't like cottage cheese?!). But I felt powerful. Not because I was getting attention. For all I know, it was fat-shaming attention. But because I was experimenting with something I'd never tried before, and even though I noticed some stares and glances, it simply didn't matter.
4. The Culottes Or Wide-Legged Pants
ASOS Curve Pant with Wide Leg in Camel, $40, asos.comASOS Curve High Neck Top in Stripe, $33, asos.comTruffle Collection Jelly Heeled Sandals, $22, asos.comASOS Curve Waist & Hip Belt with Western Tipped Purse, $27, asos.com
I have a distinct memory of my mother owning a pair of trousers exactly like these in the early '90s, when wide-leg cuts were all the rage. But the last time I wore "baggy" pants was probably high school gym class, and they were sweats. Even though culottes are trending, though, plus-size culottes and wide-legged pants are still a rarity to see on actual fuller-figured humans.
With the skinny jean boom (which by my estimations, began about 10 years ago — nutty), came a sort of feeling that pants with such wide legs were intrinsically unflattering on plus-size women (if we're defining "flattering" as "slimming," which is what it usually means). And I get it. They're sort of shapeless and aren't meant to "show off any curves." But they're not the kind of garment we're told to wear to cover our fatness up, either. Culottes, then, are kind of the No Man's Land of fashion for plus women. Not quite a "no-no;" not quite a "yes-yes."
With the exception of highlighting my butt pretty well, these pants do very little to showcase my curves. But that's sort of the point. Because — unless you actually want to — you don't have to "flatter" your figure and make you body look like the "perfect hourglass" if you're fat. You just don't.
5. The Nautical Trend
Jolien Knitted Bolero, $42, collectif.co.ukFranky Shorts Plain, $61, collectif.co.uk
Every couple of years, the nautical trend makes some kind of comeback. But I'm proud to say I've been sporting the trend since 1993. Exhibit A:
The thing is, I love stripes. And for a long time, I didn't feel like I was allowed to wear them. When it comes down to it, horizontal stripes make the body look wider. And "width" isn't often something plus-size people want more of. But as someone who happens to feel more confident and genuinely sexier/more glam/all-around better as a fatter human, I actually like the silhouette horizontal stripes create.
Suspenders have also been hugely "in" this season and again, I love the vintage feel with a modern twist that this pair creates. Suspenders — like any quirky accessory — are all about being visible. And that means they have a place in my heart, always.
6. White On White
Forget the whole "not wearing white after Labor Day" thing. Plus-size women are usually told not to wear white-on-white ever. In a similar vein to pastels, white is a hue not traditionally deemed "flattering." Which means a lot of fuller-figured gals stay away from it to avoid visible belly outlines, prominent roll-age, or all-around "look at me" vibes.
But white-on-white is everywhere this summer, and it happens to be a trend I intrinsically applaud for the season. I mean, summers get clammy. They get unbearable, even. And the fact that plus-size women have, for so long, been told they have to cover up in dark colors and thick fabrics to avoid being seen — even come the hot, hot months — is nothing short of a travesty. I'm not being dramatic, here. Any "rule" that inhibits a person's right to do as they so choose, express their personalties, feel at ease and comfortable in their bodies... that's not a rule I want in my book. So just wear white-on-white. Your sweat glands will be thankful. And so will your sartorially-inclined soul.
7. The Pineapple Print
Tropical Pineapple Romper, $44, heygorgeous.comTruffle Collection Jelly-Heeled Sandals, $22, asos.com
There are two fruits I think about when I think "summer:" coconuts and pineapples. And 2015 has seen an abundance of pineapple-print fashion. I love the funkiness that is a bright, fruit-filled pattern. And I love that this particular romper is bolder than most scaled-down versions of "trends" we tend to see in the plus-size market whenever a new "it look" becomes a thing. (Because many brands still assume plus-size people don't want the "riskier" trends for fear of standing out.)
But what I also love? The subtle eff-you to all these weird misconceptions about plus-size people and diet. I won't pretend I eat my fruits and vegetables every day, nor that I prefer an apple to Oreos dunked in milk. But that's just me. While there are plenty of plus-size people who are the weight they are because they, too, prefer the Oreos, there are plenty of plus men and women who adore foods we associate with "health." And both groups are equally human — worthy of acceptance, self-love, and of feeling beautiful. OK... maybe I'm reading a little too much into the romper.
8. The Vintage Cheerleader
Gemma Gingham Playsuit, $77, collectif.co.ukBritney Cherry-Embroidered College Jacket, $84, collectif.co.ukCollectif Bowling Bag, $69, collectif.co.uk
Although it has yet to be deemed an "official 2015 trend," I've been noticing a lot of what I like to describe as the "vintage cheerleader look." Think Grease meets Betty Draper. It's a look rooted in things like baseball-style letterman jackets, gingham prints, oxford heels, and bowling bags.
Even though the pinup-y look tends to be one that a lot of plus-size women seem to gravitate towards, the Vintage Cheerleader is a more fitted, more overtly sexy version of the traditional pinup. Something like this Collectif playsuit, for instance, lies tight to the body. It's the perfect mixture of subtle and bold. And sometimes, that's just the kind of the look you want to go for.
9. The Summer Pencil Dress
Adele Mini Polka Dot Pencil Dress, $73, collectif.co.ukChub Club Official Member Button, $3, thetinyhobo.com
Anything "too fitted" seems to be a risk a lot of plus-size women aren't willing to take. Again, I totally respect having a preference for looser, more breathable wears, but sometimes I do just want to show off my body! Sometimes, a dress that hugs to my curves (visible belly outline and 50-inch rear-end included) is just what I need to look in the mirror and feel sexy and ready to conquer the world — á la Joan Holloway.
Although you can't see it too well in the photos, I've paired this summery pencil dress with my "Chub Club" button by The Tiny Hobo. When I'm wearing something I know is "breaking a plus-size fashion rule," I get the urge to let my fat pride shine to its fullest. And such an adorable little accessory is a great way of doing so.
In a summer pencil dress, you can see the roundness of my belly and the fact that it, you know, plops onto my thighs when I sit down. But that's sort of the point. You can strive for acceptance in a lot of different ways — and for some people, being accepted means silencing themselves. I don't want to do that anymore. So this summer, I'm going to wear all the trends. And I'm going to force people to see me. To see the body positive movement I stand behind.
Images: Marie Southard Ospina/Paddy McClave; Giphy