When I transitioned from doing correspondent work for E! to hosting duties on Countdown to the Red Carpet earlier this year, I knew it'd call for a different type of dress — something special. Instead of being hidden in a press line, I was going to be front-and-center on camera for hours, so a custom gown was the goal. Right away, my stylist at E! began reaching out to designers. As awards season approached, though, the labels who responded ghosted us — if they got back to us at all.
There's no way to know exactly why they didn't respond, but I have a pretty good guess. Mainstream brands creating custom plus-size pieces usually work with high-profile celebrities. I have a great career, but am I as famous as most A-listers nominated for awards? Absolutely not. While I understand designers want the most eyes on their product and extra fabric may cost more money, their silence feels like they don't see my worth. When I find myself standing on a red carpet next to people doing the same exact job as me, but they’re wearing a custom look and I’m not, these feelings are only magnified.
I found myself standing on a red carpet next to people doing the same job as me, but they’re wearing a custom look and I’m not.
Just before the Grammys, my stylist suggested doing something different and making our own look from scratch. She found Lynne Carter Atelier on Instagram and asked the owner, Lynne, if she'd bring our vision to life — and quickly. After two weeks of fabric swatching, fittings, and working together over FaceTime, my body-con, embellished Grammys dress was ready.
Lynne, my stylist, and I worked together to create a midnight blue, floor-length gown for the Oscars, too, and this time, I shared the final result on Twitter with a caption that reflected my belief that women of any size should have couture options available to them. "I designed and created my own Oscars dress this year due to very limited plus size options," I wrote. "I’ll create a lane of my own. You CAN have couture AND curves!"
Responses immediately poured in. People like Meghan McCain and Yvette Nicole Brown replied and said they could relate all too well. I received so many messages that prove how much people want this conversation to continue and how much they appreciate the representation. Someone tweeted that they hadn't even watched the red carpet before because they knew there'd be no one there who looked like them. I can relate. For a long time, I thought I wasn’t interested in fashion, but deep down, I felt ignored.
The response to my tweet and Oscars gown shows how eager women are for more clothing options, and it's also opened my eyes to the people in the industry who are prioritizing custom looks for plus size women (Tess Holliday even replied to my tweet by shouting out her stylist, Meaghan O’Connor, who works primarily with plus clients). This experience makes me want to showcase designers who work with curvier women so they can get exposure, designers like Christian Omeshun and Courtney Noelle.
And who knows? One day I might start designing on my own.
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