An Oral History Of Plus Size Street Style, From The Women Making It Happen

Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve seen a huge shift in the way in which fashion is packaged. Once upon a time, myself and my fellow fats were resigned to being shown limited plus size fashion options that, for the most part, were tailored towards the more mature, modest demographic. You know the kinds of pieces: cold shoulders, "flattering" empire line pieces, smock dresses, and other pieces that screamed "45-year-old art teacher" (not saying that that’s a bad thing because I can totally dig a pair of cropped chinos and Birkenstocks).

But we’re in 2019, and fat fashion has come an awfully long way, thanks to the mega diverse street style offerings we are shown via our favourite plus size fashion bloggers, creatives, and general Awesomely Styled Women. It was by involving myself within this fashionable community that I began to develop my own sense of style and feel comfortable in the pieces I'd always longed to wear. I started my blog, Nerd About Town, 11 years ago after feeling frustrated with my law degree. At first, it started off as a beauty blog as I was still insecure over my body and appearance, and there were virtually no brands creating plus size pieces that felt stylish or current. For me, things began to change with the launch of ASOS Curve in 2013 and from there, there was no stopping me. I started taking photos of my #lewks in my Mother's back garden, and then moved onto taking photos down the local street and then eventually, coordinating photoshoots around areas in London.

It's taken a long time for publications and brands to recognise the worth that plus size style bloggers bring to the table. I've only been to London Fashion Week a handful of times and on those occasions, I've always been photographed by street style photographers. In a way, it feels validating, but equally, who knows what they do with the photos? In my experience, brands are also becoming a lot more receptive to loaning or gifting outfits for shoots and events because they recognise how much power plus size street style has in terms of influencing mid-sized and plus-sized women. But my experience is just one side of the story, so I spoke to a few plus size fashionistas below to chat about how far plus size street style has come, how far it has yet to go, and the power of the plus size coin.

How To Break Into The Industry

"I was scouted in 2011 at an East London pub dancing to Diana Ross by photographer Miles Aldridge — a personal hero of mine — as he wanted me to portray Anna Nicole Smith for his shoot. It was monumental for me as he had never shot plus sized people before me. Before then, even though I’d make my own clothes and had a huge love of fashion, I’d never dreamed of becoming a plus size model, as we virtually had no representation back then. After the photoshoot went viral, I signed with Storm Models, and the rest is history!" - Felicity Hayward, Plus Size Model, @felicityhayward

"The app we all love to hate, Instagram, really helped to propel my love of plus size fashion from a hobby into the career I have today. I saw a space in the fashion world that desperately needed taking up. I wanted to show other fat people that they deserved to be seen and respected for their fashion choices." — Danielle Vanier, Content Creator/Designer, @daniellavanier

"I’ve worked in fashion since I was old enough to work, so I always knew that my job would centre around that. I hadn’t realised that there were so many great, fashionable plus size women putting themselves out there until I found the likes of Gabi Fresh and Callie Thorpe. I saw confident, happy plus size women showing their personal style to the world and thought I’d do exactly the same!" — Chloe Elliot, Content Creator, @chloeincurve_

Felicity Hayward (Credit: Joe Maher/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

What Fashion Week Is Really Like

"I struggle so much every fashion week as brands refuse to cater to my body. In the grand scheme of things, smaller sized people will probably always have better looks and be photographed more because they have a huge array of options and access to more clothing in comparison to plus sized women. Until we have some sort of equality, this will always be the case." — Felicity Hayward

"At LFW (back when I attended), I was always ignored, pushed aside, even though I know that my LFW looks, season after season, were exceptional." — Danielle Vanier

"There is definitely fat phobia in this field of work and it's appalling that within an institution as prestigious as LFW, out of the hundreds of designers, only two or three are interested in having bigger, curvier models." — Vanessa Russell, @curvegirlmannequin

Working With Designers & Brands

"I think being black, a woman, and fat means that micro aggressions are part and parcel of most day-to-day experiences. I often find myself fighting with dressmakers who believe my outfit designs 'aren't flattering for fat people.' I stopped being bound by the notion of 'flattering' way back when, I wear what I like regardless of arbitrary rules. — Adwoa Darko, Style Content Creator and Diversity Coordinator for SOAS, @auntyadj

"I just want to see more of us taking up space, proudly showing off our killer looks, and I want to see us being given a platform to do so." — Danielle Vanier

"As a collective, we are so sick of being ignored by magazines, press, the media. I feel like we are taking things into our own hands and if they don't want to shoot us/feature us ... we'll bloody well do it ourselves. I just want to see more of us taking up space, proudly showing off our killer looks, and I want to see us being given a platform to do so, and being paid for our work!" — Danielle Vanier

"There is definitely a plus size presence, but in terms of us having as much power in this street style realm, it's impossible for us to because if brands are not size and height inclusive, it makes it harder to produce consistent content. It would be lovely to see fashion bloggers and models paid and treated fairly by brands for their hard work because at present we all know the extra struggle plus sized people have within this industry in comparison to their straight sized counterparts." - Vanessa Russell

Adwoa Darko

Working On Shoots

"I am a curve model and I have found it rather odd when I’ve arrived on set and the client does not have my size. There have been a few occasions where I have been made to feel as though I am an inconvenience for being 'too big,' which is absolutely bizarre." — Vanessa Russell

"I have had hairstylist, models, photographers, stylists, production assistants on set find an excuse to touch my hair without permission and question the authenticity of my natural big nappy afro." — Enam Asiama, Model & Advocate, @enamasiama

"I've lost count of the number of times I've had to make do on set because the stylist hasn't prepared enough options for me/known how to dress a fat — I have even had to wear pieces I travelled to the photoshoot in. On a recent shoot with a magazine, the makeup artist mistook me for one of the caterers — no joke! You could see in her head she was surprised to see I was one of the people being photographed that day." — Danielle Varnier

Recognising Your Power

"At times, I feel like you have more power because if you're walking around fashion week in an incredible look, it's like, "WOW, that's a fat woman looking cool" and that still seems rare, so photographers get the opportunity to capture something exciting. However, street style can also feel quite elitist, often the trends that are happening at that moment aren't yet available for a plus size wardrobe." — Sara Brown, Clothing Designer & Stylist, @sarabrowndesign

"I feel like we all have something completely different to offer, we’re all different sizes and shapes, so one piece can look completely different on two people. I still don’t think we’re taken as seriously as our straight size counterparts, which is forever frustrating, but I think we definitely have just as much power." — Chloe Elliott

"We were essentially a joke years ago and we were never seen as fashionable because brands didn’t cater for us at all. It’s only recently that we are beginning to see more brands cater for bigger bodies and use bigger bodies in their campaigns." — Felicity Hayward

Danielle Varnier (Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Dealing With Online Hate

"The discrimination against fat bodies is such an insidious part of our society that our limited power comes at the cost of trolling, of violent hatred in comments, in detrimental effects to plus size influencer mental health, and too often being ignored by brands that should be making the effort to work with street style influencers to produce better, more inclusive products." — Danielle Vanier

"There is still a long way to go before our style/swag is the focal point and not the size of our bodies." — Adwoa Darko

"Just look at the comments section of any plus size woman featured on a mainstream brand's social media; there is still a long way to go before our style/swag is the focal point and not the size of our bodies." — Adwoa Darko

"From the start, I'd been prepared for backlash. But whatever hate I would get, celebrating my body, and living my best life would be worth it." — Simran Sandhu, @simksandhu95

"I haven’t personally experienced anything negative from those within the industry — I get a lot more flack from trolls online than anything." — Felicity Hayward

Why Covering Up Pleases Nobody

"Outfits that show skin do well as fat people have always been told to cover up or not to wear things that draw attention to themselves. So when I hear that, I do the opposite and wear the brightest, most unmatched patterns with lots of extra skin showing." — Enam Asiama

"People seem to support a strong beachwear look, [so] I go on holiday solely to stunt with my swimsuit/fatkini and kimono." — Adwoa Darko

"Whenever I get my body out in a bikini or underwear, the likes seem to skyrocket. I try to take a positive stance with this and believe it is other women like me getting joy from seeing another fabulous body like theirs, but it's hard to block out the idea that 'sexy sells' just like all the other images in the fashion industry." — Sara Brown

Broadening Plus Size Horizons

"I think more and more UK plus size fashion bloggers will get their due, because there seems to be much more of a space for US plus size brands and bloggers. This has to change, especially on the UK high street, which is massively struggling at the moment, and I think a lot of that has to do with a real lack of understanding of inclusivity across the board." — Nicole Ocran, Fashion Blogger, @nicoleocran

"I hope we will see more plus size babes that are fed up with following trends and start creating them." — Sara Brown

"The plus size style industry is still heavily centred around cis, able-bodied, smaller, fat, straight white women. But I also know that I am making sure that I am recording all the doors that have opened for me with opportunities, and the people who have gone out of their way to do so. Some have been those very same type of people described, however the majority have been queer and trans people of colour — my people!" — Enam Asiama

"I want to see more plus size babes in the fashion week street style round-ups on Vogue or WGSN. I also hope that we get more exciting brands, which will give us access to fabulous street-style worthy clothes. I would really like to see less of the boring, basic, dark-based, ditsy floral dresses in a cheap jersey that seems to crowd the plus size fashion world. To me, Street Style is there to celebrate the new and exciting, I hope we will see more plus size babes that are fed up with following trends and start creating them." — Sara Brown

Paying Plus Size Influencers Their Dues

"The literal acrobatics that plus size women have had to do to pull together some incredible looks while not having much to access on the high street or luxury fashion is a real testament to the actual styling power plus size women have. I think there's a real difference between having style and just being able to wear a head-to-toe Zara look." — Nicole Ocran

"I believe as a fat woman, I need to work harder to be creative/respected when it comes to looking stylish. I have less shopping options, fewer luxe options, and I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to wear something or create a specific look but haven't been able to because I just don't have the right items available to me — it's infuriating." — Danielle Varnier

"People are flocking to plus size bloggers on IG to get style inspiration as there are a plethora of influencers and creatives on the platform, as well as independent brands and designers. We are creating our own access and platforms, and that, in turn, is helping the community to become a lot more confident in knowing that we deserve a space within this industry!" - Felicity Hayward