I’ve never thought I was allowed to enjoy fashion, and the fashion industry has done little to dissuade me of that notion. As a woman of size, as a fat woman, I’ve rarely, if ever, seen anyone who looks anything like me in fashion magazines or on fashion websites. I’ve admired fashion from afar, treated avant-garde pieces and couture outfits as forbidden fruit. At times, fashion has taunted me as I flipped through the glossy pages of Vogue or W or Marie Claire. I’ve admired beautifully cut blouses and billowing slacks and strangely cut but intriguing skirts. I’ve thought, If I were thin enough, I might be able to taste this forbidden fruit. I might know what it feels like to wear beautiful clothing and feel beautiful in beautiful clothing.
There are all kinds of women and men and non-binary people like me who have wanted to feel like a part of the fashion world, but who have been implicitly and/or explicitly excluded. Most designers only make clothes for very specific bodies-impossibly thin, angular, lacking in curves. And certainly, that very specific body exists, but it is not the only body. It is not the kind of body most people live in. Designers make it seem like they are not so interested in clothing women but are, instead, interested in clothing the idea of a woman. Fashion magazines only reinforce this narrow aesthetic by featuring this elusive idea of a woman on their pages.
But what do those of us who are more than an idea or ideal do? What do we wear? How do we express ourselves through clothing when we have so few interesting options? If we do not see ourselves represented in fashion, in film and television, in literature, how do we feel like we belong to a community beyond ourselves? These are questions I have struggled with for a very long time and will continue to struggle with not only as a fat woman, but as a black woman, and a bisexual woman.
It shouldn’t be this way. Every body is unique and carries with it a history that deserves to be honored by fashion. This should go without saying, but, clearly, it needs to be said over and over again. And we need far more than to say that every body matters. Everyone in the fashion industry needs to acknowledge the reality and diversity of human bodies. This industry needs to act on that acknowledgment at every level. Designers must design clothes for all kinds of bodies and do so with the same flair and creativity with which they design clothes for their ideal. Retailers need to carry clothing for all kinds of bodies. Fashion magazines need to feature all kinds of bodies. And this has to be an ongoing effort.
What we really need is drastic, revolutionary change. We need to forget the status quo because the status quo serves no one.
I would like to believe a change is going to come, but so far, that change is coming too slowly. In 2016, Leslie Jones, who has a perfectly lovely body, could not find a designer willing to dress her for the premiere of Ghostbusters. She was enjoying a career-defining moment, but that triumph was marred by a fashion industry flummoxed by a woman who was bigger than a size 2. Thankfully, the immensely talented Christian Siriano stepped up, dressed Jones beautifully, and showed that a truly talented designer thrives when creating fashion for a unique body.
And we need far more than to say that every body matters. Designers need to acknowledge this reality and so do fashion magazines.
More designers need to follow suit. More gatekeepers in all areas of the fashion industry need to follow suit. We see change in small ways-a black model here, a transgender model there, a plus-sized model featured in a campaign. And then it’s back to the status quo. What we really need is drastic, revolutionary change. We need to forget the status quo because the status quo serves no one. NYLON featuring Ari, Diana, Gabrielle, Ezinma, Zuri, is a step in the right direction. These women reflect some of the diversity that we should see reflected by fashion-women who are androgynous, women who have beautiful shades of brown skin, women with dreadlocks cascading down their backs, women with curly hair, women who are daring and independent and as intelligent as they are beautiful. But more steps need to be taken. We need to see masculine women and feminine men and differently abled people and fat people and everyone who has yet to see themselves in fashion. We all deserve to see our unique bodies and unique beauty in more than the mirror.
Every body is unique and carries with it a history that deserves to be honored by fashion.
PHOTOGRAPHER: ADRIENNE RAQUEL
PHOTO ASSISTANT: SENEM GUNES
MAKEUP: KIM WEBER
MAKEUP ASSISTANT: KYLE SHEEHAN
NAILS: GRACIE J.
STYLIST: CHRISTINE NICHOLSON
STYLIST ASSISTANTS: TYLER OKUNS, DAVIAN RODRIGUEZ, RAVEN SHEPHARD
HAIR: ANDRITA RENEE
PRODUCER: MAURA GAUGHAN
EDITING: CHARLOTTE PRAGER, DANI OKON, AND DYLAN PAILER-FRIEDMAN
SOUND: DREW JOY