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Plus-Size Fashion

Don’t F**k With Big Belly Women

In the most recent issue of Oprah Magazine, there was a Q&A portion of an article where a reader asked “Can I pull off a crop top?” The reader was then given a response by one of the magazine’s writer’s which stated “If (and only if!) you have a flat stomach, feel free to try one.”

We crop top wearing big bellied women immediately proceeded to look down at our exposed stomachs and ask, “bishwet?”

This is definitely not the first time media, especially magazines, and society in general have tried to police the specific garment choices of fat women and it will not be the last time either. We’re repeatedly told to “Wear all black — it’s slimming!” or to “Never wear horizontal stripes!” or “Just don’t wear prints or bright colors in general!” Basically, we’re told to wear a burlap sack because there’s nothing worse that a fat woman can do than be seen, or worse, have her fat be seen, hence the emphasis on the “and only if!” part. It’s been made abundantly clear to us that many people would rather fat women just disappear. Well guess what? Not only are we here, but there is a new generation of fat women who are ready with guns blazing when our right to visibility is attacked by statements such as these.

Upon seeing the snapshot of the atrocious article, I immediately clicked where @oprahmagazine was tagged in the picture to see if there were any more responses to it. This is just a glimpse of what I found:

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TL: Tess Holliday (@tessholliday), #effyourbeautystandards TR: Lalaa Misaki (@lalaamisaki) BL: Courtney Noelle (@courtneynoelleinc), #deathtothemumu BR: Cynthia Ramsay Noel (@flightofthefatgirl), #flightofthefatgirl

Everyone from famous plus-size models like Tess Holliday (@tessholliday), the founder of #effyourbeautystandards, plus-size bloggers like Essie Golden (@essiegolden), the founder of #goldenconfidence, Roxy of @rrrstylings and Jolene of @boardroomblonde, featured by Plus Model Magazine (@plusmodelmag), to body-positive IG advocates, curvy tummy women, and even some women with flat tummies, geared up with their selfies to dispute the lies being printed about them (all via instagram). Even a new body-positive tag, which I can’t wait to use all day every day, came out of the outrage: #pullingoffacroptop (created by Sarah Chiwaya of curvilyfashion.com (@curvily)). And so I was inspired to join in on all the excitement:

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What many don’t realize is that when you say a fat woman can’t wear a crop top, you’re saying much more than just that. What you’re actually saying is that a fat woman doesn’t get to make the same choices about her body that a thin woman could. You’re saying that fat women don’t deserve to love themselves and their bodies and you’re saying that fat women don’t deserve to have their choices respected. Whether or not you find fat and rolls aesthetically pleasing to look at is irrelevant. Fat women’s tummies are not killing people, fat women’s tummies are not disturbing the peace, fat women’s tummies are not hurting anyone, but ignorance, bigotry, and bullying are. So the next time you feel entitled to comment on a stranger’s body and tell them what they can and can’t wear – don’t. And ladies, and everyone else too, if you feel good about yourself in what you’re wearing, which I know is so hard for most of us to do no matter what our size, you are f**king pulling it off!

I would also like to call this a HUGE win for tummy love. Even in the plus-size community, big-belly women are often slighted. There is not a lot of appreciation yet for giggly bellies anywhere, but this gives me hope that one day there will be.

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Has Africa Fallen Out of Love With Plus-Size Women?

Zion Tribe by Maelle Andre
motel-magazine.com Photography by Maelle Andre

It’s quite possible that I was raised by the only African mother who doesn’t believe that voluptuous body types are beautiful, but if I’m not, I blame colonization (as I do for pretty much everything).

Growing up, it was always hard to find the strength inside me to shut out the thousands of reasons both she and the media gave me to hate my chubby tummy, thick thighs, and round face, but from time to time I found comfort in knowing that the being tall, thin, and white was a eurocentric beauty preference. Being American (first-generation), that’s what I always had to consider, but, being African, it made sense to look to the elephant ear-shaped continent where I found that there are many more things that different cultures find beautiful, including big women.

Fast-forward about 10 years and you’ll find a world where technology is wholly accessible and social media is king queen*. Press play in 2015 and you’ll also find that African fashion has gained steady popularity, though it is still in an early adoption stage. As an aspiring fashion designer, the new-found Afrocentrism is extremely exciting for me. I and other African designers’, both aspiring and on the rise, only hope is that African designers and African nations will be the main ones profiting off the adoption of African fashion in the western world. Racism in the fashion industry is a huge issue that I will continue to explore in this blog, quite often I’m sure; however, I want to start by asking the question that my colleagues have not and probably will not ask: Why are African brands not making clothing for plus-size women?

African Print Turban by The Pretty Caps store on Etsy.com
African Print Turban by The Pretty Caps store on Etsy.com

Like the fashion-loving fat girl I am, the first thing I thought about upon realizing the doors being opened for African fashion, was that there were going to be more people in the industry fighting for, or at least catering to, plus-sizes. Call it wishful thinking or just plain naivete, but imagine my dismay to learn that most of the apparel designers’ sizes stop at size 10. The first thing I asked myself was, “Is this the new standard for Africans now or is this the compromise we have to make to succeed in the Western-dominated industry?”

Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs
Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs

Am I wrong to believe that in promoting diversity in the fashion industry, designers should also promote diverse beauty ideals? The same way that non-Africans who make collections “inspired” by African fashion without using any black models leaves a bad taste in my mouth, African fashion that is inaccessible in bigger sizes just feels plain wrong. Pop in any given African movie into a DVD player and you’ll see thick and fat women galore because Nollywood doesn’t play by Hollywood’s rules—yet, but neither should African fashion. I implore African designers to take this opportunity to twist, bend, and turn the fashion industry inside out. Celebrate the fact that Africa is an entire continent full of beautiful black women of all different shades, shapes, and sizes, and bring that realization and mindset to the industry. It’s time to refuse compromise and break down the boundaries, especially since there is a HUGE market of women like myself who have nothing to wear and would love to know that there is a place in this world where fat, thick, and curvy women are not only accepted, but admired, that is, of course, if that is still the case.

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Oh yeah, and please do it before the culture vultures in the fashion industry stick a dashiki on a size 8 model and not only call her plus-size, but say that they came up with the idea. You know that’s how it ALWAYS happens. For once, let us be the first to make money off our own ideas.

Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs
Stella Jean & Tata Naka designs

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