Building The Plus Size Community Offline


Writer: Alysse Dalessandro |

I live my daily life often being one of the only fat people in the room. This doesn’t feel unlike how my life has always been. I was the biggest girl in my class of 400+ students for most of my grade school years. I still face bullying and discrimination but the difference now is that I am part of the online fat positive community. I found so much solidarity in not only sharing my self love journey online but in discussing the ways in a societal stigma against fat people affects not only the ways in which we navigate our own lives but how we are viewed and treated by others.

The online fat positive community has changed my life without a doubt but I may not have even known it existed if I didn’t attended a plus size clothing swap back in 2011 in Chicago called “The Gold and The Beautiful.” I was a shy and insecure size 16 at the time and when I read about the event in a local newspaper, I couldn’t believe there was a fashion event just for women who looked like me. Since the event was for women sizes 12 and up only and I didn’t have any plus size friends at the time, I had to go by myself. I was terrified. But I am forever grateful that I did. For the first time, I saw fat babes of all sizes loving themselves, their bodies and praising each other too. They were comfortable, existing and thriving.  As someone who was still learning to love my body and own my visibility, this was shocking to me in a good way. Although I was still too scared to post much about myself online, I met fat women at the event whose blogs would help me get there.

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In person plus size events like this clothing swaps and fashion shows are still so important for building community. And while sharing images and stories online is awesome, there’s something still special about being in a room full of women who look like you and feel great about themselves. 2015 marked the start a few new events and the continuation of others. There’s a lot of events scheduled for this summer and fall but I wanted to highlight a few (though there are plenty more) and some of the experiences of the women who attended them.

  1. The Golden Confidence Pool Party Tour (New York, Los Angeles, Miami)

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The Golden Confidence Pool Party started from a social media hashtag, #GoldenConfidence that Manik’s Magazine’s Selina Weeks’ used to describe Essie Golden, a plus size model and body positive champion and thanks to Essie’s community-driven approach to social media, this hashtag became a movement of women challenging beauty norms through fashion. As Essie grew her online movement, she was one of the first to take it offline and into the pool by hosting the first Golden Confidence Pool Party in New York in 2015. This year, the event will take place in New York once again but this time also in Los Angeles and Miami.

Blogger Ushshi of Dress Carcass attended the 2015 event and told me this about her experience, “The environment was welcoming, everybody was on good vibes and supporting and complimenting each other. The introductions made last year have lead to solid new friendships a year later.”

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Ushshi also sent along this Instagram post from right after the event and the caption brought a tear to my eye. She wrote to Essie, “Like many self conscious fat kids, growing up, being uncomfortable in a bathing suit, the pool was often a source of shame and I was used to being the designated an outlier, or the token largest person in a group. To be in a space full of so much love, so much positivity, of women owning their bodies, flaunting it, showing appreciation for the bodies of others – was beyond the imagination of the kid I once was. I wish I knew back then this was an option, that it could be a reality. I am so grateful that today it was.”

  1. The TCFStyleExpo (Atlanta)

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I had the pleasure of attending the first ever TCFStyle Expo last year in Atlanta so I can personally attest to how awesome this event really is. The Curvy Fashionista’s Marie Denee had dreamed of this event for years and made it happen in 2015. The one-day event featured panel discussions, a shopping experience featuring indie and mainstream plus brands as well as a fashion show and blogger brunch. It was all hosted by the legendary Chenese Lewis. Knowing Marie, it makes sense that she would create an inclusive event that lifts up women.  As a vendor at the event, I got to meet to so many people I already knew from social media and people traveled to Atlanta from all over the Southeast to attend. I myself traveled from Ohio. The 2016 event is going down again this year in Atlanta but has expanded to two days (August 12-13).

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Blogger Maui Bigelow of Phat Girl Fresh (who just hosted her own amazing fashion show, Life Styled) attended the 2015 TCFStyle Expo as well. I asked her thoughts on the event’s impact and she said, “I think that the event is a great way to enrich the plus community by giving women knowledge in several areas. It allows women to connect with their favorite blogger and influencers while exposing them to brands and indie designers.”

  1. Full Figured Fashion Week’s My Plus Size Prom (New York)

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In New York, Full Figured Fashion Week has been a staple and a destination event for plus size women around the country since 2009. At the helm, Gwen DeVoe organizes this week long event scheduled jam packed with panel discussions, yacht parties, fashion shows and other events celebrating plus size fashion. I know people who plan their FFFWeek outfits all year long. This year, the show adds a masquerade gala called “My Plus Size Prom” hosted by Sabrina Servance of Lifetime’s Big Women/Big Love.

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I asked Sabrina about what hosting this event meant to her. She said, “Hosting #MyPlusProm during Full Figured Fashion week is going to be a dream come true! Prom is supposed to be a magical night and for so many of us, it wasn’t! I can’t wait for everyone to have one of the best night of their lives. It’s so important for everyone to feel welcomed and able to be who they are, wearing whatever they want to wear, in a judgement free zone!”

  1. The Curve Fashion Festival (Liverpool)

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In its first year, I remember wishing I could hop across the pond to join in the festivities at last year’s The Curve Festival held in Manchester. The event drew in more than 1100 attendees from across the UK and some came from the US and South Africa, too. More than 50 brands were in attendance and Evans, ASOS, and Missguided among others took to the runway. Nicolette Mason and Hayley Hasselhoff were among the celebrity guests.

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Blogger Hayley Stewart from Curves & Curls was in attendance at the 2015 Curve Fashion Festival. She says that in the UK, they are seeing more and more plus size fashion events popping up each year but the Curve Fashion Festival was her standout.

“This year CFF will be held in Liverpool, and I really hope to see the same blend of brands, plus size ambassadors, fabulous fashion and community,” said Stewart. “The atmosphere was really positive and collaborative, and the style spotting was amazing! So many well dressed babes pushing boundaries!  It was a really busy day, and attracted all the major names in plus size fashion, blogging, style in the UK and some from further afield too. This year I hope there will again be opportunities to shop, see the latest in plus size fashion at home and abroad, and to network and connect with other plus size women.”

So whether you live in one of these cities or have connected to your local plus size fashion events, this is the summer of community. Grab your fatkini; be-dazzle your mask and get ready to be in a room full of women who look like you.

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Alysse Dalessandro is a size inclusive designer, fashion and beauty writer, body positive advocate, plus size fashion blogger, professional speaker, and all-around loudmouth.

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