Written by Ashby Vose
I have been working in the plus-size fashion industry since 2012, and have attended many events over the years. There was my very first time at theCURVYcon in 2016, an incredible NYFW event that is coming up on its 6th annual year, founded by curvy black bloggers CeCe Olisa and Chastity Garner-Valentine. There was the beautiful presentation of the line PLY, created by designers Pamela and Lamaar Nanton. There was the time I got to go to the Atlanta event put on by Marie Denee, The Curvy Fashionista herself, called TCFStyle Expo. Let's never forget the fantastic Golden Confidence Pool Party thrown by the one and only Essie Golden. Even just earlier this year, before pandemic pandemonium, I got to attend a Fat Girls Traveling meet-up in Los Angeles, organized by Annette Richmond.
What is so special about events full of stylish plus-size women? Seeing so many bodies that look like yours, seeing so many powerful women wearing incredibly empowering outfits, there is something magic about it. Not to mention, when you're cooing over how beautiful your new friend's outfit is, you know that it's also available in your size. You know you can talk about the fit issues you've had when trying a similar garment before. You know if it looks fantastic on her, it could look fantastic on you too.
There is a feeling that often goes unsaid, but it's the feeling that you're in a safe space. There is a sense that you know the woman next to you gets your struggle, and so you can talk about anything without judgement.
For me, there have been times when I've recognized that a woman a few sizes bigger than me with mobility issues even she knows that she won't be judged about moving slowly by this bunch of fat babes. It's gotten me thinking about my own privilege, and often creates a shift in perspective. How I can get so caught up in my own head about the weight I've gained in quarantine, how my favorite pants aren't fitting right now, or how that one back roll has been getting me down, stops becoming so important. I start to realize the petty vanity issues as just that, petty. At many of these events, there is even space for conversation, for women to speak openly about everything from traumatic experiences on airplanes due to their size to the fatphobic comment she received on her way into the convention. There are countless nods in agreement, nods that say, "Girl, I can't count how many times I've experienced the same thing as you."
There are always jokes about little things like, "my Uber driver can't blast the AC enough!" and, "my thighs are on fire from wearing that dress yesterday!" that can make any fat girl feel at home instantly.
And who do I have to thank for these beautiful moments of community? For these in-person safe spaces, these little sanctuaries? Black women. Every single time that it's been an event lead by a community member, and not a brand's event focused purely on PR and the bottom line, it's been lead by Black women. The founders of these events are hard-working organizers, unafraid to call themselves fat or curvy or plus-size, unafraid to blast the message out to everyone they know in hopes of a decent turn out. They have carved out space for us to celebrate each other, for us to fawn over each other's outfits and hair and makeup, for us to shop together in-person, and for us to have conversations that let us feel less alone. And shopping together, with fat friends, in person? That is huge. While not every event is a fat-positive political rallying cry, and most are more consumerist in nature, there is something so exciting about having the opportunity to shop with other fat girls. This is something that we simply don't get to ever experience, and it's thrilling to have the opportunity. When you arrive, you may first think to yourself, "Every single booth here will have my size?" and breathe a sigh of relief when you find out that yes, they will. (Not necessarily–– for those who wear a size above a 24 it can still be touch-and-go, there is absolutely room for improvement on brands' size inclusion here, but still even some options feels big.)
Every time I leave a plus-size event, I feel more empowered than when I arrived. I also leave with a perspective shift, wanting to stand up and fight for my fatter sister, appalled at the treatment she receives on public transportation, in air travel, and even in restaurants. I leave realizing that my butt fits in most chairs, even if sometimes it barely fits. I leave realizing that my I'm so privileged to not have a real fear of sitting in a chair that won't support my weight, save for the once-in-a-blue-moon situation. I leave ready to shout at the brands that don't offer up to a size 32, I leave feeling like I have to tweet about the inequity my fatter sister faces, I have to speak up for her.
In short, I leave a better ally to fat folks everywhere.
To every plus-size event organizer creating physical spaces that are thoughtfully designed for fat folks, thank you. To every black woman that has created community online and thought it isn't enough to exist purely on the internet, thank you. These in-person events have an incredible effect.
Here is a list of some of the incredible events I've had the privilege to attend, and some others that I would love to attend someday:
- Los Angeles: Fat Girls Traveling Galentine's Day Meet-Up, created by Annette Richmond
- NYC: theCURVYcon, created by CeCe Olisa and Chastity Garner-Valentine
- A City Near You: A Lizzo Concert (only sort of joking! Each time I've gone to one, I left feeling extremely empowered, even though I was not exclusively surrounded by plus-size women)
- Atlanta: TCFStyle Expo, created by Marie Denee
- A City Near You: Meet Your Tall Sisters Brunch, created by Bree Wijnaar of The Tall Society
- NYC / Everywhere: FullFiguredFashionWeek, created by Gwen DeVoe (this year it's going digital!)
- DC: District of Curves, created by Dear Fat Girl, also known as Brittany Garrett
- Atlanta: LifeStyled Honors, created by Maui Bigelow of PhatGirlFresh
- New Jersey & DMV: Ms. Full-Figured USA, created by Theresa Randolph
- Tampa, FL: TCFCruise, created by Marie Denee
There are so many more. So many that have been canceled this year due to social-distancing measures, so many that are existing in local areas that don't have PR able to make them more visible. Once we're able to go to in-person events again, I cannot recommend attending a plus-size event enough. You will leave feeling restored. Your body image will be improved, your allyship to other fat folks will be stronger, and you're sure to leave with friends. Because us fat girls? We're fantastic friends, we're funny and we know how to have fun. And we're stunning.