Last week, some of my FCW bad gyals and I did a great job at Shattering the Stereotypes of the Fat Caribbean Woman  in terms of lifestyle.  This week, we plan to slay, snatch edges, take and give lives with our fashion.  The days when a fat Caribbean woman had zero access to clothing that we actually want to wear vs. clothing that we had to wear are gone ‘fuh-eva’.  However, since those days, other limitations called ‘fashion rules’ have surfaced to continue to put fat/plus size/curvy women in a box.  It’s like we can’t have anything to ourselves. ‘Don’t wear horizontal stripes, they make you look wider’…So?! ‘Don’t wear white, it’s not flattering.’ Huh?! ‘Crop tops, shorts and swimsuits are not for fat women.’ Says who?!

I think if these people mind dem own damn business, then we could all be happy.  Who died and made them ‘fashion rulers of the world’? Let’s agree to disagree, slender women are not picked apart, as much as fat women are, when it comes to fashion.  I think fat women are scrutinized much more in everything we do in our own lives; especially in what we wear.  I see fashion as a form of art, a method of communication and a way to express yourself. Therefore, I don’t think it is anyone’s say but the actual person wearing the item as to what looks good and what doesn’t.  I think as long as you are comfortable in your outfit then you should feel free to wear whatever you want without having to worry that you will offend ‘self-made fashion critics.’

I think one of the biggest misconceptions in the Caribbean is that plus size fashion is either one of two extremes: either the clothing is too drapey and does nothing for your curves or it is too scandalous, showing off too much curves.  Some people are of the impression that a plus size woman has to show skin in order to be sexy or dress in the largest size of an outfit that was designed for the slender woman and this is not the case. Remember that your outfit can play a huge role in the type of impression you leave on someone.  It is necessary to dress for your shape and for the occasion.  Fat Caribbean women should feel comfortable and stylish when they get dressed for anything, even if it’s a regular Saturday where we do just errands. Fashion has become more accessible to Caribbean women through online shopping, the rise in indie designers and retail stores’ expansion to carry plus sizes.

I spoke with two of the plus size designers from this year’s Curvy Caribbean Conference to get their thoughts on plus size fashion and why they chose to become a plus size designer:

Plus size designer from Jamaica, Jackie Cohen-Hope :”Being a plus size designer never occurred to me; designing clothes for confident women was my forte. Somehow my clothes mushroomed into fitting women of all sizes, what you see here are clothes that have been used on other runways featuring much smaller models. Plus size is a state of mind to me….confidence is the “PLUS”.

Designer Jackie Cohen (wearing black) and plus size models wearing some of her pieces. Photo credit: Curvy Caribbean Conference Media Launch

Plus size designer from Jamaica, Simone Gordon: “As a designer you want to appeal to women of all sizes.  Designing for plus size women was easy for me, one of my first customer was a big girl. Not only was she plus size but she was very active and she partied every weekend, so I was making plus size clothing not only for her but I was getting more plus size customers from her…

Plus size model struts down the runway in a piece by Simone Gordon

…So now most of what I design can fit women of all sizes, free size . I am just happy that plus size women come to my shop and get cute clothing because size should not be a factor in doing so”.

FCWs want fashion to fit our body.  We do not want to be included in the straight size fashion world because our bodies are different; the cut and style of pieces for plus size women will have to be different because our bodies are different.  There is a huge opportunity for designers and retailers in the Caribbean to tap into the plus size market because FCWs want to be sexy, we want to be desired not necessarily included or accepted; but we want to be respected and taken seriously.  Fashion is for everybody and a FCW should never feel like her body is an excuse to exclude herself from fashionable pieces.

Once again, I have called on a few of my FCWs to help solidify my points and help me break these ridiculous fashion rules:

‘Fat women should not wear bright colours, it’s unflattering.’

Monique Jiggetts, plus size woman, mother, attorney-at-law and event designer

‘Fat women should not wear light or pastel colours, they bring attention to the ‘problem areas’

Peta-Gay Lewis, plus size model

‘Fat women should stay away from horizontal stripes; it makes them look wider.’

Jody-Ann Beckford, CEO of Queen Jo-Jo MM Inc, social media marketer, producer and radio presenter.

‘Fat women should not wear bold prints, it will make them stand out too much.’

Alisia Jarrett, Director of Curvy Caribbean Conference

There shouldn’t be any rules in fashion or any manuals to feeling beautiful. If fashion is for everybody then allow us to express ourselves freely.

What other fashion stereotypes would you like to shatter? Share them with me in the comments below.

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Tessenie Mowatt is a plus sized model, stylist and writer. She has worked with various plus sized brands, featured in local and international magazines including Canada’s first plus size magazine, DARE Magazine. Tessenie’s charming smile and bubbly personality are some of the attributes that makes this self-proclaimed body acceptance advocate a force to be reckoned with. Tessenie believes that you have to set your own standards of beauty otherwise you will miss out on a truly empowering and fulfilling life trying to meet another person’s standards. Tessenie hopes to inspire more women and young girls to genuinely love and celebrate themselves for all they are because it is only at this time will they be able to find the courage to live out loud and enjoy life’s lessons along the way. Send her an email at tesseniem@gmail.com ⠀

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