The fashion edit: Six plus-sized fashion bloggers show how style is for all!
#PlusSizeAndProud, #BigIsBeautiful, #FightBodyShaming… How many of these hashtags have you used? Body positivity as a movement has been going through various changes all over the world, but in India especially, the idea of “thin is in” is changing, particularly in the fashion industry. Multiple homegrown brands and online portals are launching lines for the bigger bodied, which is not just about providing clothes in bigger sizes, but clothes in bigger sizes that have a good fit.
Putting forth the idea that fashion is for everyone, HT Brunch brings together six fashion bloggers whose very essence is accepting their body and making each day stand out stylishly in the best outfits possible!
“My bikini post got me the most praise”
Tanvi Geetha Ravishankar (@thechubbytwirler), 30
Very few people can be trolled for their weight and refuse to care, Tanvi was one of those.
“I was always okay with the way I looked. But when in 2016, I was selected for India’s first plus-size fashion show at Lakmé Fashion Week, I realised people have gone through years of frustration and self-loathing because of their weight and size! They never enjoyed fashion the way a normal person would,” she says.
“I am apple-shaped, so even at my thinnest, my tummy was still bigger than the rest of my body. A neighbour once thought I was pregnant because I was walking a certain way after a very tiring day. My mom took offence, but it’s okay. Sometimes I chime in and say ‘Yes I am pregnant, I have a food baby inside!” she laughs.
But does she think being proud of being plus size, in any way, promotes the idea of being unfit? “Being body positive means that no matter what shape you are, you still deserve respect. My aim is being able to climb the stairs without huffing and puffing, and getting through life without popping a hundred pills,” she says.
“My hashtag: Plus size and proud”
Sonal Somani (@sonal_somani), 32
A finance graduate, Sonal loved playing dress up. “I loved posting my pictures online, but never thought I could be a blogger. My brother Karan suggested it, and my husband said he doesn’t know anyone as confident as me, so I went for it,” she smiles.
People discouraged her from falling in love due to her weight. “When I fell in love with Ankur, I was made to believe he’d never marry me due to my size. But we’ve been together for 12 years now!” she says.
Sonal uses the tag ‘plus and proud’ because she believes these segregations are made by society. “I wanted to be appreciated for my work instead of being typecast as plus size. But, many a times I was not partnered with due to my size. When I call myself plus size and proud, it’s only to inspire people and size is not a barrier to my happiness,” she says.
The battle is not between fit and unfit. “In India, even UK 12-14 is considered plus size, which is often associated to being unfit. But, what about someone who isn’t? Are you sure they’re fit!?” she questions.
While Indian brands are becoming size-friendly, Sonal faces many issues while shopping. “It’s a general assumption that if you are above a certain size, most fashion trends aren’t for you. Most brands don’t make stylish plus size clothing. Sometimes, when you enter a store, the salesman makes you feel like you’ve committed a crime!” she says.
The Indian fashion industry, according to her, is still far from making stylish clothes for bigger beauties. “A few people are open-minded about this movement, and while the average size of an Indian woman is UK 14-16, we still expect them to fit a certain size to be acceptable,” she adds.
“Understanding body positivity helped me unlearn self-hate”
Amena Azeez (@fashionopolis.in), 32
Amena started her blog in October 2011 to combine her love for style and writing. While it took her some time to accept her body and love herself, learning about the global body positivity movement helped her to become the beautiful, self-confident girl she is today.
“In 2012 and 2013, understanding body positivity helped me overcome my body issues, unlearn self-hate and stand up to body shaming bullies. Once I started the journey of self acceptance, I was able to make things work for me,” she smiles.
Stereotypes exist even in the blogging sphere. She was rejected for a styling job over her weight, and faced direct and indirect criticism for her size from a young age. “I was constantly being told I won’t find a man to marry because I am plus size. I was often told, ‘You are a fashion blogger? You don’t look like one!’ People assume I am not fit and I must not be working out and lead an unhealthy lifestyle just by my appearance,” she says.
Then comes the myth that thin is fit. “Fitness includes both physical and mental health and many people who look fit are not always so. We have plus-size athletes, runners, yogis, dancers, and they are just as fit as non plus-size people. Celebrating plus-size bodies means you are anti-fitness is a classic case of fatphobia,” she states.
She still finds it difficult to find clothes that accentuate her curves. “India still has to find its own body positivity movement as most of it is based on the movement in the West,” she says.
She believes the representation of ‘fashion for all’ is not fair just yet. “Most Indian fashion designers, brands and magazines look at body positivity as a marketing tool to get people talking about them. Same goes for our fashion weeks. So there needs to be a norm that needs to be worked towards,” she adds.
“Men are still not taking fashion seriously enough to make it body positive”
Shubham Yadav (@plus_dapper), 19
A tech guy who loves design and graphics, Shubham was in college when he started experimenting with looks. He was always called a ‘big guy’, and while he loved trying out new outfits, a certain insecurity always stopped him from making it his path, until he found out plus size blogging is a real thing.
“While scrolling through Instagram, I came across Zach Miko, the first plus- size male model signed by IMG Models. It was a revelation, to learn that there’s an aspect of the fashion industry I didn’t know about. When I googled plus-size bloggers, I came across only women, and very few guys. Then I filtered my search to male plus-size bloggers in India, and there were even fewer!”
The son of a single mother, he told her about his idea of starting a blog, and she was thrilled. The idea also involved tackling the toxic masculinity. “I’ve seen plus-size guys crying to themselves (even me!) because we are considered big but we’re not supposed to cry and show emotions, right? That just worsens things for us,” he continues.
While it’s great that India’s been having its ‘curvy is sexy’ moment for a while now, Shubham thinks the plus and proud movement is yet to imbibe men and their comfort with their bodies. “The women are a united front in this case, while men are still not taking fashion seriously enough to make it body positive. We still have a long way to go,” he feels.
“My grandma altered my clothes because I love high slits!”
Dimple Mehta (@inforstyle), 26
A fan of fashion and language, Dimple studied fashion designing, only to realise she doesn’t like designing as much as styling. People discouraged her, made fun of her, but it never mattered. She loved herself! But soon, she was hit by depression for almost two years.
“I was suicidal, and my friend thought my solution is losing weight. How absurd is that? I realised how body conscious people are, they don’t wear sleeveless because they feel they aren’t ‘thin enough’… I wanted to change that. So I decided to blog about being big and stylish,” she says.
She dealt with the name calling, but what irritates her the most is when her plate is eyed. “Because I’m fat, they’ve already decided I load my plate. A couple of guys in college told me I have a ‘great heart and face’ (rolls eyes), but they’d date me only if I lost weight,” she says.
A super supportive family, however, made up for all the jokes. “My mother was my photographer for the longest time and my brother gave me honest feedback. My grandma tirelessly altered my clothes because I love high slits. I have friends and family who’ll happily click a hundred pictures if need be,” she smiles.
While she loves promoting the idea of being plus and proud, she believes the pride of being oneself should be there irrespective of the size. “Many plus-size women I know, including Ashley Graham, have reiterated how important being fit is. Being curvy should be by choice, not out of convenience,” she says.
“Being body positive does not mean eating junk!”
Neelakshi Singh (@plumptopretty), 27
Neelakshi Singh found her goals in the lowest phase of her life when in 2012, she went from posting self-deprecating content on her social media to making dress up with her bestie her favourite hobby to document. “Little did I know that it’ll up my self-esteem so much,” she says.
Neelakshi had to fight her own demons before dealing with the criticism around her when she suffered from bulimia, and her parents didn’t believe that bulimia could cause depression. “It wasn’t just being bullied, it was the belief in bullying and pulling yourself down that was worse” she says.
However, she says, I’m not fat positive. I’m body positive. “Fat isn’t my personality or my identity. Being body positive means someone who is okay with their body at any size – big, small, scarred, disfigured, differently-abled, whatever it is. It doesn’t mean eat junk,” she says.
Neelakshi believes the real change has to be the mindset. “I’ll feel truly body positive when my thin cousin enters the house and I don’t get snarky comments. Dusky doesn’t need to be fair, curly doesn’t need to be straight, fat doesn’t need to be thin!” she exclaims.
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From HT Brunch, March 10, 2019
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