I'm excited today to introduce the first of a series of fashion posts written by members of the Oh Joy! team. A couple years ago, we started the Dressing the Team series because I wanted to highlight the variety of women (and our unique body types) that work here. We wanted to get even more in depth into everyone's style story and really highlight how they dress for various needs, have evolved in their own styles, and tips they can offer to you as well. Today, we're starting with Courtney! -Joy
Hey Everybody! Courtney here, Joy’s assistant and business development coordinator at Oh Joy! That basically means I work on the admin/contract side of the studio (and sometimes I get to be a little creative, too!). I am also plus-size. I have been my whole life. When Joy challenged the team to share some style tips and rules for different body types, I was so happy to have a chance and a platform to share mine with you. And SPOILERS – there are NO RULES!
I grew up my entire life with the media, celebs, family, and friends explaining the “essential rules” for dressing a plus-size body. And they all seemed to boil down to this: "Do everything in your power to hide yourself and your size from the world and somehow “trick” people into thinking you are thin". The covert (and too often overt) message I heard was that there was something to be ashamed of, and I needed to try harder to be someone different…or to disappear. But I’m so happy we are entering an era of women proudly and boldly being themselves and flinging aside rules and requirements to find their beauty and claim it for the world to see. So let’s go through those so-called rules and how I am trying* not to abide by them anymore. (*I am still a work in progress and still have moments and days of doubts and struggles, but I am determined to move forward, and I want you to join me!)
1) Black and navy are slimming. Avoid patterns or bright colors that don’t “mask” your body and call attention to you… Nonsense. I’ve spent years hiding in “slimming” solid black and navy outfits. But the minute I put this boiler suit on, I felt strong, confident and SEEN. You don’t need to hide in the corner because someone might find out that black outfit is masking something. Put on a bright color, find a bold pattern, and step forward. I cannot tell you the number of complements I got on this outfit—even from strangers on the street that didn’t know me and were NOT judging me for wearing a flashy outfit! That hardly ever happens when I’m wearing black. And while I know I’m not dressing for others or for their approval, it certainly didn’t hurt to know people loved it.
2) Don’t wear horizontal stripes! Vertical stripes will slim you! Anyone else hearing Stacy and Clinton from What Not To Wear?! Like it’s the worst crime in history to wear horizontal stripes, and you suddenly gain 100 pounds if you put the shirt on. I remember watching that show and seeing people smaller than me getting raked over the coals for wearing horizontal stripes and being mocked for how “big” it made them look. Let me tell you, this lesson is a hard one to unlearn. I was so hesitant to wear this shirt because of this stupid rule, but I’m so glad I did. Don’t I look amazing?! Wear any kind of stripes you want. And do it proudly now.
3) No crop tops without a flat stomach…Or two-pieces, body suits, etc. Basically, you must have a flat stomach or you can’t show it. This is the hardest one for me as I still don’t always feel comfortable with my stomach. But I love this high-waisted pant and crop top duo. I once saw someone tweet, “If Winnie the Pooh can wear a crop top, I can too.” Yes! Don’t be ashamed and don’t hide. Show the world who you are and get a little crazy with a crop.
Outfit: Vintage Dress
4) Hide your arms…I say…SHOW your arms! I used to be so embarrassed to wear something sleeveless and always covered up any top with a cardigan. Plus-size ladies—how many of your closets are packed with cardigans?! Your upper arms are just as worthy to be shown as anyone else’s. Don’t hide behind a cardigan, particularly in summer when those sleeveless tops are meant to keep you cool! I used to live and sweat every summer in cardigans, but no more. Free the arms!
Outfit: Boden Jumpsuit (past season)
5) You can’t wear the same clothing as “skinny people." This rule is loud and clear across stores and brands. How many times have I seen a cute floral print in non-plus sizes, and then if the brand even carries plus-sizes, that print is nowhere to be found? It’s all solid, muted, and dark colors for big bodies with fun colors and patterns for smaller bodies. I’m so happy that this seems to be shifting, but it’s still really hard to find FUN plus-size clothes. But keep looking and trying. For inspiration, I recommend following Katie Sturnio who has a great hashtag #SupersizeTheLook. She wears a similar outfit as a celeb or model to prove everyone can wear any look! If someone in a smaller size is wearing something you really love, look for it in your size! You are responding to it because you really like and should at least try it on!
My final tip you SHOULD follow…start with accessories! You don’t need to start being bolder with a neon green jumpsuit! The smallest changes are easy to make at first. Find a colorful scarf to wear as an accessory, or ditch that plain black purse and find a fun bright one. Get some wild earrings or, my personal favorite, find a great pair of sunglasses! You don’t need to hide, you need to shine. And these are small steps that will get you on the path.
I have grown a lot in my clothing choices, but I still have a long way to go. It takes sincere effort and retraining your mind to unlearn those destructive lessons you were taught as a child and that have carried over in your adult life. Remember that so many women are fighting the battle of learning to love our bodies (regardless of size), and it’s really a matter of perception and confidence. Be proud of who you are now and what your body has given you. Stop hiding, and celebrate in the light!
P.S. If you’re looking for great places to browse plus-size clothing, I recommend the following: Eloquii, Premme, Asos Curve & Plus, Swimsuits for All, and Modcloth. If you’re looking for great people to follow on Instagram, I love following: Alex Michael May, Gabi, Nicolette Mason, Tess Holliday, and Ashley Graham.