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style guide: rules (to break) for dressing a plus-size body…

Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
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!)
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
Outfit: Eloquii Jumpsuit (past season), Loeffler Randall Shoes (past season)
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.
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
Outfit: J.Crew Shirt (past season), Old Navy Jeans (past season), Toms Shoes (past season)
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.  
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
Outfit: Ripley Rader Plus Two Piece, Target Shoes (past season)
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.
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
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!
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
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!
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
Outfit: Clare V. Purse, Eloquii Dress
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.
Style Guide: Rules (To Break) for Dressing a Plus-Size Body... / via Oh Joy!
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.
{Photos by Lily Glass. Rainbow outfit photos by Morgan Pansing. Team and sleeveless dress photos by Casey Brodley. Written by Courtney Ketchersid. Eloquii dress.} 


  1. Love this post! When I saw the title, I thought it was a little odd to have specific guidelines for “plus-sized” women–why can’t they dress the same as everyone else? But after reading the post, happy to report that I enjoyed it immensely because it is exactly the opposite message. I love the outfits chosen – Courtney, you look great!

  2. Courtney, you’re so pretty! Love all the outfits – seriously those so called “rules” are nonsense. All those outfits look great on you! Thanks for sharing.

  3. okay i demand “don’t i look amazing?!” to be all of our mantras. this post was so great! really positive but also really real. we can wear whatever we want and KILL IT. i agreed with that crop top hesitation as I have it too, but i will be thinking about winnie the pooh all day now…what a star. and so are you! thanks for this courtney!

  4. First time commenting on this blog! Courtney, you are KILLING IT in all of those outfits! I am so proud of Oh Joy for adding this content.

  5. Love this! As a fellow plus size lady, I’ve always appreciated Courtney being in the line up for “dressing the team” posts and it was lovely to hear from her in her own words :))

  6. Hermosa la nota! Hermosa Courtney! Es imposible decir cuál outfit le queda mejor!
    (Beautiful! Both the post and Courtney! It’s impossible to decide which outfit looks better in her!)

  7. Great post! Love that you’re featuring your team individually! Awesome style, Courtney! It all looks wonderful!

  8. Killing it, Courtney. Looooving that chartreuse suit & the crop top! I’ve been making an intentional move towards more color in my wardrobe and you’ve inspired me more. Thank you!

  9. Loved the article, and I hate that I have absolutely heard each and every one of those rules. You look fabulous, and I really need to know where you got that red and white horizontally-striped shirt.

  10. Hi Rebecca! Thanks so much for your sweet comment – I certainly love that stipe tee pic too 🙂 They’ve added the link to that Eloquii rainbow dress at the end of the post for you!

  11. Courtney, you are a inspiration to us plus style gals! You are gorgeous and I can tell you have a beautiful spirit! Let that spirit show and you go girl!

  12. Courtney, you are amazing!!! You go girl!!! Loved the post, all the pics. and outfits and most of all you!!!❤️ Auntie Linda

    Every look is amazing!!! This is so refreshing!!!
    Earlier today I went to the dog park… THE DOG PARK… and felt too insecure to wear a tank top on its own, so I covered my arms in a jean jacket. It’s 85 degrees and humid here!! Tomorrow I’m freeing the arms!!!!

  14. Never really read blogs let alone comment on stuff but your Instagram story pulled me in and I had to let you know I LOVED THIS! Thank you! Definitely something I needed to read right now 🙂

  15. So glad you clicked over and read along! Finding support and encouragement has been the best reward for writing this piece, so THANK YOU! I appreciate your comment and am so happy this resonated with you.

  16. Free the arm!! So happy this inspired you to be bold and take that risk – you’ll be glad you did. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment and for reading this post. I’m so touched it spoke to you!

  17. Why is size 14 considered plus size? Isn’t that the size of the average woman in America? I’m also struggling to unlearn old rules of what big girls can and can’t wear. We need to change our mindsets. I see a litt more size 14 and up women than size 3’s. Even my 13 year old daughter is a size 9 and she’s not fat at all. I hate that young girls are expected to have big butts, breasts and no waist. What are we? Cartoons? Anyways, I love these outfits! You look great in all of then! Thank you for standing up for women!

  18. HI Kacey – I agree! And that’s why I loved having this platform to tell my story and show my real body and celebrate so many other strong women doing the same thing! We still have a ways to go, but I’m so encouraged that young girls are getting the chance to see many different body types. We’re all beautiful! Thanks so much for the support!

  19. Thank you Minah! I love the idea that “empowered women empower women”. We’re all in this together and I’m glad to add my story to encourage others. I appreciate you reading and commenting!!


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