Tess Holliday’s Strawberry Dress Highlights Fashion’s Problem With Fat People – Allure

“Personally, I have seen this play out in regard to trends worn by Black women,” they explain. “What is perceived to be tasteless or unclassy on Black women of varying socio-economic backgrounds is suddenly stylish and of the moment when placed on acceptable thin white folks.”

Of course, when it comes to the strawberry dress, plus-size people weren’t the only people that discovered it pre-trend. “The only part I disagree with [in Holliday’s statement] is that this dress, and its designer, had been filtering up through the Instagram set before Tess wore it, so I’m not sure that it has only become popular because thin people are wearing it now,” says Tyler McCall, the editor-in-chief of Fashionista.

Still, the criticism that resulted when Holliday wore the dress highlights the same fatphobia that lies at the core of this situation. “What I do think happened is that people put her on worst-dressed lists because she dared to break with the convention of how fat women are ‘supposed’ to dress,” McCall explains.

In order to help defeat this fatphobic mentality, two things (among a bunch of other stuff) need to happen. The first is that popular fashion designers and retailers need to offer more options for people size 16 and above (and I mean really offer them options rather than slapping a size 20 label on a size 14 pair of jeans. I’m looking at you, Madewell). The second is that straight-size people — particularly ones who work in fashion and media — need to check their privilege because thin privilege is, indeed, a thing.

“I feel that if fashion writers critique fat celebrities’ outfits, they need to have a broader awareness regarding fat people’s access to fashion,” Blair says. Accessibility is an issue, by the way: Because many designers won’t make custom creations for women above a certain size, plus-size celebrities including Holliday, Chrissy Metz, and Saturday Night Live star Aidy Bryant have all worn clothing from consumer plus-size retailers like Eloquii on the carpet.

Small details such as the way we choose to speak and write about fat bodies can make a huge difference in this regard. “How often do we see headlines praising thin — and, realistically, usually cis and white — women for outfits that are truly as simple as a pair of leggings and a crop top when we wouldn’t allow fat women the same style choices?” McCall asks. “Everything has to be the F word: ‘Flattering.’ Plus-size women are discouraged from experimenting with things that might — gasp! — display or event flaunt the things they’re meant to hide and be ashamed of.”

All of this is to say that the strawberry dress conundrum cannot be boiled down to a matter of good or bad fashion design. Whether the dress is something you’d personally wear or not, you can’t deny the role of plus-size people in making it popular — and looking really good while doing it, fatphobic comments be damned.


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