In a fashion world still run by stick-thin models and limited size options, the CurvyCon is here to remind us that the plus-size community is here to slay.
Ten years ago, shopping as a plus-sized woman meant one or two stores, boxy, ill-fitting pieces, and for some reason, an overwhelming amount of cheetah print. Thankfully, the plus-size and size-inclusive markets have exploded over the last few years, and women of all sizes are starting to have options—and they keep getting better.
Now in its fourth year, and second year coinciding with New York Fashion Week, the CurvyCon took place over the weekend at midtown’s Center415. The convention invites plus-sized women to come shop, learn, and socialize in a space built for them, contrary to the overwhelming number of spaces that cater only to “straight sizes [0-12].”
The CurvyCon has grown larger every year, and continues to expand operations, including an event in Los Angeles earlier this summer.
Lifestyle blogger Loralyee Moran, attending her third CurvyCon this weekend, told The Daily Beast, “It’s a bigger thing now. More people are getting involved and more people feel more comfortable coming. I think the first year everyone was just really excited and this year, people are excited, but it’s more professional. Bigger companies and more press and more people know about it. When we weren’t at fashion week this was kind of our fashion week, and now we get both. We’re not just on the side, we’re in the world and we’re in fashion.”
In standard women’s clothing sizes (an oxymoron in and of itself), a size 12 and above is considered plus-sized. This range accounts for nearly 70 percent of American women by some estimates, yet the plus-size clothing options have notoriously been relegated to specialized retailers or small corners of mainstream stores.
As a woman, a plus-size woman, and an avid shopper, the CurvyCon was one of the best events of my life.
The brands represented introduced new labels and reintroduced attendees to more established labels like Loft and Old Navy that have added or improved their plus selections. Attendees came dressed to the nines and shopped for looks to keep upping their style.
I have never in my life seen such a satisfied group of women, because for this one weekend, we were able to shop without limits (except my weeping credit card’s). This wasn’t a designated corner, or an online-only selection—it was the “normal” shopping experience for which women of this size range have been praying.
Attendees not only had the experience of shopping new or familiar brand, but designers were also present and getting feedback from consumers while showcasing their work.
One new designer, Tamara Malas, debuted her eponymous line at CurvyCon. The brightly colored, bold printed plus-size collection has personal significance for Malas, a plus-size woman herself.
“I worked in high end fashion design before, and I said, 'Why don’t I stop and contribute to my own community?' So this first collection is very much a self-love manifestation of what it means to be okay with your body, and not only be okay with it, but love it,” Malas told The Daily Beast.
Beyond shopping, the CurvyCon brought in lifestyle workshops because as curvy women know, the struggle doesn’t stop at the mall. Panels at the event educated attendees on finding confidence in their professional lives, their sex lives, and overall wellness. With emphasis on representation and inclusivity, the event featured speakers of all sizes to talk about their experiences.
From keynote speaker Gabourey Sidibe to panelists Nikki and Brie Bella (WWE twin wrestlers and reality TV stars), nearly every body type was represented in one way or another, because with each body comes a voice that should be present at the table.
In a direct contrast to the traditional fashion industry, the CurvyCon founders prioritize inclusivity. One new factor this year was Loft’s runway show which included 5 models the brand cast from ticket holders.
Walking the runway Friday night were professional models, influencers, and women who wanted to try it out and show that fashion needs to reflect consumers as well.
Co-founder Chastity Garner Valentine told The Daily Beast, “We want to represent what we talk about which is diversity, body inclusivity, so I really hope that when everybody comes out on the runway that we have represented that. That’s what we’re really proud of.”
The past several years have seen a shift in attitudes and industry as a body-positive movement swept through the nation’s women and designers expanded their lines or new talent created lines of their own either for plus-sizes specifically or as “size-inclusive” with styles in all sizes.
The fashion industry has made some progress—plus-size designer Ashley Nell Tipton won Project Runway in 2015, plus-size model Ashley Graham made history as the first model of her kind to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue in 2016, and Zach Miko became the world’s first ‘brawny’ male model—there is still work to be done. Hence why CurvyCon still takes place.
Tipton herself was in attendance at this year’s event, and expressed her love for the convention. “It’s amazing. It gives us plus-sized women a chance to be a part of this fashion industry that we have always felt for years unaccepted. And now we are finally making our statement. Either way, if people accept it or not, we’re here to stay and we want to let everyone know that we are fashionable people and we want to dress well.”
The industry is changing in many different ways. Hopefully it will continue to diversify in sizes as well as race, gender identities, abilities, and so forth. There was some debate this weekend about what kind of outfits were available regionally at stores like Target, but overall, everyone I talked to said things are better than they were a few years ago and continuing to get better.
As for the CurvyCon’s mission, Garner Valentine has high hopes. “Things need to be worked on. I feel like the CurvyCon’s presence at Fashion Week is part of that big change. By us staking our claim here, we’re bringing the plus-sized fashion component. It’s gonna be every year, it’s not just one day or one show, or one 15-minute thing where we pop in a couple of token plus-sized girls.
"This is what the whole event is about. It’s about body-positivity, it’s about inclusivity, it’s about us diversifying fashion week by being here. I don’t know how much they will change, but we’re changing it.”