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I would not call myself a fashionista, and clothing definitely isn’t something that makes me wildly excited. But I am excited about the fat community, our determination, and the noise we are currently making, that is slowly but surely tearing down oppressive boundaries that society has set. So, I was pretty hyped to be at The Curvy Con, in a space where that tear down was actively taking place.
So, what is Curvy Con? Well, as far as I can tell, it’s a place where plus size fashion bloggers/influencers come together to see what new things are happening in plus size fashion…. or something like that. People (namely women) who want to attend can choose to buy a ticket at the “general”, “teal”, or “platinum” level. This makes my blood boil. A platinum ticket costs several hundred dollars more than a general admission ticket, creating a divisive energy among attendants before you even walk in. In a world filled with classism, The Curvy Con carries that right on through their event. Instead of making all tickets one price and providing everyone the same amenities, we’re relegated to only getting brunch if you can drop several hundred dollars. Doesn’t the plus size fashion industry do this to all of us enough already? Aren’t we tired of the fashion hierarchy?
Meanwhile, the models used in the fashion show were mostly size 12-14 (I saw the model board stating their sizes, this isn’t just an assumption), brands known for their lack of awareness were used as headliners on panels, and the entire event had a major accessibility issue (ie: elevator outages*, chairs that even super thin people would be uncomfortable on). Panels consisting of brand CEO’s seemed to be presenting so that they could convince us that they care about our community, instead of being there to hear us and tell us how they’d do better by us. The entire event felt performative and removed from the fat community. In fact, I don’t think I heard anyone involved in the event even use the word “fat” the entire time I was there.
Maybe you’re thinking “why does that matter?” or “ok so that event isn’t for you” and that’s fair… except fashion is for everyone. Even when we don’t want it to be. I’m not a fashion girl, but the plus size fashion industry is directly driven by my consumption. I may not be thrilled about new Fall lines, but I still have to cloth my size 28 body. There is no way to separate the every day person from fashion – plus size specifically (because if you haven’t heard we’re 67% of the population). That makes it political.
I want us to start accepting the politics of fatness into fashion. I want awareness, and thoughtfulness from brands and the people who create events that support those brands. I want us to talk about the intersections of fatness and poverty and what it means to hold exclusive events like this. I want us to ask how we as a community continue to contribute to the oppression of fat women that don’t look like ourselves.
The Curvy Con was exactly what I expected it would be. It wasn’t life changing, it didn’t teach me anything new, and we didn’t suddenly break the mold on runway shows. It was exactly as fashion has always been, dressed up in plus size clothing pretending to be revolutionary.
I’m tired. I’m tired of the hard work this community does being exploited for capital gain. I’m tired of taking the crumbs from other people’s feasts. I’m tired of getting my hopes up. I’m not a fashion girl, but I want to be. I’m here. I’m showing up. So, when is plus size fashion going to let me participate?
*I had been informed that there actually were no “elevator outages” but that the elevators were actually reserved for platinum ticket holders only. After publishing this article one of The Curvy Con co-founders reached out to me to let me know that this was not the case (see below), but rather the elevators were for people who “couldn’t use the stairs”. During the event several of my friends who usually use mobility devices but opted out of carrying them to the conference were turned away from the elevators by security guards that said no more than “the elevator is out, use the stairs”. While I understand that this is not necessarily the fault of the event coordinators, all event staff (security guards included) should be well informed on protocol regarding accessibility.
EDIT – co-founder CeCe Olisa messaged me via instagram to say “Using the elevator wasn’t a platinum benefit. The elevator was having issues so usage was limited so that we could properly serve those who couldn’t use the stairs. I was only able to ride the elevator when accompanying a guest who used a cane.”
ps – The Curvy Con wasn’t great, but I did get matching tattoos with my fat friends that were attending soooo… it wasn’t all bad 😉