For the longest time, denim was the bane of my existence. With my adorable yet larger-scaled tushy, nothing ever fit. I hated jeans. I found them stiff, uncomfortable, ill-fitting and honestly, straight up depressing. Growing up, I’d look on longingly when my sister and all of our friends rocked bell-bottoms draping white Steve Madden platform sneakers. To avoid the looks of pity from my lack of fitting bell-bottoms, I disguised my feelings by declaring myself a “dress girl.” Even simply trying on jeans singed what little body confidence I had as a teen. Not only did they not fit me, but they made me feel like I didn’t fit in.
Even after I moved to NYC to take over the world (#clichebuttrue), that “jeans shame” carried through deep into my 20s, actually until a week or so before my 30th birthday....
I see it everywhere I go: plus-size! Size-inclusive! The intention is great. But the execution isn’t always there, and often, the trends seem a few seasons—or decades—behind. This is what I knew about plus-size lines (ugh) until circumstances led me to a mall in Florida. (I know, random. But hear me out.)
Killing time in some much needed AC, I walked into a Lucky Brand store in Orlando (#Disney4Life—this is where I confess that I may have grown out of Steve Madden platforms, but I will never grow out of Mickey Mouse). Passing time, I sifted through the retail. Per usual, I was intrigued by the stretchy beach dresses, but then a sale sign in the corner of my eye pulled me toward it like a moth to a flame. The discount rack was a bust, but adjacent to it was an entire plus-size section dedicated to denim. I rolled my eyes. Here we go again. But then I saw it: a pair of jeans with floral embroidery designs—I remembered a coworker wearing a similar pair the other week, and I’d wished I could find a pair like those for my body.
I grabbed them and ran to the dressing room.
You know that scene in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants where America Ferrera reluctantly tries on the jeans after Blake Lively already came out looking like, well, Blake Lively, and all you can think is “GIRL, DON’T DO THIS TO YOURSELF! IT’S NOT WORTH THE PAIN”? But then America emerges from the dressing room in them…and she looks incredible. That was me. I was America Ferrera. I shimmied the jeans up my thighs without much effort, zipped them with even less effort, and I swear I could hear a gospel choir in the distance belting Hallelujah as I buttoned them seamlessly.
But now for the real test: the full-length mirror. I stepped outside the safety of my dressing room and did a comedic double take upon seeing my reflection. Not only did the jeans fit well, but they looked good—really good. My tushy, in particular, looked real great, if I do say so myself. As I looked in the mirror, I didn’t think about my stomach flopping over or the circumference of my arms, I just looked at me. And I liked what I saw. I wasn’t just tolerant of my body; I was proud of it.
Yes, there’s another story to tell about the awakening of my confidence, but the truth is that I was giddy to find a pair of great jeans—c’mon, we all know there’s nothing like the feeling of trying something on you just look really great in. I didn’t think about the fact I was in plus-size denim. I just felt like I found a great pair of jeans.
Size inclusion is so on-trend these days, but I find that most brands completely miss the mark on what women beyond a size six actually want. It’s simple. We want to feel included—included on trends, styles and great fit. We want a seat at the proverbial table of style. I’ve experienced so many brands that change everything with a clothing item when they become "size inclusive,” which does the opposite of its purpose: It makes us feel excluded.
So as I ogled at my reflection in my soon-to-be-purchased floral embroidered denim, I stood a little taller than my 5’4” frame would suggest, and stared at my own tush with pride. I didn’t just feel included, I felt like a trendsetter…now if only I kept those Steve Maddens.