Finally: A Style Bible For Women Sizes 14+

Photo: David Olham/Harper Collins.
When I went off to college in 2002, an “adult” in my own mind, my parents gifted me with a style book that affected me more than I’d like to admit. It was titled What Not to Wear, and I listened to the body-bashing tome as I avoided trend after trend, terrified that I would expose any of my less desirable bits. This negative manual, with tidbits like “Women unashamedly baring huge arms that need to be covered continually confront us,” could not be further from my latest style bible, “The Art of Dressing Curves,” by stylist Susan Moses.

After a year of writing and editing, Moses has debuted a handy sartorial guide that all women — not just those who identify as plus-size — can benefit from. Although you’ll have to wait until April 19 to get your hands on a copy, I got the opportunity to chat with Moses about style tips, her thoughts on the controversy surrounding the term “plus-size," and why women shouldn't be afraid to wear whatever they want.

Why did you decide to write this book?
"Simply because, after styling curvy women for so long, I just kept hearing over and over, and seeing, that we were not included in the fashion and beauty conversation. And there was no documentation or books in libraries — I did a lot of research — or even in the fashion institutes and colleges around the nation, that talked about dressing curves: How to make patterns for us, how to design for us. I was like, 67% of women in this country alone are wearing a size 14 and up, and they have no style bible? It was time for it to be done."

What do you hope to achieve with this book?
"Because I talk about identifying body types, and debunk myths of different styles that we were always told we could not wear, I want women to really begin to experiment with fashion and have fun getting dressed. Stop dressing just to look thinner or camouflage your body; accept who you are and have a good time with fashion. Fashion is supposed to make us feel better — it’s not supposed to make us feel bad about ourselves. Shopping should be an enjoyable experience, and for a lot of women it hasn’t been. I’m hoping that will change."

What do you think is the biggest mistake curvy women make when dressing themselves?
"I went on tour around Canada for Penningtons for 18 months, and I learned a lot. The biggest mistake I find is that we do two things: A lot of women don’t accept their natural body type, so they’re either dressing for the perception of what they look like, what they think they look like, or dressing to try to look thinner. And that leads to two major problems: Women either end up drowning themselves in oversized clothing because they’re trying to hide, or their clothing is too small, and they're squeezing themselves into clothes that don't fit. Fit is a big problem for a lot of curvy women."

Personally, I feel like style rules are meant to be broken. I feel very comfortable with myself and like to express myself through my personal style. What antiquated traditional fashion "rule" would you like to see curvy women break?
"It was so odd; some of what I’ve found with dressing clients, not the celebrity clients, but everyday women, is that most of them don’t even want to wear dresses; they think, I don’t have this, I don’t have that. I think the most important thing is self-acceptance; before we can even get dressed, we have to really accept who we are and what we look like. Then we can jump into trying things we’ve always wanted to try; wearing all-white, wearing a monochromatic look (whether it’s wearing one color or different variations of that color), or experimenting with prints and florals."

For the longest time, you never saw the word 'curvy' or 'plus-size' in the same sentence as 'sexy,' 'beautiful,' or 'glamorous.'

Where do you think that fear stems from?
"It's because they’re not seeing themselves in mainstream fashion. It also stems from not being included in the conversation about fashion and beauty. For the longest time, you never saw the word 'curvy' or 'plus-size' in the same sentence as 'sexy,' 'beautiful,' or 'glamorous.' It’s fear, but it’s also saying, 'They’re not really talking to me or about me, so I’ll stay away from that.' At the end of the day, though, all women want the same thing: I’ve never dressed a woman who's said, 'Put me in a potato sack, I want to look horrible.'”

You use a lot of terminology that involves “curves” and “curvy,” but not as much with “plus-size." Why is that?
"I have no issues with the term 'plus-size.' I have been [styling] for almost 20 years now, and I just think that the word 'curvy' is more universal. And I’ve seen the industry; it's slowly but surely evolving into a more size-inclusive future. I really believe that. I think the word 'plus,' when you look it up in the dictionary, says 'positive' or 'a little bit more,' and I believe in all those things."

What has really helped the plus-size industry become a movement?
"Bloggers — including yourself — have been exceptional at really waking up the industry and being the standard bearers for what we are (and aren't) going to accept. And I applaud you all, all the time. And that’s why I wanted to list 21 of my favorites in the book. Somebody has to continue to carry the torch, and it takes a village to really make it happen. I don’t think this is going to be a fleeting moment for curves; I think this is a forever time for us."

What plus designers would you say are doing curvy clothes justice?
"I love Marina Rinaldi for certain things; I like what Michael Kors is doing; I like Eloquii; I love ASOS — they’re knocking trends out of the box. I like Lane Bryant and Calvin Klein. And I really like Universal Standard for minimalist pieces.

"In the back of the book is a resource guide; to me, that’s the crowning jewel, because a lot of women don’t know where to shop. Now, they can just open the book and not just know where to go — but know who the women on the front lines of this revolution and evolution are."

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