This OITNB Star Gets Real About Red Carpet Struggles For The Non-Sample-Sized

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.
A shift is occurring, slowly but surely, in how we talk about celebrity dressing: Before, there was a quiet understanding that if you weren’t sample sized, the options were much more limited (or nonexistent), and that's just the way it was. Now celebrities are not afraid to speak out about how arbitrary — and outdated — that system is. We have Melissa McCarthy starting her own fashion line, partly out of necessity. And, last month, Leslie Jones made Twitter friends with Christian Siriano after she couldn’t find a designer to outfit her for a movie premiere. Now, Orange Is the New Black’s Dascha Polanco is talking openly about difficulties she’s faced finding options for her body type.

In a recent interview with Vogue, Polanco gets real about the effort and research that goes into her on-point red carpet style. One particularly unpleasant scenario played out recently, where she reached out to a brand she frequently wears — and got a not-so-gracious reply. "Their response was, 'Oh, you’re not the sizes we have, not right now, maybe in the future,'" she recalled. While she doesn’t name the label, she pledges not to patronize it anymore. "It’s disappointing, but I try to work with up-and-coming designers who will make things for me and who will collaborate with me," she says of her solution to this issue, "people who love my curves and embrace them as much as I do."

It’s not the first time the actress has spoken out about this: Last year, Polanco talked to Rolling Out about how brands turned her down because she’s not sample-sized — and how she now turns them down in return. "It just goes to show I have a decision, as well — I don’t have to dress with your clothing," she explained at the time. "It’s not me waiting for you to dress me now. I choose who I want to be dressed by."

The actress has worn a range of designers, from Leanne Marshall and Rinat Brodach to House of CB, on the red carpet. Still, she’s not blind to the inherent sizeism that exists in the industry when it comes to who gets to wear what — and how it hasn’t really changed at all. "My industry friends, who are clear and honest with me, say, ‘Girl, they don’t have your size, and you’re not at that level yet, so you have to either move [on to other designers] or just build those relationships so that later in the future maybe it happens,’" she told Vogue. It's a similar narrative to one we saw emerge during Jones' ordeal: Who has access to the fashion perks that come with fame, and why should that access be contingent on a person's size?

Polanco isn’t letting it get to her, though. Instead, she hopes to start a clothing line of her own, one for all sizes (launch date TBD) that continues this conversation that's carving out space for women like her in fashion. A brand with a strong, inclusive message behind it? We'll definitely be keeping an eye out.

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