I Spent A Week Ditching Every Plus-Size Fashion Rule I Used To Swear By

Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
When my parents became aware of my burgeoning love of fashion, they did what they did anytime they thought I was starting to get into something; they bought me a book about it. But it wasn’t a dictionary of designers or even a figure-drawing how-to — it was a book titled What Not to Wear. Full of rules about what was flattering on whom and — specifically — what was not flattering on whom, it fed into my own body insecurities. The book broke down every part of my fleshy form and dictated exactly why I shouldn’t be wearing anything I liked.

As an owner of big boobs, a flabby tummy, a big butt, thick calves, and a myriad of other “bad” body parts, I came to the conclusion that I’d never be able to truly enjoy fashion until I resembled a runway model. Cue the body dysmorphia, eating issues, and general self-hate that afflicted me for years...until fashion actually became my savior.

When I finally tried on those trends that I had avoided for years, I was amazed — the world didn’t end, and people didn’t go into shock from seeing my larger body in stripes, white, or body-hugging designs. In fact, I actually received compliments for my sense of style for the first time ever. That initial fashion high was all I needed to get hooked, and I’ve been devoted to dressing boldly and spreading the style word ever since.

I am all about breaking the rules — when it comes to fashion, that is. So to take on the antiquated style status quo, I put together a week’s worth of style no-no's that would undoubtedly make some old-fashioned tastemakers clutch their pearls.

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: My outfit goals are not about making my body look as thin as possible. I am not going to swaddle myself in Spanx or avoid trends simply because there’s the off chance I could appear “fat” — newsflash, I am fat! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, check out which “rules” I broke during my week of style rebellion.

September is typically a time when fashion publications definitively tell you what’s in and what’s out. Fuck that. We’re dedicating the next couple of weeks to celebrating all the iconoclasts, independent thinkers, and individuals with unique personal styles who’d rather say Fuck the Fashion Rules than follow them.
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Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
Saying Yes To Crop Tops
The idea of a bigger woman showing a swath of stomach skin was once seen as a total fashion faux pas. And it typically was, considering that the only way we could make that happen was with an accidental reveal while stretching in a shorter shirt or tighter top. Now there are actual intentionally cropped tops on the market, and no matter what Oprah's magazine says about it, you don’t need a tight tummy to look good in them. Not content with just a crop top, I decided to take my cropping to the next level with a matching cropped set. This look took me from business meeting to barstool without coming up short.

Eloquii Printed Tie Hem Top, $59.90, available at Eloquii; Eloquii Printed Crop Flare Pant, $79.90, available at Eloquii; Henri Bendel Southstreet Drawstring Bag, $398, available at Henri Bendel; Henri Bendel Gansevoort Square Sunglasses, $135, available at Henri Bendel; Chan Luu Moonstone Choker, $145, available at Chan Luu; French Sole Trance Heels, $195, available at French Sole.
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Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
Minimalism Doesn't Have To Be Boring
It’s genuinely surprising how often I’ve seen critiques that plus-size women cannot wear minimalist outfits. I’ve seen it dubbed everything from sloppy to bland — claims that women who wear above a size 12 cannot possibly pull off things that are sleek and structured. But you know what? Fuck that noise. You can look phenomenal in minimalist outfits. Stick to the same color palette and look for print-free pieces in bold silhouettes, and pair them with uncomplicated accessories.

Hackwith Design House Button Up Dress, $240, available at Hackwith Design House; Henri Bendel West 57th Schoolbag, $278, available at Henri Bendel; French Sole Trance Heels, $195, available at French Sole; Nickel & Suede Black Suede Leather Choker, $35, available at Nickel & Suede.
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Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
Leggings Can So Be Pants
I know, I know...I’m sure some of you are screaming at your screen that leggings are not pants, but hear me out. It all comes down to the fabric thickness. If your trusty basic black pair doesn’t pass the underwear test, then it’s best to layer longer tops and dresses over them. But if those suckers are opaque in all lighting, then they’re pants in my style book! Pick a pair with textural interest, like this vegan-leather patched design, and style them how you would if they were skinny jeans.

Miracle Flawless Pieced Faux Leather Legging, $79.90, available at Eloquii; Hey Gorgeous Short Sleeve V Tee, $69, available at Hey Gorgeous; Simply Be Floral Print Bomber Jacket, $64.99, available at Simply Be; Ellos Chelsea Bootie, $99.90, available at full beauty; Chan Luu Black Spinel Pendant Choker, $220, available at Chan Luu; Henri Bendel Gansevoort Square Sunglasses, $135, available at Henri Bendel.
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Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
Busy Prints Are A Delight, Not A Disaster
Every archaic size-based guideline is always about camouflaging those “trouble zones” that literally make up my entire body. Any print will draw attention to that area, the saying goes, but since when is attention a bad thing? The key to tackling this trend is to stick to a similar color family; in my case I went with gray and chose a top and skirt that had complementary yet different patterns. I added a third standout print with my shoes — an easy way to sneak in another contrasting design without overwhelming the entire ensemble.

Ashley Stewart Button-Front Striped Duster, $34.65, available at Ashley Stewart; Rachel Rachel Roy Pleated Snakeskin-Print Skirt, $25.99, available at Macy’s; Chan Luu Black Spinel Pendant Choker, $220, available at Chan Luu; VYE EOP Sunglasses, $55, available at Fab; Kooba Blythe Top Handle Bag, $298, available at Kooba; Aldo shoes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
Body-con Dresses Are For Showing Off Curves
I love all my curves and edges, but one curve I don’t typically intentionally showcase is my VBO. (That’s visible belly outline, to you non-VBO owners.) But if I don’t suck in my stomach with shapewear, it’s clearly going to present itself. The only style rule to follow is find what fits your comfort level — whether that’s skintight or just curve-skimming — so you aren’t stuck adjusting your outfit all night long. This tank dress was my fave body-con pick, thanks to side-seam ruching that gave me a little extra material to work with.

Rebdolls Essential Tank Dress, $27.50, available at Rebdolls; ASOS Curve Premium Bomber Jacket, $105, available at ASOS; Chan Luu Moonstone Choker On Light Brown Leather, $145, available at Chan Luu; French Sole Trance Heels, $195, available at French Sole; Matt & Nat Parabole Bag, $130, available at Matt & Nat.
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Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
Debunking That Horizontal-Stripes Myth
Probably the most well-known fashion faux pas for curvier people is the horizontal stripe. It makes you look wide, thick...and seriously, who cares? It genuinely doesn’t, according to science, but even if it did, I’d still walk the line. But, unsatisfied with just a simple stripe, I amped it up with a variegated striped dress that played with a variety of widths and angles. I layered a ruffled cold-shoulder blouse under it for an autumn work-approved outfit that says I’ve got a corner office in chicness.

Eloquii Variegated Stripe Dress, $89.90, available at Eloquii; Eloquii Ruffled Cold Shoulder Peplum Blouse, $69.90, available at Eloquii; French Sole Trance Heels, $195, available at French Sole; Henri Bendel West 57th Schoolbag, $278, available at Henri Bendel; Henri Bendel Gansevoort Square Sunglasses, $135, available at Henri Bendel; Yelena Noah Evil Eye Choker, $98, available at Yelena Noah; Pearls Imperial Pearl Front-Back Pearl Stud Earrings, $399, available at Pearls.
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Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
All White Is All Right
Avoid white, it makes you look bigger, the fashion rules claim — as if that is actually the worst possible thing you could ever do. The thing is, I don’t care if I look big; I am big. My entire wardrobe philosophy has nothing to do with manipulating imaginary optical illusions in the hope of suddenly seeming smaller; I’d much rather experiment and have fun with my style. There’s something very sophisticated about wrapping yourself in white — maybe it’s how crisp and clean it appears, or that it screams, “I can afford dry cleaning if I spill on myself!” Whatever the reason, I felt like a boss in my vest-turned-dress.

INC International Concepts Military-Style Long Vest, $109.80, available at Macy’s; Eloquii Studio Open Knit Midi Skirt, $89.90, available at Eloquii; Simply Be Split Back Cold Shoulder Blouse, $45.99, available at Simply Be; Ellos Love Sneakers, $39.90, available at full beauty; Tyler Alexandra Jamie Framed Doctor Bag, price available upon request, available at Tyler Ellis; Yelena Noah Evil Eye Choker, $98, available at Yelena Noah; Warby Parker Everett Sunglasses, $95, available at Warby Parker; Vintage belt.