This is going to sound weird to anyone who isn’t plus-size, but the first thing I always notice when I see pictures from fashion shows is how small the seating space is for onlookers in the front row. The distance between Anna Wintour, the A-lister on one side of her, and the nondescript exec on the other never looks to be more than three feet total. This may seem like a trivial detail, but it serves as a visual reminder of how little space there is for bodies like mine at events like New York Fashion Week. This was notably not the case, though, when I walked into theCURVYcon for the first time Saturday afternoon during the opening weekend of NYFW. The lifestyle conference that “brings plus-size brands, fashionistas, shopaholics, bloggers, and YouTubers into one space, to chat curvy, shop curvy, and embrace curvy” was furnished with wide, armless chairs for their guests — and I’ve never felt more seen.
Successfully catering to the plus-size market — which is still the wild west in many ways — means paying attention to the details that make fashion a feasible reality for those of us sized 14 and above. For example, if a company wants to have a pop up shop at theCURVYCon, they have to bring a full size run of clothes — even if they don’t think they’ll be able to sell them all. Cece Olisa, who founded the event with Chastity Garner of GarnerStyle.com in 2015, elaborated on the necessity of a full range for participants to consider: “With the size run, women can try on clothes before they buy," she tells Refinery29. "Let me see so that I know in this brand I wear a size 18 and in that brand I'm a size 20.” Plus-size women need options, and theCURVYCon offers up a space to talk through them all.
Case in point: Ashley Nell Tipton — the historic winner of Project Runway in 2015 — was one of five women on a panty-focused panel hosted by Fruit of the Loom, whose Fit for Me line of underwear has been designed with plus bodies in mind. “The last thing we want to worry about is the functionality of our clothing,” Tipton lamented to me after the panel. “We don't want to be bothered. We don't want to feel discomfort or anything. We want to be able to enjoy our day and not worry about our undergarments.” She’s right that a good pair of undies can make or break an outfit if they aren’t the right fit or cut. I don’t know where else at NYFW they are talking about underwear as a style foundation, but I’m glad I was one of the lucky folks to get a free pair of panties.
While the rest of the fashion industry seems to be already abandoning the size-diversity “trend” they played up over the last few seasons, theCURVYcon is growing. Olisa and Garner sold clothes from their closets to afford the down payment on the venue for the first event. This year they took over a multi-level venue on New York's 5th Avenue for three days during NYFW. In addition to Tipton, the convention brought out big names like Nikki Bella and Gabourey Sidibe, who told me theCURVYcon was the first place she could put on a dress and not care what her arms looked like. Bringing the commerce and body positivity that so many of us engage online to our real lives, theCURVYCon is a happy place for those of us who need more room in the front row.