Alysse Dalessandro describes herself on her blog as a “size inclusive designer, fashion and beauty writer, body positive advocate, plus size fashion blogger, professional speaker, and all-around loudmouth.” So when I saw she was presenting at the Fat Activism Conference this year, I knew she was the perfect talk to bring to you, the Skorch Fashionistas.
The Fat Activism Conference is an online conference, which was held from the 23rd – 25th of September this year. The presentations had titles like “Replenishing the Spirit of our Disabled Fat Bodies, Being Fat in the Workplace, Guilt & Shame at the Gym: 4 Ways to Push That Crap Aside”. However, Alysse Dalessandro’s talk, “Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework”, spoke to me. If you want to hear the talk for yourself, you can still register and get access to all the recordings, transcripts and the goody bag. Join the Fat Activism Conference 2016 here.
While I have listened to many of the recordings, I thought that this particular talk was extremely interesting and reflective regarding the Fashion Industry and Fat people. Alysse is a passionate and engaging speaker whose talk was extremely well spoken and very informative. I found her presentation, which intertwined her personal experiences examples in main stream fashion and media as well as her knowledge of the fashion industry, whole-heartedly authentic and truly, I believe serving and speaking for fat bodies.
There is little to no representation of diverse and super fat bodies in fashion, within plus size fashion or the media. When talking about this, Alysse speaks frankly saying she “…didn’t fit the mold and it made me question whether I really belonged there”. This in reference to her start as a fashion designer for a straight sized vintage clothes company.
Alysse really digs deep within the culture of fashion and deliberately makes you re-examine the importance of not just clothes but self-expression and personal style. One of my favorite lines from her presentation was ‘The personal style and self-expression of visibly fat folks has the opportunity to present a radical shift in the dehumanization of fat bodies”.
She encourages people to truly understand the importance and need for diversifying sizing, bodies and representation within the plus size fashion industry. Pointing at a person like Ashley Graham and dissecting her rise to fame, acknowledging that her body is less of symbolisation of liberation to fat women and more of a body, which is being celebrated that is slightly outside the norm. Dalessandro refers to Graham “She is still white, she is still hourglass, she has a flat stomach, she’s cis, she’s straight. So when people talk about Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated or on Cosmo as a win for all fat women, they forget that it’s a win for just one smaller fat person that is still acceptable in many ways.”
Dalessandro also highlights that placing one person as the representation in fashion, specifically in plus size fashion, is problematic. From this talk Dalessandro really re-confirmed to me the idea that true fashion and identity within plus size fashion should remain as a space and creatively a place of self-expression.
Dalessandro reminds us that when mainstream fashion is tied to “desirability”, “acceptability” and “palatability”, it never will really be inclusive. While highlighting a lot of the forthcomings, the current plus size fashion industry has given me the hope and faith that with women like Dalessandro leading the conversation and increased accessibility of fashion for fat folks, we have such an amazing journey ahead of us as plus size consumers.
Her framework when describing where plus size fashion is and where it should go, especially when describing her thoughts and feelings surrounding campaigns like ‘drop the plus’, the word ‘flattering’ and other aspects of representation within the fashion and blogger industries is nothing short of refreshing. She comes to the table with an insight of a designer, fat body and someone who doesn’t want to shake the industry because it is a ‘radical’ or ‘cool’ thing to do, but rather examines why it has to happen for fat people.
As a fellow fat women who isn’t hourglass, who isn’t socially acceptably ‘curvy’, who has been laughed out of stores and let down by designers, this women’s talk was a hallelujah chorus to me. It showed me that asking for the bear minimum from plus size stores and designers isn’t where we should give up. Asking these brands, stores and people to truly serve us, the people handing over our hard earned pay, is important.
Dalessandro is someone who is re-defining fashion not in terms of a trend or a hot piece of clothing, but reconstructing an idea of what fat people can demand and expect from our retailers and designers moving forward. Undeniably, fashion has been a place of alienation for fat people and our options of clothing have been limited, sparse, expensive and hard to come by. Yet Dalessandro dissection of this industry, where we are heading and what our buying power means drove something home with me.
The Fat Activism Conference being available online, being able to reach fat people all around the world – it means things are shifting. Conversations about fat people, what we wear and how we perceived, are happening. Dalessandro is someone personally invested in the plus size clothing industry, but more than that she is someone who sees the incredible power and ability the industry has to change mainstream views around fat people.
Her talk, like all of the talks within the Fat Activism Conference, was enlightening for many reasons but none more so than the fact that there is a space where diverse, fat people can talk and speak about fat issues from their own personal experiences.
Fat people matter. Fat people’s monies and opinions matter. We can shape where the plus size industry goes and ,unlike the mainstream fashion world, make it an inclusive, body positive and fat positive place.
Dalessandro and The Fat Activism Conference is an inspiring, empowering and important event for fat people and I would recommend it to anyone, because the only way we can become a nicer and more inclusive world is to listen to people different than us. To create spaces where people who have been marginalized or dehumanized can feel heard and ,most all, empowered.