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Being a BoPo Babe in Italy, the Fashion Industry Homeland

My name is Samantha Schloss, artist and stylist specialized in oversized dressmaking. I live in Italy, I am fat and confident. And I proudly do not give a fuck. I joined the body positive movement after years of eating disorders, depression, and anxiety as a body shamers’ victim. Now, I am an enthusiast activist of the movement, my artwork, writing and public talks are focused on our cause.
Besides designing and making custom handmade clothes in my flamboyant style, I am currently working and promoting body positivity, as a testimonial against the body shaming and raising awareness that all bodies can claim beauty and must be proud of what they are. I push people to build their own sense for beauty, instead of blindly assume the mass media beauty standards.

I joined the BoPo community instantly, maybe because as a plus sized female (and so ugly, undesirable kid, girl and then woman according to the unreachable Italian beauty standards) I always suffered from isolation, being considered a B series human, pushed to dieting and hate my body, being called wrong from when I was a kid, in one simple word body shaming. I remember clearly my tears the first time I stumbled onto pictures of Tess Munster, Aarti from Curves Become Her, Gaby Fresh and other fat and plus sized public figures. It was late 2013, and it was the very first time I saw a large women so confident, beautiful, well dressed, because this is something I had never seen in my country.

Something suddenly cleared in my mind: I’d always known it, somewhere in my heart, that I was not ugly nor undesirable or a B series woman. I discovered through the images of those beautiful women that I was not wrong or ugly but media, fashion industry, diet and fitness industry …and yes, people that assume unquestioningly those unreachable and false beauty standards, they were wrong. And the thrilling thing was that I wasn’t alone and an odd one anymore.
You may hear many of stories like this, I am pretty sure of that, but you should come and see\try\feel how difficult is to be a free, confident and happy plus size woman in Italy, the fashion industry homeland, where thinness is an absolute value: success, beauty, efficiency are exclusively reserved for Thin People.

If you see me, I am a size 14, smaller than the plus size average American woman, but here, I am considered as incredibly obese. As you may notice, the meaning of Plus Size, Fat, Curvy size as categories, changes from nation or continent. Here in Italy, we are on average smaller, but I’m definitely not your official Curvy woman, as a member of the Fat or Plus Sized community.
In Italy, we have a thing I call the ‘Curvy Culture’ which only women with hourglass figures and sizes between  8\12 are allowed to stay in. Honestly, I find them very odd. I don’t agree with slogans like “real women have curves”, “men prefer women with curves”, “women with curves are better” and this general mixture of patriarchy, sense of guilt or inferiority or revenge on thinner women.

In the Curvy Culture here, there is a sense of subjection to social standards of beauty and thinness, which results in veiled guilty statements when someone is eating sweets or the most unbearable to me, phrase: “beauty despite plus size” where the term “despite” packs all the hateful subjection, but is very pleasing to the mass media that see women with sympathetic eyes, something I call the Italian Curvy Phenomenon.Those of us that are plus size feel uncomfortable and definitely not included in those fashionable Curvy groups. However, this movement did something good, they reached the main media in magazines and TV shows, and got in the face of the people that used to tell people that thinness is an enormous value and that patriarchy is the only way, especially in south Europe.

To be honest, there is a lot of confusion and maybe you have heard, even in your country, some role models claim to be Body Positive Influencers and then promoting diets, fitness, that “healthy is the new skyinny” or using massively retouched photos… It pisses me off so much, and Italy is quite the same. So I do prefer to join my fellow activists and authors who are more focused on body positivity as an inclusive movement, and never give a fuck about diet\fitness culture.

I relate to author Virgie Tovar’s way of thinking, and I am so grateful to have had the chance to meet her last April in Vienna thanks to the “Curvienna” first edition. During the Fashion Hero’s filming, I also met Cynthia Ramsay Noel in Montreal.
I advocate for BoPo here in my country with talks, and runways (I am a dressmaker-
stylist). On my runways, I’ve always been inclusive. I make dresses for thin to larger sizes because I want to show the inclusive spirit of BoPo that I love, and empower the meaning of beauty through a seemingly frivoulous act like runways and fashion.
My motto is Beauty is a state of mind and if you like that dress, it fits to you!

  • as an Italian plus size blogger since 2010 I agree with these considerations. I was one of the first actually fat fashion bloggers in Italy and I am still one of the few. Since then I’ve been encouraging larger sized women to post their pictures or even start blogging and a few started actually doing it, but they are still a few. I’ve been avoiding interviews on official media after giving a few which tended to present me as a crazy fat woman who just wanted to appear ‘inspite of’ her size. After 7 years I grew tried of the Italian fashion industry, of the hypocrite way to use the word ‘curvy’ for promotional reasons and ending up becoming a body shaming term. I have been recently avoiding any categorization although I identify as a plus size as I need labels in order to find decent clothes (mostly from abroad) as it only leads to generalization and judgements. I am body positive and any woman can be that, it’s not a fat prerogative. As my black rights activist friend poet Neal Hall taught me, I can change things only by using the market so I am not going to shop or promote any brand that does not consider me. There are a few big brands manifacturing for larger sizes in Italy and they only consider smaller sized bloggers or International bloggers. They think that body acceptance is a marketing tool for US or Uk but not for italy. They simply regard it as a marketing thing…. There is no real embracing your body concept. They think that we larger sized bloggers are just dying for their pr attention but actually I could not care less for pr’s. I want stores to cater for me with styles I actually wear and to represent more diversity of shapes and sizes. When you express this to them they laugh at you and tell you nobody here dresses like a blogger and that your opinion does not count, but then they use your words or Image to promote themselves for free. I jumped out of the game and I am now making my own.

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