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Body-Positive Boudoir (And Why Everyone Deserves A Professional Shoot)

Stripping down can be one of the hardest things that a plus-size person, woman or otherwise, can do. Between the little voices in the back of our heads and the overwhelming negative response that we often receive from media and the majority of modern society, it’s clear that we are mostly on our own. The saddest part? Being on the receiving end of another plus-sized person’s internalized fatphobia.

Still, we must trudge on and break down barriers, especially those that lie between our own bodies and the self-love and acceptance which we deserve to bestow upon ourselves. One of the greatest ways to show yourself that love and kindness is to treat yourself to a professional boudoir shoot. An entire day of nothing but you, a team dedicated to making you feel and look wonderful, gourmet treats, and the greatest lighting you will ever have.

Model: Briana Hernandez of Mamafierce wearing Curvy Girl Lingerie. Photographer: Suma Jane Dark, Makeup by Hayley Atherton of BigFatBeautyMUA.

Model: Briana Hernandez of Mamafierce wearing Curvy Girl Lingerie. Photographer: Suma Jane Dark, Makeup by Hayley Atherton of BigFatBeautyMUA.

I’m a professional writer whose work discusses feminist and body issues through a fat-positive, intersectional lens. I put this philosophy into action alongside internationally-published body-positive photographer Suma Jane Dark by working as hostess and touring manager of her travelling boudoir studio. We pair with mostly plus-sized makeup artists like Hayley Atherton of BigFatBeautyMUA and Jodi Vaughn to create sublime images which celebrate bodies of all shapes, as our clients range from size 00 to 32 and beyond.

One of the most interesting things that we have learned along the way is that nearly all women and femmes, no matter their size, suffer from the effects of fatphobia. Even the clients who would be considered “perfect” by Western societal norms voice as many, if not more, concerns than those who live outside of that box. Working with a variety of bodies and identities has only reinforced the importance of self-love and actively working to break down these toxic ideas implanted in our minds at a young age, that our worth as feminine folks lies mostly within our beauty and physical abilities, in how we can be broken down to be consumable by the male gaze which dominates the world around us.

“There is a lot to be said for lived experience. As a fat femme, I know how to highlight and celebrate fat bodies in a way that people without that lived experience might struggle with,” photographer Suma Jane Dark says.

Model: Virgie Tovar. Photographer: Suma Jane Dark. Makeup: Hayley Atherton of BigBeautyMUA. All photographs used with permission.

Model: Virgie Tovar. Photographer: Suma Jane Dark. Makeup: Hayley Atherton of BigBeautyMUA. All photographs used with permission.

“Learning how to look at my own body in an empowered and loving way took years of my life. I understand that we’re all in different places within that journey,” Dark explains. “Boudoir holds a special place in my heart because it’s kind of like giving the gift of an empowered gaze to those who may not have mastered that skill yet, and affirming those who have mastered it with a heartfelt “Yes!””

Boudoir shoots should be entirely about you and your vision, created with the guidance of someone who wants to bring out your inner best rather than someone forcing their creative and beauty ideals upon you. Often, this is the difference between working with big-bodied feminine folks and the rest of the world.

Model: Laurel Dickman wearing Teggings bralette by Re/Dress NYC. Photographer: Suma Jane Dark. Makeup by model. Used with permission.

Model: Laurel Dickman wearing Teggings bralette by Re/Dress NYC. Photographer: Suma Jane Dark. Makeup by model. Used with permission.

These photo shoots are often initially intended to be gifted to partners, but they end up being the best gift one can give themselves. In a space like ours, you are free from the prying eyes of those who might seek to objectify you. Being surrounded by a team of body-positive women and femmes who are big-bodied themselves feels like being the center of a slumber party… only the entire reason for the party is to indulge you and make you feel wonderful. From lush lashes to a great wine spritzer to gourmet sweets, no detail is missed.

Nina Asay of Fashion Penpals by Suma Jane Dark Photography. Used with permission.

Nina Asay of Fashion Penpals by Suma Jane Dark Photography. Makeup by model. Used with permission.

As plus-sized women and femmes (and non-binary lingerie lovers), we finally have so many more options to celebrate our bodies and sexuality via lingerie. With so many more amazing plus-size lingerie options like Curvy Girl Lingerie, Hips and Curves, and Switch Leather Company which have shown up in the last decade or less, we can celebrate our bodies by adorning ourselves in ways which reflect our inner siren. Even big name retail brands like Torrid have really stepped it up with gorgeous retro and fetish-inspired lingerie with caging details.

Regardless of who you choose to work with or what your vision is, everyone should experience body-positive boudoir at least once in their lifetimes. You owe it to yourself.

Laurel Dickman is a body-positive writer and fashionista, as well as traveling manager for Suma Jane Dark‘s mobile body-positive boudoir studio. Be the first to see her latest work via Facebook and follow on Instagram for size 24+ fashion inspo. Check out RavishlyWear Your Voice, and LaurelDickman.com for more! 

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