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A Size 26/28 Girl's Journey on Shopping Brands That Stop at Size 24: City Chic

"Clothes aren't going to change the world. The women who wear them will." ~ Anne Klein

I had an amazing call today with an up-and-coming designer named Elle Dove who creates clothing for ALL sizes. Now when I say ALL, I truly mean all. She wants to dress everyone and her passion gives me hope that the fashion industry, including major brands, will see the importance of fashion for everyone. Here's an interview I did with her a few months ago for PLUS Model Magazine here.

Lorenza James by Elle Dove
When discussing why she chose certain women to be her brand ambassadors (including me!), she said to me "The woman is the one who sells the clothing, not the brand."  She explained in detail how she does not look at just numbers but who your followers are and what your platform stands for.

And that resonated with me so deeply because it is so true and the core of what an influencer should be. 

I think the industry has lost its way a bit in that instance with major brands:

  • Looking solely at numbers over engagement.
  • Choosing only to offer up to a certain size or calling it "size inclusive" but stopping at a size 3X/24.
  • Using influencers whose bodies fit a certain beauty ideal that is acceptable to society (hourglass and pear shapes under a size 24).

So as someone who is often outsized within my own fashion industry, I have learned over the years that shopping is not always fun and is honestly a sport. And I am a repeat gold medal winner. I constantly have "make it work" moments with Tim Gunn's voice in my ear.

Jacket: Premme // Dress: plus BKLYN // Booties: Avenue
One of the things I have learned is to #IgnoreTheSizeTag. Yup, that's going to be my new hashtag going forward.

Sizing is so inconsistent across the board, even in straight sizes! I hate to try on clothes and would love to just buy off the rack but that is not just possible, especially when you're plus size. Once I accepted this and adapted, I have become savvy as knowing what fits me.

I admit, I used to bypass brands that only went up to a size 24. I naturally thought I could not fit into anything they sold. I was also programmed to always reach for the larger size and have learned to not do that anymore. Baggy clothes do not hide the plus body. For me, it made me look bigger. Sure, I was hiding my rolls and such. But I looked as if I was wearing a tent. Not cute.

During my days of hiding my body in larger clothing.
There is no magical way to hide that you're fat so why not dress the best way you can and feel good about yourself? That has been an important part of my self love and acceptance journey.

Life is short so why should I wait to wear what I want? Why should I have to lose weight to look fabulous and show off my style? The time is NOW.

One of my favorite brands to shop that stops at a size 24 is City Chic. Nine times out of ten, I have been able to fit into their size XXL, which is a 24. For the record, I usually wear a size 26 on top and a 28 on bottom. My measurements are 55-53-68.

Their strapless dresses are everything! They have piping and an adhesive band around the top part (similar to what you see in strapless bras) so it stays in place. When I finally got the courage to let my wings be free and wear strapless dresses, City Chic was the first brand I wore.

Full Figured Fashion Week, June 2018

The first jumpsuit I ever tried was from City Chic and it changed my mind on jumpsuits forever.

Here's some other City Chic styles I have worn and loved:

Hello Body and Curves!

I think that we have been fed so much negative rules and criticisms for most of our lives that it takes time to reprogram our thoughts. But I still live by that mantra "Change your mindset, change your life." It didn't happen overnight but I started out with one body part: my arms. And then once I took that step, it got easier to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and not be afraid to show my body in public and stop covering up.

City Chic has been one of those brands that has been a part of my self love journey. While I do think they should consider expanding their sizing to 32, I still celebrate them for what they do get right... the fit! They truly ensure that their clothing fits a curvy, plus body that has extra in some places. I also check the fabric and if I see spandex or elastane in it, that means it has some stretch. Yes!

The biggest shopping lesson I have learned over the years is to shop by fit and my measurements. Even if the size tag does not align with what size I am. 

Here's what I have my eye on at the moment from City Chic:

Just an FYI, this is not a sponsored post and City Chic has no idea of my love for them. Sometimes we have to show our support for free because that's how we not only build relationships that can lead to a profitable future but also to spread the word. Our voices must be heard in order to make change and sometimes complaining is not enough. 

If you love what I have to say regarding fashion, fit and style for the size 20+ woman and you're in or near the Atlanta area, come hear me speak this weekend at the TCF Style Expo! I'm on an amazing panel of incredible women talking to this very topic. The panel will be moderated by Alicia Young of AP Young Blog, who is over a size 24. 

You can still get tickets to the TCF Style Expo here. Would love to see you!

Starting a New Journey of #FearlesslyMoving

Movement for me means being in peace while allowing myself to let go, be in the moment and feel free.

I have been kicking off my blog posts with quotes for over 10 years but today's post starts with a quote of my own.

Lately, I have been giving lots of thought to movement. Not just physical movement but overall movement within life. I believe that the mind, body and spirit are one. So if one is not right, it throws off the whole trinity. For me, I have been spending so much time getting my mind and spirit right that I neglected my body. And this made me realize that's why my MBS trinity was not at 100%.

I'm always tired or stressed. I work a lot and put pressure on myself to be the best I can be. I push myself beyond limits and sometimes it takes a toll on me physically. I haven't felt inner peace in a really long time and at this point of my life, I crave it. I need it. 

How can I inspire others and keep going, if I don't have that inner peace and my spirit tank on full? Life is draining enough and if you don't refill your tank regularly, how are you supposed to be at the top of your game?

So I started looking into movement in general. I don't aspire to lose weight and be some "Before and After" picture. In my opinion, weight loss is not the way to happiness because your Body is a part of that MBS trinity and not on its own. You can lose weight but if your mind and spirit ain't right... well, you get the drift.

I worked too hard to love myself as I am and in all honesty, my size has nothing to do with my MBS not being on point. It has to do with my inner health and how I choose to use my energy. 

Movement can be an incredible thing. For me, I love to walk and one day, I want to get strong enough to jog again because running is a form of movement that truly lets you be in the moment and feel free of the world around you. 

I have arthritis in both knees and my right ankle so I tend to get stiff a lot and have chronic pain. However, the irony of that is the more I move, the less pain I feel.

This is when I decided that I needed more movement in my life. I need to make time for myself and invest in myself and my MBS. If I can't show up for myself, how am I supposed to show up for others in my life?

I'm not a gym girl right now because I am still working on not being self-conscious in that space. Yes, I am confident and love myself but I am not perfect. I'm human and I am still working on not noticing the stares or whispers. 

However, I have the world before me, ready for me to take my first step and just start moving. Movement can be medicine for the MBS... I learned this from a friend of mine who I admire greatly.

Deb Malkin is someone I have known for years, who is simply amazing. Her Instagram page Move With Deb was what inspired me to look more into movement.

Movement can be anything, to be honest. It doesn't have to be just exercising. Deb recently posted about Movement Permaculture, which was a way for her and her partner to work on their garden in a fun way. It encouraged movement while they plant and grow things to sustain them in their lives.

A post shared by Move along with Deb (@movewithdeb) on

This led me to introducing movement in my life via house chores, like dancing as I sweep and mop, squatting while I wash dishes or even lifting heavy things around the house as I clean. I also make it a habit to turn on the pedometer on my phone while I am in the supermarket and walk around it a few times. You can easily do a mile that way while shopping for groceries.

Find what moves you and incorporate that into your every day life.... this is what my goal right now is.

I actually take notes from Deb's IG page, especially the wisdom she offers her readers via comments about movement... Here's a few that resonated with me:

On being able to do things while comfortable - "There's nothing wrong with comfort! It's all about adding variety and seeing the movement we do all day long and not just shoving it in the category of fitness at a gym."

"Just thinking about movement in a whole body, throughout the day framework has shifted my whole world. It helps me feel so much more engaged in my everyday life and empowered in my body."

"Movement is a bigger category than fitness. There's a lot we can do to help get more flexible, have more strength and stamina in our everyday life. Going to the gym can be fun but that's just a tiny portion of our week. We have a body the rest of the time too and not to say we should obsess about fitness, it's more of a reframe of movement that is nourishing our cells as being available all the time. It's like the opposite of diet culture to me."

With that said, starting today, my journey of Fearlessly Moving will be a reality. My current goal is to feel empowered in my body again and as Deb said, more engaged in my every day life. And I'll see where this journey takes me.

You can follow my journey here on the blog and on social media with the hashtag #FearlesslyMoving. I plan to use this blog as a way to be accountable for myself and not slack off on my movement goals. And I hope I can inspire some of you to move along with me.

Because movement can be body liberation too! Having more mobility is freeing and honestly, after a day of walking and moving, I feel like a superheroine. And I want to feel like that daily. Movement can be joyful and I can't wait to share this journey with all of you.

Click here to follow me on Instagram to stay up-to-date with my #FearlesslyMoving journey.

How do you incorporate movement into your life? Any tips? Comment below and let me know!

When Life Doesn't Go As Planned...

Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience. ~ Victoria Holt

Jacket [LINK] and Snoopy tee [LINK]: Torrid
A week ago, I got back from Atlanta where I was honored for an award for empowering and inspiring others through my work. Before that, I was in Cancun, Mexico for a fit modeling gig. And I recently got signed to State Management as a size 26+ fit model. I'm sitting here, as I type this, still in shock that this is my life.

Dress: LOFT via Gwynnie Bee [LINK]

Dress: Yours Clothing UK [LINK]

Swimsuit: Boutique + for JC Penney [LINK] // Sarong: Always For Me [LINK]

My first fit job at Universal Standard
The last few months have been hectic with lots of wonderful things happening, which remind me that when you put yourself out there in the world, stay open to the possibilities and trust in where your journey takes you, magical things can happen.

At one point in my life, I would ask over and over again, "Why me?" I felt like I couldn't catch a break and bad things were happening back to back. I thought to myself, "How much more can I take before I crumble?" Well, the answer to that was, I can take A LOT and going through that time in my life tested my strength and showed me what a fierce warrior I was.

Simply because I didn't give up.

I decided to keep pushing and strive for better things in my life. It wasn't easy and I'm still in therapy 4 years later. BUT... my life has done a 180 degree turn and I have to say, life is good. Not perfect but I know how to roll with the the bad times now. If I can get through the worst of times, I can get through the bad ones.

I kicked off 2018 with two video opportunities, both denim features, for Glamour Magazine and Refinery 29

You can view the Refinery29 video here.

While both videos were about showing different bodies wearing jeans, the Glamour one was a hit with over 3 million views where we are all wearing the same jeans from Old Navy. In the Refinery29 video, it was all about our favorite jeans and why.

What I loved the most about both videos is that it not only allowed me to be seen but also it gave me the platform to speak to women about loving themselves and wearing what they love.

Life is taking me on this path where I have not only become an advocate for women over a size 24 but also, becoming someone whose story is inspiring all people and not just plus size women. And it humbles me to no end.

We all given a voice and we choose how to use it. I haven't always spoken up but now I know better.

I'm now officially a size 28 fit model for Mexican comtemporary brand Generose and have already worked with Universal Standard to fit their extended sizes collection. Being a fit model has taught me that change is possible and I see the shift happening in the industry. However, I have to speak up and be an advocate for those women in these spaces too.

I'm starting to see that life is an exciting ride and I am embracing that now, more than ever.

So, yes, life doesn't always go as planned but it all works out in the end. I am proof of that.

Next up, I shot another Glamour Magazine video coming soon, heading back to Cancun for more fittings and helping with an event happening there in the fall, prepping for Full Figured Fashion Week and pitching for more public speaking gigs. 

Life is good, even if it hasn't gone the way I planned. Stay tuned!

Never Be Ashamed of Your Size

"I am recognizing that the voice inside my head is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else." ~ Q-Tip, "Steve Biko (Stir it Up)" 

For years, I wore the wrong size. I thought I was larger than I was AND I had been fed that notion growing up that wearing baggy clothing would hide my fat and draw less attention from the world. I used to lie about my size because I was ashamed to be a size 24 and wore clothing that was a size 30/32 in order to hide my body.

For me, those days of hiding and lying about my size are over. I'm still on my journey to complete self love and I know that journey is a lifetime commitment. 

Now I'm a size 26/28 and I don't lie about it. I embrace it because it is me and honestly, my size does not dictate my worth in anything. My clothes fit me better -- I mean, how amazing do I look in those Lane Bryant jeans in the above pic? Baggy jeans were not a good look for me. I'm daring to step out of my comfort zone more and wearing different styles - the more fashion I try and love, the more my confidence builds.

AND... my size has actually been my strength and worked for me in a positive way. It has helped me with this blog and reaching other women who need inspiration and empowerment from someone who they resonate with. It has helped me get signed as an extended sizes fit model with State Management, it has helped me stand out in the influencer space and it has taught me how to use my voice to make change in the world.

However, these days, I am now seeing women (including bloggers) lie about their size and saying they are smaller. I see them squeezing into clothing that doesn't fit well. And it confuses me because it's evident that the clothing is too tight and ill fitting, as well as the wearer not looking super comfortable. 

Girl. Why are you doing that to yourself? 

I'm all for people wearing what they want but I also want to inspire women to embrace who they are, including their size. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all beautiful in our own right, no matter your size, age, gender, race and etc. 

I want women to proudly wear their size and not think twice about it. I want them to not get caught up in the number and focus on being comfortable in what they choose to wear. Why? Because then you will feel good and will feel more comfortable and strong, wearing something that fits well, isn't stopping your breathing and squeezing the life out of you.

Another reason I personally don't get caught up in sizes anymore is because it is so inconsistent across the board. I wear a size 22 in ASOS, a size XXL (24) in City Chic, a 26 in LOFT, a 28 in Lane Bryant, and so on. Shoot, sometimes I have worn a size 5X at Gwynnie Bee! If I let all that get to my head, I would lose it.

So I shop by my measurements and wear what I love. I wear styles that enhance my curves, lumps and bumps. I know my body shape and know what looks good on me. I wear clothing that I feel good in and that includes those "taboo" styles like a body con dress, a crop top, shorts and leggings. As long as I feel good and love how it looks on me, I wear it.

If you love how that extra tight smaller size looks on, then I will be quiet and let you live. But it does sadden me that some women feel like they have to lie about their size, their weight and all of that vanity stuff because we do those things for others; to seek validation from others.

At the end of the day, we shouldn't be dependent on the validation of others because what counts is the validation we give ourselves.

The most important relationship you can have in life is the one you have with yourself. That relationship will determine how the other relationships in your life will go. And if you can't keep it real with yourself, how will you do so in other relationships?

Some food for thought...

Life is short. Be proud of you and all you have been able to do in your life in your body. Size ain't nothing but a number and has nothing to do with your beauty and what you bring to the world. There is only 1 you in the world so why not celebrate that?

"You gotta have the mindstate like: 'I'm so great,' and can't nobody do it like you do. Miraculous, phenomenal and ain't nobody in here stopping you." ~ Remy Ma, "Conceited"

It's Okay To Be Thankful... Even After Great Loss

"What if, today, we were grateful for everything?" ~ Charlie Brown

Every New Year's Eve for the last six years, I have spent my last evening of the year sobbing in bed, feeling like I was getting further and further away from my dad and then my brother as each new year ushered in. 

My anxiety during the first two years was at an old time high. I was so afraid that as each new year started, that meant more time since my dad passed away and that my memories of him and us would fade along with him.

Then when my brother Danny died three years after my dad, I had double grief and was all over the place because one moment, I would be crying over my dad and then another moment over my brother. And then I would feel guilty for grieving over one more than the other or not thinking of them at all at times.

See, I cling to those memories with every fiber of my being because they are all I have left of the best two men I have known and the first two loves of my life. My heroes, my blood, my family.

My brother Danny with his three daughters
Usually around the holidays in general, I will admit, I tend to check out emotionally so I just don't have to deal. I'm there but not there. By the time NYE rolls around, I am so mentally exhausted from checking out, that the emotions come flooding in.

But this year, I realized that I can't check out anymore. I'm not that person anymore. There's this thing called Growth that has taken control of my life and it's a good thing, even though I went into it kicking and screaming. It's harder to let yourself feel because that means facing things head on.

The new normal is good. And I have realized that it's okay to be thankful even after suffering a great loss. 

I'm thankful to still be alive and I can feel something wonderful is on its way in my career and in my life. I'm thankful for my mom and nieces. I'm thankful that I'm on the road to healing and becoming the best person I can be.

The holidays are always a time of reflection -- it's bittersweet for me. But I am learning to be thankful and happy, even after such a great loss in my life. 

Now Thanksgiving and Christmas was still hella hard. I fell into a place of depression and it was a daily fight to emerge from that black hole that had become so familiar and at times, actually felt safe. I can stand still and not let the world in. I clung to that sadness in a way because it made those memories of them present and dominant in my mind. 

But after Christmas, I was done. Something in me had changed. I could not live each holiday season like this. I was feeling different and I felt I was ready to let go.

So this New Year's Eve, for the first time in six years, I did not sob in bed. I decided to go into the New Year with a smile. I did not watch the ball drop as that is a trigger for me in terms of making me sad and mourn what I lost or don't have in my life. I ushered in the New Year listening to Stevie Wonder's Superstition and playing Uno online. And I was happy.

Grief is a process with no timetable. I am healing little by little one day at a time. I continue to go to therapy once a week and I am learning that I will never forget my dad and brother no matter how much time has passed. They will always be with me.

What my dad wrote in my autograph book when I graduated from elementary school - he knew back then of my greatness.
It's okay to miss them. It's okay to cry sometimes. It's okay to grieve. But I refuse to let my grief define me or take over my life. There will always a tough moment but why should I give my time away to grief? Why should my life stop? I know that's not what my dad and brother would want.

My dad and I in Atlantic City 
I also have learned to assert myself more and know that it's only up to me on how I grieve. And it's okay for me to let people know that. I will not "get over it" and I am not "dwelling" on it. No one knows the relationship I had with them nor do they know how I feel. We all have our own experiences and how we grieve. We all have different ways to deal with grief and I believe we should be considerate and understanding of that. So I basically tell others now who criticize me in this respect, "Let me live and I will let you live." Because see, there is no wrong way to grieve. You just do.

Next up, the month of April... my dad's 7th anniversary is April 10th and my brother's birthday is April 22nd. Usually, that month is so hard for me but this year, I am hopeful it will be a little easier. That's what self-healing is all about. I want to live again and not just exist. Not only for myself but for them.

Fearless Flying: Mexico City Showed Me That Amazing Things Are Coming

"Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." ~ Ibn Battuta

Right after Thanksgiving, I got a text from someone offering me a wonderful opportunity that I knew was a sign that amazing things are coming. YEAH!

Photography: Jessica Milagros / Jacket: Torrid
That someone was Melina Alarcon, designer and owner of Generose, a new plus size women's clothing line, designed by her and manufactured in her home country of Mexico. 

I met Melina at Full Figured Fashion Week in June 2017 where she showed her collection at the event's finale runway showcase. I remember sitting front row with Maddy Jones, Editor-in-Chief of Plus Model Magazine, and constantly turning to her and ooooohing and ahhhhing as each look hit the runway.

Generose on the runway at FFF Week 2017
Me with Maddy Jones (center) and Sarah Chiwaya of the blog Curvily Fashion
See, Melina had a dream to be able to offer stylish and high-quality clothing to plus size women, particularly over a size 22. In Mexico, plus size fashion is not very accessible and most plus size women in Mexico shop online or travel into the US to shop. There are no plus size stores to shop in and there's not even a big plus size fashion presence there. Melina wants to change that.

Melina Alarcon
As a Latina and a woman over a size 22, I felt her passion and believed in it. I believe no woman should be deprived of fashion and accessible clothing in her size. Your weight or size should have nothing to do with you dressing well. Fashion can help you build your confidence and self love and then that, in turn, will inspire you to live your best life.

One of Melina's sketches for Generose
Melina and I spent some time in Atlanta last summer at the TCF Style Expo, which she invited me to attend with her as her guest. It really gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and also for me to try on some of her dresses! 

I loved her idea of including an inner corset so you have all the support you need to the point where you don't even have to wear a bra! The way she designs her dresses are smart and meant to celebrate your curves. Yup, not wearing a bra in the above images and I'm an F cup.

Fast forward to last month and that text... 

Melina asked if I would come to Mexico City and be her size 28 fit model, as well as offer any fit input and ideas. WOW! This was a major opportunity I could not turn down so of course, I said yes! You rarely see fit models my size used so this was something I could not pass up.

So off to Mexico City I went! I was only there two days and I was exhausted the entire time from the high altitude that caused me to have a headache and aggravated my sinuses. But I did not let that stop me from enjoying this experience to the fullest and being present for it. When you are working as a model in any capacity, there is no space for complaining, slacking or a bad attitude. You'd be surprised at how fast word travels when a model is unprofessional while on a job. Plus, I was so humbled at the opportunity that I could have been on crutches and I still would have done it.

Molletes con Tecino AKA Spanish bread with frijoles, toasted with cheese and bacon - YUM!
Melina and I ate some amazing food, talked for hours and she let me get a look into her design life. I was so blown away from being in an actual design house where I saw her designs being created and tailored to our measurements. The folks at the design house were so amazing! They listened to our feedback and did not treat us any differently because we were plus size. 

Size 16 fit model

I went in with the mindset that I was not only offering feedback from my point of view but also other women who may not have the same body shape as mine. I'm a cross between an hourglass and pear, not quite either one. And I have large upper arms and large calves. However, I do know women my size who have smaller arms than I or larger hips or who carry their weight in the belly or on top. I feel ALL these women have to be represented and while it's tough to design ready-to-wear clothing to fit all shapes and sizes, it can be done.

I have a long torso and short legs despite being 5'7" so I need a shorter inseam even though I am not considered petite. But there are those of us with the opposite situation too! And let's not forget the tall girls either. So this was a great opportunity to not only educate others on plus size bodies but also showing them that when it fits well, it looks amazing!

I left Mexico City feeling so excited as to what's to come. Melina said I would be back for more fittings and who knows after that? This is why I always tell others that it pays to be nice to people, network and be authentic. Always remain humble and know that no one owes you a thing. I don't care if you have 1 million followers on social media or the most perfect images in the world, you are not entitled to anything. You have to chase your own dreams, be willing to work hard and be true to yourself.

Never compare your journey to someone else's. If someone else received any opportunity that you wanted, that just means it was not meant for you. And that's okay because there are other amazing things out there meant just for you. 

For me, I'm realizing I'm more passionate about making my voice in this industry from a fit perspective. We all have our part in advancing plus size fashion and I feel like this is what I am meant to be doing. This has been something that I have been involved in for years but I was so focused on doing other things and watching what others were doing that I couldn't see it. Now I do.

When you realize your purpose, the sky's the limit. You just gotta keep it real with yourself. And be open to the possibilities.

Mexico City was magical. It was filled with street art, vintage cars, the hustle and bustle of a city on the move as well as friendly folks. Not to mention it's so cheap for us because the US dollar is strong there. Great food, so many great sights to see and just overall, an unforgettable city.

Stay tuned to the blog next week for more on my trip, including my experience flying with Interjet and my review of a piece from Melina's Spring 2018 RTW line for Generose.

You can check out more of Generose on Instagram here.

What do you want to see in plus size fashion (in terms of styles and pieces), especially for women over a size 22? I would love to know so hit me up in the comments below!