A BLOGGER'S QUEST FOR GREATER DIVERSITY IN FASHION
As I have gotten older, it has become more and more clear to me that the path one takes towards body acceptance is not necessarily a straight one. It’s filled with unexpected twists and turns that are frankly just part of the journey. Recently, I had the opportunity sit down with up and coming fashion blogger, Sabrina of VOGUESABE, who’s a petite and curvy woman like myself. Before Sabrina decided to launch her own blog, she was a reader of mine, which is how we connected with each other. One warm January afternoon, we grabbed coffee in Soho and chatted about what’s it’s like participating in the fashion with our body types and the need for wider diversity in the industry.
The first question I asked her was, “How tall are you?” She is slightly shorter than me at 5’ 1’’. Not going to lie as a short girl, there’s a little satisfaction that you get when you find out you’re taller than someone else because that literally never happens. As we began discussing her height, she shared part of her style philosophy with me - she always wear heels, no matter what. That’s right you won’t catch her in sneakers. I was pretty impressed by this because NYC can be an impossible place to wear heels with all the walking you have to do. I pretty much wear Converse every day. So you might be wondering how does she pull off wearing heels everyday? She has been wearing heels everyday since she was in middle school so she’s had tons of practice and says her feet never hurt from wearing heels (I’m so jealous!). Her trick is wearing chunky heels or booties and doubling her socks so it’s easier to walk around. She has always loved wearing heels because it makes her feel more empowered.
The ultimate style mantra that Sabrina lives by is “a great outfit can change your attitude”. I wholeheartedly agree and am so amazed by this power that fashion can have. If you see her around on her college campus, she’s always dressed up without fail. You won’t ever catch her in sweatpants. Her go-to outfits are dresses and pencil skirts. When classmates see her dressed up, they often ask: “Do you have a hot date later?” Comments like this can be frustrating to hear. Why is going on a date the only reason she can be dressed up? At the end of the day, she dresses for herself and no one else. Getting dressed up on a daily basis is fun for her since she loves putting together outfits and it also makes her feel confident.
While Sabrina has a strong sense of personal style and enjoys fashion, like many of us she has experienced ups and downs related to her body image. However, her journey followed a bit of a different trajectory than others. During middle school, she felt confident in her body. It wasn’t until high school, when her body started getting curvier that she really started to hate wearing pants because it made me her feel self-conscious. She began opting for dresses and skirts over jeans because she preferred the way they made her look. I could totally relate to her story because I hated wearing pants too (and still do for the most part). In college, she's struggled with body insecurities from time to time. For example, when she would wear body-con dresses, often times she used wear Spanx underneath. Recently, she’s been embracing her body more and appreciates the rise of celebration of curvy women like Beyonce and Diana Veras.
Wanting to see diversity in fashion is something Sabrina has become very passionate about because when she looks at photos in magazines and ads, rarely does she someone who looks like her. For starters, short girls are pretty much non-existent on the runways. Secondly, she comes from a Guyanese/Portuguese background and generally there are limited spots for minority models. (Guyana is a small country in northern South America).
Last semester, Sabrina took a marketing class as a part of her business major, for which she had to develop a business plan for creating a product/service and then present her idea to the entire class (Shark Tank style). The business idea Sabrina pitched was a modeling agency that was based on extreme inclusivity and focused on showing the full spectrum of diversity - from race to gender to height. In the future she would like to see a world where anyone can look at editorials and the media and see themselves represented. When shared her project with the class, it was met with a fair amount of skepticism. Some classmates doubted that her modeling agency idea would ever work.
In my opinion, the most ridiculous piece of criticism that Sabrina received was that fashion designers can’t use short models because they use a lot of fabric and it just wouldn’t work. Coming from a fashion merchandising background, I’ve learned that fabric is generally the most expensive part of any garment and I have a feeling some designers wouldn't be opposed to saving money on fabric. It’s an example of a bias that has been built into the system for so long that some people have been convinced it must be this way for a legitimate reason. While Sabrina believes that we are finally beginning to see more diversity in the media, like the newest Covergirls James Charles and Nura Afia, there is still a long way to go. There are modeling agencies such as JAG models which are working to show greater racial and body type diversity, however short women are still largely ignored.
I was impressed so much with Sabrina's passion for championing diversity and anticipate great things to come from her in the future! It was wonderful having the opportunity to meet her personally and I encourage you all to check out her blog because she’s a genuine person with a great sense of style.
PHOTO CREDIT: KRISTIN ULMER