Marie’s Note: I have always wondered why designers choose to make a collection, always wondering their process, the decisions they make, and how. SO I invited our new contributor, Alysse from Ready to Stare to share why she made plus size body chains and why it means sooo much to her. Please read on for more and let us know if you want to read more about fashion from a plus size designer’s perspective!
I starting making jewelry because no one else made what I dreamed up in my mind. I would plan these elaborate outfits around pieces I could never find in stores especially not in my size. The first piece I ever made for my line, Ready to Stare was actually a pair of oversized wire-wrapped hoop earrings that I made for myself in 2011. It wasn’t until I bumped into a friend of mine who happened to own a boutique that I even realized other people would wear what I made. If she loved the earrings, I thought just maybe other people would too. And they did. I’ve gone onto to create everything from screenprinted crop tops to faux fur fanny packs for women who are still often overlooked by mainstream fashion retailers. As much as I love designing clothing what remains closest to my heart as an indie plus size designer, is body chains.
I made my first body chain when I was invited to do my first fashion show. As an accessories designer, I knew that earring studs were not gonna cut it on a runway following clothing designers showing ballgowns. So I went into my metalsmithing studio and I thought about what I could make that would mimic the idea of armor and I came up with my first body chain. I hand-sawed, filed, stamped and drilled a piece of brass sheet metal into a long rectangular plate for the middle of the chain and then attached chains of varying lengths to create a ribcage-looking structure. The piece took me hours to make. When my model put it on, her confidence radiated.
I fell in love with body chains at that moment. I wanted everyone who wore Ready to Stare to feel that confidence and blatant disregard for so-called “fashion rules” that I saw on my model during that first fashion show in 2012. She was owning the look and to this day, she owns more Ready to Stare body chains than anyone else.
When I began designing my newest summer line, called Watch The Queen Conquer which I most recently released, I knew I wanted to embody that same strength and attitude. So even though I have focused on clothing, t-shirts and traditional jewelry in my most recent collections alongside a few body chains, I decided I wanted to do a collection of only body chains, belts, and other body jewelry — no earrings, no bracelets, and no necklaces.
I knew this was a risk because there’s nothing safe about a garter made entirely from chain. But doing a collection like this challenged me to think about different ways to celebrate the body. From the back body chain silhouette and the spiked anklets to the fringe chain head piece and caged gold shoulder body chain, there are pieces for every part of the body.
I chose to shoot this collection across two days because I wanted to show how these pieces could be worn with swimwear of varying styles and also how they could worn in your everyday life. At the end of the day, I want to create pieces that you can wear everyday and not just for a special occasion. If a piece makes you feel like a million bucks, why would you only wear it when you’re at the beach? Why not wear it to dinner or even in the bedroom? The possibilities are endless when you eliminate this idea that plus size fashion needs to look a certain way.
I think as plus size women, we are tired of being told what to wear for our bodies. And we want a voice in fashion that feels authentic to our individual styles. We are tired of being told to take the safe and acceptable route. I wanted to create a collection that celebrated bodies of all sizes not by hiding them but by showing them as they are.
Confidence can be very threatening to people who need you to feel small, so that they can feel big. I remember one of the first mean comments I received on Instagram when I started wearing my body chains was “everything ain’t for everybody” and basically someone of my size should be more covered up. That comment stuck with me not because I agreed but because I knew that her comment went against everything that I believe as a designer: if you like it, wear it.
So when it came to picking models to show this new collection, I picked nine different women of various sizes between a size 2 to a size 26. Some of these women have stretch marks or visible cellulite, some don’t. Some of them have hourglass shapes. Some of them don’t. I believe firmly that representation matters and I want these women to be as reflective as possible of my full customer range, rather than be the mainstream acceptable idea of a plus size woman. As an indie brand, I have the power to make that decision and it’s one that’s important to me. I think often times there’s this voice in our heads that tries to keep us in our comfort zone and tells us that we can only wear certain things. But an image can be a powerful thing and I hope these images can silence that voice for some people. If these women can wear body chains, you can too. And I hope you do!
If you like what you see, you can shop my new collection, Watch the Queen Conquer here!