On Body Acceptance and Self-Love in the Fashion Industry

The Magazine: On Body Acceptance and Self-Love in the Fashion Industry
Working in the fashion industry, everything is thin, small, flattering, and centered around the message of “lose weight, be small.”

That messaging, whether subconscious or to your face, is telling you that your body is wrong if you’re not that way.

67% of the female population is over a size fourteen. The fashion industry makes clothing for the minority of women in the country, and that’s what doesn’t make sense. And there’s an assumption that the larger your clothes are, the less you can afford—there’s a socio-economic factor around being bigger.

In 2014, I was featured on Manrepeller in a style story about “how to dress for a curvy figure.” I read the comments, and people wrote things like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing my body type on the Internet.” For me, it was the first time in a really long time that I remember feeling like my body wasn’t crazy, like I wasn’t a total freak. It was a reminder that it was okay, that there was a place for me in the world.

Then I started a blog and Instagram called The 12ish Style to share tips and tricks on how to get dressed when you look like me. I had always been more comfortable behind the camera, but once I got out there, people identified with my image, and I realized that no one was standing up for girls like me. I definitely had Impostor syndrome, where I wondered why I would be the person in the spotlight.

I said to myself, I’m going to show women in America who don’t really feel “plus-size” and who don’t feel “straight-size,” I’m going to talk to those women and I’m going to show them how to get dressed and teach them how to shop. I will show them what brands they can find certain key pieces from. It started as much more of a shopping hack.

I built The 12ish Style for me, but I didn’t know it. When it got popular, it switched from being a place to learn about the best jean brands over size twelve, into more of a platform to talk about the bigger issues. Why we are feeling this way? Why am I a New York City fashion blogger who can’t shop in a store? What are the choices that brands and the media are making? That bigger discussion was only available to me after I accepted my own body and moved past it, with my audience and community.

At the time, I didn’t have the type of self-love I have now. I was going through a divorce and through that process of feeling so irrelevant and feeling so unworthy of anyone’s anything for so long, finding out that I was helping women gave me purpose. Through connecting with a community of women on social media, I’ve been able to say, Actually, I’m pretty good with this. The platform turned into body acceptance at any size. I was able to embrace my body—fully. I wonder if I started this platform earlier in my life, if I would have accepted myself sooner.

Three years ago, at the end of the summer, I asked myself why I was using a Goldbond’s men stick, and why I was selling it on my website. I looked around, and there was nothing better, just for women, for thigh chafing. A lot of people don’t think it’s a real problem, and they don’t think there’s a need for a solution. And I said, let’s do this, and while we do this, let’s take on something else: boob sweat. So I created a talc-free powder. I want to be what Goldbond is for men, but cooler and cleaner and for women. I chose the name Megababe because it is empowering and celebratory, and not shameful. We launched with a 12,000 person waitlist.

There is no destination with size or weight—you’re never going to "arrive" somewhere and say, “Now, this is what it means to be happy.” You have to do the inner work on who you are. Women tell me I inspire them to wear a cropped top or a sports bra working out, or have the courage to leave a relationship.

Those are the things that stick with me—the women finding themselves and feeling themselves because they’ve been inspired by me feeling myself.

Katie Sturino is a size 12(ish) New Yorker who started The 12ish Style to introduce more size-inclusive fashion and share tips and tricks on how to get dressed while being plus. She’s also the founder of the female personal care brand, Megababe.

Editor's note: interview conducted on May 2, 2019 and edited for length and clarity.

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