If you’ve ever wondered what Body Positive Heaven might be like, designer Claire Doody of Portland, Oregon, and a slew of plus-size fashion’s brightest talents did their best to create it. Citing inspiration from Full Figured Fashion Week in New York, Doody organized and produced PDX Knockout, a size-inclusive fashion show with an emphasis on bold, unapologetic plus-size style.
The event included a fashion show, talk by activist and author Jes Baker, and a market featuring a wide array of size-inclusive, body-positive vendors. The packed event drew attendees from all over the United States, including Beth Ditto — fashion designer and vocalist of The Gossip — and a wide array of notable fashion bloggers, artists, and models.
While waiting for the show, attendees were able to shop from cult favorites such as Proud Mary Fashion, Fat Fancy and Re/Dress. In addition to clothing, there were a wide variety of zines, body positive art, magazines and personal care products to sample. Jes Baker was there to sign her book, “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls”.
The fashion show was enthusiastically received by an anxious crowd. Clothing lines featured included Doody’s own Copper Union, Chubby Cartwheels, Amelia, Hubris, Re/Dress, Proud Mary Fashion, Bombsheller and Allihalla. The styles were fall-to-winter appropriate, with each line bringing its own unique flavor. Models included some familiar faces such as Kanda Mbenza-Ngoma, who modeled for Beth Ditto’s recently released second collection, and Katana Fatale, who has been featured by several publications, Wear Your Voice. Emcee Leigh Rich kept the room laughing and the style coming.
Related: StyleCrush: Katana Fatale
From the statement pieces by Bombsheller to the playfulness of Re/Dress and the sensual velvets and winter florals featured by Chubby Cartwheels, the show made a bold statement on the current state of plus fashion. Copper Union, always strong on textural pieces that play together well, closed the show with a smoldering array of separates, outerwear and winter dresses unlike anything currently available via major plus retailers.
The show was a firm reminder that indie designers, including many featured by PDX Knockout, have been the ones on the ground creating the pieces that the plus community has been calling out for — long before major retailers got the message. Trendy cuts, unique fabrics and investment pieces are often items that trickle down through the fashion world, beginning with mainstream designers, then finding their way to straight-size retailers, before finally, sometimes years later, appearing in plus sizes as tepid, modest incarnations that are barely recognizable — and often censored for our bodies in ways that can feel insulting. But gone are the days when wearing larger than a size 12 meant giving up on fashion. In fact, the plus-size demographic, as a whole, has been growing consistently over the years — and with it, the demand for greater options.
Some research has shown that plus-size consumers are actually more willing to spend to cultivate their dream wardrobes than their thin counterparts. Despite the fact that the number of Americans who wear plus sizes is growing, and despite plus-size consumers being willing to spend, the plus-size market at large remains woefully underserved. Of all clothing being produced by major retailers, plus sizes represent just a small percentage. Why is there so little interest in participating in this $18 billion and counting market?
The folks behind PDX Knockout aren’t interested in waiting for a world where people of all sizes are able to express themselves through style with ease. They aren’t waiting for the mainstream to realize that being fat and hating your body do not and should not go hand in hand. Plus-size shoppers are ready for the future of fashion — one that celebrates, rather than hides, our bodies as they are today. The cultural tolerance for exclusion and body negativity by mainstream retailers is rapidly decreasing. PDX Knockout was not just a celebration of body love and killer style, but also, hopefully, a glimpse into the inclusive future of fashion itself.