Fashion isn’t about the body; it’s about the attitude. In this week’s edition of Campus Chic, our muse of the week and fifth year English and Chicano studies double major, Joanna Villegas, shares her journey to becoming the strong, confident and full-figured woman she is today.
Now, I can go on and on about how we need to love ourselves and embrace all of our flaws, but how exactly do we do that when society tells us we’re never good enough? I might be stating the obvious with that contention, but working at a fashion magazine in New York City made the exclusion of plus-sized women in fashion all the more real to me. Despite having a spread in the magazine targeted specifically towards the everyday plus-sized woman, I clearly remember the design director scoffing at the idea of supporting “fat women” and claiming that the feature has “absolutely nothing to do with fashion.”
I don’t know about you, but it’s definitely time for a change because I’m sick and tired of seeing stick-skinny models walking on every runway at every fashion show. Wear what makes you feel good—what makes you feel “powerful.” Perhaps it’s a bold print or your favorite shade of red? Perhaps it’s a killer pair of wedge heels or sky-high knee-length boots? Whatever it may be, step out of your comfort zone and try things you’ve always wanted to wear! Remember, fashion is about taking risks and channeling a stronger, more confident and unstoppable you.
James’ Notes: Dress for the ’90s? Yes, please! Break out those flared bell-bottoms, rock that neon windbreaker and wrap that flannel around your waist because the ’90s are back and chic-er than ever. With all this buzz over blue collar boots for the white collar worker, I’m predicting fashion’s next biggest thing will be overalls. Hell yeah.
1. If you could describe your personal style in three words, what would they be?
Comfortable and constantly changing.
2. Who or what is your style icon?
I can’t say that I have a particular style icon — or ever did. In the past two years, since I transferred to UC Davis, my style has been constantly evolving. There are fat and fabulous women on Tumblr that have encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and I find myself wearing something outside of my former comfort zone everyday to see if I like it and how it makes me feel. The queer community was extremely helpful in improving my perception of self and fashion became a tool of resistance against the standards of beauty I used to think I had to meet.
3. What are your three must-have items in your wardrobe?
Leggings, dark blue jeans and tank tops/camis. I feel like these are the basics and you can dress these up or accessorize them as much as you’d like.
4. What is your favorite accessory and why?
I love big earrings and I love scarves. I don’t know if I could pick a favorite!
Earrings and scarves are close to your face and people immediately notice them when they greet you. These accessories can make a memorable statement about you. For example, I have a lot of earrings with spikes, that I feel in many ways characterize my fearlessness as a fat queer chicana femme.
5. Where do you love to shop and why?
I mainly shop at thrift stores now. They’ve proved good for accessories, but since they don’t always have plus-size clothing, I also make the occasional trip to Torrid or the Forever 21 (small) plus-size section. I always go to clearance racks first. It’s nothing new to say that there is a limited amount of options for plus-size folks. There have been improvements over the last few years which is nice because I don’t feel I should need to change my body in order to find clothing that properly fits and appeals to my taste.
6. What is your most treasured item in your wardrobe?
I bought a maroon plaid shirt at the beginning of this quarter and it has become my favorite thing to wear! I bought this shirt around the same time I chopped off my hair. That shirt has become a marker for all the changes in my style and gender presentation.
7. How has your style changed since high school?
Coming from a low-income background, a lot of the clothes I had growing up was either handed down or picked for me based on the price. It wasn’t until about junior year of high school — probably around the time I started working — that I was able to pick some things for myself. I do acknowledge though that my parents would let me choose my shoes growing up, regardless of the price. It was the one thing I had a lot of freedom with because my mother grew up having torn shoes, in some cases sharing shoes with her siblings, for most of her childhood and it was a very traumatic experience for her. Needless to say, I had no space to build my own wardrobe. When I did have the chance, there were a lot of body size issues that wouldn’t let me feel comfortable in certain articles of clothing. Now, I feel comfortable with my body and feel comfortable in practically anything. Right now I’m loving clothing with mesh.
8. What does fashion mean to you?
I’m having a hard time with this question because I don’t consider myself a fashion trendy person. When I think FASHION I imagine extremely thin people and models with class privilege — no one I will ever resemble and by no means am aspiring to resemble. So I guess fashion has become an act of resistance; it gives you the opportunity to outwardly express yourself and have people perceive you the way you want to be perceived. Others might try and police you, but at the end of the day, you will present the way that feels best for you.
9. How do your queer and Chicana identities play a role in creating your personal style?
As a Chicana, I have become politically conscious and culturally aware. It is through this personal growth that I was able to see myself in a positive way. It is through this growth that I can now celebrate my fat, brown body and appreciate it as it is. It is through this growth that I am able to tell others openly that I am queer — that I am able to acknowledge resilience as a skill. I have altered my perception of self by deconstructing the oppressive thinking that lived within me — the oppressive thinking I learned as a child and continue hearing as I navigate new spaces.
10. What final tips can you give to our fashion-forward readers?
I often hear different people say that a certain article of clothing wouldn’t look nice on them or a certain shade looks bad on them. I think I want to ask those people to give it a chance. If there is something that you have admired on someone else, something that has caught your attention, and you’ve caught yourself wishing you could wear that, give it a chance. It’s refreshing to get out of your comfort zone sometimes. If you fear being mocked, ridiculed or shamed, you might be holding back for a valid yet wrong reason. I only say that because I took so long to 1) appreciate my body, and 2) wear clothes that look fabulous on me — colors that look lovely on me — because I was so scared of what others will say about me or to me.