On July 28th and 29th the city of Atlanta was set ablaze as the 2017 #TCFStyleExpo embarked upon the city to once again show that curvy bodies reign supreme. Created by the fabulous Marie Denee of the popular The Curvy Fashionista blog, this year’s event held at Atlanta’s Cobb Galleria Centre was the biggest and best one yet!
The celebration of plus size women that we currently see today was practically unheard of 15 to 20 years ago, even 10 years ago things were very different for women who didn’t fit into the often unrealistic standards of beauty thrust upon us by society. Fortunately, things have changed for the better and women who have beautiful, voluptuous bodies are finally being celebrated in the mainstream media. With several plus size bloggers, influencers, fashion designers, models and events, you can now find endless ways to celebrate your curves.
Created in 2014, one such event is the #TCFStyleExpo (The Curvy Fashionista Style Expo), which combines education, shopping and entertainment into a two-day expo where beautiful, plus size women and men can celebrate themselves while encouraging others. This year there were panels, workshops and brunches that highlighted various resources to educate and empower business owners, bloggers and entrepreneurs within the plus size community. The entertainment included a collection of fashion shows, live performances, crowd participation activities and guest speakers. However, for the true fashionistas it was all about the shopping, as there were dozens of vendors on hand showcasing their fashion and accessories specifically designed for the plus size fashionista. The big and tall men were also heavily represented this year and highlighted the struggles that men face in the big and tall fashion industry and how that is starting to change thanks to recent efforts.
We spoke with event creator Marie Denee prior to this year’s event to get her thoughts on how much it’s grown in such a short time, what she hopes to bring to it in the future, how she got started in the industry and more.
Hello Beautiful: When/Why did you decide to become a plus size blogger & start your website The Curvy Fashionista?
Marie Denee: “I actually finished my MBA in 2008 in Marketing and in finishing that my goal was to open up a plus size boutique. So, I started the blog as this journey to [opening the boutique,] that was the impetus. [On] March, Friday the 13th 2009 I lost my job and I was like ‘what am I gonna do?’ Luckily enough I was surrounded by some really amazing women who knew my dream and my vision and they pushed me to go for it. So, within a week of losing my job I had business cards printed up, one of my girlfriends took me to the 100 Black Women of San Francisco and I just started networking. It was the perfect time for me to [get out there] and I haven’t looked back since.”
HB: Why did you decide to start The Curvy Style Expo?
MD: “Many years back I had gone to Shecky’s and they never had plus size stuff, I shared these thoughts with my cousin who [told me to] do my own plus size stuff and I was like ‘nah, man that’s not in the vision.’ A year or so later I had a vision about it, but it was scary, the undertaking of it. So, when I was getting ready to move here [Atlanta] my cousin was like ‘we’re doing this’ she got it together over the weekend and by that Monday she had a game plan for me and said ‘this is how we’re gonna do it.’ So my cousin is the one who kinda pushed me to make it happen, kinda believed in me before I believed in myself.”
HB: What are your future plans for The Curvy Style Expo?
MD: “You know, I would love to have an awards element added, love to do more of concert element, I would love to see the inclusion of many more brands, so next year we’re gonna start those conversations to include those different brands that have never vended.”
HB: As a plus size influencer, what do you think of the current state of the plus size fashion industry? Are there still changes that need to be made, if so what do you think they are?
MD: “So I think we’ve come a long way, but we still have room to grow. I think that when brands that carry plus size actually advertise it on their [web]site, when we stop having ‘firsts’…when you compound black and plus size, those who are making the headlines right now [in plus size fashion], you don’t see too many black, plus size women that are making headlines in the same way as like the Ashley Grahams and the Tess Hollidays. Gabi [Fresh] has been the most visible, but even then, you don’t see many black [plus size] models get the same attention. I think when the conversation stops centering around weight loss and more of ‘living my best me.’ I think mainstream media needs to understand and respect that there has been a whole community and movement around body positivity, which originated within the plus size world, it’s being kind of commodified, it’s like a catch phrase, but where is the diversity? I’m still pitching that to vendors, like ‘I need a plus girl and I need a woman of color. I make a conscientious effort to feature women of color when I’m doing round-ups.”
HB: How do you think social media has impacted the plus size fashion industry?
MD: “Social media helped advanced the growth of plus size fashion. It gave us women who didn’t have a voice a place to gather with other like-minded women, we found our crew, we found our people and by doing that it has collectively given us the space to push back and challenge and say ‘no, this is not who we are,’ ‘we are ‘this’’ and ‘this is who I am and I’m fine with who I am.’ So I think social media and its continual growth has birthed a voice to this industry.”
HB: What are some of your favorite plus size brands, who’s in your closet?
MD: “Girl you gon’ get me in trouble (laughs.) So, it ranges, right? So, I have Carmakoma, Simply BE, City Chic, um, Monif C, Rachel Roy, some JC Penney, some Fashion to Figure, some ELOQUII, Chic and Curvy, it’s a variety.”
HB: Give me your 5 Must-Have Summer Pieces.
MD: “Everyone needs a maxi dress. With sleeves or without sleeves, everyone needs a maxi dress. Aside from the maxi dress, you need a fun, flirty, swingy dress. Definitely some lightweight jeans, I happen to like both skinny jeans and cuffed jeans, Definitely that white tee or tank and then some fun sneakers and/or sandals because everything in the summer is real laid back and relaxed.”
HB: What do you have coming up to close out this year and upcoming in 2018?
MD: “Ooh, I don’t know if I can tell you yet! Some fun surprises [are in store.] You gotta stay tuned, stay tuned to The Curvy Fashionista!”
Check out some photo highlights from the event BELOW:
Marie Denee on the red carpet.
Marie Denee and Natasha Eubanks of YBF.
Style Has No Age panel.
Marie Denee introducing the Rise of Big & Tall Fashion panel.
Actor Daniel Franzese (Damien in Tina Fey‘s 2004, ‘Mean Girls‘) on The Rise of Big & Tall Fashion.
Finalists for the Finding Ashley Pageant hosted by Ashley Stewart, Inc.
Pretty Big Movement Dance Performance.
Big Impact Beyond The Runway panel.