Mallorie Dunn is part of Oxygen’s digital series In Progress 52. In 2016, Oxygen's Very Real digital hub is featuring 52 of these outstanding women: that's one woman a week, for 52 weeks. Check out the series here!
I am privileged. On a lot of levels. I’m a white woman who is thin, yet still has curves “in the right places” (thanks, Meghan Trainor!) I have a symmetrical face, healthy hair, clear skin – all the makings of someone who is socially attractive. In fact, people have paid me to model their clothing. I’m cis gendered and identify as heterosexual. I am not attempting to brag – none of these things are aspects I personally value highly – I’m just stating facts. I have all of this privilege – and here’s the important statement – I know it.
Beyond my physical privilege, I am also privileged by having a supportive family, by growing up in a healthy environment, by being able to get an education, and by possessing certain talents and skills. I could take all of those things about myself -- facts and circumstances alike -- and choose to only help myself. I’ve actually been told to do so in the past. I’m often addressed with my appearance as everyone’s first comment, and not much coming after that. And it’s a shame. Not because I am not flattered when people are kind, but because I have a lot more important things to offer.
I grew up not thinking much about my appearance at all; I thought about my clothes (hey 9th grade Best Dressed Award!), but I used clothing for self expression, not status; I wore handmade creations, not labels. I saw myself as a nerd, an academic student, someone who planned on using their brains and talents to go far. But when I moved to NYC over 10 years ago, I quickly learned how much your appearance was valued and discussed above all.
I also noticed an overwhelming negativity that the majority of women and women-identifying individuals have for themselves. I found myself sitting in groups of people and hearing a body shaming circle of self hate begin and swirl into a downward spiral. Amazing, talented, inspiring, intelligent, hilarious people – downplaying their own worth because of their thighs, their stretch marks, their acne... and I was angry.
I wasn't angry at them – I was angry at society. We are not born hating ourselves, we are taught that hatred. We are taught – subconsciously – by everything we see, that we should constantly be trying to reach unachievable goals. Goals like perfect skin, airbrushed waist lines, hourglass ratios, and toned muscles. And that unless we reach them, we will never truly be good enough.
I began breaking down those advertisements, movies, TV shows – where were the people of color, where were the disabled, where were the plus size people? I saw diversity in my subway car, but not in the media I consumed -- so I sought to change it. I took this and paired it with the fashion education I had received, and the knowledge that almost everyone I know complains about finding clothing that fits properly. I thought, if I could create clothing for everyone and also depict everyone accurately in my own media, I could chip away at the in the media I consumed. So I sought out to change the awful, negative lessons we have been taught all this time. With that, I created SmartGlamour, a body positive customizable clothing line for women size XXS-6X and beyond.
Seeing someone that looks like you is powerful – especially when you've never seen it before – it helps you unlearn that your body is wrong. I receive emails from women who cry tears of joy just by browsing my website. I've had people well up while trying clothing on in my pop up shops. Once, one woman came up to me and say “I'm 40 and I've never shown my arms – I figured this was a safe place to start.”
It is a safe place – SmartGlamour is a community where everyone is not only welcome but celebrated; where runway shows have people of all sizes, shapes, weights, heights, ethnicity, ability, and identity strutting their stuff.
I always knew I would never design a clothing line then only sell it to a fraction of women. And now that I make clothes for everyone, I am always asked what kind of magic I employ to take my designs into plus size. It is not magic or design tricks that allow me to design clothing for all women - it’s knowledge and care. All people come with different sets of proportions. No matter what size you fall under on someone’s chart, your body is unique and it deserves to be treated accordingly. I’m going to keep using my privilege and do just that.
Photo Credits: (1) Yuxi Liu of CreateNYC, (2) Haroon Bhatti, (3-6) SmartGlamour, Mallorie Dunn