The fashion-blogging world can often feel like a virtual counterpart to the physical experience of shopping. Stores barrage women with larger-than-life photos of airbrushed models as they peruse racks of clothes that always seem to look better on the pencil-thin mannequins than on their own bodies. Often, online fashion outlets re-emphasize this message by offering a curated view of items from brands that traffic in the idea that beautiful bodies are thin bodies.
While brands continue to spend millions on body-positivity campaigns to respond to consumers tired of Photoshopped images and a narrow view of beauty, L.A.-based fashionista Gabi Gregg promotes self-acceptance by living it.
Gregg, known as GabiFresh, started her fashion blog in 2008. By 2012, it had turned into a much more serious endeavor. At the time, Gregg didn’t have any full-time fashion-blogger role models to follow. She didn’t feel that the industry took fashion bloggers seriously at the time, either.
“I just knew there was a void in terms of resources for young, plus-size girls and thought starting a blog could be helpful,” Gregg says via email. “I had no idea that it would turn into its own job.”
Now, Gregg has 11,000 followers on Twitter and almost 300,000 on Instagram. But the beauty blogger does more than produce content for her blog and social media. Four years ago she launched a swimwear line; the latest collection was so hotly anticipated that its release momentarily crashed the website Swimsuitsforall.com.
Gregg teamed up with that brand to create a limited-edition collection of swimsuits geared toward plus-size shoppers. With the tagline “Let the beach be your palace,” the collection centers around a regal theme. In a promotional photo, Gregg sits on a gold throne with a gold staff in her hand. Another shot shows her standing on a raised platform with staff in hand, gazing into the distance like a queen surveying her kingdom.
Everything from street style to movie stills inspired Gregg’s design process for the collection. Each sketch revolved around a design that “hasn't been done before” in the plus-size fashion world.
“I always try to push myself to do something new and different, because as a consumer that's what I want to buy,” Gregg says. “I try to make each suit a statement piece. This year we also expanded cup sizes to include H cups, which was really important to me.”
When she’s not working on her own designs, Gregg makes sure to get involved with other brands trying to offer more options to plus-size shoppers. Last year, she partnered with Target to provide feedback on the company’s plus-size brand Ava & Viv. She also modeled for the autumn/winter lookbook for ASOS Curve.
In her writing, Gregg doesn’t shy away from using terms that people might consider insensitive or even degrading. Case in point: the #fatkini movement. In 2012, Gregg wrote a blog post in which she shared photos of herself in a two-piece during a trip to Vegas. In the post, she exclaims: “I wore a vintage-inspired black-and-white striped one from SimplyBe that makes my enormous boobs look even bigger but I don’t care — I loved the pattern too much to pass it up!” She urged her readers to embrace their own bodies and enjoy the season. “As always, I truly encourage you guys to get to the beach (or a pool) this summer — don’t let body shame keep you from having a good time!”
Titled “Fatkini 2012,” the blog post sparked a social media movement in which women shared photos of themselves in bikinis. The photos were a collective rebellion, a refusal to follow fashion rules that try to limit women with specific body types to specific clothing items.
“I cannot take credit for coming up with the word fatkini — that was already circulating in the community,” Gregg wrote. “I popularized it because I had a large following, and so when I used it in my blog post it started to spread quickly.”
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The tongue-in-cheek term brazenly embraces a word used against many plus-sized women in a malicious manner. But to Gregg, the word can only have power if you give it some.
“Part of my blog has always been body positivity, and even when I started it in 2008 I was comfortable describing myself as fat in a neutral way (my blog was originally called Young, Fat and Fabulous),” Gregg says. “Once you take the stigma out of the word, you realize it loses its power to make you feel badly — it's like, yeah, I'm fat ... and what? Who cares? It's just an adjective.”
Gregg owes a lot of her confidence to her readers. Connecting with people on her blog and through social media proved integral to Gregg’s defiant attitude and self-acceptance.
“I think the Internet is so amazing because it gives marginalized communities a chance to connect and make friends with other people like themselves that they may never have had a chance to meet in real life," Gregg says. "It makes us feel less alone and it gives us a collective voice; that's really powerful.”