Meet Four Portland Designers Blazing the Trail of Plus Size Fashion

Our city’s plus size fashion scene comes into its own.

By Eden Dawn Photography by Christopher Dibble Styled by Abibat Durosimi July 12, 2016 Published in the August 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Both Keri (left) and Coco wear Copper Union Regina wrap dress, $178

Left: LAB Frannie Collar necklace ($120) and Ten2Midnight Studios amethyst earrings ($40), at Amelia

Right: Travel By Sea triangle earrings, $28 at Union Rose

It took 52 years for Sports Illustrated to put a plus size model on the cover of its celebrated (infamous?) swimsuit edition. But in February of this year, size-16 brunette bombshell Ashley Graham brought the sexy, big time, stepping into a space previously graced by magnificent mononyms like Gisele and Tyra and making it her own. Simultaneously, Portlander Beth Ditto put out her first eponymous line of cool jumpsuits and sexy high-waisted pencil skirts—with sizes ranging from 1X to 3X—to rave reviews from the likes of Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily.

It may come as a shock to some in the size-obsessed fashion world, but for the millions of American women who shop the plus size racks—as well as a handful of determined locals who’ve been championing a design movement here—it’s about damn time. Portland has proudly carved out a body-positive style home for all, from Fat Fancy’s longtime vintage and modern boutique to Size Queen’s sassy doughnut-print crop tops and clothing designer Alyson Clair’s lookbooks, boasting models size 2 to 20 standing—gasp!—side by side. Meet four designers helping to blaze the trail.

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Left: Amelia Sylvan dress, $133 at Amelia; Melamosey Half Moon necklace, $62 at Union Rose

Right: Copper Union Regan shirt dress, $248 at Copper Union; Ten2Midnight Studios textured cuff, $60 at Amelia

On Left: Amelia 

Designer: Amelia Blakeman
Size Run: XS–3X

On owning one of the first shops to carry “straight” and plus sizes: “If designers are making those sizes, I want to see if customers want them. And if I carry those sizes, then maybe designers will start making them. Boutiques just need to try. The inclusion of models in larger sizes in fashion shows and shoots this past year has been really good. It makes people feel there’s room for them to be part of Portland fashion. And that’s what it’s about—making visible space for people in the indie fashion community.”

On Right: Copper Union

Designer: Claire Doody
Size Run: 12–30

On why we need plus size designers: “There is a major lack of fashion-forward, modern, well-constructed plus size clothing. We focus on two core values: fit and fabric. Just because we have more curves doesn’t mean we want to cover them in tent-like pieces made out of cheap-quality fabrics. Plus size women and men have money to spend, but there just aren’t enough choices. I’ll make my pieces in standard sizes as a special order, but it is important to me to be known as a plus size designer because that is my passion.”

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Left: Bodysuit ($49) and Scuba skirt ($50) at Chubby Cartwheels; Melamosey studs ($38) and necklace ($42) at Union Rose

Right: Hubris Teri dress, $136 at Union Rose; Barrow custom necklace at

On Left: Chubby Cartwheels

Designer: Shawna Farmer
Size Run: 1X–5X

On the phrase “plus size”: “I like it, and have been describing myself as plus size since I can remember. I don’t think we should get rid of it. It feels like it’s taking away the experience of the plus size person, saying we don’t need to label, that we are all ‘just people.’ And we are, but someone who is plus size has had a specific experience in life, and taking that away is like not acknowledging it. It has made me who I am today: the person who lives to make fashion for others like herself.”

On Right: Hubris

Designer: Rita Hudson-Evalt
Size Run: XS–3X 

On design motivation: “My line started because I was working at a boutique, and literally nothing in the shop fit me. I felt left out of such a huge part of my own life. I began noticing when groups of ladies shopped there was always that one—the friend who only looks at jewelry, and never bothers to look at the clothing racks, who waits and holds her skinnier friend’s purse and watches as she comes out of the dressing room twirling and gushing about the ‘must-have’ dress. I was honestly tired of being and seeing the purse-holding friend.”

Models: Keri Atkins & Coco Madrid  |  Hair & Makeup: Abibat Durosimi/Tabiba Styles

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