Model Tess Holliday is highlighting the hypocrisy in the fashion industry after a whimsical strawberry dress went viral on TikTok — months after she was criticized for wearing the exact same dress to the Grammys. Here, she tells TMRW why it's important to acknowledge the bias plus-size women face in fashion and throughout their lives. She also shares details about her new collection of gender-neutral streetwear, the Eff Your Beauty Standards x Fashion To Figure collection, created to support The Trevor Project, which helps LGBTQ youth in crisis.
I found Lirika (Matoshi), the designer, on Instagram a little over a year ago. I reached out to her and said, "Hey, do you make plus sizes? Because I love your pieces." I wasn’t really expecting to hear back because typically designers aren’t really excited to dress someone my size. To my surprise, she messaged me back right away.
I ended up wearing (the strawberry dress) to the Grammys. I felt so beautiful. I honestly felt like a princess.
It wasn’t until I was checking my phone and all these sites were posting my look and having their followers rate my look, and almost everyone hated it. It was literally just thumbs down across the board.
(Recently) one of my friends told me, "Hey, your strawberry dress is all over the internet." She sent me a link to Twitter, where this woman had said, "I find it ironic that Tess Holliday wore this dress months prior, but no one cared until slender-framed folks on TikTok had worn it."
I wasn’t upset that I didn’t make it popular. I didn't care that I was the first person to wear it and I didn't get recognition. What upset me was the erasure of fat and plus-size bodies that are never seen as trendy or stylish in the fashion industry and overall. I looked great in the dress. I know I looked great in the dress.
What upset me was the erasure of fat and plus-size bodies that are never seen as trendy or stylish in the fashion industry.
Societally, we have such an issue with fat bodies. I have never had a tweet (see above) retweeted more in my entire career. I hope that that helps people be more aware of what it is like to be a fat woman in the fashion industry or in general. We have to do so much as plus-size women. We are always seen as less than. We are taught in society that in order to be successful, to be loved, to be valued, to be seen, you have to be thin, usually Caucasian and able-bodied.
When you see someone like me, or even Lizzo and what she has been put through in her career, you see how much people hate fat bodies, especially when they are successful. They think, "Well, that doesn't make sense. How are they fat and how are they happy? I don't understand." It threatens their ideals. And I love it, honestly.
We should be able to look how we want and present ourselves in the world in what we feel good in.
I wanted to create clothing that people could wear and feel good in that was gender neutral. When Fashion To Figure came to me, we had a long talk and I realized they were on board with what I wanted to do. They only went up to size 3X and I said, "Hey, if you want to do this, you need to expand to 4X." And they did it! Now I'm hoping we'll be able to expand to 5X.
I really love streetwear because that’s what I wear daily — especially now. The irony has (hit me) that I dropped a sweatsuit line during a pandemic. This was supposed to launch a year ago, so it was an accident. But I thought that was pretty funny!
I also wanted to help an organization that aligned with Eff Your Beauty Standards. The collaboration was created to support The Trevor Project and the life-saving and life-affirming work they do for LGBTQ youth. I’m really excited to be able to do this to help raise money for them because now more than ever they need our support. It's just been one thing after another for our youth, and if I can help somebody feel a little less alone, that’s all I really care about.
As told to Rheana Murray. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.