Liz Black has been a voice in the industry creating and holding space for plus size bodies in the fashion industry for over 10 years. Ahead of our long awaited plus size launch, we consulted with writer and brand consultant Liz Black to help guide us into embracing the plus sized community. Liz’s blog P.S It’s Fashion aims to bring visibility to the plus size community specifically in the fashion industry. She has been writing about the industry since 2007, and you might be familiar with her work in Glamour, Fashionista, Bustle, or Refinery29. We chatted with Liz to learn more about her work and the space she is helping create for plus sized people in the industry.
T&S: Can you tell us about how you fell in love with fashion and what your journey was like entering into the industry? What are you doing now, and what legacy do you aspire to leave in the industry?
LB: I fell in love with fashion at a young age, mainly with dreams of being a designer. I used to love sketching out designs, and even wrote a fan letter to Betsey Johnson when I was in middle school - which, full circle moment, she teared up when I told her about it during a phone interview years ago. After getting a degree in psychology I attempted to attend FIT, but quickly realized that I had no previous sewing or drawing skills and was competing against people who had been training for years for their interview.
Disappointed but unwilling to give up, I leaned on a skill I knew I already possessed, writing, and began a fashion blog in 2007 (not the same blog I write now). I took on multiple unpaid internships, which allowed me to network, eventually leading to paid publications and attending events, including NYFW.
I wrote for The Huffington Post and City Magazine, and pitched myself to Refinery29, as they liked to appear very inclusive, but at that time barely ever included plus coverage. I created a role for myself, and began regularly writing for them in 2012, covering many exciting moments in plus and “size inclusive” fashion, including the first plus fashion shows at NYFW and LFW, brand size expansions, trend coverage, and personal essays where I transparently discussed body image and sartorial struggles.
Currently I still have my blog P.S. It’s Fashion, but I’ve been focusing more on consulting and content for brands. I’ve worked as a fashion copywriter on the side for years (gotta have something steady to pay those bills), and that’s really been so helpful during these last two extremely challenging years. The death of both my parents and the pandemic have certainly changed my priorities and my approach to everything, including how much of myself I am willing to devote to my career. Without getting too therapy-session about it, I essentially have decided to have a work/life balance that is actually more life-focused.
Although I do hope to write a book or two eventually, I’ve learned over the last few years that life is extremely unpredictable and we’re ever evolving. Regardless of what the future holds for me career-wise, I know so much of what I’ve already accomplished has helped the industry become more inclusive, has helped bring a voice to a marginalized group, has helped so many people accept their bodies and stop waiting on their weight to wear what brings them joy.
T&S: How are plus-sized bodies commonly identified in the fashion industry and how does it differ from reality?
LB: Too often people are classified as a “plus size” model when they don’t typically wear plus sizes. It definitely distorts peoples’ views, and exacerbates body dysmorphia, but it’s unsurprising in such a thin-obsessed industry. This is why I and so many other plus size people have encouraged brands and designers to work with visibly plus size models. In reality, the average US woman wears a size 16, which is still poorly reflected in fashion, especially high-end designers.
T&S: As a plus-size woman, how do you self-identify within the landscape of fashion and how do you want to be addressed? Is it time to retire the term plus-sized altogether?
LB: Whenever I’m asked about retiring the term “plus size” I always wonder if the same question would be asked about “petite” or “tall”. Since I’ve never seen anyone encouraging “drop the petite” I assume not. People wanting to get rid of “plus size” are being motivated by their inner fatphobia, because until the ENTIRE fashion industry is completely inclusive (which would essentially mean custom sizing as there could be no size cap) then we will need a term to define that size group, just like petite or tall.
Personally I self-define as fat and plus size. It took me a long time to be comfortable referring to myself neutrally as fat, and I know it’s still a challenging descriptor for many, but I encourage anyone who cringed at my use of it to reflect on their fatphobia and question why being “fat” is such an awful thing to them. Accepting that I am fat and neutrally using that as a descriptor has truly helped me embrace and appreciate my body for what it is.
T&S: How do you show up for yourself and affirm space in an industry that often writes you out of the narrative?
LB: When I started out I was typically the biggest woman in every room. I stood out at parties and was often treated as if I didn’t belong. But I never wanted to blend in with them anyway. For a good portion of my career I had fire engine-red hair, wore bright colors, mixed prints, and tried so many trends that I had been told all my life weren’t for me. I stood out and they couldn’t ignore me, they couldn’t avoid the difficult conversations about fatphobia and sizeism in the industry.
I learned quickly to act as if I belonged even when I saw faces that questioned my existence, and that confidence and the kind approach I took in networking proved me well. I’ve had multiple amazing opportunities come to me simply because people appreciated that I’ve treated them well and not taken on some snobbish role that so many people have in the industry. Being nice will get you much further than being rude.
T&S: Personally, how do you flip the narrative that plus-size bodies aren't sexual and don't deserve to be celebrated? What advice do you have for other curvy people who want to embrace their bodies and sexuality more?
LB: I think curvy bodies are innately sexualized by society and are often considered the standard for archetypal feminine sexuality. Conversely, I definitely feel that plus size/fat bodies are often discounted from that narrative however, unless they conform to an exaggerated hourglass figure. It can be challenging to embrace physical aspects that the media constantly encourages us to alter, but life is too damn short to be spent hating your looks. Finding love and acceptance for myself on a non-aesthetic level first eventually helped me embrace my aesthetics as well. Also, having a supportive partner who thinks I’m stunningly hot at every shape and size has certainly helped my body acceptance journey as well.
T&S: How are you styling your new T&S pieces?
LB: Outside of the obvious in the bedroom, I have a good friend’s bachelor party in July, so I’m eager to show them off either under a sheer top or with something low-cut enough so that some of the embroidery is visible.
You can learn more about Liz, her work and the mark she is making on the fashion industry by catching her blog at P.S. It’s Fashion or following her on Instagram. Grab some popcorn, the blog features some great reads!