Lauren Smith is a body positive influencer in Adelaide, Australia. Below, she shares her experience of working within the fashion industry.
Lauren wears the Kimmy dress in pink.
My sisters had been posting on Instagram seriously for a year or so, and my Mum had been encouraging me to give it a go for quite a while. At the time I didn’t really know of any influencers with bodies over a size 12. The thought of posting posed photos on my Instagram was pretty anxiety inducing, but I searched some hashtags on Instagram and found the insanely gorgeous Latecia Thomas, which helped me find other curvy models and creators. There was this whole (and incredible!) community on Instagram that I never realised existed and that’s what inspired me to start.
I had struggled for so long to find nice clothes that fit me so my goal was, and still is, to show people where they can find stylish & on trend options in their size. It’s not easy to find clothing past a size 14-16, particularly in store. Even now, if I need an outfit last minute, there’s only maybe, three stores in Rundle Mall that I can walk into and find something that will fit, and I can guarantee that it won’t be my ideal piece.
But there are options are out there, especially online! The best directory for inclusive labels is curvy influencers. I wouldn’t have heard of many of my favourite brands if it wasn’t for the plus-size community on Instagram.
What I’ve found most challenging about being a content creator was getting over my own preconceived notions of what I was supposed to look like in order to be successful. The temptation to edit my arms or waist to be smaller, or my butt to be bigger, was huge, and there were a couple of times early on when I gave in to that pressure. I eventually realised that editing the way I look doesn’t help the image I have of myself and it doesn’t help anyone that views what I post. It just means I’m adding to the already unrealistic standards of beauty which is exactly what I was trying to break away from.
Being a content creator has led me down some amazing paths. I’ve met some seriously incredible people and it’s also improved my self-love and self-worth tremendously. Seeing other people that look like me, and putting myself out there in this way, has made me realise how little other people care about the way you look. Yes, you get the occasional troll - it comes with the territory - but the world doesn’t end just because I showed my hip dips on Instagram.
A huge misconception that we must address is that fat = unhealthy or lazy.
We could all eat the same foods, do the same work-out routines, and we would all still have different bodies. There are so many factors that go into why we have the body that we have. I’ve eaten a completely raw diet, I’ve crash dieted, I’ve been vegan, vegetarian, I’ve tried insanely low-calorie diets and sustained them over long periods, and I’ve never been smaller than a 12/14. Now, at a size 20 I am far healthier and stronger. Some bodies just aren’t made to be small, and we need to stop assuming that health and size are always directly correlated.
We just all need to accept that we come in different shapes and sizes.
Lately there’s some great options for feminine and boho styles with great size ranges, but finding good quality clothes in party, grungy or festival styles is almost impossible. There are also so many on trend pieces I’ve seen that I think would look incredible on bigger bodies, but no one makes them for us! Not all larger women want to wear flowy dresses and bold print exclusively. It’s frustrating seeing so many brands stock these amazing clothes with the aesthetic I love, but they only go up to a size 12. I’ll often shoot them a DM or leave a comment asking if they have any plans to expand. It’s important for us to reach out and ask, or to give respectful feedback to brands, and let them know that there is a demand for more sizes. (NB: Lauren is right! Please communicate what you need with brands because it’s only when we know what people want that we can make the right changes! Our emails and DMs are always open to feedback!)
Another huge challenge is finding ethical clothing, especially at an affordable price. We have far fewer options than straight sized women in the slow fashion world. There are brands out there that hit the nail on the head in terms of their ethics - they pay their garment makers a fair price and use sustainably sourced materials, but these clothes generally retail for over $200 and unfortunately many of us often turn to fast fashion counterparts because of the options and price point.
In terms of plus size representation in media, I’ve seen bodies like mine on billboards, ads on YouTube and mum tums on models for bikinis It’s amazing to see the progress when compared to 5-10 years ago, but we still have a long way to go. Most brands are happy to showcase a larger body with an hourglass figure but what about our apples & pears? What about the diversity in traditional media? Where are my chubby weather girls?
The average Australian woman is a size 14-16 and I know that if those sizes (and larger) were represented in the media when I was growing up, I wouldn’t have wasted so many years feeling miserable and wondering why crash diets weren’t helping me look like a Victoria Secret model.
There’s been a few instances lately where I’ve received comments saying I look smaller than a size 20, I can’t be above a 16, or I carry my weight so well. I know these comments are meant to be complimentary but when you boil it down, saying those things, and using them as compliments only implies that smaller is better, and looking thinner is more desirable. Size is just another number, and I have clothes in my wardrobe ranging from a 12 to a 24. Size does not determine your worth.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ll occasionally have people commenting pig emoji’s, or telling me to go to the gym underneath my photos. It’s something I feel like I deal with quite well, the opinion of someone that knows nothing about my life isn’t something that holds weight for me.
However, I have seen some friends on Instagram get a barrage of hate comments and that can really affect someone’s mental well-being in a horrible way. It’s heart breaking to see. If it’s not something that someone can change in 10 seconds, don’t say it. No one has ever lost a substantial amount of weight because a troll on the internet told them they should. Also, telling a plus-sized person that we’re fat isn’t news to us - we know! If you care so much about our health, maybe give some thought to how your comment could affect our mental health.
Straight sized women can support plus-sized women by following and shopping with brands who offer extended sizing. If your money is spent with brands who have more sizes, the money can be used in the right places, and this will hopefully incentivise other brands to expand too. We need to support the brands that make the effort.
Another great thing you can do is to follow a few plus-sized content creators. It supports us, helps diverse bodies break into mainstream media, and there’s also so many things that everyone can learn from these accounts. I hadn’t realised the extent of my own internalised fat-phobia until I’d started engaging with body positive content. It’s important to start breaking down barriers, having conversations, questioning our own narrative and why we think and say the things that we do. Change starts from within and begins at an individual level.
Lauren wears the Kristen dress in white
I work full time outside of Instagram, so most nights after I finish at my day job, I reply to emails, schedule posts and organise outfits I need to shoot and the content I need to create for each brand. I allocate one day a fortnight to shoot my content, which is generally about 14-16 outfits.
On shoot day, we’ll spend the morning steaming clothes and taking whatever photos I can around the house before loading the rest into the car to head out to locations. I’m now an expert at getting changed in the car on a busy street!
I’m beyond lucky that my amazing Mum is also into fashion and is just as committed to my Instagram as I am. She takes almost all of the pictures that you see on my feed. We’re constantly sending each other new Instagram-able cafes, or pictures of random cool buildings, and planning which outfits will work with what.
I have a folder on my phone filled with screenshots of how people have styled certain items, cool camera angles or poses to try out, and I’m always taking inspiration from people I see on the street and asking where they bought what they’re wearing. I’m all about the details, and I feel like paying attention to the little things makes all the difference.
My hair is another thing that plays a huge part on my Instagram and determines what I wear, where I take photos and the presets I use. I’m blessed to have Sheree (from The Little Hair Room) who is such an amazing hairdresser and puts up with me being so picky with my colours!
You just have to dive in head-first and figure it out as you go. The greatest thing about content creation is anyone can do it, you just need a few outfits and a phone. You can turn it into a business or just do it as a fun and creative hobby. Social media can be whatever you want it to be, you just have to commit to putting out the energy you want to get back. Follow accounts that you relate to and that inspire you and soon enough you’ll find yourself embodying that in real life.