How I Shop: Kellie Brown

Emilee Geist

The influencer, YouTuber, merch designer and founder of #FatAtFashionWeek tells us all about her love of printed dresses and the bucket hat she can’t stop wearing. If you’re not already following Kellie Brown (@itsmekellieb on Instagram)… well, my question is: Why? The multi-hyphenate — influencer, blogger at And I Get […]

The influencer, YouTuber, merch designer and founder of #FatAtFashionWeek tells us all about her love of printed dresses and the bucket hat she can’t stop wearing.

If you’re not already following Kellie Brown (@itsmekellieb on Instagram)… well, my question is: Why? The multi-hyphenate — influencer, blogger at And I Get Dressed, YouTuber, originator of the hashtag #FatAtFashionWeek, merch designer, soon-to-be-podcaster — is consistently putting out some of the most fun, delightful and inspiring content, ranging from fashion (what she’s best known for) to home décor (she moved from New York to L.A. and has been redecorating her new place) to business (let’s get her that design collab!) to self-love (she’s been an advocate for and a respected voice in the plus-size community for years), with plenty of pop culture references and humor sprinkled throughout.

Looking through her feeds, you can tell she’s someone who derives a lot of joy from fashion, never limiting herself to trends or expectations. “I dress how I dress,” Brown tells me, over the phone, in August. “I will have a week where I only wanted to wear preppy outfits, and I could literally never wear any of that again. That’s just how I am. Very Sagittarius.”

Ahead, I caught up with Brown to talk all things shopping — from her go-to stores, her nostalgia-heavy inspirations, her love of bike shorts and the one accessory she can’t stop, won’t stop wearing. (Spoiler: It’s a bucket hat.)

“My personal style is noncommittal. I just like what I like. I definitely appreciate a trend, but I think that I like trends before they’re a trend, you know? That’s what leads me. I like things that I think are cool and that I think are a little bit forward.

“I’ve always been interested in style because my mother was just a really well-dressed woman. Another aunt of mine always was dressed to the nines and just so cool to me. But being a chubby kid and having those initial shopping experiences, where my sister’s thin and I’m not, and at a very early age noticing the disparity between our shopping experiences… I wasn’t even that big of a kid, you know what I mean? It was just like, we’ve only for the last few years had any options, let alone a long time ago.

“I think in high school I came into my own a little bit, just being more experimental and letting outside influences really show up, whether it was music tastes or movies that I was into. That’s when really started taking direct inspiration from the arts and the world around me.

“I circle back to the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, probably the most. I think it’s a lifestyle thing. For the ’70s, I’m so inspired by that decade for home decor, for music, for fashion. I have always liked old music — I think it’s because my dad is a musician. Thinking about those moments or those re-imagined movies, like ‘Almost Famous.’ The entire decade is just inspiring, in terms of art and style. I love the upward mobility of Black people in that time. I like a lot of the strength and the images I see of Black women from that time, specifically.

“For the ’80s, I think it’s just more nostalgic, more being in second grade and wishing that you were a teenager, watching these movies and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Then the ’90s is my actual childhood into teenagey-ness. It’s also nostalgic, but dope and just cool. The ’90s is definitely, I think, more a replay of musical times, TV shows that inspire. I was doing this preppy thing, and it was mostly inspired by this one photo that I saw of Ralph Lauren on a tennis court. I started to caption the first photo, trolling Ralph Lauren — I just imagine him seeing me in this outfit inspired by him being like, ‘What the hell is this?’

“I feel like since moving to California, I’m just a little bit more relaxed. In quarantine, it’s a little less inspiring to really just go off and flex hard. You know? I think when you have places to go and you have this intention of really slaying and want to walk into the room and elicit this like, ‘Damn girl.’

“The first thing when I was moving, everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, your style’s going to change.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m a New Yorker, relax.’ But it’s hot here, so the weather is the number one influence on your style. The ability to layer, the ability to trust a cold day to stay a cold day, because it starts out cold here and then it’s 100 degrees and then it’s cold again… Really, dressing around the weather is a big shift. I’m a big layering person, and that’s out here. I really do love dresses and I’m trying to get a little bit back to wearing more separates, which, I don’t know, for some reason it’s hard for me.

“Then, number two is just the casualness of LA. I think my first six months here, people would literally stop me on the street and be like, ‘You look so nice.’ Or like, I’d be standing on a corner waiting across the street, and some older man and his wife would be like, ‘Going somewhere fun?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m just dressed for the day.’ I wasn’t even wearing anything fancy. But quarantine is different because it’s a real shift I think, in everyone’s approach to getting dressed. Which is like, why wear things with zippers because outside is not available?

“I love dresses, especially anything cotton, jersey, stretchy, comfy, because if I’m in the house all day or only going out to just take a walk or see friends in a safe way, when I’m walking past the mirror, I don’t feel like all shlubby, I feel cute. It takes no effort. It’s just as easy as an ugly T-shirt. Definitely cute dresses that are cozy and soft.

“I have this ASOS dress inspired by Ganni — which, if Ganni would make plus sizes, I don’t even know what I would do. It’s all I want to wear. I feel like that one is a perfect representation of what I love right now. I always love oversized dresses. I love cool prints. But it’s also giving me the ’70s, it’s weirdly mod. It’s a really cool mix of everything I love.

“Then, I love suiting, because I feel like suits — even just your basic black suit, if you work in corporate America — have rarely been available in plus sizes. Now, [there are] fun ones, in colors and prints. I’ve been wearing sneakers with suits and T-shirts for literal years. I’m glad that the world decided that that was cool, because that’s definitely a go-to of mine.

“And bike shorts, probably, which the New York Times probably just ruined. I was laughing, looking at a picture of me in biker shorts from 2014 or something, like, ‘We’ve been doing this. Of course, it’s cool. We love it.’ I’m wearing them right now. I’m literally wearing a sport bra and biker shorts, a blue sport bra and green biker shorts, right this minute. I really love Beyond Yoga’s biker shorts — their 3X is a true 3X. I feel like a lot of brands love to say that they’re inclusive and they go up to a 6X, but you look and the 6X is measured at a size 20. It’s like, really? I like the fit [of Beyond Yoga], I like the comfort — they don’t roll down, they don’t slide down. Then, I have two really plain pairs from Old Navy, randomly, that I’ve had for literal years. I wash them all the time and they’re made out of Teflon or something, I don’t know. They haven’t even budged.

“I think my style for work events and for personal life are very just closely related. Anyone who knows me knows I wear my clothes. I’ve never really believed in that ‘wear it once and toss it’ vibe. If I like it, I really do wear it. There’s been this new conversation around comfortable dressing and bigger people — I really had to do a little self-analyzation on this. Whether we’re always dressing up or especially when you work in the industry, going to events and stuff… My approach to dressing for events would be to be taken seriously, to show these people that I know what I’m doing, to look as good as every thin girl in the room, to be respected and appreciated. Because as a fat person in fashion, I think the respectability aspect is a huge thing. I know that I’m close with a lot of people in the industry and the kickoff to that is, ‘Hey, cute dress.’ And then you start talking. That’s how you build relationships and friendships.

“It’s an interesting dynamic for bigger people working in fashion and having to always look so great. Not even in fashion, just walking on the street — we saw those two women wearing what anyone would call ‘trendy’ on a younger, thinner person and they were made fun of. All of that comes into mind when I’m shopping, just always putting your best foot forward.

“Shopping in stores usually isn’t an option, very honestly. No one carries plus sizes in store, with the exception of, like, the two plus-size retailers that exist. Most of those aren’t my personal top style anyway, so I’m not going in there like, ‘Okay, I need a dress. Let me go into this mass retailer that we all know.’ Online has been it since, wow I can’t even remember. It’s just been the only option. I have sites that I go to, and then in store, really, for me, is when I’m shopping for things that aren’t plus-sized.

“I love going into the Rachel Comey store. She has so many pieces that are generously cut. If something is supposed to be like an oversized dress on a thin person, on me it might be a cool shirt.

“Some of my go-to’s… I go to ASOS pretty frequently. I love 11 Honoré, especially for events or when I’m actually shopping for things that are going to last, more investment pieces.

“There just aren’t many. There’s just not a lot. When you’re plus size, especially not on the cuff — like, I’m not a size 14 — you really do have to be wildly creative to look good. Someone, a thin woman, DM’d me the other day and was just like, ‘Girl, I just got to say… Thin people who dress well, cool, you have every option, good job. Big women who dress well with at least 1% of the resources, it’s so much harder.’ It’s so much harder.

“There are a lot of up-and-coming indie brands. Recently, in my Vogue feature, I wore [a dress by] Loud Bodies. I really am a fan. I think that I have two dresses from them, and I would definitely order more. I like that they go from small to 7X — a true, true 7X. Think about the number of people that that includes. There’s a brand called Zelie For She. She has such dope stuff, but she sells out so quickly. I’m just waiting for someone to invest in her so that she can make larger quantities. Because every single time I try to get something it’s sold out. I’m like, ‘Damn.’

“I definitely have staple accessories. There are two bracelets on my arm that I haven’t taken off since I don’t even remember when and my necklace that I never take off. They’re gifts from my dad over the years. Then I have a lot of piercings in my ears, so most of them, I don’t take off. I only will switch out the first ones to wear a larger earring. I’m not much into necklaces these days with the exception of actual gold chains. Then, I’ve been going absolutely bucket hat crazy. I can’t stop. I don’t know what I’m going to do when someone literally says, just firmly, ‘Bucket hats are not a thing.’ I think I’m still going there. I have this one from Ganni that I literally can’t stop wearing. It’s so comfortable and so easy. It’s green, which is magically this color that goes with everything. Sometimes I don’t even think of it as part of the outfit and I’ll just look at it and I’m like, ‘This goes with literally everything.’ I like hats a lot. I like minimal jewelry and of course bags.

“I wear Tevas religiously. My merch, I wear that all the time. It’s so fun because the whole inception of that was like, all the cool T-shirts that would never, ever come in plus. They only makes T-shirts with foils and, ‘You can do it!,’ versus really cool, art-inspired stuff. Everything that I wanted to wear that didn’t exist, I just put on T-shirts.

“I think of all the graphics and then I will look to a graphic designer. There’s a little rotation of people I work with. I’m so specific because in my mind, I can see it already. Like the bust one that I recently did with a really talented artist named Stephanie, I said, ‘I want a bust, but I want her fat.’ Because all the Roman and Greek busts that we see, they’re always an hourglass or if they’re fat, they’re like not really that. I wanted her to have an Apple shape. I didn’t want her to be like, ‘Oh wow, look at that hip-to-waist ratio.’ Because not all bodies look like that. I wanted her hips to be more narrow, her belly to be larger. I wanted the bust to cut off just so you could see a little hint of a double chin. I was thinking, ‘Okay, I want a pedestal and I want it to look like this.’ Really just finding artists that can transcribe what’s in my mind, is how I do it.

“I’m trying to round up some of my favorite outfits [featuring my merch]. I try to save them when I see them come through. But one of my favorites was a thin blogger, Krystal Bick — she’s epically stylish and a true creative director on her own account. She styled the Boobies shirt with this high-waisted skirt that had the paperbag waist and an asymmetrical button. I thought, ‘Holy cow, this looks so good. So, so, so good.’ Then I saw another girl, a follower, she wore the Fat Icon shirt these printed pants, and I thought, ‘Yes, yes. So, so cute.’ I’m totally going to replicate.

“I try to purge [my closet] every other month. When I let it go too long, it just becomes really intense. Because I’m so unable to function in a disaster, I have to get rid of a lot of stuff all the time. It’s not really necessarily, always that you’re a big shopper — it could be if you’re doing a brand post and you have to feature four outfits for them and they may have sent you the equivalent of 10 outfits. I do a lot of donating and then I also some reselling here and there, but yeah, it requires a lot of management. My purges are ruthless. I’m really just snatching stuff out of the closet, like, ‘Oh, got to go.’ Things that I’m not wearing or that I haven’t worn it in a while or months or that I don’t see myself wearing it a lot. I’ve been good at getting rid of things that I don’t think are comfortable, because I just tend to wear them less with the exception of knowing, like, ‘Okay, you have to keep a couple of these fancier dresses because when things pop up last minute, it’s hard to find anything evening [in plus].’

“I think the best possible thing that happens by sharing yourself in a public way, is anyone taking the positivity that you put into the world and applying it to themselves. If it’s a woman saying that she hasn’t worn a bathing suit in 10 years or someone that doesn’t wear a particular color, just seeing themselves in a more loving way, because me loving myself makes them know that it’s okay to love themselves — that’s the best possible thing.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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