Alysse Dalessandro is the designer behind Ready to Stare, a body-positive apparel and accessory brand. With summer approaching, Newcity recently caught up with Dalessandro for her take on why fat is fab.
Summer is almost here and everyone is working hard on their “bikini bod.” Oprah is on Weight Watchers commercials urging folks to get their “best bodies yet.” What is your opinion on people focusing so much on getting thin?
In our society, we equate thinness with happiness and so when someone like me comes along who is a size 3X and is happy, I am breaking the rules by loving myself and not being thin. You don’t have to be thin to be happy. Your body, at whatever size it is, is a bikini bod if you decide to put a bikini on it. My goal is to be a part of the community of individuals fighting against size discrimination and the societal stigma toward fat bodies by showing that my current body is one that I love and my best body yet.
Could you tell me a bit more about your brand, Ready To Stare, and the #ReadyToStareWokeUpLikeDis movement?
Ready To Stare was started in Chicago in early 2012 as a handmade accessory brand of everyday statement pieces. It has evolved into a size-inclusive brand of clothing and accessories in sizes S-5X as well as a corresponding personal style blog called #StareStyle. When I first started the brand, I wanted to create pieces that people could wear to show they aren’t afraid to stand out, but the truth was that I was still afraid of my own visibility. The #ReadyToStareWokeUpLikeDis movement, which I started in 2014, was about me learning to embrace the things that I had always seen before as flaws and inspire others to see that being flawless isn’t the absence of flaws; it’s the absence of fear. This movement had a huge impact on my own self-love journey and the work that I do now in the body-positive community. For this campaign, I featured myself for the first time and wore a pair of short shorts baring the thighs I never thought I would ever show. This inspired others to share their journeys as well.
Now you also run Staretique, dedicated to other indie designers.
Yes! I added Staretique to my e-commerce site as a way for me to further fill the needs of my customers because I realize that there is only so much that I can make with my own two hands. Staretique has allowed me to add plus-size fashion illustrations, metallic skater skirts, sunglasses and so many more items that I am proud to carry. Every designer launched on Staretique back in October of 2015 was someone I had met in person at a show or event that I did with Ready to Stare. I just kept them in the back of my mind until I was able to launch this. The great part is that because they are also independent designers, a lot of them have expanded their size ranges to go up to 5X and they have worked with me to make sure that their size charts align with mine.
When and why did you decide to embrace your body type?
I struggled for years. This had to do with how I felt on the inside and it also affected the way that I felt about myself on the outside. I always say that loving your body is a journey and not a destination. I am happy to be at a point in my self-love journey where I don’t feel the need to hide my body or let other people’s feelings about my body determine how I feel about it.
What is the body-positive community and where can it be found? Are all plus-size models a part of the movement?
I would like to believe that the body-positive community is a group of individuals working toward eliminating size discrimination, promoting self-acceptance and ending the societal stigma against fat bodies. There are writers, designers, bloggers, models, magazine editors and so many more that work toward this mission every day, but not everyone who says that they are body-positive is working toward the same goals—especially when it comes to diversity and representation. There are plus-size models who openly fat-shame and who want to distance themselves from individuals larger than them. Unfortunately those voices are often heard loudest and this is where the movement’s growth has harmed what I believe was its original intention.
Is it OK to describe you as a bigger girl?
Everyone has their own term or terms of choice that they use to describe themselves. Personally, I have a hierarchy. My term of choice for myself is fat. Words have the power that you give them and now the word fat is powerful to me. Fat is a description of my body. Fat does not mean ugly and being fat doesn’t make me ugly or worthless despite how many people still equate the two. When I call myself fat, I am choosing to reclaim the word.
Where do the body-positive and feminist movements intersect?
I believe in intersectional feminism and the discrimination that I face as a fat woman is different than that of a thin woman—just as it’s different than a fat black trans woman. Feminism needs to cover all of the ways in which gender is used as a way to discriminate and police bodies. The way in which that works doesn’t look the same for everyone.
Name your favorite plus-size stores and brands here in Chicago?
Chicago is definitely one of my favorite cities for plus-size boutiques—I love Blair in Wicker Park and Fashionable Addictions now in Oak Park.
How about plus-size personal style blogs, which ones do you like?
This list is so long! I follow so many fellow plus-size bloggers. In Chicago, I love That Hayet Rida and In The Thick of It and Fat Shopaholic. I love wearing the same things as other bloggers because I don’t see us as competition; it really is like a community and we all push each other and make each other great.
There seem to be a lot of fashion rules to “flatter” bigger bodies. Which ones do you break?
If an outfit shows my cellulite or my visible belly outline and it’s an outfit I like, I wear it. I don’t let the way that other people feel about my body determine what I wear and if that makes other people uncomfortable then I hope they take the time to think about what inner fatphobia lives inside of them.
What are you looking forward to wearing this summer?
I am addicted to crop tops and bikinis always, but this summer in particular, I am looking forward to wearing a lot of shorts! I already bought like three pairs and it’s still so cold out.
What would you say to a plus-size person who keeps struggling to have a thinner body?
My best advice is to be kind to yourself. Take the time to realize that learning to love your body isn’t something that happens overnight. But you are not a person in process. You will not magically become happy and worthy when you are thin; you are already beautiful and worthy as you are. You have to learn to find that beauty in yourself.
How can people connect with you?
People can find me on my website, readytostare.com and on Instagram and Twitter as @ReadyToStare.
Styled by Alysse Dalessandro/ Art by Leah Ball of feministasfuck.com/ Photos by Gina Dalessandro and Kristen Strickhouser
Journalist Isa Giallorenzo was born in São Paulo, Brazil and has elected Chicago as her beloved home since 2009. She runs the street-style blog Chicago Looks and wants to see this town become one of the fashion capitals of the world.