Within the fashion business, street-style photos are used for idea generation and shoot preparation. Outside of the industry, women look to them for inspiration and styling ideas. They might seem frivolous, but they have a real impact on how we visualize what is stylish. Yet the world of street style is unfailingly thin and white, and those involved in producing the pictures — from photographers to influencers to editors — say they can’t find an easy solution to what’s become an obvious problem.
That’s why Kellie Brown started And I Get Dressed, an Instagram account dedicated to showcasing good street style on all sorts of bodies. Brown, an influencer in her own right, swears by the motto “All women can be inspired,” and by carefully curating a size-inclusive Instagram of stylish women, she’s proving that inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone.
Below, Brown talks to the Cut about street style and diversity.
What made you start And I Get Dressed?
I started the account a couple years ago after noticing how segregated Instagram was. On the one side there were street-style accounts, and on the other side were black girl accounts or fat girl accounts. While I understand the need for places where people feel visible and recognized, I kept wondering if there was a place where style wasn’t segregated.
What if street style was just what’s fly, and it didn’t matter what size the person was? Like a size 14 or 24 girl looking stellar next to a girl who’s a 6 or an 8 or a zero, with black girls, white girls, Asian girls, Latin girls, and everything in between. It wouldn’t be about what you are. It would be more about what you’re wearing.
What were your initial goals with the account?
In the beginning, I was trying to create a more elevated space for plus-size fashion, as well as an inclusive space where everybody can look at everybody and be inspired. I have plenty of skinny followers who are like, “I’m not plus size, but I follow you because I love how you dress or I like your personality” — that kind of thing. And in the same way, I follow accounts of people who are thin, not because I’m body-worshiping them but because I am curious about how they mix blue and green together or wear polka dots. People will click “like” on a skinny girl, and they’ll click “like” on a fat girl, and they’ll click “like” on this really cool outfit.
It’s interesting that you use the word “elevated.” It comes up often when we’re talking about plus-size fashion. Why is that?
I think it comes from history. For so long, plus-size clothing has skewed older and the trends have been dumbed down because the brands are making assumptions about what plus-size women want. When you’re skinny, you’re allowed to have Ralph Lauren and be preppy. You’re allowed to be in Acne and be cool and wear clothes with a downtown vibe. You’re allowed to have all these different personalities. But plus-size fashion brands tend to treat plus-size women as one breed.
Things have moved in a better direction in the last few years, but for a long time, brands assumed plus-size women didn’t want to mix prints, or wear bright colors, or even be seen at all. The need for elevation stems from the fact that there’s a lot of bigger people who love fashion. We’re not all waiting to lose weight before we purchase clothes. We’re not all looking to hide.
Some people in mainstream fashion seem to believe that plus-size style has nothing to do with their world — that it’s a separate universe. What would you say to someone like that?
I always make the comparison to an interior designer. Interior designers can be skinny or fat, but what matters is that they understand color, proportion, textures, placement. All these things apply when you’re getting dressed. And it’s not like if you’re bigger in your body that your brain suddenly doesn’t work in that creative space. So just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m not talented. And what I’m good at is understanding colors, proportions, patterns, textures, and style.
And what would you say to street-style photographers whose photographs lack diversity?
Fat women are blatantly ignored. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked down the street and been shoulder-checked by a man walking clear into me. It’s like if you’re not their preference or something, they don’t even see you. And because street-style photographers are trained to shoot a certain aesthetic, they’re not even looking at that fat girl’s clothing. They just see that she’s bigger and automatically erase her from their mind. They’re not dissecting her the way that they might a skinny girl who’s walking down the street, to say, “Well, she’s wearing the this bag, and that’s popular, so I should shoot her.”
That’s what I like about the And I Get Dressed Instagram. It’s curated by me, with photos held to a high standard that’s solely about style. I want people to just go to the account and be like, “I need an idea for what to wear today. Oh, wait, that girl did polka dot shirt with khaki pants and it actually looks super cute! I’m going to try that.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.