Plus size model Tess Holliday talks fashion, body confidence and having a wardrobe malfunction at Vogue

In just four years, Tess Holliday has stormed to the top of the plus size modelling world. She’s starred in campaigns around the globe, became the first plus size model to sign to a mainstream agency and has racked up 1.5 million Instagram followers in the process.

With her #effyourbeautystandards hashtag and size 26, 5ft 3in figure, the 32-year-old is not only a body positivity activist but a fashion icon too – her rockabilly-meets-Rihanna style is an inspiration to her droves of fans.

So when she visited the UK to promote her autobiography, The Not So Subtle Art Of Being A Fat Girl, we sat down with Tess to grill her on her style secrets…

What are you favourite British brands?

I love Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. I love mixing high and low with my fashion. On the more affordable end I love ASOS, I like SimplyBe, Elvi, Navabi… there’s a ton of these brands that are doing really interesting things. I think the UK was doing bold stuff [in plus sized clothing] before we were in the States.

What’s the one item wear more than anything else?

I love accessories. I have probably every pair of Fenty [Rihanna’s brand] shoes that have come out – I love Rihanna, she’s so cool – whether it’s the tennis shoes or the creepers.

What’s a typical ‘going out’ outfit for you?

I’ll usually wear jeans and some kind of crop top, I’m pretty casual. If I have to wear a dress, I usually wear something sheer or over the top. I definitely think you should have fun with fashion and fashion should be a statement.

What are you tips for finding the perfect jeans?

Unfortunately, I think you just have to try jeans on, but some people aren’t in an area with stores, so I think it’s really important to get measured. If your grandma sews, have her do your measurements. I prefer a high rise jean because then I feel more secure and confident in them. I like a skinny cropped leg because they look cute with heels or boots.

Tess and her husband Nick on their wedding day

Tess and her husband Nick on their wedding day (Tess Holliday/PA)

What would you say to people who are struggling to find their own style?

I don’t pay attention to trends, so I say, experiment. If something scares you, try it. Even when I first started modelling I wasn’t quite as comfortable with myself, I felt I had to appear a certain way, so I started experimenting with fashion and wearing stuff that people told me I couldn’t and eventually I figured it out.

Plus size model Tess Holiday modelling a black swim suit

(Warwick Saint/Blink Publishing/PA)

If you could steal one person’s wardrobe, whose would it be?

I would say Rihanna, really, because I dress like her anyway – the fat version! I like that she doesn’t care. Even at her [recent Fenty] beauty launch she didn’t have a bra on. I appreciate people that take risks with fashion.

Have you ever had a wardrobe malfunction in public?

I was at Vogue two weeks ago, meeting with them, and the strap of my shoe broke – so I was pretty bummed about that! They were my favourite pair of heels and I knew they were on the way out. We finished the meeting and the editor said, ‘Can I take a snapshot of you?’ and then my strap broke. You never want your heel to break at Vogue!

The Not So Subtle Art Of Being A Fat Girl: Loving The Skin You’re In is published by Blink Publishing, priced £12.99. Available now.


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