In our revamped monthly series, Styled By, we’re putting the creative reins in the hands of some of our favorite fashionable ladies. Outfitted in the looks they love (and put together!), the influencers take to the streets and give us the scoop on everything from their budding careers to their wardrobe go-tos.
Nicolette Mason is an advocate—plain and simple. But chances are that’s not always how you hear about her. In the eight years that Mason’s made her mark on the fashion world—with her personal blog, contributions to major publications, designs, and, oh yes, consistent street style star status—she’s best known for being a leader in plus-size fashion. But in our chat with Mason, we learned that the “plus-size” qualifier is really not doing her justice.
In our latest Styled By feature, we shot Mason in four looks that totally capture her unapologetic and unexpected take on feminine dressing. But beyond just the clothes, she told us how she really sees her place in the fashion world—not as an advocate for plus-size women but for everyone. And her inclusive approach is beyond inspiring. Ahead, Mason tells us, in her own words, about her own journey to discovering personal style, parts of the fashion industry she's most excited about, and why her expectations are based on so much more than her dress size.
Scroll down for Mason's story and four perfect ensembles, too.
On dressing as an act of defiance:
"Honestly, when I look at pictures of myself as a child, they’re not that different from what I wear now. It’s really funny. I think in my early adolescence, I became very self-conscious, and the way I dressed was really tailored toward what would make me most accepted by people. I wasn’t necessarily dressing for myself as a teenager and young adult. I was always heavier, and when I was younger I was a lot taller than all my peers, so I was self-conscious and developing my own personal style and dressing the way I really wanted to dress were acts of defiance. It was taking ownership over something that I didn’t always feel like I had power over."
On feel-good fashion:
"I started blogging in 2008 on my recent blog. I've been in the space for about eight years. I really want to stress that when I started doing this, I really didn’t have any intention of being a body diversity advocate. I didn't even identify as plus-size. My body size is not the only way I define myself.
"For me, what I try to advocate is that fashion and self-expression are something that everyone should feel empowered to participate in. And this has been informed by me being a queer woman, by being a body type that’s not often represented in fashion, by the fact that I'm Middle Eastern and there's not a lot of representation there. [Style] really can be a form of personal satisfaction; it can be used to communicate our identities and share part of our story, and it's something that can feel really good to participate in. That's what I try to stress more than body size."
On establishing a trademark:
"I don't know if I would say my style is necessarily unique, but it definitely is mine. Even as I try to incorporate trends as they come and go, I tend to stay true to my own aesthetic and my own taste. For me, that's über-unapologetically feminine with a little bit of an edge to it.
"I was definitely coming of age in a time when punk and rock really heavily influenced my personal style, and there are parts of that that have stuck around as I’ve grown, matured, and refined my sense of style. That’s the trademark of it: I love pink and I love really femme details and embellishments, but I'm almost always wearing a leather jacket."
On sticking to what feels right (aka not sweats):
"My comfort level is slightly dressier. I don't own sweatpants. I don’t do athleisure unless I'm actually going to the gym. It's less comfortable for me to be in sweatpants or leggings than it is for me to be in an awesome dress.
"I also am drawn to statement piece and having wow-factor pieces in my wardrobe. They can stand the test of time, that's something I really appreciate. They act like a time capsule in fashion history or my personal life when that object was resonating with me."
On seeing the change:
"Obviously if you're a plus-size individual, there are logistical things that are different. We just do not have the same access to clothing as someone who's a size 6. It's just a matter of fact.
"It's actually kind of crazy how many more options there are now than there were five years ago. I think it's important to support the brands that are investing in this community. That's something that's profoundly important and unique to the plus-size community: So much of it is really grassroots and born within our own community, and that's really exciting."
On what success looks like:
"There's a part of me that's a skeptic of the brands and some of the publications that have jumped on the bandwagon of diversity. It's not necessarily turning into more real options or access for everyday people.
"But on a more personal level, I do think that more everyday people are feeling inspired and more confident or wanting to share photos of themselves in great outfits, or even take photos with their friends or go to the beach and wear a bikini. That is something that has such an enormous impact. And that's the bigger success than having someone applauded by the fashion industry or having more access to brands and designers. The real success is that a 17-year-old girl who maybe felt insecure about her body in the past sees women who look more like herself and feels confident to go to the beach with her friends. That's a huge, huge win. I wish I'd had that when I was younger."
On knowing your worth:
"It's so important for me to speak to diversity in race, of different levels of ability, of queer and gender issues that are a part of my platform. And part of that has happened in tandem with the body diversity movement.
"For any individual style that a person has, [they should be able] to find what they're looking for readily in their size and at an appropriate price point. And beyond that, there has to be growth socially and culturally so people of all walks of life, of all body types, of all identities feel like they are allowed to participate in fashion and that they are allowed to have really great, cool clothes. That's the bigger hurdle: telling all people they're worthwhile and they're worth investing in."
Have any other favorite fashion leaders who are making changes in the industry? Let us know who's inspiring you.