Friday, June 17, 2016


Styled by Alysse Dalessandro/ Art by Leah Ball of Photos by Gina Dalessandro and Kristen Strickhouser

Polka dot skirt and coral dress by Fashionable Addictions, mesh polka dot shirt by ASOS, and polkadot leggings by Re/Dress (located in Cleveland).

Body-Positive Bikinis
Ready to Stare Designs A Plus-Size Summer

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, and on Instagram and Twitter as @ReadyToStare.

Originally published in Newcity.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

SISTERCITY STUDIO KICKS OFF TODAY!! Opening party this Saturday!

I'm so excited about Sistercity Studio! The best current Czech fashion design here in Chicago, including Alex Monhart, LeedaBotas66 USA, Buffet, We Are Not Sisters, CHATTY (LOVE LOVE LOVE!!), PGB, ZORYA, Antipearle, and ODIVI. Everything is so minimal, modern and well-made!

Their series of events will happen from June 16th to July 16th - see their calendar here

The opening cocktail party will take place at Sistercity's showroom (located at Cat Von Kang Gallery - 1112 N Ashland) this Saturday June 18th at 4 pm, and many other events will follow. They'll also be presenting workshops that will be very valuable to anyone in the field - with themes like "The Ins and Outs of how to start a brand", "Marketing, media and self promo" and "How bloggers and online media can support the local fashion scene", with local and Czech heavyweights such as Jena Gambaccini, Ryan Beshel, Rachel Kanarowski, and ODIVI.

Below read an interview I did with Sistercity organizers Nicole Sivek and Silvia Kozonova for Newcity

How did you come up with the "Sistercity Studio" concept? What is your goal with this project? 
We came up with the concept while in Chicago together last winter. While visiting Dose Market we came across a lot of amazing local product designers and craftsmen, but we also noticed a big gap in the design scene when it came to fashion. We could see that there was a huge potential to fill this gap, and since we are so intertwined with Czech and other European fashion scenes, we thought "why not bring it over and introduce high-quality contemporary design to people who so clearly appreciate it?” The goal of our project is to build a bridge between American and European fashion, specifically among Chicago’s sister cities. We would like to open otherwise impossible markets to young designers as well.

Why did you pick Chicago to host this first "fashion exchange"?
We chose Chicago because Prague and Chicago have a twenty-five-year history as sister cities. Many Czechs emigrated to Chicago in the sixties and seventies during communism. We both have personal ties with Chicago as well. [Nicole is a Chicago native but has been living in Prague for more than five years and Silvia fell in love with the city after staying here for a few months.]

What events will be part of the Sistercity Studio series? 
We are not only going to create a pop-up store; we also want to get people in Chicago involved in the fashion scene by networking, getting new information and having fun. With that in mind we are going to kick off the project with a fashion show at the Chicago Athletic Association in the newly renovated Stagg Court, promote weekly workshops with influential guest speakers from Prague and Chicago in various Dollop Coffee locations, and throw a Botas66 USA Release Party, as well as individual designer parties. There will definitely be something for everyone!

Could you tell me a bit more about your sponsor, Botas66 USA?
Botas66 USA is the contemporary version of a shoe brand established in the Czech Republic in 1949. They will be introduced to the American market on June 29 [update: date changed to July 9th] at their official release party, which is open to the public at our pop-up store. We are excited to unveil their uniquely designed products and proud to work with a brand who focuses on vegan designs.

When and where will the pop-up shop happen? Do you intend to make it permanent at some point?
The pop-up store will be located at Cat Von Kang Gallery at 1112 North Ashland, near Wicker Park. We will definitely be opening a permanent showroom after the pop-up—thanks to Botas66 USA we are able to do so. Chicagoans will be hearing about that very soon! During the pop-up we will solely be featuring Czech and Slovak design, but the permanent showroom will also feature fashion from other Chicago sister cities, such as Paris, Moscow, Accra and Mexico City.

What Czech designers will you be featuring? Could you briefly describe what each one of them makes?
The Czech designers that we will be featuring all have incredible design aesthetics and are selected from the best of the best in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There is Alex Monhart, which is a brand that locally makes minimal, contemporary bags; Leeda, which has been a staple brand in the Czech Republic for many years, with locally made garments as well; Botas66 USA, which we mentioned before; Buffet and We Are Not Sisters, both street-style Slovakian brands; CHATTY, which is amazingly tailored and has created the most buzz not only in the Czech Republic but all over Europe; PBG, a young brand focusing on leather and PVC bags that are minimal and European produced; ZORYA and Antipearle, in our opinion the edgiest and most successful jewelry brands in the Czech Republic; and finally we have ODIVI, a cool urban brand whose head designer will be flying to Chicago to speak in our first workshop!

How would you describe the Czech design aesthetic?  
It is very wearable and functional, with the main focus on everyday life. Carefully thought out compared to American design.

How would you compare the Chicago and Prague fashion scenes? 
Prague and Chicago have a lot of creative people who can appreciate original fashion and aren’t afraid to try a new approach. They are both geographically situated in-between fashion capitals, with small, tightly knit communities striving to establish their identities on the international fashion map.

Do you intend to collaborate with Chicago designers and brands as well? 
We are in the process of opening our permanent showroom in Chicago. After our official launch we will begin to consider Chicago designers in addition to other international brands we are already in conversation with. We are interested and intrigued by the local scene and we believe that it is going to evolve and grow.

How can our local fashion scene benefit from Sistercity Studio?
We want to bring high quality fashion from different parts of the world and help develop a less commercial aesthetic for Chicago, building a community who will share experiences and learn from local and international fashion professionals.

Where can we find more info about your project?
On our website You can also find us on InstagramFacebook or under the hashtag #sistercitystudio.

FROM JUNE 16th TO JULY 16th!


Curl up and dye

Wardrobe stylist and image consultant Elizabeth Margulis is proud of her nickname, "Big Hair Big City"—which comes from her fashion blog Big Hair and the Big City—but she hasn't always embraced her lavish curls. "My relationship with my hair started off bumpy. In high school I was mercilessly teased", she says. "I started to straighten my hair and tried to make it all sorts of 'normal.'" In her junior year, Margulis had an epiphany. "I gave up and let my curls run free. I was surprised at how making my hair a staple of my wardrobe and my personality improved my self-esteem and curated my image," she says. "Now it's all about the bigger, the better!" To see more of Margulis's looks, follow her on Instagram at @bighairbigcity.

Originally published in the Chicago Reader.


True Self
Factor Chosen Chicago wardrobe stylist Wyll Martinez (@_rebelstyle_) was running errands for a campaign shoot.

How would you describe your look?
This is my version of casual rock 'n' roll. I love being influenced by music and mixing pieces that I believe showcase the musicians that influence me. For me, music and fashion go hand in hand.

You match textures and prints masterfully. How do you do that?
I love and have always loved mixing patterns, textures and prints! To be honest, I just mix loud pieces with something that is subtle. I try not to think too much about it, try to keep it all balanced.

What was the best style advice you've ever heard?
The best style advice I have ever heard would be... hmm.. I don't have one. I feel a person should really try to have fun with their style and remember fashion shouldn't be taken so seriously. So, have fun and take some risk!

What do you want people to think when they look at you?
I really want people to think of my style as confidence.

What makes you wanna get up and look your best?
That would be simply: be me. I love to dress for myself. I couldn't imagine having to wear a uniform and feeling that my true self isn't being shown. I'm lucky to be able to work in the fashion industry and dress the way I want and feel that way.

Originally published in Newcity.






Matt is a member of The Voluptuals.


Find Gigi on Instagram at @averageordinary.

Alexa Chung Uncovers Fashion Industry Secrets for the British Vogue

In case you're considering a career in fashion AND/OR you're an Alexa Chung fan (I know I am), I'd recommend the video below:

Amy Arbus and Scott Schumann discuss street style in NYC

Amy Arbus is definitely my street style idol. She covered street style in NYC in the 80s for the Village Voice - what a dream... She discusses her work in a talk promoted by the acclaimed Sartorialist in the video below:

See some of Amy Arbus's photos here.
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