Hey you, curvy girl over there, did you know you can be fashionable and have a blast doing it? I think sometimes we forget that, because for so long, the style choices just weren’t there for us.
And even as more and more options open up, it’s admittedly a bit of a learning curve trying to figure it all out. Dressing to shape, deciphering size discrepancies, working out cuts and proportions, it’s an entirely new lexicon from decade’s past of one size fits all elastic or pastel tie back tunic.
I am always looking for amazing fashion role models to inspire and remind us just how fun curvy fashion can be, so I’ve launched a new feature here on Curvy Girl Guide that will spotlight women who rock their strength, confidence and style.
Texas native and fellow ginger, Chelsea McGowan, does just that. Chelsea is one half of the Dallas/Fort Worth photography company, McGowan Images, and stunning portfolio aside, I have yet to see her in an outfit that doesn’t ooze of creative soul and leave me coveting her skinny jeans.
I sat down with Chelsea earlier this week to talk about her body, her favorite outfit, and what inspires her hour-glass style.
How would you describe your body?
I’d describe my body as curvy. I used to think that was just a euphemism for “fat”, but now that I’m here, I know it’s not. I wouldn’t describe myself as “fat”, unless it’s a really bad day. But I do have curves… hips, boobs, thighs & tummy. Learning to dress those correctly I think is why I can see them as really sexy lines for a body, rather than flaws that need to be corrected.
Tell us about your favorite outfit right now.
My favorite outfit right now is this red blazer from Wet Seal that I got last year for $17, Old Navy Rock Star Skinny jeans, and my v-neck Avengers t-shirt from Hot Topic. I wear variations on this outfit all the time, but this shape is one I stick with… cinched waist, low neck, long legs. I like my boobs and feel best when that’s the part of me that’s showcased, and cinching at the waist draws attention to how small I am at the ribcage while I’m hiding the tummy I can’t seem to tone. It’s just there, whatever. Everyone loves a marshmallow, right?
You are in a creative and expressive field, how does fashion play into your role, professionally?
I’m a photographer, focusing on weddings & boudoir in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and around the world. We’ve worked our butts off to make this business what it is, and being able to travel the world and photograph people is more fulfilling than I ever thought my career could be. You can follow our work on our blog, Facebook, or I’m on instagram at Chelsea_McGowan.
My husband and I are full time partners in this business, and we both work “from home”. But seeing as how we don’t photograph sessions or weddings actually IN our home, I essentially have a bipolar style.
When I’m at home editing or taking care of office stuff, I refuse to wear pants that aren’t cotton & elastic. My husband doesn’t understand why I keep buying MORE pajama pants, but whatever. I need them. Today, they’re vintage coca-cola pants and a leftover nursing tank top (my youngest is 3… and definitely not still nursing. No hate, just NO.)
But when I’m shooting clients, it’s a whole different story. I used to not believe it made any difference what I was wearing… after all, I’m BEHIND the camera. But I’m here to tell you, it DOES matter. And I’m not just talking about weddings, when obviously I dress like a guest in some cute sundress (or suit, depending on the weather & venue). If I’m meeting with or shooting clients, I make sure I’m completely put together in a way that reflects an artistic, creative, successful small business owner. It’s too easy in this age when everyone and their sister has a FB page for their photography business for us to get lumped into a generic group of people “without real jobs”. I command attention & respect for my profession with the way I dress, and my clients are confident knowing they invested in a company that knows their stuff both behind the camera & in the business world.
This is never more important than when I’m shooting boudoir portraits (my boudoir work is featured at Girls on Film). When I’m photographing a woman naked or in lingerie, she’s nervous. That’s just a fact of life. In that moment, all she can think about is what she perceives as WRONG with her body. It’s my job not just to take gorgeous images of her, but to help her not focus on those (usually ridiculous) things she sees. I learned years ago that I am better able to help a woman focus on her own beauty when *I* feel beautiful, too. So when I go to shoot a boudoir session, I put even more attention on my hair & makeup. I wear skinny jeans & a cute flowy top that will move with me, or a sundress with bike shorts (so I can roll on the ground if necessary). Aside from my talent & experience, I think an appreciation for MY body and the shape of all my fellow ladies is what makes me a good photographer.
Where do you shop?
For work clothes, my go-to place to shop is New York & Company. I can’t wear button down tops from them which kind of blows, but their other blouses and pants work really well on me.
For lighter dresses & pretty much everything else, I’m a Target-aholic. My husband jokes that it costs us $200 every time I walk into a Target, and really, he’s not wrong. It’s a problem.
What are your 5 beauty must-haves?
1. I spend MONEY on my hair. Real money. It’s a specific color of red that’s on file under my name at Toni & Guy, and if my stylist moves, I’ll just die. No one else is allowed to color my hair except Jamie. Every 5 weeks, I sit in that chair and get re-redheaded, and it’s wonderful. It’s the biggest investment I make in myself financially, and I think having that signature hair color makes a world of difference in how I see ME.
2. Spanx underwear. I move around too much on shoot days to wear full spanx (and still like my job), but spanx panties are cut high enough to hold me in without restricting my legs. Love love love them.
3. A good bra. I said earlier that I’m really proud of my boobs, and that means I have to be good to them. In the D+ sizes, the Victoria’s Secret Bombshell bra doesn’t have AS much padding… it’s more about lift than crazy size enhancement. Let’s face it… size, I’ve got. But that bra puts everything up back where it was before two babies and yo-yo weight battles that stretched my skin out, and for that, I’m eternally VS loyal.
4. I have allergies AND I work with my eyeballs constantly straining through a camera or at a computer screen, so my eyes look tired a lot. Because the color is something about me that catches a lot of attention, I want to keep the skin around my eyes looking as fresh as possible. I LOVE Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Dark-Circle eye roller… it’s part of my daily routine, even when I’m just working in the office.
5. Mascara. I buy a new kind every time I get a new tube, which is admittedly way too often. I’m addicted to that “new mascara” feeling. There’s something special about pulling the brush out for the first time… I swear I hear the angels sing. Right now I’m super crushing on Rimmel London Scandal Eyes in Extreme Black.
Before you leave, give us one last fashion tip!
Don’t limit WHERE you look for clothes. I have a few stores that I know what sizes/brands work on me, but I also know that I can find stuff ANYWHERE now that I know what shape works on me. I bought two shirts at WalMart last week and have gotten compliments on both of them. I bought a backless sundress at Wet Seal for a party recently… I guarantee I was the biggest girl in the store, and definitely the only mother of two pushing 30. But you know what, I look incredible in that $19 dress. Learn the SHAPES that work on your body, and look for them everywhere.
photos courtesy McGowan Images