Quest for the Oscar Dress

If you’re curvy and fabulous, you already know – fashion made to fit and flatter can be hard to find under the best of circumstances. It’s hard to find the right outfit for a job interview. It’s hard to find a super cute dress for a party or fashion show. It’s even harder to find a wedding dress. So imagine if you’re plus sized and trying to find THE PERFECT dress for the Academy Awards red carpet.

There’s a reason your favorite plus sized actresses can typically be relied upon to go between a few well known designers – that’s because Tadashi Shoji, Marina Rinaldi and Carmen Marc Valvo are in an extremely rarified group of high end designers who are known for catering to a curvy clientele. This is why you’ll notice most plus sized celebs vacillate between those designers – lo and behold, Melissa McCarthy wore a Marina Rinaldi dress she co-designed, and Octavia Spencer wore Tadashi. Both of them played it pretty safe with their color choices.

And that’s because the pressure to look slender in photos and on camera is ratcheted up to crazymaking level in their line of work.  While there I literally heard a friend say, “I’m sorry – size 6 is plus sized in Hollywood. It just IS.” When you’re already over a size 12, those are unfortunate words to hear.

When it came time for yours truly to choose a dress for my first ever Oscar red carpet, I felt lost and uncertain and adrift. I knew I didn’t want to retreat to the safety of basic black, too many plus sized women wind up trying to hide their figures in ebony tents, if you ask me. I knew I wanted to go for BOLD color. I knew I needed a dress with a certain cut – the last thing I need is to feel self-conscious while trying to be my most beautiful for a camera. And I knew I wanted to feel gorgeous. Self confident. Like a princess. Like this.

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That is me, feeling good about my dress! What did it take to get me there? Let me TELL you!

 

My Oscar dress search really began in December. I went about it in a few ways. 

1. I started looking at photos of plus sized women on the red carpet to get an idea of the color and silhouette I could envision myself wearing.

2. I started writing about the quest, reaching out to stylists I knew and respected, and gathering those professional opinions.

3. I started window shopping online and simultaneously reaching out to designers in the hopes of finding a really perfect dress for my first ever red carpet experience.

There were many could’ve been contenders in the running. Apparently the Trinidadian designers weren’t enthusiastic, so I turned my attention stateside.  Through the efforts of the incredible LaRue PR (GREAT people to have in your corner!), we reached out to a few American designers in the hopes of finding the ideal Oscar dress. We got quite a few outright no-we-only-dress-celebrities, some we-don’t-offer-our-evening-gowns-in-THAT-size responses, and some promises that never panned out.

The lovely people at Carmen Marc Valvo sent me an absolutely gorgeous lookbook, but timing conspired against us and things weren’t going to work out by February 26, alas. The designers of plus size brand Queen Grace Collection very generously offered to outfit me. I loved many of the dresses from IGIGI, also. The quest continued on as I worked to find THE Oscar dress.

The generous Kay Unger sent me this absolutely gorgeous sequined dress – which looked so stunning on the non-plus sized model. And this is me, with absolutely no shapewear on.

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…and that’s reality. No shapewear, and a camera phone photo my husband took while briefly turning away from the Bulls game. Anyway. I love this dress, but I feel the need to wear shapewear to the max before I rock it. And I DO plan to rock it!

Adrienne Papell sent over a glorious box o’ gowns and I really loved how I felt in them. Here I am in three Adrienne Papell gowns.

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The lilac dress had interesting tiers but the top of it felt a bit too mother of the bride, to me. The black dress feels so great on, but didn’t scream OSCAR to me – I’d love to wear it to something more free spirited and funky, jazzed up with accessories and maybe a belt. And the white sequined gown gave me the same must-wear-shapewear dilemma as the Kay Unger dress. Which is to say I like it but I’m not ready to work it just yet.

I was trying on dresses like a mad woman, and the whole time I kept looking on my own. I thought well, if I find the ideal dress at Macy’s or Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue, at least I’ll have a backup. I never found anything I LOVED enough to commit to. And then I got an e mail from an independent designer label from Montclair, NJ, called Sofistafunk, The Skirt Boutique. They sent me photos of their absolutely stunning skirts and dresses. We exchanged several e mails. We Skyped. And then they asked if they could come and meet me in New York during New York Fashion Week and my Curls Unleashed events, to fit me into a gown we discussed and planned out together.

This is me, trying on my Oscar gown for the first time, in my hotel room in New York.

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No makeup, no shapewear, in my hotel room with Arlinda the designer, and Blair of Sofistafunk. Love at first try. The first time I tried it on, I was a bit overwhelmed by the petticoat. But when the belt was tied and the shoulder ribbons were in place, I just KNEW. This was THE DRESS.

Sofistafunk also very generously gave me one of their signature skirts, A Gathering, which I wore to the Texture On The Runway event in New York. (I REALLY need to write a recap on that for you all, and I will! Promise). Here I am in that skirt, in my hotel room and then later on at City Winery, under the blacklights.

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And with it I’m rockin’ my Afro Wig Clutch (got it on Etsy!) and to the party I wore a sequined tank I got at Nordstrom Rack and earrings by We Dream in Color. I think my husband got me that necklace as a Christmas present some years ago!

Back to the OSCARS. Packing for it proved to be a two suitcase affair, but it was totally worth it. You could see my Sofistafunk dress on the overhead cameras!

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Can you see me? I can!

The sheer size of the dress proved to be both a blessing and a curse – the size and color of it made my look very distinctive on the red carpet. Luvvie and I felt like princesses.

 

I got compliments from men and women ALL night on the dress. The bad part was because of the size restrictions of where we were, it was tough to move around as quickly as I needed to. I would now like to thank the cameramen for not being visibly annoyed by my voluminous dress during the most hectic parts of the red carpet.

SO. What did I wear to the Oscars? Let me break it ALL down once and for all.

Dress was an original by Sofistafunk, similar to their An Affair to Remember dress.

I took a note from Octavia Spencer and also stylist Charles Wade, and wore TWO kinds of shapewear. I wore Bali Powershape Fusion Hi Waist Thigh and the Squeem Perfect Waist. My bra was the 5 way convertible bra by Lane Bryant’s Cacique, specially customized with purple ribbon straps added by Sofistafunk.

I wore sparkly leopard flats by Just Fab. Cute, fun, and perfect for standing and working for 8 or so hours.

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My sunglasses were by Robert Verdi for HSN.

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My jewelry was all via Max and Chloemy earrings were by Sophia and Chloe, and the jewels were all green turquoise by Mali Sabatasso.

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The makeup was sponsored by Avon,  and I did wear my signature lipglass, All Of My Purple Life.

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And I know I wrote about all of this before but…. gotta show the video one last time. The hair – by Felicia Leatherwood. Makeup by Nicole Evans, and video filmed by Krystle Rowry, all blessed with an original song titled Bella, by Kirby Lauryen. Who says it don’t get better?

 

This is what is called a “fashion turn".”

 

And what did I think of the fashion I saw on the carpet?

Incredible video courtesy of FGW Productions!

It took months of effort and LOTS of help from my friends to pull all of this together, but YAY for my first ever Oscar dress. Will we be there next year? I HOPE so! Whatever will we wear? Only time will tell, my bellas. Only time will tell.

Stay tuned – the very next post will include something special for YOU from Sofistafunk!

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Comments

  1. Yes we see you from the overhead cam! Your dress and accessories were incredibly stunning! It reminds me of the MAC lipstick that you sent me called “Show Orchid”. Thanks for sharing and hope to see you there next year.

  2. So beautiful and you look stunning!

  3. Dramaqueen says:

    Thank you for representin’ the Big Girls on the Red Carpet amd thank you for telling us how you came to choose your dress. Sometimes we need to be shown how to do things and being that there are many, many Red Carpet Seasons that you don’t get to see any full figured ladies at an event like that. So if I ever get invited to a “real life Red Carpet” event at least I have a clue about what to do, not just panic or cower in fear or not go because I have nothing to wear. I wish that I had this article this time last year when my niece was getting married. I looked terrible! I most certainly didn’t look as good as I could. If it wasn’t for a husband who made me feel like I looked better than I did I wouldn’t have even gone to the wedding. Many thanks again!

  4. Dad and Mom says:

    Stunningly beautiful. You are an inspiration to many and a joy to us all.
    The journey now start; be strong and enjoy the ride. You continue to make us proud.
    Love always,
    Dad and Mom

  5. You look like a fairy princess! Bella Bella!

  6. Black Excellence!

  7. Just Beautiful!! Everything was on point…makeup, hair & dress! :-)

  8. You choice was stunning, you looked outstanding :0)

  9. Awesome Bella! All of it!

  10. Sherry Blossom says:

    Awesome…that dress was amazing….the color…everything about the style…and love the ball gown feel…you definitely were a Princess of the Oscars..lol

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