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The Queen of Curvy: Becky Jarvis and the Plus-Size Revolution

Thursday, July 23, 2015
GoLocalPDX Lifestyle Team

Becky Jarvis et. al.
For most of the past century, marketing professionals routinely hired lean, attractive women to appear in advertising for clothing and other consumer products. Plus-size women were practically invisible in the American media despite the fact that 65% of all women are size 14 or larger, representing a clear majority of consumers.

These media depictions had a toxic effect on the self-esteem of millions of women, who compared themselves unfavorably to the archetypes they encountered in popular culture. In fact, many psychologists blame these unrepresentative images for bulimia, anorexia, obesity, suicide and other forms of self-abuse.

“Our society overemphasizes the importance of physical beauty,” said Dr. Michelle Jones, an award-winning volunteer for Portland Public Schools. “Women are made to feel inadequate. This unrealistic standard of beauty has real consequences, measured in human misery.”

Retailers ignored the needs of plus-size women, offering them fewer clothing choices, forcing them to shop at specialty stores or pay more for apparel.  Frustrated by these trends, Portland entrepreneur Becky Jarvis decided to take a stand. Over the past four years, Jarvis emerged as an authoritative voice for plus-size women across the country. She launched Curvy Chic Closet, which hosts the largest plus-size consignment clothing sales events in North America. Jarvis is an emerging cultural icon whose media presence makes her one of the most influential fashion entrepreneurs working today. Her social media posts, interviews and personal appearances reach tens of thousands of plus-size women. 

“I never thought much about the body positive movement when I was younger,” said Jarvis. “Growing up, I read female fashion magazines which reinforced the idea that slender, blue-eyed, blonde models set the standard for beauty and glamour. There were very few role models in the fashion industry that represented the curvy woman. I want my customers to feel comfortable shopping for clothes regardless of their size, shape or ethnicity.”

Plus-Size Women Discover Their Power

“Plus-size women were treated unfairly in the fashion industry for too long,” said Christine Travis, a frequent Curvy Chic Closet shopper and consignor. “It is hard to believe that clothing industry executives conspired for over a century to deny two out of three women in America access to attractive and affordable clothing. It makes no economic sense. It is purely discriminatory. I frame this as a civil rights issue and Becky Jarvis is our Rosa Parks.”

“Becky is celebrated in the plus-size fashion industry because she encourages women to feel comfortable in their own skin." said Curvy Chic Closet Manager Rachel Kuin. “We joined forces in 2012 and the past three years have been a whirlwind of activity. Our consignment events doubled and eventually tripled in size. Clothing manufacturers and fashion journalists paid careful attention to everything she posted online, sharing her insights with thousands of consumers nationwide. Influential publications interviewed her frequently and industry professionals sought her advice on accommodating the needs of plus-size women. Her influence continues to grow and I would not be surprised to see Becky making national television appearances on daytime television. She is really making a name for herself.”

“The plus-size community is responding to Becky Jarvis because she is not waiting around for the industry to adapt,” said nationally prominent African-American activist Teressa Raiford Mazique. “She is forcing immediate change in the fashion world, compelling designers and distributors to recognize the economic power of these women. Millions of shoppers now have a voice. These consumers are in charge. They make a difference for all of us. Just like the struggle for civil rights, people can wait for incremental progress or they can force the issue overnight. Becky is a trendsetter and the leader of a plus-size revolution.”

Becky Jarvis.
How Consignment Works

“We do not operate out of a retail store,” said Kuin. “Our consignment events are held twice a year and last roughly a week. We just moved from our previous location in Beaverton to our new headquarters in Cedar Mill just off Highway 26. Our fall sale launches September 24 and we are busy recruiting consignors for the event. They are the lifeblood of our business. Consignors sell high-quality second-hand clothing and apparel, including dresses, purses, jewelry and shoes. We host Meetup events throughout the Portland Metropolitan area that introduce consignors to our event, tag their items for inventory management and prepare them for success. Anyone with plus-size items to sell can participate. This is so much more than a business. We formed a growing community.”

“A typical shopper at our event might purchase $400 worth of clothing for $100,” said Jarvis. “I see women cry tears of joy because they have an array of choices in one location for the first time in their lives. Some women travel to our events from different parts of the country as well as Canada. My goal is to consult with entrepreneurs across North America to promote consignment events so women do not have to travel out of their way to find high-quality clothing at affordable costs.  The fact that women are willing to travel vast distances to our sale confirms the dire need for change in the plus-size industry. This transition is not happening quickly enough.”

“One of the best things about consignment sales is sustainability,” said Kuin. “When a woman brings in a dress or purse to be resold, it doubles the life of the product, shrinking the environmental footprint of the production process. All of our fixtures and displays come from recycled or repurposed materials. We consciously do our part for the earth.”

Plus-Size Fashion Shows

Jarvis is in the preliminary stages of developing a full night of programming featuring plus-size designers at an international fashion show in Portland this October.

“Earlier this year, we were approached to showcase body-positive fashions at a runway event, focusing positive attention on the importance of plus-size fashion,” said Jarvis. “I am thrilled about this opportunity. Last month, I contacted Dominique Appel, the publicist for Oscar-nominee Melissa McCarthy about debuting her new plus-size clothing line Seven7 at this event. Melissa would likely create a multimedia presentation introducing her company. Her clothing line offers plus-size women an array of stylish choices.”

“When Becky decided to approach Melissa McCarthy, I got very excited,” said Kuin. “She thinks outside the box and constantly searches for opportunities to expand awareness of plus-size fashion. By directing media attention to body positive fashion trends, she entices designers to create more clothing for the silent majority of women who are size 14 or larger. It is time for women to feel beautiful at any size. Becky is working to make women feel beautiful at any size.”

Jarvis currently stages a semi-annual runway event featuring plus-size models. The next Curvy Chic Fashion Show is scheduled for September 25.

“Although we are still finalizing the lineup this is going to be our best show ever,” said Jarvis. “As more designers create clothing for plus-size women, I expect our upcoming show to offer an incredible night of entertainment.”

“Each year, Becky makes her consignment events and fashion shows bigger and better,” said Mary Holmes, a retired entrepreneur and longtime vendor at Curvy Chic Closet. “I am amazed by her energy. She works year-round to promote her company. Becky saw a market that was overlooked and filled that gap. She is more than just an entrepreneur. Becky is leading a movement that marries commerce and social progress. As a plus-size woman myself, I know how frustrating it is to search for clothing and be denied choices. Becky has a vision for what she wants to accomplish and she is impacting the fashion industry as both an entrepreneur and a media personality.”

This week, Jarvis and Kuin visit Orlando, Florida to attend the Curve Nation Expo, an event celebrating the plus-size community. “We plan to make some new connections,” said Kuin. “As this community unites, the fashion world will take notice.”

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