On Tuesday night, Loft hosted a panel to kick off the launch of their new highly anticipated plus-size line. The panel was moderated by influencer and Curvy Con co-founder, Cece Olisa, during which she spoke to the industry’s top curvy models, including Marquita Pring, Gabi Gregg, Denise Bidot, as well as celebrity stylist, Penny Lovell, who currently dresses This is Us star, Chrissy Metz.
Each woman wore their favorite item from the new Loft Plus collection. On Pring, a fringe tweed dress; on Bidot, a pair of trendy mustard-yellow trousers; on Gregg, a chic floral kimono jacket; and on Olisa, a classy black flounce dress.
The theme of the night was clear-cut: confidence. How do you cultivate self-confidence in an age when people are increasingly scrutinized, particularly on public social platforms like Twitter and Instagram. How do you use fashion to show your own self-confidence?
Ahead, these fashion insiders share their journey to becoming the confident women they are today.
Gabi Gregg is a successful model and designer of three fashion lines: Premme, Swimsuits for All, and Playful Promises. One would imagine that Gregg is the picture-perfect depiction of a self-assured and confident woman, but she admits that’s not always the case. “There’s a misconception that you love yourself everyday,” but it’s simply not true, she shares. Sometimes you have to “relearn those steps” to get back to that positive state of mind. And it’s “OK that you’re not there yet too.”
For Gregg, the journey began when she was a teen. “I have so many memories of having to make my own clothes in high school,” she says. “When I first started blogging a decade ago … I was known for thrift-shopping and telling people how to make straight-size fashion work for them.”
But now, Gregg is hopeful for the future. “Because the body-positive movement has come so far — that [has] 100 percent impacted the fashion choices we have today,” she says. “So now we’re at this amazing point in our culture where there’s been a crossover. We’ve had the body-positive movement come up, then we had the fashion choices come up, and now we’re at this peak point where all of these women feel amazing about their bodies and they’re ready to rock it. And now we have the fashion to match up to it, finally.”
Before co-founding the Curvy Con and becoming a YouTube personality, Cece Olisa had a number of jobs, including one as a barista and one in ad sales. But Olisa’s passion has always been fashion, yet she struggled. “As a child, I had clothes, but I didn’t have fashion,” she shares. “If I wanted fashion, I had to be confident enough to make it for myself.”
Now, when Olisa gets dressed, she has to “decide who I want to be” that day, find that “spirit.” Though Olisa credits her support network as a big help on her road toward finding confidence, she says it’s important to “find people in your space who can bring you up.”
At 18, Denise Bidot left her home in Miami after setting her sights on Los Angeles, originally to pursue a career as an actress. She began working at a car dealership while modeling a few jobs on the side. But at the time, Bidot was not aware that the plus-size industry existed. “Keep in mind this was 12 years ago,” she says. But in between these jobs, Bidot became pregnant and thought to herself, “Is this it? Is this where my path ends? Working at a car dealership?”
It didn’t take long before Bidot decided to take the plunge to pursue modeling, and she hasn’t looked back. She’s now spent over a decade working as a successful model, while being a mother to her 9-year-old daughter. Bidot says it’s been “magical” for her to see how her daughter has grown up and how she’s become such an “empowered, confident young lady.” After all, Bidot says, “It’s what we fought for. It’s what we want the next generation to be.”
Penny Lovell has dressed some of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses from Anne Hathaway to Keira Knightley and now Chrissy Metz, who teased the new Loft Plus line with her stylish polka-dot wrap dress in September 2017.
As a stylist, Lovell has helped cultivate these women through a fashion lens, and in turn has helped them build their own self-confidence. One example is Knightley, who Lovell began working with “by accident” when the actress was 19. Lovell recalls how “nervous” Knightley was at the time over dressing for certain red carpet occasions, but Lovell helped her “find ways that helped her feel good.” Lovell referenced a quote by an English journalist: “When a woman can’t find anything to wear, she just can’t find who she is today.” It’s a mantra Lovell has displayed in her office.
The stylist adds: “It’s very important to have them lean into who they are, all the time, no matter what that is. So if they have something they are feeling, are thinking, they want to do or they don’t want to do — all of these things are fair game.” How her clients feel far surpass anything “visually” she might be thinking fashion-wise.
Marquita Pring has been modeling for 12 years and has worked with publications such as Vogue and brands such as Lane Bryant and now Loft. Pring recalls when she was younger that people always told her, “Oh, you have such a pretty face, you should be a model!” but always left out “the rest” of her. She says, “I didn’t know I had a place in this world.” Pring thought that’s all she could do: be a beauty or sunglasses model.
But at 15, Pring decided to take matters into her own hands. She asked her mom take her to a model casting session where she received only two call backs out of 80 casting agencies present. Fortunately, “one of them just happened to be the one,” says Pring. Soon after, she went to New York, was signed at the agency, and her life was forever changed.
How did she get the strength to do it? Pring credits her “support system,” which she says “is everything,” but also notes that “confidence is a journey.” She says also comes down to having the endurance and ability to “keep driving.” Pring always trusted her ambition and never gave up. She ends with telling the crowd, that if you have a dream, a passion, you need to go for it.
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