"When I’m buying a swimsuit the thing that is most important to me is how I feel in it, if I feel good," Tess Holliday said on the set of her shoot for new plus-size swimwear collection Sea by Monif C. “It’s great to buy something that may look cute but I want to buy something that makes me feel sexy and I want to feel confident when I’m going out and I want people to stare so you know I want good support, I want fun prints.” The line, which was started by Monif Clarke, a size 16 herself, does exactly that.
Clarke started her line 10 years ago because as a 20-something she couldn’t find clothes, let alone bathing suits, that weren’t shapeless sacks in blacks, grays, or browns. Although armed with a degree in math and computer science, she ditched STEM for sartorial when she realized that if she needed to custom make her clothes just to have something cute in her closet, then there must be others, more specifically customers, out there aching for similar styles. “If I design stuff that I love then maybe others will love it too,” Clarke told Yahoo Style.
Today, the plus size fashion industry looks a lot different. Prints, bright colors, cut outs, unique and flattering shapes are all available. But while plus size offerings have certainly changed, the perceptions surrounding it aren’t as quick to catch up. And Clarke, a pioneer in promulgating the idea that women of all sizes are beautiful and providing the items to match, has, admittedly, not made enough strides to feature different body types in her campaigns — until now.
"We’ve always featured size 14 plus models," Clarke said, "But, we thought, ‘How do we make this more compelling for our customer?’ The feedback we were getting was, ‘We love that you show women in size 14 and 18 but what about the 22s and 24s?’" So that’s where Holliday comes in. The first model of her size and height — she’s 5’5”, weighs 260 pounds, and wears a size 22 — Clarke thought she’d be the perfect fit to feature in the swim campaign. Not only does she represent the slightly different size and body type Monif C. was looking to feature, but her #effyourbeautystandards movement also closely ideologically corresponds with what company tries to achieve.
"I love that the swimwear is designed by an actual plus size woman. Not only does [Clarke] know what we need but she also gives us the sexy factor that’s totally lacking in swimwear," ‘Holliday said. "She gets that we don’t need to hide our bodies or feel bad for the way we look yet she makes swimwear that helps us embrace our size and look good." The 29-year-old, who is notorious for wearing shapewear underneath her bathing suits, has ditched the slimming under-layer and embraced her body. But self-acceptance also comes from external factors making one feel confident, and, as Holliday points out, the Sea by Monif C. line is made specifically for women sizes 14 to 24 and therefore features include boning, tummy tuck lining, underwire, and high-waisted two-pieces. When you look good, you feel good, Clarke notes. She adds: “There’s no reason that plus-size women can’t be just as sexy or as fashionable as our smaller counterparts.”