Lydia VanHoven-Cook is here to do the real work when it comes to educating the public on plus-size fashion, and she’s got news for you: “Being plus-size inclusive doesn’t mean one piece of clothing that’s got a lot of stretch to it that maybe I could fit into.”
VanHoven-Cook is a plus-size woman herself, and she’s the creator of the Plus Size Pop-Up Shop & Style Party on Jan. 20 from 1-4 p.m. at Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique in Grand Rapids, located at 1111 Godfrey Ave. SW.
Billed for curvy cuties, plus-size princesses and big-booty babes, this shopping and style event features new and used clothing for sizes 16 and up, as well as accessories, styling tips and a model showcase with personal stylist Michelle Krick Style — and lots of body-positive love.
The event is a fundraiser for the Better Body Image Conference in Grand Rapids on March 2, with keynote speaker Dianne Bondy — a yoga teacher and social justice activist. VanHoven-Cook is on the conference’s board and wanted to create change when it comes to plus-size shopping.
“As a plus-size woman, it’s difficult to go to any swap or sale and get clothing for you,” VanHoven-Cook said. “We’re creating a space that’s just for plus-size women.”
She speaks not only for herself, but for her sisters and mother and knows the frustration of searching for clothing in her size range with few local resources. Besides some select retailers, there are very few boutiques that cater to or even carry plus-size fashions, not to mention that, “The pricing of plus-size clothing can be ridiculous. Sometimes you’re even paying double.”
The pop-up shop changes all that by partnering with boutiques that support plus-size customers, and there’s a gently used clothing swap sourced from local women that features items from many different stores and brands. Women may shop lightly worn clothing, similar to a consignment store, and sizes start at 16 all the way up to 30. Expect anything from Meijer and Target brands to Lane Bryant and Torrid, along with secondhand shoes and purses.
Adding personal stylist Michelle Krick Style to the lineup means big things. Both VanHoven-Cook and Krick worked together on Meijer’s Style for Every Body campaign, featuring trendy fashions in every size, pushing plus-size inclusion and offering the same clothing to all body types at the same price across the board.
“Michelle is mindful of inclusive sizing and has the most fun attitude,” VanHoven-Cook said.
Krick’s programming will showcase styling tips and tricks for loving the body you’re in and dressing confidently for your size.
“We’ll have five models wearing some of the used and new clothing, so you get inspiration for how you want to dress for the next season,” VanHoven-Cook said.
Participating clothing vendors were selected for their support of the plus-size community. Iris Boutique sells more high-end accessories in the form of shoes, handbags and jewelry (and those kinds of items always fit). And original, handmade fashions from iconoclasp are on hand for purchase. From Fashion Assassins Plustique to YT Galleria’s plus-size clothing options, to the lingerie boutique Naughty Bettie and their sizing selections up to 3X, it’s about showing women which retailers offer plus-size options and how they are listening to customers about carrying a better representation of body types.
“Hopefully it encourages shops to add more plus-size into their inventory,” VanHoven-Cook said.
While fashion is the focus, there are other types of businesses with a presence at the event. Body-positive literature from Books & Mortar is available, as well as a chance to get your hair done by the babes at Otto + Grand. You’ll even be able to indulge in free chair massages from Jason Richardson Massage Therapist.
It’s an afternoon of shopping, mimosas, snacks from Chef Jenna Arcidiacono from Amore Trattoria Italiana, a photo booth and networking with women on the plus-size scene, who are looking to find their community here in Grand Rapids. These are women searching for a safe and stylish place to be themselves, sans judgment.
“I hope plus-size women feel seen and heard. It’s about visibility. We want to dress cute too,” VanHoven-Cook said.
She’s championing the cause where larger women understand that living a stylish life is achievable for them, and it starts with education, acceptance and self-love. VanHoven-Cook’s tips include following Instagram accounts that accurately depict bigger-body role models. Look at diet culture and how you chose to participate in fueling your body. Do the inner heart work. Read up on the lifestyle.
“Looking at myself in the mirror, I’m discovering my power and love for my larger body. I want to craft a community of friends and people who are more progressive-thinking when it comes to body types,” VanHoven-Cook said. “The Better Body Image Conference will be a great place for women to find each other. It’s really a self-love journey.”
Join the celebration on Sunday. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased on the event’s Facebook page.
Photos: Courtesy Mod Bettie Portraits