Be-You-Ti-Ful – A Different Way of Looking at Sizing

Ever hate going into a store, finding that perfect “must have,” grabbing your normal size and heading off to the fitting room only to find it’s too small? I think most women have felt that sense of dismay, quickly followed by a vicious onslaught of self-criticism. If you haven’t, count your blessings and brace yourself because – get this- clothing manufacturers DESIGN this situation to happen.

Shortly after World War Two, with consumerism reaching dizzying heights in the US, marketing analysts quickly found that the more time someone spent in a store, the more likely they were to purchase something. The underlying psychology goes something like this: the more time we spend in a store, the more likely we are to want to buy something to justify the time expended in the hunt. It makes sense, right? Who wants to feverishly shop for hours and leave empty handed?

Armed with this knowledge, retailers did all they could to ensure that we spent as much time as possible shopping. One of their tricks was to deliberately change the sizing on women’s clothing so that it was no longer standardized. A size 10 was no longer a size 10 across the board – it might be an 8 in one brand, a 12 in another and so forth. And, so, women were forced to hunt out their correct size, thereby spending more time shopping and achieving the end goal of the retailer – more sales.

What was good for the retailer is inevitably bad for our self-esteem. Companies know the effect this wide variance in size has on how we view ourselves and they capitalize on it. Old Navy, for example tends to run quite large, so women can wear a size or two smaller than normal and feel a bit more confident and cheerful – something that’s very much in line with Old Navy’s branding.

Companies like Abercrombie & Fitch take a much different approach. They purposely skew their sizes to be very small thereby adding to their brand’s exclusivity. As if $88 sweatshirts didn’t make them exclusive enough; but I digress.

No industry is more notorious for their skewed size charts than the wedding and formal industry. Habitually, stores like David’s Bridal run two sizes smaller than normal clothing, quickly leaving brides-to-be and bridesmaids in full freak out mode. And who could blame them? Who wants to buy a dress that makes you feel like a cow merely because of the number on the tag?

Well, we for one don’t – and we don’t want our customers to feel that way either. So, we are happy to announce that all of Virtuous Prom’s dresses, save a few, are now only available to order with custom measurements. That’s right, for no extra charge your dress will no longer be a size number – it will be a size you! Because you are be-you-ti-ful and we hope you never let anyone make you feel otherwise!

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My Snowflake Beats Their Shooting

I hope you’ll forgive the diversion from red carpet fashion and prom tips, and other such posts you’d expect from a modest prom company, but tonight my heart is heavy.

Somewhat ironically, I heard today’s sad news while standing in line at the post office to mail a bridesmaids dress. An acquaintance behind me said, “They got the suspect.” I assumed she meant the one outstanding suspect from the November, 13 Paris attacks, but much to my horror I soon learned that their had been a mass shooting in San Bernardino that had left fourteen dead.

Now, before I go on I’d just like to say I have no intention of getting political or straying from the very happy ecumenical place we as a company like to exist in. This post is not about condemning large groups of people, nations or religions. This post is about how a snowflake beats a shooting.

My history with terrorism is long and at times painfully personal. I was still in junior high and high school when America suffered through Columbine and the all too many copycat school shootings. I was a bit younger than most of the victims and perpetrators, but it still was very close to home.

In late August 2001, I was visiting New York with a friend and her family. We went up in one of the World Trade Centers. It was the biggest building I’d ever been up in and, having been raised in California, I asked about how the building would handle earthquakes. My friend’s uncle joked that they didn’t have earthquakes in New York City, only terrorists. Those words rung in my ears less than two weeks later when 9/11 occurred.

Like most Americans, I still remember most of 9/11 with vivid and horrific clarity. I remember the look on people’s faces as they tried to go about their daily business. I remember when our economy tanked that year because we as a nation were gutted.

Fast forward four years to July, 7 in London. I still remember where I was when I heard that awful news. Four years later, when I studied for my master’s degree at the University College of London, I would daily walk by the remembrance plaque from where the bus exploded. My tube station likewise had a remembrance plaque for the train that exploded that day as the attack occurred between my station and another nearby one.

As for many of you (especially those who are a bit older like myself), terrorism was a specter close at hand. This past month, the Paris attacks rocked me to my core. I have a lot of family in France and in Paris and for several hours, I didn’t know if they were among the victims. It was awful and gut wrenching. Fortunately, every one of my family members was safe, but those attacks left me feeling as if we have lost something we may never get back.

And then, today. I went from the post office to the bank, still in shock. As I read more about the attacks, I broke down crying. No one gave me strange looks. I suspect that they felt exactly as I looked.

I felt shell shocked. All I wanted to do was go home, finish up a few tasks and just stop feeling. I wanted comfort food and to crawl into bed, which I did at 9:30, which is about three hours early for me as I am quite the night owl! I woke up a little after eleven still feeling awful. I felt defeated, afraid, joyless and robbed. I felt exactly as all terrorists want us to feel.

With the realization that I was allowing myself to play right into their hands, I made a decision. I decided to stop just feeling sad, hopeless and awful. I think it’s healthy to grieve when these tragedies happen and allow ourselves to feel our emotions, but I wasn’t going to let that be the end of the line for me. I wasn’t going to let them count my despair as a “win” tonight or any other night.

So, while I still feel sad and awful on the inside, I made a conscious choice to feel more. I chose to reach out and feel hope and joy and to cling to them fervently. And so, in defiance of the sadness and terror of today, I made a paper snowflake to decorate my home.

A simple act? Yes. It had been so long since I made one that I actually had to look up instructions on how to do it. In making that snowflake, however, I chose to move forward, albeit a baby step. I chose to move forward in celebrating the holidays and human creativity. I chose to make something beautiful, albeit small, in remembrance that life is beautiful.

So, to all the terrorists out there, no matter their agenda, ethnicity, nationality or creed, I have this to say: My snowflake beats your shooting.

Why? Because my snowflake represents that you will not keep us down. We will not become slaves to your violence and your fear.

We will continue going on and celebrating life and love, in ways both small and large. We will make paper snowflakes. We will fall in love. We will go on in spite of your darkness.

Will we mourn? Of course. We will be deeply saddened? Yes. Will we pray for our leaders that they have wisdom to protect us all? I sincerely hope so.

But, we will not give in to their terror. We will not let their darkness snuff out the great light that is human goodness and the joy of a life well lived. We will keep on going, one paper snowflake at a time.

The Question of “Plus Sizes”

One of the questions we often get asked is if we charge more for plus sizes. The short answer is no, absolutely not; but we get asked this question often enough that we wanted to write about why we choose not to.

We at Virtuous Prom choose not to charge more for plus sizes because we firmly believe that the message Fashion as an industry sends is wrong and in some cases dangerous and fatal. The Fashion Industry tells women (and girls) that they are not enough – not thin enough, not tan enough, not beautiful enough. They do this for one reason – greed. The worse you feel about you goes hand in hand with their ability to convince you that if you buy their product you too will be happy, thin and good enough.

We believe the exact opposite. We believe you’re beautiful as you are and perfect in your imperfections. Not everyone is a size 2, 0 or a 00 and that’s just fine! We’re all uniquely made and we believe there is beauty in diversity. That’s part of the reason we love working with models of all shapes and sizes.

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The message the Fashion Industry sends isn’t just wrong – it’s dangerous. We’ve all heard stories of women who have died or been seriously harmed by anorexia, laxative abuse or bulimia. There have even been documented cases of anorexia in girls as young as eight.

We can’t drown out the message the Fashion Industry sends overnight, but we’re doing our best to send out a more positive message – that each girl is beautiful just as she is and that we celebrate the beauty of diversity. Part of how we affirm that is by not charging more for “plus sizes.” In all honestly, that’s not even a term we use.

So do we charge more for “plus sizes”? Absolutely not!

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Be Yourself. You’re Beautiful.

That’s not a message that the fashion industry sends out much, is it? It’s hard to open a magazine, click on a website or turn on the TV without feeling that you really need to be thinner, taller, tanner, richer and a host of other things.

We believe something different, however. We believe we’re all perfect, even in imperfection. Be yourself. You’re Be-you-ti-ful!Beyoutiful

The Many Modest Looks of Taylor Swift

Recently, Taylor Swift made the news with an open letter to Apple Music, challenging them on their (then) current policy of not paying artists during free trials of the tech giant’s newest platform.

It was one of those rare cases in life where it seemed an irresistible force had met an unmovable object. Less than 24 hours later, however, Apple had capitulated, leaving T-Swift’s many fans to wonder if there wasn’t anything she couldn’t accomplish.

Not only does this girl have moxie, she also has incredible style. Modest and fierce? What is there not to love!

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Buyer Beware – Forgers A’Plenty!

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Confused about which websites sell actual products and which sell forgeries? Here’s a (fairly) comprehensive list  of counterfeit dressmakers that’s always being added to. Some of the names on the list may shock you – including Amazon – while others such as AliExpress, DHGate and JJ’sHouse may seem all too familiar.

Standing with Seth

We at Virtuous Prom usually don’t keep up with “trending” hashtags or with what’s going viral online (I’m honestly not sure how hashtags even got started or how they work!), but yesterday we happened along a new hashtag: #wearyellowforseth

For once it wasn’t a violent tragedy in the news or something about a celebrity. This trending hashtag is about a little boy in hospital who loves yellow.

Seth is five years old and was born with a condition that leaves him without a functioning immune system. He is currently in hospital awaiting his second bone marrow transplant. There is great hope that this operation will help Seth’s immune system jump start and help him lead a more normal, active and healthy life.

In the meantime, Seth is cooped up in a small isolation room. His parents and baby brother are allowed to visit as long as they are healthy, but there is very little to cheer Seth up as he awaits surgery.

On March 27, Seth has a small request from everyone around the globe:

We at Virtuous Prom are so excited to wear yellow on March 27 (including the puppies!) and hope you do as well.

In addition, 50% of proceeds from the sale of yellow dresses will indefinitely go to The Bubble Foundation. The Bubble Foundation helps fund research for conditions like Seth’s and helps support families like Seth’s. Without The Bubble Foundation Seth’s mum and baby brother would have to stay four hours away.

So often in this day and age it’s easy to feel powerless and defeated by all the sorrow and sadness in the world. This upcoming week, on March 27, it’s easy to make a big difference in this little boy’s life. On March 27, wear yellow – make a smile, make a difference, make joy. ❤

Spring 2015 – A Reflection on Thankfulness

This past month we have done more photoshoots than ever before, not just for our own use at virtuousprom.com, but also for the March Modest Prom edition of Shine Magazine. We’ve worked with wonderful new models and photographers, made new styles come to life and run around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off.

The latter half of the month has been especially hectic, with six photoshoots (including one 7.5 hour one) crammed into two weeks. There have been moments of incredible highs, like when we got back the stock photographs for our dress Katniss from TED Photography

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… and low valleys, caused mostly by sleep deprivation, especially this last week when we could barely remember our own names and definitely didn’t remember the day of the week. Is today Friday? No, it’s Monday! You know things are bad when Mondays feel like the end of the week.

Through it all we have been thankful for it all – the chance to work with gorgeously beautiful, kind, wonderful models, amazingly talented photographers, generous helpers of every kind and long enduring seamstresses. We’ve also been grateful for the chance to learn and grow through the adversities. For one shoot, our photographer canceled an hour and a half beforehand, but this too was a chance to reign in panic and anxiety and substitute it for solution oriented thinking.

In reflecting on this past month, we echo the words of Paul to the Philippians: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

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And now, ladies and gentlemen, I have a very dissatisfied puppy to attend to. Poor Bailey has felt very neglected this month and has even learned how to turn off my laptop to get my attention.

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Signing off for now for puppy snuggles,

The Virtuous Prom Team