With years of retail and styling experience, her own online boutique, a booming blog, an MBA and countless projects under her belt, Marie Denee is a force to be reckoned with. She talked with us recently about what it’s really like to be a plus-size girl in a skinny shopping world — and how you can use it to your advantage.
Q: Was there any experience in particular that best prepared you for launching your own boutique?
It wasn’t a specific position; it was a dream I had when I was only about 12, in which I was leaving my own store and locking it up for the night. This dream has stayed with me since and is as fresh as if I had it last night. As I made my way through retail, I began noticing opportunities my employers ignored when it came to the plus-size woman, and the opportunity to own my own business became more tangible. While pursuing my MBA in marketing, I dedicated my studies to the plus-size industry. My education allowed me to research what was available and who in the plus-size industry could answer our plea.
Q: What do you look for when choosing items to sell at your store?
With plus-size fashion, there have always been polarizing options — either overly commercialized fast fashion or designer plus-size that’s more conservative. I look for both established and emerging designers who are innovators in plus-size fashion and can deliver high quality. It’s not one thing that I look for. It’s that “it” factor — something new or fabulous the plus community may not have seen before.
Q: What came first — your boutique or The Curvy Fashionista blog?
The idea for the boutique came before the blog. However, the title The Curvy Fashionista came first. After graduating, I felt like I was sitting on a huge mound of information that I HAD to share. I wanted a blog that could sit next to the mainstream fashion blogs — one that spoke to my aesthetic, with the only difference being the size of the consumer.
Q: As a personal styling consultant in the Bay Area, one of your services is called The Essentials. What are the must-haves for the curvy woman?
Essentials are the building blocks to any wardrobe, as they transcend trends, fads and time. So, regardless of a woman’s shape or size, here are a few …
• Great foundations (lingerie)
• A great classic white blouse
• Curve-hugging, impeccably fitted jeans
• A statement piece of jewelry (earrings, necklace or bracelets!)
• An updated little black dress and an amazing tailored suit.
Q: Which clothing item do you find the hardest to shop for personally? Is this the same among the women you’ve worked with?
I am on the hunt right now for two items: an amazing jumpsuit, and a buttery soft and supple leather jacket, both in spring and fall designs! I do not want pleather or imitation fabrics. I want the innovative cuts we find under a size 12, but for me. I love a challenge, and I will find these two!
Historically, plus-size denim has often been difficult to fashion. There are designers stepping to the plate (SVOBODA and Embody Denim), and getting one’s hands on these two can be hard when the plus-size woman does not know who they are or where to find them. On Twitter, we discuss this often … denim, leather jackets and the latest trends.
Q: What is the biggest fashion mistake you see curvy women make? Is there one item or trend they should stay away from?
With the current change of the fashion climate in plus-size, I feel the most important mistake is not experimenting with the new options. I would also say women should not be so sensitive to the size label, and instead wear what fits them properly. When something fits well, you look and feel good. For the longest time, plus-size women were told they couldn’t wear something, or were shown how to dress slimmer. This mind-set often restricts their view of fashion options.
Q: What are some of your favorite full-figure-friendly trends for spring and summer?
Aside from jumpsuits, I am in love with denim dresses, tunics and blouses. I am also in love with the tribal warrior trend — part nature, part futuristic, and a whole lot of fierce and edge!
Q: Which celebrities do a great job of flattering their figures?
I absolutely adore Queen Latifah. She is consistently fierce with her curves and takes the most amazing fashion risks — with success! I also admire the gusto and brazen fashion sense of Beth Ditto. She challenges the norm and celebrates her curves.
Q: Your mantra is “Curvy. Confident. Chic.” What are some small steps that full-figured women can take every day to reach this mind-set?
First and foremost, you have to embrace what you have. Acknowledging that you have curves and that they are beautiful is a must. We all have areas we may dislike, and that is OK, but knowing and accepting your body as being beautiful comes first.
Q: You have 15 minutes to get ready for a dinner date. What do you throw on?
My Melissa Masse olive-green jersey dress (it shows off just enough cleavage) paired with my snakeskin gladiator heels. I would layer with a fancy coat, throw on a pair of drop earrings and I’d be ready to go! Overall, it would just need to be comfortable, fun and fuss-free.
OK, now the lightning round …
Favorite color? Blue or brown.
Favorite fabric? Pima cotton.
Favorite midnight snack? Chocolate.
Person you’d most like to meet — past or present? At this moment, Queen Latifah or Norma Kamali.
Guilty pleasure? “Charmed” reruns and Bejeweled on Facebook.
Qualities you most admire in a person? Honesty, fairness and compassion.
Favorite getaway? Who has time for that? My mom’s in southern California.
Favorite place to shop? Too many to choose.
Hardest thing to pull off? Spanx!
Check out Marie Denee's online boutique at mariedenee.com, and catch up on the latest in curve-friendly news and shopping at thecurvyfashionista.mariedenee.com.
Photo: Courtesy of Marie Denee