The more the issues surrounding size inclusivity and beauty diversity in the mainstream fashion industry become part of our current conversations, the more inspirational women who represent a broader spectrum of attractiveness begin to emerge in the media. The revolution that started with the rise of the Naomi Campbells and Sophie Dahls of the supermodel era has been growing steadily in strength as — with the number of 21st century humans with access to the internet expanding — style icons have emerged from the everyday thanks to social media and blogs. Fashion blogs and Instagram accounts give women with unique style whose work is all about how to embrace your flaws (perceived flaws, that is) a free and accessible platform to project their idiosyncratic approaches to fashion. Public places in which they explore their sartorial voices and encourage others to do the same.My favorite "unconventional" style blogger by far is A Curious Fancy's Ragini Nag Rao (who has also written for ROOKIE Mag, xoJane and Marie Claire India). This beauty hails from Calcutta, India (but plans to move over to U.K. to be with her fiancée in the near future) and puts the world of plus-size stylings firmly on the fashion map.
An intellectual as well as a pretty face, Ragini has studied the British Colonial Era of India at university, and her sartorial choices reflect her interest in "East meets West." Floaty lace, starched whites and English Victoriana meet the vibrant tones of the East. Dressed in shades of saffron, azure, spiced reds or antique golds, linen whites and eau de nil, Ragini has an otherworldly dress sense inspired by the illustrations in her childhood books.
Always the activist, Ragini rejects conventional fashion rules, turning plus-size no-nos into must haves. She never shies away from shorts, knees-highs, sleeveless or cropped tops, and she wears them all beautifully. Ragini inspires me to get my legs out in the summer, not shy away from displaying my round arms, and to be proud of my little pot belly.
Ragini's ethereal photography style and expert posing give plus-size styling the same status as Vogue's editorials. My issue with plus-size fashion styling as a whole is that still, the photography often has an almost catalogue feel, and when curvaceous ladies do grace the pages of established sartorial rags, they almost always seem tokenized.
Ragini's photography, however, is gorgeous by default, and demonstrates that the only barrier between plus-size fashion breaking into the mainstream is the presentation of it. She proves that women's bodies larger than a size 6 are just as versatile and able to showcase eccentric and "trend driven" fashions alike.
A Curious Fancy is not only inspiring sartorially, but emotionally as well. In the spirit of beautiful TMI, Ragini opens up to her readers about the darker side of her psyche, in both a breathtakingly articulate and raw manner. She writes openly about her periods of depression and mental health issues. She is sometimes self indulgent and pitying, but in a way that recognizes that other humans around the globe feel the same. She reaches out to the readers' heartstrings to make a connection — to show she also feels the same. But she never embodies the "woe is me" apathetic archetype. Her beautifully crafted words acknowledge sadness as something that needs to be talked about openly and honestly.
Likewise, in contrast to her perfectly planned outfit posts, Ragini often takes photos of herself sans makeup! She showcases her skin with all its "imperfections." Hers is a fashion blog that presents beauty in an attainable manner, which I think is essential. She is a role model because she demonstrates the difference between deep beauty and glamour. Glamour being a veil, an empowering mask, a playful costume; beauty as something more inward and integral to the personal self.
So channel your inner daydreamer, and adore the body in which you were born — whether you are boyish and slender, buxom and ample or anything in between — in these Ragini-inspired finds.
The Sparkly Shoes
"I have loved pretty clothes for as long as I can remember but what I find most liberating about fashion is how it allows me to live a million lives in my reclusive, monkish one, and how it’s part of the same creative impetus that leads me to write. For me, this is the real beauty of fashion, its true strength."
Blue Iris Full Sole Glitter Jazz Shoe, $24, nagardancingshoes.co.uk
Gold Fred's Timeless Oxfords, $128, fredsshoes.com
Good Genes Rose Gold Shoes, $352, i
One thing that turned me on to Ragini's whimsical style is her love for a good pair of sparkly shoes. Observing her exciting collection as I scrolled down her blog, I had a "me too" moment. I absolutely love them, especially gold shoes, and I always find her choice of fancy footwear inspiring.
Always with a vintage air, but with an element of childlike eccentricity alike, Ragini's metallic or glittered lace-ups add a fun accent to her quaint ensembles. These Ragini-esque shimmering shoes are all lovingly crafted to perfection and will last. Whether you go for the bargain dance shoes or investment booties, these beauties will sprinkle even the most minimal of outfits with eccentricity.
The Star Hair Piece
"My body is history. When I look in the mirror, I see my past. I see strength, the kind of strength that has survived abuse and lived through and continues to live through the ravages of mental illness. I see a survivor. I see a woman who has lived in the darkness of a damaged mind and who still thrived. I see someone who fought to live on even when hope seemed pointless and desperate. 'I have survived hell,' I tell myself, 'And I will survive it every single time.'"
Starburst Gold Plated Hair Slides, Heart of Gold,
Star Hair Pin, $16, asos.com
Lucky Star Hair Pin, $15, etsy.com
I love stars, and I often receive gifts in the form of star-shaped adornments. I am naturally drawn to the quirky, symbollic shape. This is one reason why, when I discovered Ragini and the wonderful world of A Curious Fancy, I admired her glorious finds so much! She added star hair accessories made by independent companies to her thick, raven locks emulating 1920s starlets so well that she gave me butterflies. I was simultaneously respectful and lightly jealous! It was really exciting to discover a stylish lady, halfway around the world, who was as irrationally excitable about star hair accessories as me.A lot of Ragini's vintage-inspired, glass-glittered stars are from Giant Dwarf, a lovely company that sadly no longer produces its iconic etoilles. Luckily for you, I have found you the above alternatives!
The Cropped Top
"When I dress like a child from one of the books I used to read, it’s an unsettling, disruptive sight. I’m a grown, fat, brown woman dressed like a white kid from the '40s, the '60s, or even the Victorian era. You don’t expect it — it comes a shock to your defined ideals of what a white child should be, in all its innocence and sanctity, when you see a fat brown woman, that symbol of voluptuous, dangerous Oriental sexuality dressed in the clothes that a pretty white child should be wearing. And this is exactly the reaction I want, this is exactly why I’m doing this. It’s my way of reclaiming power, by disrupting notions of whiteness and brownness, of innocence, sexuality and what, as a brown woman, is 'allowed' me. I am no longer content to occupy the space that I am allowed, I want to shatter those boundaries and take up the space I want."
Plus Size Silver Metallic Belly-Cropped Sweetheart Top, $11, etsy.com
Motel Crop Top, $18, I love a cropped top, and the high-waisted silhouette it conjures. And I love how they are now widley available on the high street. Ragini shows that whether you have flat, washboard abs or a squishy tum, crop tops suit all women!
The Girly Dress & Casual Sweater Combo
"One thing people always tell me is how open I am. And it’s true — my life is an open book; I don’t have anything to hide."
Stars From Scratch Dress, $55, modcloth.com
All Neutral Dress, $100, modcloth.com
Swoon All Afternoon Dress, $60, modcloth.com
Moon Stars Printed Sweatshirt, $25, etsy.com
Bicycle Print Sweatshirt (Sizes S-4XL), $32, etsy.com
Ragini's playful approach to layering is something I absolutely adore. One of my favorite looks is combining girly, floaty dresses with sporty and casual sweaters. It is my go-to. Ragini wears the look so well here in her fun, printed sweatshirt combined with a chiffon dress. Channel her mix of femme and athleticwear with these simple finds.
"For the next week, I looked at those photos every day. Several times a day. And somewhere down the line, something changed. I started seeing things that I liked. I loved how powerful my back looked, like it was meant to carry children. I loved my waist, my sturdy, strong, and yet soft thighs, I loved the sheer length of my legs. I looked at those photos and I saw in myself a beauty I had never seen before. I didn’t look like a model, nor could I ever be one but there was something about it, an attractiveness that shouldn’t have been there, and one which I couldn’t explain. Later on, I realized that that was the beginning of falling in love with myself."
Malabah Eau de Parfum, $157, Inspired by an imagined journey along the East Indian spice route and created by a quintessentially English heritage brand, Malabah is feminine, traditional and contemporary. The perfume reflects Ragini's interest in history and the way she plays with it in her self presentation. A fresh fragrance with a warm heart and base, Malabah opens with notes of lemon Earl Grey tea and cilantro before spices and old-worldy rose. Sandalwood, amber and musk give this perfume a subtly sexy quality that would suit Ragini to a tea.
The Hair And Makeup
Ragini is blessed with large, open features that give her face a voluptuous innocence. Her fleshy lips are full and her eyes are wide. So open your eyes a la Ragini with a liquid eyeliner. I find eyeliner pots with neat, little pen-like brushes work the best for developing your perfect flick. Start from the middle of your top eyelid and work to the outside, thickening your line as you go to a feline flick to make your eyes pop with a flapper girl vibe. Be sure not to start to line the eye close to the tear duct as you will actually make your eyes appear beadier.
Glam'Eyes Professional Liquid Liner, $8, rimmellondon.com
As well as a body fit for an earth goddess, Ragini is blessed with abundant and thick, ebony locks that grow enviously fast. Whether she wears her hair long and luscious or in a bob Clare Bow would covet, her hair philosophy is natural all the way. Ragini is a proud member of the no-poo movement, meaning she has shunned chemically processed haircare products, opting instead for natural alternatives. This coconut based shampoo by Lush is my favourite natural shampoo by far and is always on my Christmas list. It is perfect for full or curly locks like Ragini's and smells good enough to eat. (Although I wouldn't advise it...)
Curly Wurly Shampoo, $26, lush.comSo lather up, coconut, and relax in a warm bath whilst listening to this for some Ragini-inspired posi-vibes....
"Beauty haunts you, glamour doesn’t. I want to be startled by beauty, I want it to take me unawares, I don’t want it to cocoon me in a numbing homogeneity."
This sweet and soulful anthem by equally inspired singer-songwriter, Yuna, uplifts me on the saddest of days. Yuna sings of embracing your true self and living your life how you want to, and this is something that Ragini inspires me to do in her writing and artful self presentation. She acknowledges the grey side of life, but doesn't let it stop her rising like a phoenix and inspiring other women (and men, I am sure) in the process.
Images: Ragini Nag Rao; Courtesy Brands