Body Positive and Fashion Forward
For Communication Assistant Professor Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, body positivity is about more than the number on a piece of clothing. “What we need to move from in society is the judgment not just of sizing, but the judgment around body. The mission is to understand the evolution of a woman’s body, of who she really is today.” With her new show, PeopleTV’s The Perfect Fit, Armstrong-Fowler seeks to accomplish that mission.
The Perfect Fit, filmed at Armstrong-Fowler’s Haute & Co. Bridal Boutique—where “curvy brides can choose from hundreds of dresses in sizes 18 to 32”—is a six-episode series following 12 curvy brides-to-be in search of the dress of their dreams. The show explores the brides’ experiences in overcoming body shaming and finding their perfect gown.
The catalyst for The Perfect Fit began with the founding of Haute & Co. When a fellow bride-to-be, size 26, was having difficulty finding a dress—“retailers would say their sizes didn’t go past an 18, or they wouldn’t have any samples for her to try on”—Armstrong-Fowler delved into bridal research and discovered that this was no surprise for curvy brides. With her background in Fashion Public Relations, including six years as Sears’ Public Relations Director prior to teaching at Columbia, the idea of a curvy-friendly bridal boutique became her passion project. “I can fix this for brides in Chicago,” she thought at the time. She then created Haute & Co.
Authentic Entertainment, the Emmy-winning production company behind shows like Ace of Cakes and Toddlers & Tiaras, was interested in Haute & Co. almost immediately. Armstrong-Fowler hopes that when watching the show, viewers will recognize that “all brides, no matter size two or 22, struggle with finding the right gown for their big day. Curvy brides should be treated the same as traditional brides. There should be a size democracy around gowns.”
This concept centers around Armstrong-Fowler’s most important beliefs, and it is one that she returns to in her retail work as well as her Fashion Public Relations classes at Columbia. In her upcoming classes this spring, Armstrong-Fowler intends to have students promote a launch from a designer that specializes completely in curvy. “It takes no time to launch the new line from Versace; that’s sexy and cute. Everyone sees that, everyone can do that. That’s been the template. You really want to show innovation? Launch the new [plus-size clothing brand] ELOQUII collection.” It’s important, she says, for students interested in working in Fashion Public Relations to enhance the different segments of the industry and identify how to address them: “If you don’t understand this conversation or how to talk to different segments in different ways, and you want to stick to the status quo, tick-tock on your career. I built an entire career off of curvy.”
To further her mission in democratizing sizing, Armstrong-Fowler will be opening Revolution Bridal, an online-only bridal platform, this fall.
The Perfect Fit is now available for streaming on PeopleTV.