An Interview With Plus-Size Fashion Stylist Reah Norman

Recently our team, at Sealed with a Kiss Designs, had the pleasure to work with the amazing Fashion and Product Stylist, Reah Norman. Reah assisted us in creating our new styling “how-to” tutorial video for the highly anticipated Anastasia Interchangeable Wrap. We specifically chose Reah for this project because her specialty is in Plus Size Fashion Styling. She has become the west coast “go-to-girl” for all plus size women. Reah was so much fun and such a joy to have work on the project that I talked her into doing a special interview with me so that I could share with our readers/customers a little about her and her profession.

So Reah, to start off I’d love for you to tell our readers/customers what exactly it is you do and how long you have been doing it?

I am a photo stylist and I specialize in fashion styling for plus size, as well as product and prop styling. I am hired by magazines, clothing designers, advertising/PR agencies, and corporate divisions of retail stores to select appropriate wardrobe, props, and accessories to be used in photos, videos, television, movies, live performances and fashion shows. I also work with plus size models to select wardrobe for portfolio development, test shoots, and special events.

What made you decide to step into this profession?

Since I was young I’ve had an eye for styling, photography and I have been drawn to clothing and fabric. My first job was working at a drycleaners, and then I went onto working in Visual Merchandising. I studied photography, art, and fashion throughout high school and college, and I ultimately received my B.S. in Merchandising and Photography. After graduation, I moved to Los Angeles and attended a post graduate program in Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. I knew that I wanted to be a stylist and I was confident that studying these disciplines would allow me to refine my eye for detail and create my style as an artist. I have worked on staff, as well as freelance, with several companies, designers, and industry professionals and my styling work has been featured in print ad campaigns, company catalogs, and newspaper advertisements.

What do you think are some of the differences between styling for main stream fashion and plus size fashion?

There are not many stylists in the industry who are willing or interested in tackling the plus market. Styling for plus models is unique because their bodies are unique. Most straight size models are between sizes 0-4, and given the nature of a body that size, they are generally able to wear most garments. With plus models, there is great care that goes into garment selection based on body type and size. Also, plus size women need to be more cautious of trends and styles they choose. There are specific tricks that stylists use to achieve proportion on a plus woman’s body.

How would you describe your personal style?

My personal style is comfortable, functional, and trendy. I love jeans, dresses, sweaters, and accessories. I tend to buy more basic items and then dress them up with trendy jewelry or scarves. I love scarves! On the average day you will see me in wide leg jeans, converse, a “boyfriend” cardigan and, of course, a scarf. During the summer I love to wear dresses and sandals. I live in L.A., so my style is definitely reflective of the “So Cal” lifestyle.

As a plus size woman, what is your biggest obstacle in shopping for yourself?

Personally, my biggest obstacle when shopping for myself is that I cannot find what I want to buy in my size! As I am shopping, looking through magazines, and trend watching, I am constantly wanting to see more mainstream designs and styles made for plus. It is frustrating to see beautiful styles and designs in the “missy” and “junior” sections of the department stores, then go to the “plus” section and the styles and designs just do not compare. There is a huge opportunity for the plus market, and trendy styles and silhouettes are not represented as well as they should be.

What is your biggest obstacle when styling plus size women?

With seasoned plus models, I find they are generally comfortable with their bodies and professional about trying different colors and styles, but when working with new models or plus women who are not models it can be challenging to get them to “step outside the box”. As individuals, we do not truly see ourselves the way that others see us and as a stylist I try to offer a fresh perspective as well as educate my clients on styles and colors that are flattering to them.

As a stylist, how do you feel about the availability of stylish plus size women’s fashion?

I think the market is growing slowly but surely and more companies are listening to their consumers, however, I am generally disappointed in the selection and availability of stylish, fashion forward plus size fashion that is out there today. Considering that 50% of all women in America age 18 and over wear plus sized clothing, it is an abundant market that is not being catered to. Plus women who are “fashion forward” are desperately waiting to have more options and are often confined to shopping online, rather than being able to walk into a store, try on, and buy. Hopefully companies will continue to listen to fashion forward plus size consumers and create fashions that are easily accessible, affordable, and wearable.

What is the biggest fashion mistake a plus size woman can make when choosing their wardrobe?

The biggest fashion mistake that a plus size woman can make is wearing the wrong size! A common misconception is that wearing tight clothing will make you look smaller and wearing baggy clothing will hide your problem areas. The truth is that wearing clothes that are too tight will only add attention to the area where the garment is clinging and make that area appear larger. In contrast, wearing clothes that are too big will add bulk to your silhouette. Always try on garments in a few different sizes, remembering that the number on the tag does not matter because manufacturer sizing is different for every brand. Your clothing should always closely follow the contours of your shape and enhance your curves.

What is the number 1 item that you think every plus size woman should have in their wardrobe?

The number 1 item that every plus size woman should have in their wardrobe is a flattering pair of plus size jeans. If you choose a nice pair of denim that is flattering to your shape and height, they can be worn for almost any occasion. Generally, dark denim in boot cut, flare, and wide-leg styles are flattering for plus body types.

What contribution would you like to bring to the plus size fashion industry?

I hope that as a stylist I can contribute to the plus size fashion industry as an educator, role model, and mentor. I truly enjoy connecting to real women all over the country and helping them feel great about themselves by offering them a fresh perspective on plus fashion and style. I have found my niche with the plus industry and I hope to continue partnering with plus related companies, designers, and industry leaders to reach out to society and media and showcase curvy women in a positive, flattering way.

Do you see the plus size fashion market growing in main stream recognition anytime in the near future? If so, how?

Yes, I definitely see the plus size fashion market growing in main stream recognition more and more every day, even though it is not happening as quickly as we would like it to. There are bigger, mainstream retailers, like Forever 21, launching plus lines, and when other companies see their instant success, they will hopefully follow in their footsteps. Also, there is an upcoming trend of television shows in America that focus on plus size lifestyle, such as FOX’s dating show “More to Love” and Oxygen’s “Dance Your Ass Off”. I believe that as these shows gain popularity, so will the supply and demand for plus fashion.

Lately there have been a number of high fashion designers expanding their sizes to incorporate plus size women. What are your thoughts on this?

Thankfully, high fashion designer’s expanding their lines to plus size women is generally the direction the market is headed. As long as plus consumers love the designs and continue to purchase these items, then designers will continue to cater to plus size women and other designers will follow in their footsteps.

For our customers who are interested in plus size styling, what’s your best advice to get them started in the right direction?

My advice for your customers, who are interested in pursuing a career as a plus size stylist, is to do your homework and know your market. With any career, you should have extensive knowledge of your potential clients and what services you can offer them that will help their business grow. Stylists are there to make their clients look their best, whether that client is a model, a celebrity, or a company. The best way to learn the tools of the trade is to work as a stylist assistant or intern, which allows you to see all aspects of the business and gain your confidence while working with a professional.

. by Danielle Line