Why Visibility Matters: How Body Image and Advocacy, got me here.

I want to tell you a bit about my background. I have worked in the fashion industry for over a decade, spending most of this time in New York City. This has played a huge part in my career and personal life, which has brought me to the creation of TOWEL. I have worked in various parts of the industry, everything from technical design, product development and creative design to high-end luxury tailoring. I have worked behind the scenes on many big events and am here to say well, as I do have some wild stories, the reward has been awesome but the life is not-so-glamorous. I have worked grueling hours, on little sleep, fueled by coffee and the conversation of my fashion comrades. We are often in the pits of chaos making magic last minute for designers, celebrities, and stylists.

In these spaces I often feel like I am under a microscope of societal beauty standards. I see first hand what goes into getting someone dressed for a stage or red carpet. Since I have been doing this for a decade, I have seen the shift of the industry and the people who encompass those spaces. I myself have changed a lot, physically I have aged and with that I have also witnessed the biases that come along with, well, being in a fat body. At some point I was sized out of straight size clothing and into plus size clothing, something I vividly remember as a young girl, I was fearful of. I stand here today celebrating my current body, celebrating who I am and who I have become in this body. I also look towards a future where through continued visibility, young girls and children all together, grow up in a world with more access and visibility in the media, world and otherwise.

I know the lens I saw my body thru for so many years would have been different had it been instilled in me at a young age that “All Bodies Are Good Bodies.” 

My body is no better or worse than it once was but I sure do love her more. In this process I have gained great empathy and passion for body acceptance and this ongoing journey. I am working towards bringing size inclusion into spaces, especially into fashion. Now, when I am working in these luxury spaces, although it’s less frequent I am able to carry myself with a knowing that I am worthy even though I may not be able to wear one item of clothing in the room, due to lack of sizing. I continue to show up in these spaces because when I see another plus size person in this space, there is a unsaid shift that I can feel, a mutual understanding of “I am here, we are here.” I wouldn’t have thought 10 years ago there would be photos of me in my underwear on the internet, but here we are. Getting in front of the camera was uncomfortable at first, but I know how important it is that other people, particularly women get to see me do this. If I can celebrate my body, maybe they can celebrate

I encourage you to practice photographing yourself in your underwear as an act of self love, you don’t have to put it on the internet but if you do, I celebrate that too. It may be uncomfortable at first but it is going to benefit you and the world in a positive way.

Visibility matters, we know it has many proven effects on society and our mental health. I chose the photo for this article that makes me the most uncomfortable, as a practice. “Bodies be bodying”, as I learned from a dear friend and Body Image Educator: Teri Hofford. She has taught me to begin with accepting that I have a body, so I can sit here and say:

I know all bodies are inherently worthy, and I am becoming someone who loves my body just as it is. I believe it is important to keeping showing up even when I am the only fat voice, because visibility creates change. How are you showing up in your body for yourself and those around you?

The irony is, that although I have made clothing for years, I am now making towels. This isn’t an accident. Towels represent something so simple and yet are used so frequently to which we as a society have been accepting “good enough” for years. I don’t think it’s good enough. There is no reason we should have to use a towel on the daily that is so small it doesn’t wrap around our whole body. It is literally a rectangle of fabric, come on people. This “too small towel” is a constant reminder of the structures and institutions that don’t want us here. I am saying enough! I believe the innovation TOWEL is making in this category can help bring visibility to other markets that are lacking and I am so excited for what is to come. 

Author: Mary Carney, TOWEL Founder 




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