Admired women of the fashion and social media scene explore their personal journey of accepting, loving and dressing up their different body shapes and sizes.

The fashion industry and its standards of perfection is a hotbed for complex, body image relationships. Along the way, the creative form of expression meant one had to be a certain size, height and weight to be ‘in style’. Thanks to outspoken trendsetters, diversity and size inclusivity is getting its due airtime. We speak to 6 inspiring women from different walks of the fashion circuit, on loving their bodies and how they find confidence through fashion.  

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Above Photo: Courtesy of Kristy Yong

Kristy Yong, director of Ms. Read and d.d collective

The business of inclusion

Ms. Read pioneered plus-size fashion in Malaysia. We certainly had a fair share of upturned noses but each occasion reminds me of WHY we do what we do – which is the business of inclusion. This brings me back to my roots of how the brand was founded over 20 years ago by my mother, Helen Read. Today, Ms. Read has evolved from a home-grown brand to an omni-channel international retail business.”

Mental awareness

“It’s a struggle because I love good food. However, a growing awareness on fitness and achieving mental clarity has helped. I begun fitness training thrice a week as something I’ve decided to do for myself this year. It also enables me to make better business decisions.”

Celebrating all shapes

“Every action leads to a reaction and it boils down to us as individuals within our communities, to make conscious decisions to be inclusive. We often receive feedback through our Customer Experience team that our models only represent Caucasians and are ‘not plus-sized enough.’ This feedback led to Ms. Read's #MSRBodyPositive campaign, which celebrates women from all walks of life and of every shape, size and age.”

 Comfortable in your skin

“I’m a creature of comfort and being comfortable gives me the confidence to carry out my day.”

See also: Kristy Yong’s Travel Diary: The ‘Trans-Scandinavia 2015’ tour

Nana Al Haleq, fitness model

Putting fun into fashion

“One of the usual comments I get is that I can’t pull off certain styles as I’ll appear too sexy and bulky. I usually take such ‘unfriendly’ remarks positively, perhaps they don’t understand how to dress my body. There are always ways for me to rock every style (as seen on Instagram). Alterations may be needed but that’s what makes fashion fun.” 

From skinny to fitspiration

“I’ve been skinny all my life and clothes wouldn't fit well, at 42kg and 160cm tall. I desired to have shapes and curves in the right places; hence, I picked up fitness and built my way to my dream body. I now weigh a comfortable 52-55kg. I loved my figure then and I love my figure now, too. Above all, I love that my body is now healthier and a reminder of all the hard work I put into it.”

Diversity for men, too

“The fashion industry has progressed by featuring and celebrating women with diverse shape and sizes but I think there’s a need to celebrate diversity in the male body sizes. Designers should start designing clothes for plus size male figures that are comfortable, too.”

 Style as an outlet of expression

“Comfort, material & cut: As much as I love fashion, comfort is a priority. No matter how good the clothes look on me, if they don’t deliver comfort, it’s a big no-no. I like to feel free when I move to express myself more.”

See also: 7 Malaysian Fitness Influencers For When You Need To Lose The Festive Kilos

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Above Photo: Courtesy of Nana Al Haleq

Veen Dee Tan, fashion influencer

Baby bumps and learning curves

“I had such a hard time coping with my body since getting pregnant. At events, almost everyone grabbed my cheeks and screamed, ‘chubby cheeks!’ then I would cry my way back home later. It was getting harder to hide my baby bump. Part of my job is to help brands create content and looking at myself in the picture made me want to delete everything. Then one day I felt her first kick and that just settled me right in. If I am not going to enjoy this magical journey I will end up regretting it.”

On body discrimination

“Most of my group are always talking about how the industry has evolved and tolerance towards different body types has increased. The only time I’ve been discriminated is back when I was head of marketing in FashionValet while attending tech events – it’s hard to convince the male dominant industry with my petite size.”

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Above Photo: Courtesy of @deeecupps/ Instagram

Embracing her ‘trademarks’

“I have always had difficulty in accepting that I am short and flat chested but I have come to realise that I am not built to be a model or cover girl. These are my trademarks and I shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”

The role of big brands

“Advertisers and creative directors will have to take responsibility on the impact their directions make on the younger generation. Once they set an example, it’s easier for the community to follow suit. One day, I hope labels will no longer be given to women.”

See also: Asia's Most Stylish: 85 Fashion-Forward Women You Need To Know Across The Region

Audrey Ooi, blogger of fourfeetnine

Calling fun-sized by the name

“I actually haven't faced any discrimination. I think it's because I am very upfront about my size – it's my blog name after all! – And a huge part of my identity. I guess I face discrimination in not being 'average size' and certain brands don't carry my size.”

 How it shaped her identity

“I was small my whole life. In school I was nicknamed hobbit, Mrs Frodo Baggins and smurf, which I laughed it off. I named my blog Fourfeetnine whilst waiting for a better one to come along, but the name stuck. Because I embraced my size, it became my persona and remains so in a positive way.”

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Above Photo: Courtesy of Sean Wong

Always dress to impress

“I feel better if my outfit is put together. It doesn't have to be super nice, most of the time I'm dressed casually if I'm not at work or at events because I'm running errands and doing school runs. I always make an effort to coordinate my outfit. I put on makeup, match my sneakers or sandals with my clothes, and always wear earrings.” 

See also: Style-Spotting At The 2017 Generation T Party: Best Looks On Our Radar

Lim Ai Chiin, founder of Cuevolution

Set your own standards

“If someone makes a comment, learn to brush it off as everyone’s view of beauty is different. No one should be forced to commit to someone else’s standard. Often, people get deluded with a certain image of what a “good” body should look like when I think the key to obtaining a healthy body is understanding what your body needs, from what you eat and exercise.”

Graceful ageing

“I think acceptance grows with age! I generally find I’m more comfortable now then I was before when I was much younger and was still experimenting with a lot of styles.”

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Above Photo: Courtesy of Kim Mun
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Above Photo: Courtesy of Kim Mun

 Industry influences

“Asos is pretty big on promoting body positivity and mental health and have committed to not overly Photoshopping models. There has been a rise in plus size models on the runway at NYFW. I think the industry should be consistent in maintaining this progress. Actresses and influencers are also speaking up on this issue.”

Dress for yourself

“I generally dress according to my mood of the day and style. I don’t overthink it as I find being confident is best when you are just comfortable.”

See also: Lim Ai Chiin Launches Online Retail Platform Cuevolution

Ili Sulaiman, celebrity cook

Size representation

“There should be a supply catering to large women, tall women, small women. There is a need for everyone. I find that to be body discrimination because if you are going to make beautiful garments, why not share the love with women of all shapes and sizes?”

 More substance, less judgement

“My mother is of Chinese and English heritage and is a curvy women herself. As a former stewardess, her grooming is always on point and seeing how she carries herself and her confidence rubbed off on me while growing up. My mother never dressed for anyone but herself. She instilled in me that you need to know what suits your body shape, and to be comfortable and presentable. I also feel I have a lot more to give through personality and substance.”

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Above Photo: Courtesy of Ili Sulaiman
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Above Photo: Courtesy of

Fashion awareness

“It’s important to be kind to people of all shapes and forms. You do not know their struggle and you need to be empathetic to their needs. The clothes you design and make can really impact and change a person’s confidence, self-love and mental state. The power of a garment that fits instantly makes you feel like you are the moon and the stars.”

 You do you

“I have my days. Some days I feel like a girly dress, some days I feel like I want to wear a man’s shirt and jeans, some days I will dress up to the nines, with heels, hair and makeup. I dress for myself and I am comfortable to carry it.”

See also: Food For Good: How Ili Sulaiman Is Nurturing The Foodie Community

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