Authors: Kate Stayman-London
“Maybe this is silly”—Bea ducked her head—“but I think I would choose Barbara Stanwyck?”
Jeanne smiled knowingly, her whole face creasing in fond crinkles. “
She disappeared among the racks, a few moments of rustling and the jangle of sliding hangers before she emerged with a floor-length cape fashioned in plush velvet, a dark forest green. It was hooded, lined with silk, and clasped at the neck with a silver brooch fashioned to look like lilies of the valley, with clusters of tiny freshwater pearls where the flowers would be.
“Oh,” Bea breathed as Jeanne draped the cape over her shoulders, the fabric gently cascading.
Jeanne led her to a floor-length mirror, smoky with age, and Bea felt a sharp twist in her chest—it was like looking at a glamorous stranger. Bea never had a sweet-sixteen dress, never went to prom, convinced her parents to let her wear jeans to graduation (since, she argued, she’d be covered up by her cap and gown anyway, tentlike and maroon), and reluctantly shoved herself into a series of appalling bridesmaids’ dresses for her brothers’ weddings. In her entire life, no garment Bea had put on her body had ever made her feel like this.
“How much is it?” she heard herself asking, her voice choked and small.
“It is two hundred,” Jeanne offered, but she paused when she saw the look of panic cross Bea’s face.
“How much do you have?” she asked kindly.
Bea opened her wallet—she had forty euros and change, which was also her money to eat for the next week. She’d already spent too much at the flea market, and the credit card from her parents was only for emergencies. Two hundred euros was an unthinkable sum.
“I’m so sorry,” Bea whispered, and reached to take off the cape, but Jeanne put a hand on her shoulder.
“Perhaps,” she said, “there can be an arrangement.”
Bea didn’t understand what she meant. “Arrangement?”
“I will make you a gift of this cape, and in return, you will wear it all over Paris, and you will tell everyone you meet about my shop, yes?”
“What? No, I couldn’t possibly accept—”
of course you can.” Jeanne deftly snatched the cape from Bea’s shoulders and removed its handwritten tag. “You would like a bag, or you will wear it now?”
Bea’s face flushed, and she looked down.
“I don’t understand why you’re doing this,” she mumbled.
Jeanne tenderly placed the cape around Bea’s shoulders.
“The way you dress, the way you hang your head? I think perhaps you are hiding,” she said quietly. “But in this cape?”
Bea looked up to meet her eye. “In this cape, what?”
Jeanne’s lips curled at the corners, the barest hint of a grin.
“You will be someone who everyone must see.”
The Internet was ablaze this week when pop star Trish Kelly took to Twitter to complain that multiple designers refused to dress her for the Grammys—because she’s a size 8! Bea Schumacher is all too familiar with this conundrum: With more than half a million Instagram followers and a blog (
, a play on OMG) that logs millions of visitors each month, Bea is one of today’s most popular fashion bloggers—but because she’s plus-size, almost no high-end designers make clothes that fit her.
For this week’s edition of “One to Watch,” we caught up with Schumacher to chat about her thriving career, enviable travel schedule, and hottest tips for rocking a red carpet, no matter your size:
How did you get started as a fashion blogger? Have you always loved fashion?
God, no. When I was in high school, I wore exclusively baggy black pants and T-shirts and sweaters. I didn’t want to stand out; I didn’t even want anyone to look at me.
When did that change?
Junior year in college, I spent a semester abroad in Paris—that’s where my fashion addiction began. I was totally broke at the time, I spent the semester digging through vintage shops looking for treasures. I found so many great things that my friends encouraged me to blog about them, a little fashion travel diary. My best friend in my program was a photography major, and she took pictures of me in flowing dresses and floppy hats drinking wine by the Seine. I didn’t know the first thing about launching a website, so I just made a preformatted blog on Tumblr—that was the first iteration of OMBea. At first, I just posted pictures, but then I started writing more about my life and the challenges of searching for great clothes as a plus-size woman; it became a really important outlet for me, particularly after I moved back to Los Angeles with its totally monolithic beauty standards.
Was the blog an overnight sensation?
Hardly! In the early days, it was really only for people I knew. After college, I went to work at a Hollywood agency; I thought maybe I would be a stylist for movies and TV shows one day, and it seemed like a good way to learn the ropes of the industry. I was an assistant there, and one of my boss’s clients was a really famous actress who always loved my outfits. We got to talking about my blog, and she tweeted about it—that’s when things really blew up. I got tons of new followers, and I started being included in magazine roundups of who to follow, things like that. Once my reader numbers started getting big, I was able to pound the pavement to find sponsors and advertisers.
All while you were working a full-time job?
Yeah, it was pretty nuts. But after a year of hard work, it really paid off: I was able to quit my assistant job and become a full-time blogger, and I’ve never looked back. It’s been more fun than I could have dreamed.
Tell us more! What’s a typical day like in the life of Bea Schumacher?
It’s always different—that’s one of the things I love about my job. I might be meeting with a plus-size brand about a potential collaboration, or heading off to a fashion party in London or New York, or doing a photo shoot in my own backyard to show readers how I’m planning to style new looks for summer.
But you don’t just write about clothes—you also write about the experience of being a plus-size person who loves fashion.
I think it would be dishonest not to. It’s only very recently that a lot of companies have begun to make clothes that fit me—and especially when it comes to high-end designers, many brands that do claim to offer “plus-size” clothes only go up to a size 16! Which I find ridiculous, because size 16 is essentially
for women in America. Within the plus-size community, I identify as “medium fat,” so I still have a lot of privilege when it comes to finding clothing options. It’s much harder for women just a few sizes larger than I am, which is infuriating, not to mention senseless from a business perspective. I want to shake designers and say,
Hey, do you guys hate fat women so much that you’re willing to cut out two-thirds of your potential customers? Do you really see our bodies as so unworthy of wearing your clothes?
But the hard truth is that a lot of people in the fashion world would really prefer that I weren’t in it. And I think a lot of plus-size women feel that way in our day-to-day lives. For us, something as simple as posting an outfit-of-the-day selfie is a political action, and we have to live with all the people who feel entitled to comment on our bodies, to tell us we’re ugly, or unhealthy, or grotesque.
People actually say that to you?
On my blog, and on my Insta and Twitter comments? All the time! So many people have this vitriolic hatred of women in the public eye—especially women who have the audacity not to conform to conventional beauty standards—and on social media, they can deliver their hostility directly to our mentions. I wish I could say it never gets to me, but sometimes it does. It hurts to have strangers echoing the worst things I’ve ever believed about myself. But I love fashion so much because it has the power to make me feel strong and beautiful. Ditto for my closest friends and my amazing community of readers.
What about romance? Anyone special who makes you feel particularly beautiful?
Not right now! My schedule is pretty hectic, and I haven’t had time or energy to put into finding a great relationship. But who knows, maybe I’ll figure that out soon.
TEXT MESSAGE TRANSCRIPT, JUNE 9:
: Guess … what … I have
: A spaceship. Ten rubies. Oh my god, is it a pony????
: Nope, better than all those things
: I have, in my possession … a plane ticket to Los Angeles.
: Is this really happening? I haven’t seen you in so long I forget what you look like
: Ouch. (You’re right, I deserve that)
: But yes! I get in the afternoon of July fourth, and then I’ll spend the night at your place (if that’s okay?) before I head to San Diego the next morning for Sarah’s folks’ anniversary party. Does that work?
: Definitely! Want me to poll the old crowd from the agency to see who’s around?
: Up to you, but I’d rather just catch up with you than split time with a whole group
: I know I had to move to Atlanta to “be supportive of my fiancée’s career” or whatever, but I hate being so far from you, Bea.
: I really miss you.
: I miss you too.