The Ridiculous Reason This Designer Was Accused of Betraying Plus-Size Women

November 27th 2015

Laura Donovan

Journalist and Ready to Stare plus-size designer Alysse Dalessandro faced major backlash after making a puffy "cupcake" dress inspired by Rihanna's pink Grammy's 2015 gown. Many argued that Dalessandro was perpetuating the idea that plus-size women should not show their curves and ought to hide them instead.

Alysse Dalessandro cupcake dress

Dalessandro, who says she has been a "visibly fat person on the internet for nearly two years," told ATTN: that she's used to fielding negative comments online, but that her intention with the cupcake dress was never to put down plus-size women. She thought Rihanna resembled a "cake topper" in her 2015 Grammy's gown and that she wanted to replicate her look. As a plus-size woman, however, Dalessandro knew nobody else would create this dress for her, as the plus-size market at large, which was worth $9 billion in 2014, still leaves a lot to be desired.

RELATED: How Retailers Are Failing Themselves and the Plus-Size Community

"I designed this dress because I saw the dress that Rihanna wore to the Grammy's and I wanted to wear something with a similar shape," Dalessandro told ATTN:. "I always say that I don't want to just be an innovator for plus size, I want to break fashion boundaries in all sizes and there aren't a lot of straight size designers even making something like this. This dress was a direct challenge to the idea that a plus-size woman is only acceptable if she is actively trying to look thinner."

Not only did Dalessandro's dress receive backlash from fellow plus-size women, but also cruel trolls who used the product announcement as an opportunity to make fun of Dalessandro's figure:

Cupcake dress backlash

Cupcake dress backlash

Dalessandro also told ATTN: that a lot of people use body positive hashtags just to make fun of the movement. She won't let the negative commenters discourage her from posting what she wants, however:

"Online, you aren't a human to [mean commenters], you are the manifestation of their insecurities and what they hate about themselves. That's one thing I learned right away from being a visibly fat person on the internet. I love my family and friends but there's things that they just can't relate to and that's where my online fat positive friends have really saved my life. There's people that I can talk to about the harassment that I receive online who know what's like because they get it too. And like I can tell my mom that someone made a meme from my photo and she's just gonna say something like, 'well don't post photos of yourself online,' and while I love and appreciate her concern, I know that it's not quite that simple. My visibility isn't really the problem. It's again part of the solution. The more visibility that we have for fat bodies (especially ones that aren't under a size 18, cis-gendered and white), the more that we will remove the stigma associated with being fat. So while people are really mean to me on the internet, I've also developed a really strong support system online as well. The good definitely outweighs the bad. And it's ultimately a trade-off that I am willing to make."

Dalessandro added that the greater movement also needs to include a broader, more diverse range of women. She expressed disappointment regarding the way body positive stories are currently published and framed:

"Increased visibility doesn't work for me if it's at the expense of the individuals who were vital to building this movement. I am so frustrated by the mainstream reporting of the body positive movement because it often features only white or white passing women who are only the smaller side of fat if fat at all. It seems like people want to jump on the bandwagon but don't really care about telling the story from the perspective of those of us who are in this community. And you can't really understand this fight just from an Instagram post. It's so much more than that. Women of color, trans women, gender nonconformists, women over a size 22 are all extremely vital to this conversation and as this conversation continues to grow in terms of media attention, I see the same 'acceptably fat' faces. I am not here for body positivity if it's not inclusive and intersectional."

Despite the negativity from mean commenters and response to her dress, Dalessandro says she's on the side of the plus-size community and that it was nice to see some people shift their opinions on her dress.

"[W]hat people need to understand about this dress is that challenging the ideas of what is considered to be acceptable dress for plus size women isn't working against the community," she said. "I promise that I am part of the solution; not the problem. This dress upset a lot of people but it also really made them think. It made people ask themselves what about this dress made them uncomfortable. People were forced to confront their own insecurities. In some instances, I got to witness this thought process and see people change their minds right before my eyes."

ALSO: Plus-Size Model Tess Holliday Just Spoke the Truth to Her Critics

Mallorie Carrington, the owner of body positive clothing line SmartGlamour, followed the Ready to Stare criticism and told ATTN: via email that she finds it important for women to stick together rather than team up against each other.

"[W]omen, in a very general sense, need to band together instead of pick one another apart," Carrington told ATTN:. "The insecurities we are fed via media, celebrity culture, advertising etc., put us at odds and in competition with one another."

ALSO: SmartGlamour Wants to Educate Women About Clothing Sizes

Carrington said that she is often asked about what "tricks" she uses to make plus-size clothes look nice, even though there are no tricks at all.

"I don't change them at all, and I am not considering about making clothes that disguises anyone's bodies," Carrington said. "I actually, typically put some of my models in outfits that according to silly magazines and 'how to dress' articles, they 'shouldn't' wear, and no one notices. If the clothes are made to fit onto your body and your measurements properly, and you feel wonderful, you will look wonderful, that's the only secret trick."

Though Carrington, Dalessandro, and a slew of others are working to better serve the plus size community, the market remains largely ignored by many retailers despite being worth billions of dollars. Sizes 12-24 are typically considered plus size, yet the average woman is a size 14. However, many plus size women have complained that the fashion industry continuously overlooks their needs.

"Plus-size has never been given respect," Sarah Conley, a plus size fashion blogger in Manhattan, told Racked earlier this year. "The clothing is always shoved next to maternity or sale, and is often moved around stores to make room for seasonal or beachwear."

ALSO: Women Are Sharing Pictures of Their Thighs for An Important Reason

An earlier version of this story misinterpreted a quote from Mallorie Carrington that read, "to this woman, flattering doesn't mean 'to look thin.'" ATTN: wrote that Carrington meant Alysse Dalessandro as "this woman," but Carrington was not referring to Alysse Dalessandro in this quote. ATTN: has also included more quotes from its interview with Alysse Dalessandro to further incorporate Dalessandro's comments meant to "challeng[e] beauty standards and increas[e] fat visibility." ATTN: regrets these errors.