Behind the seams: Tanya Barlow on embracing colour & her all-time favourite outfit

21 July 2022
By Fashion Quarterly

In a seven-part photographic series, we ask our favourite trendsetters how fashion makes them feel.

Tanya Barlow wears Eloquii suit, Fashion Brand Company top and Nike 'Air Force 1' Valentine's Day-edition shoes. Image: Holly Burgess.

This week we talk to multidisciplinary artist Tanya Barlow about her badass personal style, dopamine dressing, and why she’s excited for the future of fat fashion. 

How would you describe your personal style? 

Principal at the clown school/fashion clown. Fun, comfy, colourful, badass, and a touch of silly. Kooky aunt.

What are your go-to outfit staples? 

Patterned mesh tops, knit column skirt, cropped jackets, cropped cardigans, fun knits, turtlenecks, vests, pockets.

How or in what ways has your style evolved over time? 

I’ve embraced colour a lot more as I get older/more confident. Dipped in and out of flowy black sacks, and have landed somewhere that shows a bit more personality, which comes with having access to extended sizes.

How would you say fashion makes you feel?

Fashion makes me feel powerful. Knowing I’ve put a great outfit together and getting compliments from strangers absolutely makes my day. I dress to inspire my former shy-wallflower self, and other fat babes out there. I definitely get excited about new purchases — I’m always thinking about what I already have in my wardrobe, what I’m missing, and what would work well together. Vintage finds are definitely rarer, as anyone outside of regular sizing understands.

Do you think fashion has the ability to alter your mood?

I’m a big fan of dopamine dressing — sometimes a fake it till you make it mindset works if I’m feeling particularly blue. I’ll wear something extra cute to compensate. Dressing up for no reason on my day off and taking myself out to brunch. A silly outfit to walk the dog around the block, just because. I don’t dress to feel confident, I’m confident because of how I dress.

What is your preferred way to shop?

This is a very thin-privilege question. Fellow fashion fatties know online shopping is the most consistent way to have access to clothes that are made for our bodies. With the exception of perhaps two to three brick and mortar stores, I shop almost exclusively online. High street fashion does not cater to me. Designer fashion does not cater to me. I like finding cuties that have a similar body type to mine on Instagram for inspiration on where to find size-inclusive brands.

Can you tell us about one of your all-time favourite outfits that you’ve ever worn?

I was a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding and I had a bright yellow jumpsuit custom made by Jarrad Godman. My dream jumpsuit! Voluminous sleeves, elasticated at the wrist, flowy wide legs, pockets, wide sash belt. Absolute perfection, I felt like a sunflower goddess.

What about one of your first memories of a good (or bad!) outfit?

One of my first memories of a good outfit was dressing up in a tutu when I was seven for a ballet recital. A bad outfit would be the homemade ‘Jasmine’ costume at school camp — sorry mum.

What is it about fashion or what you choose to wear that excites you?

I’m interested in fat liberation, in people of all sizes having access to clothes that fit their bodies first and foremost. What excites me is the future of fashion for fat bodies, and how we choose to express ourselves, our whole selves, and not being limited purely to finding something that simply fits, even if you don’t like it, which is how I operated for a long time.

Discover more of our favourite trendsetters and the transformative power of fashion in the new winter issue of Fashion Quarterly, on sale now

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