For Tracey Hamilton, size doesn't hamper her style.
Being 5 foot 7 and 185 pounds means she often has trouble finding high fashion on the racks. But she improvises, rummaging through her boyfriend's closet, knitting clothes and assembling outfits in imaginative ways.
A customer service clerk who lives in West Baltimore, Ms. Hamilton, 30, says clothing manufacturers think big women don't care about their appearance.
"They play it too safe," she says. "It's like they're telling us: Hide behind your clothes. I don't think any woman should dress like that."
What's your style?
Let's just say it's different. It has a lot to do with being a Libra and not having a lot of money. I like to dress to make people think. I want to walk into a room and not be forgotten.
How do you guarantee that?
I don't wear matching anything. I'm not saying dress like a clown, but I dress to compel. In other words, I mix summer and winter clothes. I'll wear men's lace-up shoes with fishnets or put my favorite sweater on inside out.
It sounds pretty unusual.
I don't like to follow trends. Living in Baltimore by the time they trickle down here, they've had it. What I do rely on is accessories. This summer the only thing I purchased was two T-shirts -- navy and bright orange. I also believe in raiding a man's closet. If you live with a boyfriend or husband, he doesn't deserve his white shirts.
What's the biggest hurdle you face in trying to look good?
There's no fantasy clothing out there for larger-sized women. A lot of the looks are for older women, so you have to create your own fantasy.
What outfit helps you achieve that?
A pink, red and white kimono that's like a jacket, a powder blue skirt and a lace tank top. Some people love it; some laugh.
What's been the most surprising reaction you've received?
I was coming home from work and a fellow stopped and told me I was out of sight. I've never had anyone say I look ridiculous. The closest anyone's come is giggling at my clothes.
With your size, what won't you wear?
A belt around the waist is a no-no. It shortens you. And I won't wear anything that's too tight or anything with too many patterns.
How did you learn to dress the way you do?
Growing up poor you have to be resourceful and creative. Sometimes you have to learn to hide holes, although these days you don't have to hide them. It adds to clothing. I grew up lonely so I developed positive ways to use my time and stay out of trouble. I've been knitting since I was 12.
What do you consider your key basics?
A smile and good tube of Yves St. Laurent red lipstick (No. 77).
If you could trade closets, whose would you most like to have?
Deep down inside me lies the heart of a go-go dancer. I'd love a closet full of those skintight dresses with fringe. They're very '60s. They speak power.
Where do you shop?
Secondhand shops on Howard Street, Goodwill and Value Village.
What's your fashion signature?
The silver ring I wear on my toe. I figure if they don't remember your name, they'll remember your toe.
Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.