Jazmin Whitmore always enjoyed fashion, yet struggled to afford buying clothes. As a plus-size woman, finding items in her size was also frustrating. It’s a struggle familiar to many women. According to a study on clothing size standards published in 2016, the average American woman is size 16 to 18. However, too many brands have been slow to sell products above size 12 or 14.
Whitmore is no stranger to overcoming difficulties outside of fashion, too. Since leaving home at 17, she has experienced poverty, as well as mental and physical health challenges. After years of traveling, Whitmore settled in Asheville in 2012 and began receiving disability to help her healing. She transitioned off disability in 2017 and opened her first business, Those Lovely Locks, a wax- and chemical-free dreadlocks studio.
As a self-sufficient teenager and young adult, Whitmore had to learn to alter clothing to have fashions that fit her style. Those experiences made something better for herself and other larger-bodied folks. “To actively support people, especially those marginalized, you don’t have to make choices for them — you have to provide them with choices,” Whitmore says. So she did: In 2019, Whitmore opened More to Love, Asheville’s only Black woman-owned plus-size clothing consignment shop. More recently, she received the 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Western Women’s Business Center.
Xpress spoke with Whitmore about why her store is the type of resource she wishes she had in her youth, her thoughts on the term “plus size” and the continuing need for spaces inclusive for all body sizes.
This interview has been condensed for length and edited for clarity.
Where did your idea for a plus-size consignment shop originate?
The plus-size industry wasn’t something I saw myself being involved in. In 2018, I was shopping in downtown Asheville for a special occasion with a $200 budget. I spent five hours looking for one outfit. I was supposed to be celebrating that day. Instead, it felt like this awful boot camp where almost every shop’s largest option was a “free size” — otherwise known as one size, which is basically a small XL that excludes a lot of people. I did eventually find a beautiful tunic, but the whole process just devastated me. After this experience, I went home and was talking to my sister about it, and had the idea for a plus-size consignment shop. I wanted to put many different brands, styles, and types of fashion in one shop to offer something for everyone who is plus size — rather than a store full of something flirty for a night out or only professional three-piece suits.
What do you wish people knew about consigning clothing with your shop?
We say we want our clothing to have miles left, not inches. We typically price items around 30% of their original value, because that is the consignor’s fee, our rent payment, electricity and the hours spent on labor. A lot of consignment stores only offer their consigners store credit, which is fair. But because money has been a huge issue my whole life, I wanted to create a company that not only made me money but also put money back in the pockets of people who needed extra income. The ultimate goal is for the dollars spent with us to circulate back in our community while providing a positive shopping experience for people who may have never had one.
What do you think about the use of the term “plus size” in the fashion industry?
I definitely have mixed feelings, which in part depends on if you’re talking about how I emotionally or pragmatically feel about it. The only reason the term “plus size” exists is that so many stores have decided they will not carry the larger end of the sizing scale. If department stores carried all sizes, the term “plus size” wouldn’t be so important for finding clothes that fit. The way things are, you need to use the term because that is what the algorithms look for to get people into the stores where the clothes actually exist. I personally like the terms “curvy” and “thick,” which have more positive connotations. But digital algorithms don’t care about my feelings.
From an emotional perspective, when you say “plus size,” you are reinforcing the idea that it’s not regular or normal, and so that does cut a little bit every time. Even if I’d like to never use the term again, I have to for the foreseeable future because of the way our society has organized itself until now.
I have a sign in my shop that says “EveryBODY is welcome.” We sell inclusively sized femme clothing; we do not regulate the body that wears them.
What do you think about the current state of the body inclusivity movement?
While size-related biases are everywhere, Asheville does seem to have a hard time being inclusive to people of different sizes. I think that’s in part because this is such a health-focused town, and many people perceive size as a choice, so they feel like it’s OK to exclude people. It’s almost considered by many to be a justifiable prejudice.
People have asked me how I feel about encouraging people to be unhealthy. My response is, I encourage everyone to be healthy. I also know it’s not my job to tell someone what healthy means to them. There are thousands of ways you can be unhealthy — from alcoholism to different illnesses — but not one of those conditions stops you from getting clothes that fit or how much you pay for them. So I am encouraging people to be healthy, but even if they aren’t, they still deserve affordable clothes.
Despite the challenges around this issue, I have been touched by how much Asheville and the community truly do want me and More to Love here. People have driven over two hours to come to the shop and have donated their consignment fees back to the store during the height of the pandemic. Our community has genuinely expressed their excitement, joy, and desire for our expansion into new locations, menswear or our own plus-size fashion line — all of which are things we hope to achieve.