Sally Smith

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Sally E. Smith is a passionate supporter and advocate for plus-size women. She has been the editor-in-chief for BBW Magazine and was the executive director of NAAFA for 11 years. She is also a long-time MIB customer and we are very excited to feature a series of her articles written from the perspective of a plus size woman. 


Sally's Archives

5 Ways to Give During The Holidays

Love Your Body, Love Your Self

Love Your Body, Love Your Breasts

Natural Fibers: Feeling Like a Natural Woman

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

Thriving During the Holiday Season

Women, Voting and Plus Size Issues

Letting Love Flow

Planning the Picture Perfect Vacation

Celebrating the Influence of Women

MIB Sizzles with Summer Styles

Riding the Wave of Swimsuit Season

Cooling Down and Heating up with Fabulous Fall Fashion

Movin' and Groovin' The Quest for Fitness at Every Size

Milestones: Cause for Pause

You Gotta Have Friends

The New Year: A Time For Affirmations

Spring Cleaning Challenge: Getting Rid of All Kinds of Clutter

Summer Swaps: Creating a Sizzling Season
by Sally E. Smith

Summer is just around the corner, promising a season of frolicsome fun. Like a ripe berry bursting with flavor, the season is filled with juicy and luscious possibilities. Yet in order to truly feel the sizzle, we may have to carve out some time for what I call “summer swaps” – a mid-year version of “out with the old and in with the new.”

What to swap? Let’s start with attitudes. As plus-size women, we may have internalized messages that we don’t have the requisite body to participate in poolside fun. Perhaps we’ve come to believe that other people can wear shorts or sleeveless tops, but we can’t. Maybe we opt out of attending a garden party or outdoor wedding because we feel like we won’t fit in. Swapping these ingrained messages with size-positive ones – “I deserve to enjoy the pool’s cool water on a hot day” or “Others value my presence and participation” – will erase lingering anxiety about partaking in the season’s offerings.

We can also swap our unrealistic expectations for those that align with our time, energy, and resources. Our exaggerated expectations may compensate for our perceived shortcomings, and the wishful thinking that changing the size of our body will magically make our problems disappear. Swap these expectations with thoughts of love, compassion, and kindness, all the while appreciating your accomplishments and abilities.

Finally, we can have a heaping helping of fun in swapping out pieces from our wardrobes to create styles and looks that reflect who we truly are. Here’s how to get started:

1. Set aside a block of time when you can devote your attention to going through your closet and drawers. If you’d like, ask a friend to help and offer to do the same for her.

2. Set up three areas in your bedroom: one for clothes to keep; one for worn-out clothes to be thrown away; and one for clothes that you either haven’t worn in more than a year; that no longer fit; or that you don’t like.

3. Once the clothes are sorted, discard the throw-aways and box up the pile that you’re not going to keep. Then, hang or fold the clothes that you’ll be keeping.

Next, attend or organize a clothing swap. If you’re near the MiB Showroom on June 11, come to MiB’s clothing swap. Simply bring your swappable plus-size clothes to MiB on that day. You’ll receive vouchers for the pieces you want to swap, or you can drop off your unwanted clothes to donate to a local charity serving the homeless. Then, have a blast shopping the swap.

If you can’t attend the swap, organize your own. All you need is a dozen plus-size women, a few refreshments, and a great attitude. At the end of the swap, donate any leftover items to your favorite charity.

A summer swap – of attitudes, expectations, and clothing – paves the way for a fabulous season. You’ll move through the world with style and grace, connect with other people in new ways, and enter fall feeling fabulous.

Read more about MiB's Clothing Swap

Five Ways to Give This Holiday Season
by Sally E. Smith

November 12, 2010

The holiday season is almost upon us. Just as the jolly man’s sleigh is weighted down with gifts, the period between November and January has the potential to weigh us down with obligations, expectations, and guilt. While holiday stress isn’t unique to plus-size women, some of us face challenges that our thinner sisters don’t. It’s time to chase away the doldrums and embrace the spirit of the season.
Here are five strategies to get started.
  1. Give your calendar a reality check. All too often, one holiday celebration (or obligation) rolls into the next, and we barely have time to catch our breath, much less enjoy the festivities. This year, pace yourself. Determine how many events you can savor each week or month, and then be selective in your RSVPs. Focus on quality, rather than quantity.
  2. Give your wardrobe a once-over. You’re more likely to catch the holiday fever if you have the right clothes for the occasion. Set aside a couple of hours to go through your closet and ensure that your “little black dress” and festive sweater will make the grade. Fill in wardrobe gaps with gorgeous winter and holiday offerings from MiB.
  3. Give your family a break. Many of us are treated less than kindly by our families of origin, and are subjected to painful size-related comments at holiday get-togethers. If that’s the case for you, why not give your family a break this year and make alternate plans? Instead, spend time with your “family of choice” or opt for a holiday getaway. If you aren’t able to avoid a family gathering, work toward deflecting negative remarks and decompressing with friends afterwards.
  4. Give back. Many people are going without this holiday season, so there’s no better time to volunteer to support those in your community who are having a rough time. Organize a canned food drive or a clothing exchange, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or help care for displaced pets. The compassion we show will come back to us a hundredfold.
  5. Give yourself a gift. The best gift we can give ourselves – self-acceptance – doesn’t cost a dime. Appreciate your inner beauty, celebrate your curves, and live life to the fullest. Keep a journal, create a vision board, or write affirmations on sticky notes and put them in full view. Every step you take toward fulfilling your potential is a gift. Enjoy the journey!


However and wherever you give of yourself this season, make sure that your holiday activities support your mental, physical, and spiritual health. With the proper preparation and attitude, the holidays will set the stage for an abundant New Year!

Love Your Body, Love Your Self!
by Sally E. Smith

As plus-size women, it can be a challenge for us to love and appreciate our bodies. After all, we’re constantly bombarded with media and advertising messages that clearly communicate that we don’t measure up to societal standards of beauty. We may be told by those who are supposed to love us unconditionally that we would be more lovable if our bodies were smaller. We are subjected to indignities small and large as we move about in the world.

These realities make it all the more important for us to embrace Love Your Body Day on October 20. For those of us who already celebrate our voluptuous curves, Love Your Body Day shines the spotlight on the necessity to spread the word. For those of us who struggle with body image, Love Your Body Day can mark a new beginning, the first step on a path that will move us toward genuine self-acceptance.

Not sure how to commemorate Love Your Body Day? Here are five ideas to ignite your imagination.

  1. Write a love letter. Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and write a love letter to your body. Express your appreciation for the ways in which your body has carried you through life, enabled you to embark on adventures, acted as the conduit through which to experience pleasure, or allowed you to nurture and nourish a child. Focus on all of the ways your body serves you, and honor its strength.


  2. Visit a salon. Treat your body to a bit of pampering. Get a facial, indulge in a massage, or try out a new hairstyle. If you don’t have a size-friendly salon on speed dial, ask plus-size friends for recommendations. If you’re on a tight budget, invite a group of friends over and have a mani-pedi party.


  3. Make a doctor’s appointment. It’s easy to procrastinate going to the doctor. After all, many doctors are biased against plus-size women, and many of us have been victimized by the medical profession. Nevertheless, loving our bodies means getting the medical care that we deserve. Ask plus-size friends for referrals, interview doctors about their attitudes, and have someone accompany you to the office visit who can be your advocate.


  4. Find a role model and be a role model. We’re each at a different point on the self-acceptance continuum, which means that we can each receive body wisdom and gift body wisdom. Find a plus-size woman whom you admire and learn more about her. Share your own body positivity via your Facebook profile, Twitter feed, or blog. Social media is powerful; use it to inspire other women to love themselves.


  5. Make a pledge to yourself. Pinpoint one minor thing you’ve been meaning to do for your body and resolve to implement it. Perhaps you want to attend a water aerobics class, not for the sake of losing weight, but because it feels good. Maybe you want to start taking a daily multivitamin or calcium supplement, or upping your intake of water. An incremental adjustment is much more sustainable than a drastic change. The key is to start small and build on your success.

Of course, there are hundreds of ways that you can commemorate Love Your Body Day. Create or participate in an activity that resonates for you, and spend the day in joyous celebration of your wondrous body!

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Get in the Holiday Spirit!
by Sally E. Smith

The holidays are just around the corner, which means we’re entering the season filled with celebration, shopping, and giving. Some people embrace the holiday season, many approach it as a time of both joy and stress, and others want to push the fast forward button to January 1 and skip the holidays altogether. As plus-size women, we can have additional anxiety about the holidays – what to wear to parties, how to deal with size prejudice from family members, and ways to negotiate the hassles of travel with size-unfriendly airlines, car rental agencies, and such.

Despite the headaches and hassles, though, the holidays are a special time. When you plan ahead and open yourself to the possibilities of the season, you can experience and share an abundance of joy and generosity. Here are five ideas to help you get into the holiday spirit.


Throw a Party!

You don’t have to put on a gala to be the hostess with the mostest. Plan a simple breakfast or brunch, and invite a small group of friends to show up in their pajamas.

Ask each to bring a holiday memento and story from her childhood. Hang out and share remembrances, hot cocoa, and great food.


Give As Well As Receive

Giving feels better than getting anytime of year, but it feels especially great during Giving is easy with our Holiday Gift Guide the holiday season. Either alone or with a group of friends, decide what you’d like to do for those who are less fortunate.

Adopt a family in need, collect canned goods for the local food bank, volunteer to deliver holiday dinners to those who can’t get out, or go caroling at a home for seniors.

Plus-size women are disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, so contributions of your gently used clothing would delight our plus-size sisters.


Get Creative

Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. In fact, the opposite is often the case. When you plan ahead, you can create gifts that will touch family members’ hearts.

Dig through that old box of family photos and frame reprints, collect your grandmother’s secret recipes and create a mini-cookbook, or ask your siblings for baby socks from each niece and nephew. Stuff them with fiberfill, sew up the tops, and create tree ornaments.

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Let’s Not Forget to Play
by Sally E. Smith

We live in serious times, and most of us have more than our share of worries. Yet thinking about the end of summer and the beginning of fall, fills me with memories of carefree childhood summers, spending days watching the heat shimmer off the pavement, feeling the refreshing coolness of a neighbor’s pool, and playing outside until the sun began to dip below the horizon and my mom called me in for the night.

As plus-size women, we face what sometimes feel like insurmountable obstacles. When we’ve been subject to discrimination, societal bias, or family schisms due to our size, we feel anything but carefree. And, when combined with today’s difficult times, it can be easy to neglect our need to play.

Embracing Our Playful Nature

Nevertheless, embracing our playful nature is essential to lightening our burden, cleaning out our mental cobwebs, and replenishing our spirit. When we make the time to play, we tap into our childlike wonder, our sense of adventure, and even our silliness. Our hearts fill with gladness and our souls fill with hope.

Here are five fun and inexpensive ways to embrace our playful nature, and recapture a hint of childhood’s seemingly endless summer days.

Organize a Classic Game Night

Celebrate friendship and frolic with a girls’ night in. Make it a potluck and pull out your favorite board games from childhood. A rousing game of Monopoly, Clue, or Scrabble is tremendous fun. For a fun variation, hold a checkers, chess, backgammon tournament, complete with prizes or homemade certificates for the champions.

Start a Bunco Group

If you’ve never played Bunco, you’re missing out on a whole lot of silly fun. Bunco is a dice game that takes absolutely no skill whatsoever, but provides the perfect pretext for getting together with friends on a monthly basis. All you need is 12 people, 9 dice, and some score sheets you can create yourself. I’ve belonged to the same Bunco Group for almost 10 years, and spend the third Friday evening of every month laughing and yelling and having the time of my life.

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Giving Voice to Health Care Reform
by Sally E. Smith

When President Obama recently announced Dr. Regina Benjamin as his pick for Surgeon General, I have to admit that I did a little happy dance. I can't be assured that, simply because she's a plus-size woman, she understands the discrimination that our community faces in accessing the health care delivery system in this country, but I can be hopeful. In addition, her years of experience in providing health care to the uninsured and underinsured in rural areas has made her sensitive to the pressing need for health care reform.

Indeed, health care reform is dominating the domestic political agenda this summer, and the debate is heating up. As the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives put forth legislation that could mark the most sweeping change since Medicare was launched in 1965, it's time for us to speak up. It's been 15 years since NAAFA demonstrated at the White House in opposition to the Clinton health care reform plan, which would have disenfranchised people of size. This time around, it's imperative that our community has a voice at the table.

Why is this such a critical issue? Simply put, "obesity" is perceived by the insurance industry as a pre-existing condition. That leaves us with few options. If we work for the ever-shrinking number of employers that still offer health insurance, that's one possibility. Another is obtaining coverage through our spouses or partners. Otherwise, we're either denied coverage upfront or charged exorbitant rates for coverage. It doesn't matter what our health status is; we have three strikes against us simply because we're larger than average. As a result, plus- and supersize women account for a disproportionate number of the estimated 50 million uninsured Americans.

Granted, health insurance is only one part of the health care picture for the plus-size community. The other is discriminatory practices or ignorance on the part of the medical profession. Many of us have tales to tell about the bad attitudes we’ve encountered in medical offices, about medication dosages that were inappropriate for our weight, about misdiagnoses, or about incorrect treatment plans. While we’re often forced to assert our right to be treated with dignity and respect by members of the medical profession, we won’t even have the opportunity to do so if we don’t have access to the health care delivery system.

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Why I’m an Unapologetic Evangelist for MiB
by Sally E. Smith

It’s been a quarter of a century since Making it Big launched its first plus- and super-size designs. Like some of you, I’ve been a customer for the last two decades. In fact, my entire wardrobe is from MiB; it’s probably been six or seven years since I’ve purchased clothing from anyplace else.

My long history with MiB began when I saw their advertisement in the NAAFA Chelsea modeling our new Matti Skirted Swimsuit Newsletter. At the time, plus-size clothes were typically drab and made from polyester. I couldn’t believe my good fortune in finding a company that offered natural fiber clothing in a wide range of colors. After becoming a customer, and after becoming executive director of NAAFA in the late 1980s, I uncovered a different facet of MiB: their commitment to the plus-size community.

The company supported size-related organizations in a variety of ways, but they always went the extra mile. While I was at NAAFA, our convention T-shirt supplier flaked out at the last minute, telling us that he could only provide shirts in sizes up to 4X. MiB saved the day with a last-minute shipment of super-size T-shirts. They understood that women all sizes of large deserved to be full participants in the conference.

But MiB’s largesse wasn’t limited to size-related groups. I vividly recall speaking at Dreamers from I Have a Dream - East Oakland the company’s tenth anniversary celebration and bidding on several items in the silent auction, the proceeds of which went to a local charity. Even today, MiB’s philanthropic efforts shine through; the company actively supports “I Have a Dream,” a nonprofit that is making higher education a reality for socioeconomically disadvantaged children.

When I moved into the editorship of BBW Magazine in the late 1990s, MiB was my ace in the hole. I simply couldn’t get manufacturers of plus-size clothing to provide us with apparel larger than a size 16 for our photo shoots. This was especially problematic for our annual model search, when it was imperative that we have clothing in all sizes of large. Again, MiB came to the rescue, providing us with truly plus- and super-size fashion.

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Embracing Your Inner Diva
by Sally E. Smith

Watching the shoots of my lilies break through the earth and reach for the sun, I realize that spring has sprung and that summer is just around the corner. A reminder of the changing seasons arrives in my mailbox in the form of MiB’s summer catalog, with its biggest, most luscious collection of offerings ever. As I pour over pages filled with fabulous colors, prints, and styles, I’m reminded of how far we’ve come as a community of plus-size women. But I also wonder how many of us have fully embraced the fashion choices we now have.

Those of us who are of a certain age, and who have been plus- or super-size most of our lives, have experienced the necessity of building our wardrobes around what was available in our size, rather than around flattering clothes that we love. I know I’m not alone in recalling times when I felt disappointed, angry, or even ashamed because I had to wear clothing that was inappropriate for the occasion. One of my most painful memories is when, at 16 years old, I attended my father’s funeral wearing a lemon yellow polyester pantsuit. The one plus-size clothing store in town didn’t carry anything appropriately subdued in my size, and couldn’t order anything on short notice. Thanks to the efforts of MiB and others, today’s plus-size teenagers don’t have to experience the humiliations, large and small, that result from a dearth of fashion choices.

Yet, because many of us have become accustomed to limited selections, we tend to stay within a certain fashion comfort zone. I, for one, am guilty of adopting a “uniform” of sorts. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with limited choices, or maybe it’s due to spending 12 years at Catholic schools wearing plaid skirts and white blouses with Peter Pan collars. Whatever the reason, these days my winter wardrobe consists largely of MiB Easy Pants and Big Shirts, while my summer collection is made up of MiB shorts and tees. Comfortable, reliable, but for everyday I sometimes feel ambivalent or simply a bit bored with my “uniform”…

Because I’m the type who buys the same top in a dozen different colors, MiB’s new catalog struck a chord. With so many new styles, the catalog challenged me to move outside of my comfort zone and embrace my inner fashion diva. This summer, I’m going to supplement my collection of shorts with breezy skirts that will help me keep my cool, try out tops with flirty prints, and take the chance that the earth won’t stop revolving on its axis if I go sleeveless. Bold, isn’t it?

So cheer me on, and if you feel like it, join me in reaching inside to that urge to try out new styles or colors!

I’d love to hear from you how your experiment works out. Let me know what your fashion comfort zone has been, and what it feels like to take the plunge with a new look. Drop me a note, and I’ll share what you tell me in a future article.

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Fashion's Invisible Majority
by Sally E. Smith

It’s no secret that plus-women are the fashion world’s invisible majority – though it seems that some consider it breaking news. A few weeks ago, the L.A. Times ran a story detailing how, despite the fact that the average American woman is a size 14, the typical department store offers 900 brands for smaller women and only 20 brands for women larger than a size 12. Or, as the Times writer put it, “It often seems that it’s easier to find and buy stylish clothes for Chihuahuas than for roughly half of the country’s female population.” Yawn. Tell us something that we didn’t know.

Several years ago, when BBW Magazine was in print and I was its editor-in-chief, I received a steady stream of complaints from readers for rarely featuring models larger than a size 14 in the fashion layouts. As a super-size woman, I totally agreed, but my hands were tied. After all, the vast majority of models in the plus-size divisions of agencies like Ford and Wilhelmina were size 10. But the real conspiracy was in the realm of fashion designers, who as a whole refused to provide samples of the next season’s fashions larger than a size 14. The reason? Whether out of revulsion or fear, they didn’t want their clothing shown on larger models. They wanted to keep us invisible.

In the meantime, over at the Daily Beast, Meghan McCain (yes, John’s daughter) recently took on Laura Ingraham for cattily dissing McCain for fluctuating between – gasp – a size 8 and a size 10 on the campaign trail. And there’s Jessica Simpson, Oprah, and myriad other celebs whose sizes and wardrobe choices become fodder for fashion’s chattering classes. Against this backdrop, and without a drop of irony, the L.A. Times article lauded “America’s Next Top Model” for selecting Whitney Thompson as the only “plus-size winner” of the reality show. At a size 10-12, Thompson is still smaller than the average American woman. If she’s representative of plus-size women, where do the rest of us fit in?

What should we do about the department stores that tuck their plus sizes away in a hidden corner, the unenlightened designers who turn their backs on us, and the ersatz plus-size clothing catalogs that refuse to use plus-size models in their catalogs? One of the best ways to create change in the marketplace is to vote with our dollars. If we don’t patronize those stores and catalogs, perhaps they’ll get the message that they need to acknowledge their customers. If we send them email, write letters, and lodge complaints with their customer service departments, maybe they’ll rethink they ways in which they contribute to the invisibility of plus-size women.

Thankfully, some clothing designers have made it their mission to give us visibility. For a quarter of a century, MiB has proudly featured plus- and super-size models within the pages of their catalogs – a radical position in the fashion industry. Those models’ faces – and curves – reflect the beauty and diversity of our sisterhood. When we see women like Lisa and Tesia and Debbie and Dana, we see ourselves. We see how MiB’s gorgeous fashions look on their bodies, and can easily imagine how the clothing will look on our bodies. As an MiB customer, I appreciate the company’s commitment to designing for and celebrating women all sizes of large. And, I’m proud to support a company that, for so long, has given a face, a figure, and fabulous fashions to our community. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about MiB’s “radical” commitment to using plus-size models. Drop me a note, and I’ll share what you tell me in a future article.

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