Clothing for plus-size women and men has come a long way. Brands like Pretty Little Thing, Forever 21, ASOS Curve, Boohoo and Old Navy have increased clothing size ranges and now advertise plus-size merchandise.
However, while the range is expanding, fashion choices haven’t, with many demanding fashion of various styles to go along with the increasing sizes. One designer took it upon herself to make this a reality.
Bowling Green native Paige McKinney, 26, created Trash Queen, an online brand of alternative clothing for plus-size people, in 2014. The business includes clothing sizes from extra small to 5XL.
McKinney has over five years of experience in creating clothes and includes over 230 products on the Trash Queen website, which range from socks and tights to dresses, dad shirts and overalls.
The website states Trash Queen is “about all bodies” and seeks “to give you the tools to express yourself.”
McKinney said she has pride in authenticity and originality when it comes to her business. From the models to the actual product, she wants everything to be real, inclusive, and most importantly, comfortable to everybody.
“I realized that there were no cool clothes for fat people,” McKinney said. “The stuff marked for plus-size women is not very fun. There is not enough variety out there ... So many brands want the clout, but they don’t want to take the risk.”
Aside from being the sole owner of Trash Queen, McKinney runs a fashion blog and works as a graphic designer and illustrator. She is also chronically ill.
“If I wasn’t in school, I was in bed or online,” McKinney said. “I needed to do stuff to get better. It was good for me, because it was very easy to design. I wanted to shake it up a bit.”
McKinney’s brother, Matthew McKinney, helps Trash Queen by working as a photographer for all its photo shoots. Matthew is a WKU alumnus who majored in film, which spurred his interest in photography.
“Photography and filmmaking is a newfound passion and skill,” Matthew said. “I like to be able to do things on the spot and live in the moment.”
He said he enjoys shooting photos for Trash Queen due to the trust McKinney invests in his work. He said their easygoing relationship allows for each photo shoot to maintain a relaxed and creative environment.
“It’s really easy to work with her — she has complete faith in me,” Matthew said. “She’s not looking over my shoulder. She lets me be myself.”
Such freedom of expression and ease extends to those who model Trash Queen products. Model and aspiring tattoo artist Haley Richmond has been friends with McKinney for several years. She previously never modeled, but it came easy once she started working with McKinney, she said.
“It was really cool working with her,” Richmond said. “She’s never going to make you wear something you aren’t comfortable with.”
She said her time modeling for Trash Queen was a liberating experience.
“She made sure that every model was OK with what they were wearing” Richmond said. “Everyone, all day, kept saying how cute the clothes were and how good they felt, especially the plus-size people — they were saying they never really got to wear anything like it. They didn’t know they could be so cute.”
Musician, voter empowerment organizer and fellow model Summer Graves said similar things about her time modeling with McKinney.
“I checked on her website, and I was thinking how amazing the clothes were,” Graves said. “They go up to a 5X, which is unheard of nowadays. I was excited to feel how the clothes felt on and to see the quality.”
She added that she felt especially comfortable with the modeling, as she was encouraged to just be herself.
“Personally, I don’t shave, and this was one of the first photo shoots where they said that was OK and we can highlight that,” Graves said. “It was very freeing and awesome.”
McKinney said she hopes Trash Queen serves as a positive reminder to be whomever you wish and dress however you want. She wants her brand to cater to everyone.
“There is so much demanding advice out there to hide your body,” McKinney said. “People are crazy rigid and patriarchal. Dress in a way that makes you confident and comfortable. If you want to wear it, wear it.”
Features reporter Gabby Bunton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.