"Try eating a slice of cake in public when you’re ‘overweight’,” says Candice Bresler.
“People judge you without knowing anything about you.”
Bresler is one of the women selected for a campaign by Spree to launch UK plus-size womenswear brand, Evans, in South Africa this month. She says while she now has a positive body image it was tough getting there.
“I was always the chubby child and later the fat teenager. I could never quite wear what the other girls were wearing without looking ridiculous.
“What was in fashion was designed for skinny girls, modelled by skinny girls and not even sold in sizes available to you if you weren’t skinny. The irony is that in reality few girls had or have that body.
“It’s in adolescence that you become aware of how others are looking at you.”
In all honesty Bresler, 29, is at the lower end of the plus-size spectrum, as defined by UK standard, and lovely enough for the online retailer to have wanted to feature her in their stylish clothing.
“Most damaging to your self-esteem is the stigma that if you’re large you must be living an unhealthy lifestyle. You see it in people’s faces and eventually in yourself. It’s unfair.
“I yo-yo dieted for years without real success until I realised my reference point for success was the wrong one.”
The corporate writer, who has done enough of her own research said: “The average South African woman is about a UK size 16, so she is “plus-size”. The clothing we see on runways, in magazines, advertisements, TV, even in our stores is not actually made to look their best on our bodies.
“My positive body journey began with realising how unattainable and irrelevant most of what we hear is.”
Bresler, like fellow campaign model Lala Tshabalala, also in her 20s, said she had to get to a point where she didn’t feel bombarded and brainwashed with information that ruined her self-esteem.
“I took control of what I read, received and believed.
“We live in a world enabled and empowered by technology. We are not victims. We don’t have to be dictated too. Social media streaming can be tailor-made to suit you.
“I had to make the initial decision to surround myself with friends, publications, bloggers and TV that I could relate to.
“I had to actively seek out these people when it came to fashion. As women we’re always looking for stuff to wear. Rather than look at the brochure that has landed in my inbox, spot a trend and then fret about how I’ll find it and fit into it, I have found designers, bloggers, instagramers and retails cognisant of who I am. And let’s face it, who most of us women are.
“I control the messages that enter my psyche because I’ve accepted who I am, what I look like and I chose to embrace myself.”
Lezell Peter, Womenswear Buying Manager at Spree.co.za, said they were happy to offer a positive platform.
“There are millions of incredibly stylish full-figured women seeking fashionable clothing that fits well. We’re proud to be celebrating fashion confidence and inspiring women of all body types.”
Other retailers too have cottoned on to where the real womenswear market is in South Africa.
Online retailer Indecisive C, Australian brand City Chic, underwear store Curvolutions, Donna Claire and Afriblossom are among those brands.
Fashion designers such as David Tlale have long since championed real women and real bodies for the mainstream.
These moves are perhaps best epitomised by the rise of the real women, aka the “plus-size” model.