Jenesee Utley

Jenesee Utley

The stylist who started her career in dressing curvy figures continues to push the envelope with her work.

Between dressing red carpet clients like Danielle Brooks and Adrienne Moore (both of “Orange is the New Black” fame) or creating the dramatic looks in Jenny McQuaile’s documentary on body perception, “Straight/Curve”, stylist Jenesee Utley instills a cool and edgy high fashion aesthetic into everything she does.

While that may describe what a myriad of fashion stylists do, Utley’s career, which began styling for a curve retail brand, and approach to creating memorable images regardless of the size or age of the model or client, has set her apart particularly now as fashion accelerates toward a lasting state of inclusiveness.

Here, the New York stylist who made a strong appearance in the Straight/Curve documentary (seriously, check out the amazing looks she created below), talks about her start in fashion and her goal to inspire women to feel great in their own skin.

"None of us are a perfect sample human in a perfect sample body. I hope to inspire women to embrace the skin they are in today and express themselves. I see fashion as a celebration of life and this moment in time, we won't get it back, so why not celebrate it right now?”
Jenesee Utley
Utley on the set of the "Straight/Curve" documentary with model Philomena Kwao.
Jenesee Utley
Utley at work editing clothing for a shoot.
“There were many brands that I reached out to while putting together the looks for the (Straight/Curve) film that were not interested in supporting the cause. In time I feel that brands that don't embrace real women will be left out.”

Q & A With Jenesee

Where are you from and how did you get started in styling?

I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, I was strongly influenced by my mother growing up, she was a personal shopper and would give seminars on "8 piece wardrobing" which is a method of putting a whole wardrobe together using 8 garments. I used to help her a little then at 18 I began photo assisting and styling for a local photographer.

Do you have a signature look or approach when styling clients?

My fashion eye is stimulated by dark glamour, but when dealing with a client beautiful fabric and fit is everything! Accentuating my clients beauty, not distracting from it is the goal. Amazing accessories are the icing on the cake, the right accessories can really take you far.

You have a diverse roster of celebrity clients and are also partially focused on Curve, how did you get involved with styling curvier women and why is it important to you and your work?

I moved to New York at a very young age to pursue a career in fashion, I was a stylist assistant for several years after I arrived. The first client I secured as a young stylist was for a retail group that owned several different curve brands. It was like styling boot camp because all of their samples were a size 22-24 and all the models were size 12-14, I had to completely restructure all of the clothing by pinning and stuffing in order to shoot the garments, I got really good at it. It was the best lesson in fit a stylist could have, all of the models became my friends and the vibe on set was always so positive, I am very proud of my curve work.

Working with women of different shapes and sizes is really important to me because none of us are a perfect sample human in a perfect sample body. I hope to inspire women to embrace the skin they are in today and express themselves. I see fashion as a celebration of life and this moment in time, we won't get it back to why not celebrate it right now? Dress for life like you want to live it!

How did you get involved with the Straight/Curve documentary?

After working in the curve market for many years, photographer Anastasia Garcia and I often would collaborate on projects including women of different sizes. She was asked to be featured in Straight/Curve and they needed a stylist's perspective so they asked and I was thrilled to take on the project.

What was that experience like? Were there any key lessons that even someone like you who works in the industry around models and various body types everyday, took away from doing that film and photo project?

Shooting Straight/Curve was an incredible experience, it was a huge amount of work that took months to complete, I am really honored to be a part of the film. Going into filming I had no idea how powerful it would end up being. It was so interesting to find out that most fashion schools don't even teach young designers how to make clothing above a size 10? There were many brands that I reached out to while putting together the looks for the film that were not interested in supporting the cause. In time I feel that brands that don't embrace real women will be left out.

Working with all of the amazing models and cast was really inspiring, the Straight/Curve cast are some fearless women! In the end I was excited to show the fashion world and the rest of the world that size has absolutely no bearing on being beautiful and powerful. I had a fire lit inside of me to prove that you can be any age, any size, any ethnicity and be amazing!

In your experience, do you feel like the fashion industry has come a long way in terms of inclusiveness?

The fashion industry has advanced light years in terms of inclusiveness from the time I started. There is so much more available for a curve girl than there ever was before, but there is still work to be done. It’s so refreshing to see fashion ads with different sized people and real people as models, I think it’s very healthy and it is starting to happen.

What more can we be doing to make fashion more authentically inclusive?

It needs to start with the education of the designers, they need to know how and feel comfortable with making a wider range of sizes for different body types. That is why 11 Honore is so innovative, there is a huge gap in the designer clothing market when it comes to inclusive sizing, you really just could not find high quality designer clothing unless you had it custom made.

Do you find that there are more options now for styling your curvy clients for the red carpet?

11 Honore is a game changer, by going straight to the high fashion market and collaborating with the top designers, it's made a huge difference. I think it will just keep growing as time goes on, there is no stopping this movement designers need to embrace it or be left out.

Is there anything you find that is lacking as far as the curvy options out there? (fit, fabric etc?)

I feel like there could be more options for the fashion forward woman that is not for a teenager. A lot of the fashion forward clothing available in the curve market is too revealing or is poor quality. Fabric I would say is always challenging. For curves stretch is so helpful, if there were more high end fabrications with a bit of stretch available it would be amazing. Good fabric is everything.

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