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‘Survival of the Thickest’ Costume Designer on the Show’s Style: ‘Curvy Women Can Wear What They Want’

Survival of the Thickest Costumer on Michelle Buteau's Style
Vanessa Clifton/Netflix © 2023


Survival of the Thickest creator Michelle Buteau and lead costume designer Keia Bounds worked hard to create looks to remember

Bounds exclusively told Us Weekly that she was strategic when styling Buteau’s Mavis Beaumont: “The goal was to make sure that the world could see that curvy women, plus-sized women can wear what they want. They can wear color, they can be bold, they can be excited about clothes and clothes can work on their shapes and complexions.”

The show, which premiered on Netflix on July 13, follows wardrobe stylist Mavis after she dumps her photographer boyfriend for cheating on her. After the split, Mavis moves out of the apartment she shared with him in Manhattan to start a new chapter. 

Feature 1 -Survival of the Thickest- Costumer on Michelle Buteau-s Style
Vanessa Clifton/Netflix © 2023

“It was important that we showed a distinction between Tribeca and Brooklyn,” Bounds told Us. “When Mavis was in Tribeca, her style was more streamlined — a little bit more color blocked and a little basic in a way.” 

Bounds continued: “After the breakup, you see her trying to show up and show out more. She wears colors and textures and patterns. She mixes metals. She just wants to pop out. It’s symbolic of adjusting to the Brooklyn lifestyle and really, like, getting into it.”

Bounds shared that it was also crucial for Mavis to wear things viewers might not expect her to. “We’re all about body positivity,” Bounds told Us. “Curvier women are put in a box when it comes to dressing, and it was important to Michelle to emphasize that curvy women can be free with their style. That’s why we also see her layering, playing with different lengths.” 

Survival of the Thickest Costumer on Michelle Buteau's Style
Vanessa Clifton/Netflix

“Michelle herself is very much into fashion. She loves clothes and she loves to try new things,” Bounds shared. 

Some of the labels on the show include Black designers Telfar, Fe Noel, Fenty, Brother Vellies, Dungeon Forward and Haus of Swag. Mavis also wore pieces from size-inclusive brands like Good American, Bacaal and Ulla Popken. 

Outside of Survival of the Thickest — Bounds, who has worked in costuming for over 12 years and on other shows, including BMF, Rap Sh!t, Blindspot and more — hopes to debunk the myth that styling is more difficult when it comes to extended sizing. 

Survival of the Thickest Costumer on Michelle Buteau's Style
Jocelyn Prescod/Netflix

“I come from a world where I have to dress women of all sizes,” Bounds said. “Early in my career, I worked What Not to Wear, and I would literally have to dress everybody, you know, every shape and size and get into their backstory.”

She concluded: “From there, I learned it’s all about leaning into who the person is. Understanding their shapes and what they want to be highlighted. It doesn’t have to be this big separate thing or concept. Curvy women like that they’re curvy and they don’t need to be made to feel working with them is a chore.” 

Season 1 of Survival of the Thickest is currently streaming on Netflix.