Karyn Johnson’s Secrets to Great Plus-Size Style

By Jeanne Beker

I really look up to women who unapologetically embrace who they are. I guess it all comes down to passion, attitude and confidence — and all three are key to Karyn Johnson’s show-stopping style. The 32-year-old is a poster girl for plus-size optimism, and her flirty and fun approach to fashion is nothing short of empowering, whether you’re size 2 or 22.

“It’s a simple equation,” coos the bubbly Johnson. “If you feel good, then you’ll look good—which in turn will make others take notice of you and your style.” I met her recently at the media launch of my new Edit plus-size line for retailer
Addition Elle. She was wearing skin tight, hot pink pants, and “Wow!” was the operative word for the impression she made.

Originally from Winnipeg, Johnson moved to Cambridge, Ont., when she was 7, and then to Toronto when she was 25, where she now lives in a funky apartment with an entire room dedicated to her upbeat, fabulously feminine wardrobe. Johnson’s idols are the late pop icon Anna Nicole Smith (who she bears a striking resemblance to) and Marilyn Monroe. “Other than the fact that they’re both curvy, blond bombshells, like myself, they possess the kind of confidence, elegance, and femininity that I absolutely adore,” says Johnson.

Johnson invited me into the dazzling dressing room at her home last week, and I was blown away by the eclecticism of the clothes on her racks. She’s a strong proponent of bright tones and bold patterns, and just feasting my eyes on her vibrant stash was empowering. Adamant about sharing her style savvy advice with other plus-size women, and often frustrated by the fare they’re offered, Johnson launched an engaging website full of tips and information (Killer Kurves).

Johnson’s crowning glory is her gorgeous hair. She’s fiercely loyal to the stylist she’s been going to for over a decade, at Romeo Salon and Spa in Cambridge. “My stylist knows exactly what I like and I always leave the salon with the perfect shade of blond. That makes it worth enduring the two hour drive there and back,” she laughs.

The day I visited Johnson she was decked out in a SWAK dress from Gussied Up that cost $72.50, high wedge boots from Addition Elle she got for $89.99, bangles and a ring that were gifts from a friend, and a $19.99 teardrop necklace, also from Addition Elle. But, according to Johnson, her ultimate “accessory” is always her adored Yorkshire Terrier named Monkey—a wee rescue dog she delights in dressing up. Indeed, Monkey’s own closet rivals Johnson’s for assortment and attitude, making him the perfect sidekick.

What is a fashion faux pas in your style books?

Wearing the wrong bra size. Every woman should do herself a favour and get a bra fitting. A great bra in the right size can make someone look slimmer and younger, give her better posture and make her clothes look 100 per cent better.

What are your favourite places to shop?

I am so lucky to have an adorable plus-size boutique in Toronto called Gussied Up right around the corner from my house. I have also recently re-established my love for major retailers like the Bay, Addition Elle and Penningtons. They’ve all stepped up their game over the last year and I have been walking away with some fabulous finds.

I also do a major part of my shopping online. As a plus size woman my options are sometimes limited, and online shopping has opened up a whole new world of fashion to me. Some of my favourite online shops are Sealed with a Kiss Designs ” target=”_blank”>Sealed With a Kiss (SWAK) Designs, Asos, and Torrid.

What is the most beloved item in your closet?

I have a dress that belonged to Anna Nicole Smith. It was custom designed for her by Heatherette for her return to the NY Fashion Week runway in 2004, just three years before she passed away.

Would you rather be overdressed or underdressed?

Overdressed! Growing up in a smaller town, I was always that girl in the local pub who was way overdressed. But I loved it. Actually, my boyfriend always complains that I’m getting way too dressed up for whatever plans we have for the evening. I never listen. If I want to look glamorous while everyone else around me is in jeans and a T-shirt, then so be it.

Best fashion advice?

Dress for your shape, not your size. Women are so stuck on buying what size they are (or think they are). I see so many women in clothing that is much too tight or even too large. Realize that the sizes at various retailers can vary greatly from piece to piece.

Jeanne Beker is a contributing editor to the Star and host of Fashion Television Channel. Email jeanne@ctv.ca, follow on Twitter @jeanne_beker and watch her on CTV, E! and FashionTelevisionChannel.


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