After her son was born, she began transitioning to natural hair and wanted a T-shirt that would celebrate her pride in the fluffy curls on her head. But she couldn’t find one that fit, so an idea for a business was born.
“There really weren’t really any places to get a T-shirt above 3X,” Washington said. She searched high and low for a manufacturer, but during that process, she realized she wanted to move beyond natural hair and celebrate her entire body as well.
Right Shirt, Right Name
So she switched from her original name, Curvaceous Curls, to her current business name, My Beautiful Fluff. “And it applies to hair and body.”
My Beautiful Fluff sells T-shirts, bags, cups, jewelry and other items, all of which celebrate “fluffy” bodies. The site also has a blog where Washington and others write about all kinds of things, many but not all of them pertaining to plus-size women.
One of the images she uses is of the Curvicality model Rasheedah Williams, one of her main brand ambassadors.
“We do a contest called “Show Off Your Fluff.” Rasheedah won the first year, so we featured her.” That picture was then turned into a caricature and used in their line. They planned it to be for a year, but she became one of their biggest supporters and a brand ambassador.
“It’s one of our customers’ favorites. So we decided to keep it.”
“I have been plus-size forever,” Washington says. “I went through a point in high school where my mother put me on a diet. “In a month and a half I lost over 70 pounds. I was at my smallest weight, but I was at my unhappiest.”
She recalls what thoughts she had at the time: “I’ve lost weight and everybody thinks I look beautiful.” But she felt everything was wrong. She missed her curves and felt like her body was “built like a boy.”
Then she went off to college and gained about a fourth of it back her freshman year.
“I just wasn’t sure how to love or appreciate my body as it was. I was fluffy before and I still wasn’t happy.” Then the realization hit her that if she wasn’t happy when she was thin and wasn’t happy when she was fluffy then the problem wasn’t her body, it was her.
“I had to love myself as I was. I was still the same person,” Washington says. “It took years. There are still things I don’t like about my body. I take the time to fall in love with myself again. Just to help myself remember why I started this journey.”
Washington says that she also understands that even if she wants to lose some weight, that doesn’t mean she should wait to be happy with her body until it changes. “And even if I want to change something, I need to like it today if I’m going to like it tomorrow.”
She has stopped looking at the numbers on the scale. “I don’t even look at the numbers. Where I’m at now, I’m probably at the highest point. But I’m not so much worried about the numbers on the scale as long as I’m healthy.”
She and her husband, Jacques, an engineer, run the business together.
“I actually have fibromyalgia,” she says, so her husband helps out by driving and setting up when they attend events. Currently, the pandemic means no expos or business events, so all sales are taking place online.
Learning to do everything online during the pandemic has been a challenge, she said.
“In a week, everything turned upside down. Homeschooling is … it’s a challenge.”
Her son, Josh, is 8.
“Our son has high-functioning autism. So it’s a double challenge with him. His argument is that if he’s not at school, he shouldn’t have to do school work.” The same argument is tempting for all adults working from home, Washington acknowledges.
A Better T-Shirt
She has graphic designers she works with, and she searched for manufacturers that could make the shirts to her specifications.
Some shirts go up to 5X, some to 4X. There is no industry agreement on what constitutes a 4X or 5X.
“I’m technically a size 26-28,” she says, and can wear 3X to 5X depending on the manufacturer. “I wear a different size at Torrid than at Lane Bryant. If I order from overseas, I can wear a 6X from some of those.”
She’s taken care to offer shirts that fit curvy women, as opposed to the oversize men’s T-shirts that women might “steal” from their husbands.
“Certain styles, we have to go to different places. It’s definitely not as cheap as just a standard T-shirt,” Washington says. Smaller sizes are cheaper to make.
“Most of the feedback that I get, is usually they like the cut. And they say, ‘This is the softest T-shirt I’ve ever put on.’” Some customers tell Washington they’ve never been able to find T-shirts that fit them right before. “And they like that they’re not men’s shirts.”
All about Brittany
She and her husband live in Davenport, Iowa, and will celebrate 13 years of marriage this year. “We met our first year of college at the University of Northern Iowa.”
“I don’t really have any hobbies anymore. Since I’ve opened the business, I’ve had a lot of health issues. Fibro, migraines. I don’t really have a lot of time to do things I used to like. I like to write. I blog.” Most of the blogs are her site are her own work, although she has some guest blogs.
Her advice for women considering starting a business is simple. “I would say, go for it. It’s not going to be an easy journey. Make sure you have a support system.” There’s no way she could do it without the support of her husband, she says, as well as friends and people who have become friends.
“Be willing to learn during your journey.”