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Photograph by Devon Lach 

Jillian Knox:
Pioneering Plus Size Vintage

Photography by Devon Lach 

I first met Jillian Knox several years ago after she reached out to me about a collaborative photoshoot. I was drawn to the bright colors that saturated her instagram page. Her photographs exuded confidence, boldly mixing seemingly incongruous patterns. Knox works as a wardrobe and food stylist in San Francisco for clients like Zelma Rose, MIXT, and BRYR Clogs.

When we meet at the coffee shop Knox brings her wardrobe stylist A-game, sporting a silky blend of warm tones, chunky layered necklaces and carrying a shiny gold ice bucket as a purse. Her style and warm demeanor make an indelible impression. Each piece of her outfit is a representation of her personal story.

The gold ice bucket she found while dumpster diving after vendors closed up shop at the Alameda Flea Market. The necklaces are from an african necklace seller she has been going to for years. She later tells me that the necklaces are only a small part of her extensive collection of African beads–a collection that started as a way to connect to her heritage and identity as a black woman.
Fashion–has a deeper meaning than looking pretty...You're representing your family, your culture, your neighborhood, your auntie, whoever it is. You're embodying that on a daily basis.
Her life like her wardrobe is a visible representation of Knox’s inner identity. She self proclaims having a dark side–listening to metal music and adorning her home with a collection of eyeballs and vintage taxidermy. Her collection of art is mostly from travels or estate sales; a vintage white tail deer from the 60’s, a pillar doll from South Africa.

“My home is literally what I'm wearing regurgitated onto the walls.”
Photographs by Jillian Knox 

Knox grew up in Washington DC with an extended family full of artists encouraging her creative pursuits.

Like many who graduated college in 2009 her job prospects were slim and unexciting.

“The economy bottomed out, so they were like oh you have a degree in photography... No one has a job for you, good luck.”

Knox moved to Chicago, started working as a sales associate for a large clothing retailer and absolutely hated it. The expectation of getting a job in her field right out of college was far from fulfilled. 

After less than a year of work frustration, Knox decided to take her career into her own hands. She gathered all the clothing collected from photoshoots in college, photographed it and posted it on Ebay. Joules Jewels Vintage was born.

Knox dove headfirst into vintage full time; going to trunk shows, flea markets and vintage pop ups all around Chicago. “It was just so much fun to have an excuse to go shopping and find really cool, weird stuff.”
Photographs by Devon Lach

What started as a traditional vintage shop morphed into a shop geared exclusively towards plus size vintage—because even for her, at a size 14, it was really hard to find.

The response was overwhelmingly positive—“I'm so happy you're doing this. I'm a size 20, I love fashion, I love vintage.” She had found a niche in the market that wasn’t getting filled. In recent years clothing options for women above a size 10 have expanded dramatically but in 2009 the pickings were slim.

Knox encourages plus sized women on the vintage hunt to be patient, get creative and find a good tailor. If something is a bit too big or too small a tailor can adjust so it’s just right.

“I've found vintage Levi's that are just a tad bit too small. And I just open the seams and I add denim.”

Knox prefers estate sales because they are deeply personal and are like a shrine in many ways. As she goes through the clothing she gets a sense of the person whose clothes she is buying.

Knox began styling for her vintage shop photoshoots—imagining stories for each of the models.

After running her vintage store for about 6 years she got a full time job as a stylist and began freelancing shortly after. When she transitioned to wardrobe styling the voices of her vintage shop customers echoed in her head. Although her vintage shop only pops up from time to time these days, Knox’s represents plus sized women and her own heritage in her wardrobe styling whenever she gets the chance.

Knox imagines a world where fashion is truly inclusive of all women and tries to create that world through her wardrobe styling.

Learn more about Jillian Knox and see her portfolio here.


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