A few weeks ago while indulging in an Instagram click hole, I stumbled upon Ready To Stare. Upon browsing the cluster of thumbnails, I feel in love with the confidence oozing from a chubby Italian woman in a crop top and pencil skirt. Alysse Dalessandro, owner and designer of Ready To Stare, a jewelry and apparel brand based out of Atlanta, turned out to be that bold individual.
Ready To Stare features body chains, neon t-rex earrings, “Woke Up Like This” tees, and more. The brand encourages curve appreciation and self-confidence by making feminine goods that flatter and cater to all body types. Like really, where else are you going to find a body chain for anyone that’s a size 16? When it comes to fashion, Dalessandro wants to make sure that women who look like her, have the same options as those with slimmer builds.
I was able to catch up with Dalessandro to find out more about Ready To Stare and how she remains confident in a society that promotes unhealthy and unrealistic body images.
How did you get started in the fashion business?
I’ve always been into fashion but I started my first fashion business in 2009 when I was 21 years old and a senior in college. At the time I was going to school for Journalism – I was an intern at a magazine in Chicago where I went to school. I met two girls at the internship and we decided that we wanted to start our own magazine. We knew that magazines cost money and we were all broke college students. We came up with the idea to start a vintage clothing store to make money to fund the magazine. One of the girl’s boyfriends had just broken up with her so she had a spare bedroom in her apartment. That became THE SOMETIMES STORE which was only open sometimes. Since we were all journalists, the store received a lot of local press and we were successful from day one. Eventually we shifted our focus from starting a magazine to just growing THE SOMETIMES STORE. I always wanted to run a fashion business but I thought I would do that after I did a more practical career like journalism. Running that business showed me that I was capable of actually running a small creative business now and I didn’t have to take the safe route. Without the confidence I gained from that experience, I am not sure that Ready to Stare would be around today!
Why did you choose the name Ready To Stare and what is the concept behind the brand?
I actually came up with the name Ready to Stare when I was walking across the street in Chicago wearing a short orange sweater dress and bright blue pumps and someone yelled out of their window “Hey Fat Girl, stop trying to look skinny,” and that’s when I came up with the name. I realized that I found my empowerment through fashion by standing up to the bullies in middle school who told me that I couldn’t dress a certain way because of my size. When I heard that comment at 23, it took me right back to that 13 year-old version of myself who decided she would never dress a certain way to make other people comfortable. I decided right then on the name Ready to Stare for my brand. I want it to be a brand for people who were unapologetically and excessively confident.
When did you decide to create Ready To Stare? Why?
I created Ready to Stare in late 2011. My business partners from THE SOMETIMES STORE had moved to New York and I needed to decide whether or not I was going to continue that business on my own or do something else. As much as I learned from owning that business, I was still nervous and insecure about my own artistic voice and I was scared to do something on my own. I was doing another journalism internship that had just come to an end. I was scrambling to start finding freelance writing gigs again even though by that point, I realized that fashion was my real passion. It was that same month that I made a pair of earrings out of wire and the supplies I had left over from the metalworking class I took in college. I made them because I wanted a pair of earrings that looked like these exact earrings but I never thought anyone would buy them. And one day, I happened to be wearing them when I ran into a boutique owner I knew through THE SOMETIMES STORE and she said “I love your earrings. You should sell them.”I was shocked and floored. I am sure she thought nothing of the comment but to me that finally connected the necessary dots. If I make something that I like and that I believe in, eventually other people will like it too. Ready to Stare was as and is about finding your confidence and expressing it through fashion. I realized that I could use fashion as a way to not only empower myself but I could help others find empowerment too.
I find metalworking to be a slightly unusual skill in the present day. It is especially rare to come across a woman in the field. What made you decide to learn that particular craft?
I went to school for journalism and women’s studies but my minor was in art. Since I went to a liberal arts college and not an arts school, the art minor was very general and open-ended. When I looked at the course options for my minor, I saw that metalworking and jewelry making was an option so I signed up for the class. I had no idea what metalworking really entailed. If I did, I probably would’ve never tried it because I am afraid of fire and knives and the ability to torch solder and use a jeweler’s saw are absolutely necessary skills of metalworking. I learned to conquer those fears and then some. My grandpa, Major, was also a trained metalsmith and jewelry designer so when I signed up for the class, he really encouraged me to keep pursuing it even though at the time, I had no intentions of becoming a jewelry designer. My grandpa believed that I could do anything. After I finished the class, he sent me a box full of his old supplies to encourage me to keep practicing it and every time I talked to him, he asked if I had used the supplies. I brushed it off for a full year and a half until that moment in late 2011 when I made those earrings. When Ready to Stare was born, I immediately signed up for more classes and I took them up until the time when I left Chicago in 2013. A lot of my pieces to this day are still made from a roll of copper that my Grandpa sent me back in 2010. I love being a metalsmith because I can take a piece of metal and making something with my own two hands that no one has ever seen before. It’s a powerful feeling to have that much control over your product.
What is your astrological sign? Are you true to its traits?
I am very into astrology and tarot so I know that I am a TOTAL Sagittarius. I am extremely passionate and emotion-driven and I sometimes have a hard time looking at things from a practical standpoint. I am a natural risk-taker. And I aim to seek justice in unfair situations. I speak my mind easily (and to some bluntly) and I have no problem if those opinions leave me in the spotlight. So many female entrepreneurs that I know are also Sagittarius so I might be biased but I think we are natural boss women in business!
I absolutely love the dinosaur earrings! Why did you choose such a novelty concept, whereas most of the jewelry on the Ready To Stare line is more finessed and streamlined?
The dinosaur earrings were actually a total fluke. I had a coworker who ordered those dinosaurs as part of her wedding favors and they weren’t what she expected. She had ordered a whole box of them and now had no use for them. My coworker suggested that I could use them to make jewelry. That was over two years ago and they are still one of my best selling items! I think they communicate that big, bold, in-your-face confidence that Ready to Stare is all about. As an artist, I try not to limit myself and I keep my eyes and ears open throughout the entire creative process because I believe the best art happens in the imperfections and the mistake; that’s where innovation is born.
Another one of my favorite pieces featured in the line is the “Woke Up Like This” crop top. On instagram, you photos you are flawlessly sporting that particular design. In a society that glorifies Barbie Chic, as a plus-sized woman, how do you maintain such confidence that enables you to bare your midriff? Have you always been so confident?
The I Woke Up Like Dis crop top is one of my favorite pieces too! I love wearing crop tops and had a hard time finding them in my size because society tells us that women my size aren’t supposed to show our stomachs. We are supposed to wear baggy clothes that hide any sort of fat that they deem imperfection. I’ve never bought into the idea that fashion is a privilege. In my mind, I want to create fashion that has no limits so there’s no reason why I can’t wear a crop top. I started really dressing how I wanted in middle school after I was bullied a lot for my weight. I didn’t look like anyone else at my school because of my size. I already didn’t look like them so I decided I didn’t want to dress like them either. I didn’t want to dress like the people at my school who bullied me for my weight. They all looked the same. They dressed in clothes from the same stores and their cool factor was determined on how much they fit in; my individuality was born from how much I stood out. And while I wasn’t wearing crop tops in middle school, I was wearing red pleather rattlesnake skin pants and other over-the-top “taboo” fashions. I really just wear what I like and to me expressing myself is far more important than any hateful thing that people can say to me about it. I never let anyone tell me that I can’t wear something because of my size.
What advice do you have for other women struggling to find pride in their figure?
The best advice that I have for someone who is struggling to love their body is that if you learn to love yourself first and foremost, no one can tell you anything that will shake that confidence. The people who hate on other people’s bodies are actually insecure with themselves. The problem is never your body, it’s theirs and how they feel about it. I think when you step back from the situation and realize that they are trying to make you insecure so they feel better about hating themselves, you can feel bad for them instead of bad about yourself. I pray for those people who hate on me for my body because I can’t imagine how unhappy they must be themselves to go through the trouble of leaving a nasty comment or creating a fake account just to make themselves feel a little better. One of my favorite quotes is “You can’t keep yourself small so others feel big” and I really believe that. I won’t hide my body so someone else feels better. I’m gonna shine regardless.
What is next for Ready To Stare?
Ready to Stare has SO much in the works. The thing that I am most excited about is expanding the apparel offerings. I realized how much people like my outfits and I want to be able to have more clothing options to offer so that you can really have a Ready to Stare look from head to toe. I am excited about all the possibilities. That’s my short term goal but long term, I definitely want a physical store. I love interacting with the people who support my brand and I would love to help them put looks together in person. I can’t wait til that’s a reality. It’s coming! Just wait on it.