With young girls showing signs of low self-esteem and body image insecurities as young as 5 years old, it’s obvious that something cultural needs to change. People are taking note of this epidemic and pushing back against destructive expectations — as a result, the body positive movement is gaining steam. Advertisers are running campaigns with more diverse models, Photoshop is being used with a lighter hand, and viral videos show just how much it means to a person to be called “beautiful.”
While none of these things alone can erase the onslaught of negativity that contributes to a person’s diminished self-esteem, they can add up and help change the narrative for young girls and women in a big way. Kait Villegas-Payne, a blogger-turned-clothing designer, wants to add to this changing narrative with her brand new clothing company, babe.wear.
Focused on shirts, the mission of babe.wear is simple — to help people feel like the babes they are, not in spite of their flaws, but because of them. The shirts feature messages, scrawled in Kait’s own handwriting, that are often construed as negatives but here are powerfully turned positive: “Weird toothed babe,” “Zitty babe,” “Thick thighed babe.”
The numerous Instagram posts and comments that Kait and her babe.wear line receive every day are proof that she is onto something. It is obvious that these shirts possess a special perspective-changing power — the power to turn the wearer’s insecurity into a badge of honor and point of pride. We talked to Kait about her own insecurities, her customers, babe.wear’s plans for the future, and more.
HelloGiggles (HG): How did you come up with the idea for babe.wear?
Kait Villegas-Payne (KVP): Through blogging, I’ve gained somewhat of a following. Most of my following is comprised of teenagers and women in their early twenties, and I felt like I needed to use my platform more. I’m from a very small town, and having people listen to me felt empowering. I was reading Girl Boss when I got the idea for babe.wear — I thought, there’s no reason I can’t try to do something I’m passionate about for my main source of income. The idea grew like wildfire. I sprang up in bed and walked outside, barefoot, pacing while my mind raced.
Soon, I turned those thoughts into actions. I created the branding with my own handwriting, because I wanted it to feel as personal as possible. For the first time, I’m doing work that fulfills me and others. Babe.wear is really a reflection of my own journey — I am my own worst critic a lot of the time but babe.wear and the community it’s forming is something that makes me feel incredibly proud and worthy.
HG: Based on the comments we’ve seen on the Instagram, there does seem to be a huge sense of community. Let’s talk about you for a minute. What was your biggest insecurity growing up, and how did you overcome it?
KVP: I was basically the IRL Simon Birch growing up. I was in and out of the doctor all the time for tests— I wasn’t growing or developing at the normal rate, from the time I was 18 months old. I have always been tiny, and didn’t go through puberty until I was 15. When I’d run around with my friends, people would ask if they were babysitting me. I took a very long time to grow into myself. To compensate for the lack of physical space I took up in the room, I had to develop a booming personality.
I never felt “cute,” and certainly not “hot,” and that messed with my mental state for a long time — all my friends were developing boobs and getting boyfriends, and I was playing Pokemon Snap in my room and listening to Rilo Kiley alone after school. However, I think the fact that I was forced to develop such a strong personality has helped me be as open as I am today, which not only makes me more relatable, but also helped me start a company like babe.wear.
HG: What are you hoping babe.wear shirts will do for wearers of the line?
KVP: What I’m really hoping for is that babe.wear will start conversations and a support network between women and girls that may not have been sparked otherwise. I want people to learn to defeat shame by owning it; by utilizing social media to find other girls who are going through similar struggles and lifting each other up. I love the idea that they may be supporting other people at the local level, without even knowing it, by running errands in their “fat babe” or “sickly babe” shirts. The thought that I’ve sold shirts in other countries and girls are going about their day all around the world in my shirts makes my heart swell, because you never know what kind of domino effect it could have when it comes to inspiring strangers. I just want to know that I’ve given others the change to accept themselves a little more, to come to terms with their bodies and their struggles. That’s the true mission of babe.wear.
HG: That’s such an inspiring mission. What has been your favorite comment from a customer so far?
KVP: Once, a girl messaged me and told him that her perspective had totally changed — that for the first time, she was excited about having weird teeth. It made me cry for an hour. The fact that she is now able to celebrate something she’s felt shame about for her entire life until this moment is wonderful. She now feels included in the body positive movement that she had felt previously excluded her, and that is everything to me.
HG: That’s so wonderful! Do you plan to focus on mental health in the future, as well as body image issues?
KVP: Round three is actually going to be entirely focused on mental health, which is another issue that hits close to home for me that I’ve been very public about. Anxious Babe has been the most anticipated and requested shirt from that round — I promise, it’s coming soon!
HG: What else is in the future for babe.wear?
KVP: Other than Anxious Babe in the next round of shirts, we’re also doing Four Eyed Babe for glasses-wearers, Sad Babe for people who struggle with depression, and Survivor Babe for survivors of domestic, emotional, and childhood abuse. I’ve also had quite a few requests for Scarred Babe, which would not only cover stretch marks and scars from accidents, but also people recovering from self-harm. We’re also launching iron-on patches in March, for people who want to be a part of the babe.wear community but aren’t quite ready to go out in a shirt with their biggest insecurity on it. It’s also for people who have requested the shirts in a color other than white — right now I like the black logo on a white shirt, because I want the message to be clear and direct, and I’m more about the message than the fashion aspect, but a patch can be ironed on any garment of your choosing!