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Here are all the posts in our Forum/Blog on the topic of Fashion: trends-design...

Andrea    Sunday 22 May 2016 at 23:31

 Post #472 



 
Subject: Our Focus Group Invitation

Hi there! :) We are 2 students from the London College of Fashion and we are working with a plus size German brand looking to enter the UK market. We are hosting a focus group this Thursday May 26 in a Central London location (SE1) to gather opinions from potential customers. There will be complementary wine and some snacks, as well as a lovely rooftop/terrace viewing overlooking the London Eye. Your opinions would be greatly appreciated! Please reply to this post if you would be interested

 

Emma    Friday 15 April 2016 at 15:17

 Post #470 



 
Subject: Our Spring Range

I love this time of year-the birds twittering (there are sky larks over the field where I walk my dog every morning), the little baby rabbits scampering about (whilst I try to distract my dog's killer instincts), the trees budding with blossom....all our lovely clothes in the shop. Yes, it is truly a joy to be alive!

This year the colours are pink, cobalt blue, denim blue, lilac, greens (of all hues!), black and white, and silver. The silhouette is soft, the fabrics light and natural. Never have we had so much cotton and silk, and never have there been such a choice of lightweight fabrics. Bamboo is making its mark, as are sports fabrics that are as cool as cucumbers!

Everyone on our mailing list is entitled to have a £20 gift voucher subtracted from their purchase of clothing (not accessories, and not in conjunction with any other offer), so it's a very good time to come into our store!

For those who cannot travel into our store(or simply have other things to do), just a reminder that we are now selling online! Just click on the large pink square on the homepage of this website, or go into our 'Mail Order' page to visit our Shoptiques shop. It's always changing, so it's worth looking at it every now and again.

 

 Wonderful selection of clothes    Saturday 23 April 2016 at 13:02

 
Hi, I really enjoyed my visit to the shop yesterday and Kin and Anna were so helpful as always picking out items for me to try on. I am so pleased with my Tomo and Q'Neel dresses and KJ Brand cut offs, I am all ready for Summer just need the sun to shine now! Kim

 

 Emma    Sunday 24 April 2016 at 14:34

 
Hi Kim,

Thank you so much for your post, & kind words! I was sorry to have missed you yesterday! I'm glad that you liked the collection, and came away with some finds.

My only one regret is that I think that you have missed the best of the waistcoats this season -you know how quick you have to be to snap them up......;)

 

Emma    Monday 22 February 2016 at 08:53

 Post #467 



 
Subject: Shoptiques

The model has been recruited, the stock has been selected. Our shop has been turned into a part -time photographic studio. The photos have been taken, selected and edited. We are now on the starting block for a new way of trading.

I've been on record for years as having reservations about selling online -there are a number of disadvantages. In my opinion, there is simply no comparison with actually being able to come into a fashion shop, try everything on, and make an informed choice as to what to by.

''Being able to come into a fashion shop '' is a bit of a rub. Not everyone, at every time, is able to come into our little shop, here on the south coast of England. For these people, buying online is not a choice, but a necessity.

However, there has been an enormous growth in the other kind of online shopping -people who DO choose to shop this way, simply because they enjoy it. Sitting at home, (perhaps furtively ) at work, or sipping coffee in a café, browsing the Internet for something gorgeous for the weekend -it's the modern way of life.

Luckily, many of my initial objections to selling online appear to have been met by the American website, Shoptiques. It's a company that really knows it's stuff. It deals exclusively with small boutiques like ourselves, and provides the practical solutions that allow us to maintain the exclusivity, quality and choice that we feel is so important.

I'm very excited about it, and really hope that it works for us. Diversity and equality of opportunity in the world of fashion is something that we are passionate about. Shoptiques should help us enable more women access to better and more fitting fashion, no matter where they are, or how they choose to shop.

I will keep you posted as to when we go live!

 

Emma    Friday 06 March 2015 at 17:12

 Post #432 



 
Subject: New Images Spring/Summer 2015

Just a quick message to remind customers that the new images of our gorgeous Spring/Summer collection are now loaded on to our website.

As always, our images just scratch the surface of what is here in store. I really do recommend coming in to view the collection at the earliest opportunity - it's a sight to be seen!

This year the colours are jewel-emerald green, turquoise, lapis and amethyst, and the fabrics are eclectic. There is lace, leather, denim, silk, linens, lawns and lovely jerseys of all kinds. There are hand-painted materials, dip-dyes, raw edges... everything is about variety and creativity.

We hope to see you soon.

 

Emma    Saturday 23 August 2014 at 18:24

 Post #409 



 
Subject: New Season's Stock

Cobalt blue is a very big story, both this winter and next summer. We've already started to get our autumn/winter stock in, and we are seeing how popular this colour is proving.

Pictured right is the 'Scotty Dog' Anna Scholz dress (so called because, true to her whimsical nature, Anna has used silhouettes of Scotty dogs to create her exclusive print) £195, and far right is a gorgeous KJ Brand jumper at £129, both is this glowing, jewel colour....

 

 Sharon    Friday 29 August 2014 at 20:17

 
Hi Emma

I must have the Scotty Dog dress - is it the tunic or the space dress? I'm coming down next friday so I will definitely be looking for that.

Have you got any of the knitted skirts you mentioned yet? I have visions of a very cosy winter in one.

Hopefully see you Friday

 

 Emma    Friday 29 August 2014 at 22:30

 
Hi Sharon,

We've only had one knitted skirt in so far (it's still rather early in the season), but it's a real beauty. It's from Japanese-inspired German range, Tomo. It's long and straight, black, with a leather panel down the front. Absolutely gorgeous. There may be more here by the time you come in next week, because deliveries are arriving all the time now.

The Scotty dress is lovely, (it's the tunic: a lovely, simple shape, edged with pleather) but a word of warning: they are going extremely quickly. I think it's the colour blue that really attracts people. Virtually everything we have had delivered so far that is in this colour show every sign of selling through.

We really look forward to seeing you next week-

 

Emma    Friday 22 August 2014 at 15:31

 Post #408 



 
Subject: Bring on Summer 2015!

So, I hear you all ask, what are we to expect from the wonderful world of plus-size fashion next summer (officially referred to as Spring/Summer 2015)?

The huge story next year is black and white. This is a continuation of what we have been seeing for the past two or three seasons - and this coming winter, too. The look is really taking off now, and we are going to run the whole gamut of black-and-white looks next year.

There are the jazz-age floral prints, from ranges like Anna Scholz or Verpass (the latter flecked with elements of lime green), smudged-graphite-and-white - from all sorts of ranges, including the German label CPM, and crisp black-and-stone Mondrian-inspired blocks from Verpass and Elena Miro.

There are some fantastic textured blacks from Marina Rinaldi, and rippling summer knits from Tomo. Stripes and spots leap from every corner... from ranges like Samoon, Elena Miro, No Secret and others. Black and white animal prints growl and purr from Matt and Anna Scholz. I could go on and on.

It seems that every collection has some elements of black and white. There is something for everyone, and I do urge you to get into black and white (if you are not already). It is here to stay, and it's so versatile! It’s rare to find a fashion story that is so variable: there is the grungy, young and edgy end of the scale, but there is also the floral and pretty end. There's the sophisticated suited-and-booted workwear, and then again there are more architectural looks that make use of arty textured weaves and knits. And there is everything in-between.

Another huge fashion story is denim. At Anna Scholz we're seeing smooth, nineteen-seventies-inspired chambray (see right). Samoon offers sophisticated little stretch city-denim jackets. These contrast markedly with Brand’s take on the denim jacket, which is both casual and practical: the eternal jeans jacket. Matt takes the denim shirt and transforms it into an oversize tunic to wear over leggings. Exelle dyes oversize T-shirts into denim-inspired gorgeousness, and everywhere we see different fabrics - from jerseys to linens, indigo-dyed into the denim spectrum.

Indigo blue is such a kind colour. It suits almost everyone, and due to the ubiquity of jeans, now counts as a neutral - meaning that it will team with almost everything.

Elsewhere, the look book for Spring/Summer 2015 will include the colours turquoise (and all the colours either side of it - from cobalt to teal), orange (or coral), lime green and taupe. Fabrics will be crinkle linens, lots of knits with all sorts of different effects, silks printed to look hand-painted, digital jerseys, and textured weaves. We are also seeing more leather - both as jackets and as trims to knits.

The silhouette is still with the tunic dress over leggings, although slightly more outré trousers - with harem pants, sarong-trousers and super-wide strides edging in.

There is the introduction of more jumpsuits (don’t worry, I won’t be filling my store with these - although they will be making a guest appearance!), pencil skirts (long and stretchy gorgeousness), and long crinkly skirts. One of the main stories, silhouette-wise, is the neat fitted jacket. This is so versatile (it can be worn over a narrow little skirt, or teamed with a billowing dress underneath), and one such jacket can be used in dozens of different looks.

All in all, the look next summer is clean, simple, flattering and practical. It is stuffed with essential pieces that you will wonder how you ever lived without. And, if you make some wise choices, it will take your look forward for many seasons to come.

 

 Kim P    Friday 22 August 2014 at 18:28

 
Hi Emma

All sounds very exciting, some new names to me on your list of designers so look forward to seeing their creations next year.

Will you be getting any Tomo this Autumn/Winter?

I was sorry to miss the sale, didn't realise it was on!

My regards to all the Emma Plus ladies

PS I note a certain garment missing from your list of trends

 

 Emma    Saturday 23 August 2014 at 11:44

Hi Kim,

So sorry that you didn't know about the sale! We will have to make sure this doesn't happen again!

Yes, there are some new ranges on the horizon: it's very exciting, actually! I love the new collections, and am, as ever, looking forward to getting it all in (in 6 month's time!). I also loved this dress from Anna Scholz in a beautiful exclusive silk print (see right).

We've had some gorgeous Tomo jumpers in: they are so lovely that words fail to describe them! I would urge you to come in straight away!!!

It's a good idea to find us on Facebook and have a look at what we are showing there.

On a sad note, I scoured the collections for waistcoats, and am so sorry to say that it just wasn't a look for next summer. You and Kim will shed a little tear, I think!
 

Emma    Friday 18 July 2014 at 16:55

 Post #402 



 
Subject: Curvy is Sexy


For those who haven't read my blog before, I usually keep a journal of my buying, partly to help readers keep abreast of latest fashion trends (and we really are talking about hot-off-the-press news: these are looks that will not be seen in store until next summer), and partly to give an insider view on my particular corner of the fashion business.

I have been going over to the big fashion fairs in Germany for many years now. I used to go to Dusseldorf, where, back in the day, all the ready-to-wear fashion labels that were worth knowing would accumulate in the massive CPD Messe Centre. Just to give an idea of the CPD centre: imagine the NEC in Birmingham, and times roughly by three, and then you barely have the scale of it.

About ten years ago, this massive fashion show welcomed ranges from all over the world, and saw a huge traffic of buyers and sellers who came to one of the few venues that really had everything. Great Britain had (and has) its own big trade shows, but nothing ever like this.

However, the recession hit, and this big show began to fade away. I still visited Dusseldorf every season to do my buying (there really wasn't anywhere in the UK that could be relied on to show all the plus-size clothing that I need to look at), but eventually the show moved out of the huge Messe and into the fashion showrooms in Dusseldorf. It began to be a shadow of its former self.

The recession had another impact: many of the small independent plus-size fashion stores in the UK went by the wall. This meant that it really wasn't that essential for the collections to be shown over here. Putting it bluntly, the ranges did not find it worthwhile to have agents or shows of their collections in a country where there was no-one to buy their wares.

So my best option is still to go to Germany to do my buying, but I would have to find somewhere that had more to offer now than Dusseldorf. I opted for the new plus-size fashion show, called 'Curvy is Sexy' in Berlin.

There were some arguments against going to this show. Obviously, there was the usual type of objection when faced to doing anything new. Would I find what I wanted in this alien environment? Isn't it going to be awfully difficult to navigate a place I was completely unfamiliar with? This kind of objection (basically, the fear of the unknown) always has to be set aside in fashion. Our industry is all about the new, and welcoming change. If I ever find myself fearing changing my long-held habits, I should start to think that I am in the wrong business!

But then there is a potential objection about this particular show.

My main worry is that I do not really want to go to a specialist plus-size fashion event. This is because, as a buyer, my job isn't just to buy clothes for my store. Pretentious as it sounds, it is to be a person who has some level of expertise in my subject. I really should know what is happening in the world of fashion.

When going to a plus-size exhibition, there is one main drawback, in my opinion. It is that you do not get an overview of what fashion as a whole is doing at any one time. Some looks are simply not produced in plus sizes, so I would never get to see them in this kind of a show. Yet I strongly believe that I should know they are happening, in the wide world of 'small' fashion. This is because I have the self-belief that I am capable of finding equivalent looks in the plus-size field that may in some way 'channel' the mainstream zeitgeist. Putting it succinctly, I don't want to become stuck in a plus-size cul-de-sac.

However, after visiting the Berlin show, I was happy. There was plenty here to feel enthusiastic about (I will blog later about what I found), and it was a bit of a relief to know that, wherever I looked, I would see clothes that are made in sizes to fit larger women. This is not a common occurrence, I can assure you!

And if I want to make sure that Emma Plus does not get side-lined in a fashion dead-end, it is my job to do what fashion stylists do the world over: watch mainstream retailers, look at street fashion, and continually read trade journals and fashion magazines.

In short, do all the things I really enjoy doing anyway.

 

Emma    Friday 14 March 2014 at 18:03

 Post #392 



 
Subject: Winter blues...

Having now finished my Autumn/Winter 2014 buying trips, I feel that I can accurately give an account of the lovely fashion we will be expecting to receive next winter.

First things first - and I know from experience that every conversation about future fashion always begins with the same question - will we like the colours?

Well, I am delighted to go on record to say that almost everyone will be satisfied with the lovely hues and patterns that the designers have provided for our delectation.

There is, just as there has been for several seasons now, a strong monochrome element - playing yet again on the Art Deco vibe. Black, grey and white prints snake their way across fluid silhouettes. Sleeves are stretchy and narrow, but the body is enveloped in a wide, unstructured graphic pattern. The shapes are deceptively simple, but as ever with these designer ranges, cleverly cut to be ultra-flattering. Ranges like Wille run with the idea of the black-and-white print or weave, in fabrics ranging from jerseys to silk/linen mixes - to offer bold but elegant impact.

Where there is colour, they are the most wearable and popular colours you could think of. All manner of blues... from denim-grey, through petrol to cobalt... the span of this hue doesn’t stop until it hits ultraviolet. This looks particularly beautiful in prints placed against black and white.

A special delight for me was a range of gorgeous soft fitted leather jackets from Danish brand, Jorli (see above) - one of which, in the almost iridescent hue of cobalt blue, had my name all over it. I could see myself swanning along wearing one of the aforementioned printed dresses, with the lovely blue leather jacket layered on top.

As soon as I did so, however, the old ‘clothes rage’ returned. I simply couldn’t wait to get that jacket, and the prospect of having to spend six months without it caused me to grind my teeth in frustration. I am actually gnashing now just thinking about it. But I know that September will inevitably make its way here, and by that time I will be lusting after the following season’s stock on order!

If, unlike me (very unlike me) your passion doesn’t run to a cobalt blue leather jacket, perhaps I could interest you in a lovely brick-red one? Or maybe teal green? Or rather I should say, perhaps Jorli could interest you in one, because this is what they are producing this autumn. Any of these jackets would look mighty fine layered over a print dress, or even a long T-shirt and jeans.

German brand Verpass has quite a bit of the red, which again it teams with the black and white look. But there is so much more to Verpass next season than this. They are going for colour in a big way. Shocking pink, our friend the cobalt, emerald, and a pop of lime really bring this collection to life - and make it one of Verpass’s best winter seasons to date.

Anna Scholz has also surpassed herself with her bold must-have designs. Again riffing on the grey and black prints, she adds a pop of mustard, teal and (surprise, surprise) cobalt and chartreuse. It’s incredibly life-affirming and completely wearable.

In fact, if I had to sum up the whole ethos of Autumn/Winter 2014, it would be with those two words... affirming and wearable. I can’t wait.

 

Emma    Saturday 25 January 2014 at 17:00

 Post #384 



 
Subject: Task Versus Job

Here I am again, contemplating my new buying season. By the end of next week, I will be up to my ears in buying our stock for Autumn/Winter 2014. The last moment before I see the new collections is always an expectant time for me, and one during which I try to think about my priorities.

If I want to really analyse what it is that my customers want, I had better do so before I go and look at the collections. This is because I am a girlie, meaning that, once I have had a glimpse of all the gorgeous, shiny new things, thoughts from before will be gone from my head. And once they have gone, they will not be coming back!

However, I do believe that if I see lovely things that surprise and delight me, and completely take over my desires, I may as well simply buy them, and forget all about the specifics of what I thought I was looking for. This would be because, if the new styles have had that effect on me, then they are bound to have the same one on my clients.

To express it as an example, let’s say that I have a customer - shall we call her Ms Smith? - who is looking for a dark grey sensible business suit. You know the kind of thing: a flat, workaday woven fabric, in a colour that’s practical, with a simple, practical cut. I promise that I will try to find her one, and I go out to look for something along those lines.

As soon as I take one look at the collections, however, I am blown away by a gorgeous trouser suit in a delicious soft tweed in a midnight blue colour, in a modern style that oozes sophistication. So this is what I buy. When Ms Smith comes into our store, what do you suppose would normally happen? Well, all my experience would tell me what to expect. This would be that she would walk in the door and ask me whether I was able to source her the grey suit she had been seeking. When I tell her I had found her something else entirely, there would be a frisson of disappointment that crosses her face. Yet when I show her the beautiful midnight blue soft tweed, a look of ecstasy would sweep from ear to ear.

Of course, it’s arguable that perhaps I should source the customer that workaday suit anyway, just to be on the safe side. However, my passion tells me that, once she has seen the gorgeous new design, that will be what she opts for every time.

I was trained that, in every occupation one should remember what is your job, and what is your task. And then you should always emphasise that your job should take precedence over your task. In this example, my task is to find Ms Smith a grey, workaday business suit. I don’t denigrate the task: it’s a very important thing to try not to let my customers down, and to take seriously my promises to them. However, my job is to find Ms Smith something that she loves, and help her style herself in a way that seriously enhances her life. This job must always take precedence over any task.

All I have to do really is look forward with hope and expectation that the designers will have found things that will delight and surprise me.

I am looking for things that are life-enhancing, and they haven’t let me down before.

 

 Kim P    Thursday 30 January 2014 at 22:13

 
This is where independent specialist retailers who know their customers come into their own. Good luck with the buying decisions, there will be nothing drab ordered I'm sure!

 

Emma    Wednesday 27 November 2013 at 16:04

 Post #376 



 
Subject: Fashion tribes continued.....

Once you start thinking about different fashion tribes, it's difficult to stop. Recently I have noticed a particular ‘type’ that seems to be quite prevalent in Brighton at the moment.

It's what I call the ‘Ruby’ woman. She takes her sense of style mainly from the nineteen-forties and fifties. She will wear ruby-red lipstick, and draw prominent dark eyebrows on her pale face (no false tan here!). Her hair is also dyed black, or dark brown, and is often extravagantly waved. She loves to wear red - which is nearly always teamed with black. At this time of year she snuggles in a soft red coat, which she wears with a pair of black leggings and cute little fur-lined booties. Sometimes, if she if feeling particularly exciting, she will opt for a pattern: a rose-print in the summer or tartan in the winter season. Often seen with a red bow in her hair, her look is feminine and glamorous.

Another tribe is the ‘Luxe Minimalist’. This woman is all about simplicity and perfection. Happy to wear the subtle version of just about any colour - she likes a soft, loosely tailored shape. Trouser suits echo Armani at his nineteen-eighties best, while skirts and casual trousers are effortlessly draped. The Luxe Minimalist loves a classic shirt; always long, sometimes the softest silk, sometimes in the crispest cotton or linen. Not to be confused with the Luxe Euro woman, who is intensely feminine in her styling, this woman’s look could almost be described as androgynous. She does not wear clothes with detail or body-conscious tailoring, and she hates short skirts and jackets (she’s probably never tried on a pair of tights in her life), or close-fitting trousers. She has her pop of colour - but this is the only striking thing about her style. All details - be they buttons, ties, lapels or waistbands - are pared back to a minimum.

To make the issue super-complicated there is even a tribe which can be clearly recognised (by other members at least), yet who all have completely different looks. These are women who can change their look radically in a day; they may set off for work in the morning in a sexy-librarian look, then, after dashing home for a quick change, emerge to go out to dinner in a Luxe-Euro look. Later, at the weekend, one of them can be seen elegantly sashaying around town in a fluffy angora jilet teamed with soft woollen trousers (à la Luxe Minimalist), yet later in the day is seen leaving the house wearing a full-on leather biker look - with knee-high boots.

One distinctive thing is that they always have the ‘complete look’. This is the woman who won’t leave the house if her handbag doesn’t work perfectly with the ethos of her outfit, or if her shoes don’t have exactly the correct height of heel to carry the whole thing off. She has a forensic eye for detail.

These women form a very particular group: the Fashionistas. They work in the fashion industry, not as designers (these would hardly be worth writing about as most wear shapeless black clothes in my experience), but rather on the selling side... quite a few of them are boutique owners! I see them when I do my buying in that part of London where all the fashion agencies are... or when I do my purchasing in Germany... or at the airport on the way to a fashion fair. I can always recognise them, and I know that they usually recognise me. There is a certain little nod of the head that we give each other as we dash past on our various fashion-orientated missions.

 

Emma    Thursday 03 October 2013 at 11:55

 Post #370 



 
Subject: Tribal fashion

While preparing for next week’s Emma Plus Fashion Show (taking place, of course, at the store in Brighton on 12 October at 2.00pm), I found myself cogitating on the subject of ‘fashion tribes’.

There is no shame in not knowing what a fashion tribe is (in fact, I almost think less of myself because I know about this kind of thing). To the uninitiated the term refers to the different groups that most fashion-conscious women fall into when developing their style.

One very common tribe among plus-size women is the ‘Medieval Robe’ dresser. You may not have consciously noticed this kind of woman, but chances are that you have seen her. In the summer she wears almost full-length linen dresses with long coat-like jackets over the top. Trousers are always full and tops rarely finish above the knee. She loves handkerchief hems, often with the pointed edges of her tops almost scraping the pavement as she swishes along. In the winter she will often wear knitted serapes and long knitted jumpers with huge cowl necks - and she teams it all with scarves and snoods. Colours are purple, beige, terracotta and mustard.

A close 'relative' of hers (although both would be horrified to hear me say this) is the ‘Japanese Modernist’. She wears ‘architectural’ clothes, with a futuristic twist. In the summer she will wear heavily textured linen (almost seersucker), often cut into asymmetric shapes. She may well have a long sleeve on one arm, and an elongated collar hanging over the other. One side of her outfit looks like a dress, the other side rises to reveal a trouser leg. What she shares with the ‘Medieval Robe’ woman is an unwillingness to display her body; clothes drape and flow around the physique creating ambiguity. Colours are strict: black, white, beige and red are the only shades allowed under any circumstances. She will often top-off her outfit with a severe pair of spectacles.

At the other end of the scale for dressing is the ‘Yummy Mummy’. She is usually in her thirties or forties, and lives a very busy life. There is no way in the world she would have time and space to cope with a robe, or a long collar dangling over one elbow. Her clothes are pretty, but incredibly practical. In the summer she wears a cotton jersey dress teamed with a pair of cut-off leggings. A cheerful print with a splash of colour (often picked up in her jolly choice of shoes - usually Fitflops or Crocks - or a colourful handbag) never goes amiss. In the winter she will wear skinny jeans teamed with a colourful knit and waterproof jacket, plus ankle boots. She is eclectic with her colours; she wants to wear what suits her, but she has a penchant for spots and Breton-style stripes.

Among my customers are a disproportionate number of ‘Luxe Euro’ women. These are ladies of impeccable taste. They abhor what they refer to as ‘shapeless’ clothes (there is no overlap whatsoever with the ‘Japanese Modernist’ or ‘Medieval Robe’ women), and they are obsessed with the tactile quality of garments. They can smell quality from ten yards, and their fingertips can detect cashmere while they are still several millimetres above the fabric. They will not buy anything unless it fits to a T. Not all these women possess the financial resources which you would expect to facilitate this kind of taste, but no matter... they simply become past-masters at sniffing out the truly gorgeous bargains, and they buy clothes that give them a lot of use. In the summer they will often wear a high-quality linen blouse, teamed with impeccably cut, toning trousers. In the winter they will emerge with the most gorgeous Italian cashmere winter coats known to mankind, teamed with printed silk scarves. Many of these women prefer the Italian palette: navy, beige, red, charcoal, pale grey and bright coral.

I could go on all day (there are so many different types), but I have a Fashion Show to arrange... Hopefully, it will hold something for all those who attend - whatever their particular fashion tribe.

 

 Kim P    Friday 04 October 2013 at 23:22

 
Hopefully Kim will be modelling for the Waistcoat tribe!

 

 Emma    Saturday 05 October 2013 at 15:04

Hi Kim

Funnily enough, this is the waistcoat that Kim is going to get!

x
 

Emma    Friday 27 September 2013 at 11:37

 Post #369 



 
Subject: Fashion Show October 12th

We are very excited to announce our Fashion Show, which is taking place on Saturday 12th October.

All day there will be refreshments, a prize draw, a quiz and special offers... while the Fashion Show itself will begin at 2pm. We will be showcasing all this Autumn/Winter's most gorgeous looks. We have called the show 'Snuggle' to reflect the fact that our store is at present teeming with gorgeous knits, sumptuous tops and fabulous, practical coats, in preparation for the cold months ahead.

The look this year is all about soft sophistication, with the emphasis on lovely fabrics. The colours are varied, from aubergine, through magenta to red and terracotta... or cobalt blue, through teal and petrol to turquoise... these are objects of desire!

It's worth putting in the usual reminder: anyone spending £100 or more who is parked right next door in the NCP Theatre Car Park will get 2 hours' free parking.

These days are always fantastic fun; a real opportunity to sit back and enjoy the show!

 

 Kim P    Sunday 29 September 2013 at 13:13

 
I am away that weekend :-(

I know it will be a fantastic day, hope everyone lucky enough to go has a wonderful time.

 

 Emma    Thursday 03 October 2013 at 11:59

 
Hi Kim,

Sorry to hear that...you will be missed!

Thanks for your kind words, I hope to see you soon!

x

 

Emma    Friday 30 August 2013 at 17:32

 Post #366 



 
Subject: Jazz boomerang

I had mentioned in a previous post that there were two main currents in fashion for next summer, both differentiated by colour and style. I have already talked about the trend that involved colour with a capital ‘C’ (see post no.365 which dealt with the fashion for bright digital prints next season), so now I am going to address the other main style, which is markedly different.

What are the colours that are not actually colourful? The answer is black and white, of course! In everyday life, black and white are not considered colours, yet in the fashion world they certainly are - and very important ones too. Often there is a season (usually winter) when black dominates. This is frequently a time when the clothes are gorgeous, but the clothing shops seem drab. Acres of black do not make for a good retail display! Similarly, there are seasons (usually summer) where everything in-store is white. The emphasis is then on a kind of clean, modernistic (or spiritual) aesthetic, that can alienate all but the most careful wearer. I well remember watching a friend have what would have been a tiny mishap involving a glass of red wine... had she not been wearing a pristine head-to-toe white outfit at the time. The result wasn’t pretty.

Black and white together is an altogether jollier idea. Usually (as with next Spring/Summer) this bi-tone look is channelling that enthusiastic, optimistic period in the nineteen-twenties - the jazz age. Next spring, collections as diverse as Irish designers, Personal choice (who have come up with some super little jersey dresses in black/white combos with pops of coral), Danish brand Que (lovely floor-length cotton monochrome-printed dresses), German range Verpass (chevron-printed stripy jackets) and Spanish designers Jomhoy (authentic-looking flapper dresses in Art-Deco patterns) are all in on it. The look is young and jazzy. But there's also a nod to earlier re-incarnations; I could well see Twiggy wearing some of the little dresses when they were all the rage in the sixties. But then we could equally imagine Bianca Jagger draped languidly in the soft black and white deco-inspired trouser outfits in the nineteen seventies. It’s a style that just keeps on coming back, and looks fresh every time.

Still on the flapper-dress subject, there appears to have emerged an ‘it’ dress for next summer. Many of the different collections are coming up with their own versions. These are lace dresses in two parts. There is an inner base, a glorified slip, that can be almost any colour (although it's usually black or white), then there is an outer part of lace of some kind. Jomhoy had a gorgeous version, with very fine black lace over a nude backing - the lace picked out with subtle, tiny sequins. Anna Scholz (see above right: I couldn’t resist a twirl) had a slightly Japanese-inspired one, over a black base with kimono-style sleeves. Personal Choice had a lovely one with open ribbon-lace over a cream base. There are many more... which is a good thing, because I think everyone will want one of these next season. Even if you would not normally run to a dress, it is a wonderful look to have as a long top over loose-fitting trousers or snappy little leggings.

This fashion has got a lot going for it. It is stylish, flattering and easy to wear (you can dress it up for a smart occasion, or slip it on with a pair of flip-flops on holiday).

Most of all, though, this trend is marvellous value for money. The black and white look never really goes ‘out’, and it is a real top-fashion boomerang. A bit of discreet rummaging in the back of the wardrobe every four or five years will produce something that is all the rage, and looks new all over again.

 

 Sharon Cross    Friday 30 August 2013 at 22:33

 
So exciting - i love lace. I think it was all those teenage years wearing lace fingerless gloves! And do i spy stripes at the back in the photo? I'll take any excuse to wear stripes. Do we have to wait until next year?

Ps Kim was v naughty when I visited last - she showed me far too many lovely new season things that I had to buy.

 

 Emma    Saturday 31 August 2013 at 14:22

 
Hi Sharon,

Thanks for this.....yes, Kim in a naughty girl!

I can feel your interest in black and white beginning to grow as next season approaches! Yes, there are stripes, spots, various patterns and combinations. Fab.

 

Emma    Saturday 17 August 2013 at 15:30

 Post #365 



 
Subject: A thing of beauty...

Having almost completed my buying for the Spring/Summer 2014 season, I am taking an overview of what I have found.

Although there are many micro-trends, the overall direction seems to be split into two main currents - both based on colour and style.

The first is for colour, and it is this particular fork that I am going to discuss in this post.

To mention that there will be colour in a Spring/Summer collection does seem rather a ridiculous observation. Of course, every summer has some kind of colour, even those seasons where shades are muted or neutral. However, I think that anyone who sees the palette on offer for Spring/Summer 2014 will realise immediately that I am talking colour with a capital ‘C’.

I am often asked (particularly in the summer season) what colours we should expect? Well, the answer this time is ‘all of them’! I am old enough to remember vividly (what an apt adjective) the colours that flooded the fashion stores in the early eighties. They were gorgeous - but far from subtle. A rude person would reference a children’s TV presenter when describing them, but an aficionado of design would really appreciate the joie de vivre and beauty of the vibrant combinations.

There are pinks, purples, lilacs, blues, turquoises, greens, yellows, oranges and reds. In this trend the whole rainbow has been drawn down and woven into what we are about to wear. My personal belief is that the innovation of digital printing has arrived at the very moment when the late nineteen-seventies (also a time of colour experimentation) and the early eighties were in vogue, and the impact resulted in an explosion in the paint department.

This movement transcended international borders: I found it everywhere. For example, the chic and understated Italian range Elena Miro produced a beautiful story of delightful separates based on a watercolours theme. The lilac, pink and turquoise patterns had a subtle, yet definite kick, even as they were delicately traced over the surface of jackets, dresses and trousers.

New to Emma Plus, the German range Twister tantalised my 'tastebuds' with a sweetshop full of juicy printed T-shirts and casual T-shirt dresses. Just the kind of thing to wear in the sunshine.

Q’neel, part of the Danish Godske group, provided lovely broad-brush prints in lime and emerald green, cobalt and black.

But it was at German range Brand that I found the motherload. There were gorgeous, joyful, colourful digital prints everywhere. I ran amok and bought heavily into their lovely T-shirts (see picture, right) - knowing from past experience that what they display in attractiveness is equally reflected in their quality and durability.

And this is very important. When I get a beautiful, colourful garment that is a joy to wear I want it to last. A thing of beauty really should be a joy forever.

 

 Kim P    Sunday 18 August 2013 at 18:24

 
Roll on next Summer! I like Brand, the items I have from that range wear well and were reasonably priced which is always a bonus!

 

 Emma    Monday 19 August 2013 at 12:04

 
Thanks, Kim...

There's certainly nothing drab there!

 

Emma    Saturday 03 August 2013 at 15:07

 Post #364 



 
Subject: Workwear Summer 2014

It’s buying time of year again, and I am up to my neck in choosing the collection for Spring/Summer 2014! When going buying, I like to keep foremost in my thoughts what it is that my customers want. I know this sounds obvious: after all, if I am not stocking what my customers want, then what am I here for? Well, it is possible to argue that I should just buy the most beautiful items that I see, and keep my head completely clear of all other considerations.

In real life, of course, one does not have to be so ‘all or nothing’. I will go out and buy the most beautiful items that I see, but I will also strongly bear in mind the clothing that is being sought and asked for by my customers. And a whole lot of the requests expressed across my counter come under the heading of ‘workwear’.

Before I start to go out to buy, I really don’t have much of an idea about what it is I am going to find. Years of experience have only served to help me know some very small pieces of wisdom, which I use to the best of my ability...

One such piece is that no season comes out of a ‘clear blue sky’, even though it may seem to do so. Each season carries forward themes from what has gone before. So when I am trying to anticipate the new looks, I spend a bit of time contemplating the way the fashion wind has been blowing over previous years.

For instance, one of the very strong influences that we have been seeing for some time now (and which I have referred to before in this blog) is the return to the ladylike looks of the nineteen fifties and sixties. This started some years ago, and mirrored other cultural influences - such as music (the singer Amy Whitehouse was an example), TV (Mad Men is a reference here) and interior design (who hasn’t noticed the vogue for fifties and sixties modernist furniture at the moment?). One of the results of this has been the return to the type of glamorous workwear that used to be ubiquitous, yet which had all but died out a few years ago.

The problem was that the look, in its original incarnation, was not practical or comfortable - not a good thing for workwear, you may think. It was often a pencil-skirt and fitted jacket, or a fitted pencil-skirted dress with jacket. These were uncomfortable garments to wear, as when you sit down in a fitted jacket or dress, they suddenly become a lot tighter around the waist, and when you walk along in a pencil skirt, you soon realise that you are not going anywhere fast. The lighter summer fabrics were fragile, clingy, transparent and had no stretch - so had to be lined, making them very hot. In the winter, in order to be warm enough for the chilly office, these garments had to be made of stiff, scratchy wool. Workwear of the period had to be meticulously laundered, starched and carefully ironed, or continually taken to the dry-cleaners. These were not clothes for the fainthearted!

This didn’t really seem to worry women in our mother’s and grandmother’s generation. These were doughty women who went through the War, and were prepared to spend 18 hours a day in a bombproof corset.

With modern technology the look has become a lot more accessible. Fabrics have a much better handle, and are incredibly practical. Often natural mixes, they nevertheless are far easier to care for - being machine washable, non-iron, non-clingy (even when, as they usually are, unlined). They don’t crease anywhere near as much, and, with modern, warmer office spaces, need not be made out of anything that is either stiff or hot. No wonder so many of us women have wanted to re-imagine those looks again, but this time with comfort and practicality in mind. Because, after all, those wonderful vintage silhouettes were sexy and business-like... a dynamite combination.

So when I have sourced the classic fitted dress and jacket work combo like the one pictured, right, I jump at the chance to get it. It is in the Spring/Summer 14 Sallie Sahne collection, and comprises a navy blue dress and jacket. The fabric is light, stretchy, washable and non-crease, with a lovely diamond-shaped texture running through it. The dress is very fitted, with tiny silver piping at the neck. The jacket is lightweight and slightly boxy. I tried it on, and found that I could stride all over the showroom, bend and stretch, sit down and generally do physical jerks in it in great comfort... ideal for the woman who leaps up from her desk and clears the corridor with a single bound, beating everyone else to the lift.

It’s one of the new breed of workwear that I have been sourcing for next spring. I’m about half-way through my buying now, and I have been delighted with what I have been finding.

 

 Kim P    Monday 05 August 2013 at 19:45

 
Such a lovely outfit and it looks like it was made for you Emma! These investment pieces are worth the extra initial cost, they are classic enough in design to keep in the wardrobe for years.

 

 Emma    Monday 05 August 2013 at 20:48

 
Thanks, Kim!

Yes, it is bizarre how Sallie Sahne manages to get the fit so perfect! I felt as it I could have walked straight out of the Sallie Sahne showroom wearing their sample, and onto the board of some major international company!

It's also true about these being 'investment clothes'. I have a bit of collection of Sallie Sahne items going back some years, and I cannot remember anything actually wearing out.

 

 jamesbrodylevi    Monday 27 October 2014 at 07:06

 
Actually, I am very much interested to purchase the Salwars. The images which you shared was good to buy. Is there any price reduction is available on those dresses.

 

 Eliza Lowrie    Friday 23 January 2015 at 12:05

 
It was great reading your post. I style a tee under my elegant resolution jacket with my fluid pant which I bought from ginger&smart and naked heart heels for an elegant look.

 

Emma    Friday 31 May 2013 at 16:21

 Post #358 



 
Subject: Watercolours in fashion

It seems that a mixture of influences comes together to act upon the plus-size fashion industry, resulting in the prevailing trends at any particular moment. I’ve been thinking about this ever since our Anna Scholz Day, when I was struck by how many people said they'd never seen our shop looking so colourful! Why was it that, all of a sudden, we had so many gorgeous fabric designs in stock, all at the same time?

Looking around the materials available this year, I see there really is a riot of colour, and I was set wondering what force it is that works in similar ways on different designers from completely unrelated fashion houses in countries many hundreds of miles apart. This year we have had wonderful prints from places as diverse as Germany, Holland, Sweden, Finland, Great Britain and Italy. Although the prints, like the designers who created them, are diverse, it seems that there is a subtle undercurrent that runs through the thought processes behind them.

I was trained as an artist, and I have a fascination for artistic connections, so I can’t help but come to a theory as to what is going on...

Most of the more beautiful fabric designs seem to have a wonderful ‘painterly’ quality - and it's not just any paint. The look is definitely ‘watercolours’... plus-size fashions in subtle colours that merge into one another, mixing, flowing softly, and suggesting that very distinctive way of painting.

I would say that the designs of the moment hark back to some of the most beautiful fabric prints and paintings of the nineteen-fifties. This was the era of glamour, and a ladylike, sophisticated aesthetic which was unashamedly pretty. There is always a pop of colour somewhere, be it a dash of purple among a sea of turquoise, or a pink brushstroke undulating against a green background. These are the fabrics for the woman who wants to look feminine and ‘dressed-up’. They're perfect for a wedding.

So this summer's fabrics have taken on influences from the same decade that has been dominating clothing design. We have had the nineteen-fifties inspired silhouettes for some time (and, by all indications, will continue to have them for the foreseeable future). Now we have the corresponding watercolours-inspired fabric prints from that era too. I’m delighted; they are beautiful.

 

 Kim P    Friday 31 May 2013 at 21:18

 
Sounds lovely, can't wait to see them in real life in a couple of weeks time!

 

 Emma    Saturday 01 June 2013 at 11:35

 
Hi Kim!

Can't wait to see you! When do you think you will be coming? x

 

 Kim P    Sunday 02 June 2013 at 21:57

 
Hi Emma, Tues 18th / Weds 19th. Conference time in Brighton again!

 

 natashasimpson    Wednesday 05 June 2013 at 11:51

 
Hey, ema
sound like really good a water color design clothes.

 

 Emma    Wednesday 05 June 2013 at 17:04

 
Hi Natasha,

thanks for your comment...yes, I just love these colours!

 

Emma    Saturday 18 May 2013 at 10:57

 Post #357 



 
Subject: The times they are a-changing...

The times have changed quite considerably since I first opened Emma Plus. In those days we tended to sell clothes to women in our own immediate area. No-one spent more than, say, half-an-hour’s travelling time to buy clothes. We sold to women in and around Brighton, with the odd person coming from the rest of Sussex.

This localised selling happened in all regions of the country, and had two detrimental effects on plus-size designer fashion. The first was that the shops that existed in those days were kept artificially small. ‘Bonsai’ shops, I call them. Because we didn’t have very many customers, we could only buy a small amount of stock. Because we only had quite a small and limited range, it really wasn’t worth a woman investing her time and effort travelling some distance to get here (in fact, when someone who lived far away from us telephoned, asking whether it would be worth her while travelling, we would usually advise her not to do so; it wasn’t that we didn’t believe in our stock; it was just that, after taking half the day to get here, a customer would generally prefer to have a choice of, say, more than two bottom halves, three tops, one dress and a coat in her size!). This, as you can imagine, was a vicious circle.

The other detrimental effect on plus-size fashion was a lot worse. Twenty years ago there really was very little product available in the size range that we cater for. Buying online had not been invented, catalogue selling tended to be quite abysmal, and many weren’t lucky enough to live in the catchment area of a designer plus-size store. The high street just had a tiny selection, mainly from one particular chain, whose offer was very unimaginative. The result was that most plus-size women, unless they were gifted designer/seamstresses in their own right, looked under-par most of the time. People don’t remember this now, but it was an accepted fact that plus-size women looked a lot older than their real age, less stylish, and almost completely sexless. If the plus-size woman of today could see the kind of offer that we were presented with in those days, there would be a riot. I think that even those of us who lived through that time hardly believe it now.

Clearly, how you present yourself has a great impact on your social standing and personal confidence. When it was difficult to find clothing that accurately represented how you felt about yourself, and how you perceived your social standing, it was very detrimental. For example, I was told this story by one of my customers that illustrates my point... She was a highly successful businesswoman and mother of young children. Her work was brilliant, and her company had reached the stage where it was going to be floated on the Stock Exchange. Unfortunately, as a busy woman with a family, she had very little time to travel the country trying to find the clothing that she really wanted. Instead, she bought everything on the high street, which created a look she didn’t feel happy with, but she tried to convince herself that it wasn’t important. Surely, it was her professionalism and knowledge that was most significant in the boardroom, not the way she presented herself?

One day she had to go to the City to discuss the floatation. She walked into a room to meet with several ‘men in suits’ for the first time. As she entered, and approached the table, several of them looked up and, assuming that she was the cleaner, asked her to tidy up part of the room ‘before the client arrived’. She was humiliated, and understandably felt very undermined. It’s very difficult, even for a confident person, to come back from that kind of start to a meeting! She vowed that, no matter how much effort it took, she was going to present herself in the way she felt comfortable with in future.

To say that the impact of the internet has had unexpected consequences in almost every walk of life is something of an understatement. I, for one, never really anticipated how it was going to affect my industry. For the first time we can now get national recognition for what we do, and encourage more and more women to come into our store to buy from us. Today, if a customer telephones and asks whether it is worthwhile travelling to get to us, no matter how far they were contemplating, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes. Occasionally, women ask if it would be worth their while undertaking a two-hour trip, and these days I am quite bewildered... Two hours? Why, of course, that’s no distance!

This has meant that our stockholding has increased exponentially, and we find that we have more beautiful clothes in a wider variety of sizes and in greater quantity than ever before. And what is being offered to us by the designers is getting ever more exciting and gorgeous. For about 10 years I found myself saying ‘wow... this is the best season ever’, with a tone of surprise every season. Now I understand the mechanism of how our industry works I take this situation as a given. Of course it’s the best season ever, every time! It would be a bit of a let-down if it wasn’t, considering the reasons why the industry should be improving year on year.

The next aspect of the internet revolution has also got into swing... the empowerment of the customer. Nowadays, bloggers and reviewers are trying to take some of the bother out of all this travelling. They are aiming to find out everything they can about the plus-size shops out there, and to give recommendations, warnings, and general feedback - not only to the store owners, but to the customers who can then have an informed choice as to whether they wish to get into their car or on to the train, and trek to a shop that may be some distance away.

This is a democratic development; hopefully we will now see the real power of the consumer. The shops that are worth visiting will get more popular, and those offering a disappointing product or service will either have to shape up, or will go. I strongly believe we should welcome the ‘Trip Advisors’ of this world, and encourage the bloggers and reviewers out there. We can’t blindly accept what they are saying, but I do think they will have a vital part to play in the future.

This is why I was so delighted to see that one of the most popular plus-size bloggers, Boombands Em (pictured, above right, with Anna Scholz and me), had written such a generous and enthusiastic review of our recent ASD (http://boombands.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/emma-plus-at-brighton.html) on her blog, and Tweeted about us, too.

I’m very grateful; I don’t think many folk realise just what a hugely positive influence on our industry people like Em have, and how much we can all benefit from it.

 

Emma    Thursday 09 May 2013 at 14:58

 Post #356 



 
Subject: Top three

So what would be the top three items to have in the self-respecting plus-size fashionista’s wardrobe this season?

First and foremost I would say a dress. In fashion terms this is the era of the dress, and from a seasonal point of view, this is the best time of year to wear one of course. The dresses around at the moment are a little bit retro; the influence is anything from the nineteen fifties to the early sixties, with a bit of Art Deco-meets-the-nineteen seventies thrown in. There are contradictions all over the place; they can be quite ladylike (or the inverse, girly), with a repressed-librarian look (or an over-the-top sexy minx vibe). They can be closely fitted to the body, or swirl forth with acres of full volume fabric. They can be teeny-tiny-itty-bitty minis, or they can be floor-scraping maxis.

One of the brilliant things about fashion today is that there is plenty for everyone. Don’t like your legs? Can’t bear to wear tights? Then get a long dress, worn with leggings underneath. Not girly enough to wear a dress? Then wear one of the little dresses over trousers; it doesn’t have to be girly - there are some lovely simple tunics out there. Haven’t got a waist? Then invent one with a fitted style that imposes the optical illusion of a feminine, curvy waist, which - unbeknown to the unwary onlooker - you haven’t got! There really is something there for everyone. Never has the excuse ‘but I can never find a dress I like’ sounded so hollow.

This leads us on to out next must-have: leggings and jeggings. Leggings tend to be a jersey, close-fitting pant, whilst jeggings are more or less the same thing, but with stretch cotton woven fabric. Again, excuses need not apply. You don’t think your legs are shapely enough to wear close-fitting styles? Take a good, hard look at your pins. I can tell you (in cold blood; I am a plus-size fashion stylist, so I am a kind of doctor!) that many highly insecure women out there have got perfectly good legs. They just feel negative about them. If this is the case with you, then you might have to think about the fact that every other woman in the country is walking around wearing leggings at the moment, and your legs hold up very well in comparison. Remember, just because a woman is a plus-size (with matching size legs), it doesn’t mean that their legs are ‘worse’ than slim women’s legs. Nature is more democratic than that, and has dispersed the good-looking legs around relatively evenly between women of different body shapes and sizes.

Even if your legs are, after a fair appraisal, slightly - ahem - wanting... so what? There's no need to abandon leggings. It’s just a matter of wearing them with the right accompaniment. There are dresses out there of every length. If your legs are your pride and joy, you can wear quite a short dress. If they are a little disappointing, then a dress just above the knee could look lovely. If they are your bête noire, then a dress worn just below the knee over leggings is perfect. The problem is not with the leggings, nor with the shortcomings in the shape of your legs. It’s all about context.

So what’s the third must-have item in your wardrobe this season? Well, like all of us involved in fashion, I’m going to cheat. I’m going to suggest something that isn’t clothing, and isn’t just one item. But it is definitely a must have! I’m talking about accessories.

This season, accessories have gone mad. It is no longer acceptable to think of yourself as well dressed just because you are well dressed. You now have to be fully accessorised!

And the number-one accessory this season is the necklace. Possibly because of the retro look that is everywhere, these are incredibly important right now. I think a really good necklace is a visual life-saver. Putting a necklace on an outfit doesn’t just finish it off. It can add drama, or make a look more or less formal. It can add a touch of luxury... or whimsy. It can bring the disparate colours in the clothing into harmony. It can put a rebellious tweak on a rather workaday look. It can speak of sophistication or fun. It has the power to twist a whole look into something else.

When you really think about it, the difference that one simple item placed on the body can make is quite extraordinary. Choosing not to wear one suggests an unforgivable lack of imagination: a valuable missed opportunity to express your own personality.

 

Emma    Saturday 20 April 2013 at 16:14

 Post #353 



 
Subject: Anna Scholz

I have been cogitating on the designer, Anna Scholz. Not surprising, because next week we are hosting our third Anna Scholz Day on Saturday 27th April, where the designer herself will visit our store, meet her customers and bring much of her range with her.

It’s always a great day. We have lots of scrummy nibbles and drinks, oodles of fantastic Anna Scholz clothes, loads of happy customers and, of course, the lady herself - a beautiful, charismatic presence.

Many times I have had people ask me why I love Anna Scholz and her oeuvre so much. In order to explain this phenomenon I will have to go back to the beginning...

I started working at this store 23 years ago. It was then, just as it is now, a proper plus-size shop. When I say ‘proper’, I mean that it has never been one of those irritating shops that call themselves ‘plus size’ but start at a size 12 (why?) and go all the way up to a size 22 (surely, this doesn’t even count as a plus-size these days?). When I first came here we stocked fashions from a size 16 up to a size 26; nowadays we stock mainly between size 20 and 32.

Back then, it was very difficult to find really lovely clothing in those ‘proper’ plus sizes. The main reason was good old-fashioned prejudice. Against all the available evidence it seemed that our own plus-size industry had decided a number of things about its customers. It had decided that we were elderly (or middle-aged in a particularly frumpy way). It had decided that we were dowdy (dull and lacklustre). It had decided we were sexless (heaven forbid that we showed a bit of femininity). It had decided we were shapeless and wanted nothing more than cover-ups. We were supposed to lack the energy to bother about fabric care (there was a disproportionate amount of ‘drip-dry’ clothes). We weren’t prepared to spend on our clothing. And, more than anything else, we hated colour.

I’m not saying that it was impossible to find lovely clothes back then. It was just very, very difficult. And they were few and far between. It was a difficult time for our shop.

I will never forget the first time I saw Anna’s collection. It was at the huge clothes fair that used to take place at the NEC in Birmingham and it was in February 1994. I had seen a picture of one of her dresses, and I had already decided that I was going to look her up if I got the chance. I walked on to her stand at the exhibition, and the rest is history: my shop has never been without an Anna Scholz garment from that day to this.

Anna (as far as I know) was the first plus-size woman to have her own fashion line, and it showed. She didn’t need anyone else to tell her what larger women wanted. She was young, vibrant, attractive, driven, enthusiastic, uncompromising, skilful, and anything but apologetic about her size (she is still all of these things). Her clothes were a revelation, and we couldn’t get enough of them.

Looking around today it’s easy to think that she is just one among many designers producing fashion-forward, sexy, joyful, colourful clothes. Yet she was the first, and still the best. And she has been a powerhouse, turning out fabulous items that have been a joy to consumers and an education to our industry for the past almost two decades.

 

 Kim P    Wednesday 24 April 2013 at 18:43

 
I hope everyone has a great day on Saturday, so many beautiful designs to choose from! They are always great fun and I am sad to be missing it.

 

 Emma    Thursday 25 April 2013 at 13:18

Hi Kim

Thank you very much... We're sorry you can't make it.

We've already had the delivery in and we're trying it all on, stomping up and down, pouting, squatting, swinging our hair around and posing girlishly - just like the models in the photograph!
 

Emma    Monday 04 March 2013 at 23:17

 Post #344 



 
Subject: Anna Scholz A/W 2013

I think that regular readers of this blog will already know what this post is going to be about... More than anything else, I am a creature of habit, so it can be predicted with some certainty that once my buying has finished I will be turning over in my mind thoughts about my favourite designer, and putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Of course, it is always exciting to see the Anna Scholz collection every season. She, more than any other designer, is the inspiration for much of what we try to do at our shop. I like unapologetic, celebratory clothes, that are fashion forward, sexy, self-confident and joyful. I want fashion that is well-cut, flattering, colourful, creative and original. Of course, I get these qualities from the other design houses that we stock (I wouldn’t bother to buy from them if I didn't), but it is Anna Scholz that takes all of these qualities in each season and runs with them. She is the only collection that I have stocked continuously from the time that both she and I first started our businesses.

So it is always with a feeling of anticipation that I go along to my buying session in her large, airy rooms in London. I have never come away disappointed... but some times I come away angry. And this was one of those times.

Perhaps I should reassure readers that my anger didn’t stem from any kind of disagreement. Anna and I did not have a spat over whether orange or teal was the colour du jour. Nor did her right-hand man Darren spill coffee in my lap. And her little pooch, Frieda, did not shed dog hairs on my Alpaca coat. No, this was a completely different kind of anger.

I have mentioned before in my blogs that I can get very cross indeed when I am buying, and I particularly love what I see. I am like a spoilt girl (Violet-Elizabeth Bott, from the Just William books, I think). I see something I really love, and I just want it. I want it now! This is how I felt with several items in the latest Anna Scholz collection.

Just walking in the door, my eye fell on a lovely leather jacket that was softly calling to me. It was gorgeous: a typical Anna Scholz cut with all the designer trimmings and more, plus a really beautiful fit. Available in black or crushed raspberry, it was a real, classic leather jacket, zipped and tailored, but with fabulous fashion-forward detailing on the shoulders.

How I would have loved to have walked out of her showroom right then wearing it. To be honest, I would really like to be wearing it right now. I don’t think I would ever want to take it off. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to it, and wait six more months before I even see it at again - because, of course, this was the Anna Scholz Autumn/Winter 2013 collection. I will have to wait what will seem an eternity before I can get that jacket. Gggggrrrrrrr.

Leather did seem to be the icing on the cake of many of her designs for the autumn. I particularly loved a little boiled wool coat with faux leather trim and sleeves, which I would want to wear over one of her new tunic dresses. There is one, in particular, with a small herringbone tweed that would combine into a kind of twin-set, for wearing either with opaque black tights (and which would look super with little boots) or leggings (see picture).

Anna had devised a whole forest of these tunic dresses. I fell in love with several - including a gorgeous georgette layered one in black, which would look very sophisticated for an evening do. Another had a subtle geometric print, and a line of sequins running down the front. They felt so girly, and yet also so grown-up and sassy.

As ever, there were plenty of Anna's lovely signature stretch silk dresses, in different lengths and prints, and all manner of beautiful tops. More and more I am noticing little tunics, both as tops and as dresses.

The colours were black, olive, pink, lime, teal and purple - while the looks were both retro and modern. The fabrics were her stretch silks, leather (both faux and real), tweed, boiled wool, and various jerseys.

I will try to put any frustration to the back of my mind, however, because we have the Spring/Summer Anna Scholz collection in our store right now. And it is a dream! In reality six months will pass in the blink of an eye, which is about as much time as it will take me to lay claim to the leather jacket when it's delivered.

 

Emma    Saturday 02 March 2013 at 17:40

 Post #342 



 
Subject: Fall 2013

So, now I can officially say that I have finished my buying for Autumn/Winter 2013. If there is anything out there that I should have bought, I neither have the time nor the budget to get it now.

I do think next winter is a very strong season. As many regular readers of this blog will know, fashion doesn’t usually jump forward with a sudden jerk; it tends to evolve in a logical progression over a number of seasons. And Autumn/Winter 2013 is no exception. The looks are simply evolutions of the last winter’s lines. This means the retro-nineteen-fifties/early nineteen-sixties styles are still holding sway.

If you referred to them (and wore them) as 'tops', they would be considered long, but if you referred to them (and strutted around in them on your gorgeous legs) as 'dresses', they would be quite short. These are the garments to invest in. The look is simple, with little tunics relying for their charm on their beautiful, soft, detailed fabrics. Often there is a kind of twin-set of tunic with matching coat/jacket - which smartens up what is rather a sporty feel (see picture, right, of a lovely Marina Rinaldi set of coat and dress). Like it or not (and I love it), this is the signature look of the season. Many women will be rocking the look by teaming these items with leggings or even tights, while others will opt for a more conservative look with trousers.

The correct trousers to wear with the dress/top are, in the main, quite narrow, but some slightly wider ones are being produced that are bit more accessible for the woman who doesn’t like to show her legs off in too much detail. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there are the really wide strides, which counter-intuitively can actually look very good with a tunic top. This is because they ‘turn’ the look a little - introducing a kind of Art Deco aesthetic.

Skirts are dirndl (please don’t expect me to buy these for my shop; I cannot bring myself to do so... yes, they are very fashionable, but I find them extremely unflattering to all larger body shapes), or pencil. Both these looks would be worn with rather grown-up looking vintage blouses and little jackets.

As far as fabrics are concerned, we are talking about luxury - with materials falling in soft drapes around a minimal silhouette. There are very soft tweedy weaves, knits, cashmere mixes, silks, jerseys, faux-furs (and real furs: but we don’t stock those!), even the odd velvet and devore. In fact, there is quite a lot of sheepskin and leather next winter, and, although the embellishment is subtle, beading and sequins give little splashes of interest here and there (and not only in eveningwear). Leather in trims and sleeves gives an edgy feel. We are increasingly seeing the use of digital printing, more often than not on jerseys, with the inspiration being the very futuristic production method itself. Many of the patterns are op-art, modernistic designs, in beautiful jewel colours.

The colours are teal, petrol and deep turquoise, mustard, cobalt, purple, grey, red, cerise... but most of all, black and white.

From both a retailer and a fashion enthusiast’s point of view it is a lovely season: so easy to buy and such a delight to introduce my customers to. In fact, I can only see one down-side. It is the fact that, even though the weather is so cold now (and, of course, I would love some new knits and coats), I still have to wait another six months to see the clothes come into store!

 

Emma    Wednesday 20 February 2013 at 18:28

 Post #340 



 
Subject: Future shock?

Customers particularly interested in fashion will probably already know that London Fashion Week is happening at the moment. It’s existed since 1984, and is a well-established date on the international calendar of the clothing industry, providing a platform for fashion designers to show their wares in the UK.

What has never been provided within this event, however, is any kind of platform specifically for the plus-size fashion business. So I was fascinated to hear that this was the inaugural year for the British Plus Size Fashion Weekend, founded by renowned plus-size blogger Remi Ray, and timed to coincide with the beginning of Fashion Week.

I decided to make the pilgrimage to Shoreditch Town Hall, a mid-Victorian monolith of a building, whose shabby-chic interior offered an impressive backdrop to the event. I am used to going to the kind of industry happenings that are for insiders only - basically buying events strictly for doing business. In the kind of fashion shows that I have been attending for the past 20 years, the public is certainly not entertained. They tend to be non-controversial, rather swish occasions set in plush environments, comfortably insulated from the outside world.

This new show exploded on to Shoreditch with an unashamed enthusiasm, energy, and overt point of view that I have never experienced before.

My day there began when I arrived mid-afternoon, and joined the throng of women looking over the sponsor’s stands. I was interested to see the range of clothing of the kind that we wouldn’t normally sell in our store. These are clothes, in the main, sold directly to the customer, either through small independents online, or with the large retailers like Simply Be or Evans. It fascinates me to see the difference between the kind of fashion they provide for an event like this (which showcases the designer-led capsules that they would bring to a full-on fashion affair), and their mainstream clothing.

The main part of the big plus-size retailers’ offer is relatively pedestrian, but when the big companies go in for designer fashion it is very youthful. The quality is low, and this complements the particular type of edgy fashion, which is possibly only intended to last a single season. There is a vibrancy and excitement about the styles which is infectious. However, I can’t help feeling that a store owner like me had better tread carefully, and not be too seduced by the youthful enthusiasm of the looks. The kind of woman who buys a pair of silver leggings, and teams them with a cropped top, or pops a transparent chiffon cape over a bra and hot pants, is unlikely to purchase such items in my store!

It was during the fantastic catwalk show later that evening that this miss-match between different plus-size fashion aesthetics became most evident. It really was wonderful to see a proper plus-size catwalk show. Having been to too many fashion shows even to begin to count, over too many years to admit, I can honestly say I have never seen one before. Yes, I have seen shows that have a few plus-size women here and there, and I have seen ‘mainstream’ fashion shows that have a section for a plus-size designer. Online, I have watched the lovely Elena Miro catwalk shows in Milan, but this is the very first show I have witnessed myself, and it was a revelation.

Designer Anna Scholz’s clothes were there (see picture), and her collection was truly superb. I would argue that she knocked all other designers out of the park with her offer. However, that is just my opinion, and she represented just one end of a very diverse spectrum.

I have always believed that women who take the time and effort (and spend the money!) to shop in a store like mine, wish to purchase something that they will get a lot of use from. So I have tried to avoid flash-in-the-pan styling, no matter how inviting it might appear at first sight. This is because our clothes are made to last and to treasure, and it would be a shame if the style dated after one or two seasons.

I have also always thought (and my thinking was so ingrained that I have to confess that I simply took it as a given) that our clothes should be flattering, and that they should make the most of our assets, whilst unashamedly hiding our weaker points. This, more than anything is what we stand for, and where a designer like Anna Scholz takes prominence.

Looking at the different kinds of fashion on the catwalk, however, I was struck by the fact that my own views are just that: views. They are there to be disagreed with. If this show is to be taken literally, there is seemingly a huge wave of young, large women charging forward into the future with a whole different aesthetic. They want style, and they don’t care if they show off their bodies. They want looks, and they don’t care if they last. They want fashion, and they want it in quantity. They want it now, and they don’t intend to save up for it. They want what they want, and they don’t mind whether they look thinner of fatter wearing it. If you have a problem with their clothing not looking flattering enough, then it is your problem, not theirs. They have attitude and not a little courage.

There is an argument that what is seen on the catwalk should never be taken literally. The looks are designed to be controversial and argumentative. However, these weren’t haute couture catwalk looks: they were all commercially produced items that someone out there is selling.

I’m still digesting this new information. It has yet to be shown whether this is something that I am going to have to take on board in the future.

One thing is certain: it did me good to be drawn out of my comfort zone and to see a different point of view.

 

 natashasimpson    Thursday 06 June 2013 at 09:33

 
Wow amazing size plus fashion.
Sounds like amazing.
Dressing sense is amazing like from excel clothing....!!!

 

Emma    Saturday 15 September 2012 at 15:57

 Post #310 



 
Subject: Anna Scholz Spring/Summer 13

Hotfoot from buying Anna Scholz Spring/Summer 2013, I was left wondering why it is that I am always so blown away by this designer’s creations. Time after time I feel an excitement almost bordering on panic when I see each new collection (it’s so hard to decide what to buy, because I want everything), and this season was no exception. With a bit of consideration, I think I know why...

Before I worked here I could have been forgiven for not really understanding the different body-shapes of women. We are all familiar with our own body shape, and, if we have good taste and judgement, we develop a knowledge of what suits us. However, we can’t be expected to know and understand what is going on with everyone else! In fact, the biggest learning curve that I had to climb when I first started working in plus-size fashion was to understand the great diversity of physiques amongst larger women - and how I could use this knowledge to help women to create their best possible look.

One of the frustrating aspects in my business is that each plus-size designer seems to create clothes for one particular body shape. For instance, Elena Grunert creates for the tall, larger woman - with a somewhat straight physique. Her partial namesake, Elena Miro, on the other hand, has designs on the neater, perhaps more apple-shaped woman. The collection produced by Exelle excels in flattering shapes for the pear-shaped woman, while Personal Choice has a happy relationship with the hourglass lady. Although there are always exceptions to this rule, what tends to happen is that the body shape - not the taste - of a woman is what dictates the designer that's best for her.

With Anna Scholz, however, the tables are turned by the fact that she has an unheard-of level of experience and knowledge for a designer in our industry. Looking around the Spring/Summer 2013 collection, I was amazed by the sheer diversity of it all. There are gorgeous items to suit every body shape, and yet all of them enjoy the highly distinctive Anna Scholz vibe.

This year (as with most years at Anna Scholz) is all about the dress. We see it here in every possible incarnation... The work dress, in either black/white or cobalt/black combinations set with panels for a flattering waist. The fun, flirty little nude-coloured pleated dresses, finishing above the knee, that my niece would kill for. The gorgeous double silk long (or short) kaftans, for which Anna is justly famous. The floor-length maxi-dresses, in cheerful summery colours, that will grace many a Mediterranean holiday next year. And the sophisticated, strappy evening dresses that would instantly give you a pop of glamour for even the most prestigious event.

Yet it was the little, deceptively simple-looking day dresses that I have come away dreaming about. There was one in black and white with little flashes of red, shaped by clever all-round darts, that looked cool and cottony for the summer that we know is going to come-in next year. The floral cotton dress (pictured above) managed to be a vintage Anna Scholz item, while still looking completely new and fresh. Then there was another black and white dress that skimmed the body in a shapely, yet swishy way, frothing with a little soft frill around the bust and arms in an incredibly feminine manner. You put it on, and you are good to go... anywhere!

The colours are edgy: nude, cobalt, black, black/white, peacock and flame. And the fabrics are - as ever - her great strength. The wonderful double silks are joined by jersey, crepe, georgette and cotton sateen.

Taken as a whole the collection provides a comprehensive resource for plus-size women (particularly those obsessed with fashion) of every body shape, which they can select from and know they will look gorgeous in. If you are into Anna's style, then you're in.

 

 Kim P    Tuesday 18 September 2012 at 11:46

 
That dress looks lovely on you Emma. It's amazing how Anna Scholz keeps coming up with such gorgeous prints season after season.

 

 Emma    Thursday 20 September 2012 at 14:54

Thanks for your remarks...yes, Kim, Anna does have a genius for fabric. I think one of the aspects of her as a designer is that she is completely uncompromising with her fabrics. Even this very simple jersey dress (see right) packs far more of a punch because of the sophisticated palette and Art-Deco references, that draw you in...
 

 Rozi Desouza    Tuesday 25 September 2012 at 11:47

 
This dress is looking so beautiful on you. You are looking gorgeous.

 

 Emma    Wednesday 26 September 2012 at 13:47

Thanks, Rozi, for your lovely comments.

This is another Anna dress that I felt fabulous in (see right)!
 

 Bruno Moretti    Thursday 18 October 2012 at 08:44

 
Nice dress. You are looking so good in this dress.

 

Emma    Saturday 25 August 2012 at 19:25

 Post #308 



 
Subject: Spring-Summer 2013!

I am half-way through the buying season (which for some reason seems to be going on for rather a long time this year), so I feel that I am beginning to get a bit of a view as to some of the trends that are appearing on the horizon for Spring-Summer 2013.

I love the look that is beginning to prevail. There is a softness and luxury to it. For several years now the emphasis has been on an easy, luxurious look, with beautiful printed and patterned fabrics and elegant silhouettes.

This is the era of the dress, and the summer season I'm seeing really does seem to be providing plenty of choice... and I haven’t even seen the Anna Scholz collection yet! The two basic types of dress have remained the same now for several years: the maxi-dress and the on-the-knee dress.

The on-the-knee dress comes in a number of different permutations. There is what I coyly call the ‘short dress, long top’ look - by which I mean a dress that a young woman would wear with a pair of sassy coloured tights or (in the height of what will hopefully be a summer next year) tanned legs and plenty of attitude. Whereas women of – ahem - my kind of age would call it a long top, and probably team with a really lovely pair of trousers.

This dress also comes in a more demure grown-up version (see image, right, from the French company, Alain Weiss, worn with a matching chiffon jacket...; as ever, please excuse my hair - it's an occupational hazard when you are on an overseas buying trip and have to try on a hundred different garments), where the dress is somewhat short, yet entirely wearable without causing blushes either to the wearer or the viewer. As this dress is sized up, the length also grows, and it can be shortened to fit.

Clearly the maxi dress, by definition, comes in just one form: it starts at the top of your body and keeps on going until it hits the floor! In olden days one needed to be going out somewhere quite posh (and most likely in the evening) to wear this kind of thing. If you walked down the high street in the middle of a week-day wearing one, heads would turn - more with curiosity than admiration.

Now, the maxi-dress has beaten down the wardrobe door and is dashing around all over the place. These days you can see it - accompanied by a little cardigan and some colourful beads - wafting down the road in the spring sunshine, on its way to lunch with friends. You can catch sight of it in the middle of the day, teamed with flip-flops, floating along the seashore on holiday. Or you can spy it, teamed with a slouchy designer bag, chunky gold necklace and sunglasses, jumping out of a sports car in a county town, ready to do a little ‘retail therapy’. No-one now thinks you are overdressed.

What all these dresses have in common now is that, with a little bit of application (of lipstick and mascara that is), and a bit of attitude (a few well-placed accessories), these dresses can still be dressed-up to do all the posh things that we have always expected of them. Summer weddings, Ascot, evening events, the opera, parties, etc. And then afterwards, we can wear them thoroughly dressed down and integrated into our everyday lives. This is the true joy of living in the era of the dress!

Colours, of course, are essential. The shades I've seen so far for next summer are cerise, emerald, lapis, slate, and black and white. For dresses, it really is all about the prints. Next summer is going to be a riot of the most feminine, gorgeous pattered fabrics that we have ever been lucky enough to find. All in all, really gorgeous, wearable clothes... roll on next year!

 

Emma    Saturday 11 August 2012 at 14:28

 Post #305 



 
Subject: Simply divine

I am just so excited about the new collections that are starting to come in. This week we had some gorgeous Elena Miro (fabulous jersey tops and dresses, jackets etc), Verpass (knits to die for), and the very beginning of the Anna Scholz consignments.

It’s fantastic to see the wonderful life-affirming colours. Fashion works in mysterious ways... by the time the new colours arrive in the store we are longing to get our hands on them.

These two box-fresh Anna Scholz dresses are simply divine.

 

Emma    Friday 27 July 2012 at 18:30

 Post #304 



 
Subject: Whirlygig

It has to be said, I am quite an argumentative person. Who could be more argumentative than someone who, even when re-reading her own words, disagrees passionately with them? That’s me!

When I was re-reading my last post about buying for next summer, I found that I just didn’t agree with me, and felt the urge to put the opposite point of view.

In my last post (to jog your memory or save your time if you have not read it yet), I was talking about what you could call ‘practical’ fashion. I was looking at the weather we have had so far this summer (and the last, and the one before that), and thinking about the kind of clothing that has recently proved to be the most useful. Then I was intending to get more of those kinds of hardworking, everyday items. You know the sort of thing... lovely, comfortable trousers, teamed with smart little jackets and pretty tops. How very practical, comfortable - and sensible!

Oooeer. That’s a word that brings me up short. Sensible? Has it really come to this, that we (calling ourselves a fashion store) start thinking about buying sensible clothes? How hideous! How very pedestrian! Isn’t fashion about something a whole lot more than simply dressing yourself? Isn’t it really about beauty, passion, gorgeousness and lust? Aren’t the clothes we wear a whole lot more than simply covering us up in a practical, workmanlike way? Aren’t they transformative? And if they are transformative, wouldn’t it - on the whole - be so much better to be transformed into something stylish, lovely, individual and original, than into something sensible?

What if news of my awful lapse got out? Gather round, everybody, and see the Emma Plus Spring/Summer 13 collection... it’s wonderfully sensible! It would ruin our reputation.

So how have I suddenly recovered and seen the light? In the week or so since I wrote that last piece, three things have occurred to make me regain my usual fashion mojo. The first thing (the elephant sitting in its familiar spot in the corner) is that the weather has completely changed. Walking down the road just now, I felt like I was abroad. The golden sun was filtering down, and there was a kind of summer spirit shimmering in the air that made Brightonians look different from a few weeks ago. Back then we appeared thoroughly British: damp, earnest, nose-to-the-grindstone folk, manfully struggling through the mizzle to get to work. Today, we all looked like sophisticated, relaxed, suave Europeans, stylishly sashaying down the avenues, casually selecting a picturesque roadside café in which to start our torrid affair with a handsome Gallic... sorry. Starting to get carried away there! Still, I think you get the overall picture. What a difference a bit of sunshine makes!

Another thing that has happened since I wrote my last blog is that I have started to receive brochures from the various collections I buy from. It’s early days (I haven’t, for instance, seen the Spring/Summer 13 Anna Scholz brochure yet), but the omens are good. More than that, they are exciting!

Looking at the brochures I’ve had so far I’m seeing colour; beautiful turquoises, cherry pinks, emerald greens and cobalt blues. There is texture: soft, tiny crinkle linen weaves, chiffons, rich swirling jerseys, and delicate lacy effects. In dresses there are drapes that swirl around the body as if caught-up in a summer breeze, and gorgeous tops and jackets with plenty of volume. There are prints (some of the best I have seen: abstract, or near-abstract sophisticated flower designs) in bold, life-affirming blocks of colour.

Suddenly, looking at the pictures, I realised that (for example) what I really needed in my life right now was a pair of stretch skinny cherry pink jeans. Who knew that? Luckily, Brand did.

The final reason for my abrupt change of heart is that the buying season has crept up and is now thundering down on us like the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. I am caught-up in the whole fashion whirligig that spins us rounds and deposits us in a completely unexpected place every season. It’s better than any fairground ride.

Funnily enough, a close look at many of these exciting items also reveals something quite odd. Many of them - like the aforementioned skinny Brand jeans (seen above right with a sleeved, pretty little top) - also happen to fall into the ‘sensible’ clothing category. On second thoughts, perhaps I’d better not mention that.

 

Emma    Saturday 21 July 2012 at 10:40

 Post #303 



 
Subject: Spring/Summer buying...

It’s that time of year again... buying time! It’s a time for excitement, planning, anticipation... but also a time for reflection. What, if anything, have I learned from the summer of 2012 that I can take with me when I am purchasing the collection for Spring/Summer 2013?

Well, the elephant in the corner does appear to be the weather. For about three years now, in early summer, periods of lovely sunshine have been few and far between. Situated above the jet-stream (rather than the usual position of below it), the UK has been colder, wetter and windier, at least until mid-year. Things often seem to warm up only later on in the summer.

So I was thinking about the criteria I need to consider when I am doing my buying for next year. Of course, there are many of the same issues that we always have, and will continue to think about (probably) for ever more. For example, I will be thinking about summer weddings.

As long as there are human beings, there will be love - and if there is love, there will be summer weddings! Weddings are easy to buy for. Yes, I have to use every ounce of my experience and knowledge to source items that fit and suit my customers. But other than that, buying for weddings is a no-brainer. No-one is silly or wise enough to second-guess the weather when buying an outfit to wear to a summer wedding. The fact is, regardless of how the rest of the year has been, it’s always going to be sunny on that one special day! And, in any case, you are going to wear that gorgeous outfit come what may!

For weddings, it's pretty, colourful, comfortable and suitable outfits, in ‘this season’s’ colours and styles, that my customers are looking for. Obviously the first range to look at for this kind of thing is Anna Scholz.

Then there is work-wear. Again, this tends to be largely eternal to what's going on in the atmosphere. Women are involved in every profession, and each has its own sartorial rules. However, most occupations these days do not have a proper dress-code. Most women wear smart-ish everyday clothes to work. So when I talk about ‘work-wear’ in particular, I’m talking about the kind of clothing you would only wear to work. Suits, mainly, or smart jackets and dresses. Again, this is a no-brainer. The environment in the average British office hasn’t really changed all the time that I have been in this profession. So buying it is all about finding out about the latest styles, fabrics and colours, and sourcing some great, invaluable items. I’ll be rifling through the Marina Rinaldi collection for the lion’s share of this kind of garment.

No sea-changes there then. So what will be different next summer? I think it will be the ‘everyday’ clothes that will be subtly different. In my opinion, many women will - either consciously or subconsciously - be looking at those items that they find have been the most useful during our recent wet summers, and will want to wear more of the same.

We have been selling lightweight trousers very well recently. And no wonder, because - during odd weather - it is very difficult to know what to wear, and a good pair of summer trousers, teamed with a great little jacket and lightweight top, is so useful. It also side-steps the vexed question of whether or not to wear tights! When rain is falling from the sky, it feels wrong to splash through puddles with bare legs (and, er... sandals?). Yet to wear tights and proper shoes, or boots, looks so wintry and feels so hot. A light pair of trousers worn with sandals or summer shoes is just the ticket in these situations.

I shall be looking to collections like Brand (who do super ultra-cool trousers), NP (whose trouser expertise is second-to-none), Verpass (who always have great trousers), and various other ranges to help me with the great summer trews.

A good lightweight casual jacket is a very useful thing in this weather. You know the kind of thing: neat and shapely, perhaps in an interesting colour or fabric, and made of stretch cotton. If you get caught out in a very heavy shower, it won’t keep you dry (we’re not talking about rainwear here), but at the same time it will not be ruined. And the rest of the time it looks flattering and feels summery and comfortable. It’s so useful you will not take it off when you come inside, and most of the time it will be great for outdoors, too. You put it on and you are good to go. Personally, I just adore Elena Miro's little jackets (see picture, right), so I will go hot-foot to their showroom and snuffle them out.

Underneath that jacket you will need a lightweight top. Colourful, with a bit of femininity, and cool - made from a practical, washable fabric. It will have to have a sleeve, because you may well have to take your jacket off when the going gets hot (which it could do; even in the rain it can feel uncomfortably warm).

Of course, a must-have is a jolly good raincoat. While we have been having all this wind, an umbrella offers little or no protection from the downpour. It really isn’t good enough if we are going to be getting repeated rain to have an old sports coat, or dog-walking raincoat that shows a sorry face. Nowadays, we may find a lot of use for a summer raincoat, and it had better look the part - and earn its keep.

Lastly, I have to remember that (hush, because I am whispering this now), it is actually possible that we will indeed have a long, beautiful, sunny summer next year. I have to be prepared for this, too.

This is the joy - and the challenge - of fashion!

 

Emma    Wednesday 27 June 2012 at 06:48

 Post #300 



 
Subject: ASD in the news...

I was delighted to see that our Anna Scholz Day (ASD) merited a mention in the industry bible, Womenswear Buyer magazine – right. A trade journal for the fashion industry, WWB makes it their business to keep a finger on the pulse of all that's 'moving and shaking' in the world of fashion retail, and published this piece about our recent visit from top plus-size fashion designer, Anna Scholz...

 

 Kim P    Tuesday 03 July 2012 at 19:56

 
Great to have such good coverage for Emma Plus! You all look lovely in the pic as well.

 

 Emma    Sunday 08 July 2012 at 12:54

 
Thanks, Kim, for your lovely comments...!

 

Emma    Thursday 26 April 2012 at 18:00

 Post #284 



 
Subject: Plus fashion

So farewell then (at least for now!) Evans, Brighton. You have been here for a long time, and will be much missed. It was rather a shock to the system to hear that our local Evans is closing down tomorrow.

Over the years there have been many other plus-size stores here in Brighton. When I first started in 1990, Evans was on the high street, and nearby in Brighton Lanes there was a lovely designer shop called Park Plus. Round the corner from us was a 250-year-old department store called Hannington’s - which stocked various ranges that crept towards the plus-size mark (at the most around size 20). Later on, Hannington’s opened an Elvi department - specifically for plus-sizes. A short way along the coast in Hove was the grandmother of us all: a lovely shop called Dresswell, which, although it was not a specialist plus-size shop, stocked some larger sizes.

Shortly after I came here, a new store, Box 2, opened-up a stone’s throw away, selling designer plus-sizes.

Back on the high street, and some time later, we were told that a new, slightly more up-market high street shop was opening, and it was to be called Ann Harvey. It was an unfortunate time for them to open, starting off as they did in virtually the same week as near namesake Ann Summers - which caused much confusion, consternation and not a little hilarity when various mistaken customers blundered into the wrong new stores. (For the uninitiated, Ann Harvey sold, at the beginning, rather pretty plus-size clothes, whereas Ann Summers is an - ahem - intimate apparel and adult toy store!)   Also on the high street was a shop called Etam, which momentarily opened a plus-size department. Later, another plus-size high street store, Rogers and Rogers, opened in our nearby shopping centre. We also benefitted from one of the largest plus-size departments of H&M stores in the country.

A little later a store called Hampstead Bazaar opened, selling a layered look that many plus-size (and small) women wear, and, in a similar mould, The Glass House boutique also opened nearby. About this time a new store called Cinnamon, which specialised in plus-sized designer wear, opened in Burgess Hill, and then rapidly expanded into Brighton.

In those days many locals regularly made the trip up to the big London stores to supplement their wardrobes. Liberties had a gorgeous plus-size department, as did Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and the really big players in the field: Harrods and Selfridges.

One by one I have watched these stores close down or otherwise pull out of the market. Various offerings have diminished and become something else: I believe that Elvi, Ann Harvey and Box 2 are now available predominantly online. Rogers and Rogers has gone into out-of-town discount fashion store, Matalan. Our H&M plus-size department has massively diminished, and cannot even be called a shadow of its former self.

Many have simply gone: Hannington's, Park Plus, Cinnamon, The Glass House, and now Hampstead Bazaar have all disappeared, and after 60 years of trading, Dresswell of Hove closed down late last year.

I was surprised when Liberty's closed its plus-size offer; less so when Harvey Nicks did not continue with it. That John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges no longer have plus-size departments is nothing short of a national scandal.

The biggest shock of all, however, is the closure of our local Evans - a monolithic high street presence in the plus-size market, and one which I never dreamed would disappear from Brighton’s high street.

As of tomorrow, Emma Plus is the last plus-size women’s fashion store in this city. As I said to someone yesterday, I feel that we have been on a journey, and one by one our travelling companions have disappeared.

An economist studying the situation here would no doubt conclude that there can be no requirement for plus-size fashion in this city. Perhaps we, as a population, have been shrinking in size? Maybe fashion has ‘gone out of fashion’? Perhaps plus-size women don’t really want or need to look fabulous? Or maybe there is something particular about plus-size women that mean they don’t need to try things on in order to see if clothes suit them, and are perfectly able to select items of clothing by looking at photographs online?

Every day beautiful plus-size women come through my door and prove these ideas wrong. Why the high street (and, to be fair, many designer stores too) have retreated from this vital, expanding market is bizarre and needs urgently to be questioned.

Professionally I enjoy the extra custom that being a ‘sole trader’ in this field affords, but as a plus-size woman myself, I am furious and bewildered.

 

 Nicola    Sunday 29 April 2012 at 12:48

 
Hi Emma

I think what you have said here is very interesting and also a reflection of the failure of the high street, both high and low end, to cater to larger women's needs.

I think that the key is in the service, or lack thereof, from the larger stores such as Evans and Harrods. Having shopped at both the thing they have/had in common were their failure to provide a good level of service. In the case of Harrods the assistants were cold and offered no useful advice (more interested in selling than find the best for their customer). In Evans the service was non-existant with disinterested staff.

The result - you went away with clothes sure, but they didnt make you look good and left your self-esteem at rock bottom, and in the case of Harrods an empty bank account toboot.

The uniqueness of your store Emma is that you provide, along with a great range of clothing, sound & honest advice, which leaves you with happy customers who feel good about themselves.

The tradgedy of the closures of all these stores is I feel larger women are being humiliated off the high-street and onto the internet where they can remain anonymous. Younger women in particular are going on-line and are losing out on the guidance and advice of professionals like yourselves.

Nicola

 

 Emma    Tuesday 01 May 2012 at 15:24

 
Hi Nicola,

thank you so much for your lovely comments, Nicola! I think there may well be a chicken-and-egg situation here. You would suggest that it is the lack of good customer service that has done for these stores, whilst I would stick to my own personal hobby-horse of the lack of good fit in the plus-size market!

However, we are perhaps just both reflecting the fact that the customer is in dire need of help in order to get a fit and a look that is right for her. Let's be honest, with the horrendous fit that is available for most plus-size clothing on the high street, the consumer needs all the help she can get when sourcing her wardrobe!

Without that help, she may just as well buy online, because she is never going to find things that really fit her well anyway!

 

Emma    Thursday 12 April 2012 at 11:39

 Post #279 



 
Subject: Trouser Day 21st April

We've decided to burst forth this spring (actually, we always burst forth, not just during springtime but at any time of the year... but I digress) and ‘go for it’ with an emphasis on really fantastic events.

I feel sure that any right-thinking plus-size woman would agree that one of the great struggles of modern life is the eternal quest for the perfect pair of ‘good trousers'. Trousers are a particular problem, not just for plus-size women, but for all of womankind (and perhaps mankind for that matter). There are so many variables in the proportions of the lower portions of the human body that it’s a bit of a wonder that anyone would ever undertake the thankless task of creating a pair of good trousers. I use the term ‘good trousers’ to mean not the kind of trousers that are bought in a sale, or picked up in a budget-priced high street store, or online, scooped up amongst the bewildering array of styles - all of which are displayed in photographs on generically-shaped models. These are simply ‘will-do trousers’, which will spend a short but useful life providing leg-coverage during the routine tasks of one’s everyday life... shopping in the supermarket, walking the dog, housework, doing a spot of gardening - that kind of thing.

No, ‘good trousers’ are quite a different beast, and cannot easily be picked up in such ways. I can honestly say that I have never heard the phrase ‘these trousers fit me beautifully, are incredibly flattering, lasted for ages and feel gorgeous... I picked them up online’. It’s not that I don’t think such an occurrence is possible; one look at the internet will immediately make you understand that, with the vast scale of humanity, virtually anything is possible - from a cat that speaks to a man capable of summersaulting from the top of one building to another. It just means it isn’t really all that likely.

Good trousers are a treasure. You slip them on and feel confident about your nether regions. You can put them on and forget about them. But if you were not inclined to forget about them, then thinking about them would give you nothing but pleasure. They look good, they feel good, and they have no vices (like a visible panty line, showing your cellulite, riding up, being baggy on the bum... the list of ‘trouser problems’ goes on).

A really good pair of trousers will take you into the office on an important day. You can wear them on a date, or out for lunch with the girls that you haven’t seen since you left school. They will see you through the tough times (when you don't have time to do the ironing, but still have to look 'put together') and the good (effortlessly looking smart at a moment’s notice). They will be your secret weapon, and your quiet, useful little friend that will stay around for years. They are quite literally worth three times the price that you'd pay for your high-street trousers - and a whole lot more!

And, of course, if you choose to also wear them to walk the dog, do the gardening or suchlike, then there will also be life left in them for that when they grow old!

A pair of good trousers should, first and foremost, fit you superbly. Until recently it was a bit of a mystery why this presented such a problem. The top designers were doing their best. They were cutting the trousers as perfectly as they could in order to fit the body shapes that they had identified. And yes, for the lucky women who enjoyed these body shapes, there were always superb trousers to be had. Yet there were very many women who found those trousers unsuitable. Routinely women would tell me that they just ‘didn’t suit trousers’.

Then of course there was the problem that one range tended to vary in shape from another. Some suited the slim-waisted bigger-bottomed woman, some the snake-hipped lady with the wide waist. How on earth was the customer to know which range was going to suit her best?

During the past 20 years the plus-size industry has expanded and improved immeasurably. More ranges have come on to the market, there is more choice, with the look becoming more directional and varied. Suddenly not only were there a host of different ranges from which to source trousers, but there was a greater selection of looks. It was all only serving to become more bewildering - but luckily, at the same time, independent stores were also improving and trying to develop an expertise in the whole area of body shape.

Recently, some manufacturers, like Finnish company, NP, for example, did widespread studies of body shape as it applied to trousers - and the reality started to emerge from the gloom. Not only were we in the plus-size industry able to identify what shapes of trousers would suit women with any number of different body shapes, but we were offering the differing shaped trousers to satisfy these requirements.

Hence the advent of our ‘Trouser Day’. We have had a couple of these events before, and they have been some of the most successful days we've had in our store. We assemble the biggest selection of trousers we can, and we identify which body shapes will suit which trouser styles. Then we train our staff and ensure that the most knowledgeable will be in the shop on this day.

Trousers are sorted into different groups, and our customers are fitted properly with trousers that many could never imagine would look as good.

On this day there will be refreshments and a prize draw, where a lucky customer will win a pair of trousers. Moreover, when a customer buys one pair of trousers they can then purchase a second pair at half price (exclusions apply). This generous offer is almost unheard-of at this end of the season - when choice is so wide.

The atmosphere buzzes on our Trouser Days and most customers find it a sociable and pleasant way to pass a Saturday!

Anyone spending £100 or more on the day will also get a ticket for two hours’ free parking at the NCP car park, adjacent to our shop.

Emma Plus's Trouser Day is on 21 April 2012, between 10.00am and 5.00pm. We really look forward to seeing you in store!

 

 Kim P    Friday 20 April 2012 at 19:10

 
Good luck with the day! A fantastic opporunity to buy flattering and comfortable trousers which as you mention is not something easily achieved in larger sizes. Some of my best buys fron you have been various wonderful trousers by Brand. I know the Trouser Queen aka Kim will be in her element! Can't make tomorrow but hope to pop in again soon.

 

 Emma    Saturday 21 April 2012 at 17:03

Hi Kim

Thank you for your lovely words of encouragement! I am here at the end of the day in the shop, tired, but very happy!

We had a wonderful Trouser Day... We were very busy and sold dozens of pairs of trousers to very happy customers.

I love these events; we always have a really lively, pleasant atmosphere here.

Now, the next event to look forward to is Anna Scholz Day...!
 

 Kim P    Saturday 21 April 2012 at 23:02

 
So pleased everyone had a great time, very hard work for the Emma Plus ladies but must be so satisfying seeing the joy on customers faces when they have found their perfect trousers.

I noticed the Anna Scholz event on the 12th May. Very exciting news!

 

 Emma    Thursday 10 May 2012 at 18:16

Just a quick update...we held our 'prize draw' for our Trouser Day event. All those who went in for it were placed in a jar, and a friend of Emma Plus (my old schoolfriend, Clare!) pulled the winner out. The winner is Debbie Bright.

Debbie is now the proud owner of another pair of Emma Plus trousers!
 

Emma    Thursday 15 March 2012 at 15:35

 Post #274 



 
Subject: Greek goddesses and dressing-up boxes

So here I am, hot-foot from the Anna Scholz showroom - where last week I was buying the collection for the Autumn/Winter 12 season.

It’s always lovely to visit Anna, Darren and co in their den; a light, open space situated in a post-industrial building. Her team are always beavering away at their desks and tables, sharing a cup of tea and a friendly welcome to us buyers. It must be a very pleasant thing to see the recipients of your hard work arriving at your workplace, and to be able to listen to the succession of noises emanating from the viewing area. In our case, the noises were - in ascending levels of volume: a) stunned, delighted silence; b) sighs of enjoyment; c) tinkling, happy laughter; d) cries of joy; e) screams of ecstasy; f) loud slaps to calm us down... At Anna Scholz, it was ever thus.

More and more these days I am finding that Anna Scholz is all about dresses. Thank heaven for that, because there is no-one who can cut dresses for plus-size women the way Anna and her team can. The most important thing about dresses is the fit. They have to hang properly on the body, to express the womanly shape, yet to be flattering and not give ‘too much information’. This is far, far more difficult than it sounds - and it sounds difficult enough! Most dresses from other designers either show a woman’s shape, both the good parts and the bad (in case you are struggling with what I am talking about, I mean womanly curves equals good parts, cellulite and wobbly tummy or legs eqauls bad parts), or just give up and are completely shapless - not a good thing.

It goes without saying that Anna's cut effortlessly scythes through these issues; she is never shapeless and always figure-enhancing. Many of her dresses this season are either fitted (for instance, her lovely tweedy work dresses, teamed with matching sharp jackets) or fluid (stretch silk was very much in evidence) and high-waisted. The fitted dresses show a maturity and showcase the slightly retro-aesthetic around at the moment. For many of these more suit-inspired outfits the ‘sexy executive’ or even ‘seductive librarian’ look is explored to an extent that any woman who has not yet grown out of her ‘little girl with a dressing-up box’ phase would be more than happy.

Of course, I have always loved Anna’s stretch silk dresses. These days she always shows a panoply of shapes, some more floaty than others, some long, some short. This season she created dresses with panels, cleverly manipulating the fall of the fabric, and drapey frocks that brought the cloth across the body in ways reminiscent of a Greek statue.

There were other fabrics, too. Beautiful soft wool/cashmere mixes to create her swing coats in pumpkin, caramel, or sumptuous black. Silk chiffon was turned into dresses with sleeves and skirts that would take a will of iron not to swish around the room in every time you put them on. And various jerseys... for example, her 1970s-inspired jersey prints with which she has gone full-on and created maxi-kaftans that Penelope Keith would have been happy to sport in her classic creation of the glamorous but monstrous Margot in ‘The Good Life’.

People are always taken with Anna’s fabrics, particularly her stretch silks which, like all of her fabrics, are exclusive designs. I’m not surprised that they are what she is known for; there are fabric designs to die for in every collection. However, I don’t always think this is why her pieces are such a joy. One’s eye is drawn to a gorgeous fabric, yes, but only a fool will buy a dress, no matter how lovely the print, unless the cut of it enhances the body. How many of us have, with great regret, walked out of a shop after trying to squeeze ourselves into something made of a lovely fabric, only to have to give up on the whole idea, and go home with a heavy heart?

This is the true revelation from Anna Scholz. When I first see her new fabrics, out of an old habit I inwardly sigh, because somehow I still don’t really believe that the lovely cloth will ever be made into something that will either fit me or flatter me. Yet when I then try the dresses on I see that they are cut just as well as they are printed, and it is like a dream come true. Hence the squeals of ecstasy in her showroom.

The prints this season are in a superb palette of emerald green, teal, mulberry and cobalt blue, and also project a nineteen-fifties vibe. There are animal prints that are subtle and sumptuous in blues, greens and blacks; there are abstracted graphics; and there are full-on Rothko-inspired painterly effects.

My absolute favourite is a gorgeous Rothkoesque stretch silk print, draped day dress in the most glorious blues, greys and black - pictured. I also cannot resist showing you a lovely emerald snake-print top... or dress if you happen to be below the age of thirty!

 

 Jessie Clay    Friday 27 April 2012 at 22:49

 
i would like to know if you have a book that you put out and do you make thing that a lady can wair in a wheel chair ? and that is not coast a arm and a leg ? if you do i would love to get a book and see what you have . thank you Jessie Clay

 

Emma    Saturday 25 February 2012 at 14:46

 Post #272 



 
Subject: Colour...Fall 2012

During the buying period we flit round and about like bees gathering honey, visiting all the different collections. Each designer we see provides goodies, but it is only when we make our full selection, and imagine it all side-by-side in our shop, that we can judge how the flavour of the coming season is going to develop. We've done most of our buying now for Autumn/Winter 2012, but there is one designer that we have not visited yet, and it’s a big name: Anna Scholz. Until we have taken-in her collection, the overall essence of the look for next fall is still up in the air.

Anna Scholz is all about colour, so her collection - I think - is going to be key for us next season. The colours we have been buying from all the other collections have tended to be in quite a narrow band. The sharp-eyed fashionistas who have been reading my blogs may have noted the main palette. There has been a lot of black (and when I say a lot, I mean it!). Ordinarily, I would worry that this may be a little dull, but the black items we have been buying have been so gorgeous that they can be forgiven. The emphasis is on fabric - and what fabrics we have been seeing! From the gorgeousness of the black and white tufted tweedy Marina Rinaldi coat, through sharp pin-stripe black and grey suiting at Elena Grunert, to the subtle black and silver-grey weaves of neat little Elena Miro jackets, it’s been all about the fabrics.

Then there are the greys. Grey is not the easiest colour in the world to sell in our shop. Many women (quite wrongly, actually) worry about wearing grey after the natural colour of their hair has silvered. However, mother nature normally equips us with colouring that works well, and as our natural hair colour turns grey (although, ahem, this may not necessarily be the colour we admit to), our skin tone usually becomes more subtle, and looks cool, elegant and crisp set against these neutral shades - which then starts to suit us more than the colours we wore in our callow youth.

The greys on offer next winter are a pebble-palette of silvers, taupes, gunmetal, ash and anthracite. We’re talking minimal, sophisticated and incredibly easy to wear.

So other than grey and black, what else is there? Moving right along from the taupe, we have antique ivory, stone and beige. Hhhhmmm. I think it may be correct to suggest that, by this point, all red-blooded British women are going to reply... but where is the colour?!

Luckily, set against all this subtlety there are some beautiful colours that take centre stage. At Marina Rinaldi we saw beautiful positive purple. Everywhere we saw shades of red (from brick to eye-popping scarlet), and in a number of places there was pumpkin and teal and/or turquoise.

Set against this were some gorgeous blues. All the above colours are jewel-like, strong positive shades that popped when placed against the subtle background hues of the season. The blue, however, was really special when seen in this context. I call it viola, because it reminds me of the gorgeous viola flowers that my mother used to grow. The colour glowed and winked at you as you passed by, always giving a little hit of pleasure when you noticed it. Some of the best blue items I saw winking at me as I was buying for next winter were in the Verpass showroom. Truly lovely blue knits (often shot through with black) that teamed up with blue jersey tops to provide wearable, stylish investment pieces to enhance any wardrobe for years to come (see picture, above right).

 

 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 07 March 2012 at 21:38

 
I am in love with this blue you are wearing. I have to admit that a lot of my wardrobe is black but I use colour to offset what may be looked at as funeral wear. For example a favorite outfit of mine is the wonderful verpass jersey trousers I bought from you with my Anna Scholz black crepe jersey top with shoulder cut outs and teamed with the bug print mac. I team this with my new red framed glasses my big red patent leather bag and a coat of bright red mac lipstick andd I am good to go. Fabric is so important as well like you mentioned. Like the angel circle black silk column dress you had in before Christmas the way it looked was amazing. I understand you are off to see Ms Scholz tomorrow I hope you have a wonderful time

 

 Emma    Thursday 15 March 2012 at 15:37

Hi Tori,

Thanks for that....the Anna Scholz, as you may gather from my blog (above) was fantastic.

If you like that blue, you will love the gorgeous colours of the collection. The dress that I am wearing here has blue and purple lights in it, and she also does this print in a full-length style that you would die for.....
 

Emma    Tuesday 14 February 2012 at 18:20

 Post #271 



 
Subject: Getting what you really, really want...

In my last blog I was just about to go off to start the first of my buying trips. Well, I’m back from that now, but I am still up to my neck in Autumn/Winter 2012 buying. Although I have seen and bought some gorgeous items, it isn’t over until, as they say, the fat lady sings (that would be me then - singing for pure joy, because what I have seen so far has been lovely).

I asked, on my previous posting, what it was that women were wanting me to buy. I had a couple of answers on my Twitter page (@emmaplus). One woman begged me “please can we have sleeves - small ones, lace ones, long ones, cutaway ones – anything, but plus-size fashions need arms!”. Another wished I could obtain clothing: ”that fits big boobs but doesn't look like a tent around rest of body!” With these words, and others, ringing in my ears I sallied forth.

I have a little saying that goes like this: “Something’s best points are often their worst”. I guess this is just another version of the old adage “it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good”. Anyway, there's something in my business that provides both the best thing and the worst thing about my job. This is that I do not design my own stock - but instead choose from designs offered to me by others.

On the bad side, were I to be designing my own collection I wouldn’t hesitate to say “let there be sleeves” and decree that every dress and top produced this season should have one of an array of sleeves. As my correspondent says: “small ones, lace ones, long ones, cutaway ones”... but never without! If only it were that simple. The fact is I don’t have any direct say in what is produced by the fashion houses. I just get to buy the results of their genius.

However, this situation also creates what is most fabulous about my job... namely, being the beneficiary of all that genius! Every season is a surprise, and most are a real delight. If I were asked to design clothes every year, I'm sure I would soon run out of good ideas. But this is a neverending conveyor belt of creativity and innovation. I just don't know what I am going to find next.

So I have been looking around, and have seen a number of gorgeous dresses and tops with sleeves (those women reading this who have their fashion-heads on will know that, as a winter collection, the sleeve thing is much less difficult).

When I was at Marina Rinaldi, I bought some lovely jersey dresses, all resplendent with long sleeves. And I was thrilled to see that they had produced a gorgeous light, soft tweed suit that included not only a lovely jacket, but trousers, a skirt, and – yes - a matching dress... with sleeves! That makes the hit-rate of this outfit extremely high. Business suit... tick. Soft and wearable... tick. Versatile... tick. Sassy... tick. Sleeves... tick.

Because I am so excited by this development, I am breaking several fashion laws* and putting a picture of me trying the said outfit on, right there and then in the Marina Rinaldi showroom (see right).
* I will list the laws I am breaking: firstly, I am trying on a dress in easily one size smaller than I require. Secondly, I have it on over the top of my leather leggings and various other garments (I just couldn’t take them off in the middle of their display, with people walking past). Thirdly, it is not a very good photograph. It’s blurry, so my IT specialist will probably be disgusted with me putting in on our forum (I was going to say something about it! - J.). Fourthly, my hair: just look at my hair!

But at the very least, I think we can see that I am not a vain person, and am quite able to show you an unflattering picture in the service of getting you to see this dress! But this is not an unflattering style of dress - particularly if one makes an effort to get the correct size and take off one’s previous outfit before wearing it! It also achieves the objectives of my second correspondent; it would fit beautifully over a larger bust, and - in common with almost every other Miraldi outfit - shows no tent-like qualities whatsoever...

 

 Nicola    Saturday 18 February 2012 at 12:32

Hi Emma

I love the look of the suit you're wearing in the picture. It's left me chompong at the bit to see what next winter has in store for us. I loved this season's selection so much it's hard to imagine it getting any better.

I have attached a photo of me in my Elena Miro gilet, I love how soft it is. As you can see I too was having a bad hair day!

Looking forwards to seeing you all in the Spring.

NICOLA
 

 Emma    Saturday 18 February 2012 at 13:06

Hi Nicola

Thanks for the photo... Brynn looks hale and hearty, enjoying his dinner! I hope you are all very well.

Yes, I love that Elena Miro gilet, and I have enclosed a sneaky peek of a gorgeous Elena Miro jacket that I have ordered for next season. It's just as soft as the gilet you are wearing, but thicker (like a coat). It has a bit of a trompe l'oeil effect, in that it looks like a waistcoat worn over a knit, but is actually all one piece. It is beautiful.

But enough of this Autumn/Winter 2012 stock talk... we are now getting superb summer pieces in. I think there may be plenty for you, Nicola. Is there anything you are particularly looking for?

As for your hair... it's better on a bad day than mine ever is at its best!
 

 Nicola    Sunday 19 February 2012 at 13:05

Hi Emma

I love the look of that Elena Miro jacket!

Regards this spring/summer, like this winter, I need to re-stock my entire wardrobe. I need items which are flexible enough to be worn for work or casual. My linen shirts are all looking a bit tired now, I would love some new ones, especially if they are somewhat tailored (like the Marina Rinaldi 3/4 sleeve blouses I got a few seasons ago). Trousers are a must, I really like the KJ Brand trousers I got this winter, not too baggy but not too tight on the thigh either.

Let me know when you think the best time is to come over. I have a bank holiday in mid march but I don't know if that would be too early.

Here's another pick of Brynn showing off his Welsh rugby shirt while we watched the 6 Nations last weekend.

NICOLA
 

 Emma    Monday 20 February 2012 at 15:28

Brynn is such a happy baby! He really does have such a definite personality already, and always has had!

There will be plenty for you to see in mid-March: there already is, actually. Most of our lovely new Brand trousers are in stock, and we've had some fantastic items in, from Elena Miro, new (to us) Danish range Carmakoma, Nanso, and loads more.

We haven't had our Marina Rinaldi deliveries in yet (see photograph of some of the items we have on order), but we are expecting them very shortly, and there is a lot there for you in particular, Nicola. This should all be delivered well in time for your March holiday..... Hope you are able to make it.
 

 Kirsten James    Wednesday 22 February 2012 at 17:12

 
Lovely Emma! However, I am anxiously awaiting the Anna Scholz full report as only you can give it! Glad your trip went well. Thanks,
Kirsten

 

 Emma    Friday 24 February 2012 at 16:27

Hi Kirsten!

Thank you for your remarks and interest! As soon as we have seen the Autumn/Winter 12 Anna Scholz collection, I will write a blog, and fill everyone in!

In the meantime, we have had most of the superb Spring/Summer 12 Anna Scholz dresses in, and they are just a joy to behold. Really, this is the best ever season for Anna Scholz dresses, which of course means that it must be one of the best plus-size dress collections of all time!

The image I have here is a gorgeous selection of the Autumn/Winter Marina Rinaldi looks. There is the aforementioned business suit (with dress), as well as a couple of lovely dresses, a coat to die for (with little tufts of texture in a stylish weave), and some yummy jumpers and knitted jackets (Marina Rinaldi always uses such fantastic fabrics: the knits look almost hand-knitted in yarns that feel like you could curl up in them), with matching scarves.

One that particularly sticks out is a wonderful super-long knitted jacket (almost a knitted coat-dress), in a dense, soft knit with teeny tiny sequins scattered throughout. So sumptuous, luxurious yet subtle.......mmmm
 

Emma    Thursday 02 February 2012 at 19:59

 Post #270 



 
Subject: What we really, really want...

Well it’s here again... buying time! It seems ridiculous (even to me) that I can still get so excited about an event that comes round every six months and that I have been involved with for the best part of the past twenty years, but there it is. It really is something that I never tire of!

This weekend Jaq (the store manager) and I will wend our way to Germany to visit the fashion houses in Düsseldorf. This is where most of the designer clothing companies rent showrooms where they set out their stall to sell to us retailers. We can trawl through dozens of collections there, buying the best, and taking note of the rest.

Before we go, we really have no clue as to what to expect: fashion can turn on a sixpence, and even having an encyclopaedic knowledge of what has gone before doesn’t give you any kind of a head start.

For example, Spring-Summer 12 (the collection that is now hitting our shop) has got beautiful bright colours, and quite modernistic, fresh styles, much of it inspired by holiday wear. If you turn to our ‘Our Range’ page on our Home Page, you will see what I mean: the new images are in. The looks are very current, and the colours are what I call ‘Barcelona’ tones... young, vibrant, joyous and artistic.

Yet the season that preceded this collection (the Autumn-Winter clothing that we are just selling through now) was all about the retro look. There was a palette of vintage colours, reminiscent of 'Mad Men', and more structured shapes that spoke of a sophisticated, bygone, ladylike era. This was grown-up dressing.

There had been a sea-change between these two seasons, so there may yet be another one in the pipeline! Who is to say what the new Autumn-Winter 12 looks are going to be?

Perhaps now I am conveying something of the excitement that can accompany a buying trip...?

All I can do before I see the new collection is to cogitate on what it is that I am looking for. One must - first and foremost - remember that I will be buying a winter collection.

Yet again, I will be looking for knits like a heat-seeking missile. We have had so many cold winters of late, that it really does seem that I can sell each and every beautiful jumper, knitted cardi, jacket, sweater-suit or knitted dress that I can lay my hands on. So I will go out, hell-for-leather to get the best available.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it... That’s my way of saying that I adore knitwear, and I could stare at gorgeous knits every day and night from here to next Christmas - and never get bored. I love my job.

I would adore to get my hands on a really, really long coat! What is it with designers, that they seem to make lovely mid-length coats (good!...take a look at this lovely wool version for Winter 12, by German designer, Brand, right), but no really long coats (bad!)? I know there is now a pent-up demand for the long coat, and I will try my best to satisfy it.

This winter we stocked some gorgeous business suits from the likes of Marina Rinaldi, Elena Grunert, and others, and they sold like hot cakes. In fact, I would say that this is one particular requirement that never goes away. Even those customers who have been lucky enough to have already bought business suits from us, still want more! In fact, the one thing that really seems to stimulate the urge to buy a suit from us, is to have just bought one! It seems they are addictive.

And there are those women who didn’t get a look-in with the suits... they want some too! I refuse to buy a boring suit, and finding the really interesting and super ones is always a bit of a hunt, but I am packing some comfortable walking shoes, and I will not give up until I am successful.

Of course, I am canvassing opinions from my customers, and would love to hear any requests on this blog, or in the shop.

What do you all really, really want from next winter’s collections...? How can I make your day...?

 

Jenny Itzcovitz    Friday 02 December 2011 at 10:40

 Post #259 



 
Subject: Sixtyplusurfers - a website for the over sixties

Hi, I've just found out about Emma Plus and I think it's a fabulous collection for the plus size lady.

I write for a website called Sixtyplusurfers - which is an 'online magazine' for the over fifties.

We have a new issue every month, with interesting articles, free to enter competitions, celebrity interviews a Fashion & Accessories page, a Beauty & Hair Care page, and lots of ideas for days out, and things to do.

There's also a Readers' Letter page and a Chat page where you can meet other members. Everyone here is very friendly. And it's all free of charge.

You can find us at www.sixtyplusurfers.co.uk

All the best

Jenny Itzcovitz, Sixtyplusurfers

 

 Emma    Friday 02 December 2011 at 13:37

 
Hi Jenny!

Thank you for your post...it's very interesting to read about your online magazine.

As readers of this forum will know, we are always interested in any posts that touch on our core subject....plus size fashion. Although many of our customers are younger, there are a significant number of sixty plus women who source their fashion from us.

People tend to get larger as they go through life (often bringing them for the first time into our store), and we have found that people simply are not ageing the way they used to. Time was, when you were over 40 it was considered that you had no interest in fashion (or shouldn't have). Now my customers, whatever their age, are incredibly stylish and attractive....there is simply no reason why we shouldn't be like this in this day and age.

When I first worked here I honestly couldn't believe my customers when they told me their ages: many larger women look literally decades younger than they are.

Which goes to show that fashion nous, a joie de vivre, an attention to detail in one's appearance (and an extra layer of fat under the skin) can make a huge difference.....

 

Emma    Thursday 03 November 2011 at 16:05

 Post #251 



 
Subject: Dark energy

I was chatting to a lady today about how much black we wear, and in that kind of vague, fashion-brained way that things reverberate in one’s head, the conversation seemed to resonate with something I had heard in a programme on TV. It was a science programme, and it revealed that there was an enormous amount of ‘dark matter’ in the universe: it’s unseen, and went unnoticed for a very long time; no-one really knows what it’s there for, or really understands it, but it is pervasive. It influences everything, and our cosmos would be a completely different place without it. How very like the ‘dark matter’ within my own wardrobe!

Working in fashion, as I do, I find that over the years I have accumulated just about every ‘must have’ item of black clothing (and then some). I’ll tell you a fashion secret that we all know, but which is never alluded to by the fashion writers: not everyone has the time, space nor money to have all these ‘must have’ pieces! However, each item is extremely useful, and ultimately no-one regrets investing their money this way.

For instance, I would always recommend that you have a smart pair of black trousers for daytime. You know the kind of thing... crisp, tailored black trousers which, for instance, can be worn with a contrasting jacket for a job interview.... or teamed with a fashionable blouse to go out to lunch or a work meeting. This is the kind of trouser that is kept ‘for best’ and should last years. There are women out there who can rock the ‘crisp white shirt, gold necklace, smart shoes, handbag and black tailored trouser’ look, and it will take them anywhere!

Then, of course, there are ‘evening’ trousers. These could be any interesting, pretty, occasional trousers. They could be a fluid jersey, velvet, satin - even brocade - as long as they are cool and comfortable. It’s a terrible mistake to buy clothes so smart that they are actually uncomfortable.

Then you have the casual black trousers (dear me, who knew we needed so many pairs!). They may be really casual (black denim, say), or a step up - perhaps a stretch viscose mix with a bit of smart-casual style. Or even ‘leggings’...

Then we move on to dresses. These could hardly be described as ‘must have’ items, because so many larger women have to learn to live without them - as they are difficult to find. A good, plainish black day dress is a fantastic item. It could be worn to work on its own, or under a work jacket. It could be teamed with a smart jacket for a wedding, or it can be worn under a super-smart little jacket for Ascot - or a hundred other summer (or winter) events. It’s a wonderful foil for a superb piece of jewellery or pretty scarf.

This is not to leave out the ‘little black dress’, which is all about eveningwear. A good black evening dress comes in many incarnations - from the full-on ball gown to the minimal base over which a beautiful jacket shimmers.

Obviously, we all need a tailored black day jacket (obviously!). This could be a blazer or a traditional suiting jacket. Then there is the smart evening jacket. I know we don’t all really need one of these in order to live, but life is so much easier if you have one! Popped over a little cami, and teamed with the aforesaid black evening trousers, you are good to go at a minute’s notice.

These black items nestle quietly in my wardrobe. They are not the show-stoppers, and (for me at least) lacking in colour, they are always in the background of my look. When I am seeking out the ‘outfit du jour’, I don’t usually notice them; I’m thinking about my coloured pieces. The black supporting acts are just there. They are understated, and their utility and excellence are just taken as a given. Yet they provide my wardrobe with enough ‘dark energy’ to look smart at a minute’s notice, and without any stress. They may not be screamers, but they are vital and pervasive.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 16:52

 
I read this with interest as I'm sure with many ladies I have a lot of black in my wardrobe. I went through a phase in my late teens/early twenties when all of my wardrobe was black as I had such poor self esteem I wanted to hide into the background.

Not so anymore lol I have a number of black items which I call into service to act as a foil to the large number of brights I have. I also have a love for prints which mix black with brights for example Anna Scholz's lumencent leopard print of a few years ago to this seasons stunning snake print items.

I refuse to restrict myself any longer. With my cool colouring pastels look dreadful on me I need stark clolours.

So (hoping to get a heads up here lol) what kind of prints can we look forward to S/S 2012 Emma?

 

 Emma    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 17:42

Hi Tori!

Thanks for your question, and thanks for, as always, really understanding what I was trying to get at with my piece: the fact that we all wear black items, but they don't have to rule our lives!

Sometimes, it seems that we larger women can go to either one extreme or another.... we drape ourselves in acres of black, or we can rebel against it, and wear no black at all!

Yet the best course is to use black for what it does best....as you say, as a wonderful foil with which to set off colourful or printed garments.

When I do my buying, (I have to admit) I do tend to buy a lot of colour, but mainly in plain fabrics. It's not that I don't like pattern (I love it). It's just that, quite often the patterns that certain companies think are suitable for larger women are mumsy and uninspired.

Over the years, however, we have sourced some wonderful collections that have superb fashion-forward patterns. Next summer has a plethora of such lovely items. The colours are varied: proper 'summer' colours. There're blues, purples, greens and a lot of different pinks.

Many of the prints are rather 'paintily', as if they are original art works, and are not like the run-of-the-mill patterened fabrics, A good example of this is the Marina Rinaldi Spring/Summer 12 T-shirt I am modelling here....to look at it you would think it was individually hand painted. It's gorgeous.
 

 Victoria Hollis    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 20:49

 
That top is gorgeous it looks very impressionist and the colour is gorgeous on you. Umm sounds like we have a lot to look forward to next season. I have to say your heads up on Anna Scholz's AW11 was right as always the black label is to die for this season.

 

 Emma    Friday 11 November 2011 at 15:43

 
Hi Tori-

I noticed that you have been known to wear Marina Rinaldi yourself, and look lovely in it. So I think you will be really excited by what's comming in next season.

This Italian collection (as you know, the plus-size range from the Max Mara stable) really is superb. It isn't cheap, but it is beautiful, is fabulous quality, fashionable, and a wonderful fit.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 11 November 2011 at 19:36

 
I love the Max Mara stable of labels. Marina Rinaldi and Persona are my absolute favorites. I have a black wool and cashmere coat from Persona which is stunning, gorgeous and as warm as toast and I have a feeling I will be needing it this winter. The fact is yes the items are expensive but the quality is VASTLY superior to anything on the high street they are made in the EU and on a cost per wear basis they work out far better than other items I have bought, worn once and then languish in my wardrobe.

 

Emma    Monday 03 October 2011 at 18:35

 Post #246 



 
Subject: Heeling words

“I was incredibly irritated by what the sales-assistant said”, my customer told me. “So much so, that I decided I wasn’t going to buy the outfit after all. I left the shop, and I won’t be going back there in a hurry!”

I was listening intently to this statement, coming as it did from a very pleasant and easy-going lady. She was not an easy person to annoy, yet she had obviously been very irked by what she had experienced in that fashion store, and as an owner of a similar kind of shop I had a professional interest in her story.

Apparently she had been shopping for an outfit for a particularly smart occasion. She had gone into a shop with a good reputation for having interesting clothes, some (but only a small number) of which were in large sizes. She had picked out a three-piece suit which was very pretty: the colour was lovely and the fit was good. It was very expensive, but she felt it was worth going for. It was at this point that the ‘helpful’ sales assistant started to give her some advice.

The lady was told (by the stick-thin sales assistant) that she should, on no account, wear the outfit with low heels. It would look ‘ridiculous’ and ‘frumpy’. It didn’t matter, apparently, that the customer found high-heeled shoes uncomfortable. This was irrelevant. One should suffer for beauty.

To be honest - although I had complete empathy for my customer’s annoyance at what happened - I would probably not have acted as she did. Usually, nothing in the world would prevent me from buying an outfit that I really liked. In fact, I would often be quite sanguine about simply tuning-out when small people try to give me advice about fashion. Much of it is outdated (it’s a truism that many smaller people think they can advise larger people because they feel they automatically know more about style. Often, these are the very people who are the least informed and knowledgeable). What isn’t outdated is usually irrelevant, or unachievable for a larger person.

In fact, I think we are living in a much-improved world when it comes to more realistic shoes (are those stifled guffaws I hear?). Fashion at the moment is very fragmented; women can, and do, formulate their own style, and choose from a much wider range of looks.

I think it is the very fact that much high-street footwear is ridiculously and vertiginously high that has ensured that alternative looks must be acceptable. Putting it simply, the majority of women just can’t wear those very high shoes.

During the summer I was visiting a stately home where, in one of the function rooms, a smart wedding was taking place. My friends and I were sitting in the large hall taking tea, where we had a ring-side view of the wedding party as it passed by. It was actually rather funny (in a cruel way) to watch the young women, often in groups of two or three, clinging to each other and they tottered, limped, tripped, slid, swayed and shuffled their way into their room (and no, they were on their way to the bar, before they had drinks!). None of these women were accustomed to wearing those incredibly high heels (not to mention the platform soles) that they had picked out to team up with their pretty summer dresses. So none of them had built up the skills, not to mention the calf muscles, necessary to walk elegantly through that hall.

In fact, I’m not sure that anyone really builds up those skills. Many people watching the royal wedding in the summer noticed that various celebrities (who surely should be used to this kind of footwear by now) had to hang on to their husbands' arms in order to be able to move in a straight line. This is why many smart women of whatever size have decided that enough is enough, and are opting for different shoes.

If tiny, slim, experienced-high-heeled wearers are not able to wear these sky-high shoes, then it is less likely that we larger women, who have to put greater stress on our feet, are going to carry it off with beauty and grace. And this fragmentation goes all the way through the industry, spreading out from the super-high, to the completely flat, and every height in between. Where once only one height of heel was acceptable for the stylish woman for smart occasions, by necessity now there are many.

Call me old fashioned, but I think that beauty and grace are not just about what you wear, but also about how comfortable you are in your own skin. If you are wearing painful shoes, this will show on your face. If your shoes discombobulate you, you will not be able to move properly, and if your shoes make you tower over people, your posture may be adversely affected.

So balance is necessary (quite literally!). We have to be able to choose an ensemble that makes us feel graceful, elegant, well-dressed, fashion-forward and confident. And it is eminently possible to do this without recourse to high-heeled shoes.

Like my customer, I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise!

 

Emma    Wednesday 21 September 2011 at 16:03

 Post #244 



 
Subject: Service, please!

I was shopping in my local area yesterday and I realised how the kind of service I could expect from any given store really affected my mood.

I admit that, for several reasons, I almost never buy clothes anywhere other than in my own shop. One is that if I don’t rely on my own products, then I can’t see any reason why anyone else should. I have set my store the task of having everything that a woman like me needs to wear. So I stock everything I can get my hands on - from casual wear such as jeans, through outdoor wear and knits, right up to the smartest kind of eveningwear that I could wish for.

Another reason why I don’t shop in the High Street is that, as far as I can tell, nothing they are selling is designed with me in mind. If I were a small woman I would be shopping in places like Reiss, Hobbs, Jaeger, etc. Obviously, as things are, nothing in these stores is going to fit me (until that mythical time when I wake up one day to find out that I have morphed into a size 14, 5’4” woman). So, if I weren’t shopping at Emma Plus, I would have to go to those few specialist high street stores that we have here in Brighton (heaven help me). Let’s just say this would not provide clothing sufficient to meet my needs.

So when I say I was shopping yesterday, it was not for clothes. I had in mind to buy myself a new bag; in common with a lot of other women this season I wanted a ‘nude’ handbag. In theory, I should find one easily (they are everywhere at the moment). My problem, however, was one I see among my customers all the time: I am very particular about the item I'm looking for. I would like it to be a true nude, not beige and certainly not baby pink. I would like it to be quite small (with a shoulder strap), and I would like it to be made of really lovely leather. Oh, and I’d like it to be vintage-looking, with silver not gold findings. Phew!

Well, I may not be able to shop in most stores for clothing, but I can zoom in anywhere on a quest for bags. So I moseyed round to my usual handbag-hunting grounds. The first port of call was the aforementioned Jaeger. However, I did not go over the threshold on this occasion. I stood outside the shop, casually walking backwards and forwards, trying to see if there were any nude bags within. There were not (luckily I could see this easily and did not have to go inside - something I was only going to do if they definitely had what I was looking for).

Why on earth did I not want to go inside? Well, there is a member of staff in the store, who, although absolutely lovely (she truly is the most wonderful person; had I needed to find a mother to adopt my first-born child, I would have looked no further). However, she is so incredibly chatty and effusive that I find it almost impossible to simply walk into the shop, smooch quietly around for a bit, and then stroll out within fifteen minutes. I would be lucky to get out within an hour. And I didn’t have a spare hour.

So, having seen nothing in Jaeger, I went to Hobbs. I like Hobbs handbags this season: they have that vintage vibe off pat. However, as I walked in the door, I was surrounded by a gaggle of assistants, all vying for my custom. When I showed interest in some (gorgeous, long) leather gloves, fisticuffs nearly broke out. This ended up with several pairs of the same gloves on the counter, and two ladies gently trying to nudge each other out from behind the till in order to make my sale. I dismissed the idea of spending any more time there; I thought I would rather come back when there were more customers in the store... I like a bit of attention, but this was ridiculous!

My next shop was a lovely one which we have locally. It’s called Comptoir Des Cotonniers... a store that has some interesting leather goods, and there did seem to be a bit of neutral colouring going on there. However, as I idled around the shop floor, I seemed to have a shadow. A sweet young sales lady was following me very closely, keeping up a running commentary on what I was absent-mindedly looking at. “Those shoes also come in grey... That belt is sold separately... The jacket has mohair in it”. As I knew she was just trying to be helpful, I really couldn’t give in to the urge to turn and ask her if she would kindly leave me to my own devices. I left the shop.

Yes, there seemed to be an awful lot of incredibly helpful sales assistants around, and it was making me feel uncomfortable. However, I am aware of the fact that I am a very contrary, unfair creature. If I don’t get enough attention, it doesn’t take long before that also makes me irritable.

For example, I walked into All Saints, the kind of edgy, youthful fashion store whose design seems to be based on a science-fiction concept of a future where civilisation has collapsed. Apparently, the remaining mutants had to scratch a living selling distressed clothes from some kind of post-apocalyptic dungeon. Anyway, I digress; they actually had a very nice-looking handbag. However, it was hanging on the wall halfway towards the ceiling (I say ceiling: it was more like the underside of a 600-year old, very dirty, interplanetary mining spacecraft). I am quite tall; however, even I would need a step-ladder (or perhaps an anti-gravity device) to get up to the bag. I looked around for the shadow when I needed it. However, this emporium was far too cool to employ sales assistants - so I left several frustrating minutes later, still having made no contact with whatever alien life I would have had to deal with to buy that bag.

So I crept into Reiss, which was almost next door. I was already feeling slightly snubbed, so perhaps by this time I was a delicate creature. As I entered the shop, I was greeted by two sales assistants behind the counter. All looked well here; yes, there were two of them (and no other customers), but they did not leave their safety zone of the counter. However, they did welcome me. Excellent start!

The problems began when I spotted a leather bracelet (sorry, but I am always off-message when I am shopping). Sadly, because the lighting in the shop was so poor, I couldn’t see whether it was silver or a gold buckle (the all-important gold/silver issue!). When I tried to make eye-contact with the two of them, suddenly I realised I was invisible. They had far more interesting things to be thinking about than a middle-aged woman who was far too large to buy anything in the store (they may have thought). Eventually, Mohammed had to go to the mountain, and I approached them with the offending object. Almost immediately I found out that the metal was gold (not good for me), but was instantly rousingly assured that this really shouldn’t matter! It was just the same as silver, really! I was even given some hints as to what to wear with gold (more gold, apparently!).

As I walked back to my own place, I started to muse about how vital it is to get the level of service right in a shop. Too friendly, and we may actually be wasting someone’s valuable time. Too keen to make a sale and we don’t really help a customer. Too intrusive, and we make people uncomfortable. Too absent, and we are useless. Too distant and we are alienating. Too ignorant and uninformed, and we cannot help. Too uninterested, and we ignore a customer’s real needs, and dismiss them.

We have to walk a careful path where we are available and capable of providing our customer’s needs, whilst giving them the time and space to enjoy their shopping experience. I reminded myself yet again that it’s vital to try to ensure that we always get the balance right.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 21 September 2011 at 20:21

 
I read this laughing.... sometimes shopping can be almost like a comedy sketch.

The balance with service is a fine line some of us need our hands held whilst others are intrepid adventurers who will quite happily walk alone.

I cannot understand how any assistant worth their salt would say to a lady with your colouring Em to wear more gold like me with my milk bottle blue skin gold just does not work.

But what I can say without a qualm is the mix of lovely ladies you have in your shop are fantastic

Kim the trouser queen, Jac the accessories guru and you yourself the sheer genius I have never felt pushed or ignored in your shop speaking of which I'm hoping to come up mid october so cant wait I was wondering if you had the ponte jersey frill shift tunic from Anna Scholz in store ?

 

 Emma    Thursday 22 September 2011 at 15:24

Hi Tori

Thank you for your lovely comments!

Yes, I don't know what's worse... a sales assistant (specialising in fashion) who either doesn't know that certain complexions cannot wear certain colours. Or one that knows this is so, but doesn't care!

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news... we did order the tunic quite comprehensively, but (as is usual with Anna Scholz items), it has sold very quickly. We even re-ordered them, and now the cupboard is bare.

However, there is a bright ray of hope on the horizon: this season is one of the best ever, and there are some absolutely gorgeous things here now, and still coming in!

I really look forward to seeing you soon.
 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 23 September 2011 at 17:50

 
Darn it too slow again lol...

I'm sure it will be worth the trip up anyway.

But the thing is and im sure I have mentioned it in prior comments you and the girls genuinely care about your customers and getting it right. I feel totally disenchanted shopping on the high street when staff are in identikit uniforms with a bad attitude more interested in chatting to each other than serving customers.

 

 Emma    Saturday 24 September 2011 at 13:27

Hi Tory!

Thanks for that... I'm so sorry you are suffering from 'High Street Shopping Frustration Syndrome'. It's horrible.

I was chatting to another of my customers this week (a gorgeous lady who reads the blog, but does not, as yet, contribute herself), and she had some thoughts about tights.

She used to buy the Levee tights, but hadn't known they had gone down (was that quite recent?).

She also said that she buys a collection called Gipsy, which she has delivered, ordered from their website. It does seem that Gipsy may well be a good option (being definitely currently available; all the others being a little bit of a colder trail).

I hope this helps you; if it does, it will show that the forum is working!

By the way, I have accompanied this reply with an entirely gratuitous picture of Jaq - replendent in a gorgeous Marina Rinaldi coat...
 

 Victoria Hollis    Sunday 25 September 2011 at 16:40

 
OOOOHHHH fab coat (Tongue hanging out drooling lol)

I heard the Levee have gone over the last couple of months

Ummm thinking mid october might be too long a wait for a trip down....

 

Emma    Friday 09 September 2011 at 16:21

 Post #242 



 
Subject: Snuggle

So what would I suggest are the ‘must have’ items this season? The autumn/winter 2011 collections are flooding into store now (see 'Our range' in the main section of our site), and with every delivery I am reawakening the excitement I felt when I forward-ordered these clothes six months ago. In more ways than one, this is a vintage year for design.

Generally the items that are ‘must haves’ for any particular season fall into two groups: those which you personally have a need or a yen for, and those which the industry has provided that are so good at the time, that just about everyone should snap them up.

Luckily, the rules affecting what you need (or want) and what the fashion industry suddenly comes through with are the same this time. For anyone suffering from amnesia, last year we experienced a very cold winter, where all bets were off as far as our normal wardrobe staples were concerned. Out had gone those trusty yet suddenly inadequate and flimsy cotton jumpers that had been our go-to items when the weather got cold in previous years (I say previous years: actually the winter before was also quite extreme if I remember correctly). Out, also, had gone the notion that you ‘really don’t need’ a winter coat. The rules had suddenly been rewritten.

Many women are normally perfectly warm, no matter what the weather, and to suddenly feel the cold blast of extreme winter was an unexpected and unpleasant wake-up call. It sent numbers of my customers into my shop in the pursuit of all things snuggly. They wanted coats, wool jackets, woollen trousers, jumpers, cardigans... let’s face it, they needed the part of their wardrobe that was missing: the winter part.

This was particularly noticeable because larger women in general tend to feel the heat and do not often feel cold. So some of us have decided to simply ignore warm clothing and rely on the fact that most of the time we live on quite a temperate island. In a nutshell, there was an area of our wardrobe that had been long neglected, and suddenly was desperately needed. To make matters worse, when we really started to think about it, we realised this neglected part of the wardrobe was often quite necessary!

The problem with the fashion industry is that it is always ahead of itself. Regular readers of this blog will know that my advice is always to ‘buy early’. I try to make it a habit not to use saleswomanship or hype in these writings (I can’t expect people to want to want to regularly read this blog if it is nothing better than advertorial for the designer clothing industry), and I try to give honest, logical advice to consumers. So when I recommend buying specific items early, I do so with good reason. Generally speaking, by the time you find you really need to wear the clothes, the best examples will have already sold out. This is as true for winter coats as it is for summer dresses.

So last winter, during and after the worst of the cold weather, we had a stream of customers wanting items that were simply not available for love nor money. I had women virtually crying on my shop floor, so desperate were they for at least one really good jumper, or knitted jacket, or winter coat. Yet the cupboard was bare; they had long since sold through.

So now, the fashion world (which in an uncharacteristic attack of realism, has taken collective note of what happened in the last two winters) has woken up to the possibilities of gorgeous warm clothing. And this has happened at the same time as many of my customers, scarred by last year’s disappointments (please note that I, too, bear these scars; there is nothing worse for me than sending droves of desperate customers away without the very things they had come in for), have decided that they ‘must have’ some really lovely winter wear. For once, we have a lucky and happy confluence of minds. We may all actually get what we want!

The looks this season are soft, warm, fluid, sophisticated and subtle. Everything is about knits or fabrics with a soft, generous handle. Despite everything I have just said, there are still cool knits (mixtures of cottons, silks, cashmeres, etc.), and as many different levels of weight of jersey, plus opportunities of layering, as there are degrees on a thermometer. It’s all about versatility: designer clothes last a long time, and it is necessary to get the maximum use out of them. So items that can be layered in cold weather and stripped back during the warmer times, are key.

All the collections we bought have acquitted themselves well this season: my favourite for knits? Verpass (see dress and jacket, right), with its subtle nineteen fifties aesthetic. Now that we have had many of their beautiful jackets, knitted dresses, coats, jumpers and gilets in stock, we are already finding that the fashion-hunters are in, snapping up their must-have pieces.

These women know that in order to get what they really, really want, they had better come before the cold weather hits. Because in Britain, we may sometimes not get a summer, but we do generally get a winter.

 

Emma    Saturday 06 August 2011 at 12:41

 Post #229 



 
Subject: Spring/Summer 2012

So here I am writing my blog, fresh from buying some of the new collections. I was in Germany last weekend, and have visited several London showrooms since, and was able to see enough of the Spring/Summer 2012 styles to begin to form an overview of the looks of the season. I have still got a few designers to visit (for instance, I haven’t seen some of the Italian ranges like Elena Miro or Marina Rinaldi).

The last time I did my buying (about six months ago, when I bought the current Autumn/Winter 2011 collection), I was struck by the influence of the early nineteen-sixties and late nineteen-fifties looks. The fashion press uses the shorthand ‘Mad Men’ to describe this style, and I think that many people feel that this single American TV programme has been responsible for the whole sea-change in fashion that we have seen in the run-up to this autumn. I don’t go along with it myself: the TV programme, in my opinion, was just part of the tide that was running in this direction.

Personally, I love this era of fashion. The fabrics are key, with the use of texture, subtle colour and highly creative materials. There is a kind of sophisticated 'luxe' look to the clothing. I love the way it plays with volume: the contrast between tight clothing (narrow cigarette pants worn with minimal boots, for instance) and wide, draped areas (say, a large, sumptuous knit).

This is a look perfectly suited to winter wear - particularly with the clever woollen woven fabrics and wonderful knits. I was wondering how it would translate to the summer. With their emphasis on sleeveless styles and tight fitting waists, those nineteen fifties and sixties summer dresses were a bit scary for us larger women.

So it was with something of a relief that I saw the Spring/Summer 2012 collections had not gone for full-on vintage. Actually, although there was a great feel of art and mid-century modernism, the look was kept well under control. The designs, instead of being fusty and pedantic, look fresh and accessible.

The colours for the summer are gorgeous; they remind me of the celebratory, jewel-watercolours that I saw in a recent visit to Barcelona. An explosion of colour erupts, often from a black background. It’s an unsophisticated, celebratory palette: something incredibly suitable for summer looks. In the main, I love sophisticated minimalism and subtlety for winter looks, yet for summer wear I long to see exuberance, playfulness and colour. For the next two seasons, my wishes have come true.

Elena Grunert (the German range famed for quality and fit) had a gorgeous range that included a wonderful ‘nautical’ look that I was delighted to buy into. With a navy base, the designer had played with the spot motif: most of the spots were white, but the occasional one was pink. The jacket to match was particularly scrummy: navy blue, edged with a fine white stripe.

As ever I got very excited on viewing another German collection: Sallie Sahne. We are their only stockist in the UK, and have been steadily building up a group of customers who are obsessed with the fabrics, drape and cut of this unusual collection. This time I was blown away with one of their dresses in particular. It was made from their signature digital-print fluid, yet substantial jersey. The bodice was snuggly neat-fitting to the body (low-cut and sexy, of course) and yet under the bust it fell like a column to the floor with generous drape - all flatteringly sleek. It was like a kind of alchemy; I have never discovered how they achieve their effects. How does one make a garment with that much fabric, yet which has no added bulk? After examining previous designs under the microscope to see how they work, I suspect that this designer is just obsessed with ‘getting it right’.

Everywhere I looked I saw sumptuous colour, nowhere more so than in the Kirsten Krog room. This Danish range from the Godske stable has made a name for itself with its beautiful prints, which are usually produced on gorgeous silk chiffons and satins (see picture, right). We frolicked our way through the frothing silk jackets and dresses, and spent an enjoyable few hours choosing the outfits that happy wedding guests or Ascot attendees are going to be sporting next summer.

As ever, my biggest excitement was reserved for the Anna Scholz collection. She is a British-based, German-born designer who ploughs her own furrow. Often she is years ahead of her time, and when she isn’t that, she is at right-angles to the prevailing look. Her clothes have a way of making everything else look pedestrian.

Next summer, she has gone full-pelt into dresses. I was chatting with Anna about the growth of her dress line, and she told me that she enjoyed huge demand for this form of clothing. I was happy, as someone at the coal-face of plus-size fashion retailing, to tell her why I thought this was: putting it succinctly, other designers seem to have difficulty creating dresses that fit, are beautiful and are flattering. Anna has the knack of producing these with apparent ease.

I love her quirky, humorous and joyful take on nineteen seventies-style fashion. As one who lived through that decade, I know that the clothing available then (especially for larger women) was anything but joyful. However, Anna has re-written history, and I think that some younger women will look at her designs and think it was a golden era!

Next summer, her dresses seem to have achieved the impossible: they are even more wearable than before. I was particularly taken with a lovely blue and white china pattern shirt-waister dress that came in two lengths - on the knee or to the ground. I again suffered from 'the anger' (see blogs passim)... I desperately wanted to walk out of her showroom wearing that dress. I don’t want to have to wait six months for it!

The Anna Scholz collection was, as ever, refreshingly eclectic, with many different colours and styles: dresses with sleeves, or sleeveless. Dresses mid-calf, mini or full-length. Sophisticated or casual... you name it. And that was just the dresses; as ever her separates were stunning. I was happy to see that she had continued with her stretch linen - surely an inspired idea that the world has been waiting for.

Every now and again, when looking at her collection, I spy something that makes me go weak at the knees. One that comes particularly to mind is a fabulous hand-dyed silk chiffon kaftan. Absolutely gorgeous!

 

Emma    Sunday 17 July 2011 at 17:58

 Post #226 



 
Subject: Wish List

At around the end of the ‘buying’ time of year (towards the end of the season when we forward-order our stock) I usually write a piece in my blog about what we have seen and bought from the new collections.

All forward-ordered items have to be purchased at least six months in advance because they are specially made for us, which takes time. This means that we will now be ordering for next summer... Spring/Summer 2012!

As regular readers of the blog will know, we visit fashion showrooms and we do a little bit of travelling abroad. We usually fit in a trip to Germany, where there is a large fashion presence in the city of Düsseldorf. It’s a very good place to go to find new collections, and to get an overview of what the new looks are like.

This time on the blog, I have decided to try something a little different. Before we do our buying, we always build up a ‘wish list’ of items that we really hope to find, and which we would like to come home with (metaphorically speaking). After 21 years in this shop, my wish list has grown to humungous proportions: there are literally hundreds of things that I look for.

So, for a bit of a change, this time I would like to write a post before I go buying - listing the clothes that I want.

I’m not talking about those items that I know I can get. For instance, the perfect black casual trouser (or smart trouser for that matter), or an excellent black dress. No, I’m talking about hunting down those things I know I - and my customers - want, yet the fashion industry doesn’t necessarily know we want!

Such a list of general ‘wish list’ summer items would include:

Beautiful cotton blouses, which are long enough to cover the derriere, yet snug fitting on the shoulders, with a good, practical sleeve that really covers the top of the arms.

Summer dresses, suitable for a wedding, or some such event, which again have a good sleeve, and which are feminine, colourful and sexy.

Casual cotton jackets that have a feminine silhouette.

Really super printed cotton jersey tops... one step up from a T-shirt.

Work suits, the jackets of which are fitted, stretchy and smart, with an edge, plus a choice of either trousers or a skirt.

Proper rain-proof summer raincoats.

I could go on... almost endlessly! However, I wanted to leave some space in this blog to list the things I am particularly looking for this year. By this I mean the kind of items that have the right fashion edge for right now.

For example, this time I would just love to have some summer dresses with that nineteen-fifties vibe. You know, those beautiful, sophisticated coloured prints - and feminine shapes that have been brought to the fore with TV programmes such as Mad Men. I need fancy dresses (for day events, evenings, etc.), plus simple ones (to wear around town doing the shopping, or for work).

I would like to get some stretch narrow cotton trousers in interesting colours, with some gorgeous, pretty long shirts to wear with them. You know, that Beatnik look.

As always, I would just love some summer knits. I mean knitwear made from cotton, linen, silk, viscose, or any such cool fabric. And I would like a great variety of shapes, in lots of lovely colours! Again, with the retro look that gives them a bit more structure and femininity.

I need (and I really mean need) some good summer wedding outfits. I refuse to come home unless I am able to buy some lovely dress-and-jacket combos or separates. They have to be (guess what!) colourful, easy to wear, sassy and super smart. I'm also looking for a touch of that nineteen fifties or sixties edgy style.

I’m desperate to see some gorgeous, wearable skirts. I’m open minded: they can be long, short, flowing or narrow. But they have to have ‘that look’: elegant, sassy, colourful, retro. They are also going to have to be properly adapted to the plus-size market. Skirts from the fifties and sixties tended to be either very bulky or incredibly tight and figure-hugging, so the designers will have to know their stuff to get it right.

At this time of year I get incredibly excited, because I haven’t seen anything yet of the new looks being prepared for next summer. The designers who dream up those styles are amazing - I really never know what to expect. They may produce items that fit the general description of what I am looking for, but they are always different from the designs I have in my own head.

Ironically, the fact that I am not going to come home with what I am expecting is the very thing that makes it all so exciting. Because those designers will have created clothes that are far more fascinating, artistic, fashionable and chic than anything I could ever come up with. That's why I am a fashion store owner and not a designer.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 22 July 2011 at 23:37

 
Oohhh Wishlist....
There are several things that are on my DREAM list that I woule love to find but I think they must be somewhere in my shangri-la

* A soft fitted leather jacket in black falling over the derriere but with a feminie finish subtle but timeless the kind you could wear with jeans and boots or throw over a cocktail dress for an edgy feel.

* The perfect pair of indigo blue bootcut jeans - alas I have never foud any jeans that work on my figure

* Cotton blouses for summer as you have stated - cant find any that work for me anywhere...

* The perfect black worksuit I think must be a figment of my imagination

And there are a few other things but these are my most pressing wishes.

I for my sins am an autum and winter girl with my cool colouring the colours of winter suit me much more than the atypical brights and pastels of summer. My eyes are glues for when we get pics of the autumn and winter collections up from what you said at the Anna Scholz day I am waiting with bated breath to see the black label items and when they are available another sojourn to Brighton will be called for I think...

 

 Emma    Saturday 23 July 2011 at 11:11

 
Hi Tory!

Thanks for your suggestion! Yes, a gorgeous, soft leather jacket, that has feminine style, yet covers the bottom! Is there some reason why the designers won't do this? Anna Scholz does some very good leather jackets, but they are what I call 'outdoor' leather jackets...full-on coats, if you will. That's not what I am thinking about.

The best we have come with in this field are the Sallie Sahne suede-effect jackets...soft, feminine and draping. However, they are not real leather!!! On the plus side, the faux-suede is thoroughly washable, so there is always an up-side.

I think the nearest we usually get to a perfect work-suit is with the Italian company, Marina Rinaldi. There are big down-sides (why the shorter skirts? And the price...), but the jackets are incredibly feminine and wearable.

As usual, there is a mental note to self when doing my buying for next summer: more variety in jeans....always more variety!

 

Emma    Monday 30 May 2011 at 20:45

 Post #219 



 
Subject: Ker-ching!

In keeping with my habit of rushing in where angels fear to tread, I have decided to write on the subject that most designer store owners try their best to avoid... price.

Over the years there is a story that I have come across many times. This is when a woman comes into our shop for the very first time, even though she has known about us for several years. She has been curious, but has diligently avoided actually entering our portals.

Her friends or family have been trying to drag her in, and she has always resisted. Eventually something has forced her to come to us. It could be a family wedding that has driven her (after many fruitless and depressing hours trawling just about everywhere on the high street) into the shop as a last resort. Or it could be that she has decided that the only way she is ever going to stop her sister going on about us, is to give in and pay us a visit.

Then something magical happens - she is stunned and delighted. She buys all sorts of lovely items. She rushes up to us, and tells us that she wishes she had come in before. After this first experience she becomes one of our regulars.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times this particular scenario has been run and re-run in our shop. I appreciate that this sounds like an ‘advertorial’; an attempt to sell our service to any customers who read the blog. I genuinely don’t intend that to be the case.

In fact, I am happy to suggest that this experience is not unique to Emma Plus. I feel certain that this is something mirrored by every good designer shop in the country. It speaks volumes about the way women, and in particular larger women, feel about designer clothing.

For many it is an expensive indulgence that they are not permitted, and should avoid at all costs. People think they do not deserve designer clothes. And some are afraid even to take a look inside a shop like ours.

The kind of clothes we sell are not cheap. They are not impulse buys. Many of them may cost twice - or more - the price of their high-street counterparts...

But exactly what kind of prices I am referring to? As I have said, many of our items do have a steep price-point. The most expensive collections, like, say, Marina Rinaldi (from the superb fashion stable Max Mara) or Anna Scholz (arguably the best-ever plus-size designer) can be expensive. Although Anna Scholz’s Black Label collection has a price-point that is not too far from the high street, her White Label collection can provide, for example, dresses which will set you back £400 or more, and Marina Rinaldi is priced at about the same level. Any decision to buy pieces from this end of the market had better be well considered.

Purchasing at the top end of the market is not a rich woman’s game, however. Items from these designers are investment pieces. Often they will be bought for special occasions: a sister’s wedding, a special party, a reward for a promotion. But these clothes will be incredibly fashion-forward, beautifully tailored and well-made. They will be your friends, and you will joyfully turn to them on many happy occasions over a number of years. By the time you have had your last wear out of them, you may find that they are the cheapest per-wear item that you have had all along. And then you might even sell them on eBay!

But a good designer plus-size store does not only sell high-end fashion. There will be a host of mid-range fashion as well, from companies such as NP (the Finnish collection that has specialised in plus-fashion since 1925) or Verpass (a German range that is really hitting its stride at the moment with 1950s inspired design). Prices start at about £65 for a blouse, and many of these items will be as well cut as the top-end clothing. They are extremely utilitarian, being comfortable, washable, durable, yet stylish. It is in these ranges that we often see amazing fabric innovation. Years before anyone else was putting stretch into fabrics such as cotton or linen, these were the ranges that were trailblazing, as they are now with the new body-cooling fabrics.

Again, items bought at mid-range prices are good long-term investments. These are usually clothes expected to perform as smart everyday pieces (often workwear) over quite a long period of time. They have to be reliable.

I think what shocks the uninitiated, however, is the low-end of our price range. We sell items from collections like Brand (the brilliant German house famed for its trousers) and Nanso (a Swedish range of beautifully colourful jersey items), and these prices are very accessible. Starting at £49 for its tops (which are amazing quality - these gorgeous tops really are bullet-proof), Nanso has its own keen following amongst our customers. When priced against the high-street these items are only a degree or so higher, yet their look is a million miles away.

I believe that when we begin to think of ourselves as the very people for whom all this wonderful fashion is being created, at every price-point, we will rush into the designer shops to see what's on the menu. We may not be able to afford everything we want, all the time. But that doesn’t matter, because, whatever we can’t get in this season, there will be something equally lovely for us in the next. And the purchases we have made will still be there to mix-in with our wardrobe, which over the years will build to become our style fingerprint.

The value of that individual, beautiful, unique resource is - as it is worn on our back every day of our lives - incalculable. This is how we are seen by the world. And yes, I believe it is worth the time and the investment.

 

 Kathy    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 14:55

 
I totally unreservedly agree with Emma
I love clothes, I love shopping and my wardrobe is brimming with items that cost a bit less and were worn a lot less then that.
I rarely throw things out so I live with all my mistakes....
Take it from me - quality delivers and it is worth the money.
I am still wearing clothes from Emma's that I bought ten years ago...
Sure have fun for a season - and buy the thin fabric high street Tee in a seasonal tangerine... but come next summer it will sit unloved and unworn... and a waste of money!
Better spend your hard earned cash on Emma's lovely wearable durable clothes.
Money saving tip- shop her sales... divine and at very attractive prices!!!

 

 Emma    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 17:04

 
Hi Kathy!

Thank you so much for your contribution!

You are one of our most stylish customers (and, we are talking about an extremely stylish body of women), and I do really appreciate hearing your views!

 

 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 22:54

 
Hi Emma and the lovely ladies at the shop......

I just wanted to stick my nose in on this one - apologies in advance lol if it's a bit long winded....

The cost per wear issue is a good one all of us want to wtach the pennies at times BUT there is no point in spending a minor fortune on a high fashion item wearing it once feeling uncomfortable and then hiding it at the bottom of the wardrobe.

The fact is there are a great many larger ladies, bbw's or whatever we choose to label ourselves as who think they don't deserve nice clothes and use that horrid phrase "oh I will buy something like that when I lose weight"

Buy yourself that gorgeous dress now......You will feel fantastic.

Anna Sholz for example her clothes are TIMELESS and frequently multi seasonal for example her summer maxi dresses can easily be wintered up with knee high boots (duo go upto a very large calf size) and one of her gorgeous cardies and coat (ummmm fallen in love with the pink once you wore in your pic Em)

We deserve to look good and feel great

 

 Emma    Thursday 02 June 2011 at 23:45

 
Hi Tory-

I couldn't agree more! I think that sometimes there is one small advantage to making a more substantial purchase...that the decision has to be a considered one.

Often it simply isn't worth having that 'high fashion' tangerine top, if it doesn't suit either your body or your personality.....

 

 Kim P    Saturday 04 June 2011 at 21:51

 
The Brand and Nanso ranges are very good value, as you say Emma they are not much more expensive than regular High St prices but are well styled and a little different to what you'll see elsewhere.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 17 June 2011 at 16:20

 
The tangerine thing this season is VILE I know very few women who can get away with that shade I have to say Anna Scholz's coral dresses are far more flattering

 

Ma2 @ Plus Size Clothing    Friday 15 April 2011 at 02:40

 Post #208 



 
Subject: Sexy Black Dress

Is this is a trendy dress? Can a size 16-24 woman wear this kind of dress. What advice can you suggest?

 

 Emma    Friday 15 April 2011 at 15:27

Dear Ma,

Thank you for your question...and thank you for thinking of us, when you have been promoting your line!

As usual, this is one of those questions that are almost infinite, because there are so many angles to look at it from.

I think I will deal solely with the question of whether size 16-24 women could wear it. Putting aside the idea that this may be seen as a somewhat patronising question, my first comment is that as far as size 16 women are concerned, they could and should wear mainstream lines: the average woman need not wear specialist larger-size ranges.

As for plus-size women, I cannot see the point in arbitrarily cutting off at a size 24. We stock up to a size 34, and I actually get rather cross at 'plus' ranges or shops that stop only halfway through the plus-size size range, limiting the choice for larger women.

I would have a number of customers who potentially would wear this dress, although at first glance it doesn't have anything to particularly recommend it. The capped sleeve is a difficult length to carry off in a way that flatters the arm, although the shoulder splits add a little interest to what is essentially a somewhat dull silhouette. The neckline is, perhaps, a little pedestrian, as this dress does not rely on décolletage to make the look sexy.

The item does not benefit from the kind of tailored shaping that, say, an Anna Scholz or Marina Rinaldi dress would effortlessly attain: it relies instead on being belted in. Whereas this works reasonably well on the super-toned, well-proportioned model in the photograph, this would not be an option available to all large women. The belted look (unless cleverly worn under a jacket) can cut the body in half lengthwise, which is not always flattering. It particularly does not favour the shorter woman.

The 'sexiness' of the dress seems to rely mainly on the shortness of it. In this, I would certainly agree that on this model, who has gorgeous legs, this is fabulous. Worn with skyscraper heels and (seemingly, from the photograph) tanned, bare legs, she could look super-sexy.

However, being able to exhibit those fabulous, toned and tanned legs, whilst wearing high heels, is not an option open to many of the larger women in our size range, even if they had the chutzpah to carry off the knicker-skimming effect.

I would almost say that this is a dress for thin women, sized up for the plus market. And for those larger women who can live up to the physical perfection demanded by the style, it's great.

For everyone else who seeks a super-sexy, yet attainable look, I would suggest looking at Anna Scholz dresses. Let’s face it; there are plenty to choose from!

 

 Victoria Hollis    Tuesday 10 May 2011 at 23:18

 
I really dislike this. All that is giving the dress shape is the belt. I'd like to know what fabric it is as well before even passing comment.

I much prefer the Anna Sholz black label slinky jersey drap dress

 

 Emma    Sunday 15 May 2011 at 22:49

 
How right you are, Tori! Actually, I'm kicking myself that you had instantly picked up on what is one of the most important aspects of an item, whilst I had overlooked it....the fabric!

 

 Victoria Hollis    Saturday 21 May 2011 at 00:59

 
From what I can see from the way it is hanging on the well proportioned "leggy" model it would appear to me to be a cheap jersey/tshirt type fabric. It looks "thin" as if there is no weight to it and it seems to be bagging around the shoulders

All in all not something I would wear.......

The Anna slinky dress all in all far nicer with the WOW factor....

 

Emma    Saturday 26 February 2011 at 15:58

 Post #197 



 
Subject: Elena Miro show...

 
I was just looking on the Elena Miro website, which features a catwalk show of their Autumn/Winter 2011 designs.

It's fascinating to see the influence of the nineteen-fifties or early sixties: it's the real look of the moment.

There is a wonderful femininity in the look, and the way that Elena Miro does it. It drips with Italian retro style...

The web address, if you would like to take a peek at the catwalk show, is http://curveditalia.elenamiro.it/

 

Emma    Saturday 19 February 2011 at 13:53

 Post #196 



 
Subject: Fall 2011

Here I am again, writing about next season’s collections... plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

We go to see the sparkly-new fashions and developments, and in order to do that we go to the same old airports, stay at the same hotels, visit the same fashion houses and shows, and meet all the same people! We could be forgiven for getting jaded and feeling that nothing has changed in half a year.

However, that’s the wonderful thing about fashion: although it seems that we are settled into our usual routine - having ‘just another day at the clothes rail’ - in fact the experience is radically different every time! Which, of course, is the whole point of the exercise.

It goes without saying that the huge difference every season is the look of the gorgeous new clothes. I suppose it is in my nature to get excited about new collections. If I didn’t, perhaps I would not be suited to this industry. Actually, I think that many of us who work in fashion tend to get a little over-excited when we see pretty things.

The look for Autumn/Winter 2011 is certainly a gorgeous one. In a continuation of the theme for this summer, the emphasis is on fabric and quality of construction and tailoring. There is a luxe look, with the use of different textures and handles. There is a lot of draping, but the shape of the body is never overwhelmed. A soft, fluid jacket will envelop the figure in generous folds, but would be worn over a pencil skirt, or narrow trousers. A wide, relaxed pair of trousers will softly fall from a snug, tailored felt blazer. The overall effect is of lushness and elegance. Ironically, infinite care is taken to look effortless.

A big part of the look is a nineteen-fifties aesthetic, but we larger women shouldn’t be too worried about this. Of course, we know that many of the looks from that decade are all about exhibiting a show-stopping figure, and for those of us whose physiques may draw less than admiring glances, this can be very intimidating. However, there is so much to this new take on the look that mitigates the need for a perfect hourglass silhouette. The best designers (Anna Scholz, of course, Marina Rinaldi, Elena Miro, and - rather a surprise here - German brand, Verpass) are able to create the most beautiful draped clothing which gives a larger woman somewhere to disguise her less alluring features whilst showcasing her best assets.

The colours are varied. Yes, there are the dreaded animal prints (creatively and subtly used, they have proved they can be tamed), which showcase nude, taupe, grey, tan and brown. And there are also all the nineteen-fifties-inspired colours you would expect: coral, turquoise, deep green, lipstick pink, purple and cobalt. There is a mass of gorgeous vintage monochrome looks. Because of the lovely, varied prints to be had next season, though, the range of colours is actually rather wide. There is something there for everyone.

What were my favourite collections? Well, I really felt that Verpass had come into its own. Who knew that they had a nineteen-fifties inspired designer working for them, just waiting to get their big chance? Their knits were an inspiration, and, after two very cold winters, will be received by a grateful nation. However, the prize goes to the Black Label by Anna Scholz, as the best collection for Fall 2011. This is her reasonably priced selection, and year-on-year it has been getting stronger. These new looks need a masterly hand in tailoring: cutting a tulip-shaped skirt in a dress for a plus-size woman takes know-how! And what a treat it is to see Anna and her team turning their hands to using these skills so comprehensively in her more accessible collection.

As usual, I saw one of her coats that I could not resist, and I am modelling it here in the picture. It is a deep lipstick-pink soft wool coat - with a high waist and softly pleated, almost tulip-shaped silhouette.

 

 Anna Scholz    Saturday 19 February 2011 at 15:10

 
Thank you Emma for letting me win :)
See you very soon

Anna

 

 Emma    Sunday 20 February 2011 at 18:26

 
Hi Anna!

Thank you so much for reading our blog!

Can I just take this opportunity to point out to blog/forum readers that this forum makes it possible for the consumers of our clothes to have a direct contact with some of the movers and shakers in the plus-size fashion world!

So if you have something to say (perhaps mentioning something you love, or putting in a request for something you really, really want), now is the time to make your remarks on the forum.

You never know who may be listening!

 

 Kirsten James    Wednesday 23 February 2011 at 18:32

 
Thanks Emma! I love reading your reports on what is coming up. I am really loving Anna's spring/summer 11 line so I know the fall will be equally stunning. And that is a great color on you!

 

 Emma    Saturday 26 February 2011 at 16:23

 
Thanks, Kirsten!

This lovely pinky colour is so flattering, and the wool fabric is so soft...

Ordinarily, I would say that I'm waiting for winter in order to get my hands on this lovely coat, but after all the cold weather we had this year, I'm happy to wait for it.

I'm more looking forward to spring!

 

miss Bartoz    Monday 14 February 2011 at 15:14

 Post #195 



 
Subject: you at missbartoz.de

Dear Emma,

It was so nice to meet you at the cpd in Düsseldorf.
I have uploaded the two gorgeous pictures on: www.missbartoz.de

Looking forward to you comment.

Best,
Ulrike

 

 Emma    Friday 18 February 2011 at 16:49

Hi Ulrike

Thank you so much for visiting our forum!

Jaq and I really enjoyed meeting you at CPD Duesseldorf - the major fashion show in Germany that we visit every season.

You looked in perfect happiness on the Anna Scholz stand, and I can see why... we thought her collection was fantastic, and I know you felt the same!

I am going to be writing in my blog about the show, and about Anna's collection. In the meantime I really laughed when I followed your link and saw a picture of me, resplendent in my Anna Scholz black and white striped dress (from the Fall 10 collection), and my special tights with bows all down the back! So girlie!!
 

Emma    Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 21:43

 Post #170 



 
Subject: Barbie

Many little girls have a Barbie... that iconic plastic doll with the impossible figure, blond hair and vast wardrobe. And for a lot of those girls, their vision of how they will look on their own wedding day is very similar to the way Barbie looks when she marries her boyfriend, Ken. The white satin and lace dress, adorned with beads and sequins, nipped-in at the waist, with big puffed-out full-length skirt and bare shoulders.

The image that women have of themselves on their wedding day is often carried unchanged from girlhood through to womanhood, and quite often owes much to such toys, but also to a scrapbook of ideas from Hollywood, fairytales, celebrities and history. Very often the style of dress chosen for the 'biggest day in a woman’s life' has little or nothing to do with her everyday life, looks and style. It is the iconography from a different world than her own.

This is all great fun. It’s lovely to get a big dressing-up box and play at being Barbie, or a fairy, movie star or princess. However, if you are going to have to be on display in this get-up, in front of family, friends, your in-laws and your future husband, it has to be a little bit more than play-acting. You are going to have to look seriously fabulous!

But when a woman is over a size 18 it becomes more and more difficult for her to find a ‘traditional’ wedding dress that is going to make her look seriously fabulous. There are a number of obstacles in the way.

The first one is the most simple of all: finding a dress that will fit. Not all collections will be available in larger sizes.

However, let us suppose that she has managed to find a shop that will make a dress in a larger size. The problem then is with the selection of the dress. With most samples being shown in a smaller size, it can be extremely difficult to try on a dress. Very often they have to be ordered (and paid for – and we are talking about many hundreds of pounds) without having been properly seen.

This exacerbates the worst problem of all: that most traditional wedding dresses have certain stylistic features that render them unflattering to larger women.

They are usually white or cream for a start, and this is a difficult shade for a larger woman. White is not a recessive colour, so will not shrink the body size. It also describes the body shape in some detail, and can showcase the contours of the body to an unflattering degree. Shiny fabric accentuates this, often quite cruelly. Fabrics with a sheen have a problematic relationship with flash photography; quite a serious problem when the photograph in question may be on display for a lifetime.

Any extra volume, when worn by a larger-size woman, can also cause a problem and should ideally be avoided. So a puffed-out skirt is not normally to be recommended.

Many larger women do look lovely in a corset; especially those who already have an hourglass figure. Sadly, apple-shaped women who (as I know from personal experience) would love to wear a corset, just look uncomfortable because it showcases their least attractive feature.

A nipped-in waist is not always a good look for a larger woman, even one with a lovely waist. This is because it can, by contrast, draw attention to nearby larger features of the body. A cinched waist will showcase a large bust or bottom as much as it displays the waist itself.

On the plus side, a covering of lace, and a sprinkling of embellishment – be they beads or sequins – can add weight to the fabric (drawing it over the body) and will help to break up the texture, and so create a kindlier and less revealing surface. Also, many young larger women have superb shoulders and décolletages, which can carry the off-the-shoulder look beautifully.

If you're able to find a style that suits and try it on to see it properly, in order to make an informed decision; if you have a figure that looks good in a wedding dress; and if you are clever with texture and embellishment – then you can look knockout. These are, however, rather a lot of ‘ifs’.

So the upshot is that not all larger women can look seriously fabulous in a traditional white wedding dress. I think it is the realisation of this that brings so many brides to our door. More and more women seem to be getting married in ‘non-bridal’ wear; we see those seeking beautiful dresses, just not ‘wedding’ dresses.

This year we have sold stretch-silk dresses, jersey dresses, chiffon numbers, even full-length cashmere dresses. They have been in gorgeous prints, full-on colour or subtle shades. They have been long, ballerina length or knee length.

There have been the romantic, the glamorous and the subtle. But none of them have been ‘bridal’.

None of the women who have had dresses from us this year has ended-up looking like Barbie in her wedding outfit. And afterwards, when I have been shown the photographs of the happy events, I have noticed that none of the husbands have looked like Ken either.

Phew!

 

Olga Gonzalez-Ramos    Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 15:58

 Post #169 



 
Subject: Loved your feature on www.Dailyvenusdiva.com

Salutations,

I loved reading about you and your eye for fashion. Just wanted to drop you a note saying 'thank you' for making these amazing designs for me to wear at a size 22/24. Wishing you all the best and keep making our curves look sexy and elegant.

Curvaciously Yours,
Olga Gonzalez-Ramos
www.olgaplusmodel.com

 

 Emma    Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 17:53

 
Hi Olga!

Thank you for your lovely message! I only wish I deserved your praise! The truth is, I neither design nor create the lovely clothes we are able to have in our store.....

We rely on the fabulous designers who produce, every season, the most gorgeous fashion. Buying them is like being a child in a sweetshop, and is a real priveledge. It is a great pleasure to have my job. To be given credit for the creativity is just too much to add, I'm afraid!

You do look absolutely beautiful in your photograph...I dare say we will be seeing you modelling many of those lovely designs....

 

Emma    Sunday 26 September 2010 at 21:53

 Post #166 



 
Subject: Fantasy fashion

We’ve all heard of fantasy football, but how about fantasy fashion? Very few people ever get the chance to design their own fashion range, but that shouldn’t stop us dreaming...

What if I were to formulate my own unique collection of larger-size clothing? Say that somehow I was given the resources and talent to produce my own designs from scratch. What would I create?

Of course there are an infinite number of answers to this question, so if I am to develop this idea I had better concentrate on a single criterion: what kind of clothes have I always wanted, yet never found to my own personal satisfaction in the shops?

In other words, what are the clothes that I have been longing for? This, of course, is a very different collection of clothes than I would be creating if I were a real designer - where I would be producing a look that was fashion-forward and relevant to one particular season.

Instead, I’m talking about the eternal wish-list items that I have wanted but always been denied; a kind of clothing anti-autobiography, whose title would be ‘The Clothes I Never Wore’.

So, with so many items to choose from, I will edit my choices and just throw out a few random ideas...

Let's get the ball rolling with casual trousers. I would love to produce a pair of super-soft stretch leather leggings - the sort that one never sees in larger sizes but which would be incredibly useful under long tops or short dresses.

I would also love to get a really gorgeous long stretch-denim dress. Comfortable and practical, it would be a wardrobe staple that would still be fashionable decades after it was produced. When was the last time you saw a larger-size garment like this in the shops?

For outerwear, I would design a top-fashion raincoat. It would be 100% waterproof with a proper hood. And I’m serious about it being waterproof; mine would be functional enough to sail across the Atlantic in, yet incredibly funky and in a lovely colour... deep Atlantic blue, perhaps.

But I would go really nuts with my knits! In fact, I find the whole subject of knitwear in larger sizes both a great inspiration and a cause of real frustration. It’s true that one can get wonderful larger-sized designer knitwear this season, but there are still huge gaps in availability. Why, for example, is it so difficult to find patterned knits in our sizes? I would take Missoni as an inspiration and create gorgeous stripes in subtle yet unusual colour combinations. And I would design a line of soft, super-long dresses, supported by plenty of stretch (so there would be no sagging), with luxe layers of jackets, coats and capes.

One of the wonderful things about fantasy clothes design is the incredible optimism it engenders. I have been in the large-size fashion industry long enough to realise that many dreams do actually come true. Wait long enough (admittedly in the world of plus-size fashion, often rather too long), and you will eventually find items like these.

This is what the job of the clothes designer is all about: making people happy. For example, I have written in a previous blog about how I dreamed for years of a gorgeous sheepskin coat - and then James Lakeland created one so much better than I had ever desired. And this is far from an isolated case. Many times I have looked at an Anna Scholz item (like her long stretch-silk wrap dress from last winter) and thought ‘at last’!

Somehow, by osmosis, our personal clothes wish-list seeps into fashion’s collective subconscious. Keep looking long enough and you may well surprise yourself. And the deep satisfaction of finding the item that you always wanted, rendered in such a way that it exceeds your wildest expectations, is a source of great joy.

In fact, one of the things you have always wanted is probably in a store somewhere right now!



 

Emma    Friday 10 September 2010 at 18:12

 Post #161 



 
Subject: Autumn-Winter collection images - NEW!

I have a theory about why fashion has such a positive effect on one’s psychology. I think that every year more and more talented people join the fashion industry. They either come in from other businesses (and have given everything up to follow their dreams of working in fashion... not the most financially rewarding profession), or they are new graduates who have studied hard in order to gain their place in this very competitive field. These are people who have a passion for fashion and are drawn inexorably towards the business of clothes design.

So there is a continual flow of fresh talent, enthusiasm and vision – and this percolates into the new clothes that are available every season.

No-one in his or her wildest dreams could describe our industry as boring! Sometimes when I see the new styles on offer I start to hyperventilate. I do understand that not everyone finds it as fulfilling as I do, but I truly believe that if anyone is interested in art and design, then each new collection has the potential for real excitement.

I’ve mentioned before how much better things are now than in the old days, and, in common with the best fashion designers, I should be careful not to repeat myself. However, I can’t help but really appreciate, with the onset of each new lovely collection, how much things have now improved for those of us who are generously sized.

This season in particular, the clothes have a sumptuous, elegant luxury – which is gorgeous. The colours, as befit an autumn/winter collection, are deep and subtle. The fabrics are lush, and the styles allow the textures to speak for themselves.

I hope that you will enjoy skimming through the new images that have just been uploaded to our website (to find them, press the little 'house' icon at the top of this page and select 'Our range' from the main menu, and then one of the three range options). As ever, they only provide a tiny indication of what we will be presenting this season. However, they do give a real taste of the scintillating products on offer...

 

 Nicola    Monday 13 September 2010 at 15:32

Hi Emma

I love the new pictures you've posted. I have now organized to come over on Wednesday 6th October as it is my Mother in Law's 80th birthday.

I hope you will be around on that day.

I have posted a photo of an AS dress which I have seen on her web page which I think is fab (not sure I'd be brave enough to wear it though!).

Please let me know if you have anything in which I should look out for in particular. I tried to reply to your post on the Personal Choice outfit but for some reason it failed to load onto your page. I am really short on work trousers and knitwear suitable for both the office and casual wear.

See you then
NICOLA
 

 Emma    Tuesday 14 September 2010 at 18:50

Hi Nicola

So glad to hear from you, and to know that you will be coming in soon! Yes, I will be around that day...

Thanks for the comments about the new pictures. It's always an exciting time of the year when we start to get the new stock.

We've got some excellent trousers for work, but this season it's really the knits that are so fantastic. They are coming in all the time now, and there will be more in by the time you arrive. I think, now that I know when you are due to be here, I may keep an eye out for anything specific that you would really want, and hold it back for you.

I love that dress, and there are other Anna Scholz dresses that are equally lovely. I think that now there is the whole 'short dress and leggings' thing going on, a lot more people will be wearing these shorter dresses.

Here is a picture of one of Anna's from this season that we have in the store. It looks stunning on, and I have had more compliments when wearing this dress than anything else. I would like to see you in this kind of a style. Because it is a new departure for you, it's difficult to tell what it is going to look like... it could be fantastic or it could be... oops!

That's the thing about Anna Scholz clothes; because they are so innovative you have to try them on before you know.
 

 Nicola    Tuesday 14 September 2010 at 22:39

Wow you really are pushing me out of my comfort zone there ;-).

As you know I'm always willing to try anything on - more than that I can't make any promises.

Attached is a pic from our hols in Galicia with me wearing my trusty Elena Miro top which I bought few years back now.

Looking forward to seeing you all.
NICOLA
 

 Emma    Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 16:13

Looking forward to seeing you!
 

Emma    Saturday 28 August 2010 at 14:49

 Post #157 



 
Subject: Denim

I was chatting to one of my customers this week, who surprised me by suggesting that she was, in her 50s, ‘too old’ to wear denim. It amazed me because this point of view was itself so long past its sell-by date!

As most people know, from the beginning of the 20th century denim started out as a simple work-wear material, but at some point items made of this fabric started to take on a stylish image, and denim has from then on always lurked somewhere in the world of fashion.

Early on it was the fabric of youthful rebellion, with a hard edge. As the denim-clad James Dean famously said: ‘What am I rebelling against? What have you got?’

In those days, denim was for teenagers, and was an expression of a rejection of their parents’ smarter clothing aesthetic.

As the century went on, however, the spread of the denim look became wider and wider. There were the echoes of the manual work-wear look, with baggy dungarees and jeans, but there were also sophisticated disco-influenced designer denims, adorned with sequins, beads and embroidery. And there were stylish fashionable dresses that women-about-town were happy to be seen in, and soft and feminine chambray blouses.

Denim has so many advantages. It’s a strong, long-lasting fabric, whose texture improves with wear and washing. The colour flatters most skin tones. It is a natural fibre that breathes with the body and it is often seen as egalitarian and non-pretentious.

The denim look continued to mutate, and today is incredibly diverse. To take an example, we are now expecting a delivery of ‘jeggings’ a denim legging, from Anna Scholz. This is a real ‘fashion’ look: the ultimate take on the ‘skinny jean’, which is the perfect item to team with the ‘short dress/long top’ look.

Women come to us for wide-leg jeans, classic-leg jeans, and every now and again we still have the bootleg shape (which is coming back into fashion). We often do dark denim, washed denim, and coloured denim jeans. However, jeans are not by any means the beginning and end of the story for denim. As is now usual with this material, some of the new looks push the envelope into whole other areas.

For instance, in stock at the moment we have a wonderful Brand dress, (pictured) which, although it looks like denim, is actually made from Tencel, arguably a better fabric from which to construct such a garment, as it provides a flattering, cool fluidity.

But it is next season (Spring/Summer 11) that our denim looks really take off, and we have some fabulous items on order. We are expecting long shirts, with a gorgeous drape. We will have wide-leg trousers, and little soft denim dresses. We have ordered lovely long skirts and soft pleated jackets. Many of these items are not made from the classic ‘denim’, a cotton fabric that takes its name from Nimes, in France, where it originated. Some of them are Tensel, some Cupro, and much of it is linen. But the look is ‘denim’.

In the meanwhile, there have been technical advances in the classic cotton denim. New mixes of Lycra, which by adding stretch make denim so much more comfortable. The German range, Brand, has added its ‘sensitive’ fabric to denim; a new development designed to provide a much cooler wearing garment.

There are other advances, such as the innovation that LauRie, a Danish brand, has developed, with its clever tummy-support panel that makes its ‘magic Slim’ jeans incredibly flattering to wear.

So next summer, there is going to be a riot of different denim looks erupting on to the fashion scene. With the exciting designs, diversity of styles and aesthetics, innovative fabrics, and clever ideas, there is something here for just about everyone.

I’ve already got this season’s Brand dress, and I will be buying into the lovely Verpass linen denim looks for next season. In particular, I am looking forward to seeing a gorgeous Verpass linen soft jacket, which I have my eye on. It’s stylish, flattering, unique and sophisticated, and – like much denim – will slip very comfortably in among the other looks in my wardrobe.

It’s probably not a garment a teenage rebel would want to wear; but so much the better for that.

 

 Kim P    Monday 30 August 2010 at 14:46

 
Denim! That reminds me, have you got any of those pull on Brand jeans I like in stock at the moment?

 

 Emma    Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 12:38

Hi Kim!

Thanks for your question...the Brand jeans are on order, and we are expecting them momentarily! They may well come in today.

We are also expecting the new 'Magic Slim' Jeans from LauRie in shortly, which we are quite excited about. I would certainly be very interested in your opinion of them...

I have put up a picture of Jaq and I on our way to a party on Saturday, given by a dear friend to mark his 50th birthday. Jaq and I felt resplendent in our Anna Scholz!
 

 Kim P    Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 20:47

 
All sounds very exciting stock wise and what a swell couple of gals you look! The dresses are so nice on you and how clever of Jaq to have a necklace design that compliments the horsey print on the dress!

 

 Emma    Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 21:33

 
Thanks, Kim!

Yes, Jaq is indeed the accessories queen!

 

 Emma    Thursday 02 September 2010 at 16:33

Hi Kim!

Really looking forward to seeing you this Saturday...the Anna Scholz tunic top is here (and put by for you), as are a number of other tops that Kim thought you would like.

I'm glad to report that nothing dreary has come in this season....
 

 Kim P    Friday 03 September 2010 at 02:04

 
That's super!

 

 Kim P    Sunday 05 September 2010 at 11:50

 
Had a lovely time in the shop yesterday, lots of beautiful clothes it was very hard to choose which ones to buy! You have so many new things in store it was a real Aladdin’s cave. It was great to see some lower priced items too such as those Dominique trousers, they are ideal to mix and match with the more high end lines. The curved handles on the new design carrier bags are a big improvement, as you said they are more comfy to carry in the hand or arm. Like many others I now await the Brand jeans to arrive!

 

 Emma    Sunday 05 September 2010 at 17:04

Hi Kim!

Thanks for your kind words....I think you are getting the measure of our modus operandi now! We rush around, serving our customers, showing off all our clothes and generally being very business-like...then, once all the customers have been served, and all the clothes tried on, out comes the tea and cake!

Our cake on Saturday was wonderful: supplied by one of our long-standing customers, Lisken, who had baked it in a charitable cause (so it was OK to eat it!).

I loved those leggings on you. The way they fit is very flattering. It just goes to show that you never know what is going to be a favourite buy until you get to try things on!

I look forward to your next visit (once the Brand has come in).

I have put in a random picture of Pickle, for no particular reason...

 

 Emma    Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 16:24

Hi Kim!

You will be delighted to know that we have had the Brand trousers in.

Our Kim suggests you may be interested in a pair that is in the same style as one you had before, but a different colour. You had a purple-aubergine pair, and this new pair is a lovely turquoise-denim colour (it sounds not-so-good, but it's a lovely, subtle colour)....
 

 Kim P    Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 21:59

 
Thanks for letting me know! I will ring Kim, would def have to see the Turquoise as it's difficult to visualize them.

 

Emma    Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 11:38

 Post #151 



 
Subject: Anna Scholz rules!

I thought readers of the blog would be interested to see a piccie of Jaq and I on the Anna Scholz stand at our recent fashion show visit in Germany.

Jaq and I are on the right. On the left, you can see the Anna Scholz model, (also called Anna) wearing the lovely animal-print dress that I was raving about on a previous post!

Next to Anna on the left is the lovely Penny, who is always wonderful to see on the stand. We are all wearing next summer's samples (which we couldn't resist trying on), and feeling fabulous.

Resplendent in the centre of us girls, is the famous Darren, from Anna Scholz. He resisted the temptation to don an Anna Scholz dress!

 

 Nicola    Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 13:55

I think you've been at the schnaps too much in Dusseldorf Emma. Anna Shcolz??

I am just starting to look at flights for a trip over in Sept/Oct. Is there anything coming in I should look out for?

Also will you be updating the web page soon? - I can't wait to see what's coming in.

NICOLA
PS Photo is a view taken for near our house this spring.
 

 Emma    Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 16:12

Hi Nicola

Thanks for pointing out my 'typo'... Anna Shcolz, very embarrassing! As you say, too much of the Schnaps... or should I say shcnaps! I have corrected it because I can't bear to leave it like that!

Thanks, also, for the lovely picture of your locale. It looks gorgeous.

This is a very exciting season, especially for knitwear lovers like you, Nicola! There are so many gorgeous knits to come in.

The look in general is soft, with long tops and either very wide trousers, or very narrow.

I've shown a little picture of a jersey set that I photographed when I bought it back in February. It is from Personal Choice collection, and is a gorgeous black jersey swing-style jacket with handkerchief hem, trimmed with royal blue, with matching blue cami and black trousers. I tried the sample on in the showroom and it was gorgeous.

Although (of course) we are still awaiting most of our autumn stock (including this set), we are getting deliveries every day. By the time you arrive in store, we will have so many lovely things to show you... it's a very exciting time of the year, especially if, like me, you love winter clothes!
 

 Nicola    Thursday 12 August 2010 at 13:35

 
Thanks Emma

The Personal Choice outfit looks great. Perhaps you could let me know when it comes in.

NICOLA

 

 Emma    Friday 13 August 2010 at 14:30

 
Hi Nicola

It's come in, and it is gorgeous... tell me if you would like me to save/send it for you...

(The blue is much stronger than the photograph suggests. It's a lovely, really deep royal blue.)

 

Emma    Saturday 07 August 2010 at 21:02

 Post #150 



 
Subject: Summer 2011...

Having returned from my usual buying trip to Germany last weekend, and after a week’s holiday (a staycation in the best place to holiday I can think of... Brighton!), I am just turning over in my mind what I have learned about the Spring/Summer 2011 season.

The colours, the fabrics, the silhouettes, the detailing... does it all add up to a change in the aesthetic? Are we going to see a continuing of the trends enjoyed this summer, or are we going to veer off in a whole new direction? Have there been improvements, or are we in familiar territory? Most importantly, are we going to like what is coming through?

I always start with colour, which is the key to understanding any given season. When I was at Art College I shared a house with students from the Fashion and Textiles course. One of them was studying in the hope of getting a job in colour prediction. This is a very specialized field in fashion, which involves predicting the colours that are going to be adopted anything up to five years ahead.

The really fascinating thing about colour prediction is how it feeds into all aspects of fashion. For instance, if the colours that are coming through are bold and bright - like hot pink, set against orange and gold - the chances are that the aesthetic of the designers is going to be from cultures where these colours are prevalent. So there may be influences from South America and India, for example. The designers may gravitate towards the shapes, fabrics and intricate, ornate embellishments characteristic of those cultures.

By taking a quick peek at the colour palette of any given season, you can get clues to just about everything that's going on... So when I went into the fashion houses in Düsseldorf my first thought was of the new colours.

There has certainly been a sea-change in the colour palette for Spring/Summer 2011. The shades are cool and serene, sophisticated and neutral. We are seeing a lot of influence from the natural world... pebbly colours, with silver, taupe, steel, nude and aubergine. The prints are also echoing the natural world - with textures from the landscape and animal prints.

Usually when we see any kind of neutral palette, alarm bells begin to ring. Continental women look a million dollars in beige, but you really need that sun-kissed European hair and skin to look good in it - not to mention the warm Continental sun. And when British women see animal prints they tend to see ‘pub landlady’.

However, I have no such worries about the palette. The colours were softer, cooler and more sophisticated, and easier on the typical British complexion in the typical watery British sunlight. The animal prints are understated, and their subtlety would leave Bet Lynch perplexed!

The end result is a kind of luxe look. It’s expensive-looking... it’s grown up, sumptuous fashion. The key to this style (as ever, when the inspiration is the natural world) is texture. There are sandwashed silks and chambrays, metallised fabrics, and there was also a little bit of leather (unusual for a summer collection). This is going to be very popular, and these items are going to stand the test of time and will be worn for years to come.

The look is based on minimalism, luxury and sophistication. There is less embellishment: the fabrics are left to speak for themselves. In the main the ideas are from Western culture. There is almost an Art Deco philosophy.

The silhouettes are soft, and we are still talking about the ‘long top/short dress’, worn with narrow pants look. There are gorgeous long shirts (for heaven’s sake, if you buy nothing else during the Autumn/Winter 2010 and Spring/Summer 2011 seasons, please, please invest in a long shirt and a long jumper... If you miss the boat on these items, you will regret it, and have to wait years before they are available in stores again).

Luckily for the colour-junkies, there were still some brighter colours to be had, though. An honorable mention goes to Godske that had some lovely little silk chiffon dresses with drape detail in gorgeous blues and purples.

So what sticks out in my mind the most at this stage? Well, I have already written about the Anna Scholz collection (as ever, a triumph)... I was also blown away by Sallie Sahne - yet again. This German range (of which we are Britain’s only stockist, by the way) really caught the mood with a gorgeous collection mainlining on textures, fabric handles and finishes. We bought a beautiful metallised cami and jacket in pewter, which would take you anywhere, and just couldn’t resist the faux leather jacket (as soft as baby lambskin) and trousers in a steely taupe. We also shrieked with delight when we saw this wonderful little blazer with knot-detail at the shoulder (see picture above). Genius.

 

Emma    Monday 03 May 2010 at 22:49

 Post #133 



 
Subject: We've come a long way, baby!

Seems funny to think back on it now, but for some years I lived in a country where most of the women I sold clothes to tended to abide by quite a strict rule of modesty.

By this, I mean that it was not thought seemly for my customers to show anything much of their bodies, and very often they were put under powerful social pressure (and sometimes internal pressure!) to be extremely demure in their dress. Mainly dressed in black or other dark shades, they wore all-enveloping garments, which showed-off their shape to the minimum, and almost none of their flesh.

So the garments that we had to stock in that store were, in the main, dark coloured and rather shapeless. The main purpose of most of the clothing seemed to be to disguise the shape, rather than to express or flatter it. Skirts were as long as possible, almost floor-length, and wide... a long pleated skirt was a sought-after style because it expressed almost nothing of a woman’s shape and, even then, they were often worn with a slip underneath. Blouses were never low-necked (heaven forbid there be any cleavage on show), and sleeves were always either full- or three-quarter length. Jackets were baggy, shapeless and long. Many, many women considered it to be completely inappropriate to wear trousers at all.

The customers who did feel free to wear more revealing clothing were sometimes frowned upon, and some of them told me that they had to endure some kind of moral censure from friends and family when they ventured out in their (relatively tame, by our standards) less repressive looks in public.

I did try very hard to buy beautiful, sexy, relevant, fashion-forward looks for the store I was working in at the time, but it was an uphill struggle to come by the kind of clothing I was seeking. I wasn’t looking for anything too outré... I was just wanting to stock something relevant; not the new Lady Gaga wardrobe!

Time after time agents and designers told me I was on a hiding to nothing: no-one would want to wear anything that pushed the envelope. Even if the customer had enough self-confidence to be able to ‘flaunt’ herself, the social pressure would be too great, and she would be too uncomfortable to enjoy her more liberated look.

Wow, you may be thinking... where is this country, and what was it that caused this restrictive style of dress? We often find that different religions can expect such modesty from women. Fundamental Christians, strict Muslims and Jewish women often choose this sort of fashion language... did I live in a country populated by one or several of these groups?

Of course, the answer is that the shop I worked for was in Brighton, United Kingdom. It was actually in the exact location of the store I now inhabit. The date was 1990... only 20 years ago. My customers were large women then, as they are today. And at that time, whilst the slim girls were wearing miniscule tight skirts - showing their midrifts or in super-short sweater dresses with towering high heels - the larger women were expected to cover up.

The truth is, when I first started in plus-size fashion in this country, larger women were expected to be invisible. Or I should say, the shape and flesh of their bodies were not considered to be decorous enough to be on show. Most of the styles we sold at the time were demure to the point of being yashmaks. Quite seriously, most of the looks could have been worn by community nuns.

Nowadays, we have got used to the fact that the shape of larger women can be beautiful, and that their flesh can be as lovely as any human flesh. And (perhaps more importantly, for most of us women) even when we are not beautiful, we are lovely, and it is our birthright to be as visible as anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t feel the need to show myself off, warts and all. Actually, in my opinion, a lot of the skill of a fashion stylist is to hide or disguise those parts of one’s physique that are not (shall we say) in prime condition. I, for instance (in common with many women over 40, whether they be large or small), would rather stick pins in my eyes than show off my upper arms.

However, there are certain assets that I am more than happy to display, and I have found a way of showing my figure to its best advantage. There really is no need for any woman to try to 'anonymise' herself by draping her physique in what amounts to a dust-sheet!

Consumer pressure has brought many of the designers on line, and new, sexy collections have erupted on to our scene. Now that there are more larger, younger women, social pressure has been turned on its head, and women are not only allowed, but positively expected to make the best of their looks.

Larger women are seen as sexy, sassy beings, and there is no need to hide themselves away unless they choose to do so. We have come such a long way, in such a relatively short space of time.

 

Emma    Saturday 01 May 2010 at 16:04

 Post #132 



 
Subject: Fashion Shows on Saturdays 8th May, 22nd May and 12th June, at 2.30pm

As ever, I’m back from holiday and straight back into the thick of it with events at the store!

This time we are preparing for the first of our fashion shows, taking place on Saturday 8th May at 2.30pm.

This is the first fashion show that Emma Plus has ever put on! I suppose, if I were to offer an excuse for this omission, I would say that we have previously always left the fashion shows to the experts. I consider Emma Plus to be very good at being a store... but how would we perform when putting on a fashion show?

Well we’re about to find out! To celebrate our refit we decided to showcase the new-look store, alongside the new season’s stock (which is the widest choice we have ever had). Accordingly, on Saturday, we will be gathering together some models (our staff and customers!), providing some refreshments, and plunging in...

We will be having three shows in all. After this one, we will be showing again on Saturday 22nd May, and on Saturday 12th June - all shows taking place at 2.30pm.

Everyone reading this blog is welcome to attend... I don’t know exactly how it is all going to pan out, but I do know it will be fabulous!

 

 Kim P    Wednesday 05 May 2010 at 12:44

 
Will the shop be open as normal before the fashion show on the 8th May. I was hoping to call in but it will be in the morning not afternoon. Hope the fashion show goes well, sounds like good fun.

 

 Emma    Saturday 15 May 2010 at 18:30

Hi Kim!

So sorry that due to technical reasons, I didn't answer your post before. Obviously, you now know the answer, as you came in last Saturday!

But it does occur to me that this may be a question that other customers are asking, so I had better post an answer to it.

Yes, we are open as usual on our fashion show days, which means that we will be here from 10am to 5.30pm for customers to make their purchases. It is only from 2.30 until about 3pm that purchases will probably not be possible!
 

Emma    Tuesday 06 April 2010 at 01:10

 Post #128 



 
Subject: Turning back the clock

Not all expensive clothes last longer than cheap ones. Expensive designer clothes are often made of tender, gorgeous fabrics. They can have fine, delicate surface finishes... or construction details that speak more to aesthetics than utility.

For example, an invisible hem can be a fragile way of finishing the bottom of a garment. The ultra-fine thread is carefully drawn across the hem, catching tiny pieces of fabric at regular intervals. It’s possible that this hem will last a lifetime. However, if you are unlucky, you can break the thread and the hem will need to be replaced. The designer has not chosen this method for its durability. If that had been the intention then a good, robust double-seam would have been used. This hem has been carefully selected as the perfect way of making a garment look 'effortless' and 'pure'.

Expensive fabrics can also have a shorter life than cheap ones. Let’s face it, if you would like a garment to last a lifetime you would construct it from thick polyester. Something, say, like crimpeline (a heavyweight knitted polyester) would be perfect. I once watched a Marks and Spencer staff uniform, made from such a fabric (the sleeve of which had got caught in the door of a giant industrial washing-machine), spinning backwards and forwards at enormous speed for an hour or so. It came out of the wash in perfect condition. This would not have been the case if the garment had been made out of the finest cotton lawn.

Yet, despite this, designer clothes do tend to last considerably longer than high-street clothes. This is because they are much better made, and the fabrics have been developed to perform as well as possible, within the confines of their natural limitations. Designer clothes are also 'fashion forward', which means than even after several years, they will not look dated.

Many of the clothes that I sell will be worn many dozens of times while they remain ‘smart’, but there is more to them that this. They may go on to have several lives.

The first life is that of the treasured, beautiful, trendy garment. This is the ‘go-to’ item when you want to look good, and you need your clothes to make a statement about yourself. It is your top look.

Then, after several years, the garment becomes an everyday staple. You would wear it to the office on a normal day.

Inevitably, the item then becomes the ‘old friend’: something worn around the house. It is so comfortable that you are happy to do the gardening in it.

Eventually, the garment is sent off to the charity shop, where another larger woman swoops on it and takes it home as a treasured find, and it starts a whole new existence. It's perhaps not surprising to learn that the ecological pressure group, Friends of the Earth, has done research that has found better-quality fashion items to be kinder to the environment over time.

I was rummaging through one of my cupboards the other day and pulled out an old treasure that had fallen on hard times. It was a Persona knitted jacket, from about six or seven years ago.

It had had rather a hard life. I'd loved it when it was new, and wore it often in the shop. Persona is an Italian range whose quality is legendary. It is a cashmere mix - as light as swan-down, and warm and soft as puppies’ ears. The colour is incredibly fashion-forward, a kind of pinky-purple. Even the embroidery on the back (in a petrol blue and lime green) was prescient of the embellishments that have come into vogue over the years since its creation. It came with a matching silk shirt (long since given to one of my friends) and shawl.

It has never looked unfashionable in all the time I have had it, yet it suffered from something for which it was in no way to blame: I put on weight, and no longer felt that I could carry it off at work. But it was so beautiful I couldn’t rid myself of it, and it was so comfortable I felt it calling me as a snuggly (perhaps a little too snug!) everyday warmer to wear around the house.

So that is exactly how it has lived its life for the past four or five years. I have done the housework in it. I have walked the dog in it. I have (it seems from the available evidence) cooked and eaten spaghetti bolognaise in it!

When I took it out of my cupboard the other day it presented a rather sorry sight. There were dog hairs... there were stains... and bobbles. It looked as if the charity shop was calling for it.

However, it is such a beautiful garment and so on-trend at the moment, that I just couldn’t bring myself to let it go, particularly as - now that I had lost the weight - it fitted me again. I decided to try to turn back time.

It was too late to gently wash it by hand with a wool detergent: that horse had bolted. So I washed it in my washing-machine, with plenty of Vanish on the marks. When it had dried I carefully removed the dog-hairs using Sellotape. Then I used my trusty de-piller, bought from John Lewis, to remove the bobbles. I carefully pressed it, and then looked at my handiwork.

It had returned to what I would call ‘excellent vintage’ condition. When I put it on I was so glad that I had my lovely old friend back again. I will really enjoy wearing it to work once more with pride, and I will be happy to watch it start its life all over again.

This jacket was an expensive garment: Persona is one of our highest-end collections. I doubt if it was any less than £150 when I bought it. However, if you were to tot-up how many times I have (and will) wear this garment, it works out at just a few pence per wear. And each time I was spending that few pence, I was enjoying a beautiful, fashion-forward, comfortable work of art.

I would rather be wearing that than a garment that was cheaper to invest in at the outset, yet which would have a much shorter, less comfortable, less aesthetically pleasing, and ultimately less economically sound life.

 

Nicola    Saturday 20 March 2010 at 11:01

 Post #124 



 
Subject: Jeans

Hi Emma

As you know, I am a real jeans addict and can't do without a least 2 or 3 pairs in my closet.

I have lost some weight recently (like you I had a health issue which mean't an unplanned stay in hospital) and now find all my jeans are too big (I have done my best to take them in but the result hasn't been altogether successful!)

I was wondering what the styles are for 2010 in jeans (cut, colours, detailing etc) and what you have in at the moment. I am now probably a 46 or 48 in NP.

Thanks!
NICOLA

 

 Emma    Saturday 20 March 2010 at 17:22

 
Hi Nicola

Thanks for your enquiry. Actually, it's well-timed, because we have just had a delivery of NP jeans (including those in your size) in a lovely mid-denim.

I'm glad you saw the further 'blouse' replies, and look forward to seeing you in April!

 

Emma    Tuesday 02 March 2010 at 00:00

 Post #118 



 
Subject: The New Look

Tomorrow we complete the very last of our buying for Autumn/Winter 2010. It's always exciting to be buying for a new season, because there is something unexpected to be had every time.

Fashion is an extremely competitive business, and the designers know that they are only as good as their last collection - so every item counts. In the really good ranges, the designers will not just reflect the latest fashion; they will innovate and push the look forward.

Every now and again a season shows a sea change: a time when the silhouette changes, and Autumn/Winter 2010 is one of those times. In the past few years we have been seeing tops growing longer, more interesting in shape, or with a different shape of shoulder, and - arguably - all the alterations to the silhouette has sprung from these developments.

There are three basic new silhouettes to be seen. The first and major one is that of the dress and legging. We've been seeing dresses getting shorter for some time now, just as tops have been getting longer. These looks has now met in the middle, and the short dress has emerged that will need to be worn over trousers or leggings. I know it sounds alarming for many women to hear that they are being invited to wear leggings! There are many worries in this area, which can be encapsulated by the phrase 'Does my bum look big in this?'

The fact is, though, that these new short dresses are extremely flattering. They usually have plenty of drape, flowing from a high waist. They end just above or on the knee, so there is little worry about visible cellulite. There is now a comprehensive selection of good quality coloured leggings to complete the look. When the 'dress/top' is a sweater (and there are plenty of these!), one may want to wear it with leggings and boots, which are now widely available in the required calf widths and interesting colours.

I tried on some lovely shorter dresses at Anna Scholz - including a magenta tulip-skirted jersey one that was to die for. I was also extremely taken with an incredibly retro long top/dress from Dominique, complete with a pearlised peacock printed down one side. It shouldn't work, but it really does!

The second new silhouette is that of the cocoon. Tops, dresses and jackets have been showing a tendency towards interesting and innovative shapes for some time now. Next winter, this will emerge as a succession of variations on a cocoon shape, where the garment is allowed to flow out with extra volume, only to be draped and pulled in at some point towards the lower part of the body.

Years ago when these cocoons, puff balls, draw-string bottoms, welted tops, etc., were last in fashion, they were often a disaster for larger women. Badly executed, they can add unnecessary bulk. Now, however, they have come of age and flatter the body, whilst adding an arty, directional edge. Exelle showed a particularly gorgeous puff-ball coat in pale grey, which Jaq is planning to spend her wages on this autumn...

The other silhouette is one which has also been developing for some time. It's what I call the 'Parisienne' look. This is the trend for incredibly neat, cinched-in tailoring - often with the emphasis on the shoulder - which can be much sharper with added detail. Anna Scholz, of course, was all over this look. She produced some lovely dresses and jackets with that incredibly sexy, sophisticated style.

Elena Miro and Personal Choice also went in for some lovely jackets reflecting this aesthetic. One in particular from Elena Miro was the classic Channel-style jacket that every woman should have in her wardrobe. It was in loose-weave black tweed with silver sparkles, and the edges of it were trimmed with frayed fabric. It was as perfect and delicious as a little very dark Parisian chocolate.

On a practical note, after the incredibly cold winter we have just endured in the UK, we are seeing some gorgeous coats coming through. Everything from soft wool coats, to raincoats, to the softest and most cuddly fun-fur coats, to fitted puffer coats are going to be on sale this autumn.

My favourites were spread far and wide: in the fashion business, one develops an eclectic taste. I loved the little dresses, the cinched-in jackets, the coloured leggings. I'm sorry to say my wardrobe is going to be bulging even more at the end of this autumn!

And after the winter we've had last year, one of the very first things I am going to invest in is a really lovely, warm coat. I have my eye on one from NP - surely one of the best examples of a puffer jacket. And it is in the 'must-have' colour: violet.

 

Emma    Sunday 21 February 2010 at 23:57

 Post #115 



 
Subject: Knit wits

As Jaq and I set out on our most recent buying trip, we did what we always do: started to talk about what it was that we were particularly looking to buy for next season.

As followers of the blog will know, by ‘next season’ I am not referring to Spring/Summer 10. Believe it or not, already that’s ‘this season’ (although the actual British ‘spring/summer' does seem like a distant dream, the clothes are very much here)!

So we are buying for Autumn/Winter 10 - and as ever it’s an exciting prospect. One of the things that governs what items of clothing we seek to choose for a season is what we lacked in that season last time around.

In the car driving us to the airport (we were, as usual, flying out to Germany to do some of our buying) we were discussing what we had been short of this winter. We looked at each other and both simultaneously said the same thing: ‘knits’!

This year was such a cold year, and, cruelly, just when we needed it most, there was a dearth of knitwear. There seemed to be hardly a woman in the land who hadn’t opened her wardrobe at some point during all the ice and snow and realised that she just didn’t have enough knits! We certainly saw quite a few women desperate for some lovely warm jumpers, and counted ourselves among their number.

However, when I’m talking about knits, I’m not just referring to jumpers and tops. For our winter collection, we usually seek to sell the whole panoply of knits - through knitted coats, skirts, shawls, jackets... anything you can think of, so long as it is scrummy.

Yes, a good knit is simply scrummy! The best knits will have a generosity to them. They will be soft; they will have stretch; they will flow and drape. The colour will flatter, yet be versatile. A really good knit is a garment that you will want to wear in a hundred different ways, teamed with all manner of other items you already have in your wardrobe.

In the past we have not always found good knits; indeed some years we have found nearly no knits. When the fashion is for short, cropped knitwear, or for close-fitting garments, we tend to steer clear. These are styles that are difficult for the larger woman to look sleek and effortless in. In the past we also had a lot of trouble with fabric. Frankly, if it’s clingy, stiff, itchy or prone to stretching, I’d rather not bother with it. You need to have your wits about you when you are seeking knitwear.

There is a lot that a knitwear collection has to get right. We have to be aware, for instance, that some women work in a hot environment. Believe it or not, knits can be found that are both cool and light! Many women need the garment to have excellent performance. If you are sitting for long periods, for instance, it would not be acceptable for a skirt to ‘seat’. Well, there is no excuse for this in the designer end of the market. A good skirt should keep its shape in perpetuity.

People don’t want to spend half their lives dashing backwards and forwards to the dry-cleaners. So thank goodness nearly all the good quality knits these days wash like a dream.

Some of our customers cannot wear wool. In the old days, when fashion was hide-bound by some very old-fashioned ideas, wool was the only fabric to be had in the winter collections. That is now a thing of the past. We make particular efforts to source 100% cotton knits for the winter, as well as the summer ranges. In fact there are so many beautiful fabrics available, from cashmere, silk, cotton, viscose mixes, and Marino wool... I could go on. Nowadays, the opportunities are there for the best designers to create something both stunning and truly practical.

So it was with high hopes, yet some trepidation, that we first started to look at the collections. We shouldn’t have worried, though. It appears that the designs are all about knits for next winter!

We have done our customers proud. We bought the most beautiful knitwear that we have ever found in one season. The shapes tended to be quite fluid: there was a tendency for many tops to be very long, almost dress-like. Luckily, we were able to source the right trousers to wear with these.

We found some gorgeous suits incorporating long knitted skirts, with chic and minimal styling. We found textured, swing, knitted coats. And smooth, minky cashmere for those with a feel for luxury.

The colours for the autumn are easy on the eye. Neutrals tend to be blacks, greys (of every hue), stony taupes and browns. Accent colours are magenta, purple, petrol and, of course, glowing deep cobalt blue.

My advice to women who really appreciate knitwear is to stock up next winter: beautiful choice like this does not come around every year. It may be a long time before you see knits like this again.

 

Emma    Sunday 04 October 2009 at 17:56

 Post #81 



 
Subject: Navel gazing

When reading the way fashion is written about in newspapers and magazines, one sees the various angles from which this subject is usually tackled.

There are journalists that talk about fashion from the top down, and examine the influence of the most famous designers from their shows in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Alternatively, there are writers that concentrate on what is happening on the high street, or the youths that create street fashion.

Some journalists get obsessed with the influence of the economy on clothing trends, whilst others turn to politics (high heels as seen from a feminist angle, anyone?).

You can read articles about what women should wear at any particular age. And there have been many helpful stories about the best looks for people with various different coloured complexions, and body shapes.

However, there is one huge area of fashion that seems to be virtually ignored by the learned fashion writer. I’m talking about the massive impact that personality or psychology has upon what an individual is prepared to wear, and the look one is trying to achieve.

What kind of thing am I referring to? One important issue is: do you dress for yourself or for others? How confident are you?

For instance, imagine yourself in this situation. You are standing in front of, say, 50 people - all strangers - wearing an outfit that you are particularly pleased with, and feeling good. Then you find out that the people with you are going to be asked to comment on your clothes.

How does that make you feel? Are you relaxed? Confident? Do you have any idea what the people are likely to say? Will their opinion override your own? Indeed, is this whole scenario your worst nightmare?

So the 50 people all proceed to have their say on your outfit. Of that number, imagine that 49 agree with your own analysis of your style. The general consensus is that you are looking hot. Your look hits the spot - it’s fashionable, stylish and suits you.

However, there is one person among the 50 who has a different opinion. She feels that you are looking frumpy, lumpy and stumpy.

Be honest with yourself: would you actually be more likely to listen to that one dissenting voice, simply because it is being critical? Are hers the comments that you will take home with you? Do you find it easier to accept criticism than praise? Maybe that is what you are actually listening for?

Actually, are you your own worst critic? Even if everyone admires the way you look, do you still doubt yourself?

Perhaps you take an almost scientific, dispassionate view. To have the huge percentage of people agreeing that you look wonderful speaks volumes about how you are seen by others. And that one disapproving observer? Well, we all know that there is simply no pleasing some people!

On the other hand, are you the kind of person who can stand your ground, even if the proportion of approval to disapproval were reversed? Imagine that out of 50 people asked to comment, 49 felt that you were not dressed successfully, and only one felt that you looked superb. Would you simply smile, shrug and quietly realize that you were in the company of philistines, with the exception of one enlightened person?

Perhaps you would delight in their disapproval of your clothes, because nothing makes you happier than to be a rebel, with your own renegade style?

Or, if you were told that a group of people were going to make a comment on your fashion sense, would you simply not want to hear what they had to say, because you would find it tedious and pointless? You have no interest whatsoever in what people think you look like (we could call this the Anne Widdecombe attitude).

Do you get impatient with all this navel-gazing, and feel that we should snap out of it?

A woman’s reaction to these issues is key to the kind of look she is trying to achieve. Yet very often she has never really given any conscious thought to them. This is a major cause of confusion and frustration in my business.

There are women who know they look good in various colours and styles, and who feel that they ‘ought’ to wear them - yet find something standing in their way. Friends try to encourage them to break out of their safety zone, but they are unable or unwilling to do so. The obstacle is coming from within themselves.

Then there are women would love to try a more colourful, exciting, perhaps more revealing style, but instead stick to dull colours and demure shapes, which draw less attention (and less judgement) upon themselves. They are feeling pressure from others.

I think that, when it comes to buying clothes, you have to think about more than just your body shape and colour suitability. You have to understand, embrace and develop your own psychological makeup with reference to your look. Because although your body and skin may slip effortlessly into a chic, colourful and distinctive style, your psyche may have to be shoe-horned into it - with real mental discomfort!

The only way to deal with this is to meet it head on. To look at how you would like to dress, and what is standing in your way. You may decide that you really have nothing to fear and should ditch some of your inhibitions, embarking on making a radical new departure.

However, you may conclude that your tried and tested style has stood you in good stead, and has given you a welcome comfort blanket which has helped you in your life. Stepping outside this safety zone would not be worth the net gains... you have a busy life to get on with!

Either way, it’s worth knowing that it is a choice that you make each day of your life. In fact it is never too late to change, and I know from personal experience that real people do so all the time. The results can be truly life-altering!

It would be a good idea to think about what you are up against, though. Because if you find that for every 50 people voicing admiration for your look, you always seem to hear one negative opinion, it may be worth checking out the source of that one critical voice.

It may just be coming from inside your own head.

 

Emma    Wednesday 09 September 2009 at 22:48

 Post #75 



 
Subject: Joy

The poet John Keats wrote ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’, and when it comes to fashion (at the very least) I agree with him. Fashion is an art and an industry devoted to the pursuit of beauty, and is in the business of joy-creation.

We are coming to the end of the buying season now (I have just one more range to buy to complete the Spring/Summer 2010 collection), and I have been taking an overview of what’s in store for us next year.

There are so many highlights worthy of mention, that it’s hard to know where to begin.

We have ordered chiffons and jerseys in soft, flowing styles, in jewel colours, ranging from teal, to cobalt blue and purple. We have gone for sassy, sexy little fitted jackets from Italy and Ireland. We have selected crisp, cleverly-shaped linen suits, and Sergeant Pepper-inspired waistcoats, adorned with cut-steel embelishment.

Hilariously, we have even invested in some jumpsuits, which some inspired person has managed to make work for the larger woman (I’m going to have one of those!).

But I suppose, yet again, the range that most stood out for me was the Anna Scholz collection.

Anna Scholz is the foremost designer for the large-size market. Her clothes exude confidence and uncompromising sensuality. They are unapologetic; they assume the wearer is an attractive, vibrant woman with attitude and taste.

If Anna had produced a collection up to her usual standard, I, for one, would have been thrilled. Judging by previous collections, one could assume that Anna would always bring forth something that will be just gorgeous.

So it was almost with disbelief that I looked at her collection for next summer. There were so many items that were breathtaking that it was difficult to take them all in. It seems almost illogical that someone should decide to just go berserk like this! I think, if I were Anna, I would worry that I was using up all my most brilliant ideas, all at one time. There is not space in this piece to list all the clothes that deserve mention, but I will dip in at random and describe some...

There was a black and white floor-length stretch silk gown, with an Art Deco inspired print, plus a plunge neck and sleeves - that is a dress that every large woman ought to have in her wardrobe. The versatile fabric is also used in one of Anna’s trademark kaftan tops.

There was a mink-coloured trouser suit, whose styling gives a nod to a man’s dinner suit. The same jacket is produced in a cobalt blue, and can also be worn over a matching wrap dress.

There is a gorgeous chiffon creation, with a pink and grey swirl pattern on a black background. This has been made into a couture-style dress with an interior structure that could only have been dreamed-up by a genius.

There was a dress with a Grecian draped neckline, made from sweet and feminine hydrangea print stretch silk, giving the impression of a nineteen-thirties tea dress - yet with a brighter, more sharp and edgy feel.

In fact the feel of the collection for me was of nineteen-thirties meets the seventies, with 21st century hindsight.

In the same poem, Keats wrote 'Some shape of beauty moves away the pall from our dark spirits'.

Speaking just for myself, had there been any pall from dark spirits hanging over me at the time, it would have rocketed away after I had caught sight of these beautiful creations. That’s one of the wonderful things about being a woman: the presence of really gorgeous clothes can work wonders...

 

 Sharon Cross    Thursday 17 September 2009 at 15:52

 
Hello - I've just found your blog and I have to say its great.

One plea though - please don't print these pictures of Anna Scholz's dresses when I can't buy them yet: its like having your nose pressed against a particularly good sweetie shop and not being allowed in :-)

I've worn Anna's clothes since her 1st collection and still adore them...now, have to find a time to come down to the shop as hoping it must be as good as the blog.

 

 Emma    Friday 18 September 2009 at 15:38

 
Hi Sharon

Thank you for your post and for your kind words.

Yes, it's very cruel to show images of clothes that you cannot get until next summer. But now you know how I feel!

I have mentioned before on this blog how sometimes I come away from buying a collection (particularly an Anna Scholz collection) in anger, because I feel bad about having to wait for six months before I can get the clothes...

 

 Anna Scholz    Friday 18 September 2009 at 17:46

 
Dear Emma -
I just had a good read through your ever so well-written Forum and blog :)
I always enjoy our appointments and love nothing more than to tease with new exciting designs for the forthcoming seasons. I am sure you will be glad to hear that even I have to wait until spring to get my hands on the new goodies.
I am happy that things are going so well for you and our collection is flying !
All the best and lets do that lunch very soon.
Anna x

 

 Emma    Saturday 19 September 2009 at 12:36

Hi Anna

Thank you so much for taking the time to post on our blog!

I think it is a good thing that you are able to see the comments left by customers who enjoy wearing your clothes.

Of all the ranges that we have ever stocked, the Anna Scholz collection stands out – it must be very satisfying to be involved in this highly successful creative process.

Here in our shop it certainly feels good that we are able to provide these clothes to the women who really love them, so we are very grateful to you and your team!
 

Emma    Tuesday 04 August 2009 at 13:57

 Post #68 



 
Subject: The colours that call us

 
My colleague Jaq and I have just returned from our twice-yearly trip to Düsseldorf in Germany, where we have been buying next summer’s collection of clothes for the shop.

The show is at a huge exhibition centre called CPD, and due to the downturn in the fashion industry it is much smaller than it was just a few years ago. However, for people like us, it is no less exciting. This is because those ranges that have a fashion-forward, exciting offer are still there. In my opinion it is the failing ranges that have disappeared altogether - actually saving us time when we are navigating the show.

The beautiful, creative collections are calling to us - we can hear them all the way back in England - so it is with a mounting feeling of excitement that we embark on our journey to Germany.

A lot of people ask me whether it feels strange buying for next summer - it seems so far ahead. But the truth is I am usually so excited to see the designs that all other thoughts go out of my head. If they were showing us the collections on the side of an erupting volcano, so long as there were some lovely things to be had, I doubt that I would notice anything untoward. I certainly wouldn’t be quibbling about how far away next summer was... just let me see those clothes!

It’s only when I walk away from a stand, after I have bought what I have wanted, that I start to get the familiar feeling of frustration, because six months does seem an awfully long time to wait for the delivery of those gorgeous things.

What did I see that I really liked? Well, the first thing about next summer is the abundance of the most beautiful colour, and I think my first blog about this buying season will deal with this. That is because, in my opinion, colour is the number one thing my customers are interested in... and for good reason. The most gorgeously styled clothes in the world could be flooding the shops, but if they are the wrong colour you will not buy them. You simply cannot wear colours that don’t suit you.

When looking at next summer it’s quite difficult to talk about what colour, though. There really were so many shades, in such superb combinations, that it’s hard to know where to start.

Fashion is continuing its love affair with what I call ‘berry’ colours. That is to say the part of the spectrum that includes deep pinks, magenta, lilacs, purples, mauves, cranberries and aubergines. There are also plenty of lighter, vibrant pinks and a smattering of true reds and terracotta. The blues that are coming in are slightly to the mauve end of the spectrum... electric blue, cobalt blue, deep hyacinth and midnight. And there are greens going through limes, apples and then emeralds. There are neutrals too: silver greys - all the way through to deep charcoals and anthracite. There also seems to be a preponderance of black and white. Phew!!

Very often the fashion industry seems to delight in giving us a narrow band of colours that can only hope to satisfy a small section of the female population, leaving the rest of us wondering what on earth we are going to wear. Quite frankly, this season, we are being showered with choice, and there will be no problem whatsoever for anyone.

I think that colour must have an effect directly on the brain. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some researcher discovers that as soon as vibrant colours are absorbed through the eyes, pleasure hormones are released into the cerebral cortex. If this is true, these would be the colours to do just that.

I can’t wait to see these gorgeous things arriving in my store. I can’t wait to see my customers falling on them in delight. But most of all (I’m embarrassed to admit) I can’t wait to start wearing some of them myself...

 

Emma    Tuesday 28 July 2009 at 11:39

 Post #66 



 
Subject: The secret fashionistas

 
I can’t even begin to describe my state of fascination at this time of year in the shop. Yes (even after all these years) I’m still sad enough to get edge-of-the-seat excitement with the latest that my industry has to offer.

For it is at this time that we get in our new season’s stock, and it really is like Christmas for me. And just like the Christmases I had as a child, it all starts with the anticipation. We don’t have a delivery every day, but some days we have several. I believe I’m a little bit psychic, so there are days when I just know there is going to be a delivery - I can feel its vibration in my fingertips. I start to glance out of our shop window, pacing backwards and forwards like a guard dog patrolling the boundary. I pretend to be doing something terribly important with the window display. Every car that drives past draws my attention. When a lorry or van draws up, I start to linger near the door. I feel a frisson of disappointment when I see a delivery man dropping off a parcel to the offices upstairs.

Then, when a certain van pulls up, I just know it’s the one for us. My hackels are up, and I am waiting expectantly. Trying to look cool whilst craning my neck, hopping from one foot to another. A box is delivered to our shop: we rush to tear it open. Beautiful things are inside.

It’s actually better than Christmas.

I am not the only 'psychic'. We have a number of customers who can also catch a scent in the air. One woman, in particular, lives just around the corner from our store. She is a 'dyed-in-the-wool' fashionista, and she knows just when to come in. She arrives almost the second the delivery van has left, and pokes her head around our door. She looks curious, leans her head on one side, and says one word: 'New...?’.

Last week we had some of the most gorgeous knit suits you could imagine from a German company called Sallie Sahne. There was a beautiful jacket and cami, in a kind of deep blue with a hint of mauve, with an incredible sheath-like skirt. There was also a cashmere coat and jumper in an aubergine colour. Even though they are knits - and therefore are not suitable for wearing at this time of year - the fashionistas have already been at their stealthy work. And we have only one of these knit sets left already.

The world of the early shopper is a secret and discreet one. For the serious fashionista these early pickings are the sweetest and the best. These lucky, clever and quick women steal into the store and snap up early. They quietly build their style in a way that is an enviable mystery to the 'civilian' shopper. 'Just how on earth', I used to think, 'do they get their beautiful clothes, and why don’t I ever see anything like that?'. Working here, I now know how.

When our Anna Scholz delivery arrived I’m not proud to admit that I was hyperventilating. Sometimes I’m really glad that there is only a small audience for my embarrassing behaviour! The full-length wrap dress was everything I had ever wanted it to be. I’m now in the ridiculous position of impatiently waiting for the cooler weather for the opportunity to wear my new clothes!

Some customers, who have further to travel, put in their special requests. We know which women would kill for a floor-length, sleek, beautiful skirt. We know who drops everything to have her Anna Scholz preview. They would never speak to us again if we didn’t pick up the phone and give them the latest intelligence...

I know it’s business, and I know that this is just a way of making a living - so I should be sensible. But fashion is an emotional art form, and emotion and good sense don’t always run together...

 

Emma    Thursday 02 April 2009 at 23:27

 Post #25 



 
Subject: Rules rules rules...

Where do all the rules come from? I’m not talking about those essential rules that we all have to live by - ‘Thou shalt not kill’, or even the (slightly more trivial) ‘never ask a woman her age’. I’m talking about so-called ‘fashion rules’.

Hardly a day seems to go by without one of these rules jumping up to bite us in the most frustrating way. Sometimes they are hidden. Tacit, unspoken rules that govern what women will and won’t try on. These act like an invisible wall between customers and what they want and/or suit. Sometimes they are shouted from the rooftops - as if quoted by people reading from some stone tablet brought down to us by a sage prophet.

If you don’t yet know what I’m getting at, I’ll quote just a few for you... ‘Red and green should never be seen, unless there is something in between’. ‘No to widthways stripes’. ‘Avoid being mutton dressed as lamb’. ‘Don’t wear a bright colour with black’.

I heard a perfectly stupid and illogical one last week. Actually, I’ve heard this one many times before, and it really gets my goat. It is ‘Never wear a retro-fashion if you are old enough to have worn it the first time round’. This particular gem poked its bossy head up this time- doing its best to stop a woman buying a pair of bootcut trousers that she looked superb in.

When you deconstruct this item of wisdom, it’s clear to see it for what it is. Daft. And oppressive.

Take, for example, those incredibly stylish women who formulate a certain fashion image all their own, and stick with it their entire lives. Like the film star Katherine Hepburn, for instance. We’ve all seen the gorgeous photographs of her, taken in the nineteen-thirties... she was the one wearing the baggy pants, silk shirt, cotton-jumper-tied-round-the-neck look. Kind of preppy meets de-luxe Hollywood. It was superb. The iconic thirties look. Half a lifetime later, in the early eighties, I saw a film of her (I think she was herself in her eighties at the time). And what was she wearing? Oh, just soft, baggy pants, a silk shirt and a nonchalant cashmere sweater tied round her neck. It happened to be a fashion that had just glided back into vogue - this time as a quintessential eighties look. She looked fabulous.

I don’t know whether her style had gone anywhere else during the 50 years between her youth and her old age - it really doesn’t matter. There was no-one on earth who was going to tell her what she shouldn’t wear. No-one was qualified to do so, and I’m sure she would have shown the disdain for this kind of unwanted rule-making by the unqualified fashion police that it so richly deserved.

The point is that no-one would have ever tried to oppress Katherine Hepburn with these rules. No-one would dare. She was a powerful enough force to be immune. These fashion rules are a form of bullying reserved for ordinary women. In particular older women. And larger women!

Nowadays fashions come round so quickly that quite honestly a look has probably returned before the garment has made its stately progress out of the back of the wardrobe and into the charity-shop collection bag. And nothing is ever entirely new in fashion; so most things arriving in the shops have been there in some incarnation before.

If we all obeyed this particular 'law' I suspect anyone over the age of 30 would have difficulty in finding anything to wear, and those of us approaching our 50s would have to learn to stroll around nonchalantly in the nude. Or learn to wear completely bland clothes.

Because this rule is all about noticeable styles - i.e. fashion. What it is trying to say is that no-one beyond a certain age should wear anything with style and design. That - when we are older - we should all start to wear generic, anonymous looks.

Well, I have a fashion rule of my own and it’s this... we don’t have to obey any fashion rules. That’s it. If we want something, if we like something, and if we look fabulous in something, then we can have it. Honestly, what is there to stop us?

We are not too large, or too old. It’s not too bright, or too patterned. We don’t have to be told what colours to put together. Or what fashions we are ‘allowed’. We are free to choose... free to look good in our own signature way.

 

Emma    Monday 23 February 2009 at 16:42

 Post #11 



 
Subject: Jump!

Flicking through the fashion section of my weekend magazine this week, I can see why fashion can sometimes bring out the worst in people. For the nth time there it was... the article about the moment's 'in' item of clothing, accompanied by a picture.

The article was about the ‘return’ of the jumpsuit, and the photograph was yet another tiny woman sporting a version of the same. The garment they are referring to, for the uninitiated few, is an all-in-one trouser suit, akin to a pilot’s flying outfit or a baby’s romper-suit.

I wonder what they mean about ‘return’. I am old enough to remember the jumpsuit in the previous incarnation that I believe the fashion journalists are referring to. I’m not talking about the sexy and figure-enhancing delights of the nineteen-forties landgirls (that’s sarcasm, by the way). I’m talking about when the jumpsuit really came to the notice of the fashion press - namely in the seventies and eighties.

I was a teenager back then. Of course I was large at the time. I’ve been large all my life. In the seventies and early eighties I was all of a size 16 (enormous, I know!). But just because I was a big girl (it’s odd that, isn't it... by being the average size, a girl can be seen as huge), it didn’t stop me being interested in fashion.

I had a friend called Mandy who was also roughly the same size as me (albeit about a foot shorter) and we were partners in crime. The two of us would trawl through all the fashion shops (like Top Shop, Snob, Chelsea Girl, Miss Selfridge etc), hunting out the nearest we could get to the latest looks in our size.

I don’t know how I thought a jumpsuit would look on my apple-shaped figure. Between the ages of 14 to 20 many girls are just finding their fashion feet, and need to experiment. The whole point of hunting these fashions down was to try them on and see how they looked on me.

Well, Mandy and I hit paydirt in an uber-trendy little boutique. It was not normally the kind of shop we could afford to frequent. Ordinarily, the rake-thin, twenty-something denim-clad coolster who worked there would have frozen us out of the shop. However, on this occasion they had a sale, and so she grudgingly accepted that we could take our place at the very bottom of the fashion food chain. To our amazement there was not one, but two jumpsuits (both identical) on the reduced rail in our size! They were discounted down to such a low price that even my friend and I could afford to buy them.

So we scooped up our treasured finds and shot into the changing rooms. I say changing rooms. Actually, they were small alcoves fitted with a kind of saloon-door at the front, complete with wooden slats like venetian blinds. These were just about able to cover your modesty, and provided an environment not particularly designed to make a young girl, who was already feeling somewhat self-conscious, feel relaxed in any way.

It took me some time to remove my skinny jeans (all apple shaped women, it seemed to me, wore skinny trousers and huge jumpers in those days), so I was a bit behind my friend in getting into the jumpsuit.

The first indication I had that there may be any suitability problem with the jumpsuit look came when I heard a low, gurgling murmur coming from the adjacent cubicle. The gurgling got louder and louder, with pauses for gasps for breath the only break in the crescendo. For a moment I actually wondered if my friend was choking on something. I hurried into my jumpsuit so I could leave my cubicle to see what was up with her.

However, as soon as I saw my reflection in the mirror, I immediately knew the meaning of the sound emanating from her cubicle. It didn’t take too long before both of us were in hysterics.

Of course, I don’t have to tell any larger woman over the age of 20 what to expect when you wear an item like a jumpsuit. The problem with this particular item of clothing is that it is far too descriptive. There is no room in a jumpsuit to have any body imperfections. You’ve got a big bottom? Just pop this jumpsuit on, and show the world! Your legs and thighs are not as sylph-like as you would ideally like? Why not elicit the opinion of the entire high street, by exhibiting them publicly in this!

Every curve on one’s body comes under scrutiny in a jumpsuit. It’s no good some slim woman trying to tell us that some of them are quite baggy. If they are baggy, they simply hang from the shoulders and settle on each and every surface that isn’t vertical. That’s why they suit women whose bodies are made up mainly of vertical lines. Clothes like this tend to have the appearance, on anyone larger than a size 10, of looking like someone has thrown a dustsheet over some item of furniture.

If they are fitted then the situation is even worse, with the cruel truth of one’s imperfections spelt out loud and clear in anatomical detail.

As an apple shape I didn’t have much of a bottom, nor did I have a big bust. This meant that the suit’s emphasis on the waist really came into its own - stretched as it was across by belly. Bodily, I looked entirely male. In fact, I think my figure looked rather like that of Oliver Hardy in the film where he donned an all-in-one overall to do the painting in the classic Laurel and Hardy film. Nice.

My friend had an altogether different problem. She was not an apple shape. No, she described herself as a ‘melon lady’; that is to say she was large-busted. We both came out of our cubicles and stood side by side. Mandy’s figure, I felt, didn’t look quite as bad as mine - at least she looked female. The main problem is that she looked like a female wearing a jumpsuit with two large balloons pushed down the front.

When I had first seen myself in the mirror wearing that jumpsuit, I had not thought that anything could look funnier. I was wrong, standing side by side wearing the same suit the pair of us looked hilarious. The suit managed to over-emphasise, to a ridiculous degree, the worst in both of us.

To be honest, we all know that a jumpsuit doesn’t look good on anyone over a size 14 at the absolute outside. Which means that the average woman will, in all probability, choose not to wear it. Looking around streets, offices and homes generally, any impartial observer, ignorant to the caprices of fashion, would simply conclude that women do not wear all-in-one trouser creations. So much for its ‘return’ to fashion.

This is why, when reading these articles about fashion, it brings out the worst in some of us. It can make us feel irritable, cynical, excluded. It’s items like the jumpsuit that give fashion a bad name, yet they do have their place in the world of real, grown-up clothing. For those of us who work in this industry it is worthwhile keeping an eye on these trends and seeing what we can glean from them, and what can be translated into the kind of fashion that we would wear.

For instance, we can take from the styling the references to the seventies and eighties vibes that are very prevalent at the moment. We can see that colour blocking, if used well, can be very flattering in lengthening the body, that soft tailoring is in; that smart casual trousers are having a moment right now. We can look at the details of the buttons, zips and fabrics, colour shades, textures and embellishments.

The designers can sometimes push a particular look that is either elitist or ridiculous, but we mustn’t forget that it is the designers that breathe life into the fashion industry, and we should all be grateful for their creativity. Every one of us can benefit from a bit of a style injection.

It’s up to us to use our own taste, discrimination and judgement to sift through the latest looks to find out what really works for us. And if you have better things to do with your time than undertake this task, you may choose to frequent a good fashion shop that will do the legwork for you.

 
 

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