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Here are all the posts in our Forum/Blog on the topic of Clothing: sundries - swimwear/activewear/etc....

Liz    Friday 03 February 2017 at 17:07

 Post #491 

Subject: Plus Size Swimwear

Please could anyone recommend any stores that might want to stock my plus size swimwear range? I manufacture and sell a selection of plus size swimsuits and swimdresses up to a size 26. Currently they are only available online at www.swimdressboutique.com but I would like people to be able touch, feel and try the garments on as I feel sure that they would fly out of the window.
Any advice gratefully received.
Liz x


 Emma    Monday 06 February 2017 at 14:40

Hi Liz

Congratulations on two counts - creating plus-size swimwear and appreciating the need for larger women to try on their clothes before buying them!

If you wanted to sell wholesale the usual method would be to engage an agent - they tend to be the people who really know about the shops. Of course, they require paying (commission of 20%, I believe), so that would be something that you'd have to think about. The main reason why suppliers use agents is to have access to the stockists. Please don't buy any lists available online - they're basically a scam. If you wanted to know of a really good agent, if you have some really good images, write back on this forum and I will send them off for you to a couple of the best.

Sadly, however, I actually think that you might be better off looking for a foreign agent - of whom I'm unlikely to be able to recommend. There are far more shops in other countries than in England.

If you really would like to market yourself - and many people do, although it's tough - I would go to the big fashion shows, like Pure in London, and have a look round. It's eye-wateringly expensive to get a stand, and I wouldn't do it straight off, but chatting with people there will prove invaluable.

If you decide that doing a fashion show is for you, I would seek out one of the specialist plus-size shows, like Curvy Is Sexy in Berlin. However, if you did sell there, you would be selling into Europe, a very tough gig at the moment!

Good luck and more power to you.


Emma    Friday 08 June 2012 at 11:39

 Post #297 

Subject: Tights, camera, action!

I was so excited to receive the new Cette tights this week. As regular readers of this blog and forum will know, we have had something missing at Emma Plus for too long... tights!

I would like to paint a picture of something that really happened to me. Something that I am not proud of, and, I am ashamed to say, in my youth has happened to me many times.

Imagine the scene (those of you of a delicate disposition should probably not, because it isn’t pretty)... I am running towards the ladies’ toilet, I dash into the privacy within, I bend over and pull off my tights in a positive hysteria of rage! I drag the items off my feet, then, holding them in my hands, I attack them, ripping, pulling and tearing at them - all the while growling like an injured tigress. Anyone witnessing this would conclude I was quite mad.

I then throw the tights in the bin, gathering together all the ladylike dignity I can muster, and issue forth with bare legs - trying to look like the whole incident never happened. Why did this occur...? Because my tights were nowhere near big enough. And wearing uncomfortable tights is the quickest way to insanity that I know!

Eventually I realised that I was going to have to bite the bullet and stop buying cheap hosiery. It's a false economy, and it wasn’t very good for my sanity.

Many of my customers have had similar experiences and tell me that they will never, ever, wear tights. The wounds run deep, and without counselling on the NHS, they simply couldn’t envisage ever being able to get over their aversion to hosiery. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. Believe it or not, tights can be your friend.

So, at Emma Plus, we have begun to stock really good quality tights. From time to time over the years we have stocked many different tight brands, and they have all been excellent. The only problem is, every time we get a really good collection of tights, the company only lasts a few years and then goes out business. I think I know why this is - but more of that later.

Until you have tried 'designer' tights, it's easy to think that they are expensive and probably not all they are cracked up to be. However, each time we have been lucky enough to stock proper designer tights, they have been a joy. At about £14 a pair, they may well be twice the price of high-street brands, but they tend to last so much longer.

I personally have beautiful designer tights in mint condition, which have been used over and over again, that I bought ten years ago! Sadly, I honestly believe this is the inherent problem with the industry. Once a woman has bought all the tights she needs for her everyday life, she may not buy any more for years! The business model for this industry therefore seems to be flawed. As consumers, all we can do is snaffle up the lovely tights when we get the chance.

A really good quality pair of tights will have certain characteristics. They will be smooth, and may well feel a little thicker than other tights (although the yarn is particularly fine). The colour will be entirely consistent: there is no question of the areas where the tights have to (ahem!) increase the area of coverage, like over the thighs or calves, looking any different from any other part of the leg. This gives perfection of tone, which really helps create a sophisticated and polished overall image, and is very flattering to the legs.

Although tights of every type (even the good quality ones) can - and will - go into holes or ladders, the chances of this happening to the best tights is massively minimised; the main reason for their longevity.

Vices associated with cheaper tights have been done-away with in the quality varieties. For instance, they will not pill (those nasty little bobbles that can develop on the surface of garments), they won't stretch out of shape, they won't fade (and the colours are wonderful), they will have a lined gusset for supreme comfort, and they have enough lycra content to ensure that there are no 'Nora Batty' incidents!

But there is one thing about designer tights beyond and above everything else. They are big enough. Properly big enough.

Need I say more?


 Kim P    Thursday 14 June 2012 at 10:40

Hi Emma, that's excellent news. I am sure we can all relate to tights behaving badly! I will be very interested to see the new hosiery when next in the store.


 Emma    Thursday 14 June 2012 at 11:23

Hi Kim!

yes, it's good to have them again. There's plenty to choose from, from 'footless tights' which are actually more like leggings, to opaques, to hold-up stockings, and sheer tights.

The colours (see some of them, right), are also lovely!

 Kim P    Friday 15 June 2012 at 17:25

What lovely colours! Ideal for summer and winter.


Emma    Saturday 20 August 2011 at 16:26

 Post #235 

Subject: Form versus function

When I first started writing my blog I wondered whether there would be enough topics in the area of plus-size fashion to make it worthwhile. I didn’t have to wonder for long; just a few minutes' thought brought to mind a panorama of different angles on plus-fashion that are never covered in the mainstream media.

I was (perhaps foolishly) relieved - because I thought this would give me more than enough material for the blog. However, I have since come to realise that the problem was never going to be finding things to discuss; as ever (with me) it is that there is so much, that it’s difficult to know where to start!

A case in point is the subject of lingerie for the larger woman. I have written on this before, but it is only when you think about these things that you realise they are, ahem, wide subjects - with many different but equally essential angles.

The last time I wrote about plus-size lingerie I vented my spleen on the issue of the paucity of a proper fitting service for larger women. This time I want to talk about so-called 'functional' underwear.

The term functional does not imply that this is the only kind of lingerie that performs a function (hopefully all lingerie does that). Rather, it means that the underwear has a purpose over and above that which is normally expected from such a garment.

It’s worth taking on board the fact that lingerie that performs a certain function can have a major impact on what outer clothing a woman is able to wear.

One example of this would be to do with summer dresses and the larger woman. I hope that no-one reading this will be upset by my frankness; as usual I will address this subject head-on because I believe that the only women who do not understand what I am talking about are small women, and they will probably not be visiting this forum anyway.

From a size-16 upwards (or, if she is a pear shape, perhaps even smaller), women find that their legs rub together as they walk. On bare legs this can cause, at least, some discomfort, but at its worst it can mean serious chaffing - making bare legs completely impractical. This is not a problem when wearing trousers. It can cause a little extra wear on a garment, but we are all comfortable enough once the legs are covered in some way. In winter months, under dresses and skirts, we wear tights - which perform a similar job to trousers.

However, in the summer, if we are wearing skirts or dresses, we are left in a quandary. Women do not, in the main, want to wear tights during the summer. They are overly warm, spoil the summery look of a pretty dress, and look quite ridiculous with sandals.

I have many customers who for this reason have not worn any summer dresses or skirts for many years. Yet we have been able to recommend items to them that have completely opened up this type of dressing. There are many products on the market that do a similar job, but the garment I personally recommend is made by a company called Patra - a supplier of silk items. Patra produces a long-legged pure silk knicker in black, champagne, cream or navy that resembles a very fine cycling short (pictured, right). It is, in some ways, a halfway house between hosiery and lingerie. We have found that it is the coolest thing on the market, and the largest size should fit all of our customers (it is a stretchy knitted fabric).

Now we get to the rub (excuse my pun) of this particular post... how sexy do you feel when you are wearing such a garment under your clothes? Can you bring yourself to slip into some functional lingerie after all?

There seem to be two schools of thought. One says ‘even if I am looking sexy, summery, cool and comfortable on the outside, if someone actually saw what I am wearing underneath (the A&E doctor, perhaps, if I should be run over - or, heaven forbid, my husband), they would realise that I am not, after all, a sexy young woman... That I am in fact, an old crinkly, wearing granny-knickers!’

This school would rather forego all those lovely summery frocks and super skirts, and stick to trousers, shorts and cut-offs for the summer months, until they can climb back into tights in the autumn.

This opinion held sway for many years... but has now started to fade away. It may be of interest to know that younger women do not balk at the possibility of functional lingerie in that way that their mothers do. I believe this sea-change is due to the likes of TV stylists, such as Trinny and Suzanna (who used their BBC clothes-advice programme to introduce women to a better way of dressing), or Gok Wan, who is remorseless in his pursuit of a more flattering silhouette for all women. These presenters have tried to introduce the public to a fact known to celebrities for generations: that there are two types of underwear. One type is pretty, feminine and minimal, and it is meant to be seen. The other can be somewhat (shall we say) unglamorous in itself, but creates the perfect base for clothes. Wearing the latter does not mean that a woman has ‘lost the plot’ from an attractiveness point of view.

Celebrities have stylists to help them grasp the nettle; they need to be photographed looking good, and they do whatever they have to in order to achieve this. It’s not for nothing that Gwyneth Paltrow is rumoured to wear not one, but two pairs of Spanx knickers under some of her close-fitting red-carpet gowns. I have little doubt that most A-listers have lingerie that was never designed to be seen on its own.

The irony seems to be these days that the very fear of ‘looking like granny’ is the preserve of the middle-aged (or older) woman, whereas younger women are embracing the stylists' techniques to achieve the comfort, utility, style and silhouette they want.

And in the process they are opening up a new world of garments, such as summer dresses and skirts, which have long been out of bounds to them.


 Victoria Hollis    Tuesday 23 August 2011 at 15:15


You have done it again - it's spooky how much we think alike.

Thighs rubbing together is a nightmare scenarion. The shop on the high street beginning with e (I won't name them) has in their godawful hoisery range a thing called "comfort shorts" these are basically nylon doulble layered tight tops) thet feel revolting on hot sweaty and nasty and as has gone with the shops tights and stocking for the past 4 years the sizing is totally wrong. I have recurrently contacted this shop in respect of their hoisery over the years to no avail and this included me sending them a video of me struggling to pull their stockings for a size 26/28 over my elbow let alone past my knee. I now order levee stockings and tights online (they are a great german brand) but anyway I digress.

Underwear can both havee style and form - gok wans collection for simply be has a very retro 1950's feel and looks great as well as providing the S factory. I think I may look at getting some of those knickers you mentioned but another tip thrown in free is to get some of solid stick deodarant and rub that on your thighs and they wont chafe anyway....


 Emma    Wednesday 24 August 2011 at 17:04

Hi Tory!

Yes, what I really like about the Patra ones is that they are 100% pure silk. Obviously having any 'extra layer' of clothing is not going to make one feel any cooler; however, I do think the natural fibre really helps, and I never feel hot and perspiring in mine.

We used to sell the Levee tights here in our store, until the agent seemed to disappear. I'm guessing that they simply gave up on marketing them to the UK (there are so few specialist stores that would stock them here that perhaps it was not worth their while).

Other ranges were My Size hosiery, and the American range, Hue, which does lovely, very good quality, gorgeously-coloured legwear. I think all three of these ranges are still being made, though not marketed through stores in the UK any more.

My Size were a Dutch hosiery company, whose items were very well sized. Unfortunately their infamous English label read: 'Oversized Tights for the Corpulent Woman'... that may have been why they abruptly stopped selling in the UK!


Emma    Thursday 16 December 2010 at 16:59

 Post #180 

Subject: Snow-wear you dare...

With all the extreme weather we have been having lately, I have been thinking about what I would advise a customer to wear during the whiteout. It always makes me laugh when I hear terms like ‘functional clothing’ – as if there were such a thing as clothes without a function! Yet, of course, we do understand what this means. There are particular items of clothing that come in extremely useful, and really earn their living when the going gets tough.

If I were to plan an outfit to be worn out in the snow, I would go full-on. I wouldn’t try to battle on with the kind of thing I'd normally wear, but embrace the situation and revel in it! There are no half-measures when it comes to snow and ice.

Clearly, the greatest level of performance is needed from the outer layers. However, it is not necessary to invest in some kind of specialist snow jacket. A good wool coat will keep you beautifully warm, yet it will not be too heavy. Wool is amazingly waterproof (I say ‘amazingly’ despite logically knowing that evolution has designed wool to keep those Welsh sheep dry – and that’s no easy task!). Wool coats can be really beautiful, with lovely colours and styles (there’s no need to be a slouch just because of a bit of bad weather; we are British, after all). We’ve had a number of lovely items in this season, and we still have some treasures in stock: a notable mention goes to a fabulous cerise wool coat (pictured), made by the German designer Brand. I have a Verpass coat (quite a few years old now), which I have really appreciated on the snowy mornings, and we still have a similar Verpass jacket in stock.

In general the kind of coat that's perfect for this inclement weather is what I would call a ‘car coat’; not full-length, like a smart coat, but a slightly more sporty, shorter length. Around knee-length is perfect, and very practical.

On the legs I would suggest a pair of narrow trousers. I do think that for the look that I am recommending, a slightly narrow silhouette is the right way to go, because it is super-practical and warm. There are very good trouser manufacturers, like Brand and NP, which produce excellent wool-mix trousers that are totally non-itchy and (unlike in the past) beautifully machine washable. These come in a number of silhouettes.

I would tuck these into a pair of low-heeled leather boots. A range I would recommend would be Duo (available online). They deliver boots that are fashionable, and that fit all calf measurements. The boots in my photograph are actually from Clarks, also with wider calves, which were easily available and reasonably priced, but with the added advantage of being waterproof. I would then (on the very snowiest days) fit a pair of crampons to the bottom of the boots. I am completely sold on these little gadgets now. The ones I have (which I bought online: there are countless suppliers) twang satisfyingly over the outside of the sole, providing an extra grip, with chains that span across the underneath. I have had so much more confidence when striding forth on icy pavements (slight exaggeration there... it’s more a case of me gingerly strolling with a mock-relaxed attitude, trying not to build up too much speed when walking downhill).

To help with this, I have invested in a snow-stick. Mine was manufactured in Scandinavia, but actually they are widely available from many different suppliers, and are usually found in winter sports shops. I know that sometimes a woman (particularly if she is of a larger size) can feel a little sensitive about using a walking stick, because she doesn’t want to give the impression that her mobility is in some way impaired. However, I am happy to report that during every day of the last period of snowy weather, I sallied forth with my trusty snow stick (with a metal spike on the end for extra grip), and the only response I had from friends and strangers alike was jealousy and admiration for my wonderful seasonal preparedness. Several people shot out to buy one after seeing mine.

Under the coat I would suggest a good long jumper, again of wool if possible. We’ve got a number of ranges that supply good long knits. Verpass produced my favourite this season: a lovely knitted dress/top, with matching waistcoat (also pictured, under the jacket). Wonderful.

So, if you will, imagine my ideal of a woman wearing her snow outfit. A lovely colourful wool car-length coat, worn with a fabulous new longer-length jumper and gilet (set off, perhaps, with a toning hat and scarf). The fashionable tighter-fit trousers tucked into leather boots, with the Artic look reflected in the functional crampons and snow-stick – essential on snowy pavements even in town. She only needs a gorgeous handbag to totally rock the look: sporty, snowy, snug and chic.


Emma    Tuesday 18 May 2010 at 16:04

 Post #136 

Subject: Size matters...

Before our recent fashion show we spread out all our accessories and had a high old time selecting the right items to complete the looks that the models would be wearing. There was plenty to choose from... at Emma Plus we do quite a wide range of accessories to co-ordinate with our clothing ranges.

When I first started at the store I really wasn’t anticipating that I would be providing accessories, because I felt it was so difficult to find beautiful clothes in larger sizes, that that should take priority.

When you first think about it, buying the right accessories should be the easiest thing a larger woman can achieve for her wardrobe. After all, every street corner seems to have a shop providing beautiful handbags, jewellery, scarves, shawls, etc., yet women often have to travel for hours to get to a store that will sell them the clothes to go with them!

However, I have discovered that providing the correct accessories to go with our range in store is key. So over the years we have sourced suppliers that create exactly the right look for the larger woman... and one that is very specific to our requirements.

For instance, many of our scarves are specially made for us, to our own design. One of our designers, Jennifer Lumer, creates wonderful bias-cut scarves in a shape and unique design that is so practical for the larger woman. They are lightweight, yet quite long, and open out so that they can be worn as a shawl (essential if you find that you have to take your jacket off, yet are self-conscious about showing your arms). They are also cut very narrowly at the back of the neck, so they will not create extra heat and bulk when worn as a scarf, and will help to make your neck look longer.

For many years we have been specially commissioning necklaces from designers all over the world. This enables us to get the colours that tone with our range (and eliminates the need for our customers to adopt the time-honoured ‘trudging the pavement’ ceremony associated with trying to find the right colour of necklace to match a new outfit).

However, the single most important feature of all our accessories is that of scale. Our bags, scarves and necklaces are subtly selected to effortlessly reflect the larger scale of our size range.

I was reminded of the importance of this over the weekend. During May, Brighton has its arts festival. And Brighton festival means the ‘Artists’ Open Houses’ - a wonderful local event whereby the artists and craftspeople of Brighton open their doors to the public to buy their wares. I can thoroughly recommend it to all my customers, as I know a high proportion of them are very interested in design.

At one such open house I spotted a beautiful silver necklace, which I tried on with a view to buying it myself as a treat. When I had put it on, however, I was a little disappointed. It was gorgeous (two silver swallows, all hand made, delicately flying on a silver chain). However, it did not seem to be quite as lovely as the one being worn by the artist herself. This necklace, although identical in every other way, was considerably larger. I would have said that the chain was at least 4 or 5 centimetres longer, and the birds probably a third bigger. I asked the jeweller if I could commission her to make me a necklace just like the one she was wearing.

She looked at me with surprise, and took her necklace off; laying it side by side with the one I had been trying on. The two necklaces were exactly the same. Because I was a larger woman than the designer, the proportions of her piece looked entirely different on each of us. Although the size looked perfect on her, it was too small for me.

It was a confirmation of the need to select all aspects of one’s look with care - not just with reference to colour, fashion and style, but also with careful attention to size and proportion. Something professional stylists have known for years...


Emma    Thursday 17 December 2009 at 22:41

 Post #99 

Subject: Talking Bras...

It amazes me to realise that I have been selling lingerie for over 30 years. I first began at the age of 16, working for a very large retailer (you know - Britain’s foremost purveyor of knickers!) on the underwear department. The very first day I started, I was trained in the art of measuring for a bra, and in those days the management made sure there was always a team of sales assistants at hand to help any customer be properly fitted, should she wish.

I have been fitting and selling lingerie on and off ever since, so it is rather sad for me that from after Christmas we will no longer be stocking underwear. We have not actually been making a profit on our lingerie, but had continued to stock it as a service to customers. A few years ago if a woman was looking for a size 48FF bra, Emma Plus was one of the only places she could obtain one. Now, with the rise of the internet, I feel the time has come to leave this particular speciality to those who focus on it.

Over the years that I have been involved with foundation wear, I have always found it remarkable that it is such a poorly understood subject, and I would love to take the opportunity of this blog to express some of my opinions! In particular, I would like to explode a few myths propagated by journalists writing on this subject.

We are often told that it is important to be ‘measured’ for a bra, that many of us are wearing the ‘wrong size bra’, that we should be re-measured every six months, and various other platitudes fed straight to the fashion journalist from the bra retailer. The impression given is often that the ‘underwear professional’ is the great purveyor of wisdom.

Actually, I think there is something of a danger of going for a bra fitting, particularly these days. Time and time again, I have had customers in my store who have had such a fitting, and have emerged, not just with an uncomfortable bra, but with the conviction that they are a size that they almost certainly are not.

One of the problems of being fitted for a bra is the complexity of what is happening. Unless you have worked with women for a very long time, and have been able to see the wide variety of human body shapes, it is unlikely that you will be truly able to understand the problems involved.

For example, one of the classic techniques in bra fitting is to measure under the breasts to give what is called the ‘band size’. Then a measurement is taken across the widest part of the bust (the fullest part of the breasts). These two measurements are used to achieve the cup size.

Although this is a good way to start off a bra fitting, it is only the beginning, because an over-reliance on a measurement is often a sign of a poor fitter. If I were able to place two women in front of you right now, I could easily demonstrate the problem with simply relying on numbers.

One of the women would be a customer who has a somewhat barrel-shaped rib cage. There is nothing strange or weird about this: she looks perfectly lovely, and it is just that her ribcage does not get much wider towards her thoracic area. When putting the tape round the widest part of her bust, all the increase in measurement is in the size of her breasts.

The other woman is me, and my back gets much wider towards the top of my torso. Again, there is nothing particularly unusual with this; many apple-shaped women carry a lot of weight on their back. To be frank, the weight I carry on my shoulder-blades is almost equivalent to my bust!

The two of us have the same measurements, yet my cup size is actually two sizes smaller than the customer’s. This fact is not to be discovered by wielding a tape-measure. It can be seen by an experienced professional, or, failing that, can be demonstrated by simply trying on a number of differently-sized bras.

This is just one of literally thousands of reasons why a tape measure turns out to be a very blunt instrument indeed when it comes to divining bra size. And this is only the differences in human body shape...Once you factor in the differences between the various makes and styles of bras, you can imagine how complex the subject is!

So when a customer walks into a store such as Rigby and Peller in Knightsbridge (surely, this country’s foremost lingerie specialist), for example, she may not be too surprised that the tape measure is not overly-relied on. The sales consultants will most often just look at a woman and estimate by eye what size she needs. Then there will be a proper trying on session. It is this part of the process that I call a ‘bra fitting’. It can only be when a bra has been demonstrated to fit properly that the fitting is performed.

My big worry is that there are many stores that do not have the wide range of sizes that Rigby and Peller boasts. A store which has the full range of sizes will have nothing to gain from supplying a poorly-fitting bra. However, a new problem seems to have arrived on the High Street.

In the past few years, I’m sorry to say, I have lost count of the number of times I have come across the ‘band size’ issue that seems to have reared its ugly head. This is where customers of mine who have a somewhat larger band size than average (no surprise there - we are a large-size store after all), seem to have been shoe-horned into a smaller band size than they require.

Many of the new companies that are supplying bras on the high street boast that they supply ‘large size’ bras. By this they actually mean ‘large cupped’ bras. Although there has been an increase of bras going up into the larger cup-sizes (hooray!), few collections seem to wander far above the size 38 band size. This is a great help to those of my customers who are a small band size but a large cup size (a significant minority). However, it is very frustrating for those of my customers who also need a larger band size.

For my largest customers, these new 'large size bra ranges' are completely irrelevant.

Most irritating of all is when I see customers who have been ‘professionally measured’, and who seem to have magically morphed into a size stocked by the shop they are in. Thus a woman who is a size 42c becomes a 38dd. This is somewhat fortunate for the shop she is in (which doesn’t actually stock a 42c, yet has a wide range of 38dds).

The unfortunate woman finds the band size underneath uncomfortable (although the widest part of the bust is big enough), but has been told that ‘it is just a matter of getting accustomed to it’. She has ‘been wearing the wrong size bra so long that she has got used to it feeling looser’. And all of this must be true, because she has been ‘professionally measured’ by a woman wielding a magic measuring-tape!

My best advice to women who at present take a band size in excess of size 38 is to try to be measured in an environment which stocks the widest range of sizes. These are the stores that can be relied upon to give a truly impartial service. This may also go some way towards persuading those stores with a limited size range to get real and start to stock the range of sizes necessary to reflect the size of real women today-surely not too much to ask from a specialist lingerie store...


Angie    Wednesday 02 December 2009 at 23:03

 Post #96 

Subject: leather coat.

I have searched the web far and wide to find a decent leather coat in the U.K.
I am looking for a hooded 3/4 length parka, or duffle style, and although I found just what I was looking for in America, do you think I can find one here?
We have places like Simply be, who offer fashionable leather jackets that end just under the bust. Could you imagine what I would look like in one of those, with my size 48 boobs???
I am a good size U.K.22


 Emma    Thursday 03 December 2009 at 15:13

Hi Angie

Thanks for your post. The simple answer to your question is no, I am not aware of anywhere in the UK that you could rely on for buying a coat like the one you describe - or, in fact, any really nice leather items in larger sizes - and I find this very disappointing. If an online supplier of good leather coats in larger sizes exists, then I have not heard of it. Perhaps if any other user of this forum has some information on this subject, they will reply to this post...

You really would think that what you are looking for (a good, useful, stylish leather coat, in what is actually not a very large size) would be readily available in the UK. I guess the Americans are ahead of us in some areas!

Designer stores like ours are one of the only ways to source a really good leather coat, but they are a fringe item in our ranges. We would commonly only stock a very small quantity of styles, and finding the one that ‘lights your fire’ and is available at any one given time, is a bit of a long-shot. We don’t have any leather coats in stock at the moment, I’m afraid.

In general terms I do feel that you have touched upon a real difficulty - i.e. the problem one encounters when trying to get something quite specific in larger sizes. When customers contact us with this kind of enquiry, the way that we deal with it is to try to source something specifically for a customer, but I would be the first person to admit that this is a far from perfect system.

What we would do is find out exactly what it is that the customer wants (it could be anything from a corset to a leather coat to a sweater dress), discuss details such as price point, colour, size, etc., check our stock, and then, if we don’t have it, note the item down in our ‘Wish List’. Then we would see if there is anything similar available from our suppliers.

Sometimes it can take up to two seasons to actually get the desired item, so it is a good idea to opt for a belt-and-braces approach, and still actively search online even while you are waiting.

I would give a word of warning, though. With items like a leather coat it is best to buy a very good quality item, spending as much as you can reasonably afford. Mail-order items are often a real let-down in this area. This sounds like the kind of thing a designer shop-owner would say, of course, but truly, I think it is all too often a false economy to choose the mail-order option.

I think you may have already pinpointed one of the problems of mass-availability items: design. Many of the larger companies show a shocking ignorance as to what suits a larger woman (no, by the way, I don’t think a short jacket usually looks good on a larger bust!). The other thing that is supremely important in an item made of leather is the quality of the hide. A stiff, cardboardy leather is never going to be a pleasure to wear, no matter how many times it gets an outing. In fact, it will only usually look worse with wear.

Alternatively, if you were able to wait, reach out to your favourite designer large-size store, and buy a really good quality item as soon as it is available, it will be worth it. A quality leather coat is a real investment. It’s a very practical piece of apparel that's wonderful come rain or shine. A designer coat will be fashion-forward - giving you a great deal of aesthetic satisfaction, and is likely to be in a classic or individual style that will not date. Best of all, unlike other materials, the leather will improve over time.

Unfortunately, I am only too aware this is one of my replies that goes all round the houses without actually helping you with your specific problem - for which I apologise! The only bright spot is that I truly believe that availability of a wide range of items in our size range is improving. It is up to all of us to keep on asking for what we want - we need to drive home to the manufacturers out there that the demand for these kinds of items exists!


Emma    Thursday 26 November 2009 at 00:58

 Post #95 

Subject: Fussy?

So I found myself in the nightwear department of a well-known chain store, looking for some new pyjamas. You may be able to guess the store I was in - it’s the one that supplies undies to the nation! Unfortunately, for me, the experience was bringing on ‘shopping rage’. I just couldn’t find what I wanted, even though there were hundreds of pyjamas on display. Why on earth was I being so fussy?

It was an odd set of circumstances that had brought me into this store. After having a bit of a health problem, I found that I needed an operation (I’ve since had it, and some of you may have realised that there has been a bit of a hiatus in my blogs whilst I have been recuperating). True to any surgical procedure, the operation seemed to require a massive loss of weight, so I have recently lost 4 stone, and gone down from a dress size 24 to a teeny-weenie size 18. This brings me into the very smallest size in our range - so I’m the Emma Plus version of size zero at the moment!

For my five-night stay in the hospital I wanted some nice pyjamas, and although I have collected some beautiful ones over the years (I haven’t worked in a large size store for nothing!), they no longer fitted me. I needed new ones. In our store we do sell pyjamas (although we don’t always have them in stock) but we certainly couldn’t be relied on to have a size 18 pair available. Most of our range goes from a size 20 upwards, with a smattering of 16s and 18s. My colleague, Jaq, ordered some beautiful ones from Nanso, which does lovely colourful jerseywear, but they had not arrived, and it was just a couple of days before my operation. In my new smaller state I felt confident that for once in my life I might be able to find what I wanted on the high street, so I strode forth.

On that particular shop floor there were so many different pairs of pyjamas; it was enough to make your head spin. Thick ones, silky ones, flimsy types and fleecy. Bright and dull coloured. Traditional and jazzy. There was just one problem... I didn’t like any of them. This was because each pair had a very short top. Held up against me, I could see that the jacket part of the nightwear ended just below my waist, at about navel level. They did not cover either the tummy area, or the bottom.

Bizarrely, this was the case for every style, no matter how they differed in other ways. Not a pyjama in the entire store had a top that would cover one’s derriere. Someone had taken it upon him or herself to decree that a longer top just wasn't allowed.

Now, pyjama trousers are not a thing of beauty around the bottom region. Why would anyone spend their hard-earned money buying a garment that was so incredibly unflattering? Honestly, who, other than Jennifer Anniston, would actually look good with their bottom hanging out of the back of their jym-jams?

However, this problem is particularly irksome for larger women. It's my belief that if one asked just about any woman over a size 16, she would confirm that, if she is wearing trousers (either during the day or at night), she will need a top that covers her bottom - it's hardly rocket science! So this is yet another example of a range of items being bought by a major store with inadequate knowledge and no consultation about what larger women want.

I roamed the department with my friend, getting more and more angry. The lone sales assistant I managed to wrestle to the ground (as she tried to dodge her way across the shop floor) obviously thought I was being incredibly fussy. But I wasn’t, actually. I just happened to know what I needed, and was not prepared to put up with something less.

In our store customers often apologise for being 'fussy' when they are merely being prescriptive about what they are looking for, and it usually makes me smile. These are women who have spent ages trying to find a specialist designer store. They have managed to track Emma Plus down. Then they have quite often travelled some distance to get here. They have been prepared to pay higher than high-street prices to buy our wares. Finally, they have often been happy to wait until the item has been altered to make the fit absolutely perfect, and sent on to them by mail.

In short, they have built the Emma Plus business in the likeness of what they really, really want. And they have kept us successfully trading for 20 years. If they had not been so 'fussy', then they would have given up and just bought items from the high street that they were not happy with. And the result would be that we would not exist.

Call it what you like, but fussiness is not a word I would readily use. I would prefer to call it taste.

Well, I had the operation and it was a success. I’m hoping to get back to work by Christmas – just in time for some very exciting new developments that I will discuss in a subsequent blog.

And, as luck would have it, my gorgeous Nanso pyjamas arrived just in time. They even had a beautiful matching dressing-gown (which Jaq had kept as a surprise). And the style of the top was long enough to cover my bottom - and then some!


Felicity Cook    Monday 09 February 2009 at 22:16

 Post #6 

Subject: Swimwear and big legs

Hi Emma,

I am so impressed with your site. I have been in touch once before and still haven't made it down to Brighton but will soon!

I have a question for you... being 56 and having struggled with my weight since the age of 5 I find now even after dieting, I have a big problem with my legs, from the knees up. Several years ago Speedo used to do swimwear with legs down to the knees... I don't seem to be able to find anything like this at all. Do you have any suggestions? I have been swimming in a body which comes almost down to my knees but isn't ideal.

The other thing is, I love wearing trousers but yet again, my legs are a problem for me. Loose fiiting trousers make me look even bigger and squarer and in my work, leading workshops, I need to be to get down on the floor, move around and look good when standing in front of a large group. do you have any suggestions for this dilemma also?!

many thanks for a stunning site!

Felicity, Cambridge


 Emma    Wednesday 11 February 2009 at 13:20

Hi Felicity

Thank you for your post, and kind words about my site - I will forward them to our IT expert!

You have mentioned a perennial problem that affects not just swimwear and trousers but many items of clothing... one's legs. You don't say what your particular problems are - but there are two main ones: size and texture.

Many women carry a disproportionate amount of their weight in their legs. Although this is the healthiest place to carry weight, one can feel very insecure about it being on display. Other women have textural problems with their skin. This can either be cellulite, loose skin (you mention dieting, which can be a cause), or even ridges that they consider aesthetically unpleasing.

If I were a swimwear designer, I would produce a much better selection of swimwear than that on offer in today's marketplace. My ideal range would have two elements (tankini style), with the customer given the choice of a number of different looks that could go together to create her perfect solution. She could choose a relatively svelte top with shorts, for instance, or a floaty, longer top over bikini-style bottoms. Every year I search the ranges, and am still impatiently awaiting something like this to be produced.

In the absence of such a solution I usually suggest an all-in-one swimsuit worn with a sarong. Sorry to be so mundane - and particularly sorry to suggest something which you have probably already thought of! The reality is that if you are covered up on the side of the water, you can quickly strip off the wrap and your legs won't be on show once you are in.

A couple of years ago I visited Australia and went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. To my horror, I discovered that we were going to be filmed, and the video sold to us afterwards. So I chose a really pretty, quite long vest, printed in a colourful floral pattern, and wore that over my swimsuit (which of course co-ordinated - I do own a clothes shop, after all!). Once wet, it didn't look that much unlike a swimsuit, except it was far less descriptive! Actually I was delighted with the result, and even bought a copy of the video! We stock vests like this every summer. If you would like one, you could always phone us and we will enter you into the wish-list.

With trousers, you really will need to come into the shop and have a good trying-on session, if that's possible. A lot of disappointment and frustration in fashion is caused not because one can't get anything to suit one, but because one doesn't get the opportunity to find out exactly what is right for one.

For example, if I had two different women in the shop, both of whom have larger legs and both of whom want to have trousers, I may well end up finding they opt for totally different design solutions. Although it is tempting to go for a wide leg when one carries one's weight there (and some people look stunning in them), others look 100 times better if they wear narrow (not too narrow, obviously), stretchy trousers, teamed with a much longer top. The trick is with the cut of the trouser and the texture of the fabric. If one wears narrow trousers, the fabric can be stretchy, but must never be clingy or silky. It has to have a firm texture, and preferably a dark colour. There is simply not enough space on this forum to do this subject justice, and nothing substitutes for a really good trying-on session.

I do believe that if you are able to come into the shop at a time when we are reasonably well-stocked (say, February-May for the spring collection, or September-October for the winter) I have every confidence that we will get you some fab trousers that solve your style conundrum once and for all. We will also be running another 'trouser day' as mentioned on the forum before. If you are able to attend this, you may find it revelatory. The dates are yet to be fixed, but will be posted on the forum when available.


 Felicity    Saturday 14 February 2009 at 19:20

Hi Emma

thankyou so much for taking such time to go into this subject in a way that I really felt heard!

I am going to get myself down to Brighton as soon as the Cambridge Academic term is over mid March.... I can't wait to see your collections and try some trousers.

many many thanks


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