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Here are all the posts in our Forum/Blog on the topic of Customers: body shape...

Mrs C    Tuesday 18 February 2014 at 19:08

 Post #387 



 
Subject: My wonderful coat! Plus a stock query.

 
When I was in the shop one day having something altered I was shown a long, fitted, shaped,quilted coat with a hood. I thought it was very nice but felt that I already had some nice winter coats so perhaps I would not buy yet. Then, on reflection I thought it would be just right for my forthcoming trip Stockholm and bought it. I took it on my trip and due to the appalling weather both there and on my return, I have hardly been out of it since!! The make is Frandsen. not cheap but well worth every penny of my investment. It is both warm and rainproof and dries very quickly and it is smarter than most quilted coats. it is also quite light in weight. It also saved me from a minor injury one day at Skansen zoo! So many thanks for showing it to me.
PS When will the new season linen trousers be in ?

 

 Emma    Wednesday 19 February 2014 at 23:35

 
Hi Mrs C,

Thank you so much for your lovely post about your Fransden coat. Yes, I also have that coat, and I love it!

It's a very interesting thing about padded coats. Many women (of any size) avoid them, thinking that they can add bulk, and make them look bigger. This can certainly be true of padded or 'puffa' coats: particularly the un-tailored styles. However, when they are beautifully tailored and cut, they are not only perfectly flattering, but, as you say, warm and light.

Fransden is owned by Godske, which is a Danish brand, and to be honest, there is virtually nothing that can be taught the Scandinavians about coats! This is something that I have found over again, and why I am so keen to make sure we always have some lovely Godske coats in stock. Shortly we will be getting their summer-weight raincoats. These are unbelievably good.

Please, do tell what happened at the zoo...you have really piqued my curiosity! Was it an out-of-control orangotan, or was it the old, old story of the wayward camel running amok?

I believe we have already had some fabulous linen trousers in. Kim (on our number 01273327240) is our resident queen of trousers, and she will give you the low-down if you call....

 

Emma    Tuesday 02 April 2013 at 17:22

 Post #346 



 
Subject: Idealism

I was going through the airport duty free section when I noticed an advertisement for a new type of foundation. I had wandered into the cosmetics department, looking for some top-ups for my make-up bag. It pleased me greatly to see this new formulation, which offered what seemed an almost limitless number of different shades. Gone are the days, it seems, when there were only three or four shades of human skin that warranted matching make-up. A few years ago only some lucky women were ‘worth that’ it seemed.

However, I have always known that, whatever the range, even if there are a thousand different shades of foundation on offer, I will need to have either colour number 1 (the absolute palest) in the winter, or number 2 (after I have a particularly impressive tan at the end of the summer). Yes, I really am that deathly pale!

I think it is a generally accepted fact that any skin looks a bit better with a bit of melanin in it, but I am happy to accept my ‘shortcomings’, just as I accept the fact that I do not have a waist. When I was younger, I was annoyed with my faults, but I have long ‘forgiven’ my body for not being exactly what I would like it to be.

I remember listening to a record as a child that suggested that the world would be a much better place if it comprised ‘one big melting pot, turning out coffee-coloured people by the score’. I was appalled. Of course, if there were such a scenario, then I (and my snow-white legs) would personally have a lot to gain, but I felt, even as a young child, that the world would be greatly impoverished in the process.

It seems to me that there are forces always at work that try to cajole us either into all being the same or into feeling ashamed or inferior because of our diversity. Women with whiter than white skin like mine often slap on layers of self-tan, even while some of our sisters bleach their skin to try to achieve that elusive café-au-lait beauty. Some women try to straighten their hair, and, for hundreds of years, some have squeezed their figures with corsets in the course of giving themselves the required body shape.

Actually, I think these forces are very strong, have always been there, and are probably more powerful today than they have ever been. We are continually subliminally (and sometimes not so subliminally) told we have to have one type of hair, to be a certain age, a particular height, a type of body shape, no more than a maximum weight, and yes, a certain shade of skin. If you are any different from this then you are a failure, and you cannot ever achieve beauty.

Maybe it’s just because I am a contrary type of gal, or perhaps it is because I have never personally fitted into to these ‘ideals’, that I have never accepted them. Or maybe it’s because I have observed that they have absolutely nothing to do with actual beauty. They are just a form of bullying. If you don’t believe me, I can prove it... Just sit in a coffee shop and watch the people going past. Look at their faces, their bodies, and their general appearance. Men and women; I defy you to really try to tell me that it is only those who fit into the accepted cultural norms of attractiveness (those rules about height and weight, colouring, body shape etc.) who are beautiful.

I refuse to feel badly about myself, just because my legs could be used as beacons, warning sailors not to crash on the rocks. Nor do I feel particularly ashamed because my measurements are more or less all the same - all the way down my body - so that I am always in danger of my skirt falling around my ankles.

When women come into my shop I often see a strange phenomenon. I see beautiful women dressing as if they think they are plain. When you talk to these customers they often say that they strongly believe that they are not attractive. It seems odd, because it’s hard to understand how they can avoid having noticed how lovely they look. Don’t they have a mirror? I cannot always change their point of view, but, by golly, I can provide them with the clothes they need to dress to their best.

I strongly believe in the beauty of the diversity of human beings. No matter how strongly the forces that try to shape us all in the same mould (and try to make us feel inferior if we don’t ‘shape up’) press down on us, I will do my best to make my store a haven from those pressures.

It’s my belief that is what a plus-size store should be. Because if it isn’t about this, what on earth is it for?

 

 Kim P    Thursday 04 April 2013 at 16:31

 
Well said Emma!

BTW, those two lovely grey dresses I bought for work are a great success. Had several compliments and I am so pleased I was lucky to be able to get them both. Thank you!

 

 Emma    Friday 05 April 2013 at 11:08

 
Thanks, Kim!

You looked fab in those dresses: so glad you got them!

Looking forward to seeing you on the ASD!?

 

 Kim P    Wednesday 10 April 2013 at 18:06

 
Sadly can't now do the ASD but our conference is in Brighton again this June so will be sure to pop in then!

 

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    Thursday 31 May 2012 at 17:14

 Post #295 



 
Subject: Arms and the woman

As the summer begins to make itself more apparent (little by little), an age-old problem starts to rear its head. What to do about our arms?

Readers of this blog will know that I am from a ‘large’ family; I am not a ‘first generation’ large woman. My mother was large before me (as was my father, and all of my siblings, actually!). So from an early age I became accustomed to my mother bemoaning the state of her arms.

Mum was a piano teacher, accompanist, organist and pianist - so you would think that she enjoyed about as toned a pair of arms as it would be possible to possess. She had to use her arms, exercising them in terms of posture, strength and control for many hours at a time, several days a week for decades. She was a lovely-looking woman, blessed with beautiful skin; there was not a single blemish or stretch mark on her gorgeous, brown, silky arms.

Yet the size and shape of those limbs drove her to distraction. As a child I could never see the problem myself: her arms were smooth and perfectly formed to my eyes. Yes, she did have quite unusual ‘half a tennis ball’- shaped pads right on her elbows, but I found them absolutely gorgeous (I used to play with them when I was little!).

Mum always wanted sleeves in her dresses and tops, and yet, with summer clothes, found these difficult to source. All the pretty things were sleeveless. How things have changed! (That was a sarcastic comment by the way.)

Roll forward 40-odd years and here am I, with a somewhat sub-standard pair of arms. Not sub-standard in the truly important things of life, you understand. I can, for instance, use my arms perfectly. I have good, robust, strong, flexible arms - for which I will be forever grateful. However, they are not things of beauty.

My main arm problem is that recent weight loss has left me with a flange of skin which is totally unsuited to my lifestyle. If I were, for instance, one of those monkeys that jumps from treetop to treetop stretching out its arms and using a parachute of skin to float in the air, these limbs would be perfectly suitable! In fact, should I ever find myself falling from a great height, I may well be able to save my life by breaking my fall with my wonderful 'wings'.

However, it’s not something that I find myself needing to use on an everyday basis.

So when I am out and about, like my mother before me, I have a tendency to make sure that I wear sleeves. But I have discovered a very interesting thing about arms...

When I am in the shop, as it is a ‘large woman’s space’ I don’t really mind about showing my upper limbs, and in the warm weather will often walk around in the sleeveless items that are often still the most pretty (nothing really changes). When I do this, at least once a day, I get complimented on my ‘lovely arms’, with customers often stating that they envy my being ‘able’ to go sleeveless.

When this happens, I usually make sure that I let the women get a very good close-up of my arms, at which point every single one of them has had to admit that their own arms are far more attractive than mine (I believe in being honest and never get offended at hearing the plain truth). But my point is this: they have to be very close up and looking intently before they realise the truth. Were it not for my insistence that they do it, this close-up inspection would be something that would be almost impossible.

It has taken me years to realise something that I was very resistant to admit: people just don’t notice most supposed defects in other people! In fact, people may well not see very much, and when greeted with a good outfit, worn with confidence, will simply make a positive assumption.

Often, even the most beautiful woman has some part of her body that she doesn’t particularly care for (and amongst slim women, it is often arms, actually!). Most of the time there will be a grain of truth behind this insecurity. Yet a wise and attractive woman will make her body look as good as it can - as a whole.

The onlooker will then take in the overall image, and if it is a lovely one, fill in the blanks with something quite attractive. That makes the most logical sense.

I am not saying “Hey! I’ve found out the cure for all your insecurities! Just ignore them from now on and they will go away!”. No, my advice is merely pragmatic. Disguise your weaker areas, but don’t beat yourself up about them, and don’t lose out on looking really good because of a personal obsession. Don’t refuse to buy the outfit of your dreams because the cami is sleeveless, and there is a one-in-a-hundred chance that you may have to take your jacket off for ten minutes. (During which time, precisely no-one will notice your arms!)

Instead, buy something you love. Make yourself look as gorgeous as possible, slap on some self-tan and step out with your head held high. You will look fabulous...

 

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    Saturday 14 January 2012 at 15:08

 Post #267 



 
Subject: Curvy?

I was reading an article the other day about modern politically correct language. It seems that many terms for people that were not acceptable in the seventies are now perceived as reasonably harmless. There are passing trends, not just in clothing, but in language!

In my business my preferred term for us larger women is ‘plus size’, or simply ‘large’. I cringe when I hear a larger woman described as ‘big’ (men are ‘big’, women are larger-sized... to me, there is something so unfeminine about the word ‘big’), and I find myself reeling back when I hear the phrase ‘big girls’. Although I have quite a few customers who merrily call themselves big girls, it brings to mind the term ‘big girl’s blouse’, which I take to mean something somewhat pathetic and useless - characteristics alien to my customers. Also, the use of the word ‘girl’ to describe a full grown woman has an infantilising effect; not really the kind of thing that sits well with sophisticated fashion.

The term ‘plus sized’ seems to have very little wrong with it. If something is ‘plus’ or has ‘plus points’ this is entirely positive, in the same way that ‘minus’ and ‘less’ seems to simply diminish the object. However, I have heard women complain about the term, because they feel that it tip-toes around the fact that we are larger, and is somewhat patronising. No wonder sometimes people don’t know what to say for the best!

You may ask why, on a fashion blog, I am even occupying my time in discussing such an esoteric subject. Well, it’s my belief that what you call something can actually have an impact on how it is treated. Years ago, when I was a large schoolgirl growing up with a large sister and mother, most clothes available on the high street in plus sizes were called ‘outsize’ clothes. And yes, the styles existed in a world outside fashion. They were completely different from the clothing available to smaller women. We were standing on the ‘outsize’ of fashion, peering in, and that was a frustrating place to be! Even today, there are archaic ranges being marketed to us plus-size boutique owners under the description of ‘outsize’ clothing, and they are simply horrible clothes. It seems the name they give their fashion speaks volumes about what they are peddling!

I have a bit of a problem with the word ‘curvy’, which seems the almost ubiquitous word to describe larger women these days. And funnily enough, it is the same basic reason that I have against the word ‘outsize’, albeit in the opposite direction. Whereas the latter word is an insulting term for the larger woman, I feel the former may in fact gloss over the shortcomings of the shape of some of those women. Saying a range is for the ‘outsize’ woman encourages the ‘designer’ (I am somewhat reluctant to use that word, but you know what I mean) to have a prejudice about the customer - stereotyping her as a woman with no sexuality, no style and no figure to speak of; lumping (excuse the term!) everyone in as the same.

However, I feel that the use of the word ‘curvy’ can do the same thing... but in the opposite direction!

In my opinion, a ‘curvy’ woman is a woman (of any size) that has one of a group of body types. Usually they have an hourglass body shape, although they can be a moderate pear shape, or a large-busted woman.

What they simply cannot be is an apple shaped woman! I say this as an apple-shaper myself. The reason for this is simple: it is very rude (the old fashioned word for ‘politically incorrect’) to refer openly to something that is to the detriment of someone present.

It is not detrimental to refer to the womanly curve that flows over a bust, and in to a smaller waist, before gently expanding to describe a feminine derriere. Yet I feel that it is rather rude to refer to a curve that goes out from under the bust, extending ever outwards until it reaches the meridian of the body, before returning, like the underside of a lollipop. Not all curves are good. Please, I would prefer it if you don’t notice my ‘curve’ (an apple shaper does not have ‘curves’ she has just one curve!), and if you do, I would be quite happy if you don’t mention it - in the same way that I wouldn’t overtly mention that your husband has lost his hair.

The term can also rub salt in the wound of the large number of women who have a straight body shape... those women that I refer to as ‘athletic’ build - although they can also be called ‘column shaped’ - while many women with the ‘well-proportioned’ body shape, who wish they had better definition, also feel excluded.

So it galls me when the word ‘curvy’ is used as a collective noun for all plus-sized women, when it actually only describes the lucky few! And, like the unfortunate situation with the word ‘outsize’, it can actually have some kind of effect on the brains of the designers.

There does seem to be a positive glut of designers creating fashion for the ‘curvy’ woman. This is, of course, a good thing. But readers of my blog will know that I am obsessed with diversity and trying to fit all equally well. I think it’s all too simple for a designer to say ‘I like women who have a real ‘lady’ shape, whatever size she is, and that’s the kind of woman I am going to design for. If there are women out there whose figures have anything beyond a moderate degree of imperfection or are out of proportion, then let them go buy another collection'. Unfortunately, there are all too many designers who feel this way.

In fact, the real art of dressing us larger women is to understand our imperfections, celebrate our deviations, and to flatter our forms, whatever they are. My business is all about diversity and (to use a very old-fashioned PC phrase) equal opportunities! I’m glad to say that there are still many designers who really understand larger women, with their various silhouettes, and provide gorgeous, accessible looks for everyone. Designers like Sallie Sahne (pictured above right: a gorgeous soft jacket from the Spring/Summer 12 collection) or Anna Scholz even manage to bring out the attractive curves in women who didn’t think they had any! That is a game worth playing!

Certainly many plus-size women are curvy, and I’m exceedingly grateful that they have some lovely designer collections. However, I am acutely aware that they only form part of the population of larger women, and it is our job to style each and every woman who enters our shop.

With that in mind, we will be fitting clothes to women who are plus-size, curvy, larger - and even those who are big girls!

Sadly, 'outsize' women may want to look elsewhere!

 

caroline stevens    Friday 26 August 2011 at 00:55

 Post #237 



 
Subject: Daughters wedding 24th September!!!

 
Help! Im a size 24....apple shape...looking for an outfit. I think I am going to wear trousers.. I do like floaty type tops....just discovered the cowl neck which seems to disguise a multitude of problems ..there is a bit of a 20`s theme going on. Im 60....just! Any ideas very welcome

 

 Emma    Friday 26 August 2011 at 17:13

Hi Caroline

Thank you for your question! It does sound as if you are well on the way to not needing any advice.... As an apple shape, your choice of a floaty, tunic-type, pretty top over trousers is an excellent idea.

I also endorse your views about cowl necks. Anything that will take the eye away from the centre of the body is going to look flattering. Either an interesting neck, or some kind of embellishment on the neck or shoulder area, will draw the eye. The top that I have pictured (see right) is from the latest autumn/winter Anna Scholz collection, and has beading around the shoulders and neck. I am a fellow apple-shaper and I have this top (it's gorgeous).

Even though it is quite early in the season, if you are able to get into the shops quite soon, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the choice of new items that have already made their way into stores.

With a wedding in late September, it is a good idea to be looking now, so that you can find something lovely, and put your mind at rest. You really don't need to worry; as someone who's a size 24 (our average size), and is interested in getting something with a bit of a fashion look, the world's your oyster this season!
 

Emma    Monday 04 July 2011 at 00:09

 Post #223 



 
Subject: Fit

There is a subject that I can’t help returning to in my blog. It’s one that's very important, not just to me as a plus-size fashion retailer, but for me as a plus-size woman - and, I think, also for many women reading this page.

The subject is that of body shape. This is so important because it is Big Retail’s failure to deal with it that is responsible ultimately for the failure of the high street to provide the clothing choice necessary for plus-size women.

I would like you to imagine that I am - as indeed I am - a woman aged 50, and interested in fashion, yet with one vital difference: I have shrunk down to a size 12. In this situation our high streets would look very different to me. I would be able to buy my clothes in dozens of chain stores and thousands of independent shops - providing me with a rich tapestry of fashion options.

In the chain stores I could, for instance, buy from the cheap-and-cheerful fashion ranges like New Look, Hennes and Zara. Or, if I were looking for mid-range, I could have a quick look in Marks and Spencer, or scan Next’s range. Later, I could hop off to Warehouse and French Collection. Climbing up the price and style ladder, I could browse my way through Hobbs, Cos and Jaeger. There would be a huge variety of styles, quality and exciting fashion looks.

If I were in London - with the world my oyster - I could visit the big stores like Harrods, John Lewis, Liberty and Selfridges. I could spend days just doing these stores and come away loaded with great looks.

In the afternoon I could pop my nose round any one of any number of thousands of really lovely independent boutiques and see the latest in designer styles.

So why, if I have the same money in my pocket - and the same interest in fashion - am I (in reality a larger woman) not given these options? In our city, Brighton (my own shop aside), I would only be able to try on a tiny selection of items in New Look, a very few somewhat depressing pieces in Hennes, and some (frankly frustrating) clothes in Marks and Spencer. After that I would have to go only to stores that specialise in items made in plus sizes. In Brighton, these are Evans and Anne Harvey.

The price point of these stores is relatively low (I leave aside the issue of whether it is actually rather high in relation to the quality on offer). The fashion is disappointing and the quality can be frankly shocking. I’m not criticising those stores for being what they are, any more than I am criticising Zara for being what it is - or, for that matter, Jaeger for being Jaeger. My question is this: the vast majority of clothing on offer for this half of the population is strikingly similar. Where is the variety?

In our business the received wisdom is that larger women don’t want to pay for nice clothes... that, in some way, we don’t really care about looking good or being fashionable... that any shop specialising in plus size fashion of higher quality, fashion and price, will fail.

In a funny kind of way, I agree with this analysis - but only up to a point. Many larger women simply won’t pay for pricier clothes. But the reason for this is not what the industry thinks. In my opinion, the horrible supply and demand problems that afflict the plus-size fashion industry stem directly from the failure to address the fit problem.

If I were to take, say, a hundred size-12 women, they would all be different body shapes. Some would be apple shaped, some pear, some hourglass, some well-proportioned, some top-heavy, some athletic. This is what human females are like: we come in a range of shapes. However, with the size-12 women, the variance between them is small. Most of them would still be able to fit into the same clothes, even if they did not necessary all have the same silhouettes.

However, if I were to take a hundred size-22 women, the story would be strikingly different. Yes, they would have the same range of body shapes. Yet their body differences would be amplified. In this case there could easily be 10 whole inches of difference between women of the same size but different body shape. For instance, if I were a size-22 apple shape, my waist would be considerably larger than my pear shaped friend, who takes the same dress size. And my hips, in turn, would be much smaller than hers. It’s quite possible that if an item of clothing fitted one of us, the other one simply wouldn’t be able to do it up.

If I were forced to try to shoe-horn my friend and me into wearing clothes with the same fit, I would have to start thinking about a sloppy, unflattering, generic shape. It would be impossible for us to actually look fashionable, attractive or chic. And the number of styles that could be made to fit both of us would be small.

Were I to stumble into a shop that sold clothes with this kind of 'apathetic' fit and paucity of styles, I would rapidly start looking for the exit. But if, as is the situation in many towns in Britain, this were the only store that sold my size (and I really needed something to wear), then I would probably buy something.

One thing I would never do, however, is pay good money for clothing that is generic, sloppy and makes me look lack-lustre. Nor would I fork out for the same-old, same-old. I would happily have a little splurge on something beautiful that made me look and feel good... I love fashion and believe it is important to me as a person. Actually, I am rather prone to spending a little too much on fashion. But I baulk at paying out for something that does not inspire, delight or excite me.

As a population, we are getting bigger every year. The section of the population that wears plus-size clothing is not going to go away any time soon. And the big retail companies are all about exploiting markets to make money. Sooner or later, someone, somewhere has got to start to ponder why the plus-size fashion industry is so dysfunctional.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good for my business that women get in their cars in Swansea, Billericay or Totnes - or even in Madrid (to travel to the airport) - and make their way into our shop. The desperation of our customers, who - fed up with having so little choice of clothing in their locality - decide to come to Emma Plus, is very good for business.

But as a plus-size woman myself, it makes my blood boil. Something really ought to be done about it! Even if it spoiled my own trade, I would be more than happy to offer help and advice to ‘Big Retail’ to try to sort out their shortcomings. It simply can’t go on the way it is.

 

 Kim P    Friday 08 July 2011 at 23:14

 
Great comments as always Emma. The easiest way to look like you have lost weight is to wear clothes that fit well and luckily there are plenty of such garments in Emma Plus!

 

 Emma    Monday 11 July 2011 at 00:20

 
Hi Kim!

Yes, it's an interesting point you make... I've had numerous customers over the years who have told me that friends or family have found it very difficult to believe that they are plus-size women, despite the obvious fact that they are!

Eventually, we have come to the conclusion that, to many small people, being large is synonimous with being badly dressed and presented. As soon as a woman looks gorgeous, they forget that she is plus-size, and find they simply can't believe she is, even when the fact is pointed out to them!

 

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!

 

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    Friday 16 April 2010 at 18:07

 Post #131 



 
Subject: Gorgeous!

Hi Emma

It was lovely to see you back today, collecting your alterations. Thank you so much for letting us show this picture of you looking lovely in your new Anna Scholz dress.

An expert eye may be able to see that we have adapted the fit of it (and made a tiny tweak to the design of the sleeves) to suit your petite frame...

 

Emma    Monday 22 March 2010 at 23:21

 Post #125 



 
Subject: Fit for life

Many women I know tell me that they have items in their wardrobe which they like the look of, but for some mysterious reason never wear. Very often these are lovely clothes, in beautiful colours, fashionable styles and sumptuous fabrics, which they have owned for years. Yet every time they are put on, they are taken straight back off again.

There may be many reasons for this: the colour might not be correct for the owner’s skin tone, they may be too hot or too heavy to wear. Conversely, they may be too flimsy and revealing. Or the owner may be sensitive to the fabric and start to feel that tell-tale prickle on their skin as soon as the garment is slipped on.

However, the most common reason for ‘rejected garment syndrome’ is fit. Or perhaps I should say, lack of fit.

You know when something doesn’t fit you well. In a nutshell, you don’t feel good in it. It tends to accentuate your bad features, whilst not making the best of your sylph-like areas. You look larger, less chic, less graceful and less sassy when you are wearing an ill-fitting garment.

Bad fitting is probably the number-one problem in the large-size market today. In the past, just getting lovely clothes in our size range was the big issue, but now (if you are prepared to put in the leg-work), with the advent of so many fantastic new ranges, it is possible to find absolutely gorgeous clothes to suit any body shape and skin tone.

However, fit is a perennial problem. It is so difficult for most women to find clothing that really fits them well, it’s possible for them to get very frustrated. With all the advances made in our industry, why-oh-why can’t they simply get the fit right?

Regular readers of this blog will probably find themselves anticipating what I am going to say, which I fear is along the same lines as what I am always saying: this is a very complex subject because women are very diverse in their physicality. We are not all the same, and with larger women, our differences are exaggerated.

When you think about it, it's fairly obvious that it is not up to the manufacturer to produce garments that automatically fit all of us, all of the time. That's clearly never going to happen! With each of us being such a different size and shape, it is not possible. If a garment actually fits us straight off (and it happens to be something we like), then we are happy and lucky. Otherwise the item will have to be made to fit.

The best a really good designer collection can do is sort out its own fit, so that their customers know where they are. A collection like, for instance, the Irish company, Personal Choice, is very reliable with fit. I would call it ‘spot on’ for an average-height woman, who has a well-proportioned frame. This can be contrasted with, for example, the Italian collection, Elena Miro, which tends to be a little small for its size, especially on the bottom half. But once you know of the fit, you can tell what to expect and what size to seek out. The trick is not to get too hung up on the size as it is marked on the label. After all, if it fits, why would it matter if you take a larger size in this particular collection?

So say you have sorted out your size in one of these ranges. You may find that in a certain style, you take a Personal Choice size 26 skirt. That is to say, in order to get this skirt on, this is the size you will take. But does it actually fit?

What is a fit? Is there a regulation tightness or looseness that constitutes ‘fitting’? Where does the hang of the garment come into it? Do all parts of the garment have to fit the same? Do all fabrics need the same kind of fit? What are the aesthetic requirements of a fit, and are practical concerns a priority? What is the psychology of a good fit?

Fitting is an art, not a science. It takes patience, observation and an open mind. When it comes to fit, fixed ideas will not help the process of getting it right.

It’s good to start with practical issues, which do indeed take priority. When you are talking about the physical requirements of fit, it is important to think how the garment is expected to perform. For instance, with larger women there are particular issues with movement. When we bend or alter position, our bodies - which are softer and have a far more flexible shape - will need extra fabric or stretch to accommodate this. During movement, fabric can be drawn over our bodies to a greater degree. If, for example, a size 8 woman wearing a knee-length skirt sits down, her skirt may still be knee length. If, however, a size 30 woman wearing a knee-length skirt sits down, she may - to her alarm - find her skirt disappearing like a blind being pulled up. However good her legs look, this may well be the last time she chooses to wear a skirt this short, and she may find herself deciding to remain standing on the train all the way home!

Stretch fabrics react completely differently to static fabrics, and bias-cut garments have a different character - offering a different type of flexibility: so-called ‘mechanical stretch’. Thicker, more textured fabrics can often take a tighter fit than fine, shiny or clingy ones. A good fitter will automatically alter stretch and bias fabrics in different ways to other fabrics, and will always keep the look of different weights, textures and surface effects in mind.

But it is with the aesthetics of fit that things really start to get complicated. If I were to be simplistic about it, I would say that we are back to our old friends diversion and concealment. If there is one ‘problem’ area that we are particularly sensitive about, then the fabric should be slightly looser there. This means that the fabric can flow loosely, not describing the body shape too fully. If there is an area of the body that one is particularly pleased with, or is rather smaller than is proportional, this can have a slightly tighter cut of fabric, drawing the eye toward it, and revealing the shape in more detail.

Women with a firm, toned figure, and/or young women, may well have a different aesthetic. Self-confidence and a well-proportioned shape may do away with the need to disguise areas, and will lead a closer fit being sought.

For the rest of us, we rely on a little subterfuge. For example, I, as an apple shape, may want to have tops that are not too tight across the tummy. Yet I could go for a really close-fitting pair of trousers. But it is not as simple as just buying a large blouse and a smaller pair of trousers. If I bought a blouse large enough to flow effortlessly across my ample tummy, it would be too large on the bust and shoulders. And if I bought a trouser that was tight enough on my legs, I almost certainly would never be able to do it up around the waist. And I don’t want shapeless garments: even the areas of looseness should have a defined, feminine form.

This, in a nutshell, is why we do so many alterations in our store. In order to get the perfect look, and something that is practical and comfortable, we have to alter most garments to fit their individual owners perfectly.

So going back to your size 26 Personal Choice skirt... Does it actually fit you? Is the waist a little tight (the waistband may need some attention)? Are the hips somewhat wide? Would they benefit from shaping to fit your slightly narrower hips? Would the length be correct with the shoes you had in mind?

If you were buying this skirt from us, we would not want you to leave the store without having these issues attended to by our alteration service.

Some people are daunted by the idea of all these alterations, yet they can be the making of a garment, turning it into the wonderful wardrobe staple that you really look and feel fabulous in.

So it may be worth looking at that rejected garment in the wardrobe, and thinking about seeking out a good alteration service. It really could make all the difference...!

 

 Kim P    Thursday 25 March 2010 at 20:31

 
Hi Emma, we have become so used to accepting poor service and "it will do" clothing from other retailers that you are having to point out the benefits of wearing clothes that fit properly. Would seem obvious but I suspect a quick rummage through our wardrobes will suggest otherwise!

 

 Emma    Thursday 25 March 2010 at 23:23

 
Hi Kim

How right you are! The other thing that I think has happened is that we have forgotten that clothes are manufactured items which are supposed to be made to fit us, not the other way round!

When we as larger people find that clothes don't fit, we often blame ourselves, which is barmy if you think about it!

 

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...

 

Susie Grant    Friday 23 October 2009 at 21:07

 Post #84 



 
Subject: Size

 
Just found your site - your clothes are fabulous but surely your models do not reflect the size of ladies that you are catering for.

 

 Emma    Saturday 24 October 2009 at 15:11

Hi Susie

Thank you for your post. You make an interesting point that I have always felt would arise on this forum sometime!

As with a lot of interesting questions, although on the surface the subject appears simple, it is in fact quite complicated.

The images that we have on our site fall into two groups. One comprises pictures that we or our customers have provided, and represents the clothes that we have had in our store. These photographs are mainly on our forum, and are usually of either happy shoppers wearing our outfits, or our own shop window mannequins modelling our styles. We have two mannequins, one of which is a size 20 and the other a size 24 (and so are at the lower end of our size range). However, by definition these images are of clothing in plus sizes.

The other set of images that we have on our website are those provided by our suppliers, and are posed on professional models. We have little influence over our suppliers in their choice of women sporting their looks. (It would not be practical for us to take our own photographs on models-we can only really do it on our mannequins.) If you have not already done so, it may be a good idea, at this point, to check out the pictures that are on our ‘Our Range’ pages. Believe it or not, these women (in the main) are considered to be ‘plus-size models’!

This is because the models for any particular size range are always far taller and slimmer than the average woman. Thus for ‘mainstream’ fashion, the models can be six feet tall and a size eight (surely no-one can deny that is a freak of nature). In the plus size range, the models would be size 16 or 18, six feet (or more) tall women. These plus size models often do not have a single scrap of extra flesh on their frame, and are perfectly proportioned.

I know that some doubt that these models are in fact a size 16 or 18 (they certainly look very slim). For most of the speciality plus-size ranges, however, I can personally vouch for the fact that these extraordinarily perfect looking women must actually be this size, because the clothes they wear in the photographs are. I have seen and checked over the sample clothes provided to the models, and I promise they are ‘plus size’. That is always supposing that you consider plus size to be 16 or 18.

Which leads us on to a whole other can of beans! I personally think it is ridiculous (and a scandal) that women who are size 16 or 18 are considered ‘plus size’. This is patent nonsense, because the average woman in Britain today is 5 feet 4 inches tall and a size 16. By definition, size 16 is average-sized, and in no way 'large'. In fact, taking the models' height into account, they are actually much slimmer than the norm. (You may have gathered by now that this is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine!)

This is, in a nutshell, where fashion and ‘real life’ collide. It could be argued that the fashion industry is at present living in cloud-cuckoo land. One day, I feel sure, larger women will be considered just another current in the mainstream. All we can do for now is to express ourselves as the women we are (beautiful and fashionable) and ask over and over again to be realistically represented in this industry.

So I applaud your question, and hope that you continue asking it of every fashion professional you encounter! I will certainly continue to bring this up with our suppliers, and - as I know for a fact that some of them read this forum - am very happy that you have raised it here!
 

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    Thursday 23 July 2009 at 22:04

 Post #64 



 
Subject: Athletic build

Be careful what you wish for... as if you get it, you may not be so pleased with it after all. Many of my customers complain that they are too curvy - yet if they were without their curves, I think they would miss them.

Large women usually have at least one part of their body that they believe is disproportionately big. It could be that they have a generously sized stomach, a magnificent bust or a bootyliscious bottom that they feel they could live without. The ‘athletic’ build woman, on the other hand, has no such problem. It is more likely that she will worry about not having enough shape.

The athletic-shaped woman (I call her this, because this is actually the shape of the majority of female athletes - it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone with this bodyshape is athletic) is actually rather well-proportioned. She is symmetrical, with no area of her body presenting any particular issue. She tends to have reasonably wide shoulders, medium thickness in limbs, rather a thick waist, and a slightly smaller bust and hips than one would expect for her size.

In many ways it’s great to be this body shape. It is a real advantage not to have any part of one’s body that is constantly making you feel self-conscious. These women (like their well-proportioned sisters) tend to look slimmer than they are. They carry their weight well, having less cellulite than other women (they will stoutly disagree with me here, but no matter... I am right!). Gravity does not have such a pull on their flesh as they grow older (because it is well-distributed around their frame). And, possibly because of this, many of them move very well, and tend to be more active than the average woman.

But (and you knew there was going to be a but!) their shape is not a feminine one, and they have particular issues to deal with if they wish to dress well.

When a woman has a shape that is not naturally particularly feminine, there are two main temptations, both of which have to be resolutely resisted...

The first is trying to feminise to an exaggerated extent. You can see why people would do this. It’s a natural urge to make up for a deficit by over-compensating. The problem is, if a woman with an athletic build tries to wear a hyper-feminine look, she can actually emphasise her lack of feminine features, and end up looking rather incongruous. It can appear immature and undignified if a large woman, with a signal lack of feminine shape, tries to sport a frilly or flouncy look. And trying for a silhouette showcasing the usual female hotspots (like an ample cleavage, small waist or curvy hips) can misfire and only serve to display the lack of these assets.

The other temptation is to take the line of least resistance and opt for a mannish look. Well, one may think, if I don’t have the emphatic female shape, perhaps I should just accept that and adopt an androgynous style.

For those with a mannish, androgynous personality, this is probably an excellent idea: nothing could possibly suit you more, and you are particularly lucky that your figure happens to reflect your personality. I have found, however, that it is extremely rare that a woman’s body shape completely accords with her character. Most large-busted women do not really enjoy being buxom. And many tall women would simply love to be petite. Curly haired women spend hours in the bathroom with the hair straighteners... but I digress.

We can assume that many (though not all) women with the athletic body shape would not be happy to look mannish and androgynous, and would like to look as feminine as possible, without ending up like a fairy at the top of a Christmas tree.

I would suggest that she does so by taking a leaf out of the ‘apple shaped’ woman’s book. That is to adopt the optical tricks that will provide the illusion of a more hour-glass shape, without going over the top.

The neat, fitted jacket is a key item in the wardrobe for this woman. But it should be soft (anything too rigid would start to look mannish) and a bit longer than the jacket that the apple woman would wear. This is because the larger athletic woman would probably like to disguise her thighs and bottom more than the apple-shaped woman. She should avoid padded shoulders, or anything that has any trace of male tailoring, like peg-topped trousers (despite what the fashion pundits might say at the time!).

Detailing should be minimal. It’s fine to have classic details like interesting jacket-collar revers, but these should not expand into anything too elaborate like flounces or frills. Skirts should be simple and streamlined, and anything like tiers should be avoided like the plague. Sleek, minimal dresses can look stunning. Trousers can be more adventurous. Depending on height, this body shape can really carry off interesting trouser looks! I have seen athletic women wearing a wide variety of different trousers, from jeans-with-attitude to super-wide jersey pants.

Colour can be used to emphasise femininity. In fact, I would suggest that women with this body shape really owe it to themselves to do something interesting with colour or print in their wardrobe. To make up for the femininity deficit, they have to inject something stylish into their choice of fabric. Without the added pizaaz that the ultra-feminine body shapes offer, the athletic woman would end-up looking very dowdy indeed if she stuck to the usual large woman’s obsession with black.

The wonderful thing about this body shape is that it’s a simple undertaking to dress it well. And once that has been achieved, the athletic-shaped woman transforms into a well-proportioned woman. It’s a little bit of fashion magic.

 

Emma    Wednesday 24 June 2009 at 23:20

 Post #59 



 
Subject: Getting it in proportion

 
They always say that if you disagree with someone, you should try to walk a mile in their shoes. This usually works... for one thing you will be a mile away from them - and you will have their shoes!

The well-proportioned plus-size woman metaphorically wears different shoes from most other large women. Like the rest of us, she is beyond the size range where clothes are easy to find, and from her perspective it may look as if she is in the same position as any other woman of size. But things are actually quite different.

The tiny minority of women who are well proportioned are the fashion artistocrats of the female population. Even among very slim women, this is a very rare body shape. It is ironic that, in the design world at least, this physique is considered the norm!

I once had a customer who proudly told me about her job. She was a size 24 pattern-cutter’s model - the only one in the country at the time. Apparently, she was the sole professional model in the whole of Great Britain whose measurements were the ‘perfect’ size-24 shape, and she was much in demand by the chain stores for fitting their plus-size garments. Cynic that I was, I couldn’t help thinking that the fact that the chain stores were creating clothes for this vanishingly-rare body shape must have something to do with the paucity of well-fitting clothes to be found on the high street in our sizes.

Unlike other large body-types, generally most designs will suit a well-proportioned woman, so there is no need for me to suggest, for example, the kinds of jacket shape she should look for. Usually she will be able to choose any style; the only obvious exceptions being those items that don’t seem to suit any large woman. So double-breasted jackets, are, for example, be as much of a no-no for the well-proportioned woman as they are for just about everybody else!

Of course, it isn’t always plain sailing for the well-proportioned woman. She has major problems... like getting really good clothes in her size, sorting out the best things to wear for her height, clothes that are right for her complection, or the correct styles to suit her personality. In short, she has some of the same problems that the rest of us have, but without the added issues of concealment, re-proportioning, distraction, etc.

Well-proportioned women usually look smaller than they are. If they wear good quality clothes they quite often find that people are rather surprised to hear about their size. With some women, friends often assume they are not plus-size at all - which is a bit bizarre when you realise I am talking about those who are larger than a size 20.

Many of the issues associated with being a large-size woman simply don’t exist for the well-proportioned woman. There may be howls of disagreement there; if you are a large person - even one with a good figure - you can still feel marginalised, simply because it is so difficult to find clothes.

Nearly all large women have problems obtaining the clothes they want, and this is frustrating and alienating. Yet for many large women, what they really feel most insecure about isn’t actually their size, or the accompanying difficulty in finding outfits, it is having to come to terms with that part of their body that is ‘disproportionately’ large.

I used to work in ‘mainstream’ fashion and I was immensely irritated by women constantly complaining about their ‘flabby’ hips or thighs - when they were a size 8! Yet it is actually disproportion that causes the most distress across the size range - from the smallest to the largest. A very slim woman, with a disproportionately large bottom, for example, will be more dissatisfied with her body shape than a much larger well-proportioned lady. And it is this issue that creates most of the challenges in dressing well.

Luckily for the well-proportioned woman, she will never have to know what it is like to have these issues with proportions - I’m happy for her that she does not have to walk a mile in our shoes...

 

Emma    Tuesday 16 June 2009 at 00:52

 Post #57 



 
Subject: Glass brimming over

I was just wondering how long one could discuss the hourglass body shape, before mentioning Marilyn Monroe... Not very long, it seems. For Marilyn was the most famous hourglass-shaped woman of all time, who certainly managed to make quite an impression in her 38 years on this planet.

The interesting thing is that Marilyn Monroe, who was a size 16, was a ‘plus size’ woman, and would be considered ridiculously large compared with today’s actors and models, who rarely make it into double digits in the size stakes. I would suggest that she remains a far more attractive cultural presence that almost anyone around today, and that a substantial part of her appeal is her beautiful body shape.

The hourglass body shape is everything you would expect from its name. The top half of the body is more or less in proportion with the bottom half. Women tend to have a good bust, balanced with proportionate shoulders, a disproportionately small waist, and hips that mirror the shoulder silhouette.

Actually, among my customers (and probably worldwide), the hourglass shape woman would typically have rather more sand in the bottom half of the glass. Many times the bottom, hips and legs are slightly larger than the top half.

The hourglass is the ‘ultra’ feminine shape - one that many would wish to have. But, as ever, it does throw up various challenges when trying to dress it well.

There are the usual issues when clothing exaggeratedly feminine body shapes - the three ‘P’s: physical, psychological and philosophical. Does the woman feel happy with this body shape? Does it reflect the inner person? Does it announce something about her to the world, by which she is judged? Can she carry off the extra notice that such an attention-grabbing body shape brings? And how does she make it look good?

When a size 10 woman is an hourglass shape, clothing is not really much at issue. She can choose to dress herself more or less in whatever way she wishes. She can go for girly and ultra-feminine, or rather boyish, or any one of ten thousand differing looks.

But a larger woman has a lot more lead in her pencil. A woman of, say, size 26, who is an hourglass shape, will have a much more exaggerated body shape. If she wishes to underplay her shape, her proportions will limit her options (if she needs to look good). If, on the other hand, she wants to celebrate and accentuate her shape, she may find that the end result is just too much. Put more succinctly, if the size 10 hourglass woman is a 25-watt lightbulb, then the size 26 hourglass woman is a hundred-megawatt stadium lamp.

It is for this reason that even if a large hourglass-figured woman feels really good about her shape, she does usually tone it down a bit - for everyday, at least. With this body shape one can celebrate the figure without overstating the positives! The hourglass women that I see in the store nearly all seem to share the same philosophy: they want to look good, and they feel reasonably happy about what nature has given them (although, being women, they nearly always would prefer less sand in the glass!). This body shape does not throw up the same kinds of problems as, say, the apple shape (who need to hide their stomachs) or the large busted woman (some of whom often are desperate to disguise their bust). The hourglass woman just needs to go with the flow.

For the hourglass woman, shapeless in not an option. If, for example, such a woman wanted to wear the casual staple of jeans and check shirt, she has to be extremely careful. If she opts for a non-tailored shirt, even if it is a good quality one, she could end up looking as if she had bought the whole ensemble at a charity shop. This is because if one puts shapeless garments over a curvy figure, they will instantly look lumpy. When clothes look so obviously ill fitting, they will appear not to belong to the wearer.

The fashion industry is renowned for being bitchy and cutting - and for telling the truth, no matter how politically incorrect or hurtful it is. It is in this unkind spirit that I suggest that if an hourglass-shaped woman wears a shapeless outfit, then she instantly knocks 20 points off her perceived IQ. If an apple shaped woman wears a shapeless item of clothing, the observer will simply assume that she cannot find anything that she can make herself look good in (not a great thing in itself!). Yet it is worse for an hourglass shaped woman. If a curvy woman attempts the shapeless look, she will look dim-witted and lost. I think this is because, subconsciously, the onlooker will see that she has so much potential that she would have to be an idiot not to have made something of it!

To avoid this catastrophe, hourglass women have to take particular care if they wish to wear androgynous looks, and have to obtain clothes that will achieve this whilst suiting their shape. So in the example of the check shirt and jeans, they would have to find shirts that are at least subtly tailored-in at the waist, and out again over the hip. A simple casual shirt won’t look too girly, but the effect will be that of someone who has 'got their act together', and has made an informed, intelligent choice with their clothes.

Of course, this body shape really does look good in feminine clothes. Dresses (crossover, full-skirted, empire line - there are many that suit the hourglass shape) and skirts look very good. Again, because the shape is curvy, care should be taken to ensure the clothing follows the body's contours.

This is particularly true for trousers, which should be well cut, not shapeless. They can be straight-legged, wide, or subtly tailored, but never very narrow or tapered, as this will add to the width of the thigh and hip.

As ever, with any disproportionately small area of the body, the waist should not be over-emphasised. If, for instance, a wide belt is worn tightly cinched-in at the waist, then the bust and hips will look a lot larger. In making this observation I am reflecting my 20 years’ experience of dressing hourglass women. Arguably, there is nothing wrong with emphasising a full bust with balancing hips; no matter how large the woman, it is a very attractive body shape. However, I know that my customers would prefer not to emphasise their larger areas, and are generally very uncomfortable with the over-exaggeration of their proportions that this kind of dressing produces - despite what certain TV stylists insist! If you’ve got it, and you would like to flaunt it, that’s great. But you have to know that you can carry it off.

So this body shape actually has quite a narrow band of stylistic choices when dressing for best effect. If she is going for a feminine look the hourglass woman will find that most feminine styles suit her, but she must be careful to go for the slightly pared-down, somewhat modest look. She doesn’t have to try too hard to look absolutely stunning.

If, however, she is not inclined to go for stunning, and prefers the less feminine look, she still has go for shaped, tailored clothes. Lumpy and lost is not an option if you want to look good!

The hourglass woman doesn’t need to be told that she looks good and has the potential to look stunning - she already knows it. And so do the rest of us - it’s there for all to see!

 

 Hanna Oxford    Friday 19 June 2009 at 15:51

Hi,
Thanks for sending this to me on twitter – it was very interesting to read. I’ve been a plus size model for the last 5 years; I know exactly how stunning hourglass figures can look!

I would like to point out that although Monroe is most famous for having an hourglass silhouette, she actually wasn’t a plus-size or a true hourglass – her standard measurements were bust:37, waist:23, hips:35, many people confuse her bra size (35C) and add this to her hourglass figure but its technically incorrect - bra sizes are calculated by reducing 3inches from the original measurements (for cup sizes A-C) – this making her true measurements 38-22-35 (some even argue she was a bra size 37D, this makes her measurements 40-22-35), Monroe was top heavy – not an hour glass.

Although it’s arguable about which sizes are considered 'plus-size' now-a-days (some say it’s a standard size 12 others say it’s a 16) it’s usually accepted that the smallest 'plus-size' will have the following measurements – bust: 39.5, waist: 32, hips: 42, obviously Monroe was no where near this.

In Marilyn’s day, she was a dress size 12; standard measurement clothes sizes changed in the 1970s from the standard measurement being a 'dress size' to being 'pants size'. According to Columbia Studios in 1948 weighed 118lbs (rumours of her weight fluctuating up to 140lbs) with a pants size of 8. As curvy and beautiful as Marilyn was, at most she would have been a size 10-12.

The size 16 myth started in the early ‘90s by pro-size advocates in the USA, unfortunately it is completely false.
Official hourglass figures are calculated using a 75% rule – in my instance as a plus-size model with an hourglass shape, my measurements are 47 – 34 – 47, bust and hips must essentially be the same (of course there aren’t going to be perfectly spot on every time, but they can’t be more than 1 inch apart) and my waist is less than 75% of my bust/hips. Above is a simple diagram for working out what a woman’s shape is.

I don’t want to come across as venomous by writing all of this, big girls need much more support then what’s out there and the fashion industry is horrendous for its treatment of plus-sizes. I just don’t think spreading rumours and falsely defining someone 'to make them feel better' is correct either – the fact is men do prefer women with curves. Personally, I’m of the belief that no matter what your size, weight, height, shape, hair colour, skin colour on wards – if you show that you are comfortable with whom you are then you’ll be perceived as sexy – as we should all know by now, confidence comes from within – not someone classifying you as ‘whatever shape’ for whatever reason.

- Hanna

Sources:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=1005120802556
http://marilynmonroepages.com/facts.html
http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/fashion/article6044724.ece
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071219090353AANL56Y
 

 Emma    Friday 19 June 2009 at 16:47

 
Hi Hanna

Thanks so much for your interesting and informative post! I was intrigued to hear that you are a plus size model - I wonder if you would be kind enough to show us a picture? (By the way, I don’t know whether you had heard that Anna Scholz has been looking for a new model?)

I do absolutely take on board that Marilyn was not what would be called nowadays a ‘plus-size model’ (as I think the world has moved on, and plus size models these days usually are at least a proper size 18). But her weight did fluctuate and, even at her slimmest, her body shape was much fuller than the modern-day movie star.

It’s interesting that she was not an hourglass shape, but was in fact a busty woman. This does fit in with the usual body shape for models and actors. However, having looked at her films, I do feel that the width of her hips was accentuated by the styles of the time (especially the nipped-in waists created by the underwear worn then). As I have mentioned before, accentuating one part of the physique often exaggerates another part - and thus she was given an hourglass shape.

I also have to agree with you that confidence and happiness, rather than size, really does affect attractiveness. If anyone has any doubt about this, I suggest they come and sit in my shop for a morning. I’m not just saying this... I really believe that any impartial observer would conclude that the women using my store are far more attractive than the national average, even though they are above average size!

 

Emma    Monday 08 June 2009 at 00:13

 Post #55 



 
Subject: Endowed and proud

The large-busted woman (or for those of you who enjoy self-deprecating humour - the ‘melon woman’), has to endure a double-whammy... in more ways than one!

On the one hand, like most larger women, she has a body shape that over-emphasises one area of her physique - something that always presents a challenge. But her extra problem is that she is often envied by other women, and may have to endure being told by family and friends: ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’.

That's because this is the era of the large bust. In magazines and on TV, large busts are everywhere - and they are being well and truly flaunted. Yet, as the large busted woman knows, care has to be taken to dress this body shape properly in order to make the best of it.

The large-busted body shape is a very common and celebrated one. Naturally, this body shape comprises a large bust on a more modestly proportioned body. But this body shape has quite a few variations. There are some large-busted women who have a tiny frame. These women are short, with narrow shoulders and backs, and smallish hips. There are large-busted women who are tall, with a large frame, and broad shoulders. And there are large-busted women who are basically 'apple women' (see earlier post), but with the addition of a more substantial chest. I am not including in this category women who also have a large bottom half: these women are in fact 'hourglass' shapes.

Typically, fashion models lose all their body fat yet still retain a vestige of a bust. One glance at Kate Moss (pictured) will reveal an individual who has virtually no hips, no bottom, tiny legs, etc., yet - against all the odds - still has a bust (of sorts!). It may amaze you to realise that Kate Moss is actually a melon woman! This is just one indication of the fact that busts are considered the ‘acceptable’ place for women to carry their weight.

I have found that, despite the wide varieties in body shape, melon women fit neatly into two different categories. On the one hand, there are the women who do indeed really enjoy their voluptuous shape, and show it off to great effect. On the other, there are women who wish to show discretion about their extra inches, and do what they can to adopt a more streamlined silhouette.

It is an interesting point that, as in all areas of fashion, psychology has a huge impact. Some women really cannot deal with the extra attention that the display of a large cleavage brings. Some women feel good in their own skin, and are happy to reveal their shape. And some simply like to present what they feel to be a more sophisticated, sleeker look.

Arguably, life is easier for those women who like to show off their bust. There are various designers (like Anna Scholz, for example), who celebrate this body shape, and provide beautiful, celebratory, sexy and sometimes flamboyant clothes. The most important aspect for women who are 'endowed and proud' is to ensure that the fit is correct. Like anything in life, if you are going to go loud, you have to ensure that your look passes close scrutiny - because you are courting attention. Ill fitting, badly made items of clothing, if worn on a large bust, will immediately become ultra-noticeable and look cheap. This is not the place to try to get away with a mediocre garment.

The most important service that a store can provide for a woman who is happy to display her bust is to stock beautiful clothes in the right kind of styles, backed up with a good alteration service. Countrywide, it is very difficult to find a really good selection along these lines; many large-size stores just assume that all large-busted women wish to cover-up. One has to seek out stores that have the philosophy one is looking for, and be prepared to make a sometimes-arduous journey to find what one wants.

When giving tips about dressing this body shape, it is a good idea to start with points that may help women who both wish to celebrate their bust size, and those who wish to minimise their silhouette.

If a woman wants to dress properly whatever her size or shape (but particularly if she is large-busted), she should start with the right lingerie. I will discuss the subject of foundation wear in a subsequent blog. But once the lingerie is right, she can move on to to her outer clothing, and perhaps start by thinking about what is best avoided.

Basically, anything that describes a widthways line across the chest should be given a wide berth (as it were!). This includes obvious things like stripes across the chest, but it also means eliminating items such as square necks. Sleeves that finish above the elbow are usually a no-no, because, again, this stretches the visual width of this area. Even women who are particularly proud of their busts will not want (or need) to make themselves look wider at this point.

With jackets, a medium depth round or V-neck is good. Care must be taken not to adopt a very low-necked jacket, however, as this will gape over the bust.

Women with a large bust must choose clothes that either hang down straight from the bust (with maybe a heavy fabric), or that are tailored-in under the bust. This is because if the fabric flows freely over a large bust, it will swing forward, like a tablecloth swinging from a table - and this has a very enlarging effect.

When a soft fabric is being worn (like knits or jerseys), some kind of structure is needed at the shoulder. Unobtrusive pads should be put into the garments to give a sharper definition to the shoulders-not to add bulk, but to negate any rounded effect that would otherwise emphasise the roundness of the bust. This will make the body shape look younger and more streamlined.

Unfortunately, this is where things become far more complicated, because, as I have mentioned, every bust is different. I feel a bit bad about writing this blog, because to a certain extent I am cheating my large-busted readers, who may be expecting some handy tips. Yet unlike any other body shape, melon women are very individual, and rules that apply to all of them are few and far between!

Apple shaped women are apple-shaped in almost identical ways: we all have a large stomach, and - tall or short - it nearly always looks the same. Larger busts are not like this at all. A woman may have her bust just at the front (like headlamps), or they may be towards the sides, almost under her arms. These extra inches may also go round the back on to her shoulder blades. Another woman may be very long-waisted, and have difficulty in finding items with the waist low enough. Other busts can start quite high up.

There are many, many different variations, and often it takes a skilled fashion consultant to help pick out a selection of garments to be tried on. Sometimes the process of seeing how these items look when worn can be exhausting-but great fun when you find you are making progress. There are few more satisfying things in life than finding some gorgeous clothes that you feel really good in.

This is an instance when mail-order, or internet shopping, can be a frustrating and lonely experience. It is impossible to know the effect of garments, chosen from looking at a photograph, until they have been tried on, rejected, repackaged and returned time and again, with only the select few chosen to keep. However, the perseverence is worth it. Large busted women can look truly superb.

Similarly, these differences may make a huge impact on what works on any particular woman. For example, believe it or not, breast pockets can actually work well. They can break up this wide expanse of upper body, and create a younger look. But they have to be at the right size (small) and the right level (highish), and with minimal detailing (avoiding buttons and flaps, for example). If the wrong breast pockets are chosen, they will have the opposite effect - overemphasising the bust to a ridiculous and unflattering degree! And pockets that work superbly on one large-busted woman may look abominable on another.

It is the women who wish to disguise their bust that particularly need to be careful... and clever. Disguising a large bust is, arguably, one of the most difficult tasks for a stylist. This is because a large bust is really ‘in your face'. The bust is situated in one of the most prominent parts of the body - unlike, for instance, the hips or legs, which can be tucked out of sight. However, the methods that are used are the same as ever... our old friends concealment and distraction.

The neckline is of supreme importance. It cannot be too high because this creates a large blank area at the top of the torso that is very matronly. Of course, the neckline should not be too low either, or the cleavage will be displayed - an anathema to the bust-concealing woman!

As with most concealment and distraction, layering is helpful. Again, a good jacket (or shirt worn open as a jacket) works well. If the need to minimise the bust is key, then the jacket/shirt can be a darkish colour. If the over-garment is being worn open it will do the trick of cutting the body in half widthways, and the top underneath can be more vibrant - as it will only be seen as a slither of contrasting colour.

Attention can also be drawn downwards. Over the years I have seen many large-busted women wearing the most fantastic footwear! Accessories are useful - a long (but not too long) necklace, which is colourful but not chunky, can be used to give a downward line at the bust, also breaking it widthways. Beware of over-emphasising a small bottom half though, because this will backfire and make one look top heavy.

Large-busted women are very lucky in their ability to wear dresses. The right dress will have the advantage of tending to streamline the body shape, and will not over-emphasise any particular part. Hanging discreetly from the bust, a good dress will skim over the body, creating a lengthening effect. But the key to achieving the right look will almost certainly be input from a good alteration service, to ensure a perfect fit.

Arguably the most attractive of all body shapes, the large-busted woman has fantastic potential to look stunning. And if she doesn’t want to go for stunning, then she can achieve sophisticated and understated instead. The choice is hers. If she wishes, she has the ability to be defined by her personal taste and chosen image, rather than her body shape.

 

Emma    Sunday 31 May 2009 at 22:46

 Post #54 



 
Subject: Great British Pear

What is it that the world’s most famous pear-shaped woman, Jennifer Lopez, could teach the pear-shaped women I get in my shop? I believe she could teach many of them to enjoy their body form more than they do. For Jennifer celebrates and accentuates her curves to great effect.

The pear shape is arguably the most common body shape in the UK. So much so that it is referred to in the trade as the ‘Great British Pear’. It is a very feminine shape, and is, apparently, the healthiest body shape for the larger woman.

A pear-shaped woman, as you would expect, has a larger bottom half than her top half. Many hour-glass women think they are pear shaped because they have small waists and large hips, but a true pear shape is actually a smaller size on the whole of the top half of her body. She will often have narrow shoulders, slim back, small waist and a small bust. In fact, the top half of her body is in perfect proportion with itself. Sometimes she may be able to buy mainstream-sized clothing to fit her upper body.

From the waist down, the pear shaped woman is larger. Her hips are larger and wider; she has a bigger bottom and will often have large thighs. Usually she will enjoy this extra width all the way down to her ankles.

For the pear-shapers, the bottom half can sometimes be a fraught area. If you are one of those who feel insecure about your legs or bottom, I would counsel trying to adopt as positive an attitude as you can. The bottom half of your body is a long way away from your face (that’s a good thing!), and with the usual tricks of concealment and distraction, even the largest legs and hips really needn’t present any kind of a style problem.

Most pear shapes are able to wear any number of really pretty skirts and trousers, in many different styles and colours, but some find this body region a challenge. For those who are particularly self-conscious about their lower body, I would suggest the usual concealment tactics. The fabric of the clothing should be reasonably firm (not too silky, clingy, translucent or flimsy), of a darkish colour (that doesn’t have to mean black!), and with a matt surface (very shiny fabrics should be avoided on larger legs). It is possible to go for quite a drapey fabric (like the viscose/lycra jersey) if there is enough weight in the material to pull it down rather than have it cling to the legs. Don't be put off by past experience with fabrics. Fabric technology moves on all the time, and fabrics like a fluid jersey, which a few years ago would have been rather flimsy and revealing, are much improved. Look for a high lycra content, which makes a big difference to the flow of the fabric.

In our shop we move heaven and earth to get longer lengths of skirts and dresses. You would be amazed at how difficult it can be at times! I would like the large-size clothing suppliers to know that - regardless of the fashion of the day, or whatever season it is - many women will always want the longer length skirts.

At a later date I will be writing about some items of lingerie that will help with wearing skirts without tights in the summer.

I hope you will really believe me (some of you will be dubious, I know!), when I mention that there are some fantastic boots available on the market right now - that will fit you easily. Companies like Duo sell wonderful boots in wider sizes that really do look excellent on larger legs. This will help if you cannot find long enough skirts. I have always observed that if you don’t buy something valuable like this when it is available, you may never get the chance again, and I imagine that, right now, they are working on an excellent Autumn/Winter selection. (Just in case you were wondering, I don’t have a contract to promote Duo boots!)

For those pear-shaped women who have always wanted to wear trousers, but have not found any that are right, I have super news. There are trousers on the market just now that you really should try! The new styles of super-wide trousers are fantastic on larger legs, whilst looking drop-dead trendy.

This is a game of two halves, and I will now move up to the top half of the body. The main problem here is that of proportion - getting the balance right. If, for instance, a pear shaper wishes to wear either a jacket or shirt that is long and full enough to cover her bottom and thighs, sometimes she makes the mistake of wearing a really baggy top. This is not a good thing. Tops for the pear shapes can be soft (they don’t have to be tight fitting), but they should never be too big, wide or bulky - especially at the shoulder.

I can understand why this happens: in order to get a blouse or jacket generous enough to comfortably skim her hips, she may have to go for a much wider size than she would normally choose for her top half. Thankfully, I have noticed that my customers (as I have pointed out before, an intelligent bunch) automatically ignore the ‘style advice’ often given on TV and in magazines of trying to even-up one’s proportions by making your top half look bigger (with say, over-sized shoulder pads). This has got to be the stupidest advice known in the fashion world - and that is really saying something! So buying a larger-proportioned top is not a good idea.

I would suggest that if a pear-shaper was looking for a long blouse, it would be worth looking for those on a yoke. Basically this is a style feature where the width of the shoulders is kept narrow, and fabric is gathered into the yoke, providing more fabric with less visual width. Watch out particularly for yokes on the back, as well as the front of the garment. Every centimetre of gather is providing twice the width. Another thing to look out for are garments with side vents. These are the splits in the sides of a shirt or jacket that ease its drape over the bottom or hips. The recent trend for A-line tops (which are narrow on the shoulder and wide on the hip) can also look fantastic.

So much for having the tops too wide and baggy, but the opposite problem of proportion can also occur. This is when the apple-shaper opts for a tiny top. I can see the attraction of this: logic dictates that it is a good idea to draw attention to your best features. Although it may be attractively small, my advice is to try to resist too much emphasis on the waist. Like us apple-shapers (who cannot make too much of our good legs), the pear shape will only over-emphasise her weaker area if she tries to make the very most of her best feature. If a pear shaped woman wears a too nipped-in waist, she will automatically draw attention to the width of her hips.

Similarly if she wears a short, tight-fitting jacket, she will end up looking very disproportionate... as if the top half of a small, short woman has been attached to the bottom half of a much taller, larger woman.

It is far better to try to select a slightly longer jacket or fitted blouse or dress, which is neat fitting, but not too tight. A good idea would be for it to have a rather high waist. This is because the fall of the garment is not then at such an acute angle. The garment will flow softly out from, say, an empire-style jacket, and just glide over the hips and thighs with very little emphasis.

It is particularly on her top half that the pear shaped woman should wear colour. I will write about the subject of colour in fashion in a subsequent blog, but it is worth noting here that you should always look for the strongest version of a colour that you look good in. If you feel you can carry off a really positive colour, both physically and emotionally, you will get a lot of benefit out of it. So a colourful blouse or jacket, backed up with a killer necklace, is going to bring a look together. You will start to feel brighter the minute you put it on.

Similarly, if you are able to rock the whole cleavage look, this is a very good idea for pear-shapers. Many pear shaped women are quite small busted, but this need not prevent you from having a cleavage in this day and age! Lingerie has come a long way in the last few years.

The tool that the pear shaped woman should always have in mind is a good alteration service. A jacket can be bought large enough to cover the hips and thighs, and the top half can be taken-in for a perfect fit. With an undertaking like this it is essential to get the right help. Naturally, while the person who is doing the alteration work is very important, the person who is pinning the garment is key. This may or may not be the same person, but don't automatically assume that an excellent alteration person will know how to pin a garment on you. They really have to know exactly the effect you are going for, because they are re-styling the piece.

Don’t be afraid to have side-vents put into your tops - they’re very effective, and you may wish to undertake this yourself. To get the right spot, look at the garment whilst you are wearing it, and identify where it starts to ‘sit’ on your hip. This is where the side vent should start. This is a simple job that you may be able to get your local dry-cleaner to complete, and will help you rescue your ill-fitting tops. It could be that a top already has side vents, but they simply aren't long enough. This can usually be easily remedied.

Once a pear-shaped woman has got her look off pat - with a sleek understated bottom half, and soft, feminine and colourful top half, brought together with good accessories - she will enjoy the potential she has to look truly superb.

The majority of my most stunning customers are pear shapers. Eat your heart out, Jennifer Lopez!

 

Emma    Friday 29 May 2009 at 11:09

 Post #51 



 
Subject: Apple shape

There are two main issues that govern whether an item of clothing will work on a woman or not. One of them is colour (more of which in another blog), and the other one is body shape. As this is of such prime importance to dressing, I thought I would try to throw a little light on the subject.

Very soon after arriving at the shop, I realised that my customers tended to be highly intelligent - so I am not going to waste time by going over how you can tell what body shape you are: you already know! Nevertheless, I do believe there may be things you don’t know that I may be able to share with you.

Like Lisa Minelli, for instance, I am an apple shape - so this is the shape I will start with. The apple shape, as represented by many women, often has certain markedly good parts. Most apple shapes have good legs (as this isn’t always the case, my apologies to those women reading this who are at this moment gritting their teeth in annoyance). They often have good, smallish busts (no, small busts are good - honestly!), slim hips and pert bottoms.

Some apple shapers have short, thick necks (like mine!), and double chins (also a delightful personal feature). Occasionally, there are apple shapers who have big busts, and large shoulders, but this shape is rarer. Many of us have rather wide backs - love handles, if you will. But most of us apple-shaped women are reasonably small everywhere else but our stomachs, which are either large, or very large.

When you have a large stomach, you really do just have to hide it. Surely, I hear you say, if any part of one’s anatomy is disproportionately large, then one would automatically hide it. But not necessarily so! For example, a significant number of large busted women (so called ‘melon women’), are very proud of their busts, and display them to great effect. Some pear shaped women are delighted to emphasise their ‘booties’ - and look incredibly sexy because of it. And many hourglass women look stonking when they show off their curves.

The usual problem with proudly displaying your biggest part is whether or not you can rock the look. It’s a psychological issue. If you have any feelings of embarrassment you may not be able to carry off this display of bodily wealth.

We apple shapers have no such dilemmas. In our society, no one in his or her right mind would ever want to display a protruding stomach to its full effect. There are many people who really appreciate the shape of a woman’s curves (and in fact really admire a very ample figure), but if there are people out there who really enjoy looking at a large midriff, I have yet to meet them.

So the name of the game for apple shapers is concealment and diversion. We apples have a lot going for us and, if we can only learn to use it wisely, can truly look superb. We just cannot celebrate our ample proportions.

How you dress any particular figure varies with what is in fashion at the time of course. I remember Trinny and Susanna advising someone a couple of years ago never to wear black with a bright colour. At the time, it was excellent advice. But the fashion has changed, and now it’s in vogue. No-one stands still in fashion.

So the advice I would give to the apple shaped woman is true for today, and perhaps for the next year or so. Some of it is just classic timeless advice, but much of it has a sell-by date. I would hope that no-one reading this blog would still be trying to follow this advice in five years’ time!

So let’s start with concealment. Layering is key here. A jacket really suits an apple shape, and is a staple for layering. It should be fitted-if possible, almost nipped-in at the waist. Don’t worry if you can’t button it up. A buttoned-up jacket that is fitted would only emphasise your worst part - your waist. That’s what fitted jackets are for. And if you found a jacket that you could button up, chances are it wouldn’t fit you anywhere else!

Of course, at Emma Plus, we can alter a jacket to fit you beautifully, but it’s not really necessary; you just have to make friends with the idea that it doesn’t matter if you can’t button your jacket up. If it’s any comfort to you, the ‘jacket-that’s-too-tight-to-button-up’ look is incredibly trendy right now. I’ve seen Victoria Beckham wearing a jacket that clearly couldn’t be done up (I wonder where on earth she went to get that - Lilliput?). So there’s no shame in not being able to do something up... on purpose! The trick to carrying off this look is proportion. It's got to fool the eye into thinking it is neat, but not completely too small.

The vast majority of jackets look better undone on just about anybody. This is because if you put a contrasting (darker) colour underneath, you will be cut in half widthways. This is a very good thing. You will look much less wide and there will be an optical illusion that you are taller. The tailoring of the jacket will ‘assume’ that you have a lovely waist - you are borrowing that shape from the clothing!

The top you wear underneath is key. I would suggest that if possible you try to get a sleeveless top. What, you cry, and show my arms! No, the name of the game here is to never take your jacket off! As soon as the jacket comes off, you are losing the best part of your look. So what you wear underneath should be as cool as possible.

If you have serious tummy issues, you can up the anti with the top. You could go for a matt, dark fabric - and don’t worry about getting it a bit baggy. The jacket will give you shape. You really have got to think about getting rid of any shiny, clingy fitted tops if your tummy is particularly noticeable. They may look good when you are standing in front of the mirror (unconsciously pulling your tummy in), but after a few minutes of everyday life, they are describing your worst feature to the world!

If possible the neck of the cami should be low - this will also help create a longer neck, and will give a feminine shape.

This tailored jacket look is just one of many potential assets to an apple shaped woman. There is not room here to describe all the different forms of soft tailoring, dresses, blouses etc, that can work well. I would suggest that a woman of any body shape take the time to have a really good trying-on session in a shop that has a good selection, in order to develop her own style vocabulary. And, if you have the time, do this quite regularly, so as to keep up with the best of the current looks.

So much for concealment - let’s move on to my favourite subject... diversion! There really is nothing better for taking the attention away from your stomach, than focusing it on your bust. If you can bear to, show a bit of cleavage! A soft, long scarf is a must (which will also help you should you be forced to take off your jacket). It is also really worth investing in some good necklaces. These should have colour, be a good size (tiny, very fine jewellery can actually emphasise the large size of a top half), and a good length. If a chunky necklace is too short, it will shorten your neck.

I really wish I could say to an apple shaped woman ''why not divert attention from your tummy by showing off your gorgeous slim legs!''. But the fact is, too much emphasis on the sliminess of the legs can over-emphasise the size of the tummy. Put succinctly, one doesn’t want to look like a lollipop on a stick! Skirts and trousers will often be close-fitting, but I really wouldn’t recommend flashy bottom halves (like short skirts and lacy tights). So please don’t wear super-slim bottom halves, like ultra-tight leggings. You may have 'principal boy' legs, but the look will be less Lisa Minelli, and more Max Wall.

The wonderful news for apple shapers is that some time ago, a friendly scientist somewhere decided that he/she was going to create something especially for us. They did so, and its name was Lycra! We apples particularly need Lycra (or elastine). This is because of the way the human body works.

Put simply, if you have a 24” waist when you are standing up, chances are you will have a 24” waist when you are sitting down. Yet if you have a 45” waist, the likelihood is your waist will measure 52” when you are sitting down. This is simply to do with the inherent squidgyness (that’s the scientific term) of the human body. So apple shapers need to wear stretchy trousers and skirts. If they actually want to sit or bend, that is.

As luck would have it there are some superb options for the bottom halves of appleshapers. Slim stretch trousers that aren’t too narrow, don’t cling and have wonderful soft waists are made in every colour, and supplied by ranges like Sallie Sahne and NP. Women who try a pair of this kind of trouser will often return at top speed and hoover up every other colour they can get their hands on. It amuses me to see some women standing in the store and seriously wondering out loud how on earth they ever got on without them!

Once an apple shaped woman adopts a tailored, layered look, she will immediately look sassy, controlled, sleek and sexier. We apple shaped women can look superb. We have the opportunity to emphasise our good features, inject some femininity into our silhouettes, and look much slimmer than we are. With a little attention to detail, the world’s our oyster...

 

Christina    Saturday 28 March 2009 at 18:45

 Post #22 



 
Subject: Young, Short and Curvy

 
Hi there,

I found your site some time early last year and always tried to make it down to Brighton, but I have never managed it. I think part of the reason is that I am afraid I will not find anything that I like. I am 33 years old, short (5 ft 1) and very curvy - size 18, big boobs, defined waist. I always struggle in stores that cater specifically for plus size because the clothes are too long and not really suitable for someone in their 30's as the styles are more for older women.

Can you recommend any items from your collections for a young and modern girl? I would also LOVE to wear jeans. I only tend to wear them when I have lost weight, but rather than hold off for weight loss again, I would love to find some nice, flattering, comfortable jeans for my short legs and big bum - any suggestions?

Many thanks
Christina

 

 Emma    Monday 30 March 2009 at 23:02

 
Hi Christina

Thank you for your post. I totally understand your predicament, and get behind where you’re coming from!

I think that you are suffering from several disadvantages. One is that really beautiful clothes in larger sizes do tend to be geared more towards women in their late thirties and upward, and the another is that many larger-sized clothes are designed for taller women.

Your problem is compounded by the fact that you are curvy, by which I mean that you have the kind of shape that really benefits from fitted clothes, rather than drapy ones.

Many companies that sell mail order specialise in more drapy styles, which are easier to fit a wide range of women, so minimising returns. To be honest, though, even if you were able to buy fitted styles by mail order, they would probably not fit you properly. This is because you would need to get the correct waist-to-hip ratio in the right place - not a particularly easy thing to do when you have to make your choice by looking at photographs of the clothes on six-foot tall, straight up and down models!

What really annoys me about your situation is it is not as if you are alone! The average size of a British woman is 16 (not a million miles from your size), and the average height is 5’4” - closer, in fact, to your height than it is to the aforesaid 6’ model. There are literally millions of women like you!

We have many customers who are in your predicament, although you may be a little small for us. We tend to specialise in size 20 or above - we do some 18s, but the selection is not so great. It’s true that we do have many middle-aged and older customers, but we also regularly have women in your age group, and younger, shopping with us.

The most important thing that we do is to offer an alteration service. This means that when you have selected the clothes that you want, we will fit them to your shape, and then send them on to you. This service is usually completely free.

I know that in the beginning some women don’t really want to have clothes altered. I can understand this. If it were possible to walk out of the shop with all your gorgeous clothes straight away, we would all wish to do it. Also, the first time that you have this done there is always an element of concern. What is involved in the alteration process - will it really work…?

However, after having clothes altered to fit their shape most women are completely hooked, and it’s one of the major reasons why women travel miles and miles to come to us.

I think that over a period of time you will come to find a selection of ranges that will suit your personality and body shape. The obvious choice for you would be Anna Scholz. Her look is young and sassy, and it is also fitted and sexy. It’s not cheap, though, and it will almost certainly need alterations (Anna Scholz herself is about 6’2”, and some of her clothes are long). Virtually every week that we have Anna Scholz items in stock we sell one to a curvy woman, and alter it to fit properly. This is how our seamstress earns her living!

When it comes to jeans, I would just find a pair that you like the look of, and get us to alter them so that you really like the fit. Then wear them every day until you get another pair altered for you, because when you have a pair of jeans fitted to you, you will not want to wear any other jeans.

I would always suggest that you - and women like you (i.e. young women who want plenty of choice) - should come in early in the season if you are able. Right now is a good time, and for the winter season, September/October is also good. What people don’t realise about small shops like ours is that we tend to get most of our collection in all at one time, and as the season goes by it sells through. This leaves a much-diminished choice later in the season. If independent designer clothes retailing were a game, the object of the game would be to sell everything before the end of July, and have a completely empty shop just before the winter season’s stock was delivered! Obviously this doesn’t happen, but the choice in July cannot be compared with the choice right now.

 

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
Felicity

 
 

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