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Here are all Emma's blogs to date (including significant responses to customer queries):

Alisha Cesa    Sunday 11 December 2016 at 22:26

 Post #489 

Subject: Plus Size Clothing in Sussex

Hi All ,

I need some help, I have got to the final of the Miss British Beauty Curve, and I will be the candidate to represent Sussex. I was so sad to see Emma plus going as it would of been an ideal store for me to get my gowns from.

I was wondering if anyone knew of any sort of companies local to Sussex that would be willing to sponsor me for this pageant. What I want to leave as a message is that Plus size is equal and that everyone should be happy in their own skin , a number on a bit of clothing shouldn't outshine you.

So if anyone could help me that would be fantastic.


 Emma    Monday 12 December 2016 at 23:38

Hi Alisha,
Congratulations in getting into the pageant! I do hope that you do really well!
There is a marvelous company that does the most fabulous desinger-eveningwear, and it's called Dynasty.
Their website is http://www.dynastyuk.co.uk/.
I can't emphasise enough how classy their clothing is: I believe that if they do lend you something, you will look a million dollars in it. Their size range is quite comprehensive, as well. I don't know what size you wear, but they are sure to have something for you.


 Nikita    Monday 08 May 2017 at 08:37

Well, you can check


Emma    Sunday 02 October 2016 at 05:33

 Post #482 

Subject: Our Last Supper

Last night we all got together to celebrate the life of Emma Plus.

We remembered all the funny incidents, the lovely customers (and, dare I say it, some less than lovely ones), the fashion, the disasters, and the triumphs.

We drank a lot of champagne, and, in true Emma Plus style, finished the whole thing off with an enormous trifle!



 Kim P    Thursday 06 October 2016 at 20:43

It is so lovely that you could all get together to celebrate all your hard work and success over the years. I hope everyone has managed to find new opportunities since the closure.

I also hope you can keep some kind of blog going Emma, you always have such a pulse on what is going on in Plus Size fashion. It would be great if we could all let each other know if we find any shops coming close to what Emma Plus offered in terms of fashion (not much chance I know!) if not service.


Emma    Saturday 17 September 2016 at 16:24

 Post #480 

Subject: End of an Era

In less than a week, I will be closing the doors of Emma Plus for the very last time.

It will be emotional for me: I've already said on this forum that I have loved working here, and that it will be sad to go. I can't believe that I have been here for 26 years!

I hope that there is still a place for European designer fashion in this country-the plus-size clothing that we get on the high street has a tendency to be of a limited choice and generally poor quality. It often comes from half a world away, where employment conditions are very different.

I am a fan of European clothing. It is generally made by skilled, adult workers, who get paid a decent living wage, and who enjoy all the benefits that we ourselves would expect from our occupation. But one doesn't have to feel virtuous to buy it: we as consumers get the benefit of a superior product which lasts for years. I would hate to think that this is the kind of fashion that may be, at this very moment, disappearing from our high streets.


 Sue Nelson    Sunday 18 September 2016 at 18:10

So sad and so sorry for myself. I hope you are all able to move on to exciting chapters in your life. I do not know where my wardrobe would be without you over the past 20 years. Where shall I go next?

All my love and deepest thanks


 Kim P    Monday 19 September 2016 at 19:34

Hi ladies
I will come in tomorrow for one last time to say good bye. So you all been so good to me over the years.


 Emma    Tuesday 20 September 2016 at 10:22

Hi Kim,

It's Kim and I in tomorrow -and it would be lovely to see you one more time!

We will be doing normal opening times until Thursday, then on Friday and Saturday we will be around and about. After Saturday, the premises will revert back to the landlord.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Kim. ...xxx


 Kim P    Tuesday 20 September 2016 at 16:58

Hi Emma, I was in today so missed you! I am so sorry. I did see Kim which I was delighted about and Lisa popped in whilst I was there too which was super. I was lucky to be able to pick up some lovely items and a couple of box files! After you selecting those denim items for me on my last trip I have the denim bug again so picked up a couple of pair of jeans. I actually wore the Brand jeans which were my very first Emma Plus purchase today as a little tribute to the great quality clothes you sold in the store. It is so sad to not be able to shop with Emma Plus anymore. Hopefully we can arrange the December cultural visit to J you mentioned last time! Take care. Kim


Emma    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:18

 Post #479 

Subject: Closing Down

This is the saddest post imaginable: we are going to close down.

The trade in European designer fashions suffered a severe shock this summer, and the resulting tsunami hit Emma Plus in such a way that it has been fatally damaged-we have had to close down.

I have owned this shop for over 22 years, and I can honestly say that I have had the very best of times. I've loved the gorgeous fashion, I've loved the camaraderie of working with such wonderful colleagues, I've loved working in the North Laine area of Brighton-surely one of the best places in the country in which to have an independent business. But most of all, I have loved my lovely, gorgeous, stylish, generous, loyal and beautiful customers.

I really do wish you all the best, and hope that you will continue to find the glamourous, stylish and beautiful fashion that you deserve.


 Mary    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:20

I am so sorry to hear this news. I have loved coming to shop with you because you always knew your stock and gave us a wonderful shopping experience which I especially appreciated as shopping for clothes is often a very depressing experience for us bigger girls! I am particularly disappointed as my eldest son is getting married next July and I was relying on you to help me find something sensational to wear....

I will not be able to come and say goodbye as we will be on holiday in Malta but I wish you all the very best

Kind regards



 Sara    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:20

This is very sad news.
I have enjoyed my visits to Brighton to see you.
All the best for the future
Thank you for all your lovely clothes


 Gladys    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:21

Hello Emma and team,
How sad am I. Emma plus closing will be such a loss. What are we non-zero sized ladies who like fashion and curves going to do now. I'm not going back to Eastex and Evans :-( I would like to thank you for bringing so many wonderful styles and fun to fashion, it has always been a pleasure shopping with you and I would like to wish you the best of luck for the future.
Best wishes Gladys


 Finola    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:22

Oh no!!!!!
Emma we are so sorry to hear this. You have changed our lives and helped us both to feel and think differently about our bodies and what we wear. You've really helped to boost confidence and a whole lot more.. We're away at the moment so can't come to see you yet- not just to see what clothes there may be left but to give you all a huge hug and to commiserate with you. We still can't believe it.

If there's anything we can do to help please let us know.


Finola and Liz xxxx (Worthing)


 Gill    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:23

Dear Emma,

Just wanted to say how much we are all going to miss coming to Emma Plus, and to say a big thank you to you and all your delightful colleagues who have provided myself and numerous customers over these years with such wonderful stylish clothes.
It was always a real pleasure to come to your shop because customers were always greeted by yourself or other members of your team with a genuine warm hearted welcome, followed by a cheery offer of a cup of tea/coffee or cold drink. It always felt as though I was popping in to friends for a cuppa and a chat while trying on some lovely clothes. Everyone was always attentive and helpful in searching something for me to wear, or suggesting I might like to try a different style or another colour other than blue, its thanks to you I now wear trousers!

I am going on holiday tomorrow returning on the 23rd, so unfortunately will not be able to come in to say goodbye.
I wish you and your colleagues good health, much happiness and joy for the future. Thank you once again for providing Brighton with such a special place to shop.

Kind regards,



 Jessamy    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:23

Such sad news. I only get to Brighton
now and again but love coming
to see your beautiful clothes.

I have a trip planned at the end of
October but I cannot get before.

Good luck with both your futures



 rosemary    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:25

Hi Emma

Well, that was a real curve ball! What an absolutely soul-destroying situation and you must be gutted at having to wind things up.

On a personal note, let me just say that you and the team have given me fantastic service and styling over the past 10 years – I really don’t know what I’m going to do without you.

I am not sure what I am doing Bank Holiday weekend, if I am going to be around, I will definitely let you know and pop in. I will try and get down before then, though, to say a proper goodbye.

Hope to see you soon.


Kind regards


 Sharon    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:28

Oh Emma, I'm so sad to hear that not just because you run an amazing shop, but because I know you're so passionate about the plus size fashion industry.


 Sue    Friday 09 September 2016 at 10:50

Dear Emma,

I am so sorry that you are closing after all this time......I can still remember when you worked there before you owned it!!! I have enjoyed very much being a customer, there was always a warm welcome at Emma Plus. You and all your staff have also always been helpful and caring, you will be sadly missed by your customers. I am in France at the moment, so I am sad that I won't be able to enjoy your closing down sale, but "c'est la vie".

I would like to wish you all the luck in the world for the future, wherever and whatever that holds for you.

All the best,

Sue x


 Alison    Friday 09 September 2016 at 17:58

So sorry to hear this, have really valued my trips to Brighton over the years. And how on earth can I be expected to buy trousers without Kim's advice?

Such a shame!

Wishing you all the best for the future



 susan    Saturday 10 September 2016 at 10:20

Dear Emma

I was so sorry to hear you are closing – but feel very fortunate that you have given us all the chance to purchase some beautiful clothes over the years – with your advice and that from your staff.

I hope to get over for one last visit before 22nd September.

With best wishes to you all for whatever the future holds from Susan


 Nicola    Saturday 10 September 2016 at 22:25


What can I say, I am likewise devastated to hear the news that you are closing down. After 20 years shopping at Emma Plus I have come to think of you all as friends and at this moment I am at a loss of what more to say.



 Kim P    Sunday 11 September 2016 at 11:45

I can only echo the sentiments already posted. Such a shame it has come to an end but I'm sure it was not a decision that would be taken lightly. I really hope everyone manages to fix themselves up a new position somewhere. Very sad times.


 Kate    Monday 12 September 2016 at 10:05

Dear Emma, I am so very sorry to hear this news.  Although my move up to Lincolnshire has prevented my regular shopping trips, I will always remember them with great fondness.  You and your staff were always so very kind and helpful and I have been complimented many times on the clothes that I purchased from you. 

I wish you well in whatever challenge you decide to tackle next.


 Janet    Monday 12 September 2016 at 13:53

Dear Emma,

I can't tell you how sad I am. You have been my favourite shop for so many years and helped me out so many times when I have been uncertain as to what to buy. Indeed, when I was living in Sussex, it was like having a personal shopping team. You and your staff, with your excellent alterations service made clothes buying a pleasure. 

Of course, it hasn't been so easy to get to you since I moved to Suffolk. I know I managed a few visits in the early days but they have become more infrequent and I confess, I haven't found anywhere I like nearly as much here.

These are uncertain times and I wish you well in whatever venture you turn your hand to.

Do keep in touch, and if you are this way ( near Bury St Edmunds, another town which would benefit from a shop like yours)look me up. It would be lovely to see you.

All good wishes for the future.


 Annie    Monday 12 September 2016 at 13:55

Dear Emma

I can't tell you how sorry I am that you are finding it necessary to close the business that I know has been very close to your heart.

You were one of the last links I have with mum so you will be missed on her account as well as for the lovely outfits you have provided for me over many years.  I have to say that I don't know where I will go now for special occasion wear that will match your flare for design and colour.

with very fond regards


 Pam    Monday 12 September 2016 at 13:57

I'm so sorry to hear the shop's closing down. Such beautiful clothes and lovely staff.

Wishing you all good luck for the future.




 Julia    Monday 12 September 2016 at 13:58

Really sorry to read your news.  Its always been such a delight coming 

into your shop and being made to feel really special.


Good luck in the future to you and your colleagues





 Jenny    Monday 12 September 2016 at 13:59

That's really sad news- been great to find those special items and be treated as completely normal and in fact spoilt- an usual experience for us plus size ladies.

Whatever you do next, wish you much happiness and success - you will be missed



 Sid    Monday 12 September 2016 at 14:00

Hi Emma,


I was shocked and then saddened to read your email. I know I haven't been in as much of late as I've not had as much work and therefore less disposable to buy lovely clothes. I'm coming to Brighton next Tuesday for several reasons, so I'll pop in then. It's the end of an era though. Very sad news.



 Kathy    Saturday 17 September 2016 at 13:23

Passed the store Saturday night after the theatre. Saw the sign...
Don't know what to make of it...but I do know you have done so much for women like me Your style,courage and good advice.
Brighton will be a lesser place with out Emma plus As for me. You folks were a large part of my life for so long...
I still have some of the pieces I bought from you...


 Ronnie    Wednesday 21 September 2016 at 14:44

Emma,  I walked to work past your shop this morning and got a dreadful shock.  I am sorry to hear this devastating news, not only for me (woe is me, what am I going to do for trousers?) but for you and your team who have always been sooo understanding and compassionate and accommodating towards those of us with non-standard body shapes!!!  This is a catastrophe for you, us and for Brighton as a whole, frankly. I am going to miss you and your team in a chronic and fundamental way.  I don't know why this closure has happened, but is there any chance of you setting up somewhere else or starting a mail service?  And if so, would the services of Denisa still be available?  I literally don't know what I'll do with myself and my big fat bum otherwise!  Are you yourself bearing up-ish?  Thinking of you lots, Ronnie. 


 Janet Taylor    Wednesday 21 September 2016 at 22:28

Emma, I did send an email to you. Not sure if you got it but I am so sorry to hear your news. I have shopped with you for many years,as you know. Although my visits are less frequent since we have moved away I miss the wonderful selection and service you provided. You and all your staff have always been so helpful and your clothes made me feel so much more confident.Your alterations service was second to none.So disappointed but always hope your links with Suffolk will encourage you to open somewhere here in time!
All the best Janetxx


Emma    Thursday 28 July 2016 at 13:58

 Post #476 

Subject: Our Sale

Well, it's that time of year again.....the time of the Great Emma Plus Summer Sale!

This year summer has come late, meaning that many gorgeous summer clothes that may usually have been sold in June are still gracing our rails. Since last month two things have changed: we now have a summer (with more to come by all accounts), and all this season's stock is at least 50% reduced.

What hasn't changed is the beauty of the clothes. Lovely vibrant colours of blue, pink, lilac and green in gorgeous natural fabrics and softly tailored shapes nestle together on our shop floor, awaiting the lucky women who will enter our cool, air-conditioned space and buy them in our Sale.

The Sale starts tomorrow morning (Friday 29th July) and Saturday, at 10am.

We look forward to seeing you in store!


 Kim P    Tuesday 02 August 2016 at 19:11

What a fantastic sale, I was so pleased I came into the shop on Saturday. So many really beautiful clothes at half price. I can't normally run to Sallie Sahne or Persona but with the reductions I was able to buy super items from these top designers. Thanks again for the wonderful service from you Emma, Anna and Kim.


 Emma    Wednesday 03 August 2016 at 13:11

Thanks, Kim!

Yes, I have to agree with you - it really has been an amazing sale so far this year!

We've actually got loads of fantastic stock, nearly all of which is now at least half price, and many items are 70% off. It's a rare situation, and I would advise anyone thinking of coming into Brighton to pop in and pick up some amazing bargains.

I think that now may also be a good time to remember that our store is beautifully air-conditioned, making it the perfect place to spend a cool hour or two!


Emma    Friday 15 April 2016 at 15:17

 Post #470 

Subject: Our Spring Range

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

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

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

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


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

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


 Emma    Sunday 24 April 2016 at 14:34

Hi Kim,

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

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


Emma    Thursday 03 March 2016 at 18:08

 Post #468 

Subject: Shoptiques.

For those of your who have been awaiting this news with bated breath, I can announce that we are officially now selling online.

It's quite odd to look at our clothes in the Shoptiques format-they have a host of rules that are necessary to make their website, which encompasses thousands of small boutiques, look cohesive and simple. We've had to carefully photograph our clothes from certain angles (front, side and back, naturally), crop the backgrounds off, remove extraneous accessories (it almost goes against my religion to picture a top without a scarf or necklace, for instance), and -worst of all-crop off part of our model's beautiful face. However, I think that the whole thing has been more than worth it.

We will be adding more and more products to our little shop as the weeks go by, and I hope that we will be able to offer a great service to those customers of ours who, either by preference or necessity, wish to buy their fashions online.

Our address within Shoptiques is: www.emmaplusonline.com


Emma    Monday 22 February 2016 at 08:53

 Post #467 

Subject: Shoptiques

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Friday 05 February 2016 at 20:05

 Post #466 

Subject: Lighting up Church Street

If any of our locally -based customers were passing by our shop either today or over the weekend, they may have a bit of a surprise by what is in our window.

A company specialising in transparent LED screens, SIS Digital, has lent us the use of one of their amazing screens at the moment.

It is a fantastic way to showcase a store, and I'm certain that it's the future of store display.

It looks beautiful by day, but after dark it looks quite magical. ....


Emma    Thursday 04 February 2016 at 17:34

 Post #465 

Subject: Sale Continues

Our Sale continues from strength to strength, and we have reached the stage where all Sale stock is now at least 50% off, and certain items are 70% reduced.

As our regular customers know, we do like to clear all Winter stock before we have our full contingent of Summer season's clothing arrives, so we are now giving it away!

The Summer stock is now flooding in, so if you do pop in to take a look at the Sale, you may find that it will be well worth rifling through the gorgeous new looks.....


Emma    Wednesday 03 February 2016 at 18:00

 Post #464 

Subject: Our Photographic Studio

We had the best time at the weekend, transforming our store into a photographic studio in preparation for our new Shoptiques venture.

We will soon be putting photographs of our stock online through the fantastic Shoptiques.com website, where customers can browse exclusive designer clothes from fantastic boutiques all over the world.

We are delighted to have been invited to join their website, and are so excited to be able to offer our more distant customers the opportunity to buy online from us-something that has been denied to them in the past.

We will be inviting people to email us at emma.plus@yahoo.com to tell us of any clothes that they are particularly seeking, in order for us find it in stock, or obtain it and post it on Shoptiques for them to buy. An amazing system, and a useful service.


Emma    Saturday 23 January 2016 at 13:52

 Post #462 

Subject: Anna Scholz on the Web

I am up to my neck in buying for Autumn/Winter 2016 at the moment. Having just returned from Belin, where I attended the Curvy is Sexy fashion show, I can report that the clothes that will be available from August onwards are going to be more gorgeous than ever.

That's lovely, so why do I feel a frisson of sadness? It's because I will not be buying Anna Scholz for the autumn, just as I did not buy it for the summer collection that is now being delivered into our store.

Why, you may ask, am I not going to stock one of the iconic plus-size collections, and one which I have been stocking every season since Anna started her line, back in 1994, and which I personally love? Well, for the time being, Anna Scholz is not going to be sold through boutiques like ours, and will instead be sold exclusively through her website annascholz.com.

Anna was the first plus-size designer to really understand that larger women needed to be seen as fashion-forward, sexy, intelligent and beautiful women, in a time when the phrase 'fashion over the size of 16' was considered to be a contradiction in terms. She is a plus-size icon, and her design creativity goes from strength to strength. I, for one, really hope that she produces collections that we can buy and stock in my shop again some time very soon.

In the meantime, we will, like everyone else, visit annascholz.com to get our fix of Anna's patented variety of fabulous...


Emma    Saturday 02 January 2016 at 16:47

 Post #461 

Subject: Shoptiques

I would love to wish all our customers a lovely New Year!
We are particularly excited right now because we are beginning a new enterprise. We have been approached by a company called Shoptiques, which is an online selling platform,specially developed to sell boutique clothes from small companies like us.
So for readers of this blog who live too far away from us to call into the shop, please watch out for us on Shoptiques.com.
We will keep you posted. ....


Emma    Wednesday 23 December 2015 at 09:14

 Post #458 

Subject: Christmas Sale

Just a quick note to remind readers of this forum that we are now in Sale!

Usually, our Sales start immediately on the return from the Christmas holidays, but this year we are shaking things up a little, and offering our customers a chance to buy themselves something a little bit special at a wonderful price, just in time for the festive season.

It's a very good Sale -with many gorgeous things up to half price -so it's well worth finding a minute or two to take a look (and a cup of our excellent coffee!) between frenzied bouts of last -minute Christmas shopping!


Emma    Monday 07 December 2015 at 08:40

 Post #457 

Subject: Bake-Off Meets Cup Cake-Off

We had such fun on Friday and Saturday with our charity scoffing event. The picture shows me (on the left), Olivia (in the middle) and Kim on the right. The cakes featured were sticky toffee, trifle, banana, Victoria sandwich, black forest and chocolate rice crispie.

We're not yet able to give a figure for the collection, because it's all in our charity collection tin! We will keep you posted.


 Emma    Tuesday 15 December 2015 at 15:48

We've had the results back from the Cake-Off, and it was that we collected £175.10 for Climb.

We are so delighted, and would like to pass on our thanks to all who took part. We will be having another cake event in 2016.....

Emma    Wednesday 18 November 2015 at 15:48

 Post #454 

Subject: Pop-Up Sale

Always on the look-out for a new and fun way to spend a day, we have decided to take Emma Plus out on the road to do a one-day pop-up sale.

We are joining with our lovely friends from Larger Than Life, a super plus-size fashion business based around Kew, and are visiting Cobham in Surrey.

We will be in Cobham's lovely new and spacious Village Hall, where there is free parking, and plenty of space to see all our sale stock, which will be at 75% discount.

There will be refreshments and a prize draw, plus the opportunity to see beautiful clothes that you have never seen before-at a 75% discount!

This is all happening on Sunday November 29th between 11am and 3pm. We can't wait to see you there!


 Emma    Thursday 03 December 2015 at 17:53

Many thanks for all our (and Larger Than Life's) lovely customers who turned up on Sunday for our fantastic Pop-Up sale in Cobham.

The event went off wonderfully, with hoards of happy customers descending on the Village Hall, and walking away with armfuls of booty. I don't think that Cobham has seen anything like it since the Vikings!

Claire (from Larger Than Life), I and our helpers had a wonderful day-I didn't realise how enjoyable it was going to be.

Watch this space for the winner of the prize draw....

 Angela Brown    Friday 04 December 2015 at 19:59

It was lovely seeing you both at Cobham on Sunday. Thanks for all the help with my purchases.


Emma    Wednesday 18 November 2015 at 15:37

 Post #453 

Subject: Jackie Root

On Saturday 14th November, a lovely person, a beautiful lady, and a loyal friend, Jackie Root, died.

Many of our customers will remember her working with us here at Emma Plus for the past 5 years or so.

She had suffered a short illness, and passed away in our local hospital, surrounded by her family. She was just 65.

She will be much missed, and never forgotten. Our thoughts go out to her husband Colin, daughter Lisa and son, Matt.


 Kim P    Wednesday 18 November 2015 at 21:22

My condolences to Jackie's family and friends.

Whenever I popped into the shop she was always so helpful and had such a lovely bubbly personality.


 Finola    Sunday 29 November 2015 at 07:35

We are so sorry to hear of sudden death of Jackie. What a shock for her family and for yourselves. 65 is not old. She was always lovely to us when we came to the shop- warm, friendly and funny and she will be sadly missed. May she rest in peace. Love Fin and Liz


 Emma    Wednesday 02 December 2015 at 12:39

Thank you for your kind words -we will pass them on to Jackie's family.

It is so very sad -it seems like yesterday that she was here at the shop with all her friends.


Emma    Saturday 05 September 2015 at 17:09

 Post #450 

Subject: Autumn Promotion

Now that we are having our lovely Autumn/Winter 15 stock flooding into store, we have decided to do a special Autumn Promotion, just to kick the season off with a bit of extra excitement.

We looked around and saw that we have some of the very best coats that we've ever had, and decided that we will promote them with a discount offer.

The offer is £50-plus off selected coats, and £25-plus off certain trousers, and is for a limited time only!


 Kim P    Saturday 12 September 2015 at 19:44

What a great offer. I picked up a beautiful Christina Felix coat last year when you ran a similar promotion and I've lost count of the number of compliments I've had wearing it.

I must try and get into the store soon and pick up my new Tomo dress. Kim and Anna were so helpful when I called today.


 Emma    Sunday 13 September 2015 at 16:40

Ooooooo......Kim! Beware! We've had some AMAZING things in!

Thank you for your kind words -look forward to seeing you soon.



Emma    Friday 31 July 2015 at 13:22

 Post #447 

Subject: Pride of Brighton

One of the marvelous things about living and working in a place like Brighton is the amazing variety of things going on. Everyone knows about the London-to-Brighton bike ride (where hardy souls make this energetic journey in aid of the British Heart Foundation), the London-to-Brighton Vintage Car Run (which has been going even longer than I have been here), and Brighton Festival, which provides far too many art events to mention here.

Less well known are the myriad other events: the gathering of Minis (just one instance of such vehicle gatherings, of which there are many), or the coming together of political parties, the large number of different conventions, meetings of particular breeds of dogs, nude cycle rides, march of thousands of zombies, design fairs, concerts, outdoor theatrical productions.....I could go on and on.

This week we are looking forward to our astonishing and joyful Pride weekend, which, if I am honest, I can no longer describe as a festival of all things gay (because it has been enthusiastically been taken up by what seems like the entire city). This is now a celebration of colour (in every sense!), vitality and diversity.

It's not strange, then, that we at our shop are also caught up in the happy vibe: colour, vitality, and particularly diversity (a very important concept in the plus-size industry, where we rebel against the forces that are trying to condemn anyone who doesn't fit neatly into a box)are our watchwords.

We just hope that, in between walking our Brighton streets and marveling at the sights to be seen, we can tempt people to come and have a little peek into our store. We've started getting our new stock in now, and this, alongside some fantastic summer Sale bargains, make it a worthwhile diversion.....


Emma    Wednesday 01 July 2015 at 14:50

 Post #446 

Subject: Heat and Cold

Today, it's at least 25 degrees of heat in Brighton. For many people, this is the very best weather to come down and visit our city by the sea.

It's true that Brighton is lovely when it's like this. We have quaint, pretty shops, in shady little lanes. We have funky stores in lively thoroughfares, and sophisticated boutiques in bustling roads. There are lovely parks with fountains in dappled sunlight under old trees. We have sunny beaches with funfair rides and jet ski excitement.

On virtually every road we have cafes, from fine dining to quirky vegan eateries and gorgeous cream tea emporiums.

But I am aware that, for as many people who see this kind of weather as a blessing and a delight, there are those who find it tiring and uncomfortable.

For those people, I would still recommend a trip down to the coast. The air is nearly always breezy, and many shops have fantastic climate control.

Take us, for instance. We are right next door to the Theatre Car Park (no more than 10 steps from your air - conditioned car), and our air conditioning is usually set (if Kimmy is working ) at such a temperature that our customers are more likely to get hypothermia, rather than heatstroke. Words cannot express the wonderful feeling of coolness that meets you as you walk through our door.

Browsing through a collection of wonderful summer clothes in the cool of our store, a lovely way to spend some time.

And if, once you have enjoyed cooling down and selecting some scrummy clothes, you decide that you would like to catch up on some heat and sun after all, the sea, the beach, and all the cafes, bars and parks are right here.....


Emma    Saturday 20 June 2015 at 16:18

 Post #445 

Subject: Our Fashion Show

We had such fun with our fashion show this year! For a change, we co-operated with two wonderful local businesses: a fantastic shoe shop called Mo Brog (situated in Bond Street, just round the corner from our shop), and a lingerie store called She Said, which is in Duke Street, about ten minutes' walk from us.

If you look carefully at this picture, you can see the results of this collaboration....we have teamed our lovely Emma Plus Spring/Summer 15 clothes with some gorgeous and steamy She Said erotic lingerie, and, as a finishing touch, worn them with some amazing borrowed shoes.

The day went off with so much fun-every time we do these events we are left with the feeling that we should do it every week......


Emma    Friday 29 May 2015 at 11:41

 Post #435 

Subject: Fashion Show

In the shop at the moment we are running around like mad things, sorting out the finishing touches to our fantastic Fashion Show next Saturday (the 6th June).

It promises to be a lovely day: We never like to skimp on things, so of course we will be providing some scrummy refreshments. We will also be having a fun competition, the first prize being a £50 gift voucher to spend in our store.

Our centerpiece, however, is going to be the fashion show: a stylish but lighthearted take on what we are stocking for our summer collection this year. Very often it's a revelation to see clothes actually being worn, rather than just looked at on a mannequin or hanger.

Just to add extra delight and spice to the proceedings, we have also liaised with our colleagues in a couple of fabulous local stores. Erotic boutique She Said (just around the corner for us in Duke Street) has been providing gorgeous plus-size lingerie for those in the know, and we have decided to help them spread the word about what is available now for our customers. I won't say anything more than that!

Designer shoe shop Mo Broag, from Bond Street (again, just 3 or 4 minutes' walk from our shop) is providing some gorgeous and stylish shoes to go with our collection.

All in all, it promises to be a fun, fascinating and enjoyable afternoon!

The nibbles and competition are on all day, but the fashion show itself is taking part at 2pm - and we look forward to seeing you!


 Kim P    Monday 01 June 2015 at 14:09

I'm pleased that I am able to come to this. Must remember to pick up my leggings that have been patiently waiting for collection!


 Emma    Tuesday 02 June 2015 at 17:44

Really looking forward to seeing you here....it's going to be a fun day.....


 Kim P    Saturday 06 June 2015 at 20:33

What a super day, thank you so much to all at Emma Plus. I really enjoyed the fashion show, the models were all beautiful and poised yet somehow vaguely familiar! The food and drink was super and the competition good fun.

I loved seeing the jewellery "tattoos" in gold, silver and turquoise. I have not seen anything like them before and they looked fantastic on the skin.

As always I am delighted with my purchases. The white seersucker cut offs are fabulous and brilliant for the warm weather. I really look forward to seeing the Q'Neel polka dot jacket/top after alteration.

Thank you again, a tremendous amount of hard work must have gone in to planning the event and it was much appreciated by those of us there.


Emma    Thursday 09 April 2015 at 17:17

 Post #434 

Subject: Trouser Day

We are revving up for one of our exciting events this weekend - our Trouser Day!

Trouser Day is an event that brings together all the trousers that will fit all the different shapes of our customers and places them alongside all our trouser experts.

We have a guest expert (the fabulous Claire Lunnen-Kaye, from leading plus-size retailer, Larger than Life... with her 25 years in plus size fashion, what she doesn't know about plus-size trousers really isn't worth knowing), our own trouser experts (Kim the trouser queen, and myself, a trouser fit obsessive, along with Anna De Lannoy who also has years of experience as a plus-size fashion business owner).

We also have guest trousers, sent in by our suppliers, in styles and fabrics not usually found in our store.

In short, we have brought together all the elements that could possibly be required to find our customers the perfect pair of pants!

Add to this, our fun competition (win a £50 gift voucher), yummy refreshments, and a fantastic offer whereby our customers are able to buy one pair of trousers and have a second pair from a selection at half price, and you see what we mean by a Trouser Day!

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow (Friday the 10th April) and Saturday!


 Kim P    Saturday 11 April 2015 at 19:40

Disappointed not to be able to make trouser day but hope it was a great success. I never knew what a comfortable and well fitting pair of trousers were until I found Emma Plus!


 Emma    Wednesday 15 April 2015 at 19:58

Hi Kim,

You were much missed, but the day did go off tremendously well. I think I'm right in saying that we sold more trousers last week than any other week in our history!

It's always such a good laugh. ....can't wait until our next event day, which I can exclusively reveal now is going to be our Fashion Show on Saturday 6th June!

Hope you will be able to make that one, Kim....



Emma    Friday 06 March 2015 at 17:12

 Post #432 

Subject: New Images Spring/Summer 2015

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

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

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

We hope to see you soon.


Emma    Thursday 04 December 2014 at 12:02

 Post #420 

Subject: Emma Plus Winter Sale

As luck would have it, just as the weather has taken a turn for cold, we will be having our Winter Sale!

This year, our sale has more knits than ever before. There are black knits, long knits, shorter knits, colourful knits, soft knits, smooth knits, light knits, heavy knits...knitted skirts, dresses, jumpers, jackets, tops....you name it! All awaiting the cold weather we have been promised, and all at incredibly low prices!

Along side these gorgeous winter warmers we also have lovely Christmassy dresses, jackets, tops and dresses for those planning on attending a smart occasion this year.

To complete the picture, we have our usual supply of lovely everyday beauties: trousers, tops, jeans etc.....again, at super-low prices.

We open the doors to our wonderful winterland Sale on on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th December at 10am.

For those with an interest in gorgeous plus-size clothing, it would be wise to attend....!


 Kim P    Sunday 21 December 2014 at 11:54

Hi, I imagine it has been very busy the last couple of days! Will the sale be continuing after Christmas?

Hope everyone has a great festive season.



 Emma    Sunday 21 December 2014 at 18:01

Hi Kim,

Yes, you're right: our sale continues with a vengeance after Christmas. We will be re - opening at 10 am on Saturday 27th December.

This year, because of the unseasonably warm autumn, we have some absolutely gorgeous knits and coats, the like of which almost never make it into the sale. They are heavily reduced, just in time for the real cold weather to set in.

I can thoroughly recommend calling in to have a look after Christmas, if you haven't done before.

Happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year to all our wonderful customers.


 Kim P    Monday 22 December 2014 at 20:43

Thanks, I may try and come down on the Saturday!


 Emma    Saturday 27 December 2014 at 00:46

Oooooo. ...It would be lovely to see you, Kim. I'll tell the girls. ...There are some fantastic bargains to be had-I hope you make it in.


Emma    Thursday 27 November 2014 at 17:37

 Post #419 

Subject: Our Competition

Now that we are in the competition fortnight, I can reveal what it is!

Our fun competition is an updating of the graphics we used to play with when we were children-the dress the dolly game!

We have three models ('Kim', 'Anne' and 'Emma'-there is a reason why I have put our names in quotation marks-), who are on our magnetic board. Alongside them are all manner of gorgeous clothes and accessories that have been supplied by us this season. The object of the game is to dress the models in the most flattering, yet original way. The participants can have as many attempts as they like. We will pick the top three entries (originality is key: all duplications will be disqualified), and these three will be placed on our Twitter and Facebook page. Then the public (one vote per person) will decide on the best outfit. The anonymous winner will receive their fabulous prize -the £100 Emma Plus gift voucher.

Such fun!


Emma    Monday 24 November 2014 at 14:44

 Post #418 

Subject: Christmas Special

This Saturday (the 29th November), we are going to have a lovely event at the shop. It's called our Christmas Special, and it's part of our 20 year celebration year.

We are going to provide refreshments and free gifts (chosen at random with some really exciting presents), but most of all, we are going to do a fantastic and fun competition.

I wish I could say what the competition is going to involve - but that would spoil the surprise! Suffice to say, however, that it's a fun, unique and creative one which will tax our customers' stylistic abilities to the full. The top prize for this will be a £100 gift voucher to spend in store, so it's a great way to have a few moments' fun, whilst having the opportunity to get some lovely new clothes for free!

Our doors open at 10am, and we will be here running our lovely Special Day until 5pm. We look forward to seeing you in store!


Emma    Friday 26 September 2014 at 12:57

 Post #411 

Subject: Trouser Day

Have you ever bought a pair of lovely-looking trousers online, only to discover when they arrive that they look like someone has draped you in a sack from the waist down? Or gone into a chain store and tried on a pair that are supposed to be your size, only to find that you can only get them half way up your calves?

Have you ever looked at women walking down the street looking fabulous in pairs of trousers that fit them the way you can never get trousers to fit you? Or wondered whether you can pull off a pair of this years must-have styles? And if you could, where on earth would you find them? Have you longed to get the perfect pair of trousers to go with your favourite tops? You need long no longer!

Emma Plus is remedying these problems by holding our third Trouser Day. To those in the know, these incredibly popular events showcase every different shape, style and fabric of trousers, and bring together all our trouser-fit expertise in one place at one time. This Trouser Day is going to be on Saturday 27th September. We will open our doors at 10am.

As a special treat for our regulars, with every pair of our trousers you buy, you can choose from a selection of trousers to have a second pair half price! This half price offer lasts for the length of this season.

As with all our special events, there will be a lovely social atmosphere on the day, and yummy refreshments will be served.

Anyone spending over 100 will be given 2 hours' free parking at our next-door car park....

We look forward to seeing you in store.


Emma    Saturday 23 August 2014 at 18:24

 Post #409 

Subject: New Season's Stock

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

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


 Sharon    Friday 29 August 2014 at 20:17

Hi Emma

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

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

Hopefully see you Friday


 Emma    Friday 29 August 2014 at 22:30

Hi Sharon,

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

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

We really look forward to seeing you next week-


Emma    Friday 22 August 2014 at 15:31

 Post #408 

Subject: Bring on Summer 2015!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is the introduction of more jumpsuits (dont worry, I wont be filling my store with these - although they will be making a guest appearance!), pencil skirts (long and stretchy gorgeousness), and long crinkly skirts. One of the main stories, silhouette-wise, is the neat fitted jacket. This is so versatile (it can be worn over a narrow little skirt, or teamed with a billowing dress underneath), and one such jacket can be used in dozens of different looks.

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


 Kim P    Friday 22 August 2014 at 18:28

Hi Emma

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

Will you be getting any Tomo this Autumn/Winter?

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

My regards to all the Emma Plus ladies

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


 Emma    Saturday 23 August 2014 at 11:44

Hi Kim,

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

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

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

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

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

Emma    Friday 08 August 2014 at 13:39

 Post #403 

Subject: Sale Special

For anyone wanting to really dig out a superb bargain now is the time, here in store.

As it is the last few days of our Sale, we have reduced all Sale items by a further 25%. This means that many of our Sale items are 75% off, or even less!

It really is a fantastic time to pick up some lovely super-quality summer clothes at a fraction of what you would normally pay.

When you wear those clothes for years to come, you might also wear a satisfied little smile, smug in the knowledge that you got something to treasure at very little expense....


Emma    Friday 18 July 2014 at 16:55

 Post #402 

Subject: Curvy is Sexy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 12 April 2014 at 15:39

 Post #396 

Subject: Our Birthday Celebrations

There are moments in life that really stand out, and today is one of them. I can honestly say that I will remember it forever.

I simply couldn't believe how many of our lovely customers came today to help us celebrate our 20 years in existence.

Women were queuing at our door before we were open, and, when we swung the door wide, everyone poured in, and a kind of happy melee ensued.

It didn't take long before our ladies were perusing our gorgeous, colourful summer collection, and selecting items for closer inspection. For the first time ever, we had to give out numbers to people waiting to go into our four changing rooms. It has been one of our best days ever.

Some people brought us cards, some chocolates, some plants, flowers, and other gifts, but all brought us their best wishes.

There was a wonderful feeling of esprit de corps amongst customers who chatted to each other and to us as old friends, which most of us are.

In return, we proffered bubbly, punch, nibbles, and a birthday cake (see picture, right).

I think we are very lucky to be able to work in a place where we deal with such lovely people, and I hope that we will be able to serve our community of like-minded plus-sized fashionistas for many years to come.


 Kim P    Sunday 13 April 2014 at 12:49

Hi Emma
Big thanks to you and all the super ladies at Emma Plus for hosting such a great event yesterday. The window display was lovely and the food and drink provided very much appreciated. The cake was delicious! It was exciting to enter the shop and be greeted with a goody bag; I am delighted with the contents! What an achievement it is for an independent retailer to be in business for 20 years and still going strong. I can honestly say the day I first walked into Emma Plus drastically changed the way I dressed and viewed clothes shopping and all for the better. Heres to the next 20 years!
As usual the shop looked beautiful with so many wonderful clothes to see and try on. I think this must be one of the best seasons collections and with new designers complimenting the tried and trusted it was fun to look through all the displays. The event was so popular I was in awe at how hard everyone was working to make everything run smoothly. The shop was buzzing and everyone had a super time. Kim even had time to show me the latest collection of waistcoats.
It was lovely seeing Jackie and Jaq again, both looking great. In fact seeing Jaq trying on a gorgeous linen coat prompted me to try it on myself and I ended up buying one! I am also delighted with the gorgeous Verpass and Nanso summer tops purchased. I cant wait for the sun to start shining so that I can wear them.
Thank you again for your generosity and hospitality; it really was a fabulous day.


 Kim P    Sunday 13 April 2014 at 14:53

Just putting my purchases away and I didn't buy a Nanso top at all, it was KJ Brand haha! I'm not very good with labels, the "Verpass" tops I was talking to you about yesterday were NP! Never mind, whatever the label they are gorgeous tops.


 Emma    Tuesday 15 April 2014 at 11:14

H Kim,

Thank you so much for your lovely comments. Yes, I am still recovering from the weekend, which was amazing.

I can't help feeling that we should have a birthday party every year!

I'm so glad that you found some lovely items: yes, I do think it's the best ever summer season. The colours this year are unique and beautiful.

I am looking forward to-perhaps not the next 20 years: that may be a bit too much, even for me-the next 10 years of Emma Plus!


Emma    Friday 11 April 2014 at 13:57

 Post #395 

Subject: Our Pearl Anniversary

I wish I could have a clearer photograph to show our lovely pearl anniversary window, but our problem is that there are reflections of our sunny street that obscure our picture. This is because the sun always shines in Brighton!

We are now putting the finishing touches to our party: the gift bags and tokens are ready, our fun quiz is devised, drinks are bought and food is ordered. The cake is on its way! We are all party girls, so we are really looking forward to a lovely buzz tomorrow. We hope you can make it.....


 Maureen Kirby    Saturday 12 April 2014 at 14:23

Hi Emma and the girls

Really enjoyed being part of your day and came away with some lovely things. Good to see Jaq as well. Hope the rest of the day goes well and you can have a bit of a relax over the weekend. Nice to see Kim again and meet Anna. See you soon.

Love Mo


 Emma    Tuesday 15 April 2014 at 11:17

Hi Maureen!

So glad to see you again: you were looking amazing!

The day was a wonderful one, and it was so unique to have an environment which was essentially a party involving all my good friends, at the same time as showing off all the lovely clothes!

Everyone seemed to have such a wonderful time, and I loved it......


Emma    Thursday 10 April 2014 at 11:21

 Post #394 

Subject: Goodies

We are up to our ears in gift bags right now, making the final preparations for our birthday celebration on Saturday.

We will be giving our first 50 customers a fantastic gift bag stuffed with fantastic goodies, and our first 20 customers a fantastic free gift worth 69.

We don't expect to see all 50 customers on Saturday, which means that we will in all probability be giving gift bags to customers for at least a week. So, even if you can't make the first day, it would be worth calling in to the store to pick up the gift bag if you happen to be passing soon-

We look forward to seeing you in store!


Emma    Saturday 29 March 2014 at 11:51

 Post #393 

Subject: Our 20th Birthday

We are so excited to be able to announce the celebration of our 20th birthday, here at Emma Plus.

Our store openened in spring 1994, and, although it does seem to have gone in a flash, that means we have been here a whole two decades!

To mark the occasion, we have decided to have a fantastic party, to which everyone is invited, and provide lovely presents for all.

The birthday party is going to be on the 12th April...all day, starting at 10.30 in the morning, and ending at 5pm. There is going to be extremely yummy food, and lovely drink (both alcoholic, and non). We are going to have a competition, with a prize, and there will be fabulous gift bags for all.

Most important, though, is our wonderful gift that we have especially commissioned, and which will be given free to the first 20 customers in our door on or after the 12th April. We are not going to tell you what it is, but it is limited edition, beautiful, hand-finished, unique, of the best quality, and will retail at 69...

We look forward to being able to thank our wonderful customers for all their fantastic support over the years. Without that, we would not be here. In many ways Emma Plus belongs to you.


 Kim P    Sunday 30 March 2014 at 21:30

Wonderful! Congratulations, I bet the 20 years have flown by!

I will be there!


 Emma    Thursday 03 April 2014 at 15:01

Thanks, Kim!

It promises to be a fantastic day. Our gift bags are causing a bit of excitement, and our free gift really is amazing.

More than anything, though, I think it will be the people on the day that will really make the whole event so special.

I am so glad to hear that you will be one of us!


 Maureen Kirby    Thursday 03 April 2014 at 16:51

hi Emma and Jaq

Remember me! We used to live in Surrey but now live in Hampshire and due to a lot of circumstances I haven't been able to get to Emma Plus for over 2 years - but guess what I am hoping to come and see you on the 12th. Will you both be there - hope so it would be lovely to catch up with you both.

Love Maureen


 Emma    Friday 04 April 2014 at 16:52

Hi Maureen!!!

How could we have ever forgotten you!? How are you? I often think about you and hope you are well...

I will definitely be here on the 12th. It's a big day for us, and I am so looking forward to it. It would be fantastic to see you again. You should see it here now: one week to go, and the excitement is brimming!

Jaq has become a lady of leisure, and no longer works for us in the shop. However, she is a dear friend, both to me, and to Emma Plus! I have every hope you will see her here on the day.


 Jane    Thursday 10 April 2014 at 08:59

Dear Emma

Happy 20 years and many more of them.

Good luck for Saturday



 Emma    Thursday 10 April 2014 at 11:14

Hi Jane!

Thank you so much for your kind words of support!

I hope you have a lovely weekend: perhaps we will see you?



Emma    Friday 14 March 2014 at 18:03

 Post #392 

Subject: Winter blues...

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

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

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

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

Where there is colour, they are the most wearable and popular colours you could think of. All manner of blues... from denim-grey, through petrol to cobalt... the span of this hue doesnt stop until it hits ultraviolet. This looks particularly beautiful in prints placed against black and white.

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

As soon as I did so, however, the old clothes rage returned. I simply couldnt wait to get that jacket, and the prospect of having to spend six months without it caused me to grind my teeth in frustration. I am actually gnashing now just thinking about it. But I know that September will inevitably make its way here, and by that time I will be lusting after the following seasons stock on order!

If, unlike me (very unlike me) your passion doesnt run to a cobalt blue leather jacket, perhaps I could interest you in a lovely brick-red one? Or maybe teal green? Or rather I should say, perhaps Jorli could interest you in one, because this is what they are producing this autumn. Any of these jackets would look mighty fine layered over a print dress, or even a long T-shirt and jeans.

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

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

In fact, if I had to sum up the whole ethos of Autumn/Winter 2014, it would be with those two words... affirming and wearable. I cant wait.


Emma    Saturday 25 January 2014 at 17:00

 Post #384 

Subject: Task Versus Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am looking for things that are life-enhancing, and they havent let me down before.


 Kim P    Thursday 30 January 2014 at 22:13

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


Emma    Monday 20 January 2014 at 21:26

 Post #383 

Subject: A Proud Moment

We had such a wonderful surprise, and such a proud moment last week when we found out that we had won the prize for the 'Best Concept' section of the 'Dressed For Success' Christmas window display competition.

We had previously mentioned our shop window, which showcased our alteration service, and had asked on this blog for our customers to vote for us. Well, apparently you did, for which we are very grateful.

We must also have garnered some votes from the general public, though, because there were over 2000 votes in the competition as a whole, and I was told by one of the organisers that we got a great many votes.

We have always been proud of our window displays, which all members of staff take a turn in helping with, so it is fantastic to get some recognition. This special window was put together mainly by Kim and Olivia.

We had such a wonderful evening at the awards ceremony, a glitzy affair for which we dressed in our glad-rags (all in Anna Scholz, actually!) and enjoyed a lovely meal in the Dome Bar, just down the road from our shop. The photograph on the right shows all the winners with their awards (a framed picture of the winning window, and an engraved glass plaque).

The evening was particularly rewarding as an opportunity to hear a talk from the wonderful retail advice agency, Metamorphosis, as well as ejoying some welcome networking with other independent retailers.

I really would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for us in this competition: we really do feel chuffed.


 Kim P    Wednesday 22 January 2014 at 22:21

Congratulations! That is wonderful news. The window displays are always so cheerful and inviting.


 Emma    Friday 24 January 2014 at 15:48

Thanks, Kim!

yes, we were very proud, and clearly (from this picture!) look like the cats that got the cream.

Emma    Wednesday 08 January 2014 at 16:47

 Post #381 

Subject: SuperSale

For readers of this blog we have some very exciting news. We will be holding a SuperSale this Friday 10th and Saturday 11th January.

The SuperSale means that all Sale stock will have an extra 20% off, over and above the already significant discounts. Many items will be reduced by 75% or even more.

Our regular customers will know that our SuperSales are very rare events. It has been a number of years since our last one, and it may well be the only one for a long time to come. All our sales offer good bargains - we use them to 'clear down' before all our new stock arrives - but a SuperSale is an opportunity to get beautiful designer clothing at a fraction of what it normally costs.

In stock you will find gorgeous coats, knits, fantastic practical trousers, tops and dresses - all in the gorgeous jewel colours of this season. It's possible to get a real investment piece for less than the price of its low-cost imitation.

During these special two days, we will also be offering 10% off all new stock, and, as ever, any customer spending 100 or more and who is parked at the Theatre Car Park adjacent to our store will get 2 hours' free parking.

We look forward to seeing you in the SuperSale!


 Kim P    Sunday 12 January 2014 at 11:58

What a great sale, I am so pleased I came into the shop yesterday to see you all again and the brilliant bargains. To be able to buy such good quality clothes for no more than you would pay for an average quality, poorly fitting item elsewhere is fantastic.

It is funny how sometimes you see an item on the rail and think it's not for me but then try it on and it looks great. I am delighted with my Anna Scholz and Elena Miro dresses, I'll be wearing the latter to work tomorrow.

Thank you again, the service and hospitality are second to none even though Kim was threatening to order some waistcoats for me!


 Emma Hayes    Monday 13 January 2014 at 00:15

Hi Kim,

Yes, I'm tremendously excited at us getting in a checked waistcoat for you this spring, which Kim has especially ordered for you. Can't wait to see you in it. We aim to please!


Emma    Thursday 19 December 2013 at 16:43

 Post #379 

Subject: There's no time like the present

Now is the time for my seasonal reminder that a Gift Voucher is a true thing of beauty.

In the past, when the only gift tokens that could be bought would be from Boots (fun, but not something to get every year), book tokens (somewhat worthy) or postal orders (no imagination whatsoever), gift vouchers used to be considered to be a rather lacklustre present.

Nowadays, when there is a massive variety of companies that provide this kind of gift, they can be an expression of thoughtfulness and good judgement, as well as generosity.

Over the years, I have often had my very first meeting with a customer after they have received one of our vouchers, and this is a delight to both them and me. How lovely that a friend or member of their family has taken enough time and thought, not just to give them something that is a personal indulgence, but also an invitation into a hitherto undiscovered world: the land of plus-size designer fashion. The recipient is sometimes a quite changed person afterwards: not something that could be said from most Christmas presents!

Our gift vouchers can be bought over the phone or via this website, or instore, in a variety of different denominations. At the moment we have a special offer, allowing the lucky purchaser to receive an extra 10% added free.

Happy Christmas!


Emma    Thursday 19 December 2013 at 11:31

 Post #378 

Subject: SALE!

The time of tense waiting is over....we can now announce that the Emma Plus Winter Sale is upon us.

The Sale starts on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st December at 10am.

This year, due to the warm autumn, we have a plethora of beautiful knits and coats in gorgeous rich colours, all heavily discounted, in time for the colder weather ahead.

We also have some fantastic last-minute party clothes, just in time for the festive season.

This, along with our lovely tops and famous trousers, all add up to a bumper sale this year. Don't forget that if you are spending 100 or more and parked in the NCP car park adjacent to us, you will qualify for 2 hours' free parking.

We look forward to seeing you in store.


Emma    Saturday 07 December 2013 at 11:25

 Post #377 

Subject: Our Christmas Window Comptetition....please vote

Now it is December, officially we are permitted to wish all our wonderful customers a very Happy Christmas, and a Fabulous New Year.

This year, we are incredibly honoured to have been entered by Brighton and Hove City Council into their wonderful 'Dressed For Success' Christmas Window competition.

In our window this year (which marks our nearly 20 years of trading), we have tried to express a lot of our passion. Our theme is personal skill and attention to detail. As regular customers will know, we offer an alteration service, which enables us to offer a perfectly fitted, individually finished garment for every customer, which is usually completely free of charge. Never before have we tried to refer to our alteration service in our window.

Our store dummies have been stripped of their usual covering, revealing that they are not just shop fittings. In fact, they represent a little bit of history: they are very rare plus-size vintage dressmaker's manequins, salvaged from a factory in Brighton which produced fashion for many years. Now that tradition has died out, but we hope we now echo their skills with our own alteration professionals, so the gorgeous Christmas clothes being displayed on them are in the process of being fitted, ready for the party season.

Christmas is represented by snowflakes, which if you look closely enough are all actually hand-made lace and crochet doilies, again from a time when incredibly skilled handicrafts were prevalent locally. In amongst the snowflakes flutter our Christmas Gift Vouchers, this year in a limited-edition vintage design, hand-written and individually embossed. They are available in all denominations for those who wish to bring a little bit of fashion magic into the life of their loved one.

We would be so grateful if readers of this blog would consider voting for our window: it would mean so much for us to win this prestigious event. The voting form is: brighton-hove.gov.uk/dressed2013vote and the category we are hoping to be placed in is 'Cleverest Concept'.


 Kim P    Saturday 07 December 2013 at 22:36

Just voted!

The window display looks wonderful, I hope you win!


 Emma    Sunday 08 December 2013 at 10:04

Thank you so much, Kim! That's very good of you....as always!

I do hope you are well, and that you have a wonderful Christmas.


 Kim P    Tuesday 17 December 2013 at 19:19

Thank you Emma! Happy Christmas and I hope 2014 is Healthy and Prosperous for you and all the ladies who make visiting your store such a pleasure.

I hope to be popping in before the year is out!


 Emma    Thursday 19 December 2013 at 11:24

Hi Kim,

I can't tell you how much we would like that!

Hope to see you soon-


Emma    Wednesday 27 November 2013 at 16:04

 Post #376 

Subject: Fashion tribes continued.....

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

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

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

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

One distinctive thing is that they always have the complete look. This is the woman who wont leave the house if her handbag doesnt work perfectly with the ethos of her outfit, or if her shoes dont have exactly the correct height of heel to carry the whole thing off. She has a forensic eye for detail.

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


Emma    Friday 25 October 2013 at 18:39

 Post #374 

Subject: Prize winner

When deciding how to choose the winner of our 100 prize draw - part of our recent Fashion Show event - we had to think about who was impartial enough to be able to select the winning entry.

All the entrants had put their names in the hat, and we thought it would be a good idea to let our shop dog, Pickle, 'pick' his favourite. As soon as we emptied all the names on the floor, he ran forward and grabbed one of them.

After 'prizing' the paper from his mouth, we found that the lucky winner was Valerie Cotter.

Later, when Mrs Cotter came in to collect her gift voucher, she took the time to thank Pickle with a snack....


Emma    Thursday 24 October 2013 at 15:57

 Post #373 

Subject: Fashion tribes (cont...)

I have continued thinking about fashion tribes ever since I wrote a blog about the subject a few posts ago. Its interesting how, in any area, it is always the extremes that stand out, and with fashion tribes this is especially so. There are two fashion tribes that represent polar opposites, sitting as they do at either end of the fashion spectrum.

One is the Clothing Woman'. This lady does not wear fashion - she wears clothing. She wants apparel that fits, that's practical, that suits her colouring, that is of good quality and that is modest (this is actually quite important), but she couldnt care a fig about what the latest looks are. As a hater of shopping, the Clothing Woman wants her attire to last - and this is one of the main reasons why she buys quality clothes. In fact, she would rather be painting the spare bedroom than touring the shops looking at fashion.

A typical Clothing Woman will wear nothing but trousers (usually a practical cotton pant from a very good quality range - like those from the German manufacturer, Brand), teamed with some kind of jersey top (of the T-shirt variety, often from Verpass, which produces great easy-care tops). Sometimes she will place a cotton jacket on top, or perhaps even opt for a knit. Colours are usually natural greens, blues and beiges, but when the Clothing Woman wants to inject colour into her wardrobe she can sometimes be seen in purples, cobalt blues and reds. Although she is keen to wear shades that suit her complexion, she doesnt worry about fitting her body shape. If her body doesnt suit the classic Clothing Woman combo of casual trousers and T-shirt, then thats too bad; she will wear them anyway, and feel comfortable with herself. The Clothing Woman is the sworn enemy of any kind of embellishment.

Her polar opposite is the Minx. The Minx is a pretty in pink kind of woman. She loves embellishment, froufrou and sexiness. Never far from the hairdressers chair, she will always flash a little cleavage as she sashays down the street, clutching her gorgeous Sarah Forsyth handbag (see www.sarah-forsyth.com). Doors will open miraculously for her as she approaches, and she has never done any interior decorating in her life.

She loves pretty colours. Pink (of course), but also red, blue, green turquoise... almost any shade you can imagine. Not averse to a little black dress (so long as it has something sexy about it - like the latest black jersey/lace number produced by Italian fashion masters Marina Rinaldi), she will often wear dresses and skirts of the type we will be receiving from German maker Jomhoy next spring (see photo above right). She likes her clothes to fit quite closely. The one thing that she has in common with the Clothing Woman is that she's not overly obsessed with getting items that suit her particular body shape. If she didnt suit the sexy look, she would wear it anyway. But her clothes are often tight enough to describe her figure to passers-by in forensic detail, something anathema to the Clothing Woman. She is a force in her own right, and gets away with anything.


Emma    Saturday 12 October 2013 at 16:40

 Post #372 

Subject: Fashion Show

Exhausted but delighted, we are now winding down after our fantastic Fashion Show.

Our fashion shows are always enormous fun, and this time even more so. We started the event on the catwalk with our 'Pick and Mix' separates, then moved on to this season's very strong monochrome looks. We then showed an Anna Scholz story, and the event climaxed with our 'Snuggle' section, which showcased our fabulous warm winter looks.

Interspersed in the show we had a fun quiz, entry to a prize draw (the winner will be announced later this week on this forum) and refreshments.

There was such a wonderful buzz in the shop; several women told me that they would definitely be coming to our next show, and I found myself wondering why I didn't do them more often!


Emma    Thursday 10 October 2013 at 17:08

 Post #371 

Subject: Fashion Show

Just a quick reminder about our wonderful Fashion Show, which is happening this Saturday (the 12th October).

At 2pm, we will be having a catwalk show, showcasing all our most beautiful winter looks, entitled 'Snuggle'. There will be yummy refreshments, a prize draw (top prize a 100 gift voucher for Emma Plus) and a fun quiz.

As ever, anyone spending 100 or more who is parked in the NCP Theatre Car Park (adjacent to our shop) will be given two hours' free parking.

We look forward to seeing you here!


Emma    Thursday 03 October 2013 at 11:55

 Post #370 

Subject: Tribal fashion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Kim P    Friday 04 October 2013 at 23:22

Hopefully Kim will be modelling for the Waistcoat tribe!


 Emma    Saturday 05 October 2013 at 15:04

Hi Kim

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


Emma    Friday 27 September 2013 at 11:37

 Post #369 

Subject: Fashion Show October 12th

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

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

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

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

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


 Kim P    Sunday 29 September 2013 at 13:13

I am away that weekend :-(

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


 Emma    Thursday 03 October 2013 at 11:59

Hi Kim,

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

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



Emma    Saturday 31 August 2013 at 14:26

 Post #367 

Subject: Anna Scholz Discount

After the tremendous success of our Anna Scholz Day earlier this year, we have become quite keen on the idea of encouraging our lovely Anna Scholz customers with a surprise treat whenever we can.

All our Anna Scholz Days have showcased Spring/Summer collections, so to give a little something to those who love Autumn/Winter clothes (or who just love Anna Scholz clothing of any season) we are offering a 10% discount on all new-season Anna Scholz clothes. This offer starts right now, and will go on for a limited period only, so I suggest that if you feel tempted by anything you have seen so far this autumn, now may be a very good time to invest!


Emma    Friday 30 August 2013 at 17:32

 Post #366 

Subject: Jazz boomerang

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Sharon Cross    Friday 30 August 2013 at 22:33

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

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


 Emma    Saturday 31 August 2013 at 14:22

Hi Sharon,

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

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


Emma    Saturday 17 August 2013 at 15:30

 Post #365 

Subject: A thing of beauty...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Kim P    Sunday 18 August 2013 at 18:24

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


 Emma    Monday 19 August 2013 at 12:04

Thanks, Kim...

There's certainly nothing drab there!


Emma    Saturday 03 August 2013 at 15:07

 Post #364 

Subject: Workwear Summer 2014

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

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

Before I start to go out to buy, I really dont have much of an idea about what it is I am going to find. Years of experience have only served to help me know some very small pieces of wisdom, which I use to the best of my ability...

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

For instance, one of the very strong influences that we have been seeing for some time now (and which I have referred to before in this blog) is the return to the ladylike looks of the nineteen fifties and sixties. This started some years ago, and mirrored other cultural influences - such as music (the singer Amy Whitehouse was an example), TV (Mad Men is a reference here) and interior design (who hasnt noticed the vogue for fifties and sixties modernist furniture at the moment?). One of the results of this has been the return to the type of glamorous workwear that used to be ubiquitous, yet which had all but died out a few years ago.

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

This didnt really seem to worry women in our mothers and grandmothers generation. These were doughty women who went through the War, and were prepared to spend 18 hours a day in a bombproof corset.

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

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

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


 Kim P    Monday 05 August 2013 at 19:45

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


 Emma    Monday 05 August 2013 at 20:48

Thanks, Kim!

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

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


 jamesbrodylevi    Monday 27 October 2014 at 07:06

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


 Eliza Lowrie    Friday 23 January 2015 at 12:05

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


Emma    Friday 02 August 2013 at 13:50

 Post #363 

Subject: Super Reductions

It's worth mentioning to the readers of our blog that we have a slightly unusual situation here in our shop.

Our Summer Sale has moved into its final stages-the extra reduction stage-when many of our items are either half price or 75% off. So much so usual....we always clear all our season's stock before the next collection comes into store. This is how we keep fresh and new all the time, and why we end up giving items away towards the end of our Sale.

The big difference this year is that this lovely selection of light and bright, practical summer clothing is all being sold at the VERY MOMENT THAT IT IS NEEDED MOST. In other words, anyone finding that they need some cool clothes to wear in hot weather will be able to find them now substantially reduced. After all, it is still only the beginning of August.

Regular readers of this blog may not need to read the rest of this post! It consists of the two reminders that usually accompany my comments. The first is the observation that we have 'total climate control' here in the shop, and would challenge anyone to feel anything other than super-cool and comfortable in store.

The second is to mention the fact that anyone parked in the NCP Theatre car park (adjacent to our shop) who spends 100 or more will be given 2 hours' free parking.

We look forward to being deluged by bargain-hunters as of now!


 Kim P    Monday 05 August 2013 at 19:48

How long will the sale be on for?


 Emma    Monday 05 August 2013 at 20:44

Hi Kim,

The Sale will continue until the end of August, but stock does sell through as time goes on!

The 'final reductions' that we have at the moment are some of the most radical we've done: I'm keen for customers to have some of the fantastic summer Sale clothes whilst they can be enjoyed most!


Emma    Wednesday 24 July 2013 at 09:45

 Post #362 

Subject: SALE!

The time has come again for our wonderful Summer Sale!

This year, more than ever, we have all been wearing our lovely cool summer clothes, and now there is an opportunity to top-up our summer wardrobe at substantially reduced prices.

This is a very colourful season, and the summer clothes in our sale are a rainbow of gorgeous shades. Of course, they look even better now some of them are half price or less.

There are two important facts to cogitate about our Sale. The first is that if you spend 100 or more in store and park in the NCP car park adjacent to our shop, you will qualify for 2 hours free parking.

The second is that Emma Plus enjoys an airconditioning system to beat all others, and any customer choosing to spend a little time in our store will leave relaxed, happy and as cool as a cucumber.

Our Sale starts at 10.30am on Friday 26th and continues at 10.00am on Saturday 27th July.

We look forward to seeing you in store!


 Sharon    Thursday 01 August 2013 at 14:44

Marvellous! I have booked a day off Friday next week for some bargain hunting and hopefully a peak at some new season stock.


 Emma    Friday 02 August 2013 at 13:36

That's fab, Sharon!

I think you will be coming at a very good time. We've already had some gorgeous A/W 13 items delivered, and our sale stock is up to 75% off, so there are some fantastic bargains to be had.

Look forward to seeing you soon-


Emma    Wednesday 17 July 2013 at 15:03

 Post #361 

Subject: New new new

I am feeling the sensation of tingling excitement that I always get on the run-up to the new season.

The first excitement is caused by the sight of new stock. It is always lovely to have the first deliveries arrive in our store. Of course the advent of winter stock does not have the same connotations as the delivery of spring stock. The spring/summer collection usually arrives in the middle of winter, and the bright colours light up our store - just as they light up our expectations of the longer, warmer days ahead.

However, receiving the first of the winter season, which is what is happening now, is also a positive event. This is because the very first deliveries are designed to be received in the middle of the summer, so tend to be colourful and light, with just a tinge of autumn sophistication.

To give you two examples of new stock delivered this week... We have had some truly gorgeous denim jeans from Elena Miro. These are real fashion jeans: superb cut, edgy, with great denim - the perfect thing for high summer (which will also carry you forward into the autumn). The other item I have chosen to mention, also labelled Autumn/Winter - yet which is precisely appropriate for this time of year - is the lovely textured linen tops that have arrived from QNeel (see picture). Cool, colourful and easy to wear; perfect for right now.

My other tingle of anticipation is for the new buying season that is looming ahead. I will shortly be putting in orders for next summer. In a nutshell, I just can't wait to see all the shiny new things! Every range - every designer - is going through my head right now. What have they got to show? What are the colours? Can they possibly improve on this year (which was fantastic)?

On Friday I will be rising at the ungodly hour of 2.45am to start my journey to Germany where I will kick off the Spring/Summer 2014 buying. I hate to get up early, and this super-early time is particularly bad, but I am thoroughly looking forward to it. I will keep readers of this blog up to date with what I find.

Its a sensation of childish glee, like the feeling I used to get when I was six years old and looking forward to Christmas. Bring on Spring/Summer 2014!


Emma    Thursday 11 July 2013 at 12:12

 Post #360 

Subject: Ice cool

Counterintuitively those looking to cool off in this hot weather may choose to come over to Brighton and do some clothes shopping.

You would think that, with the weather seemingly getting hotter and hotter this weekend, the coolest place you could be would be at home, in the back garden, under the deepest shade of a parasol, sipping on iced water. Coming into Brighton, with its pavement cafes, parks, beaches, street theatre, open air art installations etc, would suggest a celebration of the sunshine rather than a flight from it.

But for those who find the hot weather really hard to take, there is actually rather a lovely way of spending the day here. It is possible, for example, to get into an air-conditioned car, drive down to Brighton, and arrive in a completely unflurried state. Then it is entirely feasable to find oneself parking in the NCP car park adjacent to Emma Plus, and walking the twelve steps required to enter our store.

Once inside, you'll find a swirl of cool air assails you as you walk through the door. Due to our super-duper air-conditioning, spending an hour or two perusing the gorgeous cool and colourful high-summer outfits will cause your blood to remain at a supremely comfortable temperature throughout your visit.

And after your pleasurable sujourn in store, you are entirely free to walk out into the sunshine, sit on the beach and get as pink as a lobster!


Emma    Saturday 22 June 2013 at 17:08

 Post #359 

Subject: Hot tips

I have reached that very delicate time of year: when I prepare for my annual holiday. I will be going away very soon and, like all fashion-obsessed people, I am spending the week or so before my journey thinking about what I am going to pack.

Im staying in England - travelling up to gorgeous East Anglia - so this makes the decision potentially troubling. The big problem is weather. If we, like most other countries, had climate rather than weather I would find it relatively easy to know what to slip into my case. If I were, for instance, going to Australia in the summer (and I have done this in the past), I would know to bring all manner of warm-weather attire. The difference in temperature between the hottest day and the coldest may be as extreme as it is in this country (it was when I was there), but only insofar as it was always hot. The temperature ranged from warm, pleasantly warm, warmer than warm, hot, unpleasantly hot, to searing. Like most plussized women, once I was in my hot weather attire, there was nowhere else I could go, wardrobe-wise. If I had been a teeny little woman I may have worn, on the coolest days, a fresh summer dress with a little jacket over the top, and on the very hottest days I may have reached into the bottommost-recesses of my case and picked out a pair of high-cut hot pants, and teamed them with a bikini top. Lets just say this is not going to happen for me. On the coolest days I would wear that little dress and jacket, and on the hottest I would probably take the jacket off.

So packing for a particular climate is easy, and for us plus-size women reasonably uncomplicated. However, all bets are off when you are talking about the mixed bag of weather that we enjoy here in the UK. Its quite possible that, in one week, I could experience a heat wave (on previous visits to East Anglia it has been 30 degrees, which for me counts as one), a rainstorm (there actually was a genuine tornado in Southwold while we were there once), perishingly cold (the wind comes straight across the sea from Siberia), drought (I saw a dust-devil storm in the countryside), and just about everything in between.

One of the main problems is prediction. It may be very hot on one day, or all week (necessitating many changes of clothes). It may be cold every day (meaning that the little jumper thrown casually into the case becomes the one everyday staple and I spend the entire week in it). The rain may be incessant. (On one notorious UK holiday I spent the whole week either in the rain becoming soaked, or in various teashops drying out. One day I realised that everything I had with me was soaked through, so I hit upon the bright idea of finding a launderette and putting it all into the dryer. The deadly combination of spending days whiling away the hours in a cake-infested area, and having my clothes tumble-dried in temperatures they had never been exposed to before, led to a situation where everything was suddenly too small for me! It was not a happy time.)

However, even with all these considerable difficulties I know that I will be able to pack well and effectively. You dont go on as many UK holidays as I have without building up a certain amount of expertise! So here is my list of vital UK holiday clothing:
  • Pair of shorts/cropped trousers

  • Pair of jeans/casual trousers

  • Pair of smart trousers

  • Casual day dress

  • Smart casual dress

  • Evening dress (not too dressy)

  • Shrug

  • Couple of casual T-shirts

  • Couple of smart/casual tops

  • Couple of blouses both casual and smart/casual

  • Couple of very pretty tops

  • Evening blouse

  • Swimsuit

  • Sarong

  • Rain jacket/coat

  • Casual jacket

  • Smart jacket

  • Scarf/light shawl (pretty cotton)

  • Jumper or knitted jacket.

As a fashion professional I could tell you that bringing these functional and pretty clothes with me is the only reason why I have a lovely holiday. But this would be a lie. I have a wonderful holiday because the UK is fabulous, and there are always lots of things to do and see!

However, knowing that I have brought the right clothing with me to help me to relax, feel attractive and confident about my look in an effortless way certainly doesnt do any harm!


Emma    Friday 31 May 2013 at 16:21

 Post #358 

Subject: Watercolours in fashion

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

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

I was trained as an artist, and I have a fascination for artistic connections, so I cant help but come to a theory as to what is going on...

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

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

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


 Kim P    Friday 31 May 2013 at 21:18

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


 Emma    Saturday 01 June 2013 at 11:35

Hi Kim!

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


 Kim P    Sunday 02 June 2013 at 21:57

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


 natashasimpson    Wednesday 05 June 2013 at 11:51

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


 Emma    Wednesday 05 June 2013 at 17:04

Hi Natasha,

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


Emma    Saturday 18 May 2013 at 10:57

 Post #357 

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

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

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

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

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

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

To say that the impact of the internet has had unexpected consequences in almost every walk of life is something of an understatement. I, for one, never really anticipated how it was going to affect my industry. For the first time we can now get national recognition for what we do, and encourage more and more women to come into our store to buy from us. Today, if a customer telephones and asks whether it is worthwhile travelling to get to us, no matter how far they were contemplating, I wouldnt hesitate to say yes. Occasionally, women ask if it would be worth their while undertaking a two-hour trip, and these days I am quite bewildered... Two hours? Why, of course, thats no distance!

This has meant that our stockholding has increased exponentially, and we find that we have more beautiful clothes in a wider variety of sizes and in greater quantity than ever before. And what is being offered to us by the designers is getting ever more exciting and gorgeous. For about 10 years I found myself saying wow... this is the best season ever, with a tone of surprise every season. Now I understand the mechanism of how our industry works I take this situation as a given. Of course its the best season ever, every time! It would be a bit of a let-down if it wasnt, considering the reasons why the industry should be improving year on year.

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

This is a democratic development; hopefully we will now see the real power of the consumer. The shops that are worth visiting will get more popular, and those offering a disappointing product or service will either have to shape up, or will go. I strongly believe we should welcome the Trip Advisors of this world, and encourage the bloggers and reviewers out there. We cant blindly accept what they are saying, but I do think they will have a vital part to play in the future.

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

Im very grateful; I dont think many folk realise just what a hugely positive influence on our industry people like Em have, and how much we can all benefit from it.


Emma    Thursday 09 May 2013 at 14:58

 Post #356 

Subject: Top three

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

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

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

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

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

So whats the third must-have item in your wardrobe this season? Well, like all of us involved in fashion, Im going to cheat. Im going to suggest something that isnt clothing, and isnt just one item. But it is definitely a must have! Im talking about accessories.

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

And the number-one accessory this season is the necklace. Possibly because of the retro look that is everywhere, these are incredibly important right now. I think a really good necklace is a visual life-saver. Putting a necklace on an outfit doesnt just finish it off. It can add drama, or make a look more or less formal. It can add a touch of luxury... or whimsy. It can bring the disparate colours in the clothing into harmony. It can put a rebellious tweak on a rather workaday look. It can speak of sophistication or fun. It has the power to twist a whole look into something else.

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


Emma    Saturday 04 May 2013 at 17:22

 Post #355 

Subject: And the winner is...

It's been a week since the ASD and we have now performed our solemn duty... picking the winner of the 100 gift voucher prize.

The prize goes to Amanda Richards, who came along on the day and put her name into our hat. Now she can never say that she doesn't win anything!

We hope she really enjoys her prize!


 Amanda Richards    Friday 10 May 2013 at 13:43

To all the lovely ladies of Emma Plus,

Just wanted to say thank you very much for letting me know that I won the vouchers. When you rang on Saturday I was so excited!

Really enjoyed the ASD, love my clothes, and great to meet Anna, she was beautiful!

Kind regards,

Amanda Richards.

PS. Your ladies are so helpful. They make buying clothes a pleasure not a misery.


 Nicola Sutherland    Saturday 11 May 2013 at 11:32

I may not have got the call that Amanda did, but I did get my altered purchases from ASD in the mail yesterday. They all fit beautifully, and thank you for exceeding my expectations and getting all three items to me in time for my trip next week.



 Emma    Sunday 12 May 2013 at 21:19

Hi Nicola,

Thank you so much for your kind words, which are much appreciated.

So glad you got your clothes on time, and were happy with them. I really hope you enjoy wearing them.

Hope to see you again soon-



Emma    Thursday 02 May 2013 at 11:54

 Post #354 

Subject: Anna Scholz Day #3

We are still both high and exhausted after our Anna Scholz Day on Saturday. Having had these days before (this was our third ASD), we thought we knew what to expect. On the day of the event the shop looks very different after the special delivery of Anna Scholz items has arrived, and it feels different, too: its very unusual for all of the women who work here to be present, all at one time. There is always a buzz as we gird up our loins for the busy day ahead.

At the beginning of the day, before we are open, there is a pregnant pause. We gather together to have an early morning coffee, and to examine our handiwork. The shop floor looks great, with the Anna Scholz collection providing a riot of summer colour, and new shop floor displays created to showcase the event. The window display has been carefully devised to give maximum impact. The dainty nibbles (courtesy of John Lewis) are ready on their plates, and the fruit punch is already in its bowl. All the decks are cleared, and the pin-cushions are stuck full of pins. Outside, the sun shines brightly.

Then its opening time... We turn the open sign on the door, and the key in the lock. And almost instantly the shop is full of people. Within minutes you can hear the laughing and the giggling. People are trying on colours and looks that they have always wanted to try, but they just didnt KNOW they wanted to try them! Women move in and out of the changing rooms - a kaleidoscope of colour and pattern.

The day goes in a whirl. This particular ASD was the busiest yet. Personally, I had no time to think about anything for about seven hours: it is a kind of meditative experience. I am lost in the moment, and my head is cleared of everything except what is in front of me. Not being at all sporty, I guess this is what it must feel like to compete in a sporting event. I actually think this kind of thing is good for me (and the other members of staff) psychologically. I am certain it is very good for our customers, who, quite clearly, are having a blast.

At the end of the day we have waved Anna and Darren off, sat back down on our sofa, almost too tired to start on the journey home. And we all feel happy and grateful that we work in such a lovely job.


Emma    Saturday 20 April 2013 at 16:14

 Post #353 

Subject: Anna Scholz

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

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

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

I started working at this store 23 years ago. It was then, just as it is now, a proper plus-size shop. When I say proper, I mean that it has never been one of those irritating shops that call themselves plus size but start at a size 12 (why?) and go all the way up to a size 22 (surely, this doesnt even count as a plus-size these days?). When I first came here we stocked fashions from a size 16 up to a size 26; nowadays we stock mainly between size 20 and 32.

Back then, it was very difficult to find really lovely clothing in those proper plus sizes. The main reason was good old-fashioned prejudice. Against all the available evidence it seemed that our own plus-size industry had decided a number of things about its customers. It had decided that we were elderly (or middle-aged in a particularly frumpy way). It had decided that we were dowdy (dull and lacklustre). It had decided we were sexless (heaven forbid that we showed a bit of femininity). It had decided we were shapeless and wanted nothing more than cover-ups. We were supposed to lack the energy to bother about fabric care (there was a disproportionate amount of drip-dry clothes). We werent prepared to spend on our clothing. And, more than anything else, we hated colour.

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

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

Anna (as far as I know) was the first plus-size woman to have her own fashion line, and it showed. She didnt need anyone else to tell her what larger women wanted. She was young, vibrant, attractive, driven, enthusiastic, uncompromising, skilful, and anything but apologetic about her size (she is still all of these things). Her clothes were a revelation, and we couldnt get enough of them.

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


 Kim P    Wednesday 24 April 2013 at 18:43

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


 Emma    Thursday 25 April 2013 at 13:18

Hi Kim

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

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

Emma    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 caf-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 its 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 its because I have observed that they have absolutely nothing to do with actual beauty. They are just a form of bullying. If you dont 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 its hard to understand how they can avoid having noticed how lovely they look. Dont 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 dont shape up) press down on us, I will do my best to make my store a haven from those pressures.

Its my belief that is what a plus-size store should be. Because if it isnt 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    Thursday 07 March 2013 at 17:27

 Post #345 

Subject: Jaq

We have a rather bitter-sweet announcement: our lovely, long-serving store manager, Jaq, has decided to move on to pastures new.

Jaq started at Emma Plus in 1995 as a Saturday Sales Assistant and soon established herself as a keen fashionista and personal stylist. Trained as an artist, she has a fantastic eye for colour, fit and style, and a wonderful way of helping her customers achieve the look they are seeking.

Over the years she progressed through the ranks to take over the day-to-day running of the shop, and built up a customer base of women who really appreciated her for her humour, friendliness, knowledge and judgement.

More recently she has started to think about returning to her artistic roots, and decided to take a sabbatical to explore her creativity. She has been so successful in this that she has decided to give up her position as store manager completely to concentrate on her artistic work.

She will be hosting an 'Artists' Open House' as part of the Brighton Festival (the cultural event that happens throughout May), and her house promises to be among the very best in the city. We will provide details here on the blog nearer the time.

Jaq does not intend to become a stranger to Emma Plus, though. She is still an avid customer, and has promised to help us out when we need her.

I know that all of us at Emma Plus wish her well, miss her already, and are delighted that she has found a fresh way to fulfil her talents...


 Jaq Buckeridge    Friday 08 March 2013 at 20:04

Hi Emma and all the lovely ladies of Emma Plus,

I want to thank Emma and all the team for an amazing 17 years at Emma Plus. Ive really appreciated all your support and kindness and i will miss you all greatly.

I also want to thank all those wonderful customers, you know who you are, ive loved working with you and enjoyed your company.You have made it such a pleasure to be at work. I leave you in the very capable hands of Kim , Jackie, Lisa and Anna, you cant asked for a better bunch of girls. Maybe i will see you at the Emma Plus's Anna Scholz day on April 27th, i can't wait to try on some her fabulous creations.Going by previous events its a highlight of the seasons calender.

As Emma has so kindly said i will be running an Artists Open House in the May Festival in Brighton. I will be part of the 7Dials trail.So if you fancy a little art and cake, i would love to welcome you to my house. There will be at least 14 other artists showing with me, including ceramacists and jewellers. If the weather is good i hope to be serving tea and cake in my bijou garden.

Thankyou again Emma, for your tremendous leadership, foresight and kindness.

Jaq Buckeridge


 Kim P    Saturday 09 March 2013 at 21:26

I wish you every success and good health Jaq, you are such a talented lady.


 Nicola Sutherland    Sunday 10 March 2013 at 21:39

Good luck in your new venture Jaq - you will be very much missed by your customers. You helped me the first time I visited the store, and although I only come to Brighton once or twice a year, you always remember me and it's like I am in and out every week!

I love the experience at Emma Plus, and you have some fantastic colleagues who I am sure will step into your shoes (if not fill them!)but I'd like to thank you to introducing me to a whole new way of dressing, to paying that little bit more for fit and comfort and for the introduction to Anna Scholz. Though not sure my bank balance is thanking you for that last one!

All the best



Emma    Monday 04 March 2013 at 23:17

 Post #344 

Subject: Anna Scholz A/W 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I would have loved to have walked out of her showroom right then wearing it. To be honest, I would really like to be wearing it right now. I dont think I would ever want to take it off. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to it, and wait six more months before I even see it at again - because, of course, this was the Anna Scholz Autumn/Winter 2013 collection. I will have to wait what will seem an eternity before I can get that jacket. Gggggrrrrrrr.

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 02 March 2013 at 17:40

 Post #342 

Subject: Fall 2013

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

I do think next winter is a very strong season. As many regular readers of this blog will know, fashion doesnt usually jump forward with a sudden jerk; it tends to evolve in a logical progression over a number of seasons. And Autumn/Winter 2013 is no exception. The looks are simply evolutions of the last winters lines. This means the retro-nineteen-fifties/early nineteen-sixties styles are still holding sway.

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

The correct trousers to wear with the dress/top are, in the main, quite narrow, but some slightly wider ones are being produced that are bit more accessible for the woman who doesnt like to show her legs off in too much detail. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there are the really wide strides, which counter-intuitively can actually look very good with a tunic top. This is because they turn the look a little - introducing a kind of Art Deco aesthetic.

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

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

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

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


Emma    Wednesday 20 February 2013 at 18:28

 Post #340 

Subject: Future shock?

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

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

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

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

My day there began when I arrived mid-afternoon, and joined the throng of women looking over the sponsors stands. I was interested to see the range of clothing of the kind that we wouldnt normally sell in our store. These are clothes, in the main, sold directly to the customer, either through small independents online, or with the large retailers like Simply Be or Evans. It fascinates me to see the difference between the kind of fashion they provide for an event like this (which showcases the designer-led capsules that they would bring to a full-on fashion affair), and their mainstream clothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is an argument that what is seen on the catwalk should never be taken literally. The looks are designed to be controversial and argumentative. However, these werent haute couture catwalk looks: they were all commercially produced items that someone out there is selling.

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

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


 natashasimpson    Thursday 06 June 2013 at 09:33

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


Emma    Saturday 09 February 2013 at 15:44

 Post #337 

Subject: ASD (Anna Scholz Day): 27 April 2013

We now have the best possible news! We have been successful in persuading the fabulous Anna Scholz to create another Anna Scholz Day here in our store!

For those who have already heard about the famous Anna Scholz Days, this will come as long-awaited news. For readers of this blog who are unfamilliar with the Anna Scholz Days (ASDs), this is the most exciting event of the Brighton fashion year.

During the ASD, Anna's latest range is shipped into our store - including many pieces that have never been seen in any store in the UK. We have our superb alteration service on hand to fit the gorgeous clothes to our customers there and then (and items can be sent on for you to receive at home, beautifully fitted, and usually with no extra charge). Anyone spending over 100 will be able to enjoy 2 hours' free parking in the Theatre Car Park adjacent to our store.

But it gets even better. Anna herself will attend, bringing key members of her team. She is a true plus-size fashion icon and is a very beautiful, glamorous fashion expert and visionary, who knows just about everything there is to know about plus-size styling.

During the day there will be refreshments, and a prize draw for all those who attend.

We do hope you can pop this date in your diary, because it really will be a unique and wonderful experience!


 Sharon    Saturday 09 February 2013 at 17:53

Excellent news and just after my birthday so I can buy presents ;-)

Love the coat you're wearing in the picture too.


 Kim P    Saturday 09 February 2013 at 19:38

Wonderful news, I would very much like to come!


 Kirsten    Tuesday 12 February 2013 at 18:54

Wish I could fly over for that day! Love the pic of you and Anna in the AW 13 and looking forward to your blog post about that collection!


 Emma    Thursday 14 February 2013 at 14:11

Hi Sharon...yes, the coat (from autumn/winter 13) is superb, a lovely soft boiled wool, edged with leather. I particularly loved it teamed with the little co-ordinating tweedy tunic dress. Until you have tried on a coat or jacket with contrasting sleeves, it's easy not to realise how flattering they are. This is because any look that breaks up the width of the body makes you look narrower. In this coat, I only look as wide as my torso: the arms do not add to my silhouette.

Hi Kirsten...how lovely to hear from you! I really wish you could make it to the ASD. If it's anything like the previous ones, it's going to be fantastic.


 Nicola Sutherland    Friday 15 February 2013 at 18:43

Perfect timing - already have the reason to treat myself - the perfect birthday day out for me!


Emma    Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 14:42

 Post #331 

Subject: Almia

This morning I was going for my customary dog walk on the hills above Brighton. It was beautiful: everything was white and the trees were describing abstract shapes against the sky, with their two-tone black and white branches. However, looks can be deceptive, and the weather was anything but hospitable. The air was cold, and there were occasional flakes of sleet being carried by the lazy wind (so called, because being too lazy to go around you, it wants to simply go through you). All I can say is, thank heavens the roads are clear now!

Luckily, I didnt have to worry about the weather because I was wearing a wonderful old stalwart coat. Made from thick wool, it was from a collection that we have not seen in the UK for at least five years. It is from Almia of Sweden. Coming from Scandinavia, this manufacturer knew how to make a good coat, and this old friend is no exception. It is almost military in style and has a lovely wide revere that can be drawn up and done right up to the neck. Although recognisably a fashionable ladies coat, nevertheless it is easy to see the heritage that leads in a straight line back to the coats that defended Leningrad.

It does sometimes bewilder me that, when asking for a waterproof coat, many women avoid wool. The very word waterproof seems to imply one of the modern, scientifically designed fabrics, of the type found in sportswear stores. Dont get me wrong: I love those fabrics (and we are awaiting a delivery of raincoats from the Fransden collection, many of which have just such qualities). However, this does not mean that wool is not in itself waterproof, as well as being extremely good protection against that lazy wind!

Such collections as Almia can disappear from the British market at the drop of a hat. In this case it was because the company lost the lovely agents, Todd and Hilary Acker, who retired after they had managed the range for years. One thing led to another, and the range vanished from our shores. I have always really missed it, because Almia was not just about coats. Far from it, their look ranged far and wide, from gorgeous chiffon summer dresses and jackets, through tailoring, knits, trousers, and just about anything that you may wish to see in your wardrobe.

I shall shortly be winging my way (with any luck) over to Germany, to do my latest tranche of buying, and, after the cold winters we have been experiencing lately, I will be looking around with a beady eye at really lovely, warm coats. This year there is one particular collection that I am going to have a look at, in the hope that it will be able to offer me something beautiful, stylish and practical.

The collection? Almia. They have decided to return to the UK market, and for the first time in years I am able to see what they have on offer. I cant wait.


 Sharon    Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 20:30

That is excellent news Emma - i adored Almia's trousers when they were available over here.


 Emma    Thursday 24 January 2013 at 14:38

Hi Sharon!

Yes, it's always very good news when we are able to source a different 'fit' of trousers!

Years of experience has helped me to understand how we all need a different fit. Not everyone understands this, and I know that some ranges spend a lot of effort trying to get the perfect shape for their patterns. This is largely a waste of time, as it actually gives a far better service to the customer to try to have as many different cuts of trousers as possible.

I, for instance, have got absolutely no bottom, thighs or hips (hooray, you may say), yet I've got a very wide waist, and am extremely long in the rise. Getting trousers that actually fit me, and don't fall down every time I move can prove a challenge. Another woman may have a tiny waist, yet a more magnificent bottom than mine, so will need a completely different shape, even though she is the same size.

This is where knowledge of the different ranges comes into play. Almia tends to have a somewhat narrow hip, that doesn't suit everybody, but the women who like them, love them! So a 'trouser queen' like Kim will be able to guide customers towards the correct trousers.

I would love to know what, if any, particular type of trouser you would be looking for this autumn, Sharon, so that - if Almia has them in their collection - I can snap them up for you... No obligation to buy!


Emma    Thursday 10 January 2013 at 18:08

 Post #330 

Subject: Game for a laugh

I think there are two basic kinds of humour, and a couple of ways they can be described. Some people call them 'intentional' and 'unintentional', but I guess I am a bit more brutal when I refer to them as 'laughing' and 'being laughed at'.

This is particularly true in the world of fashion. Sometimes the doubt about whether the originator of the humour is doing it on purpose or not becomes so acute that the situation is almost intolerable. Thats one of the reasons why I try to avoid too much humour in my own fashion life.

I remember my old boss delivering new stock into the shop some years ago. I was busy tearing open some of the bags, revealing the gorgeous German knitwear, when she casually remarked that she had only bought one of a particular style of jumper, because it probably wasn't to everybodys taste.

I knew instantly which jumper she was talking about. It was a lovely soft grey knit... but appliqued on to the front was the picture of an elephant in realistic detail. For some reason - even by looking at it for only an instant - I already knew what was on the back, and I slowly turned it round, dreading what I was going to see (my boss had an lively sense of humour). Yes, it was the rear end of the elephant, rendered in perfect detail. I could only imagine how these nether regions would sway elegantly from side to side as the wearer walked away.

I'll be honest: I was flabbergasted. I knew that many of my customers had the most superb sense of humour. Working here is often a hilarious experience. But, although I would hate to think that I take myself too seriously, there is a line over which I would not wish to tread. Surely, wearing a wrinkly elephants bottom over my real (perfectly un-wrinkled derriere, of course!) would be my own personal ahem - bottom line. As a larger woman, perhaps I am a little over-sensitive about these things.

Sadly I put the elephant jumper out on to the shop floor. In my mind I already knew the life-history of that jumper. It would hang in the shop, and women would come in and admire it. The front was attractive, and the fabric was soft. The style was elegant and the fit was good. However, I thought customers would merely laugh and pass on by. They would have too much dignity to wear it. Or perhaps they would wonder if, whilst running errands in that particular outfit, they would be the one doing the laughing, or the one being laughed at. After a while the end of the season would come, and the jumper would be put into the sale. It would then be sold off at a discounted price to a woman who was a dab hand with an unpicking device. Why my boss had spent good money on such a loser was beyond me.

After the jumper had been there for about 20 minutes, a customer walked in. Seeing it, she grabbed it and dashed to the changing room. I could hear chuckling. After a couple of seconds she came out and stood in front of the mirror, laughing herself silly. Paying for the piece, she was still gleeful. As she walked out the door her last words to me were my husband is going to love this!. The jumper had lasted all of 30 minutes in the shop.

A few years later, having learned my lesson (that other people arent necessarily as po-faced as I am), I invested in some humorous Anna Scholz pieces. The first was a T-shirt, with the legend, spelled out in shocking-pink rhinestones, Silicone?, right across the bust. Obviously, this T-shirt was designed for the well-endowed woman. Later, I bought some Anna Scholz T-shirts with pictures of dogs and cats on the front, tricked out in jewels and looking really hilarious and kitsch. These items have always sold instantly.

Very soon I will be going on my usual buying trip to Germany. When I arrive in my hotel room after a long days buying, I will usually turn on the fashion channel on the TV. There, if I am particularly lucky, I will see one of the really good mens fashion shows. I promise you, the hilarity these shows provide is tremendous. There are men wearing teeny, tiny shorts. There are some wearing planks of wood arranged all around the body. And there will inevitably be some with something huge and absurd on their heads (and hands if you're lucky). And all the while they will stride forward with a look of seriousness and great purpose.

Staring into the haughty faces of the hunky male models, I find that I am back again to my perennial question, which can - now I come to think of it - be put a third way: Are they really being serious, or are they having a laugh?


Emma    Saturday 05 January 2013 at 15:47

 Post #329 

Subject: Here for the present

You know the scenario - I think weve all been there - someone very dear to you has dug deep in his or her pocket to buy you a lovely gift, but it really hasnt worked for you. What do you do?

I remember once opening a Christmas present from a close friend, and, to my surprise, I saw it was a top from the designer range, Ghost. There is no doubt that the woman who had given it to me had managed to choose something that was both pretty and fashionable. Unfortunately, there were two problems with the gift. The first one was that I worked in fashion, and already had access to some of the most gorgeous clothes anyone could ever want. The second was that I was a plus-size woman (still am!), so the likelihood of finding something that would fit me in a mainstream collection was miniscule (like many of Ghosts clothes).

My friend excitedly pestered me to try it on. I didnt want to, because I felt embarrassed, but in the end I did. It was massively too small. My friend, who is normally a sweet person, and not one to deliberately offend anyone, blurted out: But I got it for you because it is enormous!. This did not in any way mitigate my embarrassment at that moment. I dont know why, but for some bizarre reason it only served to make matters worse.

In a situation like this, the answer is obvious and inescapable: the item just had to be taken back and swapped for something else (a gorgeous scarf in this case). However, what happens when it isnt as clear cut?

I am both sentimental and unsentimental about presents. I am moved by the thought and care that goes into the gifts, and I would like to remember the giver, but I dont cling on to the particular object if it isnt suitable. Years ago, my old boss gave me a clock. It really wasnt my style (far too opulent and decorative), but I know she spent quite a lot of money on it, and I wanted to remember her generous gesture. I went back to the antique shop, and swapped it for (of all things!) a super wardrobe (yes, I really think there must have been some mistake, because the wardrobe - which was very large - was gorgeous, and precisely the same price). To this day when I use this cupboard (which I do, every day), I remember my old boss fondly, and mentally thank her for my good fortune.

Perhaps - had she known that I had taken back the clock - she would have been offended; I hope not, but we shall never know, because I wouldnt dream of telling her. However, how much better is it that I have something that enhances my life, that I will keep for ever, rather than a clock which, at best, may have lived out its days in a drawer?

Ive said before that I think that a really good gift voucher (by which I mean one of a useful amount, in an unusual store that is packed with items that will appeal to the receiver) is a wonderful present. Just today, we had a woman in the shop spending one of her Christmas presents, and there were smiles all round.

However, some people will never give a voucher. A very wise friend once told me that she always encouraged her husband (through determined, continuous hinting - he was apparently a simple soul) to buy her presents from a shop that she had already scoped out in advance. This way, he at least stood a chance of obtaining the right object. And if he didnt, it was easy enough for my friend to make an exchange.

By now, you will already have guessed that I dont believe in hanging on to most inappropriate gifts. Im not heartless: some lovely little piece of art or craft, lovingly created by a six-year-old, deserves to be kept, at least until the child is such an age that he/she will be mortified by the sight of it (I had to go through this myself, so I dont see why the next generation is going to get away scot-free). Similarly, the old wooden money box, made by my grandfather when he was seven, and given to me by my mother, will always be in my possession.

Someone said the other day that we have so many things, and we have to become curators of our own lives. I agree with this. I want, overall, to have fewer possessions, but more items that are precious, gorgeous and appropriate. The sad fact is this does tend to mean that most of my things really do need to be self-chosen...


Emma    Wednesday 26 December 2012 at 10:29

 Post #325 

Subject: EMMA PLUS WINTER SALE starts 28 December

So I was in a shop just round the corner. It wasn't a shop I normally frequent, as it was a 'proper' sports clothing store. You know the kind of thing: micro-sized cycling shorts, with the little bra-type tops that ultra-slim women choose to wear when they are feeling the burn down the gym. Everything, in a nutshell, that doesn't interest me at all.

However, I was on a mission. I had received valuable intelligence, via a text message from a friend, that this store had Fitflops at half price! Fitflops (the stylish, comfortable, practical footwear of choice for the retailer with - how shall we put this? - rather shop-worn feet) at half price! It was certainly worth my squeezing past the shocking pink micro-bras to get to those. My feet thanked me as we walked away with a gorgeous pair of soft leather ankle boots.

I love good sales. Who doesn't? I like them from whatever angle I look at them. It's lovely when, as was the case with the Fitflops, I am a customer able to find something that is new stock, useful, perfectly fitted to me, of a style that pleases me, and I'm being charged a massively discounted price.

But it's also lovely for me, as a retailer, watching my items disappearing out of my store. You see, we clear everything, every season, during the very exciting run-up to the new season's deliveries. We have huge deliveries on order, and we need to make space for all that lovely summer clothing.

The fact is it's possible that the cold weather has hardly begun yet (I have an inkling we are going to be experiencing the chill just a little bit more before we start to feel the warmth of spring), so the winter items that we're now 'clearing away' are essential, gorgeous clothing that will see a lot of action before this winter is out. Yet, in the fashion business, it just has to go! It's one of those happy incidences where the customer and the retailer are in perfect harmony.

People who already know about our wonderful sales will alreay be preparing for the opportunity to come in and get some really lovely bargains. For those of you who have never indulged, I recommend it as a fun and profitable way of spending part of your Christmas leave, if you have the time.

The Emma Plus Winter Sale starts on 28 and 29 December (this Friday and Saturday) at 10.00am. Don't forget, if you park in the adjacent NCP car park and spend 100 or more in-store, you will have two hours' free parking.

We look forward to seeing you!


Emma    Wednesday 19 December 2012 at 14:41

 Post #324 

Subject: Christmas 2012

This Sunday was something of a red-letter day here at the shop. It was the day of our annual Emma Plus Christmas Lunch.

As you can imagine, we don't like to stint, so we sashayed round the corner to a wonderful restaurant in the North Laine of Brighton called Temptations.

The owner of Temptations, Peter Allinson, a stalwart of the local independent traders that surround our shop, did us proud - with beautiful, locally-sourced, delicious food.

Lunch went on all afternoon, and I have to confess that afterwards I had to go home to sleep it off. I think it could be said that a good time was had by all...!

We at Emma Plus would like to wish our lovely customers an equally good time over the holiday period, and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year...


 Kim P    Thursday 20 December 2012 at 22:01

Looks like everyone is having a great time!

I hope you all have a great Christmas and that 2013 is a great year for everyone at Emma Plus!


 Emma    Friday 21 December 2012 at 20:23

Hi Kim,

Thank you so much for your kind sentiments. I wish you have a lovely Christmas, and a super New Year.

I do hope that we get to see you soon, Kim.....


 Emma    Saturday 22 December 2012 at 16:09

By the way, Kim.....the other Kim has asked if she will be seeing you at our sale (whisper it: it's on the 28th December)?

She thinks that, should you feel the need for anything that isn't drab, there will be plenty to choose from....


 Kim P    Sunday 23 December 2012 at 14:09

That's interesting! I may well make my way down and have first dibs on the tartan waistcoats!


 Emma    Wednesday 26 December 2012 at 10:34

Latest news, Kim....! We've had a run on the tartan waistcoats, and have none left. Would you believe it!

I would suggest going to the Tartan Woollen Mill, but I'm not too sure you would have any luck there, either. You know how these ultra-trendy things sell out so quickly! Sorry.


 Emma    Friday 28 December 2012 at 16:32

Lovely to see you today, Kim,. You look great, and I really loved your choices, which updated your wardrobe perfectly to suit your evolving style. Happy New Year...


 Kim P    Tuesday 01 January 2013 at 16:48

Thank you, you are so kind Emma! I was quite poorly but the trip was a great pick me up.

I wish you all a great 2013 too!


Emma    Thursday 15 November 2012 at 13:31

 Post #322 

Subject: Feel the Fear

I was thinking about the title of a well-known self-help book that had been published in the 1980s whilst I was chatting to a woman who had just opened up her own fashion shop in the Brighton Lanes. Im not a great reader of self-help books, but I remember the title of this one, which resonated with me. The name of the book was Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.

The new shop owner and I were laughing about how similar our experiences were. She, like me, had worked in the same store for a previous owner, whose company had come to an abrupt end. She, like me, had not really wanted to be her own boss at that time of her life, but could see a wonderful opportunity to fix the business - and create something fantastic. Both of us had taken a risk and changed our lives.

We both agreed that the experience was the single most terrifying of our lives. We werent silly; we hadnt expected it to be easy, but nevertheless didnt realise just how daunting it would be. No-one knows what is involved with starting a business until they have done it for themselves.

Its just so complicated. The best analogy I could give is trying to fit the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, with only the most fleeting of ideas about what the finished picture is supposed to look like. And all the shapes have to come together at exactly the same instant: they have to be thrown up into the air, and then simultaneously snap into place as they hit the table. If you made any misjudgements, the whole thing - with all your love, time, effort and money - just turns out to be one enormous mess.

However, I was able to reassure this new entrepreneur that - for me at least - it was the best thing I ever did, and I have never regretted it. There is nothing quite like the fashion business, and the joy of having your own shop is incomparable. Its a clich that if something is really worth having, its worth taking a risk for - but true nevertheless.

I have a customer who told me a very interesting story about a dress she bought in my shop. She was, at the time, one of my larger clients, and a very beautiful lady, with an hourglass figure. She saw, and fell in love with, a lovely bright red Anna Scholz full-length evening dress. We altered it to fit her perfectly, and she looked resplendent in it when she sallied forth to her posh do. This lady is not silly, either, and she knew that it takes a bit of courage for any woman to wear a red dress to a party, and was aware of the fact that she was going to have to carry it off - or it would end up being a mistake.

Upon arrival, however, things were a bit more complicated than she had envisaged... every other woman there was wearing black. This was enough to make her feel insecure, but the fact that she was far and away the largest person there, only added to her feeling of self-consciousness. She had no choice but to continue with her evening, try to relax and let herself enjoy it; it was not possible to run home and get changed into something more comfortable, and anyway, she knew she looked good. She was being herself.

After a little while, she realised that a small gaggle of waitresses, huddled in a corner, were looking at her and whispering. This, again, gave her pause... but she decided not to let it spoil her evening, which she was actually beginning to revel in. Then one of the waitresses came over.

Excuse me, she said, Im so sorry to approach you, but all of the waitresses wanted you to know that you look beautiful and stunning.

Its not just silly, reckless people who take risks; many very wise people decide to break free of what is safe - and sally forth into something a whole lot more risky, but which provides far greater reward. If you dont do this then you are forever imprisoned by the walls of your perceived limitations.

Fashion often gives us these opportunities. Some people say that fashion is trivial: I dont accept that at all. I think it is a transformative force in the lives of women.


Anne Worms    Friday 09 November 2012 at 12:55

 Post #321 

Subject: Joy

What joy to find a new pair of soft black Brand jeans in the back of my wardrobe! Bought last year, or the year before and put away in the summer.


 Emma    Saturday 10 November 2012 at 16:03

Hi Anne!

Yes, isn't it lovely when that happens...it's like putting on your winter coat for the first time in the autumn, and finding your favourite ring in the pocket!

I'm incredibly into my 'Brand' at the moment. We've had some wonderful jeans from them that are soft and narrow with a superb fashion look. Of course they sold out straight away, so we've had to send for fresh supplies!

Emma    Thursday 08 November 2012 at 12:29

 Post #320 

Subject: Claire from Larger than Life

It was so lovely to have a welcome visitor into our shop this week: the gorgeous Claire, owner of the plus-size retailer, Larger Than Life (based around the Kew area), came in.

Claire is involved in a very exciting new venture: pop-up shops, specialising in designer plus-size clothing. Her very first pop-up shop will be quite soon. It will be on/at:

24th November 2012
12noon - 4pm
The Bull
Oxford Road
Gerrards Cross

I do wish her all the best, and hope that any fashion-forward plus-size women in the Buckinghamshire area (and beyond) able to attend on that day will join her and her team there for what sounds like a fantastic event.


Emma    Saturday 20 October 2012 at 16:58

 Post #318 

Subject: Wisps of hatred

I think its a Honda advert that says in effect hating is good, but I am not copying that idea in this blog. In fact, I think I had this philosophy long before they broadcasted it. The reality is that I do believe the application of a little bit of hatred now and again can be useful.

There are people who are average height, small in size, and with normal length (and width) legs. They dont have any particular allergies or reactions to fabrics. They can wear most colours, and they dont get too hot. They can be relaxed about their style; if they wear an unflattering garment they will never end up looking like the business end of a bus. This lack of jeopardy may result in them not noticing other peoples fashion faux pas either. Its possible that these people have no fashion frustrations whatsoever.

However, fashion - for me - is full of wisps of hatred, which - when judiciously applied - I believe can have a positive effect. For instance, I like to make a little list of fashion stuff that I really, really hate, and I try to use this list when I am doing my buying. Part of it goes something like this...

I hate trousers that lose their shape. Its not nice when any garment does that, but trousers seem to be worse than anything else. If the fabric is too flaccid, then there are just so many things that can happen. The trousers can bag at the knee (horrible). They can gape at the back of the waist (annoying), they can fall down (inconvenient), but - and this is much, much worse - they can develop a droopy bottom without any help from me. This is Not a Good Thing. No, seriously, it really isnt.

I can wear wool, but a pet hate of mine is when wool touches me anywhere on my neck. The second it reaches my skin in this area I develop a very embarrassing red mark. No-one else in the world notices it. But I just hate it.

I hate (and I am now becoming quite passionate) trousers that are low in the rise. I have a pair of very spritzy trousers that would be perfect were it not for this incredibly irritating feature. They are uncomfortable, my stomach bulges over them in an ugly fashion, and every time I bend over they fall down. Its not that I want to donate them to charity (or even put them into landfill). No, its gone much too far for that. I want to ceremoniously tear them seam from seam. Then I would like to burn them, and throw the ashes off the end of Brighton Pier. Im still not sure that would be sufficient though.

On other people, I hate it when things are not the correct length. Its easy to see when a skirt is designed to be knee-length. So when it is on a shorter woman, it should be shortened to be on her knee, not hanging around, being neither one thing nor the other. The situation becomes even worse when sleeves are involved.

Similarly, we all know if a pair of trousers is styled to be that ankle-grabbing design. If you are tall, pretending that your trousers are meant to be this short doesnt fool anyone. Yes, there is a current vogue for youngsters to wear jeans far too long (and have them fray on the ground), and thats all well and good. But if a shorter lady is wearing trousers too long for her, they just look scruffy, and I find that very annoying.

I hate what I call leggings worn as trousers. In my opinion, leggings should be worn with a longish top. With a bottom and legs like mine, its essential to watch the length of a top, but even if you are my nieces age, when the top can be very short indeed, it should nevertheless always cover ones bottom. This is because leggings are a half-way house between tights and trousers, and if they are worn with a (for example) waist-length top, it simply looks like the unfortunate woman has left her house in a hurry and has forgotten to clothe her bottom half. Even if the woman concerned has the most beautiful pert and well-toned derriere (and even if she is very young), there is a scintilla of embarrassment there; surely the whole look is just far too much information?

Actually, I could go on all day about my fashion hates. But there is one thing that makes me very happy about this whole subject. Its that I am in a position to do something about these issues when it comes to stocking my shop. And my own pet hatreds can inform me in my approach to my customers.

For instance, if someone tells me that they cannot wear any man-made fibres, I am the very last person in the world to try to fob her off with excuses. How would I feel if this was the response when I was trying to get something that didnt make me look like I was wearing a red polo-neck under my clothes? From personal experience, I know that when people say they really need something, they mean it. And this has to be remembered at the buying stage. So when I'm buying I am always looking at the fabric composition of garments, and trying to hunt down the correct mixes. There are so many different garments on the market that it is not beyond the wit of a shop-owner like me to find what my customers need.

So when a particularly tall woman comes into my store, I dont try to sell her trousers that could pass for long enough. Even the thought of doing such a thing makes me furious! No, I will do everything I can to get the correct, long lengths of trousers. Suppliers will nearly always be found that produce the differing lengths we need, so the problem can usually be easily solved with a little bit of effort. No compromise, no irritation!

I like to wallow in my fashion hatreds partly because it feels so good to be able to eliminate as many of them as I can. Every time I find a solution to a particularly irksome fashion hate, it feels extremely satisfying - like scoring a direct hit in a game.


Emma    Saturday 13 October 2012 at 13:44

 Post #317 

Subject: Glass half full

Anyone reading my blog for more than a minute would already know that I am a glass half full sort of a gal. So, for instance, if its raining, my first thoughts are that it will be good for the garden and it will be sure to clear up in time for the weekend. And if the car park next-door is somewhat expensive... well, it means that you can always find a parking space there. And as its about a minutes walk away, who wouldnt want to pay a bit extra for that convenience?

I guess this attitude spreads to every part of my life, which is just as well, as I have read research that shows that having an optimistic turn of mind is actually rather good for your health. So I do my best to spread this philosophy around.

This is the time of year when we see a particular kind of customer. Unusually, it isnt the pursuit of clothing that draws her into town. Its something else altogether; for this is the time of year when the new students first come down to Brighton.

Brighton is a university town, and we attract students from all over the country. When the green and squeaky-clean ex-schoolchildren or newly-formed adults first move into their fresh accommodation in the autumn, Mum and Dad are often in attendance. Its an exciting, challenging time for the whole family - particularly if this is the first child to have grown into young adulthood, or indeed if it is the last baby to have matured.

It can be heart-rending, but we tend to see rather a few glass half full parents coming into our store. These are people who, far from going into a nose-dive at the complex of emotions stirred up by the life-changing events, look around them to see what good can come of it. They may live quite far away, and have had no previous knowledge or experience of our shop; they may not ever have known that we are here. But when they discover they are going to make a trip to a strange city, they go online and start Googling plus-size stores - just on the off-chance that something nice may turn up. And when they read about us, somehow they manage to fit in a soupcon of retail therapy.

I love meeting these customers for the first time, as I do with all new clients. Its so good to see the looks of surprise and delight when women realise that, not only do we have what they want, but we also have it in their size! Sometimes people who have always had to wear extra-extra-large clothes find that they are now described as a medium.

Its truly lovely to see how poignancy turns to delight when a mother realises that if she is just going to have to visit Brighton frequently over the next few years, then that means a visit to a designer boutique. But hey, what can you do? Things start to look an awful lot more cheerful all of a sudden.

I have women from all over the country whose offspring now have school-age children of their own, but who still feel the need to do their annual visits to this city. These visits have become a regular part of their lives.

Thats the kind of serendipity that happens when you make the best of things.


Emma    Wednesday 10 October 2012 at 11:42

 Post #316 

Subject: Anna

We have been spectacularly lucky in finding some super people to help us during Jaq's sabbatical!

Our latest find is Anna, who some customers may recognise from her previous incarnation as owner of the gorgeous shop, Cinnamon Fashions, that used to trade in Brighton Marina and in Burgess Hill, local to Brighton.

Anna has been taking a bit of a break from designer fashion, whilst returning to her first love, publishing.

But fashion is in her blood, and, as she is a sweetie, she has offered her services to us during Jaq's absence. Anyone who has previous experience of Anna will know that she is a truly fabulous fashion stylist, and what she doesn't know about the plus-size industry really isn't worth knowing. She also happens to be a very lovely, funny and engaging new colleague for the rest of us!

I offer her the very warmest of welcomes to the Emma Plus clan!


Emma    Wednesday 10 October 2012 at 11:27

 Post #315 

Subject: Olivia

There is no formal training in what we do ('Independent Designer Women's Fashion'), and this may well be the reason why so many start-ups in our industry fail within a very short time of starting.

I have always been aware of the fact that I was incredibly lucky in having been trained by a wonderful woman called Tricia Conroy. She was my boss, early on in my tenure here in this shop. Trish was the one who took me to the fashion shows, and made me understand about buying all the different collections for the changing seasons.

I had previously had lots of experience in 'Big Retail' (those large high-street concerns), whose management training was very useful to me, but it was Trish who gave me the responsibility to work out budgets, recruit staff, and run the whole shibang for myself, which is something that you never have to do when you work for a large concern that has its own ordering team and HR department! There is only one way to learn all the ins-and-outs of our very particular little industry, and that is to be here in one of these small shops.

I will always be grateful to Trish, and I have, for some time, wanted to help someone else in my turn. This, after all, is the only way of paying back for what someone did for me.

So during Jaq's career break, I have leapt on the opportunity to train a very promising young aspiring independent retailer, Olivia Hernshaw.

I will give you her self-portrait, in her own words...

My name is Olivia, I am a recent graduate from the University of Brighton where I completed a Master of Design degree in Fashion design with Business studies. I designed a collection inspired by the Japanese concept of Ma, which refers to the space between the body and clothing. Movement with in clothes and the contrast of sculptural and fluid silhouettes drives my designs. All of my garments were cut mainly from circles and curves creating oversized garments with a focus on drape. I am both a designer and a seamstress, having made my own designs as well as working as a seamstress for other companies. I love fashion, cooking and shopping and have already fallen in love with the designs stocked at Emma Plus! I am really enjoying my experience here at Emma Plus - I hope to achieve a great deal with my time here. I am looking forward to getting to know all the customers and learning what your clothing likes and dislikes are to help find you the perfect garments. My aspiration for the future is to open my own shop, selling my own designs, and I am very fortunate to be in the current position to learn a great deal about the independent retail industry from Emma and her team of talented staff.



Emma    Thursday 04 October 2012 at 14:45

 Post #312 

Subject: Bon Voyage!

It was one of those bitter-sweet moments on Sunday, when the whole Emma Plus 'gang' got together to see Jaq off for her year of discovery. In true Emma Plus style, we went and had a jolly good meal (Italian, see right), then we went off and had some fun (with respect to Jaq's sporting prowess, we went bowling!).

It doesn't happen very often that we are all together in one place, because each of us works part-time throughout the week, so it's lovely change for the whole staff to be around the same table, and we really did enjoy it.

The champion bowler was Clare (in the front, on the left): Jaq came an honourable second place.

Jaq will be missed during her year's sabatical, but I know she will be in store often, visiting us, and browsing the collection. And when she's not, she will be doing all the things that she has wanted to do in the past 17 years, and never had the time!


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 designers creations. Time after time I feel an excitement almost bordering on panic when I see each new collection (its 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 cant be expected to know and understand what is going on with everyone else! In fact, the biggest learning curve that I had to climb when I first started working in plus-size fashion was to understand the great diversity of physiques amongst larger women - and how I could use this knowledge to help women to create their best possible look.

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Kim P    Tuesday 18 September 2012 at 11:46

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


 Emma    Thursday 20 September 2012 at 14:54

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

 Rozi Desouza    Tuesday 25 September 2012 at 11:47

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


 Emma    Wednesday 26 September 2012 at 13:47

Thanks, Rozi, for your lovely comments.

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

 Bruno Moretti    Thursday 18 October 2012 at 08:44

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


Emma    Saturday 08 September 2012 at 17:11

 Post #309 

Subject: Men

Some years ago I went to a BBC Antiques Roadshow, which had visited our locality. It was a wonderful day, at which my friend learned quite a bit about her Victorian ring, whilst I was able to wander around and see all kinds of antique objects, and listen to their owners stories.

One expert was particularly interesting. He is Geoffrey Munn, who is the Jewellery Specialist on the programme. He is a true enthusiast about his subject: endlessly informative, with appreciation, taste and knowledge that are a pleasure to watch. I think I really relate to him, because, although I would never pretend to emulate his wonderful expertise, I do believe that I could match his enthusiasm in my own specialist subject - fashion.

He said something that I was amused by, and found myself instantly agreeing with. He was talking about men (those readers who do not like sexist generalisations had better stop reading now). He was speaking to a lady whose husband had bought a collection of gorgeous gems for her, and he told her that she should treasure the jewels, but especially appreciate her husband, because he was a very rare and unusual specimen: a man who had the understanding and taste that enabled him to be able to select beautiful jewellery.

Thinking about this, I realised that it is exactly the same situation with fashion. Yes, its very true that we have some men who come into our store, and match us all the way in their taste, appreciation, creativity and love of fashion. These men usually enjoy helping their wives select their apparel. Sometimes they wander around our shop floor, picking up pieces here and there, holding them up against other items, picking out matching accessories and suggesting outfits for their partners.

Its always heart-warming to meet these other halves, and we really appreciate their input, just as they appreciate ours. We find ourselves in a joint venture, where we are all adding something to the pleasure of the hunt for lovely items.

But just because these men exist, does not mean they are common! To be entirely honest, such men are rare creatures. Indeed, one can easily go six months in our store without seeing one.

In reality, most British males really arent that interested in fashion, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. If someone doesnt have the taste or facility to know what looks good, it is far better that they step aside and allow other people to make their own choices. This would often be greatly helped if their wife or partner recognised the situation. Unfortunately, sometimes this is far from the case.

Very often we are witness to some unfortunate man being referred to for every decision by a wife who seems not to have noticed that female fashion is actually not his specialist subject. When asked to be the final arbiter between this or that outfit, he may look panicky, like a rabbit caught in car headlamps. He stammers out an opinion, with a tone of voice that suggests a question, rather than an answer. This one? he says, a look of desperation breaking out on his face. When asked why he preferred that particular garment, he really starts to flounder. Because you look younger in this one! You can feel the subtle shift in the earths crust when such comments are made. Its cruel to watch.

But, however difficult this situation is, it pales into insignificance when compared with the other variation that can happen. This is when the unfortunate gentleman has absolutely no concept of female fashion (nothing odd there!), but somehow believes that he is, in fact, the reincarnation of Coco Channel. These gentlemen come in many forms, but the most distinctive type is the one who I refer to as the recogniser. This is a personality that (as far as I have been able to ascertain) only exists in the male population. They have a particular quirk that is, in its way, both charming and admirable. They will examine any garment in their vicinity very carefully, trying to recognise what group of objects it falls into. Normally, they will discover a memory engendered by the item - and this will help them to know what the garment is.

For instance, if the garment is stripy, then it is a deckchair. If it is spotty, then it is a Dalmatian. Flowers suggest a sofa. Animal print is a pub landlady. Purple portrays his great aunt Ethel (whom he never liked). And this can go on almost endlessly: green is unlucky, red looks like a pillar-box, etc. This type of person cannot look at a garment for what it is: a piece of clothing that may or may not enhance the appearance of their loved one!

To a man like this, every garment has a strong association with an inanimate object - and not in a good way. The end result of taking advice from such an 'expert' is either to wear the most non-descript clothing (for example, the dullest beige) at all times, or to walk around in the nude!

There is only one action to take if you are married to this type of gentleman and need some new clothes. He should be dropped off at his favourite spot to enjoy his own activity, while you do your clothes shopping unhampered.

This is not going to present a problem in the long run. I have it on very good authority that what generally happens is that - although when the gentleman first sees some new garments all the associations start shouting at him (why have you bought a pillar-box and a deck-chair? he may well wail) - it wears off extremely quickly. Thats the thing about associations: they get replaced by something new all the time. So the pillar box soon becomes the lovely dress that you wore at Ascot, when the sun was shining... and his horse won.

So my advice to customers is to take a long, cool look at your man before you take him shopping for clothes. If he is a rabbit in headlights kind of guy, then leave him in peace on our sofa with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. If he is a recogniser, please dont walk into any fashion store with him; that will only end with gnashing of teeth.

And if he is a jewel beyond price - a wonderful boon in the selection of clothing - then treasure him, and please bring him in here where he will be greatly prized and much appreciated.


Emma    Saturday 25 August 2012 at 19:25

 Post #308 

Subject: Spring-Summer 2013!

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

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

This is the era of the dress, and the summer season I'm seeing really does seem to be providing plenty of choice... and I havent even seen the Anna Scholz collection yet! The two basic types of dress have remained the same now for several years: the maxi-dress and the on-the-knee dress.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 25 August 2012 at 18:22

 Post #307 

Subject: Vacancy at Emma Plus!

There have been some important new developments here at Emma Plus recently. Our beloved shop manager, Jaq (seen here on the left), has decided to take a career break.

Jaq, who has worked for Emma Plus for 17 years, has taken the bitter-sweet decision to take a year away from her post in order to pursue her other interests. As an incredibly artistic and creative person, Jaqs talents are not confined to fashion, and, having worked in retail tirelessly for many years, she feels that now is the time to kick back and enjoy a change for a while.

Customers need not worry, though; this is just a career break and Jaq is expected to rejoin the Emma Plus fold when her gap-year is up.

However, this does offer an important opportunity to someone who is interested in working in plus-size fashion. We are keeping our ear to the ground for a temporary replacement (although of course, we are realistic; we know you cannot replace the irreplaceable!).

There are two possibilities. The first would be for an established fashion retail manager, who wishes to spend a happy year in a lovely independent shop, to step up and apply.

The second option would be for a youngster, perhaps someone straight from a fashion course, to apply for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to complete his or her education. There really is nothing like working in retail and having day-to-day experience of plus-size women, to get to understand what it is that larger women want and need.

We are very hard-working and dedicated, so whoever applies to work with us had better bring their best game. We are not really interested in the profit motive, but the ability to relate to customers and provide really good service is essential. Most of all we want to find someone who is happy, friendly, stylish, clever... and utterly obsessed with fashion. Oh, and it would be immensely helpful if they had insider knowledge or understanding of plus-size womenswear.

If you find you suddenly recognise either yourself, or someone you know, as answering to this description, then please either spread the word, contact us on 01273 327240, or email through this website... just click on the 'Contact us' page.


 Sharon Cross    Sunday 26 August 2012 at 23:35

Oh no! Who's going to show me the perfect trousers now???? Best of luck for your year off, Jaq.


 Emma    Tuesday 28 August 2012 at 11:57

Hi Sharon,

Think what it's like for us! It's going to be tough without our Jaq!

On the plus side, I don't think you will have trouble getting the correct trouser advice: Jaq would be the first to commend you to the services of the admirable Kim....our very own 'trouser queen'!


 Kim P    Tuesday 04 September 2012 at 22:05

Good luck with your sabatical Jaq!


 Emma    Friday 28 September 2012 at 17:50

A big thanks to everyone who has wished Jaq well on her sabatical, which starts tomorrow!

I know that Jaq has been very moved by the lovely comments she has received.

A year seems a long time, but I know that it will go quickly and productively, for Jaq and all of us! I also know that we will be seeing plenty of Jaq....but as a customer!


Emma    Saturday 11 August 2012 at 14:28

 Post #305 

Subject: Simply divine

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

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

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


Emma    Friday 27 July 2012 at 18:30

 Post #304 

Subject: Whirlygig

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

When I was re-reading my last post about buying for next summer, I found that I just didnt agree with me, and felt the urge to put the opposite point of view.

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

Oooeer. Thats a word that brings me up short. Sensible? Has it really come to this, that we (calling ourselves a fashion store) start thinking about buying sensible clothes? How hideous! How very pedestrian! Isnt fashion about something a whole lot more than simply dressing yourself? Isnt it really about beauty, passion, gorgeousness and lust? Arent the clothes we wear a whole lot more than simply covering us up in a practical, workmanlike way? Arent they transformative? And if they are transformative, wouldnt it - on the whole - be so much better to be transformed into something stylish, lovely, individual and original, than into something sensible?

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

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

Another thing that has happened since I wrote my last blog is that I have started to receive brochures from the various collections I buy from. Its early days (I havent, for instance, seen the Spring/Summer 13 Anna Scholz brochure yet), but the omens are good. More than that, they are exciting!

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 21 July 2012 at 10:40

 Post #303 

Subject: Spring/Summer buying...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course, a must-have is a jolly good raincoat. While we have been having all this wind, an umbrella offers little or no protection from the downpour. It really isnt good enough if we are going to be getting repeated rain to have an old sports coat, or dog-walking raincoat that shows a sorry face. Nowadays, we may find a lot of use for a summer raincoat, and it had better look the part - and earn its keep.

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

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


Emma    Thursday 19 July 2012 at 18:16

 Post #302 

Subject: Emma Plus Summer Sale Starts 10.30am Friday 20th July

Its not every year when the stars align to the advantage of the British consumer, but this year does seem to be one of them!

We have been waiting for summer for so long (and almost giving up hope), when along it comes - just in time to take advantage of summer clothes at super-bargain prices!

As our regulars already know, we clear all stock every season to make way for the next tranche of goodies. This means that all current stock has to go. In this instance, that opens up a gorgeous collection of summer clothes at truly wonderful prices.

I have mentioned before that, in my opinion, the best possible option for the stylish plus-size woman who is thrifty (either by necessity, or by nature!), is to buy designer clothes in the sale. The difference in price between designer and high-street clothing, even at full price, is nowhere near as great as the difference in what you get for your money.

Designer clothes are fashion-forward (in the main, the style of a designer item will look band-box fresh for at least two years, and usually considerably longer); the quality means they are a delight to wear, and the fit is superb. Adding that to the fact that designer clothes tend (these days) to be easy-care and incredibly durable, the only possible argument against buying high-end clothing is the price. However, if you are lucky enough to source items that are correct for you in the sale, then even this disadvantage melts away. And this season, not only are the prices fantastic, but the choice is brilliant.

I really would recommend any plus-size woman interested in looking good to hurry along to our Sale. She will not be disappointed.

The Sale starts tomorrow (Friday 20th July) at 10.30am. We look forward to seeing you in store!


 Sharon Cross    Thursday 26 July 2012 at 13:55

I've booked a day off work tomorrow to come down and have a good attack on your sale stock. Hope the weather holds up :-)


 Emma    Thursday 26 July 2012 at 23:05

Hi Sharon!

You are indeed a very discerning woman, if you don't mind my saying so!

I can't think of anything better to do with a lovely day than come down to Brighton, park in the NCP car park next to Emma Plus (to get two hours' free parking), have a spot of lunch in one of the North Laine's gorgeous little cafes in the sunshine, see a few of the sights of Brighton, and find some goodies in the Emma Plus sale, in the air-conditioned cool......what's not to like?

I do hope the weather holds up, and that you have a lovely time on your precious day off....


Emma    Wednesday 27 June 2012 at 06:48

 Post #300 

Subject: ASD in the news...

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


 Kim P    Tuesday 03 July 2012 at 19:56

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


 Emma    Sunday 08 July 2012 at 12:54

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


Emma    Friday 22 June 2012 at 11:42

 Post #299 

Subject: People

It was only half-way through the conversation that I realised what I was really saying. A friend and I were chatting, ostensibly about travel. I am not a particularly well-travelled person, but I have been on a few really interesting trips, and always feel that I have gained some kind of knowledge (however small) that's unique to the country I have visited.

My modest experience of Italy has shown me that it is a particularly beautiful country. A lovely climate, amazing architecture, and really beautiful countryside and coastline. However, more than anything, what I enjoyed most about the country were the wonderful people I encountered. It strikes me that the Italians have an age-old tradition of professional hospitality that means they really know how to make you welcome.

Later we were chatting about India, where I had made a business trip for about 10 days some years before. I did think the country was amazing... a really unique and special place. But, more than anything, I thought the people I had dealings with were exceptional. I had to use a conscious effort of will not to burst into tears when I was saying goodbye at the airport. I found a kind of fellow-feeling and empathy among my colleagues there that was so wonderfully warm.

I have also been very lucky to visit Australia, to visit some well-loved friends who have emigrated there. I thought the country was truly eye-opening. How could it be that one country - with a modest population - could have such an embarrassment of riches? However, no matter how incredible the environment, it was the people that stood out for me as the major attraction. I found them generous, quirky, independent, friendly, and incredibly funny.

Similar experiences seemed to be repeated, always with a slightly different emphasis... the locals I met when I visited Spain were so welcoming, and I really appreciated the way they went the extra mile to help when I was just a stranger to them. I would have thought that many Greek islanders, living on their tiny, perfect islands, may have seen enough big galumphing English people to last a lifetime - yet they couldnt have been more friendly and lovely, and appeared genuinely delighted to see me.

When I visited Finland, I was moved by the way we were entertained to the utmost, and with such obvious good grace, by the wonderful, civilised people we encountered.

It was at this point that I realised I was beginning to sound like a broken record. I just seem to like the people, wherever I am! Couldnt I just stay at home? So I started to think about the people of Brighton, and guess what - I came to the conclusion that Brighton people are marvellous too! They are funny, weird, creative, clever and very, very friendly. And we have wonderful sights to see as well (such as our Royal Pavilion, top right). If only we had Italian weather - then there would be no point in going anywhere else!

If you're in the fashion industry, you may think you are in the clothes trade, but in fact you are in the people-business! If you dont like people, you will probably not enjoy this kind of work, and you'd better find something else to do for a living.

One of the wonderful things about the travel business is that it is another industry where you really do need to be a people person. Hotels, shops, restaurants and visitor attractions have to be run by people who like people... otherwise they would end up acting like Basil Fawlty, and that would certainly be bad for trade!

So travelling naturally gives me the opportunity to come across like-minded people who are glad to see me, and with whom I find myself bonding.

From these musings, you may be able to guess why my mind has been concentrating on this subject. Next week I'm on holiday (nothing exotic; Im going to East Anglia). Im confidently expecting to really enjoy the experience.

Weather permitting, of course.


 Haley - Hautespot for Style    Thursday 12 July 2012 at 11:34

Emma plus is awesome. Liked it.



Emma    Friday 15 June 2012 at 17:04

 Post #298 

Subject: Sporty?

I have had occasion, recently, to cogitate on the question of sportswear (as you do!). In my younger days I could never have been described as any kind of sportswoman. In fact, I have to say that my experience of sports was nearer to aversion therapy than leisure activity.

When I was at school - although I was reasonably fit and very healthy - sports just werent my thing. They were just about as far from being my thing as it is possible to get on the same continent. I became very hot the minute I started to run; I was not particularly well-co-ordinated; and, post the age of 11, the school sports uniform was not big enough for me, so I had to wear something that made me stand out even further from the crowd! The fact that I stood a good foot above just about every other girl gave me a theoretical advantage in netball. But disappointingly I was unable to convert that into any kind of success in the sport.

So it has to be said that the word sportswear is a bit of a challenge to me, even to this day. What on earth would I even need it for? I dont do sport. And - after my early experience of not finding sportswear large enough - I am very concerned that it would all end-up far too small... after all, sport is for skinny people - right?

Well, as it happens, while I still eschew sports, I do undertake active occupations. For example, I really like walking. I do yoga (where I fail to excel, but enjoy it all the same), and I find myself generally huffing and puffing, dashing around all over the place. As readers of this blog will already know, Im not one of natures slobs, so I would always like to have clothing that is suitable, comfortable, high-performance, but with a put-together, sassy look. You know the kind of thing: one minute you could be walking the dog, then, shortly afterwards, you could be meeting friends for lunch in town and popping off to a cinema matinee - without having to mess around getting changed.

So I was delighted when I found out about a new range called State Of Mind, which provides beautiful plus-size sportswear (see picture, right). A UK company, that emphasises manufacturing in Britain, it has developed fabulous sport-to-casual wear in sizes up to 26. The fabric is gorgeous - really soft, with a subtle drape and stretch, but developed as a proper sports fabric to keep you cool and perspiration-free.

The range encompasses little sporty ribbed jackets, jersey pants, tank tops, and sleeved tops... theres something useful and gorgeous for everyone. Sporty girls will think all their birthdays have come at once (proper plus-size sportswear is as common as hens teeth), and the - shall we say - sportingly challenged like myself will need the whole collection, too.


Emma    Friday 08 June 2012 at 11:39

 Post #297 

Subject: Tights, camera, action!

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

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

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

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

Eventually I realised that I was going to have to bite the bullet and stop buying cheap hosiery. It's a false economy, and it wasnt very good for my sanity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Need I say more?


 Kim P    Thursday 14 June 2012 at 10:40

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


 Emma    Thursday 14 June 2012 at 11:23

Hi Kim!

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

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

 Kim P    Friday 15 June 2012 at 17:25

What lovely colours! Ideal for summer and winter.


Emma    Saturday 02 June 2012 at 14:23

 Post #296 

Subject: Red, White and Blue...

I don't know whether it is the 'nautical' look, or whether it's the jublilee, or the olympics this year, but somehow that red, white and blue look seems so fresh right now.

It's funny how all the fashion planets seem to go into allignment every now and again, creating a perfect fashion moment.

We do our best (as you may be able to see in the photograph, right) to capture those moments in our windows.

It can be dangerous investing in designer fashion that captures the spirit of a particular moment, because good quality clothes are made to last, and are absolutely not just for one season. Luckily, in this instance, although it is absolutely a look-du-jour, in fact the whole red, white and blue image is a very durable one. It seems to make some kind of an appearance every summer.....


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, its 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 womans space I dont 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 dont 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 doesnt 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! Ive 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 dont beat yourself up about them, and dont lose out on looking really good because of a personal obsession. Dont 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    Wednesday 30 May 2012 at 10:56

 Post #293 

Subject: Bank Holiday opening hours

During the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, many people will take the opportunity that a longer bank holiday weekend will afford to have a bit of a mini-break.

If the weather is good, my experience is that there will be a significant number of my customers who decide to come down to the seaside for a welcome change of scene. Brighton is a very good place to visit, as - being on the south coast - it tends to have some of the best weather in the country, an - as it is a very varied city - there is something for everyone.

We have our piers (the Brighton Pier, with its traditional British seaside attractions, and the old Palace Pier, which has now become a romantic ruin), and our beach. There is also the Brighton Eye, which provides an unrivaled view of the city and coast for miles around.

In my opinion, though (and I would say this!), none of this compares to the wonderful attractions of the North Laine area. We have super little artisan food shops and cafes, theatres, pubs - in fact venues of every kind. But most of all we just have fantastic shops. These include amazing fashion shops (everything from clothes to shoes and accessories) - which make a stunning contribution to the attractions of the area.

I can't imagine anything I would like more (especially if the weather is good) than to come down to Brighton and visit the North Laine. I would drive to the NCP car park in Church Street (where, if I spent 100 or more at Emma Plus, I would get 2 hours' free parking). It's nearly always possible to get an easily-accessible spot to park in there. I would then pop out of the Church Street entrance, walk the two or three yards necessary, then disappear into Emma Plus. There I would find refreshments, air conditioning and beautiful clothes!

Once I had finished indulging my inner fashion goddess, I would exit Emma Plus, and walk just a few steps down the road to the plethora of lovely restaurants. I would probably decide to lunch at Temptations - a scrummy cafe just on the next corner.

Then, having enjoyed a relaxing, delicious and leisurely lunch, for the first time I would find myself in a dilemma: what to do next? I could browse through the intriguing variety of different, individual shops of the North Laine, or I could wander down to the gorgeous and classy mainstream stores on East Street. On the other hand, simply by crossing the road and wandering a few dozen yards, I could visit Brighton Pavilion - surely one of the most quirky and amazing palaces in the country.

In any case, I may choose to do all of this on Tuesday 5th June (which is a Bank Holiday in the UK), because we at Emma Plus (along with most of Brighton) will be open for business!

Here in the shop we wish all our customers a thoroughly lovely day, whatever you decide to do!

Bank Holiday Opening hours: Saturday 2nd June - open as usual (10am-5pm). Sunday 3rd and Monday 4th - closed. Tuesday 5th June - open as usual.


Emma    Friday 18 May 2012 at 15:51

 Post #292 

Subject: Seasonal wedding ranting...

Its wedding time of year again, and already we are seeing the same issues that plague us every year. As an innocent optimist, I am hoping that if I can put some of these problems and solutions on to my blog, this may do something to create peace, harmony and happiness throughout the land (Im nothing if not ambitious!).

Before I start my seasonal rant, it might be in order to put forward my credentials, in the hope that this may make my words seem just a teeny bit more convincing than if I were a random woman working in a clothes shop, trying to set herself up to give advice to innocent passers-by in cyberspace. Im not one of those, of course!

I have been working here at the shop for 22 years now, and we are a business that specialises in special occasions. Our clothes have conducted orchestras, met the Queen (many times), attended Ascot, received awards, held presentations, been up for election, sat across board tables and judicial benches. But, most of all, our outfits have attended weddings. Many, many weddings!

So over the years my colleagues and I have garnered all kinds of knowledge and experience, which can be of great help to those attending a wedding. There certainly does seem to be an epidemic of problems associated with dressing for such events these days. These are new problems; they did not occur until relatively recently and, unlike many other wonderful modern innovations, they are extremely unwelcome developments.

At the risk of seeming bombastic (lets call a spade a spade, I am feeling bombastic about this right now!), I think I will simply provide a list of bullet points that, in my opinion, would be well remembered if you are in the throes of bedecking yourself for this most celebratory of occasions.

1) If you are the mother of the bride, then no-one (that's no-one, not the bride, not your husband, not your auntie Noreen nor your neighbours favourite niece) should tell you what to wear. Period.

2) If you are the mother of the groom, after discreet, polite and somewhat distant (there is really no need to get too involved with any other person) liaison with the brides mother - who takes precedence - no-one should tell you what to wear.

3) Colours cannot be bagged. Obviously, no-one wants to wear exactly the same outfit as someone else. Other than that, everyone should wear the outfit that they like the best. The only exception is that there should be clear blue water between the two mothers outfits. This is something that is easily avoided (see no. 2).

4) The idea that someone lower down the pecking order than the parents of the two protagonists should seek to bag a colour is simply outrageous.

5) If someone further down the pecking order wishes to wear exactly the same outfit as one of the mothers, for courtesys sake, she should give it up, and choose something else. There should be no question of the mother having to cede to one of the guests, even if the other woman got there first.

6) No rule of politeness has been broken by refusing to comply with anothers instructions on ones outfit. In fact the contrary is true. It is exceptionally rude to tell someone else what to wear... even if you are the bride.

7) You will always look better in an outfit that you like. It is your duty, as a woman, to look your best at all times... particularly at a family wedding.

8) When you arrive at the wedding (even wearing the verboten colour) looking fabulous, everyone will be extremely happy, and no-one will ever take offence.

9) The best defence against other people's attempts to bully you into wearing what they decree, is to wear what you want and look fabulous. Looking fabulous trumps everything else.

10) The rest is silence.

It may be an idea to discreetly print off this blog, and leave it carelessly on the table when the bully is taking tea with you. You may even wish to slip a copy into her handbag as she leaves, so that she can read it at her leisure. It will give her something constructive to do with her time.


Emma    Thursday 17 May 2012 at 12:46

 Post #291 

Subject: ASD

Anna Scholz doesnt come to town every day, so it was a huge red-letter day on Saturday when she and her sales manager, Darren, came down to visit us. The sun was shining and everything was looking really bright and colourful in our store. To celebrate our ASD ('Anna Scholz Day'), we had decked out the shop in Anna Scholz displays, and had given her collection pride of place in the centre of our store.

We ordered scrummy nibbles (hors d'oeuvres and darling little cakes from Waitrose... bless em!), and put plenty of bubbly on ice. We had our whole staff working together for this day, and of course we were all wearing Annas creations.

The stage was set, and we gathered expectantly at the beginning of the day. It didnt take long before the shop was flooded with people. Anna fans had travelled from all over to get to us, partly because Anna had decreed that we be stocked with the largest collection of her Spring/Summer 2012 collection that you could find in our country, and partly to meet the lady herself.

Weve had an ASD before, and it was one of the happiest working days I have ever spent - so I knew it was going to be highly enjoyable. However, it is only in the thick of things that you really understand what fun it is. There is something colourful, joyful, glamorous and decadent about Anna Scholz clothing, and all the women who had come into the store on Saturday knew and appreciated this. It was a meeting of like-minds!

Anna drew two lucky winners for the prizes that were available in our lucky draw. The first prize, for a voucher for 250 worth of Anna Scholz fashion, was won by Sidonie Stevens. The second, an Emma Plus necklace, was won by Jane Steven (the similarity in names is co-incidental: we didnt go out trying to find Stevens!). This was a particularly happy chance, because Ms Steven, as a small person wouldnt have benefitted from the Anna Scholz prize, but as she happened to be in the store when the draw took place, found a gorgeous vintage blue/green necklace that matched the peacock-print dress she was wearing at the time.

Quite what Sidonie Stevens is going to do with her voucher is yet to be decided... the delight and excitement was palpable when we telephoned to inform her!


 Emma    Saturday 26 May 2012 at 17:10

Just a little pickie of Jane Steven with her lovely vintage necklace prize.

We are hoping to get a photograph of the delightful Sidonie Stevens wearing her gorgeous Anna Scholz prize....when we do, we will post it onto our forum!

 Emma    Saturday 26 May 2012 at 17:14

On the ASD, our lovely customer, Anna Martin, cooked a fantastic cake in the shape of a saucy basque.

Anna Scholz cut the cake, and we all had a piece...it was light, fluffy, delicious....risen!.....everything my cakes are not. Thanks so much Anna!

 Emma    Saturday 26 May 2012 at 17:34

It was lovely to see past and present members of staff at the ASD. Jan, who used to work with us, still shops here, and is one of our most stylish regulars.

Of course, she loves to wear Anna Scholz's clothes, so it was only fitting that she looked resplendent when she met the designer in person!

 Emma    Saturday 26 May 2012 at 17:40

I was particularly taken by the way that Kim P, who travelled down to Brighton especially to attend the ASD, managed to channel the Anna Scholz livery with her own outfit.

She perfectly matched the promotional material for the Spring/Summer Anna Scholz.

We had to keep an eye out for her as, camoflaged as she was, she was able disappear into her 'natural habitat' on the day.

 Emma    Saturday 26 May 2012 at 17:46

Part of the 'dream team' on the day....on the left, Jackie and Lisa, with Kim on the right. Centre right is our 'intern for the day', the lovely Leo.

All are looking superb wearing Anna Scholz, and showcasing the variety on offer in the range.

 charlie conley    Wednesday 13 June 2012 at 10:29

Please upload the image before completing the rest of the form or your data will be lost!


Emma    Friday 11 May 2012 at 17:40

 Post #289 

Subject: ASD minus one

So here we are, the night before our ASD (to the uninitiated, Anna Scholz Day), and, although I know this does mean that I am a very excitable girlie, I am feeling really hyper...

We have had a large delivery of gorgeous things: dresses, tops, jackets etc., and the Anna Scholz butterfly colours have really given our little shop a zing. There is something life-affirming about those lovely shades.

The stage is set... let the trying-on begin!


 Jackie Newman    Sunday 13 May 2012 at 09:13

What a brilliant time I had at ASD!!! Loved meeting Anna and Darren. Great personalities! Can't wait to see the photos. Loved the clothes and can't wait to wear the Cornelli dress on the cruise!


 Kim P    Sunday 13 May 2012 at 12:58

Just to echo Jackie's post, it was wonderful yesterday and I am so pleased I went. A joy to see so many ladies looking beautiful in their new outfits. Anna and Darren are such lovely people too. Thank you again!


 Nicola Sutherland    Sunday 13 May 2012 at 14:20

Sorry I didn't get to meet Anna but was early/lucky enough to have lots of gorgeous things in my size to choose from. Am really pleased with all three of my gorgeous new dresses. lAnd as always the lovely welcome, service and honesty on what suits me best that I always get with you. Look forward to the next Anna day.


 Emma    Thursday 17 May 2012 at 12:49

Thank you, Jackie, Kim and Nicola for coming, but also for helping to make the ASD such a success!

I'm so glad you enjoyed it... it really was fantastic, and we are now actively persuading Anna to come down again next year. The ASD only seems to get bigger and better!

Emma    Saturday 05 May 2012 at 12:34

 Post #287 

Subject: Anna Scholz Day 12th May

There was a time when plus-size womens clothing was never designed by plus-size women. What am I saying?... the fact is that the lions share of plus-size womens clothing is still not being designed by plus-size women! This can create problems of perception within the industry.

Until relatively recently I was told by agents, pretty regularly, that larger women didnt like to show themselves off too much (by the way, in our industry, quite a few agents are men - but we would get this kind of comment from the female agents as well), so, apparently, we hated to show any cleavage. These agents often went on to explain that this was the reason why larger women didnt want fitted clothes, preferring the baggy look. And, as luck would have it, they didnt like colour either: black, dark grey, brown, navy... these were the order of the day.

Im quite a strong person, but I dont see the point in being actively offensive, so I would bite my tongue when greeted with comments like these, and simply quietly and politely tell the agents that what they were saying was mistaken. In reality I was maddened to the extent that I would want to burst forth with my opinions about how you would have to be wilfully deluded not to notice the huge number of beautiful, sexy women desperate for something to wear that didnt make them look ready to take up holy orders.

On one occasion, however, the discussion (which had been continuing in the vein for a few minutes - a few minutes too long in my book) was taken out of my hands. There were actually two male agents in the shop: my agent and his boss, the national manager. I was politely trying to convince the men that, after (at that time) spending about five years dealing on a daily basis with larger women (and being one myself), I didnt really need a masterclass from these two gentlemen on what we wanted. But they werent having any of this. Neither man had apparently ever met a plus-size woman who wanted to dress sexily.

Then, suddenly, the curtain of my changing room was whipped back, and the lovely lady who had been within (trying on a blouse) issued forth like a ship in full sail. She did not feel the need to pussyfoot around the subject, and told the two of them in words of one syllable what she thought of their point of view, and their so-called experience of larger women. Lets just say that those two gentlemen were never able to boast about their knowledge of plus-size women again. Not without carefully checking behind every innocent-looking curtain in the vicinity, that is!

This story leads me on to my preoccupation this week: the visit of the fabulous plus-size designer, Anna Scholz (pictured), to our store... an event that is happening on Saturday 12th May 2012.

Anna is a beautiful plus-size woman herself, who started her line when she realised that the sort of clothes she required were simply not being produced. From the very beginning Anna has been entirely true to herself. Regardless of how her own size has varied over the years, she is, and always will be, able to see the world through the eyes of a larger woman. She wanted to create clothes that enhance the body, revealing the attractive assets that most of us have, while providing an extremely flattering silhouette.

She is innovative - she was the first in our industry to use stretch silk, and this material (which she uses to fantastic effect) remains one of her signature fabrics. She is bold - she uncompromisingly creates sexy clothing; her attitude is that women are beautiful... and size has nothing to do with it. She is celebratory - I have never seen a designer more prepared to use gorgeous, singing colours.

Other designers now follow behind Anna. That is her contribution to our industry. It is incredibly helpful that people realise that there are ample (in every sense of the word) women out there who want to look very, very good. But it is not easy to be able to recreate that celebratory, uncompromising and bold aesthetic, because to be able to carry it off, first and foremost, you need to be able to get the fit right. She's a tough act to follow.

So Anna Scholz was the catalyst that set off a massive change in our industry. No-one any more attempts to tell me that plus-size women are not interested in looking gorgeous. If they did, they themselves would know that they sound like dinosaurs. How did Anna manage to achieve so much?

Arguably, it all started with her being a larger woman herself.


 Kim P    Sunday 06 May 2012 at 19:46

Looking forward to next Saturday and seeing all the gorgeous clothes. I love my Anna Sholz dresses and tops and I was living in her leggings over the winter. They are so well made and the colourful prints are stunning. Web photos rarely do them justice.

As you know I am not keen on too low a neckline but the beauty of buying from Emma Plus is the ability to have clothes altered professionally ( and often FOC ) to suit customers wishes so everyone is catered for!


 Emma    Tuesday 08 May 2012 at 13:10

Hi Kim!

So looking forward to seeing you this coming weekend! If it's anything like last time, it will be a blast!

Yes, I think your reply has pointed out a bit of a problem with my post about Anna Scholz, which left the impression, firstly, that she is only about flashing a bit of cleavage, and secondly, that this is the only way to look fabulous and sexy!

That would be wrong on both counts, of course! Although no-one does decolotage quite like Anna (and I mean no-one!), she is also all about every aspect of looking fantastic, encompasing all different looks from understated, through classic, to demure, and items such as business suiting, knits, coats, trousers etc, do also form part of her line...not just sexy low-cut tops and dresses!


Emma    Thursday 26 April 2012 at 18:00

 Post #284 

Subject: Plus fashion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An economist studying the situation here would no doubt conclude that there can be no requirement for plus-size fashion in this city. Perhaps we, as a population, have been shrinking in size? Maybe fashion has gone out of fashion? Perhaps plus-size women dont really want or need to look fabulous? Or maybe there is something particular about plus-size women that mean they dont need to try things on in order to see if clothes suit them, and are perfectly able to select items of clothing by looking at photographs online?

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

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


 Nicola    Sunday 29 April 2012 at 12:48

Hi Emma

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

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

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

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

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



 Emma    Tuesday 01 May 2012 at 15:24

Hi Nicola,

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

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

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


Emma    Friday 20 April 2012 at 17:18

 Post #282 

Subject: Anna Scholz Day 12th May

I have to confess to being extremely excited... we have managed to persuade the gorgeous Anna Scholz to come to our store again, to celebrate another Anna Scholz Day!

For those who attended our last Anna Scholz Day, I dont think I will have to say anything about this event in order to encourage them to attend - other than that we will be participating in all the same enjoyments as before.

We will have - specially delivered - the cream of Annas Spring/Summer 12 collection, many items of which have not been seen in any stores. And the collection itself will be far more comprehensively represented than one would usually find in one place. There will be items that neither I, nor any of my team, have even seen before (so you can imagine the heightened atmosphere that we will be in the shop when the deliveries arrive; a heady mix of fashion-obsessed women bursting open a delivery of fantastic Anna Scholz fashion).

There will be a competition, where the first prize is 250 worth of Anna Scholz fashion, and second prize a beautiful Emma Plus necklace of the winner's choice.

We will have refreshments, and Anna herself will be coming into the store to meet her ultimate customers, answer questions and get feedback.

There will be a sociable, happy, festive atmosphere... this is truly one of the happiest days of the year - and well worth calling in to the store to join us for.

Anna Scholz Day at Emma Plus is on 12 May. We open at 10am, and are expecting Anna in our store around noon. All are welcome!


 Anna    Saturday 21 April 2012 at 08:05

Hello Emma,

Well I can not wait. Came into your shop with my friend Tori, but that day you were in London, I think. I love Anna's clothing. Looking forward to meeting.



 Emma    Monday 23 April 2012 at 14:29

Hi Anna!

When I first saw your post, for a moment I thought it was from Anna Scholz, commenting on her Anna Scholz Day...it wouldn't be the first time she has posted on this forum!

I was sad I missed you the time that you came into store with your friend and mine, Tori, so I look forward to seeing you next time. I don't know whether Tori should go in for the prize draw this year: as last year's winner, she may find that winning it two years in a row may create 'Anna Scholz clothing envy' amongst the other customers!

Having said that, the chance to win another Anna outfit would certainly be worth it..it certainly wouldn't put me off!


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 its 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 ones 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. Its not that I dont 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 isnt 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 havent 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 moments 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 didnt suit trousers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Kim P    Friday 20 April 2012 at 19:10

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


 Emma    Saturday 21 April 2012 at 17:03

Hi Kim

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

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

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

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

 Kim P    Saturday 21 April 2012 at 23:02

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

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


 Emma    Thursday 10 May 2012 at 18:16

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

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

Emma    Thursday 15 March 2012 at 15:35

 Post #274 

Subject: Greek goddesses and dressing-up boxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the true revelation from Anna Scholz. When I first see her new fabrics, out of an old habit I inwardly sigh, because somehow I still dont really believe that the lovely cloth will ever be made into something that will either fit me or flatter me. Yet when I then try the dresses on I see that they are cut just as well as they are printed, and it is like a dream come true. Hence the squeals of ecstasy in her showroom.

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

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


 Jessie Clay    Friday 27 April 2012 at 22:49

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


Emma    Saturday 03 March 2012 at 17:18

 Post #273 

Subject: Top two...

I was reading a magazine last weekend, and I came across an article about how it is very revealing to ask people for the top two things that they feel are most important about their profession. It is supposed to be a useful discipline to impose on someone trying to evaluate their occupation, and gives unexpected insights into other peoples lives. Asking for three important aspects would apparently just unnecessarily spread out the choice and asking for one wouldnt give enough balance.

Working on the understanding that this sort of thing is essentially nonsense, yet fun, I started to think about the top two main things to remember about what I do for a living, and immediately came across an unexpected hurdle. Depending on who is asking the question, its hard to say exactly what I do for a living: there are quite a few occupations that I can say I involved with.

For instance, I could say I am a shop keeper (top two things there: Buy the correct items for your clientele-that you would want for yourself-and Dont forget that your customers are for life!). I could say I am the director of a small business (Never forget exactly what function your business is meant to perform and Keep looking afresh at everything in order to keep up with changing trends and situations).

I could say that I am in a service industry in a holiday destination (Make everyone who comes into your sphere feel really welcome and Try to and take seriously what it is that people want , because it matters). I am also a plus-size specialist (You will find that your customers are grateful that you are there, but never fail to be grateful that they are there and Fit is everything: if it doesnt fit, throw it out).

Its possible to argue that I am in the art and design business (Dont buy something just because it is trendy: buy what is beautiful and Make full use of the wonderful talents of the designers to help make sure you never get stuck in a rut).

However, I would say that I am in the fashion business, and I think the two most important things about my job are these: Women are beautiful. And this means women from every walk of life. Young, old, tall, short, larger (even smaller women, I have heard, can be very attractive!); the media may discriminate, but Mother Nature does not. And my second vital point: Every one of us is unique in an infinite combination of different ways.


Emma    Saturday 25 February 2012 at 14:46

 Post #272 

Subject: Colour...Fall 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 07 March 2012 at 21:38

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


 Emma    Thursday 15 March 2012 at 15:37

Hi Tori,

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

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

Emma    Tuesday 14 February 2012 at 18:20

 Post #271 

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

In my last blog I was just about to go off to start the first of my buying trips. Well, Im back from that now, but I am still up to my neck in Autumn/Winter 2012 buying. Although I have seen and bought some gorgeous items, it isnt over until, as they say, the fat lady sings (that would be me then - singing for pure joy, because what I have seen so far has been lovely).

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

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

On the bad side, were I to be designing my own collection I wouldnt hesitate to say let there be sleeves and decree that every dress and top produced this season should have one of an array of sleeves. As my correspondent says: small ones, lace ones, long ones, cutaway ones... but never without! If only it were that simple. The fact is I dont have any direct say in what is produced by the fashion houses. I just get to buy the results of their genius.

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

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

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

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

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


 Nicola    Saturday 18 February 2012 at 12:32

Hi Emma

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

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

Looking forwards to seeing you all in the Spring.


 Emma    Saturday 18 February 2012 at 13:06

Hi Nicola

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

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

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

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

 Nicola    Sunday 19 February 2012 at 13:05

Hi Emma

I love the look of that Elena Miro jacket!

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

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

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


 Emma    Monday 20 February 2012 at 15:28

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

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

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

 Kirsten James    Wednesday 22 February 2012 at 17:12

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


 Emma    Friday 24 February 2012 at 16:27

Hi Kirsten!

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

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

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

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

Emma    Thursday 02 February 2012 at 19:59

 Post #270 

Subject: What we really, really want...

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

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

Before we go, we really have no clue as to what to expect: fashion can turn on a sixpence, and even having an encyclopaedic knowledge of what has gone before doesnt give you any kind of a head start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 21 January 2012 at 17:28

 Post #268 

Subject: SuperSale

Now is the moment to reveal that we will be having a SuperSale next week! The SuperSale will be on Friday 27th, and Saturday 28th January, between 10am and 5.30pm.

So what is so special about a SuperSale, as opposed to your standard (fabulous) Emma Plus Sale? As regular customers will know, our normal sale is usually anything but normal, because we like to clear all stock at the end of each season - so we mark down quite radically, enabling our lucky customers to pick up really current, fantastic designer clothes at ridiculous prices.

That happens every season, but what does not happen every season (or indeed, very often at all) is our SuperSale. This is a sale whereby members of our mailing list are sent a card, entitling them to a further major reduction on sale items. This SuperSale is offering a further 20% extra discount, over and above sale discounting (some of which is already at substantially less than half price).

There are two other very significant aspects to this particular SuperSale. One is that we will also be offering 10% off all new stock. This is particularly exciting, because we have already had some gorgeous new deliveries in, and may well have more in before Friday (we are expecting some of the new Anna Scholz in next week). This really is a one-off for anyone thirsting for the new looks....

A couple of years ago, we had a trouser day in the store, and this proved to be incredibly popular. So we decided to throw one more exceptional temptation into the mix. We will be having a special trouser event on our SuperSale days... all trousers (including new season) will be 20% off.

These offers are normally just open to those who have received a card, but for any customers reading this blog, you may, by simply turning up on the day and joining our mailing list, enjoy the same benefits... it pays to read the blog!

I can't remember the last time we had a SuperSale; it was a long time ago. They are not events that come round very often, so it may well be worthwhile popping in on the day and having a look at what is on offer!

I look forward to seeing you in store!


 Kim P    Saturday 21 January 2012 at 22:23

Wow! Those offers are brilliant Emma. I suspect the Trouser Queen is going to be very busy!


 Emma    Sunday 22 January 2012 at 19:58

Thanks, Kim....

Also, it's worth remembering that we will still give 2 hours' free parking to anyone spending 100 or more, if they are parked in the car park adjacent to the shop!

Actually, I don't think we have ever done such a good deal: the trouser queen (AKA Kim) is chomping at the bit....


 Emma    Thursday 02 February 2012 at 19:06

Just a quick comment about the SuperSale. We were so delighted with the response to it....it was our most successful ever sale. I am delighted that our customers really know and understand the significance of these rather rare events, that we make such a tremendous effort to make special.

I have decided, having spoken to some customers who were not able to attend the two days of the SuperSale, to create a further option. Anyone who has received a card, can bring it in to the store, and still have the further 20% off sale stock, for as long as the sale lasts this time.

There are still some sale bargains, and I know that, with the return of the cold weather, there may be some women who may wish to buy some more beautiful, useful winter clothing....particularly at such ridiculously low prices!

I think the sale will continue for at least the next two weeks, and the further discount will be applicable even from the final reductions......


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 girls 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 dont 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, its 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 dont 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 dont mention it - in the same way that I wouldnt 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 its all too simple for a designer to say I like women who have a real lady shape, whatever size she is, and thats 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! Im 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 didnt think they had any! That is a game worth playing!

Certainly many plus-size women are curvy, and Im 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!


Emma    Friday 30 December 2011 at 12:38

 Post #266 

Subject: Sixtyplus!

I was just browsing the internet (as you do, during these long holiday days!), and had another look at the Sixtyplusurfers site, and was delighted to see that they have mentioned Emma Plus.

Perhaps I would say this(!), but it does seem that this is another indication that this is a very interesting site, full of useful information that ranges across a wide subject base. I really was delighted when I browsed the site - which, apart from the shopping information, had recipes, travel, IT advice... It's about time there was an online destination like this, specifically aimed at the sixty-plus person.

I believe that this kind of independent site is going to help promote the businesses that are giving the best service to their customers. This has got to be good news for everybody! I really do wish them well.


 Victoria Hollis    Monday 02 January 2012 at 00:40

This is such a great article. I know a fair few ladies who use this site. It's a good way to look for impartial advice in a lot of cases.

And I just thought I'd share this totally gratuitous picture of me at the Curves in Couture show with the AMAZING plus model, actress, photographer Velvet D'Amour. As you can see rocking the Anna Schols hot coral dress and lace jacket from S/S 11

 Emma    Monday 02 January 2012 at 17:25

Hi Tori,

Great to see one of your pictures from the Curves in Couture Show, which showcased some of the best plus size looks around.

I have long been hearing about Velvet D'Armour, a legendary figure in the plus size beauty and fashion world.

I love you in the Anna Scholz coral-a really gorgeous look....


 Rozi Desouza    Tuesday 09 October 2012 at 12:41

Hi.. i have visited the site which you have suggested. Sixtyplusurfers is really very good site and there are so many useful thing in it. Thanks for sharing this with us.


 mandy    Tuesday 04 November 2014 at 09:05

hi im on your website but cant seem to see any clothes for sale can you give me the link to veiw clothes please thans


Emma    Wednesday 28 December 2011 at 20:25

 Post #265 

Subject: Sale starts Friday 30th December at 10.30am!

For those scanning this forum in the hope of quickly picking up vital information about our sale, I can confirm that the Emma Plus Winter Sale starts this Friday 30th and Saturday 31st December...

This year promises to be a superb sale, with many items half price and others marked at even greater discounts. This is because we like to clear all current seasonal stock before the bulk of the new deliveries arrive for Spring/Summer 12.

This year there are gorgeous knits, coats, blouses and tops (I could go on!) - all of which must go in order to make way for the new. As the Winter 11 season was particularly gorgeous (with lovely colours and beautiful soft, natural fabrics) this represents a fantastic opportunity to acquire a significant prize from this collection at a very modest price.

Those who have attended our sales before will know that the first two days of sale is also marked by a 10% discount off new stock - and, as we have already had some lovely new items delivered, customers will have a very unusual opportunity to sample the new season with a bit of extra seasonal cheer, courtesy of Emma Plus.

Another 'sweetie' that may interest those thinking of attending our store, either during the sale or (subject to availability) at any time during the next season... if you spend 100 or more at one time in our store then you can park in the NCP car park adjacent to us, for two hours, completely free of charge!

We look forward to seeing you in store.


Emma    Wednesday 14 December 2011 at 15:34

 Post #263 

Subject: Fashion democracy...

I find that I now remember rather little of what I was taught at school; I think that, for me at least, I am more likely to be able to use the skills I gained during my education, than to recall facts or specific lessons.

However, one particular statement made to me (during an economics lesson, of all things!) did stick very firmly in my mind. We were told that every time we purchased something, we voted. My teacher (a wonderful, inspirational man) taught us that even though we were only called upon to vote in parliamentary elections every 4 or 5 years, we were able to express our preference several times a day by carefully picking out what it was that we wanted to spend our money on. His point was a brilliant one: if you dont like the company or the product, show your disapproval by removing your hard-earned cash from their premises forthwith - thereby (hopefully) concentrating the minds of the business owners on what they can do to improve their relationship with their customers.

Of course, my teachers argument continued that the converse is also true: if you welcome how a company is run, and enjoy their product, it is worth going the extra mile to endorse their service with your custom.

His message really went into my head, and I can honestly say that it is one of the few lessons that I had during my childhood that has had a daily influence on my behaviour. Some people may think I am an obsessive, but I will always seek out companies that I approve of, or ones whose products I really like, and make an effort to patronise them when I can. And I know I am not the only one: almost on a daily basis I have evidence of my own customers acting in this way.

I remember when I first opened a shop under my own name (almost 18 years ago now). I had worked for the previous two owners, before making the daunting jump to take it over for myself. I had built up good relationships with my customers, and had promised that I would try to continue this when the shop re-launched after its refit. One morning, half-way through the building work, whilst the shop was still closed, I found a note had been pushed under the door. It asked me to put a sign in my window to tell the sender when I was re-opening, because the lady was intending to come in immediately, and buy something, even if I dont like anything! The note was signed by a long-standing customer of mine!

These days when I see customers who have travelled all the way over from Wales, up from Cornwall, or down from London - or made the trip from Norfolk, Essex, the Midlands, or whatever - I am driven to think about these economic realities more than ever. Time was when there were many small local stores selling designer plus-size clothing. Many of these shops were somewhat lacklustre, and perhaps it was time for them to disappear. However, I do feel that many more have been seen off by the temporarily difficult trading conditions that have afflicted the fashion industry over recent years.

Many plus-size women used to rely on going up to the London stores - like Harrods, Liberties, John Lewis, Selfridges, etc. However, these stores no longer have their plus-size departments. Women are having to travel like never before in order to get beautiful clothing.

In my opinion - were I not in this business and if I lived in some part of the country that still enjoyed a good local plus-size boutique - I would rush to that store straight away to offer them whatever patronage I have at this time, in the hope that others will do the same. Although I clearly have a great interest in what the economists have to say about my trade, I do know from personal experience that some of it is rubbish. Economists seem to believe that nature abhors a vacuum and that where a business is needed, one will automatically spring-up to service the demand. I happen to know this is not the case in the plus-size industry. Over the past few years, when the independent designer shops have closed down, they stay dark.

It is obviously very important to watch the pennies if you have to, but it is not, I would argue, a wise option to spend those pennies in the large, cheap chain stores, thus starving out the very small businesses - which in the future would be sorely missed. Once lost, those individual shops will not return in a hurry. It is a situation that may well benefit a store like mine, with its reputation, long history and established internet presence, which can draw customers from far and wide. But a long car drive across or down the country, followed by a stay at a hotel, in order to find some gorgeous clothes, may well be the only option to many plus-size women in England, and this situation is getting more extreme all the time.

To have a good designer clothes shop on my doorstep, selling a wide range of gorgeous clothes, is something I would vote for any day.


Kay    Thursday 08 December 2011 at 17:37

 Post #260 

Subject: christmas opening

Im planning on making a special trip down from London either before or after christmas for a new year outfit. More likely after christmas, as Im a busy bee at the moment.
Please could you tell me your opening hours over christmas and the new year.
thanks Kay


 Emma    Thursday 08 December 2011 at 18:15

Hi Kay!

Thank you for your very useful question: useful because it is reminding me to do something that I should have already have published on this forum!

Our hours are as follows:
Saturday 24th December 10am-3pm
Sunday 25th Closed
Monday 26th Closed
Tuesday 27th Closed
Wednesday 28th Closed
Thursday 29th Closed
Friday 30th 10.30am-5.30pm
Saturday 31st 10am-5.30pm

Sunday 1st January 2012 Closed
Monday 2nd Closed
Tuesday 3rd (onwards), normal opening hours.

Now, Kay, I am going to throw caution to the winds, and tell the readers of this blog something, at this early stage, that is normally only revealed to the lucky ones who are on our mailing list. Our Emma Plus Winter Sale starts on the 30th December at 10.30am.

I would advise coming early because those who get notice of this will be thronging to us (our sales are well-appreciated, as it is our custom to reduce everything from the current season so as to be completely freshly-stocked with the new collection, which will be in store soon after the New Year). So we always have good reductions, and this year the selection of gorgeous evening wear is particularly delectable....

It may also be worth reiterating that anyone spending over 100 in store will be eligible for two hours' free car parking at the NCP car park adjacent to our shop.

I look forward to seeing you in store, and if I don't see you until after Christmas, may I wish you, and all other readers of the forum a very Happy Holiday!

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 09 December 2011 at 12:41

I dont know if you saw this but I wrote about it in my blog.

Computer generated models - what is the fashion industry coming to when they have to create a body to display their clothes?


Emma    Thursday 01 December 2011 at 15:10

 Post #258 

Subject: Parking!

After much thought and effort, we think we have come across a way to help our hard-pressed customer with her parking needs.....

We have introduced a scheme where anyone spending 100 or more in our shop can have 2 hour's free parking in the NCP car park right next door to our shop. This is effective immediately, and is for any day (including Saturdays).

This is a trial, and it will be effective all the time this post is up. For details, call us on 01273 327240, or just ask us whilst you are in store....


 Kim P    Thursday 01 December 2011 at 22:57

Great idea Emma, that really is a saving worth having as is the 10% off the gift vouchers.


 Emma    Friday 02 December 2011 at 13:59

Hi Kim!

Thanks for your post. Yes, I think it is so convenient to just park next door and stroll over. Knowing that you can get 2 hours for free does make the difference!


Emma    Monday 28 November 2011 at 17:40

 Post #257 

Subject: Shrinkage

I was channel hopping one night recently when I happened to turn on a popular TV soap, which I dont normally watch. I was arrested by the face of an actress, who seemed extremely familiar. It appeared to be an acquaintance of mine. The thing was, I knew this television-woman couldnt be the one whom I knew, because the actress on screen was a completely different size.

A few weeks later, I bumped into my acquaintance, and she confirmed that it had indeed been her that had starred in this episode (I hadnt realised until then that she worked as an actress). I have to admit I was shocked, because the woman in front of me then was about five feet tall, and a size eight or ten, whereas the woman I had seen on the screen was probably five foot eight and a size sixteen. I know that the camera adds a stone of weight, but this was ridiculous. What on earth could have caused this temporary morphing from a petite person into an average-sized one? After mulling it over for a few moments, I was driven to one conclusion: all the actors on the soap were tiny, making this woman look much bigger in comparison. I couldnt help wondering; did they have to build a special set to accommodate all those teenie-weenies?

This is just one example of how size is a highly comparative issue, and Im not sure if any of us really understands just how much this matters. When I was a schoolgirl, growing up in the seventies, I was huge. As a five-foot-eight and a half (the half was very important) size sixteen, with (shock, horror!) size seven-and-a-half feet, sixteen-year old, I stood out as a one of a kind. If you dont believe me, I still have the school photograph to prove it. The picture shows our whole school year... Teenagers are lined up in three rows, in all their glorious nineteen-seventies bad hair and unflattering acrylic clothing: boys and girls looking strangely similar. And there am I, head and shoulders taller, and twice as wide as everyone else, towering like Shrek over the whole proceedings.

I often think of this scene as I drive past our local school in the mornings. There are many taller girls nowadays (we have been growing a centimeter taller every decade since the war), and a lot more generally larger and heavier people. A size 16 sixteen-year-old really is nothing to write home about now. Today, I can walk into every shoe shop and buy what I want (something I could only dream about when I was younger).

A similar thing happens in our shop every day. Women often ask me if we have flattering mirrors, because they feel they look so much slimmer. Obviously, one should take into account the effects of our beautiful clothes and fabulous styling (!), but it cannot be ignored that our shop is a plus-size space. The vast majority of people entering are larger people. Really, anyone below a size 20 looks child-sized; it's the mainstream sized people who are out of scale - should they enter our portals.

This week the latest figures showed that a quarter of the women in our country are plus-sized (even though our TV programmes still dont reflect this reality), and this is not something that is going to go away anytime soon. Whatever you feel about this, the reality is that we larger people are gaining in numbers all the time, and this is going to have a profound effect on how we look and feel, and how others view us. The world has changed, and is continuing to do so.


 Victoria Hollis    Tuesday 06 December 2011 at 21:49

I read this once again laughing Em

I was the 5.9 shoe size 8 and size 20 wearing 16 year old. Looking through all my school pictures I was the girl in the back row with the boys while all my petite classmates were in front.

Size is so much a matter of perception. A good example of this was Natalie Cassidy the eastenders actress I saw at the curves in couture show. To me she seemed tiny and delicate. In the press shes been battered for weight gain of late.

You can see how so many women end up hating themselves because they dont fit the so perfect shape being paraded in the press.


 Emma    Tuesday 06 December 2011 at 23:24

Hi Tori-

At the risk of sounding a bit paranoid, it does almost seem that there is a conspiracy in the media to pretend that we (as a population) are all tiny. Yet in fact we are as a nation are getting bigger and bigger.

I don't think I am alone in not feeling as large as I did years ago, because I know from personal experience that my customers are demanding and expecting a fashion-forward look more than ever before. I feel certain this is due to the normalising effect of the increase in our numbers.

All we need now is for the fashion industry to truly reflect this new reality....


Emma    Saturday 26 November 2011 at 15:09

 Post #256 

Subject: Happy seasonal news...

Although the mild weather tells us otherwise, the fact is that its nearly December, and Christmas is thundering towards us, leading inexorably towards the thought... 'what on earth am I going to give as presents this year?'!

In our shop we often have people buying gifts for loved ones. Its a bit of a fraught area, because it isnt always easy to pick out something that will fit someone else, not to mention suit them! So more often than not, when seeking something lovely, friends and family choose to buy a voucher from us.

I know that, among some people, gift vouchers have a bit of a bad name as a lazy or unimaginative present. However, I think that the truth rests entirely on the kind of vouchers they are. Like flowers - which, if picked out individually with love and care from a wonderful florist, rather than bought at the last minute from a petrol station - there are some gifts that show thought and love, and some that are used to merely satisfy an obligation at the last minute.

Some of our happiest experiences here at the store have been with the recipients of our gift vouchers. Many women have absolutely no knowledge that we existed, whilst others knew we were here, but for a long time had mistakenly felt intimidated about visiting us. Some larger women need permission to feel OK about spending time and money on themselves, and others dont feel it appropriate for them to buy a beautiful garment while they are this size.

A voucher can drive a coach and horses through these objections. Someone has thought about you, as a larger woman, and seen you as a person who is attractive and fashion-minded. They have heard you mention how difficult it is to find lovely clothes. They have gone to the time and effort to find a shop that has the very things that you would love to have. And they have had the foresight to completely disregard any comments made by you about how you should just put up with not having anything nice to wear, at least until you are down to a size 14.

Over the years I have seen many women who have come in to spend their voucher, never having stepped over our threshold until that day. Often they are amazed and delighted; it can be a whole new world to someone who has not seen designer clothes in plus sizes before. To these women the gift is two-fold. On the one hand it is the present of a garment, and on the other it is the gift of our store. These women become our regular customers... and many of them have become my friends.

Last year we had a special offer on our gift vouchers, which was very popular, so we have decided to do one again this year: 10% extra free when you purchase online. This means that, each voucher is worth 10% more than it costs you. The offer is available until Christmas Day, and the vouchers are redeemable at any time.

Please click here to go to the Gift Voucher section.


Emma    Thursday 03 November 2011 at 16:05

 Post #251 

Subject: Dark energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously, we all need a tailored black day jacket (obviously!). This could be a blazer or a traditional suiting jacket. Then there is the smart evening jacket. I know we dont all really need one of these in order to live, but life is so much easier if you have one! Popped over a little cami, and teamed with the aforesaid black evening trousers, you are good to go at a minutes notice.

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


 Victoria Hollis    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 16:52

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

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

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

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


 Emma    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 17:42

Hi Tori!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Victoria Hollis    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 20:49

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


 Emma    Friday 11 November 2011 at 15:43

Hi Tori-

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

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


 Victoria Hollis    Friday 11 November 2011 at 19:36

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


Emma    Monday 03 October 2011 at 18:35

 Post #246 

Subject: Heeling words

I was incredibly irritated by what the sales-assistant said, my customer told me. So much so, that I decided I wasnt going to buy the outfit after all. I left the shop, and I wont be going back there in a hurry!

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

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

The lady was told (by the stick-thin sales assistant) that she should, on no account, wear the outfit with low heels. It would look ridiculous and frumpy. It didnt matter, apparently, that the customer found high-heeled shoes uncomfortable. This was irrelevant. One should suffer for beauty.

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

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

I think it is the very fact that much high-street footwear is ridiculously and vertiginously high that has ensured that alternative looks must be acceptable. Putting it simply, the majority of women just cant wear those very high shoes.

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

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

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

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

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

Like my customer, I wont let anyone tell me otherwise!


Emma    Wednesday 21 September 2011 at 16:03

 Post #244 

Subject: Service, please!

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

I admit that, for several reasons, I almost never buy clothes anywhere other than in my own shop. One is that if I dont rely on my own products, then I cant see any reason why anyone else should. I have set my store the task of having everything that a woman like me needs to wear. So I stock everything I can get my hands on - from casual wear such as jeans, through outdoor wear and knits, right up to the smartest kind of eveningwear that I could wish for.

Another reason why I dont shop in the High Street is that, as far as I can tell, nothing they are selling is designed with me in mind. If I were a small woman I would be shopping in places like Reiss, Hobbs, Jaeger, etc. Obviously, as things are, nothing in these stores is going to fit me (until that mythical time when I wake up one day to find out that I have morphed into a size 14, 54 woman). So, if I werent shopping at Emma Plus, I would have to go to those few specialist high street stores that we have here in Brighton (heaven help me). Lets just say this would not provide clothing sufficient to meet my needs.

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

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

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

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

My next shop was a lovely one which we have locally. Its called Comptoir Des Cotonniers... a store that has some interesting leather goods, and there did seem to be a bit of neutral colouring going on there. However, as I idled around the shop floor, I seemed to have a shadow. A sweet young sales lady was following me very closely, keeping up a running commentary on what I was absent-mindedly looking at. Those shoes also come in grey... That belt is sold separately... The jacket has mohair in it. As I knew she was just trying to be helpful, I really couldnt give in to the urge to turn and ask her if she would kindly leave me to my own devices. I left the shop.

Yes, there seemed to be an awful lot of incredibly helpful sales assistants around, and it was making me feel uncomfortable. However, I am aware of the fact that I am a very contrary, unfair creature. If I dont get enough attention, it doesnt take long before that also makes me irritable.

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

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

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

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

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


 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 21 September 2011 at 20:21

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

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

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

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

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


 Emma    Thursday 22 September 2011 at 15:24

Hi Tori

Thank you for your lovely comments!

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

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

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

I really look forward to seeing you soon.

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 23 September 2011 at 17:50

Darn it too slow again lol...

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

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


 Emma    Saturday 24 September 2011 at 13:27

Hi Tory!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Victoria Hollis    Sunday 25 September 2011 at 16:40

OOOOHHHH fab coat (Tongue hanging out drooling lol)

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

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


Emma    Friday 09 September 2011 at 16:21

 Post #242 

Subject: Snuggle

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

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

Luckily, the rules affecting what you need (or want) and what the fashion industry suddenly comes through with are the same this time. For anyone suffering from amnesia, last year we experienced a very cold winter, where all bets were off as far as our normal wardrobe staples were concerned. Out had gone those trusty yet suddenly inadequate and flimsy cotton jumpers that had been our go-to items when the weather got cold in previous years (I say previous years: actually the winter before was also quite extreme if I remember correctly). Out, also, had gone the notion that you really dont need a winter coat. The rules had suddenly been rewritten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Thursday 01 September 2011 at 15:40

 Post #240 

Subject: A singular shopping experience

In my blog I have always been careful to keep on message... this forum is designed to be a space where plus-size fashion is discussed. In my opinion, our fashion is almost never mentioned in the mainstream media, so it is well worth giving it a bit of space here on our humble website!

So I hope I am not letting myself down when I move off message to talk about a subject that to everyone else but us has absolutely nothing to do with larger womenswear.

I would like to talk about the area where our shop is situated: the North Laine in Brighton. I have been running this shop for over 20 years now, and when I first came here, I didnt really understand the significance of where we were. Yes, I realised that Brighton, as a destination town (which drew a huge number of visitors both from Britain and abroad) was a jolly good place to have a business that relied on people walking in our door. However, before I had worked here, I had never heard of the North Laine.

Of course, I knew of the Brighton Lanes, a lovely, quite chi-chi area of Brighton, famous for its tiny roads (the old fishermans lanes), and sweet little (somewhat tourist-orientated) shops. I guess that in my naivet, I had thought that the North Laine (which is just inland from the Lanes, within easy walking distance) was just another one of the lanes, albeit with a slightly different spelling. I had sometimes noticed, though, how the locals winced when the uninitiated visitor referred to it as the North Lanes (without an i, but with, heaven forbid, an s). Its a common mistake to make, although the Laine, is, in fact, far too singular a place to require an s.

In actuality the name does not have anything to do with roads or lanes; Laine is the old name for a field, and this particular field is one whose rich crop is shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, galleries, libraries, workshops, clubs, theatres, studios, commercial properties and general mixed activity, with the odd sumptuous palace (Brighton Pavilion) thrown in. Unlike the Lanes, there is only one North Laine... and it has an entirely unique character.

It is the haunt of performers (many and various venues are in the Laine), artists, media types, fashionistas, vegetarians, gays, foodies: rare and authentic characters, all. The area is the antithesis of the clone town, where all shops are part of a chain, and each road looks exactly the same. Here, the shops come and go, with a blink-and-youve-missed-it ethos that locals take as a given. Most of the businesses exist because their owners had a dream of what they wanted to present to the world, and many times this idea was without any rhyme or reason. Amazingly, some (but by no means all) of these businesses find their niche and survive.

The result is a kind of insouciance about what is on offer. For example, no-one turns a hair if the shoes on sale are completely weird and wacky, or superb hand-made originals... or vegetarian.

Someone may decide to run a hardware store here, but only if they can go berserk and make sure they sell everything possible, and have the best customer service in the western hemisphere.

If you fancy something to eat, you really can start to call the shots: would you like vegetarian? Certainly! Organic? Gluten free? Child friendly? Macro-biotic? Artisan-made? Locally sourced? Gourmet? Cheap and cheerful? The answer always seems to be yes, in an area that shouldnt be big enough to sustain all this diversity.

Nave is quite a good word to describe my relationship with the North Laine in the early days. Somehow, I thought it was just a co-incidence that a plus-size womenswear boutique had been opened here (I did not launch this store; I inherited it from its first owner), nor did I see it as part of the reason why our store had taken root and flourished.

It took me a while to start to look around at the Laine, and see it for what it was. Then the penny dropped as to the role our geographical situation has had in sustaining and nurturing our business. I see design, artistry, fashion, originality and quirkiness all around, as well as uncompromising specialists who have enthusiasm and really know their stuff. Had our shop been started somewhere else we may never have taken off. However, in coming here, I believe we found our natural home.


Belinda Hopkins    Saturday 27 August 2011 at 16:32

 Post #238 

Subject: First visit to the shop

After my first visit to you and it will not be my last, however I may leave my other half at home next time !!!! I just wanted to say I'm so very happy with all my new trousers and I am thrilled with my new jeans ( Kim you are an inspiration,I never thought that I would ever purchase leggins again - Thank you )Thank you for making me feel normal and alive again with an interest in fashion. All the staff that were in the shop last Wednesday were so helpful and kind - Thank you


 Emma    Tuesday 30 August 2011 at 10:48

Hi Belinda

Thank you for your kind words... I have passed them on to Kim (right), and she is very grateful.

The truth is there is nothing Kim likes more than sorting out someone's 'trouser needs'.... She is our Trouser Queen!

I do hope you enjoy your clothes, and we hope to see you again soon.

Emma    Saturday 20 August 2011 at 16:26

 Post #235 

Subject: Form versus function

When I first started writing my blog I wondered whether there would be enough topics in the area of plus-size fashion to make it worthwhile. I didnt have to wonder for long; just a few minutes' thought brought to mind a panorama of different angles on plus-fashion that are never covered in the mainstream media.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Victoria Hollis    Tuesday 23 August 2011 at 15:15


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

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

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


 Emma    Wednesday 24 August 2011 at 17:04

Hi Tory!

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 06 August 2011 at 12:41

 Post #229 

Subject: Spring/Summer 2012

So here I am writing my blog, fresh from buying some of the new collections. I was in Germany last weekend, and have visited several London showrooms since, and was able to see enough of the Spring/Summer 2012 styles to begin to form an overview of the looks of the season. I have still got a few designers to visit (for instance, I havent seen some of the Italian ranges like Elena Miro or Marina Rinaldi).

The last time I did my buying (about six months ago, when I bought the current Autumn/Winter 2011 collection), I was struck by the influence of the early nineteen-sixties and late nineteen-fifties looks. The fashion press uses the shorthand Mad Men to describe this style, and I think that many people feel that this single American TV programme has been responsible for the whole sea-change in fashion that we have seen in the run-up to this autumn. I dont go along with it myself: the TV programme, in my opinion, was just part of the tide that was running in this direction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As ever, my biggest excitement was reserved for the Anna Scholz collection. She is a British-based, German-born designer who ploughs her own furrow. Often she is years ahead of her time, and when she isnt that, she is at right-angles to the prevailing look. Her clothes have a way of making everything else look pedestrian.

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

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

Next summer, her dresses seem to have achieved the impossible: they are even more wearable than before. I was particularly taken with a lovely blue and white china pattern shirt-waister dress that came in two lengths - on the knee or to the ground. I again suffered from 'the anger' (see blogs passim)... I desperately wanted to walk out of her showroom wearing that dress. I dont want to have to wait six months for it!

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

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


Emma    Saturday 23 July 2011 at 11:26

 Post #227 

Subject: SALE STARTS 29th July

Well, it's that time of year again... bargain time! I am wondering if this year may be a very good year for the bargain-hunters among us?

I say this because so far our summer has been somewhat (ahem) lackslustre, meaning that many of our high-summer clothes (which are particularly beautiful this year) have been overlooked by customers, and are still hanging on our rails.

As we are hammering towards our sale (which starts at 10.30 this Friday 29th July), it looks like we will be heavily marking down our high-summer styles. This means that, unusually, beautiful blouses, dresses, trousers etc, in gorgeous natural fabrics and superb colours will, in every probablity, be on sale for ridiculous prices.

What would that matter, one may ask, if the summer is as good as over? Well, I would reply that we are not into August yet. And, those among you who, like me, make a particular study of the weather, will know that it often follows the American experience... only shortly afterwards. This is because we tend to find their weather travelling towards us 'across the pond', following the prevailing winds.

And what kind of weather are they having in the US right now? It may still end up being a very hot August, by which time our beloved bargain-snafflers will have, in all probability, had all the gorgeous summer wear at very good prices. Anyone rushing-in to buy a summer dress in August will probably be faced with our (beautiful) autumn/winter collection of knits.

We look forward to seeing the wise and well-informed on Friday or Saturday...


 Kim P    Wednesday 27 July 2011 at 21:16

Good luck with the sale, it will be hardwork for you all! I know from previous sale vists how great the reductions are. There will be plenty of lucky ladies picking up fab bargains!


 Emma    Friday 29 July 2011 at 15:17

Thanks, Kim!

Yes, the first day of our Sale has been very busy....the reductions this year are quite radical, and I think word got out about that (we are famous for our sales).

All I can say is, thank heaven for the air conditioning!


 Emma    Saturday 06 August 2011 at 11:00

Just a quick update...we have now had a round of 'further reductions', and, true to form, have placed a whole new group of items onto our 'everything must go' rail....

We love to clear all summer stock in order to make way for the new autumn/winter collection, and we are quite ruthless with our reductions!

Emma    Sunday 17 July 2011 at 17:58

 Post #226 

Subject: Wish List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casual cotton jackets that have a feminine silhouette.

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

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

Proper rain-proof summer raincoats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

At this time of year I get incredibly excited, because I havent seen anything yet of the new looks being prepared for next summer. The designers who dream up those styles are amazing - I really never know what to expect. They may produce items that fit the general description of what I am looking for, but they are always different from the designs I have in my own head.

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


 Victoria Hollis    Friday 22 July 2011 at 23:37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Emma    Saturday 23 July 2011 at 11:11

Hi Tory!

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

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

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

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


Emma    Monday 04 July 2011 at 00:09

 Post #223 

Subject: Fit

There is a subject that I cant help returning to in my blog. Its 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 Retails 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 Nexts 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. Im 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 dont want to pay for nice clothes... that, in some way, we dont 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 wont 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. Its quite possible that if an item of clothing fitted one of us, the other one simply wouldnt 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.

Dont get me wrong, its 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 cant 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!


Sheila Cameron    Saturday 02 July 2011 at 16:02

 Post #222 

Subject: Gift Vouchers by Mail Order

This is my first attempt at blogging, so forgive me if I have got it all wrong.
My daughter-in-law is one of those girls who is a nightmare when it comes to buying a gift for. So after hours of trawling the net, & at my sons suggestion, I found the Emma Plus web-site.
As I live in London, I was hoping to be able to purchase some gift vouchers online, but this service wasn't available, so I phoned the store. The staff couldn't have been more helpful, even though it was the fist time that they had received such a request. I telephoned on Thursday & the vouchers arrived this morning (Saturday).
Thank you Emma Plus for your fast efficient A+ customer service.
May I Request that one day, in the not to distant future, you add this as a regular service.
Once again, my heartfelt thanks.
Kind regards
Sheila Cameron


 Emma    Sunday 03 July 2011 at 17:36

Dear Sheila,

Thank you for your post, and very helpful suggestion! Yes, we will definitely be offering this service as soon as we can. I will speak to my IT supremo, to see whether we can set something up on our website.

Many of our most regular customers were first brought in by a gift voucher given to them, which was the first they had ever heard of us. In these instances, the gift is double: not only do they get a new piece of designer clothing, but they are shown a new shop, and a whole new avenue of fashion!

I think that gifts like this are particularly thoughtful, because they mean a person has gone out of their way to find something really special, and has had the imagination and tenacity to seek out what their friend or family member really wants.

Very often, the receiver of these gifts didn't even know what gorgeous fashion there was available to them until the first day that they walked into our shop, voucher in hand.....


Emma    Monday 30 May 2011 at 20:45

 Post #219 

Subject: Ker-ching!

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

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

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

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

I couldnt begin to tell you how many times this particular scenario has been run and re-run in our shop. I appreciate that this sounds like an advertorial; an attempt to sell our service to any customers who read the blog. I genuinely dont intend that to be the case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Kathy    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 14:55

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


 Emma    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 17:04

Hi Kathy!

Thank you so much for your contribution!

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


 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 22:54

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

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

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

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

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

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

We deserve to look good and feel great


 Emma    Thursday 02 June 2011 at 23:45

Hi Tory-

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

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


 Kim P    Saturday 04 June 2011 at 21:51

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


 Victoria Hollis    Friday 17 June 2011 at 16:20

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


Emma    Saturday 14 May 2011 at 18:32

 Post #217 

Subject: The Meet Anna Scholz Day

As readers of this blog will already know, I was very excited by the prospect of our Meet Anna Scholz Day, which happened on the 7th May.

I had several reasons for this. The most important one, of course, was that the event heralded an influx of Anna Scholz clothes (she sent in the cream of her Spring/Summer 11 collection), which always manages to raise my pulse-rate to dangerous levels. True to form, I ended up combing the delivery and selecting some new clothes for myself (like, for instance, a fabulous black silk dupion dress that oozed 1950s retro style).

Another reason to be cheerful was the imminent arrival of Anna herself (and her wonderful sales manager, Darren). I love Anna: she is beautiful, funny, lively, and unique. She tells it like it is, and doesnt stand on ceremony. If she thinks something, she says it, with a German bluntness, which I often find quite hilarious. We always have a fantastic time when we meet up.

We are getting used to the fact that our events are great fun, so I was anticipating an enjoyable day. Our fashion days last year were absolutely wonderful. They are a way to connect with our customers on a personal level: for a while, we arent a shop, we are a scene of entertainment and socialising. During the show, several customers approached me, telling me how much they were enjoying it. Afterwards, all the staff told me that they had a wonderful time, and everyone suggested we do more such events.

Anna Scholz, the clothing brand, has its own following, and I was keen that some of it was enticed into Emma Plus, because nationally there are so few stockists, not just of her line, but of any other good plus-size designer range. I cant help feeling that, once someone has taken the plunge to come down to Brighton, they would realise that it is not all that difficult to come here (it takes 50 minutes by train from Victoria, and our store is just round the corner from the railway station. Also, we are situated right next to a car park). Inside our shop, new customers are often surprised to see the selection that we have. So I was hoping that, whilst visiting us in order to see the Anna Scholz range, women would discover a whole new resource to benefit their wardrobe!

The day itself really was lovely. We re-merchandised everything so that the hardened Anna Scholz clothes-hunters would be able to see at a glance what they were looking for. We had some delicious refreshments (I can recommend Waitrose party food!), and some alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. There was a real party atmosphere, and the shop was packed to the rafters at times. We even had a little chill-out area in our garden (or, more precisely, our back yard) for our ladies to sit and relax.

It was marvellous to see people trying on the clothes, and realising the possibilities of different shapes and colours. I really enjoy the way women bounce ideas off each other, and off members of staff.

When Anna came to do our prize draw towards the end of the day, I was so delighted that the winner was still in the store. I could see there were tears in her eyes when Tori Hollis picked out the dress that she had fallen in love with. It felt good to see her wending her way back to Portsmouth with her treasured prize.


 Kim P    Friday 20 May 2011 at 14:59

You all look super, I'm glad the day was such a success and hopefully mean more lucky ladies know about Emma Plus. I'm sure the air conditioning came into its own with so many people being in the store. I will try and visit Brighton soon!


 Emma    Saturday 21 May 2011 at 14:01

Hi Kim!

Thanks for that-we all felt great!

You're not joking about the air-conditioning! It makes such an incredible difference. It's so nice not to be at the mercy of the weather, particularly when you are trying on clothes.....


Emma    Monday 02 May 2011 at 21:42

 Post #213 

Subject: Meet Anna Scholz Day...

Here in the shop we are getting very excited about the upcoming Meet Anna Scholz Day, which is happening on Saturday (the 7th May).

We are expecting the Anna Scholz Spring/Summer range any minute now, and are really looking forward to seeing all the clothes that we dont already have in stock. Her range is so large that no shop can realistically stock it all that is except us, just on that one day!

I think it would probably be a good idea to talk about the logistics of visiting us on the day. In the morning (between 8.30am and 1pm) our road, Church Street, is closed for the yearly Childrens Parade. This shouldnt really affect our visitors, as there are a couple of ways to bypass the diversions.

The first one is that many attendees of our special day will come after the road re-opens at 1pm, because Anna is arriving in store at 2pm and will be here until we close at 5pm.

Those wanting to come in the morning (and get first dibs at the refreshments and clothing range) could either park in the Churchill Square car park, which is unaffected by the road closure, or could follow the following diversions...

When coming into Brighton (down the London Road) drive as far as Preston Circus traffic lights (where the fire station is). Then take a right turn up New England Road.

Drive right up to the top of that road, until you come to a kind of roundabout (Seven Dials) and take the first left.

This road leads you past Brighton Station (Queens Road). Follow this all the way down to the bottom (The Clocktower).

Take a left (North Street), and drive a few hundred yards down the hill, watching out for Bond Street, on your left. Take this road (its been reversed for the day).

At the end of Bond Street, is our own dear Church Street, turn left and you are virtually there at our car park.

I would recommend doing this; it sounds involved, but it isnt, and will be a neat and fast way of bypassing any other Saturday morning traffic. The car park may in fact be mostly empty, because not everyone will know about this ruse, so it will be rather convenient.

Arriving in the morning would mean you will have more time to browse the collection. Plus, there is the prospect of watching the Childrens Parade, which is spectacular!

Everyone is welcome on the day, but anyone wanting to be put into our prize draw (250 worth of Anna Scholz fashion to be won, with no purchase necessary), should pre-register, by either emailing us, or calling 01273 327240.

We look forward to seeing you on the day...


 Kim P    Thursday 05 May 2011 at 14:47

I'm sure the day will be a fantastic success and a great opportunity for everyone to see the beautiful clothes, meet such a renowned designer and the equally renowned ladies at Emma Plus! I wish I was able to attend but look forward to reading all about the day on this blog. Best wishes Kim.


 Emma    Friday 06 May 2011 at 14:56

Hi Kim!

Thank you so much for your good wishes...I wish you could be here. We are getting ridiculously excited about it now.

The Anna Scholz stock has arrived, and we are running about like mad things trying everything on (forget the shop, we have to think about what we want for ourselves!!), and changing everything around ahead of the big day.....

Emma    Saturday 23 April 2011 at 11:52

 Post #211 

Subject: Holiday pics....

My thanks go to Angela Brown, and her gorgeous husband, who came in today and were kind enough to bring us in some of the holiday snaps they took during their recent cruise....

Angela looked resplendent on the decks of the Queen Mary, wearing her Emma Plus smart casual outfits. And superb in her smart dresses for evening.

It really is so lovely for us to be able to see the fruits of our labour here in the shop... beautifully attired, stylish women!


 Angela Brown    Sunday 24 April 2011 at 15:55

I'm glad you liked the photos.
Thanks for the help yesterday in choosing my summer dresses. I wore the shorter one yesterday lunch time!


 Emma    Sunday 24 April 2011 at 21:26

I loved you in that shorter dress, Angela- I'm so glad you went for it!


Emma    Sunday 17 April 2011 at 21:24

 Post #210 

Subject: Macmillan Charity Show

Last month, we were thrilled to be invited to take part in a fashion show in aid of the excellent charity, Macmillan Cancer Care.

All the models looked beautiful, and the clothes, provided by several Brighton stores, looked fabulous....as did the photographs, courtesy of www.mibewick.co.uk .

For those interested in donating to Macmillan, please go to: macmillan.org.uk.


 Emma    Friday 17 June 2011 at 13:15

I am very sad to tell readers of our blog that our wonderful model, Sharon, pictured here in the Macmillan charity fashion show, has passed away.

We were all so sorry to hear the sad news, but, with the permission of Sharon's family, we have left this post in place as a celebration of what she was able to do to aid a cause she really believed in.

It is also here to make readers of the forum aware of the work that is being done by Macmillan, and have access to the charity website, where they are able to accept donations.


Emma    Wednesday 09 March 2011 at 22:18

 Post #200 

Subject: Colour

I have worked at the shop now for 21 years, and it was during my very first week that I encountered the phenomenon of a woman having - as it was referred to at the time - had her colours done.

The customer approached me in the shop to ask for help. She told me that she had recently consulted a service called Colour Me Beautiful, which had advised her about what colours she should be wearing. They had helped her study her complexion, hair and eye colour, and then provided her with a wallet stocked with samples of the shades that suited her best. She was strongly advised to only wear clothing of these hues - particularly in garments sported near her face. She was then sent out to the shops to completely restock her wardrobe, because it had turned out she had been wearing all the wrong colours. Unfortunately her current wardrobe was irredeemable.

I can remember looking at the woman in horror. I had never heard of such a thing. Surely this was some kind of a joke, or perhaps she had fallen under the influence of a cult. Nothing in the world could have convinced me to have thrown away my own much-loved and hard-won wardrobe, which I had built up by doggedly seeking out items that I felt suited me. Acquiring a really good set of clothes in my size hadnt been easy. Yet this lady, who was also a larger woman, was contemplating a completely new start.

As luck would have it, her colouring was exactly like my own, so I was particularly curious to see what her little wallet contained. When she handed it to me it fell open and a rainbow exploded from it. I was instantly converted. Every colour that was in her purse was in my own personal must-have list of shades; I had spent years sourcing clothing in those hues. If you had offered up all the bright little sample squares to my own collection of clothing, they would have matched perfectly. I had always known that these were the pigments I needed to wear, although I had no idea why. What this woman had was a recipe for all the colours she needed!

After this chastening experience (its never nice to find, when starting a new job, that there are important areas about which you are woefully ignorant), I decided to try to make my own study of colours that compliment us, and colours that insult us, and why.

The first thing to know when talking about our differing complexions is that human beings are very comparative creatures. When discussing what we are like, we exaggerate because we are only really talking about the difference between one person and another. Thus, for example, we talk about black or white skin, when clearly no-one was ever born with a skin colour of either of those hues. The differences between us, although in themselves subtle, look overwhelming to our super-attuned eyes.

When I was at art college, I spent some time studying colour theory, and I believe that many of the rules that apply to art and design are the same as those that apply to human skin.

Creative people for hundreds of years have subconsciously known that different colours interact with each other, affecting how they are perceived. However, it was only really in the twentieth century that artists started deliberately to attempt to study and manipulate these effects.

As women, we have also been using the way one colour, juxtaposed against another (i.e. coloured clothing worn against our own complexion), can cause certain desirable effects, and, for thousands of years, we have strived to create the most flattering results.

There are many different rules, but the most powerful engine of the way colours relate to one another is how opposites interact. In a nutshell, when two colours from opposing sides of the colour wheel are placed side by side, the densities are exaggerated. So, for example, when blue is placed next to orange, both colours look greatly enhanced.

We may not be aware of this, but exactly the same thing is happening when we place a coloured garment up against our own skin. If I, with a bluish hue to my skin tone (comparatively speaking), were to wear orange, I would start to look very deathly indeed - because all the blue lights in my complexion would be emphasised. I know that the vampire look seems to be all the rage in cinemas at the moment, but nevertheless I doubt if most people would see this as a good look for me.

Similarly, if a woman is particularly keen to show off a superb tan, she would be well advised to wear a lovely turquoise blue. This colour would showcase, but not over-emphasise, her somewhat orange skin tone.

Of course, the converse is also true. When placed side-by-side, a strong colour will minimise the perceived density of a lighter colour. So if, say, a royal blue is placed next to a very pale blue, the lighter colour may lose its hue, and actually look white.

Working, again, on the principle that these effects function in the same way when applied to human skin, if I were to wear blue then this would instantly mitigate the cool tone of my skin and warm my colouring up. I would look younger, brighter and healthier. This may explain why I wear blue rather a lot.

There are many of these rules, and the way they interact - not only to our skin tone, but also to our hair and eye colour - is very complex. One could easily write a doctorial thesis about this subject. However, lets be honest, it would be rather eccentric to try to use colour studies to find out what colours suit you, even if you had the time and academic prowess to do so.

Surely, we all know the best way to find out what colours best compliment our own particular skin, eye, and hair colour? We are all familiar with the time-honoured, though humble, tool used for this purpose. Its called the changing room. When it comes to finding out whether a garment or accessory suits you or not, there really is nothing quite as effective as simply trying something on, and taking a good look at it.


Emma    Thursday 03 March 2011 at 15:19

 Post #198 

Subject: The Fabulous Ms Scholz!

I am dashing to my computer to give my forum/blog readers some super-exciting news! Anna Scholz and her team are paying a special visit to our shop, and they are bringing their current range with them!

The date for this event is Saturday 7th May, on which day we will be open between 10am and 5.30pm (as usual), and our shop will have a different look... we will be stocked with the full Anna Scholz Spring/Summer 2011 range, and will be welcoming the cream of her sales team, who will advise us about the collection. More exciting still, during the hours between 2.00pm and 5.00pm we will be graced with the presence of Anna herself, who will be joining us for the afternoon!

The day promises to be a fantastic experience: we will have the Anna Scholz range in a width and depth that can be found nowhere else. Although we usually have a superb collection of Anna Scholz designs, we could never hope to cover the range in its entirety, so this is a wonderful opportunity. That this is happening during the best-ever collection is particularly exciting!

We will be offering refreshments, showing-off the clothes, and consulting with the designer herself. Our customers will have a unique opportunity to meet their favourite designer, hear her views and inspirations and give feedback. For anyone tempted by the gorgeous items, we will have our own dressmaker on hand to undertake alterations to ensure the clothes fit like a second skin.

For those who would like to register in advance, there will also be a superb prize draw, the winner walking away with 250 worth of Anna Scholz clothes!

Everyone is more than welcome to come along at any time during the day, but customers who would like to enter the prize draw should call 01273 327240, or contact us through our website. We will send you an entrance card... no purchase necessary!

I do hope you will be able to come... our special days are a fun, social way to enjoy a day in town, and this one promises to be the best yet!


 Vikki    Thursday 10 March 2011 at 15:28

This sounds great, I shall register to come along!


Emma    Saturday 26 February 2011 at 15:58

 Post #197 

Subject: Elena Miro show...

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 19 February 2011 at 13:53

 Post #196 

Subject: Fall 2011

Here I am again, writing about next seasons collections... plus a change, plus c'est la mme chose!

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

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

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

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

A big part of the look is a nineteen-fifties aesthetic, but we larger women shouldnt be too worried about this. Of course, we know that many of the looks from that decade are all about exhibiting a show-stopping figure, and for those of us whose physiques may draw less than admiring glances, this can be very intimidating. However, there is so much to this new take on the look that mitigates the need for a perfect hourglass silhouette. The best designers (Anna Scholz, of course, Marina Rinaldi, Elena Miro, and - rather a surprise here - German brand, Verpass) are able to create the most beautiful draped clothing which gives a larger woman somewhere to disguise her less alluring features whilst showcasing her best assets.

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

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

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


 Anna Scholz    Saturday 19 February 2011 at 15:10

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



 Emma    Sunday 20 February 2011 at 18:26

Hi Anna!

Thank you so much for reading our blog!

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

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

You never know who may be listening!


 Kirsten James    Wednesday 23 February 2011 at 18:32

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


 Emma    Saturday 26 February 2011 at 16:23

Thanks, Kirsten!

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

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

I'm more looking forward to spring!


miss Bartoz    Monday 14 February 2011 at 15:14

 Post #195 

Subject: you at missbartoz.de

Dear Emma,

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

Looking forward to you comment.



 Emma    Friday 18 February 2011 at 16:49

Hi Ulrike

Thank you so much for visiting our forum!

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

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

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

Emma    Saturday 15 January 2011 at 13:06

 Post #187 

Subject: Real-sized models...

I am always interested in the images used by the fashion industry to sell their wares which some would say is a rather blunt way of describing fashion photography. After all, it really is about selling, isn't it? Or are fashion images an art form? Don't they provide an aspirational, fantasy outlet for womens imaginations? Surely, they are only obliquely commercial?

In my opinion, yes and no... The pictures created by the fashion industry are made for one reason: selling clothes. So in one way the answer is a clear no; it's an airy-fairy notion to think it is just art. It is highly commercial, and if the commerce behind the production of these images were not a profitable one, then they would pretty soon stop being published.

When we who work in clothes retail do our buying at the big fashion shows and fairs, we are bombarded with pictures of the items we are there to look at. Yes, the clever and artistic photographers and creative directors are using all their wonderful inspiration and skill to make images of female beauty... up to a point. When you speak to the agents, you are immediately struck by their emphasis on commercial concerns. Their first words often are: ''Do you like the main picture in our catalogue? Do you think it will encourage your customers to look at our range?''

Yet there is certainly an aspect of fashion images that is entirely fantastical, and nothing to do with reality. Top fashion models are often a size 6 but they are usually over 5 10 tall. As the average British woman is 5 4, and a size 16, this is obviously a 'fantasy version' of womankind.

I have so often heard it suggested that fashion images have to be 'aspirational', that I decided to look up exactly what that word meant. The list of synonyms is: ambition, goal, objective, target, hope, desire, wish and want. Hmmm. I would suggest that, for an average woman, the image of one of these models could hardly be described as 'aspirational'. 'Normal' women may (or may not) desire, wish or want to be this freakishly tall and thin but it is surely not something that they could reasonably set as an ambition, or attainable target, or goal. Arguably, doing so would be very unhealthy.

I think that such obsession with the unattainable spreads right across the fashion industry, and our part of it (the plus-size specialist) is not spared. It has been said before on this forum that the pictures of plus-size clothes are often modelled by slim models. Ironically, the models used to promote plus-size clothing are far nearer to the average woman than they are to the plus-size community.

There are individuals and groups of women who are trying to redress the imbalance in what is promoted as beauty. I was recently looking at a website for the Real Bodies Unite Campaign. They have an on-line petition for women who would like to express their frustration at the images, which when you think about it are provided for us, and paid for by us... yet many of us find unsatisfying. Surely, we should be getting better representation from the fashion industry that serves us.

Sarah Jones, from Real Bodies puts it this way: ''I want to make a change to see body diversity in fashion so we can all feel happier in our own skin and be healthy whatever size or shape we are!''

For anyone interested in signing their on-line petition, the address is: http://100percentpeople.com/specials/real-bodies-unite-campaign


Emma    Thursday 30 December 2010 at 15:32

 Post #182 

Subject: Opening hours...

As the Christmas/New Year's holiday this year lands in a rather unusual way, I think it may be a good idea to mention our opening hours over the next few days.

We will be open on the 31st December (Friday) for our usual hours (10am to 5pm), but this year New Year's Day lands on a Saturday, so we will be closed, as we have always been closed for New Year.

To be honest, we have decided to be closed on the Saturday because it has always been our tradition to close, not just on this day, but on all bank holidays. We have found that our customers do not expect us to be open at such times, and would not be planning to call into the store anyway. However, we are always keen to move with the times, so would be very interested to hear any comments about this issue!

We will be open again on Tuesday 4th January, and from then on, for our normal working hours...

We expect our sale (which, as I have mentioned previously, is a superb one this year), to go on until the end of January. However, the earlier you are able to come into the shop, the more prized the items are likely to be!


 Kim P    Friday 31 December 2010 at 17:03

I'm a reletively new customer of Emma Plus so did assume you'd be open on the Saturday. It's going to be a normal shopping day with the BH being on the Monday so perhaps some customers who work during the week might have wanted to come for the sale? Having said that your sale runs for a while so it should give everyone a chance to visit the shop should they wish to.


 Emma    Monday 03 January 2011 at 12:26

Hi Kim!

Thank you for taking the time to give your opinion on the subject... it really means a lot to us to know what our customers think about this. Really, we will only know how to decide these things once we have found out what our customers feel, and what their needs are.

The background to our closure on New Year's Day is our past experience of opening on Good Fridays. This was the only regular bank holiday that fell on a day that we were normally open (we are always closed on Mondays, when most bank holidays apply). For the first seven years of running our shop we opened on Good Fridays, and in that time I did not make a single penny in takings! This was because we were sitting in an empty shop (at what is normally a very busy time of year), whilst our customers went elsewhere because they expected us to be closed.

However, there is a subtle difference in this case: Saturday may have been New Year's Day, but it was not a bank holiday!

The only way to know whether there were many other customers who, like yourself, would have expected us to be open is for us to canvas opinions.

I walked the North Laine on the day, and it did seem that many of the established independent businesses (like Dockerill's, for example) were closed. However, the funky young stores (catering to teenagers) and chain-owned shops were all open... interesting!

The only good thing I can take from this experience is this: I have been here for over 20 years and this is the first time we have been faced with such a dilemma on a Saturday. It's very rare, and by the time it happens again, our shopping culture will no doubt have changed definitively, and there will be an obvious solution!


Emma    Thursday 23 December 2010 at 12:29

 Post #181 

Subject: Emma Plus Winter Sale

The time has now come to announce the Emma Plus Winter Sale, which starts at 10.30am on Thursday 30th December.

This year, due to the difficulty customers have had in travelling into the shop, we have more stock in our sale than usual. As our regular customers will confirm, our sales are always good, but this time it is superb!

In particular, we have plenty of lovely winter stock, from coats, warm knits, tops and knitted skirts, to scarves and trousers.

Much of our stock is half price this year, which means that if you only make it to one sale this winter, make sure it is the Emma Plus Sale.

We look forward to seeing you in store!


Emma    Thursday 16 December 2010 at 16:59

 Post #180 

Subject: Snow-wear you dare...

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

If I were to plan an outfit to be worn out in the snow, I would go full-on. I wouldnt try to battle on with the kind of thing I'd normally wear, but embrace the situation and revel in it! There are no half-measures when it comes to snow and ice.

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

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

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

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

To help with this, I have invested in a snow-stick. Mine was manufactured in Scandinavia, but actually they are widely available from many different suppliers, and are usually found in winter sports shops. I know that sometimes a woman (particularly if she is of a larger size) can feel a little sensitive about using a walking stick, because she doesnt want to give the impression that her mobility is in some way impaired. However, I am happy to report that during every day of the last period of snowy weather, I sallied forth with my trusty snow stick (with a metal spike on the end for extra grip), and the only response I had from friends and strangers alike was jealousy and admiration for my wonderful seasonal preparedness. Several people shot out to buy one after seeing mine.

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

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


Emma    Friday 03 December 2010 at 12:04

 Post #179 

Subject: Gift vouchers!

Its December, and the thoughts of many people are turning to the exciting, yet sometimes thorny subject of Christmas presents.

At this time of year we usually see friends, partners or family members surreptitiously entering our shop, discreetly seeking out the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

Some people worry that buying clothing for a larger woman can be a bit difficult. Most of us do not like to reveal our size to all and sundry even our nearest and dearest and, of course, there is the issue of fit when clothes are bought without having been tried on. So there are many people who would love to buy clothes from Emma Plus or elsewhere for someone special in their lives, but find the prospect of it somewhat complicated!

The truth is, buying a present from us is actually quite problem free! Although (as a true English person) I hate to blow my own trumpet, I cant help mentioning that I think we are passed-masters at helping with the selection of the perfect present. We have items of clothing for just about any larger woman, and we have a lot of experience in asking the right questions. We are also very adept at remembering the requirements of many of our established customers.

To put it mildly, our sizing can be very discreet, often with husband only aware that we have sold him a size small for his wife! Unsurprisingly, many in the know make the pilgrimage every year to our shop to pick up a present from us, in the knowledge that we will recommend an array of lovely items from with to select their perfect choice.

As a fail-safe, anyone who buys items from us is welcome to bring them back within the season in order to exchange them, should they need to, and our alteration service extends (of course) to items bought as gifts. Many of our customers are really touched that someone has really paid attention to them to the extent of specially seeking out their shop from which to buy their present.

Another great favourite for a present is a gift voucher. It is a real delight to watch a customer stride purposefully through the door in the New Year, with a glint in her eye, and a gift voucher in her purse! Our vouchers come in denominations of 10, 25, 50 and 100.

Because we are aware that some people are a little behind this year in getting their presents (due to the inclement weather), we have decided to do something we have never done before... a special offer on gift vouchers! For every 50 in vouchers bought this December, we will give an extra 10. At an unprecedented 20%-off, we have produced a limited edition of gift vouchers, which are being sold strictly on a first-come-first-served basis, and you will need to quote this Blog when you purchase. We will happily supply these vouchers by post in time for Christmas. You only have to telephone us on 01273 327240.

How pleasant to be able to find a thoughtful, appropriate present (with added value!), without even having to leave the house!


 Kim P    Friday 10 December 2010 at 13:17

This is a fabulous deal! My vouchers arrived this morning and they are a gift from me to me!


 Emma    Friday 10 December 2010 at 17:04

Hi Kim

Yes, it is such a good deal that we have had to do it as a 'limited edition'! The truth is that a wise woman (but only one who reads this blog regularly!) can end up getting 20 percent extra off her sale purchases after Christmas, or from new season's stock!

It's a special treasure reserved for our blog customers... and they don't even have to come into the store!

Emma    Thursday 02 December 2010 at 20:49

 Post #177 

Subject: Who wants to be a model?

I have been away from my desk again... not playing truant, but suffering from another health problem that has necessitated yet another operation. It does seem like dj vu, because I was in almost exactly the same situation this time last year, and was convalescing then as now during the winter wonderland of a beautiful snow-bound England. Lets face it (as some teachers may confirm), if you have to have some time off in the winter, its very lucky for it to coincide with the snow. One is able to enjoy the beauty of the seasonal weather without the worry of travelling anywhere in it!

One of the lovely things about being at home these days is the possibilities the internet provides for information and entertainment. I have been visiting my favourite sites, looking at the latest news and comment in the on-line plus-size community. There are a number of very interesting sites, like, for instance, Anna Scholzs fascinating blog (www.blog.annascholz.com). Im always interested to read what Anna has to say: she must surely be at the centre of the British plus-size fashion world.

Another site that I really like is called Plus-Size Tall (www.plus-size-tall.com). I admire the support that these people give to the cause of plus-size and taller-fitting clothing. At the moment they have introduced a very exciting new competition, looking for a new plus-size model. The winning woman will be offered a trip to Las Vegas in February 2011, where she will hit the catwalk at the Curvy Revolution, the worlds biggest plus-size fashion convention.

I am often asked by various organisations (usually TV companies) to mention to my customers some kind of competition or search for a larger woman who can take part in something-or-other. In general I take these searches with a pinch of salt; not all actually present a real, positive opportunity for larger women. However, in this case, I think what is on offer is a fantastic, exciting event for some lucky women. And most importantly, it is being run by a really good, genuine organisation that is truly interested in larger womens fashion.

I hope that if someone reading my blog knows anyone who would be interested, they may mention it to them. I think it would be great fun, and I would love to hear the outcome!


Emma    Thursday 04 November 2010 at 17:36

 Post #174 

Subject: Best small shops competition

I really was so excited to hear that the Sunday Telegraph, along with Mary Portas (right), has created a competition to find the best small shops in Britain. Voting for this is online, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/7992321/Telegraph-Magazine-The-Best-Small-Shops-in-Britain-2010.html

Every year I read in the newspapers and magazines about the prizes given out to the big stores. Our industry usually only recognises the big boys - so you tend to see, yet again, Top Shop being given the prize for the best fashion such-and-such award. Its not that I disagree with this: most people shop most of the time in the large chains and many of those stores do a very good job.

If I were a size 10 I would definitely look in Top Shop for my impulse purchases, and I dont suppose I would be able to walk past such stores as Jaeger, French Connection and Jigsaw without at least a quick glance inside.

Yet it seems that most women in our size range (from 18-34) are not in much of a hurry to be handing out accolades to those stores that cater to us. Obviously, I (and probably most other larger women) am very grateful that the big chains such as Anne Harvey and Evans are there, doing the job they do. However, my reaction to what they are offering falls short of ecstatic, and I would not be nominating them for anything more than two cheers.

I wish there were a lot more independent fashion boutiques in the plus-size market. This does seem like a rather odd thing for me to want, given that any other store would be in competition with Emma Plus. However, I do feel aggrieved that we dont get the same variety of choice that smaller women enjoy. We are hit by a double-whammy: our chain stores tend to be lack-lustre and our independents (who could pick up the slack) are so sparse. We really do deserve more, and we deserve a lot better!

In general small, independent stores are almost never mentioned in the national press. There are probably quite a few good reasons for this; the main one of them being that telling people about a small store in one end of the country would seem to be of absolutely no interest whatsoever to those living elsewhere.

Also, the importance of a small store is minimal. Whereas many thousands of women may end up wearing a particularly successful Marks and Spencer item, only three (thats usually our quantity per item of stock) will probably ever wear one of ours. We are truly tiny in the scheme of things.

However, I do feel that, due to the prevailing situation in our market, these objections to a bit of national recognition no longer hold. Every independent plus-size store in the country has an effect on larger women, whether or not they live nearby. This is because women are now prepared to travel the length of the country to find the clothes they really want, especially if it is for a special occasion.

Women who live in, say, Wales, may not visit us here in Brighton very often (or indeed ever), but at least we are a positive resource for them, should they ever need our clothing. It may not be desirable to have to travel all day to reach a shop that sells what you want, but if you have no other choice, you will do it.

So I welcome the possibility of being mentioned in one of the major national newspapers by being nominated for this award, as kindly mentioned by Kim (see post no.173 just below). As a very small company, we wouldnt expect to win the prize, but we would be thrilled if, by being mentioned in a list of nominations, we make ourselves known to a host of women who otherwise would never have found out about us.


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 womans 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. Its 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 dcolletages, 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.



Emma    Sunday 26 September 2010 at 21:53

 Post #166 

Subject: Fantasy fashion

Weve all heard of fantasy football, but how about fantasy fashion? Very few people ever get the chance to design their own fashion range, but that shouldnt stop us dreaming...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Friday 10 September 2010 at 18:12

 Post #161 

Subject: Autumn-Winter collection images - NEW!

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Nicola    Monday 13 September 2010 at 15:32

Hi Emma

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

I hope you will be around on that day.

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

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

See you then

 Emma    Tuesday 14 September 2010 at 18:50

Hi Nicola

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Nicola    Tuesday 14 September 2010 at 22:39

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

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

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

Looking forward to seeing you all.

 Emma    Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 16:13

Looking forward to seeing you!

Emma    Sunday 05 September 2010 at 17:29

 Post #160 

Subject: Linsey and George...

I am so happy to be able to post a picture of one of our beautiful customers, Linsey, and her new husband, George, on their wedding day.

Linsey looked truly stunning in her Anna Scholz cobalt blue full-length wrap dress and jacket. I just couldn't get over how perfectly it suited her. It's always a special joy when women choose to wear our clothes to be married in.

She was kind enough to remark:
'Thanks again for everything, it is SUCH a pleasure coming in to see you and the other ladies, shopping isn't the dreadful occurrence that it once was...'

Everyone at Emma Plus wish the happy couple health, wealth and happiness!


Emma    Saturday 28 August 2010 at 14:49

 Post #157 

Subject: Denim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Kim P    Monday 30 August 2010 at 14:46

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


 Emma    Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 12:38

Hi Kim!

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

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

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

 Kim P    Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 20:47

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


 Emma    Tuesday 31 August 2010 at 21:33

Thanks, Kim!

Yes, Jaq is indeed the accessories queen!


 Emma    Thursday 02 September 2010 at 16:33

Hi Kim!

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

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

 Kim P    Friday 03 September 2010 at 02:04

That's super!


 Kim P    Sunday 05 September 2010 at 11:50

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


 Emma    Sunday 05 September 2010 at 17:04

Hi Kim!

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

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

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

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

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


 Emma    Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 16:24

Hi Kim!

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

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

 Kim P    Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 21:59

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


Emma    Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 11:38

 Post #151 

Subject: Anna Scholz rules!

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

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

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

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


 Nicola    Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 13:55

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

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

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

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

 Emma    Tuesday 10 August 2010 at 16:12

Hi Nicola

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Nicola    Thursday 12 August 2010 at 13:35

Thanks Emma

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



 Emma    Friday 13 August 2010 at 14:30

Hi Nicola

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

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


Emma    Saturday 07 August 2010 at 21:02

 Post #150 

Subject: Summer 2011...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what sticks out in my mind the most at this stage? Well, I have already written about the Anna Scholz collection (as ever, a triumph)... I was also blown away by Sallie Sahne - yet again. This German range (of which we are Britains only stockist, by the way) really caught the mood with a gorgeous collection mainlining on textures, fabric handles and finishes. We bought a beautiful metallised cami and jacket in pewter, which would take you anywhere, and just couldnt resist the faux leather jacket (as soft as baby lambskin) and trousers in a steely taupe. We also shrieked with delight when we saw this wonderful little blazer with knot-detail at the shoulder (see picture above). Genius.


margaret Chandler    Monday 12 July 2010 at 20:42

 Post #145 

Subject: How about smaller sizes too

Hi Emma
I have been browsing your site and wondered why you don,t stock at least some items in smaller sizes? I especially like the Anna Scholz range, the colours are so nice and would fit well with clothes I already have and love in my wardrobe. I tend to swop outfits about and buy only a few items a season, but I would definitely make the trip to Brighton if you do start stocking some smaller sizes.
Best wishes Margaret


 Emma    Tuesday 13 July 2010 at 12:21

Hi Margaret

Thanks for your contribution to our blog! Yes, we do have quite a few women asking this question, and in general (I'm sorry to say) I place these enquiries in a file marked 'Never in a million years'. There's absolutely no offence intended, but I do feel that smaller women have so many stores in which to buy lovely clothes, they simply cannot need another one!

Actually (and readers of my blog are going to see my steely side now), I do get very impatient about stores that describe themselves as 'large size', but which go up from a size 14 to a size 22! To me, with the growth in size in the population, this is just the mainstream - and is very well catered for already.

And, putting it brutally, I would like people to keep their hands off our lovely designers like Anna Scholz!

I have to confess I have spoken to you on the telephone, so I happen to know that you have a close family member who would be more likely to benefit from our store than you would be, so I know that your comments were tongue-in-cheek, as my reply has been...

I do hope to see her in the store, and would love to see you accompany her here, as you obviously have a wonderful eye for fashion!


 margaret Chandler    Tuesday 13 July 2010 at 14:08

Hi Emma
Thanks for your great response. and long may you provide a service for curvaceous ladies. I will bring my sister down soon, I know she would be thrilled to be the one having to head home simply because she can,t manage to carry any more! However I could console myself I know your accessories range is really quirky and wonderfully different so WIN WIN for both of us!!


 Emma    Wednesday 14 July 2010 at 12:09

Hi Margaret

Thank you for your kind words... I do hope your sister makes it down here. She would be our 'small', by the way.

We also have some accessories to die for, so I'm hoping that you would both leave happy!

Emma    Friday 09 July 2010 at 17:44

 Post #144 

Subject: Cool?

This is the first summer I have experienced with properly functioning air-conditioning, and to be honest it is something I am having to get used to.

Years ago I used to work in high street stores, and they always had air conditioning - a strange system which entailed the recycling of rather stale air, dismally wafted in a lukewarm stream around the shop floor to the accompaniment of a distant droning sound. In fact, the gentle drifting of the hot summer air, the lazy flicking back and forth of the clothing labels in the arid breeze, and the mechanical drumming noise, were the only indications that the building was making any pretence at climate control.

I have always been a larger person, and - in marked contrast to my mostly tiny colleagues - it always seemed to be me that was feeling the heat. I used to tell myself I was not perspiring profusely, but merely glowing - as befitted a lady. Unfortunately, I did seem to be glowing rather a lot.

Earlier this year when I was planning our refit, I was told about a new heating and cooling unit that was so efficient that I could use the air-conditioning function without the usual ecological guilt-trip. Having had such a long experience of so-called air conditioning, I didnt think it was going to make any real difference to my life, but I thought I would give it a go.

We have had a succession of somewhat lack-lustre summers, so it has been some time since we really sweltered in the shop. I had almost lost hope of having a really beautiful summer ever again in my lifetime, so this year has been a revelation.

Our new air-conditioning system has been truly fantastic. When you walk through the door into the shop, the blast of cold air hits you straight away. If you have been walking the sunny streets of Brighton for some time, you may still be quite warm for, say, ten minutes or so. Then you start to radically cool down. After a very short period of time you start to forget you were ever overheated.

Nowadays, I do not tend to feel the heat as much as my colleagues (were almost all larger women here!), so I tend to be overruled when it comes to choosing the temperature. On several of the hottest days I have had goose bumps and have had to put a cardigan on.

Our customers have been ecstatic. It's such a stoke of luck; we obtained a fantastically effective air-conditioning unit in the very year that we have had a scorching summer. Perfect.


Emma    Tuesday 15 June 2010 at 22:40

 Post #141 

Subject: The fashion shows...

We had the last of this years fashion shows on Saturday, and I think we have learned a lot from doing them. Emma Plus had never done any fashion shows before (the store did a number of shows when it was under previous ownership) and, although I had anticipated that they would be fun, I didnt really harbour great hopes for them.

Actually, I think that in many instances fashion shows are a frustrating experience for larger women. It can be rather alienating (not to mention patronising) to watch a succession of perfectly-proportioned women sporting the smallest sizes of the type of super-smart clothing that real people dont often get the chance to wear. Its all very interesting, but you can find yourself wondering how this has any relevance to your own life.

So when we did our fashion shows we tried to put the clothes together in a way that we would expect our customers to understand, and be interested in. Out went the matchy-matchy suits, and in came the kind of smart-casual co-ordinates that women want to wear in their everyday lives. And we put them on ourselves and our customers - in sizes that were right in the middle of our size range.

And we didnt take ourselves too seriously. We wanted it to be a pleasant, amusing way of spending a Saturday afternoon!

The result was a sort of explanation of the kind of looks that we are putting together every day for our customers: colourful, comfortable, casual and sassy, with a fashion-forward edge. In other words, just the sort of clothing it is so difficult to find in larger sizes.

The main feedback we had from audience members was that the show helped them to understand how we put our outfits together, and that it was great fun. It is for this reason that we are considering doing at least one fashion show a year from now on...


 Kim P    Friday 18 June 2010 at 21:06

I had such a lovely day last Saturday, it was so enjoyable watching the fashion show and trying on numerous goodies. Seeing your gorgeous models wearing the clothes with diferent colour combos and mix and match items was so helpful. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to buy an item seen modelled that if had just been seen on the hanger would have been overlooked!


 Emma    Saturday 19 June 2010 at 17:15

Hi Kim

Thank you for your kind remarks... Yes, we've had quite a few women tell us that they have spotted an item being worn by one of our models and ended up buying it, even though they would not have picked out had they seen it on the rails!

The other lovely thing about the shows (which you will know all about now!) is that it is a great social occasion, where we can have a chat, some refreshments, catch a show(!) and generally pass a very pleasant afternoon!

It is our duty, we feel, to offer an alternative to anything drab or dreary!


Emma    Tuesday 08 June 2010 at 19:05

 Post #139 

Subject: Permission denied

I have a confession to make... in my blogs so far I have been systematically avoiding a subject which has a very important effect on our attitude towards fashion. I have done this because, quite honestly, I get rather cross about the issue being brought up time and again with regard to larger women. For a long period I thought I would never talk about it; not because it is a taboo topic, but because I felt it was nowhere near as central to the issue of larger womens fashion as many commentators would have us believe.

I am referring to the subject of self-esteem. If you read the mainstream press you would be forgiven for thinking that all larger women suffer from low self-esteem. Yet in my work I rarely come across women who have a seriously depleted sense of self-worth. The answer to why this is is obvious. If someone doesnt believe she is an estimable person, its unlikely that she will find herself in a designer store like ours, rummaging through the very latest in beautiful clothing, and choosing her next stimulating and transformative look.

So if I knew I was only going to be read by the women who come to shop in my store, I doubt whether I would ever talk about the issue. To hell with low self-esteem!

However, I have become more and more aware that other women out there in cyberspace read this blog, and perhaps it would be worth talking about an issue that, in all probability, is keeping many women from entering stores like ours.

It is not, as some would have us believe, only larger women who suffer from low self-esteem. Why would a huge, multinational cosmetics company like LOreal use the tagline Because youre worth it, were it not an incredibly widespread issue? I have sold fashion to large and small women alike, and I believe there are equal degrees of self-doubt and self-criticism in folk of all sizes. The way perfect images of womanhood are projected in the media is enough to make anyone feel inadequate!

I dont really know how you get high self-esteem; it may be something you are born with, and it's certainly something that develops as you get older. What I am referring to must never be confused with arrogance - just as low self-worth should never be equated with modesty... it's much more negative than that. It is quite possible, for instance, for someone to be more than thoroughly acquainted with their physical shortcommings, yet still have a perfectly healthy level of self-esteem. I know I'm hardly a raging beauty, yet I am lucky enough to have it.

I will give you an example of what I mean. A few years ago a couple of the women from Emma Plus and I went out for a meal in a local restaurant to celebrate our end of year. We were just tucking in to our food, when one of my colleagues told me that she was put off eating. I asked her why and she replied it was because the couple at the next table (particularly the female half) was staring at the three of us. I pooh-poohed this instantly. (I have subsequently read that it is a sign of high self-esteem that you do not notice what other people are doing!)

However, my other colleague confirmed that the woman was, indeed, staring at us. Of the three of us eating, I would say we had three different levels of self-esteem. I had high esteem, and had difficulty either noticing or caring what other people thought of me (to this day, actually, I genuinely think the woman was almost certainly only looking at us with admiration... frankly, the three of us looked gorgeous in our designer outfits which we had specially donned for our celebration dinner; had I seen the three of us, I would have stared - wondering where on earth we had managed to get larger-size clothes like those! Either way, I could not care less).

One of my colleagues had a normal level of self-esteem, and, unlike me, had noticed that we were being closely observed. She had no view as to why, but was irked by the womans lack of decorum. My last colleague suffered from low self-esteem all her life, and simply couldnt eat her meal, so convinced was she that someone was judging her. This completely bewildered me. I couldn't understand why anyone could be upset by the supposed views of someone who was entirely unknown and unimportant to us.

I'm not saying that, as larger women, we dont get looked at and occasionally judged because of our size - especially from a fashion point of view (often quite wrongly). I remember how, some years ago, I used to bump into my neighbour when I returned from my dog-walk every morning. She was habitually at the front of her property just as I strolled by wearing my walking gear of shorts and a casual top. Wow, shorts! she cried, with great amazement, the first time she saw me so attired. She made a big show of nearly falling off her chair with the mock-shock of seeing me. I couldnt help but wonder as to why she found it so surprising, as we were in the middle of a heat wave. What did she think I was going to wear to walk the dog, salopettes?

However, for the next month or two over that long, hot summer, I reckon I bumped into her, in exactly the same way, perhaps two-dozen times. And every time she exclaimed in amazement at seeing that I (a size 24 woman who as an apple shape had pretty good legs!), would have the effrontery to be seen out in shorts. Really, our conversation was like Groundhog Day, every day!

I cant honestly say that this daily bludgeoning-home of her opinion (subtlety was not her strong suit, obviously) made me feel any differently about wearing shorts. It did, unfortunately, draw my attention to her own sartorial shortcomings, which I had not really noticed before, and very nearly resulted in my offering some fashion advice of my own to the unfortunate woman. However, I did find it funny, and took it in good part.

At no time was I tempted to trust this womans instincts more than my own. Had she been a glamazon style-diva, perhaps I would have considered her opinion as a valid one. But even then, I don't think I would have found it personally upsetting, just interesting. However, it was obvious this wasnt the case. And thats putting it mildly. As it was, even by our last late-summer encounter, I certainly hadn't begun to find myself feeling awkward in any way.

It has always seemed amazing to me that so many women are prepared to hand over an extremely precious and vital item, namely their self-esteem, to a person who they wouldnt dream of lending their car-keys to. Surely, unless someone has shown themselves to be an incredibly adept arbiter of taste, probably your own opinion has more relevance when it comes to your own look?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said No-one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Its a permission that I would not give easily, and my customers, in the main, seem to feel much as I do.


Emma    Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 22:39

 Post #137 

Subject: Dressing-up

I was lucky enough to have a mother who had a wonderful attitude towards clothes. My mum was a very stylish lady: fascinated by colour and with a natural, sophisticated ability to pick out good quality in all things. She was very much the county lady, not at all fashion-forward (at least in her later years), but always highly appreciative of good design.

When I was a child she was happy to let me play dressing-up with her clothes. I dont think I was told that anything was out of bounds in her wardrobe, although I can remember I did not seek to try on her smartest outfits; I knew some of them were delicate and expensive.

My sister and I still have some of her dresses today. I cant help feeling that my mother had an uncanny ability to capture the fashion zeitgeist for each decade she lived through - summed up in at least one perfect dress. There is a cotton satin dress with a wide skirt, for example, emblazoned with large blue roses, that could only be from the fifties. There is a cream, gold and turquoise beaded column dress that epitomises the glamour of the sixties. And there is a patterned chiffon evening gown, complete with long, fairytale sleeves in gorgeous Monet water-lilly colours that shouts the best of the nineteen seventies.

Actually, come to think of it, it was probably the fact that I would not have dreamed of taking these gowns out of their wrappings that permitted my mother to let me get at her wardrobe!

So the times that I spent trying on her other, more everyday clothes and matching them up with her accessories were very happy ones. I would find scarves, necklaces, bags, blouses and colourful knits, and team them up; parading each look through the house for my own little fashion show.

I had almost forgotten the simple, childish joy of this, but I have been reminded of it while organising our recent set of fashion shows here in the store. How fantastic it is to be trying-on outfits and selecting combinations. Not with a view to actually buying anything - or even to find something appropriate for someone else. No, the joy is in being a different person for a while and seeing the models putting on looks that were not about themselves, but simply about the look.

When you are doing fashion shows like ours, you have carte blanche to explore a large, beautiful wardrobe, with no ego - no reason to be sensible or adult. You can experiment, and just try to look different and lovely.

This may be one of the reasons why the fashion shows have proved to be such fun. We will definitely be doing more of them in future.

Our next fashion show (the last this year), however, is on Saturday 12th June at 2.30pm.


 Kim P    Friday 28 May 2010 at 20:17

Your mother's wardrobe sounds wonderful. I was picturing each decade's outfit as you described them.

I really want to come to the event on the 12th, depends how I'm feeling after an evening at the 20/20 cricket the night before! Please let Jaq know that she really does know what is best for me. The blue flower Nanso top I had passed over is a joy to wear and has received several compliments.


 Emma    Saturday 29 May 2010 at 14:28

Hi Kim!

Thanks for your kind words about your top... I have passed them on to Jaq. We do think these Nanso tops are lovely (I don't know whether you saw this one when you were here?). There's something about them that is so smart, and yet easy to wear.

I wish I could have showed you some of the dresses I had kept from my mum's wardrobe - I had them here in the store for years! They have since gone to my sister's house, where her daughters may be interested in making some use of them. All of my nieces have keen fashion eyes.

I suppose it isn't difficult to see where I got my fascination with fashion from!

I hope your night of 20/20 cricket goes well... and that we are able to see you on the 12th!

Emma    Tuesday 18 May 2010 at 16:04

 Post #136 

Subject: Size matters...

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

When I first started at the store I really wasnt anticipating that I would be providing accessories, because I felt it was so difficult to find beautiful clothes in larger sizes, that that should take priority.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 15 May 2010 at 16:50

 Post #135 

Subject: Our next fashion show...

We are already getting excited about our next fashion show next Saturday (the 22nd May). All of us agree that the last one was one of the most enjoyable days of the year!

Some members of staff who were not originally timetabled to work that day have asked to come in because it was such a pleasure to be involved with. We are glad, because we now realise that we will probably really need the extra help!

The show next week may end-up being completely different from the previous one, because we sold a lot of the items that were modelled!

Anyone is welcome to come, but if you are thinking of attending and would like to sit down, then please contact us and we will reserve you a seat...


Emma    Monday 10 May 2010 at 18:57

 Post #134 

Subject: Our fashion show...

Its Monday, and we are still buzzing from the fashion show on Saturday. As it was our very first show we thought we would start off in a modest way (!), and did not invite all our mailing list customers. This explains why many of you did not get an invitation. Those of you who have not yet had an invitation will find yourselves invited to one of the subsequent events.

In real life, however, the show was anything but modest! The models looked absolutely gorgeous, and strutted their stuff superbly. Our invited customers gave us fabulous feedback about the show, and also expressed their appreciation of our refreshments in the most sincere way they knew how!

After the show we all immediately set-to, showing the ladies the latest looks that they could recreate for themselves, and it was one of the most fun trying-on sessions we have ever had in the store... something I had not anticipated at all.

I can honestly say that if I had any inkling of how enjoyable the event would be, I would have arranged one years ago! I will definitely try to do at least one fashion show a year from now on, and all the women who attended told me that they would come back every time!

Our next fashion show is on Saturday 22nd May at 2.30pm, and the last one this season will be on Saturday 12th June at the same time.

This is a picture of our glamourous line-up of models....


 Kim P    Sunday 16 May 2010 at 12:08

I wasn't able to stay for the fashion show but I enjoyed being in the shop that morning seeing all the preparations for what I'm sure was a great event. The models would have looked sensational in their outfits that were being so carefully selected and accessorized. I am delighted with my new Nanso top and as always it's a joy to enter a shop and know that nothing drab lurks within!


 Emma    Sunday 16 May 2010 at 21:06

Hi Kim

Thank you for your post... It was great to see you on Saturday, although it was a shame you weren't able to come to the show. I hope you can make it to one of the next!

We were so lucky with our models - they all looked lovely, and I know they really enjoyed choosing their outfits. The whole thing was like a sort of game, fitting the different looks together to make a perfect whole.

Kim has asked me to assure you that, although she has been keeping a very careful look-out, she cannot spot anything drab in the store.....!

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 womans 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 wasnt looking for anything too outr... 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.

Dont get me wrong: I dont 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 ones physique that are not (shall we say) in prime condition. I, for instance (in common with many women over 40, whether they be large or small), would rather stick pins in my eyes than show off my upper arms.

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 01 May 2010 at 16:04

 Post #132 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone reading this blog is welcome to attend... I dont know exactly how it is all going to pan out, but I do know it will be fabulous!


 Kim P    Wednesday 05 May 2010 at 12:44

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


 Emma    Saturday 15 May 2010 at 18:30

Hi Kim!

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

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

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

Emma    Friday 02 April 2010 at 22:56

 Post #127 

Subject: Spring into action

Listening to the radio this week I was interested to hear that the author, Mark Haddon, had written a new play, Polar Bears. Haddons most famous work so far is a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - a book centred on a character who has the psychological condition, autism. This latest play also has a person with an unusual psychological make-up: he suffers from bi-polar disorder.

As someone obsessed by people-watching, I have always been fascinated by these various psychological conditions... not because I have any particular knowledge or interest in psychology in itself. It is just that I feel that, if you watch people closely enough, you will see that most of us seem occasionally to exhibit evidence of some syndrome or other.

For instance, psychologists now tell us that there is no barrier between an autistic persons psychology and that of the mainstream. We are all on the autistic spectrum, and the traits associated with the condition manifest themselves in our differing personalities.

I spend my life watching the people who come into my store. The fashion industry is not just about clothes; primarily it is about people, and I will jump in with both feet here: I strongly believe that most people (women, anyway) fit somewhere on the bi-polar spectrum.

As I understand it (and Im sure readers in the blogosphere will put me straight if I am wrong) bi-polar condition is one characterised by extreme mood swings - not over the course of a day, but over weeks or months. The sufferer will often sink into a dreadful depression for some time, then the tide will turn and they will start to feel elated. Soon, they find themselves taking on new challenges, forging new relationships... spending money. After a while, because this condition is sometimes extreme, the behaviour can get totally out of control.

Obviously, the women who I see in my store do not, in the main, have problem psychological disorders: they are quite sane, and their behaviour only veers out of control if they have appeared during a particularly impressive Anna Scholz delivery! Yet I clearly see, over and over again, a similar (although of course, in no way so extreme) pattern of mood swings.

Many of us get into a rut from time to time, and this rut can last days, weeks, or (if we are particularly unfortunate) years. It could be that we are bored in our job or relationship. Perhaps we are feeling a bit negative about ourselves physically. Maybe its been a long hard winter. We dont feel like going out and enjoying ourselves: we certainly dont feel like buying new clothes.

Typically, we dont see our customers when they are in this phase, but they tell us all about it when they are next in the store. Sometimes, women feel like they have been vegetating at home, marking time for too long.

Then suddenly, the mood changes. It may be that something important happens to alter a womans mindset, but it doesnt have to be. It could be as simple as the onset of spring. Suddenly the days are longer. There is a little sunshine.

It could just be that there is no external influence and it is merely that the down time is over, and she begins to emerge from the torpor.

For many women it is when they are beginning to feel the sap rising that we will see them in the store. They are starting a new phase in their lives. Perhaps they have met a new man. Or perhaps they are shaking up their career. All of a sudden, new things start to look possible.

These women will often embark on a new venture: they may drop a dress size. They might tone up. They may throw out all their old makeup, and change their hair colour.

We often see women in the store who have suddenly realised that the wardrobe they have no longer suits the woman they have decided to be. They are the metaphorical butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. They dont just want new clothes: they want to project a new identity that suits the change they feel inside.

We dont always progress through life on a steady path, moving forwards a little at a time every day. I think that many of us have a period of pause, followed by a strong surge of growth and development.

Its one of the wonderful things in my job that I am privileged to play a small part in those precious, lovely times in a womans life. I think they are incredibly important, and the opportunity they present for growth and change should not be lost. I, for one, take these periods very seriously.

And this is an everyday part of my working life. Even as I am writing this there are women out there who are emerging from the winter, blinking into the spring. And they are right now hitting the search engines looking for somewhere that may have some gorgeous looks that are going to gel with the way they are feeling.

Sometimes its good to be alive...


Emma    Tuesday 02 March 2010 at 00:00

 Post #118 

Subject: The New Look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Sunday 21 February 2010 at 23:57

 Post #115 

Subject: Knit wits

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

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

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

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

This year was such a cold year, and, cruelly, just when we needed it most, there was a dearth of knitwear. There seemed to be hardly a woman in the land who hadnt opened her wardrobe at some point during all the ice and snow and realised that she just didnt have enough knits! We certainly saw quite a few women desperate for some lovely warm jumpers, and counted ourselves among their number.

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

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

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

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

People dont want to spend half their lives dashing backwards and forwards to the dry-cleaners. So thank goodness nearly all the good quality knits these days wash like a dream.

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

So it was with high hopes, yet some trepidation, that we first started to look at the collections. We shouldnt have worried, though. It appears that the designs are all about knits for next winter!

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

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

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

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


Emma    Saturday 06 February 2010 at 22:01

 Post #113 

Subject: A stunning delivery

Its been a thrilling week. Although I have barely had a minute to call my own, I feel I just have to add a quick post!

Earlier in the week we had a stunning delivery from Anna Scholz that included some lovely kaftan tops, as well as several of the gorgeous dresses I described in the previous post I wrote, entitled 'Joy'. I have posted a picture one of the said dresses here!

Tomorrow morning I wake at 3.30am to start preparing for my twice-yearly trip to CPD Duesseldorf, one of the big fashion shows I attend. I will be buying the Autumn/Winter 2010-11 collection for the shop.

Its always exciting to see what is going to be on offer for the seasons ahead. I particularly love the winter collections with their richer colours, beautiful soft textures, and layered silhouettes. I really cant wait. I will be reporting back about it when I return...


 Kirsten    Monday 08 February 2010 at 18:11

Can't wait to hear about the autumn collections! I have been following Anna's tweets re: Dussledorf and just from the brief autumn preview she has posted on the new blog, it looks really beautiful! Also, please post some pics of the spring collection when you get a chance. Still anxiously awaiting the arrival in our US stores..... Hope your trip is wonderful!


 Emma    Wednesday 10 February 2010 at 15:52

Hi Kirsten!

Thanks for your post. Its always lovely to hear from people as interested as we are in the latest clothes. We will be putting the new Spring/Summer images on to the site very soon...

Jaq (our store manager) and I are just back from Duesseldorf, where we had an exciting (albeit exhausting) trip. Other readers may be interested to know that the outing was to a large fashion show to do our buying for the Autumn/Winter 10 collection. The highlight for us were (as ever) the Anna Scholz designs, which were a tour-de-force.

When I have time to do the subject justice, I will describe what I saw while I was at the show.

Ive posted a photograph of Jaq (left), Anna (middle) and me (right). I am modelling a sample of a beautiful alpaca coat from the collection, which was incredibly soft and light, yet warm. It has on-trend puffed shoulders, and a kind of graduated silvery stripe that emphasises the furry texture of the fabric. Jaq was wearing her own Anna Scholz silk kaftan from last season.

I had a strong attack of coat love, and I did try to sneak away wearing it, but unfortunately didnt get far. I will just have to wait, like everybody else, until the autumn to get mine.

 Kirsten    Friday 19 February 2010 at 15:47

Love the photo Emma! The coat is beautiful and you look great. Can't wait to hear more about the AW10 collection. I should be getting my Anna Scholz spring things sometime next week here in the States!


 Emma    Saturday 20 February 2010 at 15:27

Hi Kirsten

You are going to love this season's Anna Scholz! She is on top of her game, and her colours, prints, textures and styles are gorgeous.

I hope you find yourself some lovely new items for your wardrobe...


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 - Britains 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 customers. 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 countrys 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, Im 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 doesnt 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...


Emma    Thursday 26 November 2009 at 00:58

 Post #95 

Subject: Fussy?

So I found myself in the nightwear department of a well-known chain store, looking for some new pyjamas. You may be able to guess the store I was in - its the one that supplies undies to the nation! Unfortunately, for me, the experience was bringing on shopping rage. I just couldnt find what I wanted, even though there were hundreds of pyjamas on display. Why on earth was I being so fussy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emma    Monday 26 October 2009 at 01:08

 Post #85 

Subject: The journey

As many women reading this will already know, you dont always go to a designer clothes shop just to buy some clothes. Thats the main purpose, of course; even with recent improvements in the high street brands, the independent store still remains the prime source of fashion.

You can simply go into a shop, quietly select the clothing of your choice, try it on in a peaceful environment, make the purchase, then just go home. There are many women who choose to do exactly this, and are very happy.

Most women, however, whether they know it or not, are actually using another service provided by this kind of store... the service of a skilled stylist.

What does a stylist do? Most of us have seen a certain type of fashion stylist at work on television. This kind of stylist will normally take a woman who has avowedly no interest in fashion (and, often, shocking taste) and do a makeover on her - seemingly turning her into a completely different person.

Often this changeling not only ends up looking different, but also benefits from a complete emotional overhaul, usually (apparently) against her will. She goes on a journey... No region of her body is held sacrosanct from prying eyes, cameras and often hands, and all areas of her psyche, no matter how private (or apparently irrelevant), are probed. The all-knowing stylist will brook no opposition, and by the end of the programme the transformation is complete. It has to be said that the participant usually looks younger and much more stylish as a result of the process - but often more than a little shell-shocked and browbeaten.

Its not for the fainthearted - and thats just the viewers! I do enjoy these programmes, and I feel they fulfil a purpose. They give ideas and advice that we women can put into practice in our own lives.

The enjoyment is a rather guilty one, however. Its a kind of fashion blood sport; a modern take on throwing Christians to the lions for public entertainment. The original woman, shown in all her bad fashion and 'old hag' hair, with 'mad woman' makeup and gnarley teeth, is cruelly exhibited for our titillation and disgust. The stylist is seen as the all-powerful force for good. And the transformation is magical.

This could not be further removed from the work of the stylist in her everyday life in a fashion store. For a start, the women who call on her advice and help are far from being fashion-challenged. They are usually the most stylish women in any given population. This is, after all, one of the locations where all the most fashionable women buy their clothes, although by no means are these the only people that frequent the fashion store. Most customers have a less maintained look than the diehard fashionista (and are real women who actually have a life, after all), but they don't have hag hair. And their makeup does not scare small children.

The customers of a designer store emphatically do not need a makeover... so why do they require the services of a stylist? These are women who know what suits them and get a lot of joy out of dressing well. By and large, if they could not find a stylist to help them, they would still look great.

However, there is no denying that a really good fashion stylist is a very useful tool in the important task of looking fabulous. She is the 'go-to' person when you are looking for something particular that you really cant live without. (Need that little black dress for your pear-shaped figure? Or that pair of velvet trousers? Or the business suit for the important interview?) Even if it is not in stock anywhere, your friend in the store will move heaven and earth to obtain it for you.

Perhaps you just arent sure about something... does your bum look big in this pencil skirt? You know that she will subtly steer you clear of fashion faux pas.

She makes her living by being your secret weapon in outshining the thin girls in the office at the Christmas do - just when you were about to feel a bit intimidated about finding the right thing to wear.

She will also tirelessly dig through all the tops to find the one that goes with the skirt you love. And she will magic-up a colour that goes perfectly - and is on trend.

She has no other agenda than to make you look good. After all, if you look good, she looks good. Your psyche is none of her concern, and she will keep her hands and eyes off your private areas. Shes in your corner. She does not compete with you, judge you or browbeat you.

And the only journey she will expect you to go on is into the changing room for a jolly good trying on session...


 Liz Rylance    Monday 26 October 2009 at 09:18

Good morning Emma
I just had to respond to your comments on the 'stylist' Emma. Before I found your wonderful shop I wouldn't have been able to relate to this at all but for the last 15 or so years that has all changed. Whenever I come into Emma+ I KNOW that I am going to have a wonderful time both socially and as a shopping experience. You and Jaq find a fantastic selection of clothes for me to try on some of which are well outside my 'comfort zone' but thank goodness for that! Thanks to your knowledge I have worn so many more colours and styles - even - shock horror - a white linen long jacket (one of my absolute favourites)! Me? In white? Surely not? Oh yes, and it makes me feel fantastic :-)
So thank you both for opening up the world of fashion to me. Long may you reign!

 Emma    Monday 26 October 2009 at 09:36

Hi Liz

Thank you so much for your kind comments. When I referred to stylish women who get joy out of looking good you were just the kind of woman I was talking about!


 Lara in Melbourne    Friday 30 October 2009 at 15:13

Hi again from the antipodes.

Emma, Jaq; please consider a relocation. The weather's lovely :) Sitting in the lounge with the aircon charged, and it's only October. Time to get the lighter gear out for comfort.

Reading your discussions on stylists was intriguing; I'm bordering on a career change, and a land purchase (with a view to dropping a house on the block at some stage; all too scary to deal with :) )

It's makeover time. I need to drag myself out of the "special pieces are for special times" mindset that my current job, working from home, has allowed me to slip into (well, and that I've allowed myself to fall into), and get back to "I want to look fabulous every day!"

Odd how the prospect of additional money makes me want to present myself at my best, when at the moment I'm prepared to have only one or two "special" pieces which are brought out only for "good". Why should I not feel "good", every day?

To be honest, I have no idea why I've let myself bumble my way into only owning one or maybe, at a push, two outfits I'd be pleased to be seen in in public. The rest are "acceptable", or "not embarrassed" to be seen in. Not a great start. I need to be more brave, and ditch the stuff which makes me feel less than fabulous. I need to make the effort. For me.

I'm looking forward to the transformation my change in circumstances and responsibilities will bring. I've started with the basics: nails and hair. Next is a full rework of my makeup. After that, it's time for the "real world" clothes . And then I can adjust the hair, nails and makeup to match the package. I can't wait :)

Wishing I was in the UK, because I know exactly where I would be spending my next Saturday. Hell, I'd bring the bottle of bubbles for effect.

Best wishes, and hoping everything is running smoothly,


 Emma    Saturday 31 October 2009 at 15:53

Hi Lara

Thank you so much for your post. I dont know whether you realise this, but to the reader what you have written comes over as very inspirational!

All the time I see women in similar positions to the one you describe. This is often what brings a customer into our store for the first time.

There is sometimes a moment in life when things start to move forward and change, and you realise that you have the opportunity to shape the kind of person you are going to be in the years ahead. To use an Aussie analogy, its a wave that has come along, and you can choose to catch it and ride it for a while.

These are really precious moments - and can be the source from which a lot of different opportunities spring. If your instinct is to develop an aspect of yourself, then I would definitely go for it.

Fifteen years ago I was made redundant from a job I loved. I had little money, and the economy was tanking. For some unknown reason, instead of being depressed I felt liberated. I took over the shop and reinvented myself into the kind of person that I am most happy with.

It was a scary time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I wish you the very best, and I hope that you move forward towards where you want to be. I only wish I was there to see it...


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. Im 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 - its 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 womans 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, its worth knowing that it is a choice that you make each day of your life. In fact it is never too late to change, and I know from personal experience that real people do so all the time. The results can be truly life-altering!

It would be a good idea to think about what you are up against, though. Because if you find that for every 50 people voicing admiration for your look, you always seem to hear one negative opinion, it may be worth checking out the source of that one critical voice.

It may just be coming from inside your own head.


Emma    Wednesday 09 September 2009 at 22:48

 Post #75 

Subject: Joy

The poet John Keats wrote A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and when it comes to fashion (at the very least) I agree with him. Fashion is an art and an industry devoted to the pursuit of beauty, and is in the business of joy-creation.

We are coming to the end of the buying season now (I have just one more range to buy to complete the Spring/Summer 2010 collection), and I have been taking an overview of whats in store for us next year.

There are so many highlights worthy of mention, that its hard to know where to begin.

We have ordered chiffons and jerseys in soft, flowing styles, in jewel colours, ranging from teal, to cobalt blue and purple. We have gone for sassy, sexy little fitted jackets from Italy and Ireland. We have selected crisp, cleverly-shaped linen suits, and Sergeant Pepper-inspired waistcoats, adorned with cut-steel embelishment.

Hilariously, we have even invested in some jumpsuits, which some inspired person has managed to make work for the larger woman (Im going to have one of those!).

But I suppose, yet again, the range that most stood out for me was the Anna Scholz collection.

Anna Scholz is the foremost designer for the large-size market. Her clothes exude confidence and uncompromising sensuality. They are unapologetic; they assume the wearer is an attractive, vibrant woman with attitude and taste.

If Anna had produced a collection up to her usual standard, I, for one, would have been thrilled. Judging by previous collections, one could assume that Anna would always bring forth something that will be just gorgeous.

So it was almost with disbelief that I looked at her collection for next summer. There were so many items that were breathtaking that it was difficult to take them all in. It seems almost illogical that someone should decide to just go berserk like this! I think, if I were Anna, I would worry that I was using up all my most brilliant ideas, all at one time. There is not space in this piece to list all the clothes that deserve mention, but I will dip in at random and describe some...

There was a black and white floor-length stretch silk gown, with an Art Deco inspired print, plus a plunge neck and sleeves - that is a dress that every large woman ought to have in her wardrobe. The versatile fabric is also used in one of Annas trademark kaftan tops.

There was a mink-coloured trouser suit, whose styling gives a nod to a mans dinner suit. The same jacket is produced in a cobalt blue, and can also be worn over a matching wrap dress.

There is a gorgeous chiffon creation, with a pink and grey swirl pattern on a black background. This has been made into a couture-style dress with an interior structure that could only have been dreamed-up by a genius.

There was a dress with a Grecian draped neckline, made from sweet and feminine hydrangea print stretch silk, giving the impression of a nineteen-thirties tea dress - yet with a brighter, more sharp and edgy feel.

In fact the feel of the collection for me was of nineteen-thirties meets the seventies, with 21st century hindsight.

In the same poem, Keats wrote 'Some shape of beauty moves away the pall from our dark spirits'.

Speaking just for myself, had there been any pall from dark spirits hanging over me at the time, it would have rocketed away after I had caught sight of these beautiful creations. Thats one of the wonderful things about being a woman: the presence of really gorgeous clothes can work wonders...


 Sharon Cross    Thursday 17 September 2009 at 15:52

Hello - I've just found your blog and I have to say its great.

One plea though - please don't print these pictures of Anna Scholz's dresses when I can't buy them yet: its like having your nose pressed against a particularly good sweetie shop and not being allowed in :-)

I've worn Anna's clothes since her 1st collection and still adore them...now, have to find a time to come down to the shop as hoping it must be as good as the blog.


 Emma    Friday 18 September 2009 at 15:38

Hi Sharon

Thank you for your post and for your kind words.

Yes, it's very cruel to show images of clothes that you cannot get until next summer. But now you know how I feel!

I have mentioned before on this blog how sometimes I come away from buying a collection (particularly an Anna Scholz collection) in anger, because I feel bad about having to wait for six months before I can get the clothes...


 Anna Scholz    Friday 18 September 2009 at 17:46

Dear Emma -
I just had a good read through your ever so well-written Forum and blog :)
I always enjoy our appointments and love nothing more than to tease with new exciting designs for the forthcoming seasons. I am sure you will be glad to hear that even I have to wait until spring to get my hands on the new goodies.
I am happy that things are going so well for you and our collection is flying !
All the best and lets do that lunch very soon.
Anna x


 Emma    Saturday 19 September 2009 at 12:36

Hi Anna

Thank you so much for taking the time to post on our blog!

I think it is a good thing that you are able to see the comments left by customers who enjoy wearing your clothes.

Of all the ranges that we have ever stocked, the Anna Scholz collection stands out it must be very satisfying to be involved in this highly successful creative process.

Here in our shop it certainly feels good that we are able to provide these clothes to the women who really love them, so we are very grateful to you and your team!

Emma    Tuesday 04 August 2009 at 13:57

 Post #68 

Subject: The colours that call us

My colleague Jaq and I have just returned from our twice-yearly trip to Dsseldorf in Germany, where we have been buying next summers collection of clothes for the shop.

The show is at a huge exhibition centre called CPD, and due to the downturn in the fashion industry it is much smaller than it was just a few years ago. However, for people like us, it is no less exciting. This is because those ranges that have a fashion-forward, exciting offer are still there. In my opinion it is the failing ranges that have disappeared altogether - actually saving us time when we are navigating the show.

The beautiful, creative collections are calling to us - we can hear them all the way back in England - so it is with a mounting feeling of excitement that we embark on our journey to Germany.

A lot of people ask me whether it feels strange buying for next summer - it seems so far ahead. But the truth is I am usually so excited to see the designs that all other thoughts go out of my head. If they were showing us the collections on the side of an erupting volcano, so long as there were some lovely things to be had, I doubt that I would notice anything untoward. I certainly wouldnt be quibbling about how far away next summer was... just let me see those clothes!

Its only when I walk away from a stand, after I have bought what I have wanted, that I start to get the familiar feeling of frustration, because six months does seem an awfully long time to wait for the delivery of those gorgeous things.

What did I see that I really liked? Well, the first thing about next summer is the abundance of the most beautiful colour, and I think my first blog about this buying season will deal with this. That is because, in my opinion, colour is the number one thing my customers are interested in... and for good reason. The most gorgeously styled clothes in the world could be flooding the shops, but if they are the wrong colour you will not buy them. You simply cannot wear colours that dont suit you.

When looking at next summer its quite difficult to talk about what colour, though. There really were so many shades, in such superb combinations, that its hard to know where to start.

Fashion is continuing its love affair with what I call berry colours. That is to say the part of the spectrum that includes deep pinks, magenta, lilacs, purples, mauves, cranberries and aubergines. There are also plenty of lighter, vibrant pinks and a smattering of true reds and terracotta. The blues that are coming in are slightly to the mauve end of the spectrum... electric blue, cobalt blue, deep hyacinth and midnight. And there are greens going through limes, apples and then emeralds. There are neutrals too: silver greys - all the way through to deep charcoals and anthracite. There also seems to be a preponderance of black and white. Phew!!

Very often the fashion industry seems to delight in giving us a narrow band of colours that can only hope to satisfy a small section of the female population, leaving the rest of us wondering what on earth we are going to wear. Quite frankly, this season, we are being showered with choice, and there will be no problem whatsoever for anyone.

I think that colour must have an effect directly on the brain. I wouldnt be at all surprised if some researcher discovers that as soon as vibrant colours are absorbed through the eyes, pleasure hormones are released into the cerebral cortex. If this is true, these would be the colours to do just that.

I cant wait to see these gorgeous things arriving in my store. I cant wait to see my customers falling on them in delight. But most of all (Im embarrassed to admit) I cant wait to start wearing some of them myself...


Emma    Tuesday 28 July 2009 at 11:39

 Post #66 

Subject: The secret fashionistas

I cant even begin to describe my state of fascination at this time of year in the shop. Yes (even after all these years) Im still sad enough to get edge-of-the-seat excitement with the latest that my industry has to offer.

For it is at this time that we get in our new seasons stock, and it really is like Christmas for me. And just like the Christmases I had as a child, it all starts with the anticipation. We dont have a delivery every day, but some days we have several. I believe Im a little bit psychic, so there are days when I just know there is going to be a delivery - I can feel its vibration in my fingertips. I start to glance out of our shop window, pacing backwards and forwards like a guard dog patrolling the boundary. I pretend to be doing something terribly important with the window display. Every car that drives past draws my attention. When a lorry or van draws up, I start to linger near the door. I feel a frisson of disappointment when I see a delivery man dropping off a parcel to the offices upstairs.

Then, when a certain van pulls up, I just know its the one for us. My hackels are up, and I am waiting expectantly. Trying to look cool whilst craning my neck, hopping from one foot to another. A box is delivered to our shop: we rush to tear it open. Beautiful things are inside.

Its actually better than Christmas.

I am not the only 'psychic'. We have a number of customers who can also catch a scent in the air. One woman, in particular, lives just around the corner from our store. She is a 'dyed-in-the-wool' fashionista, and she knows just when to come in. She arrives almost the second the delivery van has left, and pokes her head around our door. She looks curious, leans her head on one side, and says one word: 'New...?.

Last week we had some of the most gorgeous knit suits you could imagine from a German company called Sallie Sahne. There was a beautiful jacket and cami, in a kind of deep blue with a hint of mauve, with an incredible sheath-like skirt. There was also a cashmere coat and jumper in an aubergine colour. Even though they are knits - and therefore are not suitable for wearing at this time of year - the fashionistas have already been at their stealthy work. And we have only one of these knit sets left already.

The world of the early shopper is a secret and discreet one. For the serious fashionista these early pickings are the sweetest and the best. These lucky, clever and quick women steal into the store and snap up early. They quietly build their style in a way that is an enviable mystery to the 'civilian' shopper. 'Just how on earth', I used to think, 'do they get their beautiful clothes, and why dont I ever see anything like that?'. Working here, I now know how.

When our Anna Scholz delivery arrived Im not proud to admit that I was hyperventilating. Sometimes Im really glad that there is only a small audience for my embarrassing behaviour! The full-length wrap dress was everything I had ever wanted it to be. Im now in the ridiculous position of impatiently waiting for the cooler weather for the opportunity to wear my new clothes!

Some customers, who have further to travel, put in their special requests. We know which women would kill for a floor-length, sleek, beautiful skirt. We know who drops everything to have her Anna Scholz preview. They would never speak to us again if we didnt pick up the phone and give them the latest intelligence...

I know its business, and I know that this is just a way of making a living - so I should be sensible. But fashion is an emotional art form, and emotion and good sense dont always run together...


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 doesnt 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 its great to be this body shape. It is a real advantage not to have any part of ones 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. Its 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 dont 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 womans 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 womans 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. Its 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 womans obsession with black.

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


Emma    Thursday 16 July 2009 at 15:20

 Post #61 

Subject: Emma Plus Summer Sale -Final Reductions Now

The retailers life is a busy one: no sooner had we got back from our holidays than we were getting our summer sale ready.

Our sale is one of the big events of our year. Because we are very much a fashion shop (as opposed to a clothes shop - something rather different!), we are more or less obliged to clear all our stock at the end of each season. Even though the designer collections are usually far ahead of the game when it comes to the latest looks, this is really the only way to keep the shop looking fresh and directional.

I know shops (lets be honest, Ive worked in them) that try to filter-in their past collections clothing into their current range, cutting out much of the sale reductions bother. One can see why people do this. It does seem a terrible shame to sell beautiful new clothes at a considerable discount, just because the season has come to an end - especially as the season finishes so early. For the summer, this means the season ends in mid-to-end July... ridiculously early when you think about when it is that women are really going to wear their warm-weather clothes. In August and early September the canny customer can be making full use of her steal items, bought for far less than their true market worth. For the retailer, who has herself paid top dollar for these lovely items, its heartbreaking to contemplate selling them at a loss, and the temptation is simply to hang on to the best of the last seasons stock. These items are secreted away, whilst the rump of the collection is discounted. After the sale, they are then put out again when the new collection arrives... or salted away for the next summer.

With classic items, the shops that do this can sometimes get away with it. Yet there is a price to pay: this can never happen if the shop is presenting a fashion-forward philosophy. It just doesnt work with the fashion-conscious consumer, who hasnt made the trip into the store just to find the same old, 'same-old' being trotted out every season. The stock holding will start to look very woolly after a few seasons if this policy is continued. Not to mention the fact that the sale will be a rather disappointing affair, with all the best items withheld.

Its a truth generally unacknowledged in the trade that some customers are far more fashion aware than some store owners! Many of them are true experts in their field, and they are in the store looking for excitement and inspiration. These women sometimes take this attempt to fob them off with slightly older looks as a personal affront. And they dont take kindly to lack-lustre sales!

So no matter how painful it is to the poor retailer, the sale is the natural cut-off point where the vast majority of the past seasons collection is given away at a knock-down price, and the store is left clear and empty for the new deliveries.

For us, this means that quite new, beautiful clothes, that only came into stock a very few weeks ago, are put on our rails at a considerable discount, and I get to watch people walking out my door, having paid a low price for something really rather beautiful. Very often my nose is rubbed in it even further, by my seeing the customer really delighted with her purchase, leaving with a big smug smile on her face. And so she should!

Weve had rather a good season this summer (there are many reasons why: the internet, the loss of our competitors... various things), but nevertheless we do have a wide range of stock that is going to be discounted very heavily this year. Actually, it will probably be our best ever sale. Even now that the sale has been running for a few weeks, the further reductions are exceptionally good.

One can never second-guess what is going to end up in the sale. In our store, if you see something you like, it really is advisable to buy it when you first see it - probably paying full-price. I know what youre thinking - I would say that, wouldnt I? But our seasoned customers know that the vast majority of our clothing is there for just weeks if not days in the store. Things tend to get snapped up quickly in a specialist shop. If something you have had your eye on ends up in the sale, that is particularly lucky for you. Yet the items left behind by the tide of consumer choice are in no way rejects. Bizarrely, sometimes the most beautiful things are overlooked, and await the sale - like pearls abandoned on the seashore.

So if you are of a slightly cruel disposition, and would enjoy rubbing my nose in it by buying something rather beautiful for far less than I consider it to be worth, then perhaps I may see you in the store some time soon?

Our sale continues until the end of September, and new reductions are added weekly. The prices for the summer collection are at clearance levels now.....


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-cutters 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 couldnt 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 dont 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 isnt 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 dont 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 isnt 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 - Im 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 todays 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 Ps: 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 wont 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 youve got it, and you would like to flaunt it, thats 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 doesnt 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 doesnt 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 - its there for all to see!


 Hanna Oxford    Friday 19 June 2009 at 15:51

Thanks for sending this to me on twitter it was very interesting to read. Ive 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 wasnt 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 its arguable about which sizes are considered 'plus-size' now-a-days (some say its a standard size 12 others say its a 16) its 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 Marilyns 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 arent going to be perfectly spot on every time, but they cant 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 womans shape is.

I dont want to come across as venomous by writing all of this, big girls need much more support then whats out there and the fashion industry is horrendous for its treatment of plus-sizes. I just dont 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, Im 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 youll 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


 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 dont 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.

Its 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. Im 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 youve 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 doesnt 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 worlds 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 (thats a good thing!), and with the usual tricks of concealment and distraction, even the largest legs and hips really neednt 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 doesnt 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 dont 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 dont 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 dont 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 ones 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.

Dont be afraid to have side-vents put into your tops - theyre 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 dont 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 isnt 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 ones 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. Its 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 womans 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 its 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 lets 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. Dont worry if you cant button it up. A buttoned-up jacket that is fitted would only emphasise your worst part - your waist. Thats what fitted jackets are for. And if you found a jacket that you could button up, chances are it wouldnt fit you anywhere else!

Of course, at Emma Plus, we can alter a jacket to fit you beautifully, but its not really necessary; you just have to make friends with the idea that it doesnt matter if you cant button your jacket up. If its any comfort to you, the jacket-thats-too-tight-to-button-up look is incredibly trendy right now. Ive seen Victoria Beckham wearing a jacket that clearly couldnt be done up (I wonder where on earth she went to get that - Lilliput?). So theres 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 dont 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 - lets 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 doesnt want to look like a lollipop on a stick! Skirts and trousers will often be close-fitting, but I really wouldnt recommend flashy bottom halves (like short skirts and lacy tights). So please dont 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 (thats 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 arent too narrow, dont 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 worlds our oyster...


Emma    Monday 25 May 2009 at 22:06

 Post #50 

Subject: Art and design

Jaq (the Emma Plus store manager) and I were chatting the other day about how our backgrounds affect the way we do our jobs.

It was in the context of one of my previous posts. I had implied that we do not have a particular stance on how girly one should be in ones appearance. I had mentioned that I thought that many boutique owners and sales assistants seem to think there is only one way to look (usually a hyper-feminine one), and that any other style is an aberration.

We simply dont have this philosophy at Emma Plus. Its not that we are at all muddled about what we are trying to achieve with our clothes. We certainly have a point of view. Its just that we are not overly prescriptive about our fashion. Put simply, we are only interested in whether a look works on a particular woman... in other words, whether it is an informed, successful look.

Jaq and I have worked for years together in the shop - we are the two longest-serving members of staff. Neither of us came from fashion backgrounds, but we both have an art education. Jaq was a fine artist, and actually qualified to become an art teacher. She has an amazing facility with colour and form. However, in fact, I think her real talent is fashion. I have never met anyone who has such a natural flair for this subject - and I have spent most of my adult life amongst fashionistas. I was astonished when she first worked with me, because she seemed to already know so much about an art form that she had just come to.

My background is in design. My degree was in three-dimensional design, specialising in jewellery making. By the time I had been out of university a couple of years, I already knew that I did not want to be a practising artist. At that time, I wanted to have my own gallery. Funnily enough, it almost worked out that way - a womenswear shop is a kind of art gallery. The works designed by the artists (the fashion designers) are selected, displayed and sold there. But the wonderful thing about fashion is that it is for everybody, not just the elite.

I have an obsession with fit, and I hope that I have some of the skills to make a garment fit most women. This is not because I know my way around a sewing machine (heaven forbid!). No, my interest is in the subtle differences that can be caused by changing the form of the garment, as it fits around the human figure. I find it fascinating and very rewarding to get the fit right. This is an entirely three-dimensional pursuit, and it is informed by my experience in three-dimensional design. I also like to think that it may be a family trait: my great-grandfather was a Saville Row tailor.

Once the alterations are formulated, Denisa, our seamstress, undertakes them. I think that when Denisa first worked with us, she probably thought we were quite mad with all the alterations that we do for customers. But it didnt take her long to understand the vital role this plays in our business. We simply cannot bear to see a woman leave our shop with an ill-fitting garment, whether the problem is a tiny one, or a major undertaking.

When Jaq and I do the buying (it is usually the two of us who have this responsibility), neither of us have any agenda when it comes to look. We think it is our job to be informed about every fashion style.

You could choose a really edgy fashion-orientated look - perhaps an Anna Scholz stretch silk dress. Or you could go the opposite way and seek quite a hippie style, like something, say, from the Angel Circle collection - which supplies colourful, drapey clothes, many of which would not have looked out of place at Woodstock.

We are delighted to offer sleek Italian styling, from ranges like Elena Miro and Persona. Or sharp little sexy jackets from Personal Choice. Or pared down classic cotton separates from Brand or NP. There is no look that we havent got an interest in, if it can be made to work for the larger woman. This is the thread that binds the collection together - that informs our point of view. Does it work...?

Although our looks can be very different, they have a strong common thread. Both Jaq and I can see an Emma Plus garment a mile off. Many times there may only be one or two items that fit the bill from any single designer. This is one of the reasons why we have so many suppliers. It often happens that Jaq and I trawl separately through hundreds of garments, just to pick out two that are suitable. And even though we were not together at the time, we have both always selected the same two items.

We dont put any particular look above any other: just good taste and judgement, backed up with fashion knowledge. Many times a customer in the store does not know herself what category the look she is seeking falls into, and we are tasked with finding that out first before we can help. We work side-by-side with our customers until we all know what it is we are trying to achieve. If the customer does not need our help, we will give her the space she requires to make her own informed decision.

We do not create any of the clothes ourselves. We rely on the fantastic fashion designers to do that. Together with our customers we make good use of our aesthetic educations to help with the selection and development of the looks that leave our store. We never forget that we are incredibly lucky women who get to spend all our working lives dealing with the beautiful creations of talented artists working in the field of fashion design.


Emma    Sunday 24 May 2009 at 21:44

 Post #49 

Subject: Super-size dream

I was chatting with one of my customers yesterday about what I would do if I won the lottery (thats always supposing I started doing it, of course). Naturally, I would - within a millisecond - be sunning myself somewhere exotic.

But when I got bored with that... I have a long-held fantasy about what I would do if I had enough money to be able to play about with some of it.

What I would absolutely love to do is to open a larger-size superstore! Its been a favourite dream of mine for years, and I will paint a picture of it for you...

I would take a good-sized building in Brighton (Ive seen a couple that would be near enough to a car park and the train station to be suitable), and I would open a department store dedicated to large sizes. Everything needed by the large woman would be stocked - every product that you may ever desire (some without even knowing it).

Of course, there would be the usual Emma Plus-type of clothing: daywear, a fabulous eveningwear department, occasionwear, workwear, etc. There would be coats of every type, from the thick winter variety, to lightweight macks. There would be leather jackets, jeans, T-shirts... everything that we currently stock, only on a much bigger scale.

The lingerie department would be a joy, and it would be so fantastic to see a really comprehensive collection of larger-sized nightwear - both sexy and everyday.

There would be a sportswear department, with all different types of active wear - and a swimwear section, which would also stock sarongs and beachy-type clothing.

There would be a bridal department with large-size bridal gowns so that purchasers could actually try on a style before committing themselves to ordering it to be made - such a radical idea!

Everything imaginable would be sourced in larger sizes. There would be bigger hats and bigger gloves, in all the colours available. There would be larger tights, also in every colour and thickness. The scarves we at present stock at Emma Plus are specially designed and made for us to suit the larger woman, and our necklaces and bangles are also specialist items - these would also be found in the accessories department of the store. The handbags would have long adjustable straps, so that they will span across a larger woman. Even the socks would be special, with wider, softer tops.

The shoe department would stock shoes, large and small, that would be wide fitting. And the larger-sized shoes would be really large. Whats more, there would be really lovely, younger styles. Womens feet are getting bigger with every generation, yet the shoe industry is fixated on the idea that large shoes should be in styles more suited for older people. This makes absolutely no logical sense. Hello! Statistically speaking, its the younger generation that has the larger feet! And older women have stopped being frumpy - if they ever were! The boots would be wide in the calf, and some of them would be really long - they would actually be knee-high on tall girls!

I know it sounds mad, but these products do actually exist! We already stock many of them, but this store would be able to go into massive depth and variety. If the buyers of the superstore put some effort and expertise into sourcing these items, there would be no problem whatsoever in assembling them all in one place. It has never been done before, but it is eminently possible.

Because of the scale of the undertaking, there would be a while-you-wait alteration department. A customer could make her purchase of, say, a pair of trousers, then after a little break for coffee (and maybe cake) in the caf, she could collect them, ready shortened, before leaving for home.

The wonderful thing about this particular fantasy is that I think it would be a success. If it was backed up with national advertising, I truly believe that, at one point or another, every large woman in the country would want to visit it - if only for curiositys sake. And if she loved the experience, she would return again and again. Large people are a growing (as it were) section of the population - we are not going to go away.

Supply and demand are usually so intrinsically linked, yet the link is broken in the large-size fashion business. There is often very little way for the customer to purchase what she really wants, thus sending a strong enough message to the manufacturer about what should be produced. A large-size superstore would have real clout with suppliers, and would increase the availability of the products that are so desperately needed.

There would be many, many customers from Europe also stimulating trade. Brighton is a superb place to stay, and even if some women found the journey to get here a bit onerous, they would find it worthwhile.

Of course, it would only then remain for some enterprising chap to set up a large-size mans superstore next door...


Emma    Thursday 21 May 2009 at 22:36

 Post #47 

Subject: Lesbian chic

All lesbians are mannish and are not interested in fashion. And all womens clothes shop owners are snotty, superior and unapproachable...

Where do these clichs come from? In common with most people, Im hoping they get dumped in the dustbin of history! But like many clichs (offensive or otherwise), they may have within them a grain of truth.

I have been reading articles in the mainstream press about fashion all my adult life, and I can honestly say that I have never read a single one that deals with lesbian fashion, other than from the perspective of the straight population. What I mean by this is that, while straight women have been interested in borrowing from the style of various notable lesbians (Marlene Deitrich, KD Laing, etc. - so called lesbian chic), in the mainstream media no-one ever seems to talk about the fashion experience from a lesbian point of view. This contrasts with the emphasis on gay mens fashion, which has always played a major role in contributing to the advance of menswear design. Arguably, the influence of gay men on menswear design is far greater than the influence of straight men on this subject!

Perhaps I am blundering in where angels fear to tread. Perhaps it is in itself discriminatory to talk about lesbians as a group - or indeed, to generalise about any section of the female population. However, its something retailers do all the time. Big retail has made a whole profession out of the study of different socio-economic groupings as they affect consumer purchasing behaviour. And I feel sure any lesbian readers of this blog will put me straight (as it were!) should I put a foot wrong.

I can understand why one would believe there is nothing of interest here: surely, the lesbian experience of fashion is the same as the straight womans? I have to admit where I am coming from here. As a straight woman, I am not at all qualified to talk about the gay experience of fashion, and so I have no intention of doing so. Yet as a storeowner, who has worked in womenswear for most of my adult life, I can comment on my side of this relationship.

Situated, as we are, in the North Laine area of Brighton, which is the heartland of the gay capital of Great Britain, we enjoy the custom of many lesbians. Yet I cant help feeling that many more gay women, who by rights should be our customers, habitually give stores like mine a wide berth.

Many times over the years, for example, my first meeting with a gay woman has been when she was driven into my store, almost against her will, by sheer necessity. I know this, because I am often told so. I cannot count the number of times a woman has said that she had not really wanted to embark on the shopping expedition that had brought her to my door, but had actually dreaded it... that the only reason she eventually came was because there was some major event that had necessitated her breaking down her own personal barriers to visit us. Yet so often, these women who have previously dreaded visiting us, have loved the experience, and have gone on to become our regular customers and friends.

This has been particularly noticeable since the advent of the Civil Partnership law, which enabled gay couples to legally mark their relationships - surely the single most joyful law brought into legislation for many decades! We have had a flood of rather nervous-looking lesbians bashfully slipping into the store and surreptitiously looking through our rails ever since. Of course they are looking for something wonderful to wear to either their own, or their friends happy event. Some of them dont like to mention why they are here: we know (weve seen so many of these happy couples to recognise the body language now), but they dont know we know!

It has led me to wonder why so many gay women are so nervous when they come into boutiques like ours. I feel certain it is because they have good reason. I have asked about it many times, but to date the answers have been simply polite and vague.

When I scroll through my own memory about how I have been received in designer boutiques, an answer starts to dawn. Some women who work in shops like mine, seem to see femininity as a competitive sport. By this I mean that they appear to adopt an extreme version of it and look down on other women who have a different emphasis to their own. They seem to feel that a less ultra-feminine woman is lower down the fashion food chain than they are!

Ive been in shops where the person working there is slim, with a super-feminine outfit, and an extremely high-maintenance style, who has felt free to snub or patronise me. I have presumably been examined and found wanting in some way. Lets be frank, in my case, its unlikely that they object to my look, fashion-wise. I think, for me, simply being a larger woman has probably been enough to provoke the superiority reflex.

I even remember once being in a store that was stocking some larger sizes (along with small ones), and still being treated in this way. I strolled in the door, wearing all the best designer labels, looking reasonably well presented with a nice hairdo and makeup. Yet the stick-thin ultra-chic (she thought) young thing in the shop virtually refused to serve me, despite there being no other customers in the shop at the time. I found myself looking at her back nearly all the time I was there. As a large woman, she simply couldnt take me seriously enough as a customer! She couldnt see me as a person interested in style.

I cant help thinking how much worse I would have been looked down upon if I had a less maintained look, or if I had a more androgynous style. And many of our lesbian customers are very pared-down and more relaxed in their look.

Of course, one doesnt have to be gay to appreciate the sleek, subtle, occasionally androgynous style favoured by many of our lesbian customers. It is a staple for sophisticated women from all walks of life, but it is not always well represented in the designer womenswear retail community. In fact, in many boutiques, finding something that is pared down, elegant, sleek and non-flouncy is like looking for hens teeth. This is sheer madness: there are superb clothes available from the designers that are timeless and elegant assets to any womans wardrobe. Yet many store owners simply do not appreciate this kind of dressing. They do not realise that not all of us want to look like Paris Hilton!

Its about time our industry embraced not only the differing sizes and shapes of their customer base, but also the different aesthetic sensibilities.

So there seem to be two problems. There is a whole style that our industry tends not to recognise, understand and provide properly. Then the situation is only made worse by the actions of a minority of store assistants with an attitude problem. Women should be made to feel valued and appreciated-customers spending their money in an estbablishment don't want to feel they have to be 'tolerated'. If lesbians have had negative previous experiences, no wonder many dont want to chance coming into my store!

Word of mouth is a useful thing. I do believe that, in time, many more of the women who would benefit from shopping with us will eventually throw caution to the winds and come and have a look at our collection.

And hopefully, we will leave the negative clichs and generalisations to the past. I hope it can be seen that, in our store - in every sense - we may be straight, but we are not narrow!


Emma    Monday 18 May 2009 at 14:09

 Post #45 

Subject: Fashion democracy

Yesterday I had an email from a woman in Norfolk mentioning that she would be coming to visit the shop to buy an outfit for a family wedding. So whats so unusual about that? Nothing, as it happens. Nowadays we have women from all over the country travelling down to buy clothes at our shop, all the time. Suddenly Norfolk seems close.

This has not always been the case. Years ago (before the internet), the only people who knew we existed were from our local area. We used to serve the people of Brighton and Hove, as well as Sussex and the surrounding counties. Occasionally women would travel down from London to visit the seaside, and stop by to shop with us.

In those days shops like ours were like Bonsai trees. We had limited root space, which meant that we were unable to grow properly. Local people got to know about us through advertisements in the local papers, special events (like charity fashion shows), county lifestyle magazines, and word of mouth. There really was no way that we could make ourselves known further afield. National advertising costs thousands, and would not be affordable, even if it were effective.

Press advertising for larger sizes is a very hit-and-miss area. The few times we splashed out and advertised in national fashion magazines, the response was disappointing. Its not hard to understand why this was, at that time. To be honest, if you were looking for womenswear in large sizes, the very last place you would look for it would be in a fashion magazine! Larger women found the process of trawling endlessly through style journals, trying not to fall in love with beautiful clothes they would never find in their size, very depressing. Most gave it up as a bad job, more frustrated than ever.

So local shops were just that - with a small, local customer base. But the problem with having few clients is that you end up with a very small stockholding. And a very small number of suppliers, with very little choice.

In the bad old days, if a woman telephoned me from, say, Kent, and asked whether it was worthwhile driving down to see us, it was a worry. Often I would take all the details I could from the customer (size, height, colour preference, what she was looking for stylistically), then run round the shop looking at what I had, before I could give an answer. I am not, and never have been, in the habit of encouraging someone to spend a morning on the road travelling to us if it is just for a disappointment. So there were times at the tail-end of the season when I had to tell a depressed customer that the answer was no - it really wasnt worth her driving for an hour to get here, because our choice didn't warrant it!

How the world has changed. Now, when a woman telephones me from Kent and asks me whether it is worthwhile coming here, I dont consider it is any distance at all. In fact, these days, Im a little surprised that she even calls, because she is so close! This is not, as you can imagine, because the country has suddenly shrunk, or that the roads have magically become clear and easy. It is because the internet has had a wonderful, and (for me at least) completely unexpected affect on my business.

All of a sudden our customers, wherever they are, are finding out about us. And this is having a profound, exciting and positive effect on our shop - and I believe, on the large-size fashion business as a whole.

A virtuous circle has started, and it goes like this... More people, from further away, have heard about us through the internet. Then they have come and shopped here - creating demand. So we get to buy more clothes, with greater choice. This makes it worthwhile for women travelling even further afield to visit us. So we can stock yet more clothes.

And this is a highly interactive process. Of course, we are only interested in stocking what customers want enough to warrant embarking on their trip!

Having been on the internet for years now, we have established a reputation for really being worth a long trip, and women come from all over. We get them travelling from Ireland, Wales, and across England. Its really not that unusual for us to have someone who has specifically travelled down from, say, Yorkshire. This enables us to grow more. The little Bonsai tree has been removed from its restrictive pot, and has been planted out in the earth. To mix a glorious metaphor - were now free-range! The limit to which we will grow now depends entirely on our customers choice.

Of course, I'm only speaking about our shop - it's the only business I know anything significant about. But I would imagine this process is happening to all specialist shops that have a good internet presence and a stockholding that excites interest nationally.

I dont know where this will end. But I know what it has begun. It is democratising fashion. What I mean by this is that the process has not just benefited us - it has benefited the customer. No-one wants to have to travel great distance to buy in a shop. But if you cant obtain what you want locally, then you will seek it out and make the effort to get it if you can. In the past women have complained that no-one seems to know what it is that they want. Now it is possible to speak up, using a language the fashion industry knows well - the language of sales.

Its an exciting and frightening time to own a store, because this process is double-edged. Pre-internet, stores that were not really meeting the challenge of buying and selling what their customers desired, would at least make a living. In my mothers generation, everywhere there were stores that had rather lack-lustre collections yet were still able to continue because local larger women had such a dearth of choice. After all, one has to wear something!

Now, all over the country, these disappointing shops are being bulldozed away (speeded by the credit crunch), and their customers are hitting the search engines. Now, for the first time in large-size fashion history, we have real Darwinian democracy in our business. The survival of the fittest.

Those stores that take a real interest in what the consumer desires - those stores who are prepared and able to provide the aspirational clothes that women will travel for - will prevail. And those who disappoint their customer base will have no way to survive.

Maybe Im being wildly optimistic, but I believe that there may be a sea change in fashion in our size range just around the corner. In fact, if there is, then it has already started. At last women are able to decide exactly what they want, and have the economic power - accessed through the vital information they have always lacked - to drive their own fashion forward.


Emma    Sunday 10 May 2009 at 23:47

 Post #40 

Subject: Fit for purpose

The harder I work the luckier I get. This is as true for fashion as it is for life. What I mean by this is that some clothes simply work harder at succeeding than others - and it makes a great difference.

For example, I was looking at one of my camisoles today. This particular garment was made by a German company called Sallie Sahne. In reality, its only a kind of vest top, which I've had for years, but nevertheless, its a piece that I appreciate. Theres something indefinable about the fit. I feel confident wearing it. The thing about this Sallie Sahne cami, and indeed virtually all our really good quality designer clothing, is that it really flatters the wearers body.

Looking at the garment closely, with an educated eye, you can start to see why. The top itself is quite long; it certainly doesnt stop halfway across the stomach - the usual problem with a cami. The straps, though very fine, are beautifully stitched - soft yet firm - and are adjustable with a good quality buckle, that neither slips, nor jams sideways. The front of the cami is double, with no seam at all at the bottom, so there is no chance of any ridge widthways across the body. If there was any possibility of this fine, heavy, and very stretchy fabric clinging to ones stomach (and there is very little), then it would only be the inner layer that would do so - the outer layer, visible to the world, would always glide over the top. And because the bottom of the cami has no seam, there is no bagging.

The facing at the neck is flat and smooth. There are bust darts, and the sides of the cami are shaped. Its the sign of a very good garment when both these things are done, and done well. Instead of making the mistake that a lot of cheaper ranges make, this pattern cutter has really understood the shape of a larger womans body. The cami comes in under the bust, instead of in at the waist. This means that the cami would never swing in an ugly pregnant look from the bust, but neither would it cling to emphasise a less than toned stomach. Under the arms, the cleverest touch of all, the straps continue in an arc, elasticated and slightly gathered. On the hanger, this looks slightly odd, yet on the body, it produces a perfectly fitted, smooth look that will sit snugly and never show your bra.

This cami costs probably three times as much as many of our normal camis. Yet it washes over and over again. The fabric does not need ironing. It does not pill, shrink or fade. Its cool and breathable. It will last more than three times as long as an average cami.

This is the case for most of the really good jerseywear from the best collections that pass through my shop. Jackets fall effortlessly from the shoulders. Dresses stand like columns, only emphasising (but not over-emphasising) the bust. Tops dont snag on the body.

When I first looked at Sallie Sahne jerseywear I swore I would never buy it. Although it didn't cost a fortune, it did seem just too expensive. Initially, at the fashion shows, viewing it on the hanger (never the best way to look at jerseywear), I didnt realise how good it was. Even when I did, I wasnt convinced my customers would care enough about the better quality to pay the extra. Eventually, I weakened and bought a small quantity.

Of course it sold almost straight away. Sometimes customers would try it on with no intention of buying it - they were just curious. Yet when they slipped it on, they really liked the way they looked in it. Why oh why, they would complain, does it always happen to be the most expensive thing that looks best on me? Many women thought this was just bad luck, when actually it is the whole point about designerwear in the large size market. You could say exactly the same thing about Anna Scholz, Elena Miro, Marina Rinaldi, Personal Choice and many other ranges that get it right... on purpose.

This is what top-end design is there for. Someone, somewhere, has taken infinite, obsessive care, looking into every possible aspect, to make a garment that is as flattering as it is humanly possible to make. Someone has consulted with larger women, and really listened and cared about it doing what they wanted it to do. And someone has been totally uncompromising. It is as if they've asked, OK, what on earth is it that we have to do to make this thing absolutely perfect? For all I know, with all the attention to detail, skill, and the best materials, these items may actually be as cheap as it is possible to make them.

And when it fits and flatters, you can be sure it really isnt because of luck...


Emma    Thursday 07 May 2009 at 20:11

 Post #39 

Subject: Mary Queen of Shops

After my last musings about Gok Wans recent success in styling a larger woman, I was put in mind of another TV programme that dealt with larger sized womenswear. For anyone who missed it, Ill describe...

It was a BBC programme that went out last year called Mary Queen of Shops and it was presented by Mary Portas, a retail and branding expert (right).

The premise of the series was that there were a lot of independent shops in the UK that were in trouble, and Mary - whose career spans working with Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Top Shop and others - would help them move their businesses forward. A different store was featured every week.

As you can imagine, this programme was immediately 'required viewing' for independent fashion retailers the country over - myself included.

Upon watching it I have to say that the information gleaned from most episodes was not helpful to me in my own shop. In most instances it was too basic for that. What I got from this series was the realisation that there are quite a few businesses in the marketplace that function radically differently to the rest of us. And not necessarily in a good way.

I wont drone on with trade details. Suffice to say that every aspect of the business that we take for granted (where to buy garments, how to display them, how to serve customers, how to develop a knowledge of fashion, etc.) seemed to be unknown territory to many of the shop owners featured. I found it riveting.

Someone once said that every happy family tends to be happy in the same way, yet every unhappy family tends to be unhappy in a completely different way. So it seems, it is with fashion shops. Most of us bob along, running quite an organised system, perfectly recognisable to others in the trade. Yet each failing shop featured in this series seemed more bizarre and eccentric than the last.

But I also confess to feeling a frisson of jealousy when watching the programme... resentment even. The thing is I rate Mary Portas very highly. She is a real fashion professional. What she doesnt know about fashion and branding could be written on the face of a perfectly manicured little fingernail. Those people able to benefit from her help are lucky indeed. The participating stores would also benefit from the publicity of being featured on television - a massive boost to any business.

I found it irksome that the BBC was giving these businesses such a bonus, when all they had done to deserve it was to be failing (and often in obvious ways). Why couldnt some of the rest of us, who are rather good at what we are doing, benefit from the superb Ms Portas? And why couldnt a really good large-size store ever get featured on the telebox!

We wouldnt need the stream of ultra-obvious advice that she was called upon to give (your canopy is knackered - have it taken down). You dont require a top-line expert to give advice like that. I would have happily pointed that out myself. Sending Mary Portas, of all people, into these situations was like asking a Nobel Prize winning physicist to mend your central heating.

I wanted to hear the kind of gems that only she could supply the expert branding and retail advice that she had been hired by the bosses at Harvey Nichols and Top Shop to give!

Of course, as I realist, I knew the score. The BBC had perfectly good reasons for using this format... it made superb televison.

So when I heard that Mary would be visiting a large-size womenswear shop, to be honest, I felt not only a bit of jealousy and resentment, but also a little anxiety. The shop was in Ascot, not a million miles from Brighton. Even as recipients of the best advice I knew they wouldnt end up with a range to rival ours - that relies on relationships that take years to develop. But Mary might be able to equip this shop with a really great interior, exterior, branding, display, publicity, etc., that may detract from our own business. My customers may choose to go there - if only once for curiositys sake - and that could give me a blip in trade for weeks.

But I also felt quite excited and challenged - perhaps here would be some relevant Mary Portas advice that I could make use of!

I had never heard of the shop in question, which was strange. I thought I knew just about everyone in the large-size business in this country. With the benefit of hindsight its easy to say that I should have known that this fact alone spoke volumes about the shop in question.

If you ever get the chance to see the episode, which features a shop called The Fit, in Ascot, it is a must. I dare say it will be repeated at some point. It was truly one of the most riveting, eye-opening pieces of television for those interested in larger-size fashion.

A woman called Amanda, who was probably about a size 8, and who obviously had never been large in her life, owned the shop. As soon as she started to speak, she disgusted Mary with her tactless lack of appreciation of the larger-size woman. She had even developed her own demeaning terms for her customers body shapes. The no hoper was a 'large' woman at the top of Amandas size range (size 22; thats nearly the bottom of our size range - so much for being a large size store!). The bouncy castle lady' was her term for my own body type - an apple shaped woman with a large stomach. The bullet was a short woman with stumpy legs. As you can imagine, her depressing and negative views of her customers were reflected in a dreary and undesirable range of clothes.

My jaw hit the floor as I watched this, and it was very gratifying to see Mary Portas with exactly the same expression as my own. Initially, listening to this woman, I felt annoyance and insult. I then started to see the funny side. Maybe years of working with the public has desensitised me. Its true that I am rather slow to take offence... and quick to find things amusing. The woman was a real one-off.

This was a lady who had a business for large women that was failing, and she had no idea why. The fact that she was prejudiced against the larger-size aesthetic was one thing (bizarre as it was under the circumstances), but that she felt happy to go on national television to shout about it, is nothing short of hilarious! For a woman like her to have ended up with a large-size shop just seemed so random - one couldn't imagine what she was thinking. Looking at her, I was left wondering which screw it was, and how it had worked itself so spectacularly loose.

Marys face was a picture. Sometimes she looked completely stumped. Sometimes she gritted her teeth so much that she looked like she was chewing a wasp. She took Amanda aside and read her the riot act about her appalling attitude. It was then Amandas turn to look stumped. She couldnt imagine what she had got wrong!

However, trooper that she was, Mary did her best for this shop, and for the good ladies of Ascot. She showed Amanda some of the best fashion houses and tried to educate her about fashion. She sorted out the shop for her, and re-launched it.

I really have no idea how this shop is doing now. I would sensitively suggest that it might not have taken off with anything like a bang. I certainly didn't notice any blip in trading at the time.

Ironically, although I have complained that Mary spends most of her time in these programmes dispensing advice that it does not take an expert to give, she does seem - in this episode - to have forgotten to give Amanda the most obvious help of all. Its a piece of advice than any one of us could have given her, and it would be extremely useful...

For goodness sake, get out of the large-size fashion business. And leave it to people who love it!


 Sue Nelson    Friday 08 May 2009 at 19:52

Spot on, Emma. Amanda needed to be in a different business. Keep up your good work. GBP problems and err... dieting prevent me from revamping my wardrobe right now but I'll be back.



 Emma    Saturday 09 May 2009 at 13:21

Hi Sue

Hope you are well! How are your lovely dogs - I'm sure as gorgeous as ever!

We do have some lovely things in at the moment...

Good luck with the diet. Don't forget that if you find your clothes start feeling a bit too loose, we have a superb alteration service!

Jaq sends her regards...

Emma    Monday 04 May 2009 at 17:55

 Post #37 

Subject: Gok's Fashion Fix

This week I was very interested to see the latest episode of Gok Wans channel 4 programme, 'Goks Fashion Fix'. I was particularly intrigued, because the subject of this weeks makeover was Lisa - at size 18, a larger-size woman.

At this point I should admit that usually I am not the greatest fan of TV makeover programmes, especially when it comes to larger-size women. Sadly, they are frequently extremely unsuccessful, and I have a theory as to why this should be. I think that there is a world of difference between a fashion stylist who understands what it is to have a genuine body issue, than one who doesnt know the meaning of the thing. Im talking about the kind of fashion stylist who feels she has a wobbly belly if she has put on two pounds.

In my world its very different. Ill give you an example. I am generally quite happy with my body (I know thats quite unusual, but believe me, when you have got some of the clothes I have, you tend to rather get over your bad points). However, theres no getting over the fact I have a very unpleasant spare tyre round my waist. No matter what size I have been in my life, that dear tyre has always been there for me. Sometimes, it is the size of a rubber ring. Sometimes, a moped tyre. It has even grown to lorry tyre proportions. You could call it my bete noir, body-wise.

But many people who have known me for years, are not intimately acquainted with this delightful feature. They simply dont know of its existence. Or, not, at least, its full extent. This is because I hide it. Actually, Im very good at hiding it.

But this is not unusual. Every day of my working life I see clever women walking in my door who are equally adept at hiding their sore points. Like the women who wear the long tops to skim over their thighs. Or those who have found the exact length of sleeve that they need to disguise the defects in the upper arm. I could go on (and on and on!). However, its not necessary; I would imagine that at least 95% of the women reading this know exactly what Im talking about.

When these customers come into my shop with an area of their physique they need us to work with, I dont waste their time and energy trying to persuade them to let go of their inhibitions and show the world their worst part. I know that if, for example, I turned up to a friends wedding in an outfit that revealed my spare tyre, I would be mortified. And no amount of reassurance from a stylist that I looked great would make me feel anything other than an embarrassment to myself. I need to look fashionable - (hopefully) gorgeous - and spare-tyre free!

This does not in any way mean that I want women to drape themselves in a tent. Theres an art to dressing beautifully and sensually without letting the cat out of the bag, and that, in a nutshell, is nine tenths of what is important when dressing a larger woman.

So if I see TV makeover queens grabbing hold of a larger woman and forcing her to wear a top tucked into her trousers (revealing a less that pert bottom), or thrusting a massive belt around her waist (making her ample bust look cartoon-like), I sigh in despair. These stylists just dont get it!

So-hang on a minute - whats going on with Gok Wan? His team seems to have been able to achieve the impossible. On his programme, Lisa looked lovely, and (uniquely, I think, in the history of TV makeover programmes) she doesnt show off any of her weaker areas. The clothes look like someone who actually understood what it is like to have real body issues had chosen them. They skim the problem areas (Im assuming there are some!) and emphasise the attractive curves.

Could this, I wonder, be anything to do with the fact that Gok himself, at one stage, weighed 21 stone? It seems rather a co-incidence.

I also think that Gok has revealed something else about himself. I think he was generous and thoughtful in his choice for Lisa. Part of the premise of his programme is to make women look good without using the designer labels, but by obtaining clothes in the chain stores.

Yet for Lisas new wardrobe, of the 12 pieces of textile clothing, five of them were from Anna Scholz, the top designer for larger womens clothing. Of the remainder, there were just a couple of jackets from MandS, a pair of jeans and of trousers from Evans, and some camis. In other words, Gok gave Lisa a designer wardrobe, backed up with some simple basics from the high street.

I believe in doing so, Gok has shown that - as all true larger-fashion stylists should - he cares about the clients look more than his own ego, and has been prepared to ditch his premise about high-street chic when it clearly wasnt going to work.

In choosing to make Lisa look good, rather than just himself, he has managed to make both of them look good.


Emma    Tuesday 28 April 2009 at 11:28

 Post #32 

Subject: Retail rivalry

Many women choose to come into the shop alone - to set about the serious business of clothes buying unencumbered by a companion. These are women who do not feel the need to consult with husband, friend, or family member when buying their outfits.

But most women do, at some point or other, bring someone in with them in order to get a second opinion. Or an only opinion if they are one of those individuals who have difficulty formulating an idea about how they look for themselves.

Im not saying this facetiously; it can be very difficult to know how you look in something. You are sometimes, quite literally, too close to the subject to be able to form an objective view. Believe it or not, I've been there myself!

The staff here at the shop can offer such a view, but ironically, this can be a little bit too objective. For example, we may be able to see whether a customer physically looks good in an item of clothing, but we cannot judge whether it is the correct image or personality for her.

One may be forgiven for thinking that all that matters is that someone looks lovely in something - surely there can be no better reason for wearing anything? This was my view when I first worked in fashion, but I was soon disabused of it. In the early days there were several times when I was disappointed to hear that a customer had never worn an outfit that I had sold to her, despite the fact that she looked gorgeous in it.

This is because these early looks did not always take account of a customers personality. If a woman has a quiet, timid personality, there really is no point in persuading her to have a bright red suit in her wardrobe, even if she looks knockout in it. This is because the suit will in all probability remain firmly in the wardrobe, for the very reason that she looks knockout in it! Not every woman wants heads to turn when she enters the room, even in admiration. This particular modest and self-effacing woman would get much more use out of a grey suit teamed with a red blouse, for example, and maybe a dash of red lipstick and co-ordinating scarf. It wont be knockout, of course, but thats the point. It will be subtle and easy for her to wear, yet still with a hint of the scarlet that will light up her skin.

So this is where the shopping companion comes into his or her own. He or she, presumably, knows the customer well, and can really help with the selection of an outfit.

But it is well to choose this companion with care. If you are relying on their opinion, you will need to have someone who has good taste and judgement... and motives that gel with your own.

I have had occasion to watch shopping companions over the years and they make a very interesting field of study. Some of them are talented at styling their friends. Many of them are incredibly kind and supportive. Some are incompetent. And a few have rather strange motives.

I have seen, for example, sisters and female friends sit on my sofa and shoot down in flames the most beautiful outfits you can imagine. And I have, on several occasions, had those shopping colleagues take me aside, and quietly tell me why. Apparently, there are people out there that believe it is their duty not to encourage their friend/relative to buy anything nice whilst they are this size - for fear of taking away their incentive to lose weight. So no matter how lovely a woman looks in something, their companion has already decided that they are going to try to put them off it. In fact, the more gorgeous the woman looks at this size, the more she must be slapped down - for her own good. It just wouldnt do for her to feel really good about herself as she is now!

In all honesty, I dont think this has as much to do with us being a large-size store, as it may look at first glance. Before Emma Plus, I worked in various other branches of retail, and I have noticed a certain rivalry that can surface between shopping companions of any size. And this rivalry does not just have to involve clothes - a similar situation can arise even when someone is buying a sofa!

You can tell from what I am saying what I think of these virtuous motives. Im sorry to say I have a cynical view of them. I think they have more to do with flaws in human nature, rather than with someone being concerned about a friends BMI. I may be the one accused of being cynical, but I believe I know what good intentions look like. Despite the bewildering phenomenon that is Gillian McKeith, most intelligent women dont really think that bringing someone elses self esteem down will help them in their life in any way - and my customers and their friends tend to be very intelligent women.

I have seen friends run around the shop and seek out the loveliest outfits, tirelessly attempting to help create the perfect look. I have been there when two sisters, working perfectly as a team, have sifted the options until they have found great looks for each other. I have seen daughters giving their mums the most enthusiastic advice about the latest directional clothes, and nearly crying with delight when they see they have helped her bring out the best in herself. Believe it or not, I've actually seen a work colleague secretly club together with others in their office in order to buy a woman the dress she really loved. Thats what good intentions look like.

Luckily, the resilience of the female shopper is usually great to behold. Most times, bogus objections are swept away by the awesome force of good sense and a really superb look.

And if they are not, there is always another day, and perhaps another shopping companion. And next time let's hope it will be one of the good ones...


Emma    Monday 27 April 2009 at 18:58

 Post #31 

Subject: Chain store massacre

Why is it that chain stores seem to do such a poor job of providing larger-sized womenswear? Recently, a local chain store on the high street in Brighton (Im not naming names because this is not a story particular to this one retailer - its something that seems to happen with all the chains) started to stock a range of clothes going up theoretically - to a size 28. They also have an out-of-town superstore that carried the range. The whole venture was trumpeted with much excitement by the media. At last, we were led to believe, affordable and desirable large-size clothes.

I think there may have been problems from day one, but after a year or so, noticeable things started to happen to this range, and the signs were not good. It was removed from the high street and women had to travel to the superstore to get it. Then it was pushed more and more to the back of that store - shrinking all the while. Now it has been quietly removed altogether (I think it may only be available online). It must have been an expensive, humiliating and disastrous failure for this business.

Which leaves us with the question: Why on earth is it that large sizes are so difficult for the chain stores to buy and sell? We are all getting bigger, so there is a very large and growing market out there (as it were!). Surely they can cater for it? Many of these stores have a wealth of experience in fashion retailing.

The reason is larger-size fashion is such a difficult and complex business. And it requires people who know, not just fashion buying, but large size fashion buying.

When we go buying for our store, for instance, we have so many things to think about, it makes your head spin. First and foremost there's fashion. We are a medium/high-level designer store, and people travel across the country to get to us, expecting a directional collection.

Then we have to think about the different shapes of womens bodies. All women - large and small - have differently shaped bodies that can be categorised into rough groupings. For instance, there is the apple-shaped woman, the pear-shaped woman, the hourglass, etc. With slim women these differences are relatively minor, and many can get away with wearing more or less the same styles as women with completely different body shapes. This cannot happen with larger women, where the differences are far more pronounced. With larger women, not only the styles, but also the fit must be radically different - according to body type.

Then there are the usual considerations (which I believe all fashion buyers should be conscious of) about obtaining clothes in the colours that suit the four main complexion groups (winter, spring, summer and autumn). Add this to the necessity of trying to cover all the bases in the matter of different clothing usage (casual, smart casual, formal, workwear, etc.), and you start to get a picture about what is involved. Every one of these groups has to be bought across the complete range of body shapes.

Very often we have to deliberately work against fashion. For example, if the latest trend is for short skirts, we have to find suppliers that are able to make the longer skirts that we need. It can feel like swimming upstream.

As independents, we do have a lot of problems that the chains do not. One is that we do not produce our own clothes - we have no design department. We have to go out into the marketplace and source what we need, spending days and weeks looking for, and occasionally failing to get, what we want. It is like mining diamonds. Finding treasured solutions is the most satisfying thing for us. Its a wonderful, rewarding, interesting and exciting, yet highly frustrating part of our work.

As we are quite small, we simply dont have the capacity to carry everything we would like. Added pressure is actually placed on us because there is so little competition. This means that we really have to try to get as wide a variety of clothes as possible, because women cannot find co-ordinating items elsewhere. Its no good, for instance, selling a woman a superb suit, if we dont carry the top to go under it. She may well have the greatest difficulty in sourcing that herself. She certainly wont get much help on the high street.

The problem with the fashion industry in Britain is the dearth of specialist knowledge in this specific area. Sadly, this is all too obvious. The chains probably employ experienced fashion buyers who are the best in their field. Unfortunately, their field is not large size fashion - its mainstream fashion. Its a vicious circle: the high street has no experience because it has never done it successfully. It can never do it successfully because it has no experience. The stores fail because they simply have no idea how incredibly complex the subject is.

Chain stores love simplicity. The one generic shape of jacket, tailored to look different in a hundred different ways (thats fashion!). The same fit of trousers, in many, many different styles. They all look incredibly different, but in fact they are all cut from a certain block, and assume the human body is a regulation shape.

The irony is that the big stores have such a vast benefit to gain, and such a huge contribution to give, to the larger-size clothing market. If they could develop a way of really finding out what was needed in this field, they are in fact well equipped to satisfy it. If only they were able to accept that the solution is far from simple. They would have to not only understand and accept the diversity that exists in their customers, but learn to embrace, create, and provide it in their own collections.


Emma    Tuesday 21 April 2009 at 00:27

 Post #30 

Subject: Wedding griping

I am discovering that one of the marvellous things about having a blog is the ability to have a good gripe and get all of lifes small irritations off ones chest.

At the shop we are now deep into wedding season, and this throws up a number of irritations. One that I find particularly irksome is the phenomenon of women being told (by family or friends) what colour to wear to a wedding. These instructions can range from something as simple, and understandable, as please, please, mum, would you mind not wearing black, just this once! to something more dictatorial.

Its now quite normal for us to see women who have been told what colours are off-limits. One reason for this is it seems many poor souls mistakenly think that when someone in the wedding party has an outfit of a certain colour, this makes it forbidden for use by other attendees. This is entirely wrong.

I accept that care should sometimes be taken about wearing precisely the same colour as others. If it looks like the two mothers, for instance, are wearing very similar shades then they can just look a bit too alike, like two overblown bridesmaids. And the larger of the two women (in other words my customer) can often come off the worse for the comparison - something I would avoid where at all possible! However, the chances of getting exactly the same shade are slim, and a different shade of the same colour will not cause any problems of this kind. When you see the photographs you will not notice. So once someone has bought an outfit, this should not debar anyone else from wearing a similar colour should they choose to do so.

Quite often we see a woman who is a larger size, say a size 30, who is looking for an outfit to attend her son or daughters wedding. Its one of the really important days of this womans life. And its not going to be easy for her to find the right thing to wear. She has to get the style that really suits her. She has to make sure she feels comfortable in it - that the fabric is not too hot and doesnt crease too much. It needs to be affordable, and, as she is a certain shape, it has to a very particular type of fit. It has to be a shade that suits her complexion. She wants it to be young and fashionable, yet formal enough. And to top it all, it has to be available in a size 30. To be honest, for many women of this size range, even after months of searching, she may find only one outfit that perfectly suits this profile.

Yet, when she does, this lady is sometimes told by a member of her family that she is not allowed to buy it. This is because someone else attending the same event has bagged that colour. Often this lucky other woman has chosen the colour of the season (this summer it would be purple), which is the colour many of the best outfits at the time. But this particular woman may be a size 10. She had bags of choice, and probably found her outfit on the very first day that she went out looking (which explains why she got first dibbs). And, had she decided to change to a different one, she could easily go out and find another in an afternoon.

But unfortunately it gets much, much worse than this. Every wedding season we see women coming into the shop with a strict instruction that they must wear one colour. This has nothing to do with clashing with anyone else. It could be for a relatively benign (although to my mind still misguided) reason - for example because the whole wedding is themed in a certain colour, and all attendees have to match in some way. However, this is relatively rare. The usual reason is that someone simply has the mistaken belief they have the right to tell another person what she is supposed to wear.

Many times I have found relatives (mostly for well-meaning reasons, although sometimes for more sinister motives) have just told a woman in no uncertain terms what she is meant to buy. I have no idea if these self-appointed stylists/fashion experts realise the havoc they cause; its unlikely, because they probably havent had the same difficulties obtaining an outfit themselves. They may be trying to be helpful, but if their advice is followed it makes finding an outfit almost impossible. And very stressful.

These are ladies who have found it easy to make themselves look good, so believe they have a talent for it - one which they are obliged to share with others. Most would be mortified if they realised that they do more harm than good.

Of course there is a simple cure for this situation. No-one has to take any kind of instruction as to the content of their wardrobe. Actually I think it is outrageous that anyone would even consider giving this kind of advice, unless it has been specifically asked for. There is no need to get into a row about it; you should simply smile sweetly, thank them for their kind help, and say that you will be making your own choice. Reassure them, should it be necessary, that you are perfectly capable of selecting your own attire.

I am put in mind of an anecdote about Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. Early on in her premiership, Mrs Thatcher was attending a state event and contacted Buckingham Palace to ask staff there what the Queen would be wearing, so that the two of them would not be seen to clash. The brusque reply from the Palace was that The Queen did not notice what other people were wearing, and would not be supplying information about her outfit. I dont necessarily recommend this approach to customers.

Most times we simply have to live with the family dynamic and find the best solution, although it would not be my personal choice to do so, and may not result in the optimum fashion look. If asked, my advice to my customer is to focus on buying a gorgeous outfit that really suits her. She will be the one that looks lovely on the day. And she will look fabulous in the photographs in perpetuity.

And what of the person whose thoughtful advice was ignored? If she really meant well she will be delighted with the result. Human nature being what it is, she may even genuinely believe she had some part in its success.


Emma    Thursday 09 April 2009 at 20:41

 Post #26 

Subject: Give us credit

As a retailer, I dont normally see myself as having an educational role - I simply aim to provide the best service I can. However, there is one subject that I would really love my customers (and the general public) to know a lot more about... credit cards.

Im not talking about the big, important issues about credit. Im simply talking about the mechanism of how they are processed in the shop. As I spend most of my days at the coalface dealing with this process, I think I may be able to explain matters a little, and hopefully lay a few myths and misunderstandings to rest.

When a customer makes a purchase in my shop, its usually by card and this is placed in the PDQ machine. Sometimes the machine will automatically dial the call centre to get authorisation. It dials the number and usually gets straight through. Occasionally, however, it will not succeed first time. This is because the call centre is busy, and the PDQ machine has to do what we all do when we get an engaged signal: sigh quietly and dial again. The customer waits patiently while the machine sits there. After re-dialling, most often the call will be answered. The usual wait time is just a minute or two at the most.

But from time to time the little machine is not so lucky (especially on Saturdays, when the call centres are particularly busy), and even this second time it fails to get an answer.

At this point, perhaps the customer, if she has not experienced this before, will start to feel embarrassed. Some women wonder if they have accidentally gone over their credit limit, and will begin to speculate about how this might have happened. However, if a sale were going to be declined, this would happen as quickly as an authorisation - there is no extra delay. So a delay is simply a routine part of business and means absolutely nothing about authorisation or refusal. (Actually, I am appalled by these delays. I think the card companies are saving money by not employing enough people and/or machines to answer all their calls promptly during peak times, and I regularly complain about it.)

However, most of the time everything is simply processed very quickly and automatically. Its one of the wonders of modern life. Sometimes, though, the machine will ask me to telephone the call centre to have a conversation with one of the operatives there.

Again, this usually has nothing whatsoever to do with financial authorisation - if there was any problem with that, it would have been dealt with quickly and automatically. Nine times out of ten what is being checked is something totally different: identity.

If I had one wish on this issue, it would be for people to understand that identity checking and credit rating are two completely different things. If you spend a minute to consider it, you will see what I mean. If there were not enough funds to cover a sale, the machine would simply refuse it - it would have no interest in who you were. In fact, if a sale was to be declined, arguably this would be the only instance where the credit card company really couldnt care less whether it was really you or not at the till. Instead of feeling that one was at risk of having the sale declined, having an identity check should be seen as an indication that funds are in place!

Identity checking is an essential service provided for you by the credit card companies. Its there for all our sakes, and we pay for it. If your credit card company decided it wasnt going to check identities, it would create havoc.

So what are these identity checks like? Well, weve all had them. We are asked for our mothers maiden name, our postcodes, code words, etc. Sometimes the checks cause delays when we need them least, and are irritating. However, we should be heartily grateful that the credit card companies are doing what they get paid for - making sure someone else hasnt got hold of our cards! These tests are generated completely randomly, and cast no slur on our personal bearing or appearance.

No-one should be embarrassed at having to stand at the counter answering these questions. If the Queen had a credit card (and who knows she may do: legend has it that she never carries cash), it would randomly generate the same identity tests (whats your mothers maiden name, maam?).

So we can stand at the counter with our head held high and answer those questions with the best of em. And hopefully with cheery good grace. If these identity checks can do something to make credit cards less attractive to thieves it may help deter them from stealing them in the first place. So there would also be fewer burglaries and robberies... surely a cause well worth investing a few moments of anyones time in.


Emma    Thursday 02 April 2009 at 23:27

 Post #25 

Subject: Rules rules rules...

Where do all the rules come from? Im not talking about those essential rules that we all have to live by - Thou shalt not kill, or even the (slightly more trivial) never ask a woman her age. Im talking about so-called fashion rules.

Hardly a day seems to go by without one of these rules jumping up to bite us in the most frustrating way. Sometimes they are hidden. Tacit, unspoken rules that govern what women will and wont try on. These act like an invisible wall between customers and what they want and/or suit. Sometimes they are shouted from the rooftops - as if quoted by people reading from some stone tablet brought down to us by a sage prophet.

If you dont yet know what Im getting at, Ill quote just a few for you... Red and green should never be seen, unless there is something in between. No to widthways stripes. Avoid being mutton dressed as lamb. Dont wear a bright colour with black.

I heard a perfectly stupid and illogical one last week. Actually, Ive heard this one many times before, and it really gets my goat. It is Never wear a retro-fashion if you are old enough to have worn it the first time round. This particular gem poked its bossy head up this time- doing its best to stop a woman buying a pair of bootcut trousers that she looked superb in.

When you deconstruct this item of wisdom, its clear to see it for what it is. Daft. And oppressive.

Take, for example, those incredibly stylish women who formulate a certain fashion image all their own, and stick with it their entire lives. Like the film star Katherine Hepburn, for instance. Weve all seen the gorgeous photographs of her, taken in the nineteen-thirties... she was the one wearing the baggy pants, silk shirt, cotton-jumper-tied-round-the-neck look. Kind of preppy meets de-luxe Hollywood. It was superb. The iconic thirties look. Half a lifetime later, in the early eighties, I saw a film of her (I think she was herself in her eighties at the time). And what was she wearing? Oh, just soft, baggy pants, a silk shirt and a nonchalant cashmere sweater tied round her neck. It happened to be a fashion that had just glided back into vogue - this time as a quintessential eighties look. She looked fabulous.

I dont know whether her style had gone anywhere else during the 50 years between her youth and her old age - it really doesnt matter. There was no-one on earth who was going to tell her what she shouldnt wear. No-one was qualified to do so, and Im sure she would have shown the disdain for this kind of unwanted rule-making by the unqualified fashion police that it so richly deserved.

The point is that no-one would have ever tried to oppress Katherine Hepburn with these rules. No-one would dare. She was a powerful enough force to be immune. These fashion rules are a form of bullying reserved for ordinary women. In particular older women. And larger women!

Nowadays fashions come round so quickly that quite honestly a look has probably returned before the garment has made its stately progress out of the back of the wardrobe and into the charity-shop collection bag. And nothing is ever entirely new in fashion; so most things arriving in the shops have been there in some incarnation before.

If we all obeyed this particular 'law' I suspect anyone over the age of 30 would have difficulty in finding anything to wear, and those of us approaching our 50s would have to learn to stroll around nonchalantly in the nude. Or learn to wear completely bland clothes.

Because this rule is all about noticeable styles - i.e. fashion. What it is trying to say is that no-one beyond a certain age should wear anything with style and design. That - when we are older - we should all start to wear generic, anonymous looks.

Well, I have a fashion rule of my own and its this... we dont have to obey any fashion rules. Thats it. If we want something, if we like something, and if we look fabulous in something, then we can have it. Honestly, what is there to stop us?

We are not too large, or too old. Its not too bright, or too patterned. We dont have to be told what colours to put together. Or what fashions we are allowed. We are free to choose... free to look good in our own signature way.


Emma    Monday 30 March 2009 at 23:50

 Post #23 

Subject: Disabled access

Having been asked many times about disabled access to our shop, I think it would be worthwhile discussing this subject on the forum/blog.

As I have mentioned before, our shop is right next door to a big NCP car park (called the Theatre Car Park). In the lower level there is a bank of disabled parking spaces and from there small, accessible ramps lead out on to the road behind - i.e. Church Street, our road.

Just a matter of feet away is our front door, which is wide and has only a small step. I have never known any wheelchair user to have a problem accessing this door, but we are always on hand to help.

Our shop is quite spacious (for an independent shop), and the rails are set out in such a way that it is easy to travel around. If someone needs a chair, there is always one on offer (a good, sturdy comfortable chair, of course!). We are always there to help with the selection of clothes.

Many of our customers have a visual impairment, and we are past masters at helping to put together outfits for specific purposes.

Our shop is far from perfect. There is no disabled toilet, and to our chagrin there are four steps up to the counter, so it does happen that many of our wheelchair-using customers never actually make it to the payment area (this does not pose a problem, normally, because we have a cordless card reader that can reach anywhere in the store).

When we had our recent refit, we were able to install a changing room that is accessible to wheelchair users. However, we find that most wheelchair-using customers prefer to take advantage of a particular service we offer to them if they prefer not to try on items in store. Usually, we do not offer refunds - if a customer decides she wants to return something because she has changed her mind, we would normally offer either an exchange or a credit note. With our customers who have mobility issues, however, we allow them to purchase items and try them on at home, returning them for a refund if they prove inappropriate.

It is worth mentioning that because we tend to have many disabled customers, and because we have generally had the same staff for many years, we have a wealth of experience. We have a pretty good idea about many of the issues involved in the necessary performance of clothing for disabled women. Were good at offering physical assistance; we can help with measurements, and provide advice about fit. Items can be specially altered to suit womens requirements, and women are welcome to bring in items bought from elsewhere to take advantage of our alteration expertise.

Disabled women have been our loyal customers from the very first days we opened Emma Plus, and they have been among the backbone of our customer base. We hope always to continue to build this valuable relationship.


Emma    Monday 23 March 2009 at 17:24

 Post #21 

Subject: Shopping

I hate clothes shopping. There, Ive said it. I know it will be a very shocking thing for many of my customers to hear.

When I tell people I hate shopping, they tend to be surprised. I do own a retail outlet, after all! I get the impression that some people think I am a bit of a hypocrite to be a shop owner if I hate shopping myself. But I believe this to be an ideal qualification.

When one analyses what constitutes shopping for clothes, it doesnt sound like theres anything to dislike. It should entail leaving the house and travelling to a retail outlet where there is plenty of choice, choosing items to try on, selecting the desired purchase, paying, and returning home with lots of goodies. Whats not to love about this process?

If only...

When I go shopping, nothing seems to work like this. First there is the trailing around loads of different shops, pounding the pavement, looking for places that sell the correct size. There are thousands and thousands of shops dedicated to selling small sizes. These are businesses engaged in jostling for market share in the overcrowded section of the fashion industry, selling items for the minority of women who appear to have all the choice. Yet there is a dearth of shops selling items in my size. I would have thought that my money is the same as anyone elses, but it is not competed for on the high street in anywhere near the same way.

Eventually I find a large store, enter it, and immediately start to find lots of tiny irritations that end up building into a giant headache.

For instance, its difficult to find a specific size, or to find matching items in an unfamiliar shop floor layout. I look around for advice, and there appear to be no staff anywhere. As a retailer, I find this bizarre. What is there then to prevent theft? I push these thoughts aside and battle on.

The rails are overcrowded, and the hangers are the standard ones for small clothes. This means that as soon as I try to pull an item off the rail to look at it, several other items slide onto the floor. There follows the guilty 10 seconds when I contemplate leaving them there. I know that if I try to put these large clothes back on the insufficiently large hangers, they will simply slide off again.

The shop itself is overcrowded with stock. Rails are squeezed in everywhere - meaning that you can't see the wood for the trees - and manoeuvring around the rails is annoying.

Its also very hot and there is nowhere that I can put down my coat, so I have to lug it around. My feet are swollen, and I could really do with a sit down and a cup of tea. This, of course, is an absurd notion. I am far too busy having fun shopping to take refreshments!

The changing room is tiny and ill lit. The view of the mirror is too close-up to be able to make an informed, yet private, decision. There are not enough hooks, and no chair to sit-in whilst I try the trousers on. To add to my delight, there is loud, jangling music blaring overhead. There is a bizarre mis-match between the ultra-loud, ultra-trendy music that seems aimed at teenagers, and the frumpy clothes aimed at an altogether older age group. This music, with the throbbing strip lighting, is putting me in a bit of a mood to say the least. I just hate this kind of experience.

As the Honda adverts say, hate can be a powerful force for good. When arranging my shop, I have tried to think about all of these disagreeable aspects (and more) - to make a more comfortable shopping experience. I have made larger, brighter changing rooms, with everything you need inside. I have bought flock hangers that grip the clothes - so nothing ever slides off. I have placed the rails further apart, sorted out the lighting (as best I can), quietened the music, provided a comfy chair (and husband-friendly space), sorted out the provision of teas and coffees. Weve got staff who want to help and who know their stuff. The shop is as cool as I can get it, especially in summer. To top it all, Ive also gone to amazing bother and expense of making sure our shop is next door to a large car park, so no pavement pounding is necessary.

Im not saying its a perfect shopping experience, but we try. Actually, I believe that nothing qualifies you better to be a shop owner than a hatred of shopping.


Emma    Monday 09 March 2009 at 20:12

 Post #16 

Subject: A point of view

A week ago we placed the new photographs of this seasons collection on our website, and, as ever, revealed what I think is the most important thing that a fashion shop has to offer its customers... a point of view.

A viewpoint in fashion is not something theoretical - it isnt something pretentious or hyperbolic. It is a real, solid and - once you start to look for it - blatantly obvious feature that really hits you when you come into contact with any boutique.

I once worked for a store that did not have a point of view. Or I should say, its point of view was to be all-things-to-all-women. There really was something for everyone. There were little-old-lady dresses in crimpeline with permanent pleats and elasticated waists. There were ritzy tops with appliqu, to be worn with leggings. There were bizarre jumpers with teddy-bear motifs for overblown schoolgirls. There were cotton separates for busy mums. And there were bouffed-up ballgowns and sparkly cruise wear for the affluent at play.

There were really cheap, tacky items that would have put the cheapest chain store to shame, and there were dresses the prices of which would have made the buyers at the most celebrated prestige retail palace turn pale with fear.

There were outfits for women with impeccable taste. There were clothes for women who were too busy to bother about taste. And there were atrocious items for (in my experience, theoretical) customers devoid of either sense or discrimination.

I remember looking at that collection when it was delivered to the store, and bursting into tears. I suppose that as soon as I saw those clothes I knew that the job was not going to last.

In order for a store to be successful and create a place for itself in the psyche of shoppers it really has to have a firm identity. I think for a fashion store this means that one must know instantly whether an item of clothing is right for the shop or not. And you know whether or not the store is right for you.

Busy women often have to travel quite some distance to reach a store, and it is an irritating waste of time to get there only to find that the substance of the place is completely different to what was expected. The Holy Grail is to walk into a store with a personality that gels with ones own. No-one expects to like or need everything that is stocked, but to find that you and the buyers are on the same page is an incredibly good feeling. When you discover a store like this you feel it is a gift, and you will come back over and over again.

And if you are interested to see what we are all about, I would recommend - if you have not already done so - that you click on the 'Our Range' heading on the homepage. You will then see our own particular point of view.


Emma    Sunday 01 March 2009 at 22:04

 Post #12 

Subject: An honest opinion

What do you say to someone who asks your opinion about something that they are trying on, if they really love it, but you think they look awful? This is the question I am most commonly asked by my customers.

Like all the most interesting questions, it is apparently simple, yet in reality very complicated.

Here at the shop we work very closely with our customers. This is because we are small and independent.

In a lot of large stores the customer virtually serves herself. One gets used to being studiously ignored by a sales assistant who looks like she has something infinitely more important to do with her time than to assist the person who is paying her wages (the customer). Actually it can get worse than this. When asking for assistance a larger woman can even find herself being subtly sneered at.

It tends to be different in the independent sector of retailing. If I had to give a reason for this in a nutshell, I would say that it is because most independent retailers have the proprietors on the premises at some point or another. If these businesspeople see customers walking around looking lost, and particularly if they see them leaving the shop without having occasion to open their purses, the owners tend to focus on a sales opportunity slipping through their fingers. If a storeowner witnesses a customer being sneered at by a member of staff, an eruption of seismic proportions can occur. And this doesnt tend to happen twice.

Hence, in the past, some independent stores went in the opposite direction to the big chains, but not necessarily in a good way. Instead of finding a blas sales assistant aloofly standing chatting with her colleagues, the poor customer may come across her exact opposite... namely, the Flogger.

The Flogger is a fearsome creature. She is a woman whose only task in life is to sell, sell, sell, to anyone who is unfortunate enough to have wandered into her territory. No outfit is too inappropriate, no size too inadequate, to halt her in her awesome determination to flog it to you. Lets just say, you wouldnt rely on the Flogger to give you an impartial opinion on your clothes.

This may increase sales in the very short term, but is it likely, in the end, to help the development of the business, by promoting good customer relations? I would say that the prevalence of the Flogger in the past sounded the death knell for many independent shops, and damaged the whole industry for a while. Even as recently as ten years ago there were still Floggers alive and well and plying their trade in Brighton, and scaring the life out of the public. People lived in fear of going into an unfamiliar outlet, in case they were harangued to within an inch of their lives.

We independent sector stores have had to survive against fearsome opposition. Big stores may have lackadasical sales assistants, but they can buy in bulk and keep their expenses down. They can take up massive retailing space in out-of-town developments, which are easy to access. They can pay a fortune for advertising, and they can screw down their suppliers to give them special discounts (which they dont always bother passing on to the customer).

So we have had to find a place for ourselves in this incredibly competitive industry. Weve done it by concentrating on excellence. And one of the areas that we have particularly excelled in is customer service.

No-one can say that they always achieve excellence... only that they aspire to it, and work hard towards reaching it. You cant always get it right. We certainly dont attempt to impose our taste on our public (if you want that kind of thing, Im sure Trinny and Susanna are available). We try to work closely with a woman to achieve the look she seeks - or to introduce her to an unexpected new look that she will love. We exist to provide a service.

It isnt our job to stop someone getting the outfit she wants, just because we dont agree with it. But we can give educated, thoughtful, tasteful and honest feedback if she wants it. And shut up if she doesnt. However, we will not lull her into a false sense of security if she is relying on us. People come to our shop to get something they look fabulous in, and we take that very seriously. So yes, if she wants us to, we will tell her if a look doesn't work, even if she loves it.

If a customer really adores something that she looks awful in, it is worth finding out exactly what it is that she likes so much. Chances are there are other clothes out there that have this magic aspect, that would suit the woman more.

If it turns out, however, that she knows exactly how she looks in the outfit, and still loves it, then our work is done. She may, after all, have better taste than we do.


Emma    Monday 23 February 2009 at 16:42

 Post #11 

Subject: Jump!

Flicking through the fashion section of my weekend magazine this week, I can see why fashion can sometimes bring out the worst in people. For the nth time there it was... the article about the moment's 'in' item of clothing, accompanied by a picture.

The article was about the return of the jumpsuit, and the photograph was yet another tiny woman sporting a version of the same. The garment they are referring to, for the uninitiated few, is an all-in-one trouser suit, akin to a pilots flying outfit or a babys romper-suit.

I wonder what they mean about return. I am old enough to remember the jumpsuit in the previous incarnation that I believe the fashion journalists are referring to. Im not talking about the sexy and figure-enhancing delights of the nineteen-forties landgirls (thats sarcasm, by the way). Im talking about when the jumpsuit really came to the notice of the fashion press - namely in the seventies and eighties.

I was a teenager back then. Of course I was large at the time. Ive been large all my life. In the seventies and early eighties I was all of a size 16 (enormous, I know!). But just because I was a big girl (its odd that, isn't it... by being the average size, a girl can be seen as huge), it didnt stop me being interested in fashion.

I had a friend called Mandy who was also roughly the same size as me (albeit about a foot shorter) and we were partners in crime. The two of us would trawl through all the fashion shops (like Top Shop, Snob, Chelsea Girl, Miss Selfridge etc), hunting out the nearest we could get to the latest looks in our size.

I dont know how I thought a jumpsuit would look on my apple-shaped figure. Between the ages of 14 to 20 many girls are just finding their fashion feet, and need to experiment. The whole point of hunting these fashions down was to try them on and see how they looked on me.

Well, Mandy and I hit paydirt in an uber-trendy little boutique. It was not normally the kind of shop we could afford to frequent. Ordinarily, the rake-thin, twenty-something denim-clad coolster who worked there would have frozen us out of the shop. However, on this occasion they had a sale, and so she grudgingly accepted that we could take our place at the very bottom of the fashion food chain. To our amazement there was not one, but two jumpsuits (both identical) on the reduced rail in our size! They were discounted down to such a low price that even my friend and I could afford to buy them.

So we scooped up our treasured finds and shot into the changing rooms. I say changing rooms. Actually, they were small alcoves fitted with a kind of saloon-door at the front, complete with wooden slats like venetian blinds. These were just about able to cover your modesty, and provided an environment not particularly designed to make a young girl, who was already feeling somewhat self-conscious, feel relaxed in any way.

It took me some time to remove my skinny jeans (all apple shaped women, it seemed to me, wore skinny trousers and huge jumpers in those days), so I was a bit behind my friend in getting into the jumpsuit.

The first indication I had that there may be any suitability problem with the jumpsuit look came when I heard a low, gurgling murmur coming from the adjacent cubicle. The gurgling got louder and louder, with pauses for gasps for breath the only break in the crescendo. For a moment I actually wondered if my friend was choking on something. I hurried into my jumpsuit so I could leave my cubicle to see what was up with her.

However, as soon as I saw my reflection in the mirror, I immediately knew the meaning of the sound emanating from her cubicle. It didnt take too long before both of us were in hysterics.

Of course, I dont have to tell any larger woman over the age of 20 what to expect when you wear an item like a jumpsuit. The problem with this particular item of clothing is that it is far too descriptive. There is no room in a jumpsuit to have any body imperfections. Youve got a big bottom? Just pop this jumpsuit on, and show the world! Your legs and thighs are not as sylph-like as you would ideally like? Why not elicit the opinion of the entire high street, by exhibiting them publicly in this!

Every curve on ones body comes under scrutiny in a jumpsuit. Its no good some slim woman trying to tell us that some of them are quite baggy. If they are baggy, they simply hang from the shoulders and settle on each and every surface that isnt vertical. Thats why they suit women whose bodies are made up mainly of vertical lines. Clothes like this tend to have the appearance, on anyone larger than a size 10, of looking like someone has thrown a dustsheet over some item of furniture.

If they are fitted then the situation is even worse, with the cruel truth of ones imperfections spelt out loud and clear in anatomical detail.

As an apple shape I didnt have much of a bottom, nor did I have a big bust. This meant that the suits emphasis on the waist really came into its own - stretched as it was across by belly. Bodily, I looked entirely male. In fact, I think my figure looked rather like that of Oliver Hardy in the film where he donned an all-in-one overall to do the painting in the classic Laurel and Hardy film. Nice.

My friend had an altogether different problem. She was not an apple shape. No, she described herself as a melon lady; that is to say she was large-busted. We both came out of our cubicles and stood side by side. Mandys figure, I felt, didnt look quite as bad as mine - at least she looked female. The main problem is that she looked like a female wearing a jumpsuit with two large balloons pushed down the front.

When I had first seen myself in the mirror wearing that jumpsuit, I had not thought that anything could look funnier. I was wrong, standing side by side wearing the same suit the pair of us looked hilarious. The suit managed to over-emphasise, to a ridiculous degree, the worst in both of us.

To be honest, we all know that a jumpsuit doesnt look good on anyone over a size 14 at the absolute outside. Which means that the average woman will, in all probability, choose not to wear it. Looking around streets, offices and homes generally, any impartial observer, ignorant to the caprices of fashion, would simply conclude that women do not wear all-in-one trouser creations. So much for its return to fashion.

This is why, when reading these articles about fashion, it brings out the worst in some of us. It can make us feel irritable, cynical, excluded. Its items like the jumpsuit that give fashion a bad name, yet they do have their place in the world of real, grown-up clothing. For those of us who work in this industry it is worthwhile keeping an eye on these trends and seeing what we can glean from them, and what can be translated into the kind of fashion that we would wear.

For instance, we can take from the styling the references to the seventies and eighties vibes that are very prevalent at the moment. We can see that colour blocking, if used well, can be very flattering in lengthening the body, that soft tailoring is in; that smart casual trousers are having a moment right now. We can look at the details of the buttons, zips and fabrics, colour shades, textures and embellishments.

The designers can sometimes push a particular look that is either elitist or ridiculous, but we mustnt forget that it is the designers that breathe life into the fashion industry, and we should all be grateful for their creativity. Every one of us can benefit from a bit of a style injection.

Its up to us to use our own taste, discrimination and judgement to sift through the latest looks to find out what really works for us. And if you have better things to do with your time than undertake this task, you may choose to frequent a good fashion shop that will do the legwork for you.


Emma    Monday 16 February 2009 at 00:02

 Post #10 

Subject: Fashion Magic

One of the things I love about fashion is the wish-fulfilment aspect of it. This is particularly satisfying in the area of larger-size clothes.

There have been many times during my career in fashion when what I have wanted has only been available in small sizes, and I have felt so frustrated that I have almost given up all hope in ever getting it in my size.

For instance, years ago I saw a film set in Norway (or Sweden - some Scandinavian country, anyway), where the (size zero, probably) heroine was wearing the most beautiful coat. I couldnt tell you the plot of the story: I have no idea whether the heroine died in the end or married some fabulous hunk.

But I remember that coat. It was made of the softest sheepskin, with the suede on the outside and the soft, luxurious wool pile on the inside. The coat was black, full length, and the material so supple that the collar rippled like a wave as the actress slipped it on.

How I sighed when I saw that coat. Id never seen anything like it in our size range and there was no reason to suppose I ever would. Yet, without my knowing it, the fashion fairy godmother was busily working away, finding some way to create that coat.

When I saw it, it was in the James Lakeland showroom, about three years ago. It was obviously not the same coat - there were probably many stylistic differences - but the magic was the same. It was everything I had imagined it to be: the woolly inside as soft as cashmere, the suede outside lush and velvety. The cut was generous, while retaining the feminine Italian styling. And it was available in sizes up to 28.

I only got one of those coats for our shop. It was fiercely expensive. I was never able to own one myself, but that wasnt the point. It was like a little bit of magic. I had wished for that coat when it just seemed like an impossible dream... and then it had appeared. Someone loves us larger women enough to create clothes like this for us!

Actually, I dont know who the lucky woman who got that coat was. I do hope she enjoys wearing it - it will last a lifetime.


Emma    Sunday 08 February 2009 at 22:26

 Post #5 

Subject: Fashion fury

Twice a year we do our buying for the shop. This involves going to fashion houses and trade fairs and ordering the best styles - then going back to the shop in the knowledge that we won't see them for another six months!

It's an exhilarating, frustrating, fascinating, frightening, sometimes infuriating, but often inspiring way to spend one's work time, and one of the reasons why I find working in fashion so intriguing.

It's exciting to go to one of the big fashion shows (like the one held in Duesseldorf, Germany, which we attended last weekend), and walk into the exhibition halls to see what the new looks are going to be. I know it sounds a bit corny, but it is absolutely true that every season the clothes improve enormously. About 20 year ago, when I first started getting involved in plus-size fashion, it was depressing and difficult at times. Although there have always been beautiful clothes available for small women, we had a tremendous struggle coping with the acres of permanently-pleated, frumpy, shapeless, styleless horrors that were on offer for us larger women. There were times, I have to admit, that I actually lost my rag, and found myself furiously haranguing the hapless agents of some collections which I personally took an exception to. To be honest, some of the clothes back then were nothing more than an insult.

Now, when you go to the fashion shows, sometimes the larger clothes just take your breath away. I take great pleasure in the fact that there are styles that a woman of any size would lust after. They are what I call 'unconditional clothes'. They are just gorgeous. You love them, and you haven't had to make any compromise for your size. Hooray!

It's such a funny thing that when I see some absolutely fabulous clothes, I often feel quite angry coming off the stand. This is a totally different kind of anger that I felt in those early days of frustration and offence. It's because these new styles bring out the little girl in me. I love them, I can order them, but what I can't do is get them now. I have to wait six months to have them, but I want them right now! In fact, I would like to walk off the stand wearing them now!

One example of this that I saw at the Duesseldorf show (of which there were a number), was the Anna Scholz stand. Oh boy, was it gorgeous! Amongst so many lovely things, she had the most superb kaftan tops in her trademark glowing colours. She had rich and soft cashmere knits. But most of all, she had what I have tasked myself to find (if I can) each season: The Perfect Dress.

We have been stocking Anna Scholz silk crossover dresses for some time. They are usually made in stretch silk and cross over just under the bust in the most flattering way imaginable. They sell like hot cakes, because they are so feminine, sexy, yet flattering with a real directional fashion edge. Anna has a way of showing off certain curves of a woman's body which is sexy and subtly revealing, whilst magically hiding those (shall we say) less alluring areas that one does not wish to be on display.

Now, in my opinion, she has perfected the dress. To be honest, there were never any faults with it as far as I could see. Each version she produced was different from the previous season, yet achieved the desired effect, and helped to build up a loyal following.

However, this year there was a further pushing of the envelope. The dress was elongated to full length, with a wonderful collar and longer sleeves, with either plain black stretch silk, or a choice of wonderful coloured prints. There was a nod to the seventies vibe, although as someone (just about!) old enough to remember the seventies myself, I have to say we would have killed for anything like this back then, in any size.

What I love about the extra length is that it gives our customisation service more scope. Whereas many women will choose to have this dress as an evening outfit, many others will have it shortened to make it the perfect length for whatever they have in mind. If I owned this dress (and I will), I would wear it on its first outing as an evening dress, then I would shorten it to a day length and I will then wear it a hundred times as my staple dress. I may choose to keep it longish and wear it with lower