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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    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    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 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. ....


Kim P    Saturday 21 February 2015 at 17:18

 Post #431 

Subject: Beautiful Spring / Summer Clothes

After reading on the forum that new stock was arriving I rang the store yesterday and knew from the excitement in Kim's voice that the shop would be full of lovely new designs so decided to pay and visit and so pleased I did. The shop looked wonderful with splashes of vibrant colours, both colour block and patterned complimenting the classic designs.

I am delighted with the Tomo tunics in the waffle material, the sea foam green colour was beautiful and the black is a staple. The orange scarf purchased will go lovely with both. Kim was as usual the trouser queen and the Brand leggings she recommended are so comfortable and will get lots of wear.

I would have been so disappointed if I had left it and visited in in a couple of weeks to find my size out of stock in those Tomo tunics, I did not realise that for many styles you only have one in each size. I know you often post that new stock flies out but I saw it for myself today, it was lovely to see so many happy people leaving delighted with their purchases.

I hope to pop in again in a few weeks when more new arrivals will have appeared. Thank you again for the excellent service!


 Emma    Monday 23 February 2015 at 15:54

Hi Kim,

Thanks for your post, and lovely comments! It was lovely, as always, to see you on Saturday. You got some gorgeous things, and, sad to say, deprived other people of getting them.

The wicked truth is (as I have alluded to before in this blog) that we try every trick in the book to make our store more interesting, and create the need to buy our clothes. This means that on the one hand we try to buy as wide a variety of different styles (buying fashion in a 'wide but shallow way'-lots of styles, but low numbers of each). The by-product of this kind of buying is that when you see an item in store that you like, it's a good idea to snaffle it up straight away. It's likely to be the only one in that size, and once it's gone, will never be seen again.

I know this can be a bit of a nuisance to our customers, but it does mean a continual stream of different and varied clothes, and a healthy competition which (I am being really honest here!) is very good for business!

Some of our customers have asked us to phone them when the new collection comes in, and they dash in to get ahead of the rest of the field. Not a bad idea, and it's one that's open to everyone. All anyone has to do is phone 01273327240 and tell us what you are looking for. We will do the rest...


Kim P    Sunday 16 February 2014 at 13:13

 Post #386 

Subject: New Season NP Range

Following on from my last post I also completely fell in love the pink and black NP Top. It is gorgeous and I'm sorry my photography skills do not do it justice. Perfect length and I love the way it is cut in at the waist to flatter the waste but not cling over my tummy area. The sleeves are a great length with light ruching at the cuff. It was such a perfect shape for me that I bought the black and cream option as well.

Thanks to Anna and Olivia I had a great days shopping and I really appreciated their assistance and expertise.


 Emma    Sunday 16 February 2014 at 17:23

Hi Kim,

thank you so much for your feedback about the new NP collection. There is a bit of a story about this...

Several years ago, NP was without doubt our best mid style collection. They are a Finnish company, set up in 1925, whose expertise in plus-size fashion was second to none. They just seemed to have such an amazing ability to style the perfect fashionable, yet comfortable and flattering garment for the plus-size woman.

Then something started to go amiss. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the quality of their clothes, which has always been excellent. Nor had the price increased (I think they have been able to keep an amazing price-per-wear ratio), and the cut was a good one in the main. No, what had happened is that they seemed to have forgotten how to produce those magic clothes that were so perfect for us.

On speaking to their agent, I found out where the trouble lay. NP had opened a series of shops of their own in Finland, and had found that they were selling more and more of the smaller items (they manufacure from a size 12 upwards). This led them to start producing the kind of clothes that small people want! Sadly, I had to face the fact that the gorgeous NP, as I had known it, was a thing of the past.

Then last year we had an exciting development: their British agent (the superb Tuula Hastings) excitedly contacted us and told us that NP had decided to bring out a dedicated plus-size range, and they had brought back one of their incredibly experienced and talented designers. Tuula brought this woman into our store to discuss the new range, and I can't tell you how excited we were to see that NP seemed to be persuing this particular path.

Sure enough, last season, NP brought out its 'Curves' range, which is what they have called their dedicated plus-size section. It has been, in every way, absolutely superb. As you say, the fit is lovely, and very flattering, and, as an extremely experienced plus-size designer, and a larger (and very attractive) woman herself, she had been able to bring her own knowledge to bear on what the larger woman will feel comfortable, fashionable and attractive wearing.

I've just bought my NP Curves set for Autumn/Winter 2014, and I can confirm that it is just getting better and better. I'm really happy that NP is now firmly back on board with its plus-size customers.


 Kim P    Monday 17 February 2014 at 22:38

That's very interesting about NP, thank goodness they saw the light as their Curve range is great!


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    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.


Sam Rosam    Friday 30 November 2012 at 16:28

 Post #323 

Subject: Delighted

Dear All

Just had to write and say how delighted I am with my parcel of clothes that arrived last Friday. I'd forgotten how much I loved the red knitted jacket and the floral blouse is just beautiful. You'd never know that they had been altered and now fit to perfection.

Both my husband and I enjoyed our visit to your shop, where my husband was offered a chair and a cup of tea (I also was offered tea but declined as I needed to shop!!!) I felt pampered with you all finding things for me to try and without telling you my size until later you seemed to know how do you do that?

Currently saving my pennies for a return visit. See you soon. x


 Emma    Friday 30 November 2012 at 18:05

Hi Sam,

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

I think you will get a lot of use out of the items you have had, and I'm particularly glad that you invested in the knit, just as it seems you may be needing it most!

May I be one of the first to wish you a very Happy Christmas!


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!


jen smyth    Sunday 08 July 2012 at 10:45

 Post #301 

Subject: what a find!

I visited your shop yesterday and for the first time in ages felt comfortable looking for special clothes We have our Ruby wedding party in 3 weeks and although my shape has changed beyond recognition since my wedding day I wanted to feel just as good as I did 40 years ago. Your shop and the wonderful women working there performed the hoped for miracle.. Thankyou


 Emma    Sunday 08 July 2012 at 12:56

Hi Jen!

Thank you so much for your lovely comments. This is why we came into this business!

I do hope you enjoy your special event, and look as radiant as you deserve to!


 Rozi Desouza    Tuesday 09 October 2012 at 12:47

Emma, thanks for sharing these beautiful picture of your dress. It is really very nice and good. Your collection is very great.


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    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!


Dorothy    Monday 23 April 2012 at 14:07

 Post #283 

Subject: My Wedding Day

Hi there, I promised to send you guys a picture of me on my wedding day wearing the dress I bought from your shop. We had a wonderful day. Thanks to everyone for helping me get the right choice. Kind regards Dorothy


 Emma    Monday 23 April 2012 at 14:11

Hi Dorothy!

thank you for your lovely message. I'm so glad to see that the day went of so beautifully....you look gorgeous (I've taken the liberty of posting a close-up of you looking respelndent in your lovely Jennifer Lumer silk devorre jacket).

Good luck for the future, and I hope you have a wonderful married life!

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!

Jackie    Sunday 08 April 2012 at 06:32

 Post #277 

Subject: Thank you ladies!

Hi Emma and the team,
Just want to say a huge thank you for all the time and effort you have taken over recent weeks to make sure that I feel like a million dollars at my daughter's wedding on May 5th. You have been so patient, pinning, trimming and adjusting straps, hems sleeves etc. Thank you so much. It is really lovely to shop in a non hurried, no pressure environment. Simply the best shopping experience ever! See you soon.



 Emma    Monday 23 April 2012 at 14:41

Hi Jackie!

Words cannot express how grateful I am that you have taken the time to post your lovely feedback.

It makes such a lot of difference to us to know that we are giving satisfaction!


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 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    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    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.


Victoria Hollis    Thursday 13 October 2011 at 15:13

 Post #248 

Subject: Thank You

Hi Emma

I just wanted to say thank you so much for yet another amazing shopping experience yesterday and this morning.

I am over the moon with my two Brand tops and jeans and have fallen in love with the Verpass trousers I could have quite easily bought a whole load more the faux fur coat was a revelation and the Angel Circle dress was amazing. Your buying skills are something special. You have a magic touch which partially comes from your artistic eye and the fact you get what us larger/plus size/ BBW or however we choose to label ourselves need from what we wear.

I have a distinct feeling I am going to be up again before Christmas lol....

Can you please give Kim a massive hug from me. She did indeed sort out my trouser issues. Having endometriosis and regularly going up 4 inches around my waist and lower stomach means trousers are tricky things but the stretch in the trousers and jeans she picked for me means I don't have to worry which is an absolute godsend.

Now I'm looking forward to my next visit...

Victoria xxx


 Emma    Friday 14 October 2011 at 12:53

Hi Tori!

Thanks for your lovely comments...Kim was particularly touched! She's a great girl, our Kim, the trouser queen!

She tells me that she also has the black trousers that you bought in grey...

It really was, as ever, a great pleasure to see you-I hope all your travelling went well.

 Kim P    Saturday 22 October 2011 at 13:11

AKA The Waistcoat Queen!


 Emma    Sunday 23 October 2011 at 23:08

Actually, Kim, there is a faux-fur gilet in this fabric with your name on it...when are you coming in for it?


 Kim P    Tuesday 01 November 2011 at 12:00

I'm coming in for my faux fur waistcoat this Friday!


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....


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.

Nerys    Monday 22 August 2011 at 12:43

 Post #236 

Subject: your fab selves

To Emma and her team,
I would like to thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for everything you did for me and my friends on Friday 19th August.
From opening early for us as we only had the spare hour in the morning to your expertise, time, knowledge and most of all the Emma plus experience!!! Which believe me I will be telling everyone about! ( I'm sure if you could bottle it you will have yourself a best seller)
No pushy sales woman trying to sell us everything in the shop and having a genuine interest in us and not the sale.
I am so happy with my Anna Scholz dress and for once will be able to enjoy a wedding without having to worry about an ill fitting outfit.
The biggest shame is that we are so far away but believe as the saying goes I will be back!!!
Diolch yn fawr iawn (Welsh for Thank you very much)
Nerys Willams


 Emma    Wednesday 24 August 2011 at 16:52

Hi Nerys!

Thank you so much for your kind words, which really are appreciated! I have passed them on to Kim, who really was responsible for opening early!

I'm so glad you had the dress...it really is wonderful. From a retailer's point of view, it is a very frustrating dress because it is so beautiful and sold out almost immediately, and we can't get any more! There are going to be a lot of disappointed women out there! I'm so glad that this one went to someone who really suited it so beautifully! If you get the chance, we would love to see a picture of you at the event, wearing it.....


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    Friday 13 May 2011 at 16:24

 Post #215 

Subject: My Wedding Outfit

Thanks to Wendy, for the lovely comments she asked me to put on our blog...

'I feel like I'm celebrating on so many different levels. I have the outfit I primarily came for and a bit more besides.
My wedding outfit is just fabulous but if you'd described it to me I would have thought yuk! In fact I was dubious before I tried it on and saw myself in the mirror.
I still think you have magic mirrors - I can't remember looking at myself and thinking ''wow girl you look great'' for several years if not decades.
All the items I brought and yet I have left with just one. Everything else you are refining to suit my body and my taste - that is invaluable and surely unique in being included in the price of the garment.
The clothes are all of such high quality and well made. It's a real treat not to have to compromise on that because I have the audacity to be a size 26.
I'm also celebrating the knowledge that I'm going to more than hold my own with all the size 12 & 14s Yippee. I'm going to be 'on show' such a lot during the wedding that it feels a wonderful relief to be confident about how I look.
Finally the experience of your shop. I felt among friends not just because of the 2 cups of tea!
A collection of clothes that are virtually all possibilities, a warm welcome (and air-conditioning when it got too warm), honest feedback - how often does a shop-worker tell you ''No that's not for you''? It felt like I could take all the time in the world and that I could have left without making a purchase.
All in all a tremendous experience and one that will be repeated!
Thanks to you all
Love and best wishes


 Victoria Hollis    Friday 13 May 2011 at 22:08

This is so nice to read - you see Emma Plus really does have the XTRA SPECIAL Factor - Wendy I hope we can see some pics of you in your clothes too


Sue Wooding    Friday 08 April 2011 at 12:06

 Post #206 

Subject: What an experience!

I wanted to say what a wonderful time my friend Julia and I had when we visited your shop on Wednesday.

Having found your website I had a hunch that it would be worth travelling to your shop from West Devon, in the search for something to wear to my son's wedding in July, and I wasn't wrong.

A veritable treasure trove of colours, fabrics and styles and all in plus sizes. The choice would have been bewildering if it hadn't been for your knowledge and advice in selecting pieces for me to try on. You certainly have a very good eye and I tried on things I would not have thought would have suited me.

In the end, I am completely excited about my chosen outfit although it is as far away from the colour I had envisaged wearing as it is possible to be.

Julia and I agreed that we have never had such a happy time buying clothes ( she succumbed and bought 2 pieces, too) and we couldn't believe that we were with you for 3 hours.

Heartfelt thanks to you both.


 Emma    Saturday 09 April 2011 at 10:43

Hi Sue!

Thank you so much for your kind words! It was a great pleasure to meet you both, and we were thrilled with what you picked out. I thought you looked incredibly classy in the Elena Grunert outfit.

Don't forget, if you are ever tempted, there is a pair of 'sensitive' trousers with you name on them, here in the shop....you only have to call!

I may see you before the 'big day', but, if I don't, I hope you have a lovely time!


diane cullen    Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 18:52

 Post #205 

Subject: shopping trip

Just to say thank you again for your help today. Only popped in to see if some summer T shirts were in stock, and as usual had wonderful range of tops to try on. So lovely to have garments chosen for you, and they always look so good on.
As usual was found wonderful tops and super new trousers. It's always such a pleasure and relaxing experience. So thrilled to have such lovely tops, can't wait to wow my friends in Germany this week end with the exquisite ''personal choice'' chiffon top and sensitive trousers. Thanks you Emma


 Emma    Wednesday 30 March 2011 at 12:07

Hi Diane!

Thank you for your lovely post...we are so lucky to have such lovely customers, and such brilliant models for our clothes!

Hope you have a great time in Germany, and look forward to seeing you again soon-!


Christine Prosser    Friday 18 March 2011 at 14:10

 Post #201 

Subject: Thank You

Hello Emma

Just a note to thank you all for your help and advice on Saturday

Drove down from Wales on Saturday morning looking for something to wear to my son's wedding in August. No idea what to expect but hoping for the best I was not dissapointed

In no time at all I had a rack of clothes waiting to be tried on, believe me a rare treat when you're a plus size I honestly don't think I could have found a better selection anywhere else. I particularly appreciated the help and advice you gave me and the way you were able to suggest things I would never have tried on in a million years I am now the proud owner of a 'capsule wardrobe' in the making and can't wait to clear out all my old stuff to make room for some more of the lovely Elena Grunert.

Once again thank you all for a most enjoyable visit and in the words of a famous movie star 'I'll be back'




 Emma    Friday 18 March 2011 at 14:20

Hi Christine!

Thank you so much for your lovely comments....I love my job!

It was such a great pleasure to meet you on Saturday. Years ago, it was rare for someone to travel such a distance to come here, and I used to be on tenderhooks as to whether we had enough choice available to warrant such an investment of time! Now, however, we find many women travel the length and breadth of the country to come here....hopefully with happy results such as yours!

I was interested to hear of your troubles in posting your comments on this blog. Apparently, our 'spam filter' kept deleting your message, so you sent it to me via email, and I was more than happy to put it on our forum (I am able to by-pass the filter). If any other contributors have similar experiences, they may be interested to know how you circumvented this problem!


Emma    Wednesday 19 January 2011 at 14:37

 Post #188 

Subject: Weddings, weddings...!

Our thanks go to our lovely customer, Yvonne, who has kindly allowed us to reproduce one of her wedding photographs on our forum.

She said: ''[here is a picture] of me in the wedding dress that you and your staff helped me with last year.

The wedding went really well on the 18 December.

Thank you for helping to make me feel glamorous on the day.

Best wishes

Yvonne ''

Yvonne looked lovely in her full-length Anna Scholz stretch silk crossover dress, and we at Emma Plus wish them both great happiness.


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!

Nicola Sutherland    Sunday 07 November 2010 at 18:01

 Post #175 

Subject: Compliments

Thanks for another great shopping experience on Saturday afternoon - my second visit to your shop, and the reason I influenced our shopping extravaganza day trip from Southampton to be in Brighton.

You didn't have the Anna dress I was looking for - serves me right for being late - but still had loads of gorgeous stuff and I came out as laden as my first visit in April.

The compliments came from my fellow shoppers - while they are not in the market for your range, both said what a lovely shop, amazing staff who clearly know their stuff, and give amazing service. Most importantly they both saw why I had brought them all the way Brighton!

Looking forward to getting my altered red dress - and the Anna fashion show.

Thanks for another great shopping experience.



 Emma    Monday 08 November 2010 at 17:57

Hi Nicola!

Thank you for your lovely comments... it was a real pleasure to see you on Saturday!

I'm glad you are as excited as we are about the Anna Scholz show. We've yet to finalise the date at which Anna and her team will be coming into our shop to show a wide selection of her range (including items not usually seen in stores). However, as you have given us your contact details, we will make sure you are notified in time.

Any customers wishing to be told when the Anna Scholz show is in town can phone 01273 327240 and be put into our 'little black book', so that we can contact you with the details once they have been settled...

Emma    Thursday 28 October 2010 at 17:26

 Post #172 

Subject: Special day news

Our thanks to Julie, who was kind enough to send us a lovely photograph of her wedding. Julie wrote:

Dear Emma Plus,

Thank you for making my wedding day special. I certainly felt like a radiant bride. My dress was gorgeous and everyone commented on it.

I even got to wear it again as we went to the Reids Hotel in Madeira for afternoon tea and champagne. Also my mum looked good in her outfit.

Thank you once again and that all your staff who took their time to look after us.


Julie xxx


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

 Post #169 

Subject: Loved your feature on www.Dailyvenusdiva.com


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

Curvaciously Yours,
Olga Gonzalez-Ramos


 Emma    Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 17:53

Hi Olga!

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

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

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


Liz Rylance    Wednesday 18 August 2010 at 16:42

 Post #154 

Subject: What a success!

Hi Emma & Jaq

I just had to drop you a line ('FINALLY' I hear you shout) to thank you for the 2 wonderful floaty tops and the absolutely stunning hatband that I bought from you recently. What a wonderful way to spend a few hours - thank you!

Needless to say, the hatband and top were a huge success at the wedding, worn with the lovely jade/turquoise wide leg trousers that I bought earlier in the year and a gorgeous turquoise swimming cossy to protect my modesty! Yes, believe it or not, I AM modest ;-)

Please ring me (as usual) if you get anything in that is 'me'.

Love to you both
Liz x


 Emma    Wednesday 18 August 2010 at 19:18

Hi Liz

Thank you for your post. You looked lovely in that outfit; I'm not surprised it went down well. I'm really glad you had it.

I will always think of you in turquoise... it really suits you!

Darker versions of this colour are the 'in' shades this autumn/winter, so I think you will love this season.

It's a very dangerous thing to ask us to phone you 'if' we get anything in that will suit you... expect to get called some time soon!

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!


Wardah J Bakr (Saidi)    Tuesday 01 June 2010 at 01:21

 Post #138 

Subject: Locals who carry any of your line?


Hi Ms. Emme,
I am in the US and expect to retire soon. I plan to return to the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) hopefully in 2012. I was hoping that perhaps there were some places here in the USA that possibly carry maybe a few of your items? Thanks!


 Emma    Tuesday 01 June 2010 at 10:32

Hi Wardah

Thank you for asking this question on the forum. It's one I get asked a lot, and I really think it will help to have the answer to this connundrum here!

As we do not produce clothes, and exist only as a retailer, it's arguable that we actually have a 'line' as such. The collection we have is a selection from all the designer's lines that we carry. We don't sell to anyone other than our own customers (yet), so in some ways we would not be able to help you, unless you were here in our store.

However, as usual, nothing is quite as simple as this... nor as disappointing. If I were in a different part of the world and found that I really liked the content of a website like ours, I would use it as the base for a bit of research.

I would start to look through the designer names that the store stocks. For instance, if you see an image on my site that you like, then find out the designer's name (you can always post on the forum - we are always more than happy to help). So then you'll have the name of a designer that you know you like (for the sake of argument let's say Anna Scholz).

The next step would be to Google that name. This would bring up Anna's website. Some designers actually sell directly from their websites, so you now have access to their range!

But we all know that buying mail-order really is not a very good way to acquire designer clothes, so your next step would be to ask this designer if they sell to an outlet in the region of your choice.

If they do, then you have struck gold. Because if that store sells one really good collection, they probably sell others! In a single swoop you may have homed-in on one of the only stores in the entire country that sells what you like. If this first attempt fails, try again until you are successful. I do believe that, using this technique, you will turn up the best stores in any location now.

Hoorah for the internet!

 Kim P    Thursday 03 June 2010 at 11:06

It was through viewing the stockists listed on the Anna Scholz website that I discovered Emma Plus!


 Emma    Thursday 03 June 2010 at 21:28

Hi Kim-

And the rest is history!

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    Friday 16 April 2010 at 18:07

 Post #131 

Subject: Gorgeous!

Hi Emma

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

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


Emma Wakefield    Tuesday 13 April 2010 at 20:34

 Post #130 

Subject: Fab Saturday

Just wanted to say thanks again for all your help on Saturday. Not only do I have some FAB new clothes to look forward to, but all my re-vamped and re-shaped old favourites to discover all over again too. I really can't think of ANY other shop that would offer to alter clothes bought 2 years ago!! Meeting Anna was the icing on the cake. Looking forward to seeing you again on Friday (but please don't let me try anything else on!)


 Emma    Tuesday 13 April 2010 at 22:41

Hi Emma

It was great to see you on Saturday. Congratulations on the weight loss... you look fabulous!

It's honestly a pleasure to make your lovely clothes fit you again. I hope you will get a lot more use out of them.

I was thrilled to have Anna Scholz in the store (here is a pic of you both together!)- and she was thrilled to hear what you said about her collection. It's lovely for designers to get feedback from their customers...

Elizabeth Shaw    Tuesday 30 March 2010 at 01:34

 Post #126 

Subject: wedding outfit for lady size 22 in wheel chair

Looking for mother of the groom outfit In a wheel chair
looking for trousers and a nice bright top and jacket with out looking like an American football player. As I will be sat in the chair the whole time. The trousers can not be too tight down leg due to tube. The wedding will be in June, i hope you can help by suggesting what to get and what to wear with it on my head Hats get in the way of the person pushing me. Thank you


 Emma    Tuesday 30 March 2010 at 12:15

Hi Elizabeth

Thank you so much for your enquiry, and congratulations on your happy event! You will be glad to know that you have come to the right place! We have many customers who use wheelchairs, so we always make sure to have just the right kind of outfits to suit their needs. The size you mention (size 22) is towards the smaller end of our sizes, and all our range is stocked in that size.

If you were thinking of visiting us by car, the good news is that (with your badge) you will be able to park right outside our store - and access into the front of the shop couldnt be easier. We are an easy shop to navigate, and - should you require assistance in accessing anything at any time - our staff are experienced enough to give you all the help you need.

We have several ranges of beautiful, brightly coloured jackets at the moment - some plain, some patterned. I would hesitate to recommend a particular one to you without seeing you first - the choice is simply too great! From what you say about American football players Im guessing that you have problems with wide shoulders (like most of us). The good news is that we have sourced a number of items with narrower and/or less padded shoulders. In any case, we usually ensure items are specially fitted to you, so the fit is perfect.

A perfect jacket for a wheelchair user should be soft, with some structure and shape, but not too nipped-in at the waist. It should be of a minimal-crease fabric, and the shape should not be too full. We have a great selection to choose from that meet these criteria.

When it comes to trousers, I have found that three particular aspects should be borne in mind. Firstly, it is best to have a slight 'stretch' fabric. Im not talking about anything too stretchy and flimsy, but a good medium-weight fabric with enough stretch for them to keep their shape and fall well from the knee. Then I would select trousers with stretch at the waistband for comfort. I would also be looking for trousers that are not too narrow (this can be unflattering on the legs as you rightly observe), but not too wide and floaty (which can foul the wheels).

To match the outfits that we have in the store, we have a fantastic selection of 'fascinators'. These are like hats, but much easier to wear, as they fit to the head like a hairband (see picture). They are light, so do not disrupt ones hairstyle, and are not too large - so will not get in anyone elses way. Those we have selected have proportions that particularly suit larger women, and are in colours that go with our range. They have been very popular, so I feel sure you will be pleased when you get the chance to try one on.

I would urge that you try to come into the store as soon as you can. Even if you leave visiting us to later in the season we have so many items that there will always be something lovely for you, but some styles are already selling out. In order to get the pick of everything, it is a good idea to be the 'early bird'...

Emma    Monday 22 March 2010 at 23:21

 Post #125 

Subject: Fit for life

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

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

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

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

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

However, fit is a perennial problem. It is so difficult for most women to find clothing that really fits them well, its possible for them to get very frustrated. With all the advances made in our industry, why-oh-why cant they simply get the fit right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Kim P    Thursday 25 March 2010 at 20:31

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


 Emma    Thursday 25 March 2010 at 23:23

Hi Kim

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

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


Diane    Sunday 28 February 2010 at 19:23

 Post #116 

Subject: mail order

Hi Emma, Found your website and after browsing through ticked five of your beautiful outfits to order and then found you do not do mail order. I am shocked that you have decided not to offer this service. I am a retailer and after umming and ahhing I eventually decided to offer mail order and was amazed that the orders are pouring in and overtaking the shop orders. I hope you one day change your mind and will keep checking back just in case. If I ever get to Brighton I will of course come and see you, but like many women do not have much spare time. Kind regards


 Emma    Tuesday 02 March 2010 at 09:22

Hi Dianne

Thank you for your post, and interest in our range. This is a very big and complicated subject for us, and one which I am sure will run and run.

We would indeed like to do some internet selling some time in the future, and if you do, as you mention you may, look at our blog every now and again, you will be one of the first to get notice of what we will be offering.

The sad fact is, though, that what we will be able to offer as a mail-order service will be only a tiny part of what we are able to offer in our actual store! There are many reasons for this - so many and complex that I could probably write hundreds of words on the subject, and still not come close to expressing it clearly!

Over the years I have had this discussion many times with customers and, in the main, it has been very difficult to convey what makes a real-life living and breathing large-size designer store so special. Usually, the customers involved in these discussions have eventually come into our store, and have exclaimed that only then have they finally understood what I meant!

Our shop has thousands of different styles, bought in tiny numbers. This means that a customer will rarely see the same thing twice. It also means that there is a wide choice, and the look that is put together by them is usually quite unique. Our sales staff are experienced stylists who not only help with the selection of the outfit, but contribute hugely with their knowledge of body shape, and how this relates to the stylistic choice. Many of our customers mention the fact that they had ended up looking at their best in items that they would not have initially been inclined to try on.

Obviously if the customer wishes to be left alone by sales staff they are free to make their own selection without being bothered by unwanted attention, but in the event most customers make use of our styling skills.

When the selection is made, the majority of our clothes will then be tailored by our alteration service to fit the individual customer. It is a rare woman who is a perfect 'stock size' and shape! This alteration process can be a revelatory experience. Many larger women will have never before had a garment that has truly fitted them, and shown off their figure to best effect. After the alterations have been completed, they are usually sent on to the customer by post, and neither the alterations nor the postage are charged for.

This all takes place in a social and comfortable space - it is like a club, and most people report really enjoying just being in the store.

I do appreciate that it is very difficult for customers to travel so far to get to us. In fact, it used to be a matter of amazement to me that customers will come from all over the country to reach our store. However, I have come to understand that this is because it is the only way that many women can get the really beautiful clothes they really want. It is incredible that there are so few stores that stock excellent larger sized clothes in this country.

When we do our mail-order range, we will focus on excellence of clothing (we hope to do some gorgeous knits and jerseywear in the future), but there will be no question of anything like the variety, fit, individuality, tailoring, or personal service that we can offer in the store.

These are characteristics of a special and rare shopping experience. The internet is a fantastic, precious resource in the larger-size market, and it is the way that Emma Plus has been able to grow into what it is today (to the benefit of all our customers). However, the internet is not good at providing individual, tailored, personal, special and rare clothing for larger women.

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...


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.


Kerri    Sunday 19 July 2009 at 22:40

 Post #63 

Subject: Thank you


I just wanted to thank you all so much, for helping me find a stunning new frock!

I came into your lovely shop last week on a trip down to Brighton from Manchester and am so glad I did!

It was such a welcoming environment and the service was wonderful. Kim really helped me find a gorgeous dress, a beautiful Anna Scholz orange and black knot dress that I just feel wonderful in and will gorgeous at my friends wedding in September.

I know I'll be down in Brighton again visitng my family and will absolutely be popping in to say hello and have another little browse.

Thanks again ladies you were lovely.



 Emma    Monday 20 July 2009 at 11:31

Hi Kerri

Thank you for your post - I will pass on your kind words to Kim.

Im so glad that you found a gorgeous Anna Scholz dress. I dont know whether you have seen her clothes before - she is the foremost designer in the large-size market at the moment. Her clothes are really celebratory, and are what everyone wants to wear. We get quite a lot of small people wanting them too. It must be a bit of an unexpected surprise for them to find that we dont stock them in their size!

Hope the wedding is fab - see you again soon.


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    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    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.


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