‘Plus size women have no money and no style.’
I was gobsmacked to hear this from the manufacturer of a leading Australian plus size label. And I thought, I can’t wait to prove you wrong.
Since writing some styling books, Wardrobe 101 I am often invited to speak to women around the country on personal styling. At these presentations, I steer the talk towards the topics the audience responds to. Without exception there is a group that listens intently yet always ask ‘that’s great but where do I find it in my size?’.
To be honest I never really had the answer. Understanding how grossly unfair fashion is to this market, I started to seek out fashionable plus size options. Most were dowdy and depressing. Those that produced beautiful cuts in glamorous fabrics were excruciatingly expensive and often hard to track down.
Add to that the fact that buying clothes is an emotional experience. Every garment we purchase is loaded with the hope that it will somehow represent or enhance us. To find that fashion won’t even consider your shape is a total let-down.
My closest friend Ljubenka, AKA Hold The Glamour, is a plus-size model at size 16. She loves many of my size 12 clothes and is wistful of the opportunity to add such fashion pieces to her personal repertoire. One day she called me in total frustration and said ‘that’s it! Let’s stop talking about body positivity and do something about it, starting with creating upmarket fashion lines for curvy women’.
In that instant Sestre, our fashion label (meaning sisters, pronounced sess-tre) was born.
Some criticise plus-size bodies as unhealthy, however let me illustrate some personal home truths. Ljubenka is a pescatarian (no meat, only fish) and I chow down on pizza, burgers and chocolate with alarming regularity.
Ljubenka works out at the gym at least three times a week, I drive to the letterbox. And, on a recent shopping trip together Ljubenka was able to cover the city streets at breakneck speed while I staggered behind breathless.
In our cases, our body shapes are based on genetics, no assumptions necessary here.
Throughout my styling career I’ve found the most common obstacles for curvy women seeking to look fashionable are often the same.
Curvy women often tell me:
- I can’t find anything I like – many plus size labels stick to boxy designs, attempting to cover as many body shapes with a single size, creating shrouds in cheap fabrics designed to cover rather than enhance.
- I can’t find clothes in my size – many women find that the clothing they covet on their straight size sisters simply isn’t offered in their size leaving them feeling demoralised and excluded. Some designers just don’t want to dress curvy women.
- The clothes don’t fit properly – Many labels have a slim fit model and simply scale up sizes.
- Although not every size X garment will fit every size X body, there are some consistencies in how curvy figures can be fitted, and an enlarged size 8 simply doesn’t comply. When brands do dip their toe into this market by sizing up a small garment and then the range doesn’t sell they fail to realise it’s the fit that has let them and the customer down.
My tips for curvy dressing:
- Look for current takes on classics with stretch that you can mix and match throughout your professional and casual wardrobes.
- Keep an eye on fabrics. Go for more upmarket blends and fibres where possible as the result will be more chic.
- If you really want quality then be prepared to pay for it.
- Never settle for good enough, you have to love how it looks on you.
- Don’t pigeonhole your clothes for occasions, dress up your casual wear with an upmarket piece like a structured jacket or dress down a dressy item with a casual piece like a sweater and/or sneakers and you will find you have a wardrobe full of fabulous looks you didn’t even know you had.
We decided to launch the label, Sestre, for all the above reasons. We invest in patterns that specifically cater to curves and aren’t afraid of taking a chance on high fashion designs to ensure our clients look and feel fashion savvy.
What’s your favourite plus-size fashion brand? Tell us in the comments!