Shopping can be brilliant. It can also be soul destroying when you can’t find anything to fit you. As part of the Industry Code of Conduct just implemented by the government, the National Body Image Advisory Group recommended fashion retailers stock a larger range of sizes for their customers.
To give you a better sense of why, I asked Lilli Hingee (who writes for her own blog Frocks and Frou Frou) to write this post about what it’s like to go shopping as a plus-size woman. She answered my call with charm, grace and expertise. Lilli writes….
Unrequited love is a terrible thing.
It leaves you feeling rejected`, inferior and utterly undesirable.
For a long time I had a one-sided love affair going on with Fashion. I watched it from afar, always hoping… But as far as Fashion was concerned, I didn’t exist.
I fall into the great big black hole that is the Fashion Industry’s “Plus Size”.
For years that meant that I was doomed to a life of acid-wash denim jeans with elasticised waists. Synthetic fabrics. Long drapey tops with asymmetrical hems and bits of random patchwork.
I would press my nose up against the windows of stores like Review, Witchery, Cue and I’d think to myself “That! That would look GREAT on me… if only they did my size” but I’d stopped venturing in the doors. No-one had ever been outwardly rude to me, but I could feel the salespeople’s disinterest, the obvious dismissal that time spent with me would be time wasted.
I can’t remember when the change occurred. But I know it happened around the time I discovered the online fashion community and plus-sized fashion blogs where young women like myself determinedly proved that you didn’t have to have a single digit dress size to look fabulous. Until then I’d never heard the phrase “Plus Size”, and it had certainly never occurred to me to apply the term to myself. The idea that there was an entire industry – granted, in its infancy – created to serve the needs of thwarted “Fatshionistas” such as myself was a revolution.
Gradually it became clear that though my options in Australia were limited to a handful of shops that seemed to cater exclusively to women under the age of twenty five and over the age of sixty (strapless party dresses, boob tubes and denim minis, or shapeless tops with too much embellishment layered over elastic-waisted trousers) the options online and overseas were vast.
Things have changed for the better in the last few years. There’s a great influx of exciting new designers including Jessica Svoboda (Svoboda Style) and Australia’s own Natalie Wakeling (Embody Denim). Jasmine Elder (Jibri) Yuliya Raquel (Igigi) and Anna Scholz produce pretty dresses in good quality fabrics. Added to their ranks are the many designers who have recently expanded their size range to include plus-sizes: Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, even the pioneer of the dreaded “waif” look – Calvin Klein.
Closer to home Leona Edmiston started doing a limited number of items up to a size 24; Myer expanded their Plus-Size department to include three new lines for a younger demographic that included Mink Denim (an offshoot of Grab Denim) and Monroe (which was created by the design house behind Bardot).
Things have changed in the media as well, with many fashion magazines embracing plus-size models for their pages. But when we’re talking about clothing the plus-sized body we’ve still got a long way to go. V Magazine’s much anticipated “Size” issue certainly had its fair share of bigger bodies on display, but more often than not the models featured were basically naked. Now, I like a set of pasties and a g-string as much as the next girl, but sometimes I’d also like to see how a pretty skirt, or a demure blouse, or just a really great pair of well-cut trousers sits on a curvier figure.
Here’s the good news. Fashion is fun! You just have to know where to look. If you’re plus-sized usually where you’re looking will be online, but with the boom of plus-size fashion blogs around the world it’s getting easier to make the right decisions as to where to shop. My recommendations for shopping online are:
- Know your measurements. Every store will have a size-chart, but often they’re a bit off. Email the shop direct to ask for correct measurements or size recommendations. Check out eBay – sellers usually give you garment measurements, so if you can find something similar from the same brand online you’ll get a rough idea of bust/waist/hip sizes.
- Make sure you factor in shipping charges. They can be prohibitive, especially from the States.
- If something doesn’t fit, you’ve got three choices – send it back, sell it on, or have it altered. So make sure your seller accepts returns, learn how to use eBay, and get yourself a sewing machine or a cheap tailor!
- Treat yourself to something custom-made. Independent designers are fabulous, and you’d be surprised at how affordable they can be. Have a look at Etsy – most of the designers are perfectly happy to make their wares to your own specific measurements, and they don’t usually charge any extra for it.
On a final note, considering the fact that the average Australian woman is wearing a size sixteen I’d like to see the phrase “Plus Size” become extinct. There’s no reason in the world that bigger women should be segregated from the rest of the human race.
US retailer Dorothy Perkins has the right idea – instead of offering a separate “plus-size” range everything in-store goes from a size 6 to a size 22. One day I’d like to see other retailers follow suit. Everyone deserves the same access to fashionable clothes, that’s my motto.
Can you relate? What’s your shopping pet peeve? And tips you’d like to share?